A few days after my son was born, my husband and I needed to buy something from the drug store. I don’t remember what it was, I only remember that at first we assumed my husband would get it but then decided that he should watch the baby and I would walk the few blocks to the store. It was a beautiful August day. I let the warm sun soak into my skin and marveled at how nice it felt to do something so ordinary. Bringing home our son felt like all the pieces of our life were thrown into a bag, shaken up, and then scattered onto the ground. I felt completely changed and had no idea when normalcy would return. That walk felt amazing.
When I got to the store, I found what we needed and impulsively picked up a king-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups pack while I waited in line. (It took a few days for me to remember it was in my bag and finally get to eat it.) When it was my turn at the register, the cashier and I exchanged pleasantries and remarked at how beautiful the day was. She lamented the fact that she had to work. “By the time I get off work, it’s supposed to change to rain,” she sighed. I felt a bubble of desire to explain what I had been doing before my trip to the store – the baby at home who was either crying, sucking desperately from my sore nipples, or sleeping on my chest – but it seemed too surreal to mention in the fluorescent-lit store. How could I explain the combination of joy and exhaustion to this young clerk? Could she possibly understand what it’s like to have another being depend solely on you for survival? Were there even words in the English language to express how hard it was for me to be just a few blocks away from my new son even though I desperately craved a break?
I ended up saying nothing – just smiled and nodded at her wish to be outside. When I got home, I learned that baby boy had slept all of 5 minutes after I left and screamed the rest of the time I was gone. This started the struggle I have continued to have with leaving him with not-Mom. And I still don’t know how to explain to people without children what it’s like to suddenly be a parent and carry so much weight.
All families are different and responsibilities settle themselves in various ways depending on the individuals. However, the majority of the time, there is one individual who becomes the “default parent” and it is usually the mom.
The day my son was born, I tried to determine the emotion I felt. I knew people often referred to that day as being “the happiest day of their life.” But that didn’t seem right. To me, it was like an eclipse occurred. I was no longer the center of my universe but now this new person shared the space with me. And while my life has settled down for the most part and I can go for a walk by myself without feeling torn, I still cannot do anything without first considering how the act will impact my son. My heart and soul have grown to include another being.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.