Thursday, September 23, 2010

Awakenings

When your baby gets to be a year old it's a little bit like awakening from a coma. I guess there are a lot of small milestones after you have a baby: surviving the first day home from the hospital, getting through the first week after your help leaves, making it past the 6-week mark, hitting three months old, starting solid foods, when they start sleeping through the night and so forth. And with each milestone you start to remember things like, "Wait! Life wasn't always the way it has been the past few weeks. I remember what it is like to be able to go more than 2 hours at a time without changing a diaper!" or "I remember what it feels like to have a five-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep!"

Addy will turn one year old in a few weeks and I'm starting to emerge from that first-year coma-like existence. I've started exercising again. I'm rediscovering personal grooming (well, sort of). I've actually thought about how I look and made a couple of attempts at... (gulp) accessorizing and creating an outfit instead of just throwing on the first pair of jeans and a shirt I can find that doesn't have any obvious barf stains or snot streaks. I noticed that my plants have died (a baby first year rite of passage for me), am grieving for my dehydrated sage and rosemary, and am wondering if I have it in me to give another shot at my herbs without killing them. I've started on the process of slowly weaning Adelyn and feel both frustrated and glad that she still prefers me to a bottle. (It's hard not to love her funny fake-cry/cackle when she realizes that you are going to actually give in and nurse her and the sweet greedy way she chug-chug-chugs when she gets to drink.)

I was out in the front yard weeding a couple Saturdays ago and I realized that almost a year has gone by since she was born. So much of that first year you spend submerged in the day-to-day struggle of just keeping people alive and fed (hopefully you and the baby both). So many other things drop into auto-pilot or fall off the map altogether. You think about all the nights of little sleep, the endless diaper changes and nursing and trying to balance that with the other kids and their needs and there is a feeling of, "Wow! We made it! We actually survived!"

People often describe childbirth as "descending into the valley of the shadow of death." I think that description might just as aptly be applied to the entire first year. Not to say that the first year is terrible or horrendous, because it isn't. It is full of sweet and beautiful moments and experiences that more than make up for the difficult times. But- for me at least- that first year still feels very much like a struggle for survival. As a woman, you put yourself in a place where you are very vulnerable: so much of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy is wrapped up in keeping this little spirit alive and laying the foundation for helping her grow into a healthy, happy adult. Trying to balance this with meeting your own needs and the needs of your husband and other children often feels like an impossible juggling act. It's like taking a deep breath, going under water and praying you have enough breath to carry you through to the other side.

So it's worth celebrating when you come up on the other side and realize that you made it. Not to say that there aren't longer or harder journeys ahead. (I've heard parenting doesn't get easier as your kids grow.) But making it through part intact still counts for something.

6 comments:

Rebecca said...

And I'm just about to start that year--well, I still think pregnancy is worse. Congrats for making it through!

The Sorensens said...

Karen - You have a way of stating perfectly, everything that I am thinking. Today is Sarah's birthday and I think that I can finally emergy from the darkness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, frustrations, and joys. You are WONDERFUL!

Ranell said...

Everything you said are the exact reasons there are at least 3 years between each of my children. I just don't have it in me to come out of the first year after having a baby, just to re-submerge myself into pregnancy right away. Kudos to the women who do it, but I just can't! I need some space! That said, I love having babies! The good times really do outweigh the tough times, and I can only hope that part is true even as our kids get older.

Jadie said...

Lovely post! So, so true...

Greek Goddess said...

Thanks for that. I needed that today. I'm six months through that first year coma! We're in the "starting solids" phase and have definitely not gotten close to the sleeping through the night phase (we're still in the wake up every two hours phase!!!!)

Jennifer said...

Great post. So true.