When I was still pregnant with Dylan I imagined taking him camping with us at the end of the summer, at two months old. People told me it would be easy when he’s so little, when he just wants to be carried around, when he just wants to sleep. Or we could walk in the park, walk around the mall (of course I would still need to shop!). I had the illusion that a baby would be something like an accessory I toted around, a new bag, a laptop computer.
And here the illusion breaks down. Dylan doesn’t breastfeed. It’s not his style, apparently. The milk is fine, but not the boob. My industrial strength dual-sided milking machine would hardly be appropriate in the great outdoors. And besides that, I can’t even imagine how I would wash the bottles. The illusion breaks down even further because Dylan hates his baby carrier. Baby carriers are hot. He’s pressed up against my sweaty cleavage in the heat of summer, and he’s already a sweaty hot baby to begin with. And what about his 9:00 fuss? How would the other campers appreciate hearing that for two hours?
You don’t think about these things when you’re pregnant. You don’t think about sleeping in two hour chunks and exactly how exhausting it will be (Dylan slept for five hours, once, the other night and let me tell you, it was heaven!). You think, it won’t be that bad. How can it be that bad? No one would ever have babies if it were that bad. When you’re pregnant you think he’ll just lay there and look cute. You think, motherhood can’t be that hard. If Britney Spears can do it, anyone can!
But then it IS that hard. Motherhood is SO hard. When your family and friends are 100 miles away, and your in-laws are 3000 miles, when after two weeks your husband has to go back to work again and you’re left alone with a screaming baby, you’ve had no sleep for two weeks, and for a moment (or maybe even longer) you might think, oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?
They don’t tell you that part when you’re pregnant.
But then one night he doesn’t have his 9:00 fuss. He just drinks his bottle, starts to drift off at the end of it. You hold him close in your way-too-expensive glider chair and rock. His eyes are closed, his breathing soft and rhythmic (this is how you know he is really asleep). You could put him down now, but you don’t. Not yet. Because he is warm, and the rocking is gentle and soothing, because his eyelids flicker and he brings up the corners of his mouth in what might just be a real smile. You keep rocking, because this moment is so, so nice. And as you hold him you think about all the ways this baby is becoming a part of your real life that you never could have imagined when you were pregnant.