And Babies Don't Keep
I struggle to find words to describe the past six weeks. It’s pretty much impossible. Postpartum is no joke. My body has ached, bled, throbbed, shaken… it has by far been the most physically challenging time of my life. I still don’t feel “normal” and have begun to accept that there is a new normal for my body and my life. I am accepting my mama bod, the few stretch marks I earned, the massive change in what I can physically do (just a walk was exhausting and I was so sore the next day). There is pain, discomfort, frustrating limitations… But let me tell you…it is all totally worth it.
There’s this incredible baby.
This wondrous little being who fully depends on me for survival. I love it. I love her. She is fantastic! I am so honored that I get to keep her. Her tiny self has changed so much in the past six weeks. Physically she is so beautiful…her porcelain skin and chocolate hair are all me, as are her expressions and her chubby Overstake cheeks. Her brow and profile look like her dad. I love that she is a combination of the two of us, although it seems she may keep her blue eyes inherited from Grandma Claire.
I suppose I have subscribed to the “attachment parenting” thing – although I don’t know if defining my parenting style is healthy or necessary. I just want her to feel secure all the time. I don’t allow her to “cry it out,” and find her very consolable usually just by picking her up. She responds well to shushing, walking, and rocking her. My coworkers and I knew she would be a “moving baby” as I was on my feet my entire pregnancy and she got grumpy in-utero if I was not moving.
Some of her cries affect me very deeply in a primal way that I didn’t know was possible. I can read her and understand her noises. Her needs are very clear to me based on her cries, and that is pretty remarkable to me. I have never felt connected to a person like this before. It is the BEST thing.
I cannot fully describe how I feel about Phoebe. It is something that can’t be described without you, dear reader, being in the room and seeing us together.
How I feel about Phoebe is…
her curled on my chest in the smallest little ball a human can be, snoring gently.
It is her mouth open, head resting in the crook of my arm.
It is her long dark eye lashes skimming my cheek while I sing her every song I can ever remember at night before bedtime.
It is the big, toothless grin she gives her daddy every time he leans close to her face and exclaims, “Hi Sugar!”
It is simply the fact that I don’t want to put this baby down.
Something occurred to me as the postpartum fog began lifting around a month after she was born. I’ve read the phrase several times throughout my life. It’s the last line of a little poem I’ve seen cross-stitched and framed in antique stores, on prints of a mama and baby in a nursery, seen on Pinterest a few dozen times. I smiled as I read it. But now I get it.
Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
“Mother, O' Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek - peekaboo.
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.”
“And babies don’t keep.”
Every time she’s upset and just wants to be picked up, but my arms and body are sore.
“Babies DON’T keep.”
Every time it’s well past bedtime, and she just wants to rock in my arms while I’m singing to her, struggling to stay awake.
“Babies don’t keep.”
Every time I wonder what she’ll be like when she’s one, or five, or thirty-seven with a family of her own. Slow down, Mama. Enjoy this moment.
“Babies don’t keep.”
Every time my mama is over and sings her silly songs. I watch and wonder as she snuggles HER baby’s baby…and it REALLY hits me then…
“Babies. Don’t. Keep.”
They really don’t. So enjoy it, mama. Don’t wish it away.
She will only be six weeks old once.
She will only need me this much for a very short time. She will only want me to rock her to sleep for so long. Then she’ll do it on her own, just like so many other things that she will learn to do without me.
She will only need me in the middle of the night for a few years.
Then suddenly, like a flash of light in the night sky, she’ll have babies of her own.
I never want to finally realize after she’s grown and gone that it’s over, that I’ll never get her as a baby ever again. Or heaven forbid, that I didn’t appreciate her babyhood, toddler years, or childhood.
I hope the memories of her as a baby come back in waves throughout the rest of my life.
The lullabies my mother sang to me as a child are now escaping my mouth each evening to sooth my own babe. I hope she sings the same songs to her babies. I hope her baby-ness never really goes away. But it will.
All of those popular blog posts on how having kids is dreadful are wrong.
All of those negative social media posts that parents write about their children make me so very sad. Newsflash: your kids will be able to see those posts someday, and yes, people are questioning whether or not you’re a good parent when all you post are negative things about your babes.
I’m enjoying every moment. Every miraculous newborn snuggle. Even when it’s not the easiest in the back of my head is ...
Babies don’t keep.
Things to remember for Phoebe as she gets older: The way the sunlight makes your brown hair sparkle red-mahogany
The funny noise you make after you yawn
Your baby smell, especially your lovely milky breath
Your epic baby stretches when you wake up
The chortle-coo you make when something makes you happy
When you startled and cried when the dogs barked at the backyard squirrels (and picking you up made you instantly happy)
Typing this one handed, and you content at my breast
Love like nothing else, ever.