Maternity leave is the movie “Castaway.” I am Tom Hanks and Cora, my three-week-old, is Wilson. We are stranded alone on an island (my 505-square-foot Brooklyn apartment) all day, every day. And, hey, islands are nice! You can hang out on the couch all day watching Netflix!
Yes. I am still watching.
You have little to no human interaction, so you start talking to inanimate objects. For Tom Hanks, it was a volleyball. For me, it is my kid. She has no control of her arms and her smiles are reflexes. They aren’t real. Just as Wilson’s face wasn’t real. But damn if I haven’t started to tell myself that her smiles are real. I spend all day trying to get a smile reflex pointed in my general direction.
It’s a time of paradoxes. Everyone tells you that this is the “precious infant time” and, “She doesn’t stay small forever.” I get it. When I go back to work in a couple of months I’m going to hate current me. I’m going to want to punch current me in the face.
But, OH MY GOD, am I bored.
Do you know what my hyperactive, overstimulated, NYC brain does all day? Imagine and prepare for baby disaster scenarios. And then this doomsday thinking leads to this really fun game that Cora and I play called, “Why Are You Crying?”
I try to guess why Cora is crying and then she tries to guess why I am crying.
And then we feed, again.
I don’t think I realized what a same-thing-happens-every-2.5-hours schedule was going to be like. This is how it plays out.
2:45-3 p.m. Change the baby.
Wonder why the baby hates getting changed so much? Having someone wipe your ass is probably nice, right? Once the baby is changed I put the little baby outfit back on her. Her outfits usually last until about noon because she has shit all over them or I just decide to stop trying to get her flailing limbs into the tiny clothing holes. Plus, who is going to see her anyway? It’s just me. Did Tom Hanks put Wilson in tiny outfits everyday? No. Cause that would be dumb.
3-3:30 p.m. Feed the baby.
Hope that she latches right away. Laugh to yourself when your baby sounds like a baby dragon while trying to latch. Hope that her latch is a good one and doesn’t feel like a tiny human chewing off your nipple for 30 minutes. BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT’S HAPPENING.
3:30-5:15 p.m. Try to figure out why the baby is crying.
Maybe she needs to be changed again? So you try that. Nope it wasn’t that. But as soon as you change her she rips a massive wet fart and you change her again. But she is still crying. You may try walking her. Then rocking her. Then bouncing her. Then putting her in the swing thing. Then talking to her. Then singing to her. Then putting her skin-to-skin on your chest. Then playing an ocean white noise playlist you find on Spotify. Then you try the pacifier. Then you check the clock. It’s been an hour since the last feeding. So you bounce her some more. Then maybe you just say, “F*ck it,” and feed her again cause you don’t know what else to try.
5:15-5:30 p.m. Change the baby.
And the whole thing starts over. You do this 24 hours a day. For months. Maybe years!
Yeah. Give yourself a second to think about what that is like. Then call your mom and thank her. I keep thanking my mom – I think I’m freaking her out.
But seriously. This is motherhood. I am completely shocked that so many people do this. I just stare at people on the streets and think about all of their mothers and all of the shit they had to deal with. I feel like more people should know about this. It’s insane.
“Three months off” is what people say. And maternity leave sounds like this decadent thing. A beach oasis sounds like a decadent thing, too. But stranded on a deserted island is a more accurate way to explain what Tom Hanks was experiencing. So let’s try this. I am not having “three months off” – I am “stranded in motherhood for three months.”
Okay. Okay. Now the guilt sets in. So let’s take a moment to be grateful…
I was lucky to get pregnant. I was lucky to not die in childbirth (am I the only one who was legitimately worried about that?) I am lucky to have a healthy baby. I am lucky to have supportive friends and family.
And I like Cora. I really do. I think her baby dragon sounds are funny. She makes a ridiculously adorable face when she stretches after feeding. And sometimes when she sleeps, she laughs and it tears my heart apart.
I am lucky.
But, damn, this is super monotonous, hard work.
Thank you, mom.