Same job, different uniform.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Second Youth

Becoming a mother has had the strange and unexpected effect of producing a youthful vulnerability in me. Especially those first few weeks, I carried around a sense of awe, curiosity and joy mixed with a deep need to do what I need to do for my son but realizing I might not know how.

He breastfed the first time, within an hour of birth. It was easy. The next day he wouldn't, and I was pacing the floor, half-dressed, doing everything I could before the RN came in and intervened. In almost any other circumstance I would have found this humiliating. Now, I was just relieved.

Walking to the car, arriving home with a tiny bundle I would call my own, I depended on everyone for everything, while my son depended on me. I could give him the two things he needed most: nourishment and the comfort of love. Others could give me direction and support.

His eyes crusted over every morning. Mom showed me how to hold him over the sink, run warm water and rinse from the inside out. They were clogged tear ducts, so common in newborns but terrible to see.

I would forget to burp him after nursing, and he would cry. I was gently reminded.

Childbirth had been painful and terrifying and I was on a regular regime and Ibuprofen, Extra Strength Tylenol and stool softeners. My husband helped me keep track of what I should be taking and when. Mom pushed the water. "You have to drink a lot of fluids while you're breastfeeding." Who knew?

My sister and her six month old son showed up, brimming with smiles. With her example, I was reminded that babies aren't merely for putting down and lulling to sleep. They're for nurturing.

Every cry would bring me running. Conscious that I was doing it and trying to restrain myself, I would hover while others held him.

His wheezing was enough to stop my heart.

It's a wonder he ever slept as much as I peeked in on him. One night he slept longer than usual. I woke up, seized with fear and prayed that God would give me grace for whatever I found when I walked the foot and a half to his cradle to check on him. I resorted to waking him up and bringing him to bed with me!

I know that long-time mothers will relate to some of these stories and maybe chuckle. It's that knowledge that makes me feel so young and insecure in a way I don't recall feeling much before. The surprise is, always the self-confident woman, I'm not ashamed of my lack of surety. I am doing what so many have done before me; feeling my way through parenthood, half-blind but always seeing.

Except I feel like a kid while I'm doing it.

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Blogger elphaba said...

Great post! Nothing like parenthood to untangle the carefully constructed grip we had on our lives.
I don't know how alike you and I are, but it wasn't like falling off a log realizing that when it comes to infants/children there are simply a ton of things you can't control and hence the "feeling my way through parenthood."
It is all worth it, of course!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

And yet another reason not to "chuckle" yourself at mothers who come least within earshot.

By the way, I think you're feeling your way through quite nicely!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blogger Unknown said...

you are wonderful! the love you express here gives me chills and reminds me of when my baby was brand new. They truly are miracles, aren't they? not just because of who they are, but because of who we become. I wish you a lifetime of happiness.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blogger Susan a.k.a Lucy said...

Lovely post. Just now catching up on your blog again.

You put the experience so well. And I smile at you scooping him up and bringing him to bed. I remember the stage with Becca when even when she was asleep in my arms, and folk would say "ok you can put her down now" sometimes I'd just want to keep holding her anyway and I'm glad I listened to what my heart wanted.

Friday, June 26, 2009


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