As Hen approaches two months, I find myself thinking about my new role as a mom. Of course, I became a mom on April 5th, but as with most new roles, it’s taken some time to fill in my new shoes (and get used to seeing myself in them). Ironically, the things I might have expected to make me feel like a mom – pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding – weren’t necessarily the things that gave me that particular mommy feeling. These are profound and certainly life-altering, but it’s the smaller things that have made me pause and think – whoa… I’m a mom.
I’m one of those first-times moms with zero experience. When Hen was handed to me that first time, I held and handled her like a glass doll. When I changed her diaper for the first time, it was the first time I had changed a diaper since my 13 year old brother was in diapers (and I’m sure I didn’t change too many of those). Little things – like dressing and undressing Hen, giving her a bath, or playing with her – felt new and clumsy the first time I attempted them. All of these reminded me of the newness of my role, but none of them made me feel very motherly.
It has only been in the past couple of weeks that things have begun to feel more natural. The fear is still there, but it’s taken a back seat to the evidence: she is growing, she is alert, she is happy. So these are some of the moments that have made me feel like a mom:
- Sometimes, Henrie will cry, and if she is still crying after I have tried the usual suspects – diaper, hunger – I know that it’s time to get up and dance. We turn on Florence and the Machine, her favorite (ok, my favorite), and we dance cheek to cheek. She stops crying, her eyes close, and I get to smell her sweet little baby smell. The piece in all of this that makes me feel like a mom is knowing that if I can’t soothe her with the usual suspects, I have something else in my arsenal, and it usually works. I love knowing that I can make her feel better.
- Before I had Henrie, and in the first month or so of having her, people would say things like: “oh, that’s definitely her hungry cry,” or “that sounds like a dirty diaper.” I would nod in agreement, but to be perfectly honest, all of her sobbing sounded pretty much the same to me. Not so anymore. I have learned to interpret Henrie’s different cries: big, red-faced bellows mean she has had to wait too long to have a need fulfilled, such as a diaper change while we are in the car or a delayed feeding; half-hearted crying is usually accompanied by her sticking her fists in her mouth – a sure sign that she’s hungry; if she wakes up crying, it’s almost always because she has wet her diaper; a cry that starts and stops could be a couple of different things, but getting up for a little bounce or dance will usually suffice. Now, I don’t require the translation of other, more experienced baby-people. I feel like a mom because I know how to listen to my baby.
- Singing the same songs that my parents sung to me as a little girl.
- Playing with Henrie: lifting her up to play airplane, holding her hands as she sits, helping her stand, and imitating her cooing noses. We love sticking out our tongues at one another.
- Henrie’s big, gummy smile (and a gurgle that sounds like a laugh!).
- The strange pride I feel when I see how much she is growing or how many wet diapers she’s made in one day. This is definitely something I never understood before. I would have thought you were crazy if you told me that I would feel like celebrating every time I changed a monster dirty diaper.
Those are the main things for now. In other news, Zeydah came to visit, and it was wonderful to see my dad with Henrie. We went on lots of long walks, and we were even able to sneak out to the front range a couple of times. After I got the go-ahead from the midwives, I started running again. It’s super slow going. In the first week, I ran just under 10 miles and walked a little more than 17. Walking is fine now, but I feel heavy and breathless when I run. It’s so crazy to me that I was in such good shape just before labor and that I started walking shortly after labor, but I still feel as though I’ve never run a day in my life. I feel like I lost all of my fitness in the span of that 36 hour labor. Last week, I upped my mileage to nearly 15 miles and I still managed to walk 13. I want that feeling again – you know (or maybe you don’t) – the I-can-run-so-fast-and-feel-great-at-the-same-time-feeling.
So there’s two months. They’ve flown and crawled by. I feel like I’ve been Henriette’s parent forever, but I’m disbelieving when I see how she’s already grown out of her newborn clothes. It’s true; everyone said that it would get easier, and it has. I feel a calm that I never felt in the first few weeks, and breastfeeding has – knock on wood – been relatively painless for two and a half weeks. People keep asking if she’s sleeping through the night, and the answer is no, but I’m not all that worried. It’s fine for now, and I don’t even really mind. I love when we go back to bed after feeding in the middle of the night and Henriette turns her face towards me and throws her arm over my chest.