One thing that I’ve realized is the vast amount of unsolicited advice first-time moms receive. I’m not blaming anyone, because since even after about 10 days of motherhood I found myself also offering my own set of hints to pregnant or eventually-will-be moms. It’s funny what people’s “invaluable” advice is. A few of my favorites were, “Scrub your nipples down with Brillo pads to prepare for nursing,” “push like you’re pooping,” and “sleep while he sleeps,” which is comical not because of how outlandish it is but because these people apparently don’t have babies like Sam, whose daytime sleep immediately transitions to wide-awakeness approximately 60 seconds after he leaves the arms of the person who has soothed him into slumber. So, yes, if you mean “barely drift off to sleep while holding a baby on your lap with one hand on a pacifier and the other holding all his limbs tightly to simulate the womb” then, yes, I’ll do that.
Anyways, Amy, a mom of two students I’ve had, visited me after Sam was born and gave me two of the most helpful pieces of advice I’d gotten. The first was to grip your breast like a hamburger when nursing. The second was that God makes parenting so hard ON PURPOSE – so that we would have to rely on him. I had no sense of exactly how difficult the first week of Sam’s life would be. (Poor guy – he’s probably thinking, “You think it’s been hard on YOU!”) Most moms could empathize with the bulk of the list – contractions, labor, lack of sleep, etc. Difficult as they are, these were nothing compared with what first hit me on Day 2 of Sam’s life, about ten p.m. The nurses had finally kind of left us alone. Visitors were gone. The lights were dimmed. We were exhausted. We needed to sleep. Sam and Todd apparently had no hard time with that – Todd was scrunched on the “couch” across the room, and Sam was swaddled in his hospital bassinet which I had wheeled next to my bed. Yet I, as tired as I was, could close my eyes no longer than a minute before – certain that he was choking, suffocating, and had stopped breathing – I would rouse awake and determine to watch him to make sure he was safe. I’d like to say the night ended with my drifting to sleep anyway, but the madness continued until 6:00 a.m. the next morning when I stood in the bathroom, crying, shaking, calling my mom for some sort of direction on how in the world I could ever close my eyes and trust that he would be okay. And as mothers know, that kind of fanatic worry doesn’t end with fear of SIDS – it drifts forward in time, imagining all sorts of illnesses, crimes, rebellions, and calamities that could show up. You’ve never loved something so helpless.
A chronic worrier, I won’t ever lose this for good. But I did have an epiphany moment. We arrived home with Sam on Friday morning. I’d had less than 8 hours of sleep the whole week and the time had come. Leaving my helpless precious one with my husband, who had to promise not to sleep, drop him, or go to the bathroom, etc. etc, I climbed the stairs to our room and collapsed next to our bed. With tears streaming down my face, I choked out to God that I was placing Sam in His hands. Even then I realized the ridiculousness of my thinking – somehow Sam had been in MY hands and MY control all those nine months of developing and growing. Of course not. The same God who started his life and protected every developing cell STILL has him in his hands. But parenting certainly makes you live out that trust you claim you have…I have a feeling the adventure is just beginning!