Monday, March 14, 2011

Adjusting to the new normal

Even though this is ostensibly a food blog, Bread Maiden will try to spare her readers any overworked bread-baby, baby-as-bread or bread-as-baby metaphors.

As some of you are aware, Bread Maiden and Mr. Bread Maiden welcomed a perfect little boy into our lives on December 25, 2010. The past two months have been hectic and life-changing, to say the least.

I don’t want to say that it’s been the hardest for me, since Mr. Bread Maiden has been amazing. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the first few weeks were, in one word, traumatic.

Before I give my reasons why it was traumatic, I do want to back up and list the reasons it was NOT traumatic.

First, I was fortunate to have a wonderful birth experience; it was everything I could possibly want and more. I still marvel on it.

It was definitely hard work, and painful, and all those things you already know.

But it was so much more, too- peaceful, and loving, and my husband and I bonded and worked together as a team in ways that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Second, I was fortunate to have a wonderful support system in place- my family, my husband’s family, extended family, and dear friends, who fed us, rocked the baby to sleep, changed diapers, cleaned the house, forced us to get some fresh air, and in general made the recovery possible.

That said, the adjustment to being parents is no small thing.

The morning we brought Little Bread Baby home with us, we put him between us on our bed and just stared at him, not fully believing he was real.

Even with the perfect birth experience and amazing support, you give birth and suddenly have this little person in your arms and he’s crying and you don’t know what he could possibly need.

Then it dawns on you.

He needs YOU.

And he will need YOU for the rest of your life. And when he looks at you, he sees MOMMY.

Which is totally different from how you see yourself when you look in the mirror.

And that translates, at least initially, into round-the-clock feedings that follow no discernible schedule, suddenly having to remember when the last diaper was changed, and being tied to the chair or bed while he’s eating, unable to grab yourself something to eat or a glass of water.

Well, you could, but that would involve moving out of the comfortable position you are in now, and risking waking the baby up, and frankly it’s just too much work.

When you try to take a minute-long shower, he screams. When you want to get dressed, he screams. When he’s calm and you decide to take a walk with him and get the moby wrap all wrapped and get his jacket and hat on and your shoes and jacket on, then he decides he’s hungry and screams and you have to take it all back off again. What happened to those supposedly 16 hours a day he’s supposed to sleep?

His dependence on you makes you dependent on others. Suddenly you can’t bathe or eat or drink without someone else taking over baby duties or getting it for you. And while you’re feeding him, you’re looking around and making a mental list of everything that needs to be done- sweep the floor, do the dishes, run errands— that you can’t do.

Because you have a baby and that baby is ALWAYS hungry.

And everyone always says to sleep when the baby sleeps but how can you do that when there are dishes to do and you haven’t checked e-mail in three days and you desperately need a shower?

But the weeks pass. And one day you are able to take a shower. And a few weeks later you learn how to nurse him on a pillow on your lap so you can check e-mail.

Then, one glorious day, he takes a nap in his swing for one. whole. hour. And so you do the only thing you can do— bake.

And so you pull out Peter Reinhart’s amazing biscuit recipe.

And you throw together your flour, water, salt and active starter from your MIL and get two loaves of sourdough rising on the table.

The feeling of digging your hands into the dough, letting it set and then molding it into a boule, is so familiar, even though it’s been so long. It’s like returning to a past life, an echo of the way things were before.

And you get some dishes done.

And you write some thank-you notes.

And you check in on the baby and notice his little dimples as he’s smiling in his sleep, and his little nose reminds you of your nose and his mouth looks like your husband’s, and you are full of love for this little baby, love that has slowly grown since his birth as you’ve gotten to know him, and seen him grow bigger and stronger and more alert.

You realize he’s woken up, so you put the half-finished biscuit dough in the freezer, and pick him up out of the swing. Rocking him in your arms, it’s not long before you’ve soothed him back to sleep.

And you know everything will be ok. You aren’t done adjusting to the new normal, but you’re able to accept it for what it is.

And it is wonderful.


Slow Learner said...

LOVE IT!! And it's funny... I think often expectant parents just assume everything will be peaches and cream immediately, and that must make the reality alarming. But you're right: You find the new normal and it's wonderful, and well worth the difficulty getting there. And you have such a beautiful little boy!

janice said...

all of this resonates with me (how to eat, cook, shower!) ! am trying to figure out what our new normal is right now :)