I hear the first soft strains of a baby cry that may or may not turn into a full-blown yell. I wait.
The cry has intensified. My husband and I peel ourselves out of bed. "I'll get the bottle," I say, which means he'll handle the diaper.
I'm pouring a glass of iced coffee in the kitchen. I hear him shut the door and walk down the hallway. "He's up," he says, and adjust his glasses. We smile at each other. Sometimes the baby will go back to sleep, giving us a priceless additional hour in the morning, and sometimes not. Today is a not.
We are all up. I sit on the bed, drinking coffee and typing. Keeping one eye on the baby, who is alternately eating puffs (praise Jesus for the eternal distraction of those fluffy little Cheerios) and dumping them on the carpet. Pulling himself up to stand on the edge of the bed frame, crawling to and from the bathroom door. Loud baby toys ring, like an obnoxious, brightly colored guitar that sings "Love Shack" at the touch of a button. It's too early for this, I think.
My husband is talking. My baby is blabbing. I am multi-tasking. I am always multi-tasking.
MA MA MA MA MA, Ezra demands. He's moving everywhere. He lets out a frustrated yell when he can't figure something out (like how to sit down from standing). He wants to touch, grab, feel everything, and I admire his dedication to connection. I eat a hard-boiled egg while putting on makeup to look less tired. I stand on one foot, a casual tree pose, while he paws at my ankles and I stare into my closet wondering if I can wear the tan sweater with the black jeans. Or did I wear that Monday? I can't remember.
My alarm blares, indicating it is time to leave for daycare. We are nowhere near ready. We are always fifteen minutes late.
I open my laptop at work. So many emails, so many meetings. I really like my job, thankfully. I drink more coffee and eat a protein bar while walking to a conference call. I feel qualified in a way that is harder to locate when I'm staring at my son. When I'm parenting, I always fear I am doing it wrong. The rest of the day rolls past in a blur, a happy one with moments of stress, but good nonetheless. I get to use my brain. I work at a company trying to make people's lives better and healthier. I have coworkers I respect and admire.
I feel purposeful, useful, competent, needed.
I skirt out of the office to make daycare drop-off, which is earlier than most, but I don't mind because our provider is like a second grandmother. I walk into this woman's home, and I am welcomed by the smiling face of my baby, which feels like clocking into a second shift and being covered in globs of warm sunshine all at once. I ask questions like, "Did he poop?" and "How many ounces did he drink? and genuinely wait for the answers. I make mental lists of needing more diapers, wipes, food, clothes, this and that. There is always more to add to the list. I coo, "Did you have a good day?" to this baby I made, and look at him as though he might answer.
We arrive home. A chorus of UH-OH, UH-OH, UH-OHHHHH rings through the apartment. Chores alternate with games of peek-a-boo. He moves forward in a little walker thing, which some parents would know the name of, but I don't. It is red and green and yellow and orange. I hand him toys, and he drops them off the side with a sly smile. I put him on the ground, and turn away for a moment, and then hear the thick smack of the dog's water bowl being turned over. Babies are fast.
Dad takes over, feeding little bites of cheese (yes) and peas (puke). He hands Ezra the spoon, which is promptly tossed to the ground. Four little teeth. DA DA DA DA DA. We grin at him, and each other.
Fat baby bellies are the absolute best creation ever. Water runs to fill the white bathtub, and he squeals at the side. Obsessed with baths, and splashing. I think about how many baths I took when I was pregnant (a lot). I think about laboring in the hospital tub (ow). I think about the fact that if he could remember those moments, I would never know. His splashes spill all over me, and we laugh with gusto.
He screams at the top of his lungs, seeing a bottle in my hands. I am not fast enough. His dad is the worst. Everything is awful. And then, pure bliss. Eyes closed, lay back, drink that sucker down, finish with a big sigh. Five books and two lullabies later, he wriggles under his star blanket in the crib. I turn on his sound machine, the thing we swore we'd never buy, because we weren't going to be *those parents.* We are suckers because it works. I turn off the lights.
I find a hardened rhythm of settling into routine without feeling like a slave to it. An attempt to practice selflessness without turning into a resentful martyr. A repeated battle to not only ask for help (easy) but actually accept it (ugh). Perpetually behind, at least in a task-oriented sense. Days of feeling so overwhelmed. Of wanting just a moment of freedom or peace, and then once getting it, wanting to touch the soft, smooth skin of my chubby, healthy baby.
I hold fast to date nights. Working on the respective computers at 9 o'clock at night. Glasses of wine. Falling asleep early on the weekends. Laughing while making dinner. Hugging on the couch. Funny parenting memes and inside jokes. Having a big talk about needing to have more sex, and then one of you gets your period or a cold sore or a bad cold for two weeks. Realizing that no, you didn't "fail" at reconnecting, life just got in the way. Loving is hard. Listening is hard. Not keeping score is hard. Choosing to build your life with someone every day is hard. Hard things are worth it.
I write a little bit each day, so I don't go crazy. Like yoga. I'd prefer an hour or two on the regular, but I make peace with a down dog in the hallway while singing ABCs. A set of sun salutations, a high plank hold, a speedy blog post, a freelance outline during nap time. I fit it in where I can, and allow perfection to fly out the window.
I call my friends, but mostly forget to call my friends. I text back in two days. I wish everyone I loved could appear at the snap of my fingers. Screens are not the same.
I laugh with my sister, so hard that my face hurts.
I worry about the world.
I hear people talk about tribes, and I want to be a part of one. Except it seems like everybody either already has one or is right there in the parenting trenches with me. Maybe not, though. Maybe it just takes practice. I've learned that I needed to get a few months into this motherhood thing before I could support anyone else. I stop saying, "let me know if you need anything!" and start saying "Can I come over tomorrow morning? I'll bring coffee." When a newer mama friend texts me for dinner at the last minute, I ask for her address, because I know that I need her even if I don't know her yet.
I read about a stranger who lost her baby. I cry real tears that surprise my cheeks with their heaviness. The days are long but the years are short.
I repeat thank you like a mantra to whoever is listening.