To My Firstborn at Midnight
I wake you gently at midnight.
And you yawn and stretch,
Your mouth widening into the imperfect “O” I suddenly remember from years ago,
When your limbs were not so long, your sleep not so solid.
When you were still so small you fit in my arms. And we spent minutes and hours in the glow of the hall nightlight.
Your face, grown, is still yours.
And your crooked yawn is the same.
And I can’t quite believe how heavy you have become as I pick up your slack, warm, lanky body that smells like spit, and sweet sweat, and blankets.
And I am glad. And tired.
Because the middle of the quiet nights with you are mine alone.
It will be years until another person knows your midnight yawn.
For now, it is all mine.
Recently, I was asked to offer some words of encouragement and advice to a friend expecting her first child. My first piece of advice? Pay no attention to even the most well-intentioned pieces of advice. With that said, here are a few things I’ve learned on my 3 trips to baby town.
- Doctors don’t want to scare you, so they don’t tell you exactly how long labor will last. But I will. Labor will last a long time. A few days. Yes, days. I know only two women whose first labors lasted less than 24-hours. Two. (I’m not counting scheduled C-sections.) And when you’re 40 weeks pregnant, anxious to meet your little one, in pain, and don’t know what to expect the whole process will seem excruciatingly long, miserable, and sometimes a bit out-of-control, no matter how well you plan. But you will be okay. You will.
- Get one of these.
Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper
- People with children who are teenagers or older will tell you to enjoy every minute, that it all goes by so fast. Those people are wrong. You won’t enjoy/savor/cherish every minute. In fact, I think it is far more likely that you’ll find a lot about caring for an infant to be tedious, repetitive, messy, exhausting and not-so-fun. BUT, it gets better, and there are lovely, quiet, rewarding, amazing moments.
- Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing everything wrong. You aren’t.
- Forget what the books and registry guides say. Children don’t need much: love, warmth, a food source, and when they get a little older, a toy that makes a crinkly crunchy sound. You have enough and you are enough. Get this whale for the crinkly toy part.
Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze
- Don’t feel bad about asking for what you need. If someone asks what they can do to help, tell them to bring food and hold the baby for an hour while you shower and nap. Never underestimate the restorative power of a shower and a nap. (In the reverse, if someone is over-staying their welcome, don’t feel bad about asking them to leave.)
- Bring your own pillow to the hospital. The bed is uncomfortable enough. Don’t add to your misery by sleeping on a pillow encased in rubber.
You got this, Mama.