My neighbor across the street just had a baby. It’s her second child. Her second girl. Over the weekend, I saw her for the first time since the baby was born. She was sitting in a lawn chair next to a bassinet and watching her four-year-old daughter ride her bike around the driveway.
I walked across the street to congratulate her and asked, “How are you doing?”
Her response was refreshingly candid. “Awful,” she said.
Her c-section incision hurt like hell, she was exhausted, her husband was at work (on the weekend no less), and at 4pm, she had only just showered. She was just seven days into the madness of having two kids.
I’ll never forget the depth of awfulness that engulfed me after I brought my babies home from the hospital. Of course, there was love and bliss and wonder, but the awfulness was there, and it was thick and sticky.
When Dylan, my first, came home, the awfulness came from perpetually trying not to accidentally kill him during any of the following activities: feeding, bathing, diapering, dressing, undressing, strolling, driving, rocking, singing, or holding. Did I ever tell you the first diaper I ever changed was Dylan’s? True story. Figuring out what all of his noises and cries meant, leaving the house with less than three hours notice, changing his diapers without getting peed or pooped on, learning how to fold and unfold the stroller without bodily harm, trimming his teeny baby nails without cutting off any of his teeny fingers, and surviving one long, dark night after another were daunting experiences.
When Riley came along, it was a lot easier to not accidentally kill him, but new forms of awfulness lurked.
There was sibling rivalry, and a result, guilt. Oh, the guilt! There was pain. Recovering from a c-section, or any form of childbirth, is difficult when you never stop moving. There was sleep deprivation. Actually, it was more like sleep zilch. Sleep zero. (There was a brief period of time in late 2009 when Riley and Dylan took the same afternoon nap. It was miraculous and, to this day, is one of my proudest parenting achievements.) There was juggling. Breastfeeding while simultaneously flipping grilled cheese sandwiches, finding “The Big Red Chicken” episode of “Dora the Explorer” On Demand, doing puzzles, getting the Moby wrap on and off without strangling myself, and folding laundry (oh, the laundry!) was hard. Really hard. It was chaos. Period.
Oh, I remember the awfulness.
My neighbor will find a rhythm. She’ll discover a new normal. She’ll learn how to juggle, and she’ll eventually feel rested (or at least not murderous) on three hours of sleep. But right now she’s isolated, overwhelmed, and tired beyond all belief. Seeing her gave me an overwhelming urge to go shopping. (For her, silly, not me.)
First, I hit Barnes & Noble for baby and big sister gifts.
I want another baby just so I can buy more owls. (Did I just write that?)
I settled on this little guy.
And to keep big sister busy…
Then I bought a bunch of easy to grab, healthy snacks.
Last but not least, the cards.
Inside Mama’s card, I offered to watch the baby or have her older daughter over to my house for a play date with the boys so she can nap or shower or pee or scream into a pillow all by herself. (I didn’t actually write that last part.)
Ready for delivery!
Hopefully she can use the bucket in the nursery or elsewhere in the house.
As our kids get older, school days grow longer, sleep comes easier, sanity returns (sort of), and awfulness recedes, we mustn’t forget the Mamas just getting started on this wild ride or the Mamas preparing to climb the next big hill. We’ve all been there. For many of us, we’ve been there more than once, and some of us just might find ourselves there again.
Any New Mamas in your life?