Spring in Wisconsin comes quietly and gradually. Grass stretches and greens up slowly, buds extend off naked branches subtly, and then one day you look around and daffodils and snowdrops and woodland violets are suddenly dotting the ground like little yellow and white and purple fireworks.
So it has been with motherhood, Jackson slowly has been leaving that newborn sleepy hibernation behind. Suddenly, it seems, he’s now round and giggly and delighted with the goings-on of the world. Only the tiniest traces of his long brown newborn hair remain, and in their place the fuzziest blond whisps of hair are growing in. His grey blue eyes are turning brown, like the continents emerging from the ocean.
He smiles at strangers and cries when someone leaves the house. He is infinitely entertained by his older cousin. And now, he looks like a giant of a baby next to his newest week-old cousin.
He’s been baptized. He’s been on a plane. He’s seen the ocean, celebrated Easter, and rolled over. He’s fascinated with his own hands. He loves to capture and munch on fabric—sleeves are a particular delicacy whether his own or ours. He loves books with lots of rhyming words — Little Blue Truck, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and Go Dog Go.
He is absolutely delightful.
I have found that slipping into motherhood after nearly four years of nannying has been a mostly surprisingly easy transition. The sleep and nursing in the first few weeks was rough of course. And now the challenge is making time for relationships other than the mother-child one — whether that’s time with Evan, or our small group, or simply calling friends.
But the day-to-day activities, the wiping of bottoms and noses, changing of pjs and diapers, walking babies endlessly in carriers so they can sleep and I can walk — that has been remarkably similar. I was worried that perhaps I wouldn’t be a very happy night-parent, but I have found that even at 2 am the work isn’t all that different or difficult compared with the day time, just laced with exhaustion and done in the semi-darkness of a quiet house.
I have found too that having been paid to care for babies makes me feel that, most of the time at least, I am accomplishing “real” work during the day. Now I don’t always feel that way when dishes are stacked high in the kitchen, or clean laundry somehow takes days to put away and in the meantime colonizes large sections of our living room. But for the most part, I do know on a practical and deep level that what I am doing has value and is real work.
I also find that choosing to make time for writing and keeping the house clean means that I often can’t do all of those things in one day. One day, nap times are for cleaning up, because I just can’t stand the mess any more. Another day naps are for writing, and I ignore the house. Most of the writing days go to the novel, but then I think the blog has been neglected, so I go and tend it for a while.
I have a lot of half written things, notes and thoughts, like that pile of clean laundry that is almost done, but not quite. Jackson is somewhat of a micro-napper (45 minutes every 90 minutes), but he is napping much more independently (as opposed to only in the Ergo while I walk) so I am getting pockets of time. Each day is different, but I think that each month I gain a bit more time to tidy rooms and sentences.
Of course I would prefer to have enough time every day to do all that I love — but I have to be satisfied with the fact that I can realistically get done in a week what I mentally put on a single day’s to-do list. (This of course isn’t a new struggle, but motherhood has certainly not alleviated it.) I try to remember that there is a beauty in this season. A season that is both overflowing with work and to-dos and also somehow filled with simply being and getting very little made or done.
The great work is simply getting to help Jackson grow.
Somehow that work is nearly all my responsibility, and at the same time, not something I’m doing at all. I am simply watching it unfold before me. Much like when people tell me he’s beautiful (which of course I think he is!) I am somehow responsible for making him so cute, and somehow simultaneously just as outside of it as whoever is giving the compliment. Parenting really is an amazing picture of co-creation, what we do matters—babies can’t feed themselves or learn words or a thousand other things without caregivers—and yet it is such a miracle that my body makes food for him, that we have a language and ability to learn it at all. I am just as much a recipient of the miracle of life as Jackson is. Parenting it seems is somehow a lot of work and even more grace.
Spring here is a collection of cold and hot, warm and cool days. Some days it’s nearly 80 while some night it dips to 30. Jackson, too, seems all infant some days, all nursing and carrying and coaxing to sleep, and other days he is ready to leap into toddlerhood rolling and grabbing and watching us eat with a hungry look in his eye. Summer will be here before we know it and with it crawling on spiky grass, thick sunscreen and broad sun hats, bare little baby legs and feet, mashed avocado and banana smeared on round fuzzy heads and perhaps bits inside mouths. We’re looking forward to a real and true teacher summer, perhaps one that will let me write more, or perhaps it will just be fuller. I am trying to take the work and rest of each day as it comes, participating in the miraculous and exhausting experience of motherhood with as open of a hand as I can manage.
What new things is this Spring bringing you?
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