Monday, July 25, 2011

Melting into Motherhood (mindfully)

Today, we did not get the laundry done, or the kitchen floor, or collect things for the yard sale.

What Milo and I did was this: we spent time together and decided everything else could wait.

Michael had a fishing tournament this morning, which required him getting up at 4:00 am, so we decided he could skip the bottle feeding last night. Of course, that meant that Milo did not do his usual only-waking-up-once thing, and instead decided to eat every 2 - 2.5 hours or so. (Must be that 2 month growth spurt, a week early. Overachiever.) I had stayed up until 1:30 to feed him, operating under the logic that he'd only wake once between then and 9:30, which would be plenty of sleep for me. Instead, after the feeding that started at 1:00, he woke at 2:30, 4:15, 6:15, 9:15, etc. Which is the time I should have woken up, pumped, showered, and started the day. But I was tired, so I went back to sleep until the next time he woke. Which may have been 10:30 or noon. I can't remember. I do remember texting Michael to tell him I was starving...too hungry to fall asleep but too tired to get up and get food.

Sleep won out. When Milo started fussing, I tried to comfort him and tried a whole bunch of things, finally flopping over on my back and pulling him on top of my chest. Immediately, he calmed down and fell asleep. I was too scared to move for fear of waking the fussy dragon within. So I pulled the satin edge of the blanket up over his back, made sure there were no blankets near his face, wrapped my arms around him, and went to sleep.

When he started making sucking noises and burrowing down towards my chest, I rolled him off to my side so we were tummy to tummy (sort of) and let him eat like that until we both drifted off again.

We continued like this, with brief intermissions for singing and smiling and cooing, until about 3 pm. And I was not at all sorry about the laundry, or the kitchen floor, or the yard sale. In fact, I didn't even think about them. With Milo's head on my chest, or his cheek on mine, there was nowhere else I'd rather be. Nothing else I'd rather be doing. His warmth and weight just melted into me and I melted into motherhood and that was pretty much everything.

A few day ago (or maybe weeks) I mentioned that Milo was like a mindfulness bell, and today just illustrated that perfectly. You might remember my post from LAST August about the 5 day silent meditation retreat I participated in, and if so, you'll remember there was a giant meditation bell hanging from a tree at the monastery.  When the bell rang, wherever you were, you stopped whatever you were doing and just...took a deep breath. And then another. When the bell rang, the silent campus became even more silent as all movement ceased.  It was meant to make sure you were living in the present moment, and if not, to bring you back to it.

When I made the comment about Milo being a mindfulness bell, it was because when he got hungry, it was like the whole world had to stop. It didn't matter if I was in the middle of the dishes or typing a blog post or sleeping...when he got hungry, we needed to feed him. And, since it was very painful, it did a very good job of bringing me into the present tense. Unfortunately, I also sort of dreaded it, because a)it was painful and b)I couldn't get anything else done while I was doing it, so I was perpetually frustrated at my lack of productivity.

But today was different. Being with Milo wasn't an interruption. What was there to interrupt? Today, I did what everyone has been telling me to do since my first day back from the hospital: concentrate on feeding and loving my son, and get some sleep.

And it felt freaking great. Now it's not really realistic to think that I could continue down this path in a sustainable way (as evidenced by my to-do list) but it did make me wish I had been doing it all along. Especially when I think about how this was my only chance to do so. If I have another baby, I'll have a toddler that will need my attention as well. This was (is) my chance to have a singular, fully present focus on being a mother to my son.

And it made me think about how often I am trying to get Milo to stop fussing/crying/eating/pooping so that I can get back to the work at hand, whether that's cleaning the house or sleeping. Which is, of course, missing the whole point: raising Milo is the work at hand. That's why I wanted to have a baby. Not to fit him into the open cracks in my hectic life, but to have the honor and adventure of raising a child.

Which makes me really glad that I'm searching for a nanny. When I first found out I'd mostly be able to work from home this year, I felt that I couldn't really justify paying for childcare since technically I could be here with Milo.  But then, once he arrived and I realized how much time in a day I spend just feeding him, I realized how impossible it would be to get 8 hours of work done in a day without childcare. And that would mean doing more work during the hours I wasn't "supposed" to be working. Which, when you factored in dorm parenting, meant that pretty much all of my time would be fractured and I would never feel like I was doing an adequate job at mothering, working, or dorm parenting.

(Which, I realize, is basically the dilemma most working mothers face.)

But if I have a good nanny, that will allow me to really devote myself to work. Which will allow me to focus on Milo when I'm not working. No more fitting him in the cracks or wishing for him to hurry up with whatever he's pulling me into so that I can get back to work. Thank god we can (hopefully) afford child care. I don't want my son to grow up feeling that he's a distraction from my real life.

So, thanks to Milo, I'm in the process of reshuffling basically everything I thought was important to make room for the things that really are important. For example, this evening I spent three hours while he slept working on college counseling. But when he woke up crying, I didn't mind turning away from the computer to soothe him. I wasn't impatient when the bouncer didn't work and different positions didn't work. I wasn't frustrated when it seemed the only thing that did work was walking around singing to him. I made up crazy silly songs about how much I love him and how we forgot to do the laundry (again) and all that I hope for him (and for me) and what kind of ice cream is best.

Because I knew that, in the grand scheme of things, the college counseling could wait.

I fully recognize that I am probably so zen because my house is clean. (As is my storage closet. woohoo!) But I'm excited at the prospect of finding some balance and creating some mindfulness in my life. In our life. I'm excited that I'll get to focus on all of the parts of my job that I loved: college counseling, graphic design, and social networking/writing, and dorm parenting but that I'll also be able to take Milo to museums and parks and to see the a capella group sing. I'll have time to read books and go to the library for story hour.

I've never imagined myself giving up a career to be a stay-at-home mom, and I don't think I'd be happy if I did. But I have to tell you, I also can't imagine trying to fit all of that childhood fun and adventure into the weekend hours either.

Lots to think about. And, maybe a good topic for the Real Simple essay contest this year. (You might remember reading about my entries for the last two years which, surprisingly, did not win.) This year's topic is to describe when you first understood love.  And I think this may be the seed of it: the birth of my son forcing me to reshuffle the way I thought about the world, the spark that helped me grow into the person I always wanted to be. I think only a love this strong could help me learn to let go of the illusion of control and acknowledge the present moment for whatever it might bring, and know that it will pass.

This makes me want to spend the whole next week doing nothing but what I did today, but I've already made plans for nearly every day in an effort to get myself (and Milo) out of the house and give some shape to our days (which allows for less frustration at not being able to do everything I used to be able to do.) So...tomorrow we are meeting a few of the women from our mom's group for an 11:30 movie. I'm hoping it goes as well as last week, since I've now persuaded other women to join me, essentially making our own "baby friendly" movie. (Hey, maybe the AMC people will catch on. There's a real market here.) Then, we'll have to scoot quickly home to interview a very promising nanny at 2:30.

Of course, getting out of the house by 10:50 or so means feeding Milo around ten, so there's time to get ready and change him (preferably only once this time, unlike last time we tried to go to the movies). Which means me being in a shower by 9:30. So...we'll see how that goes. And, I'd like to straighten up before we leave since we probably won't have time afterward (before the nanny candidate arrives.)

But you know what? If I don't have time to straighten up, what's the worst that will happen? The nanny will have a more realistic idea of what I need her help with. haha. Chances are, she'll be more struck by my adorable and utterly charming son (and the small size of my apartment) than the dishes in the sink and the fishing tackle on the table.

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