It’s Never Too Late

First, it’s been almost a year since I wrote and submitted my first blog. A few things happened between now and then.

I had a baby, and this time, it wasn’t measured in a word count. This was not a paper baby. No. Definitely not paper. And words don’t seem to do justice to the experience I’ve had as a first-time mama. How’s this? My husband and I are such rookies we forgot to bring a diaper to the doctor. We laughed while our baby wailed. By day four, we knew we had one determined little girl. She wet her pants. She screamed. We panicked.

Who wants to start exploring the world of life with saggy pants and a wet bottom? Gracelyn Rose knows what she wants and that wasn’t it.

We changed her immediately on the floor of the doctor’s office and then, to my great surprise, I whipped out my breast and fed her. I thought I’d be a bit more discrete than that. I would like to say I pictured myself with those fashionable breastfeeding curtains you can wear around your neck like an apron, but I didn’t. Before I gave birth, I put as much thought into breastfeeding as I did into filling our diaper bag and putting it in the car. Oh, but I cleaned the baseboards and washed the floors and organized our junk drawers. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking much at all, more staggering around the house, confused, frustrated, scaring myself that sleep deprivation would be so dangerous — to my sense of humor.

Forgive me, I’m a Capricorn. And yet by my admission, I’m supposed to be highly organized. I was sort of. But with the wrong things.

The first four days felt like 40 and I started to wonder if maybe the story of Jesus wandering in the desert was also a metaphor for postpartum women. I needed a nap, I needed a map, I needed some guard rails. Most of all I need to laugh again, and I did at the doctor’s office. Who should be sitting beside me in the waiting room? The husband of a friend of a friend who I had last seen at a wedding in Oregon the previous summer.

Uh, what? I hadn’t read anything about first-time parent etiquette. I wasn’t sure if I should turn to him and flash a friendly smile (hoping he wouldn’t notice the smudge marks below my eyes and forgive them for not being make-up but the permanent press of sleepless nights), or if I should wait for his greeting. Sort of like the way I navigate the trails near my home. Mountain bikers yield to hikers and we all yield to horses.

Who was the horse in this picture? Was it my 8 lbs baby and me?

My boob is hanging out. Bad? But my baby is latched on and suckling me, despite the toe-curling pain of it all. Good? Nobody told me that breastfeeding is not intuitive. It’s not anyone’s fault but my own. For the first time in my life, I chose ignorance. I hardly read a single book about labor or parenting. They all terrorized me because they destroyed the myth that this was all a dream. Nope. A little finger kept waggling in front of my eyes every time I’d try to open those baby books and read. It said, ‘Holly, you’re up next. You ready?’ like an annoying coach who knows you have a shin splint but keeps you in the game despite your pain. I managed to get through The Happiest Baby on the Block but forgot the fourth and fifth ‘S’ by the time we got home from the hospital. All I could remember was the ‘Shh’ and the ‘Swaddle,’ which in and of itself had threatened my marriage trying to get the dang thing right. Breastfeeding sent us to another place entirely — with my husband researching proper latching methods on the computer and playing the corresponding U-Tube videos he could find. He did the same thing for the swaddle and we soon educated ourselves on swaddles from around the world, prefering in the end ‘the egg roll’ from the Philipino nurse who first taught it to us, and whose teaching is now recorded on our camera. But, I needed my best friend to meet us at home Easter Sunday and literally shove my breast into my baby’s mouth as soon as she opened her cute little lips. I didn’t know to look for that signal. I didn’t know a lot then.

That was 16 weeks ago. I’m a different person now.

I’m learning. I’m making mistakes. I’m making messes. And I’m okay with that because when my baby girl wakes up in the morning and coos and gurgles and giggles from her crib, in awe of the paper puppies dangling above her and the skinny pink Post-It note her papa stuck on as a tongue, I forget the messes and the mistakes and focus on the miracle that she is. And I realize it’s never too late to learn something new.