…I’ve been a little busy.
Somehow, Rocío is four months old. Motherhood has altered the passage of time for me. Everything is slower and faster, longer and shorter. I was wholly unprepared for how rapid some changes would be; in the first days and weeks of my girl’s life, the only thing that made me cry at all was a desperate desire to stop time. Betting that’s not going to go away.
Kiddo was born at 40 weeks, 2 days, full-term and fully-cooked. She was born fully alert, with her eyes wide open. She had several signs of a post-dates baby, but we’re sure of dates- she was just ready to rumble. Her tininess was due simply to a smaller placenta. Genetic luck of the draw. (And for a first baby, I would definitely consider it luck.) We had her at home, and it was perfect and transcendental and lots of things that sound like total hippie bullshit. She was born right around the time that day slips into night, and that was about right, as we spent the next couple of weeks in a hazy sort of dream world. Behind the veil. No time except the time between feedings, no other outside forces. Just getting to know one another, just life. New life, for all of us. Those, I think, were the most special days I’ve ever had. Pretty fucking cool.
Not that that lasts. V. went back to work after two weeks, and we slowly made our way back above ground. Now we’re a normal family, with normal stress and normal we-have-a-new-baby bickering and normal adoration of our normal AND TOTALLY ADORABLE NOT THAT I’M BIASED little girl. I am experiencing the tugs in opposite directions that most mothers do, wanting to be with my daughter instead of my dissertation and needing my dissertation to give me a break from my daughter, god love her. I am doubtful of wanting full-time work for a while, and not at all doubtful that we were never meant to raise children in isolation. I don’t feel much doubt in general. I don’t feel an identity loss. I feel stronger instead of weaker (and good thing). Relationships with family and friends have been shaken up in ways that I could not have foreseen. In some cases it’s a little bit distancing. In others it’s the complete opposite. This was the right move. This was an exhausting move. It’s a move that I am already convinced I will want to repeat (but not yet..). My kid smells like heaven (unless she doesn’t). My kid laughs hysterically and it’s like a drug. She opens her eyes in the morning and when her brain registers that I’m there she smiles, big and almost involuntarily, because I am mamá now.
How’s about that.
(Of ten. Ten months of corporeal colonization. Ah, ah, ahhh. 25 weeks and change, of 38-42.)
This is how we’re doing time these days, when I am tethered to no other artificial calendar or clock. I officially start my fellowship in July; I can bill hourly work right now but have not been taking as much advantage of that option as a wiser person might. I’ve realized that every hour I put in now is an hour I don’t have to think about how to balance writing with caring for an infant. I’ve also realized that these silent hours alone in the house while my husband is at work are, in effect, the last such hours I’m likely to have for a very long time. Which to take fuller advantage of? Conundrum.
When we bought this house, the front yard was bare, the grass having been scorched away by a summer hotter and drier than is right or fair. When I moved down permanently in December, we bought and seeded winter rye. I remember how refreshing the first tiny shoots of grass looked when they sprung up a few days later, how hopeful. The shift into actively building the life and community that will sustain my family in the years to come, after spending the last few years doing my damndest to not put down roots, is.. a lot like that. Tenuous, and vulnerable, and not yet anything resembling lush- but a sign of what’s possible, what this could turn into if we treat it right.
So, at this moment, things are quietly pleasant. There is an underlying hum of stress around renegotiating my relationship to my work; sometimes I engage it, sometimes I block it out. Mostly, I work happily on settling into a life I’d like to inhabit much more fully than the recent past has allowed me to. And from the ‘sweet spot’ of the late second trimester, where I am no longer sick all the time and not yet big enough to be in a state of constant discomfort, I am genuinely surprised by the strength of my desire to have my girl here with me. In earlier pregnancy it was all far away enough to seem almost hypothetical, but the more she grows and makes herself known the more anxious I am for the day when I can bring her out and meet her. Who will this person be?
as of Monday (June 27th)…
Credit: Dave Sanders for the New York Times
Have we tried this before? How did it end?
(Had a magnificent Memorial Day Weekend; not ready to let it go.)
It’s official. I survived the first year. Damn, does that feel good to say.
To make things even better, I got word today that the change that I was so hoping for on the assistantship front is, in fact, going to happen. I’m ecstatic.
I have this crazy feeling that I actually might like life next year, all things considered, which is huge. There were times–long stretches of time–where I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Man.
If I keep writing I’ll just repeat myself ad infinitum (good things happened! and how good that they’re good! GREAT!), so let me stop now. (GOOD!)
we live in a culture that celebrates self-denial as strength. the less pleasure you permit yourself, the more impressive the strength of your character, the worthier you are of temporary accolades and quite possibly eternal salvation. i buy into this to some degree, certainly; i try to keep certain indulgences to a minimum, as excess consumption and spending, for example, inevitably end in the fattening of things one doesn’t want fattened and the withering away of things one prefers to keep robust, respectively.
but while i do my best to pray faithfully at the altar of calorie watching, physical activity, and a practice that can be most eloquently referred to as ‘not buying shit’, i can’t help but regard myself as something of a hypocrite. lurking beneath the façade of at least minimal self-control is something more carnal, more honest. in truth, my friends, i revile the values of this pleasure-starved (part of the) world. in truth, i have a strongly-held belief in the dogged pursuit of spelled-with-an-i happiness, even if one must pay for it with an extra workout, a skinnier bank account until next paycheck, the judgment of peers, being passed over for a promotion. i don’t know why i’m on this planet (aside from the direct biological facts), but i do my best to make sense of it through a mix of making things better for other people and not making things worse for myself. i value my health. i value my ethics. i value my sense of well-being. when i create my family, i will value that above all. this is a major consideration in finding a partner. oddly enough, fighting for your right to be happy is something radical.
a list of some of my loves, because life is too short to only have one:
- wine (carménère has played a key role in the writing of this post)
- dark chocolate
- good food
- good conversation
- going out and sharing any or at best all of the above with a friend. i’ve never denied being easily entertained, and this simple experience is more likely to bring me joy and contentment on a deep level than any elaborately planned outing/party/date/etc.
- songs that transport me
- smells that comfort me
- having someone to sleep next to
- having my hair played with
- hearing people speak languages other than english
- seeing happy families or couples
- feeling live music
- dancing with someone
- singing with someone
- empty beaches
- the mountains of puerto rico
- trains and subways
- comfortable silences
- being known
- getting text messages/e-mails/phone calls
- my little brother
- validation from otherwise antisocial children (or adults, i suppose)
- writing letters
- books that are worlds you don’t want to leave
- giving gifts
- pictures that capture the feelings behind the moment
- my dog’s manipulative cuddling
- having my silliness indulged
- you, of course
i will stop myself there. what do you love?