Overnight, our writer becomes a nursing, changing, burping, rocking, loving machine
My daughter. The words feel strange in my mouth. But here I am, lying in a hospital bed, holding Sophie Bella. My daughter. It still seems unreal, the fact that I created an entire person, right here in my very own body (with a little help, of course). As if that wasn’t enough, just a few hours before, I defied every law of physics and reason and passed the equivalent of a large watermelon through my most intimate of orifices. I feel like I didn’t just create life, I invented it. I am a stud, as my husband, Joe, says.
We check out of the hospital a day early, eager to “get started.” (We have no idea what this means, but two days of round-the-clock status checks are enough already.) The drive home is like riding a roller coaster backward, blindfolded and drunk. “What are you doing?” I hiss from my perch next to Sophie in the back seat as Joe approaches the freeway on-ramp. “Take the back streets! And slow down, Mario Andretti.” I have been a mother for 36 hours, and already I have become my mother.
Joe has taken a week off work, but frankly, what Sophie needs is me. I am the 24-hour buffet—the “milk bags,” as we say. And I am happy to comply. For the next two days, I exist in a state of exhausted bliss. I carry Sophie around, rock her, nurse her, sing to her. I change her clothes five times a day because I can. She is my real-life Barbie; I am her real-life mom.
Then the hormones or emotions or lack of sleep or some combination of the three hits me, and I start crying and can’t stop. Nothing Joe says seems to help, and I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong. For one thing, I hurt everywhere. My back and neck ache from hours of pushing, my nipples are raw, and every trip to the bathroom is painful. There’s also a tinge of resentment. (“Of course I mind if you go play basketball, but I’m a selfish witch if I say so.”)
Topping it all off is being overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite nature of the task I’ve undertaken. I mean, it’s not as if I get her to eat or sleep successfully I can pat myself on the back and call it a day: I have to repeat the whole cycle again in an hour or two. And not just until later tonight or even next week. Waaahhh.
Fortunately, these feelings quickly wane as I get to know my baby a little better each day. By the time she turns a week old I am still exhausted, but the job starts to seem manageable. Around the two-week mark I begin to understand her cries. I know when she is hungry, when she is tired and when she just wants to be held. By the end of the first month we have established a loose routine, and rare is the crying bout I can’t calm. When she starts to mimic sounds and facial expressions, we’re convinced she is a genius. The day Sophie turns 6 weeks old, I am singing her some silly song and she is looking at me intently when suddenly her face breaks out in an enormous, gummy grin. My heart actually aches at the sight. Tired, schmired. That tiny gesture is just a taste of what’s to come—and it’s worth everything.