Happy February 1st!
How to become a Mommy-in-a-month
“I was never one of those women who was all about being a mother.
you become one.” – Baby Time, sorry to be quoting myself.
In a month, we became month-old mothers.
Every morning, it is a war zone in our bedroom. The sheets and our nightgowns are stained with spit-up. Half a dozen burp cloths lie scattered around the room. Empty bottles and pacifiers are strewn about the night table. The baby purses her lips in frustration. Her moms, greasy-haired and red-eyed, groan at the impending sunrise. If every morning is a war zone, then every evening, we arm ourselves for battle. We prepare bottles of boiled water and set them in the nursery with the tub of formula. We prepare the breast pump and the flanges. I make sure there are burp cloths near the changing table, next to her crib, and on the nightstand, and make sure that the breastfeeding pillow and my butt pillow are on the rocking chair in the nursery. These days we even change into our pajamas beforehand because by the time we run into the bedroom, it’s pitch dark because of the blackout curtains, it’s 73° because of the space heater, and several times we’ve had to change in complete darkness and complete silence because the baby was asleep and we dare not wake her. We even know to bribe the cats with treats to keep them from crying at the closed bedroom door. I know now that the routine is more for us than for her, but it seems to help all of us. By 7 pm, we give her a bath, give her a boob, change her diaper, and put her in her crib for her fake bedtime at 8 pm. Inevitably, in an hour and a half or two, she’ll wake up, and we repeat this, except without the bath for her a second bedtime. Some people call this a dream feed, but she’s not asleep enough to be dreaming while she’s feeding.
Behind the Scenes Writing 30/30
This first month has been all-consuming, in ways I never would’ve anticipated, despite people warning me. Even still, everyone says that you forget these first few weeks, enough so that you want another baby in a few months. I can see that the joy outweighs the terror, but I’m one of those people, I don’t want to forget. I don’t forget. And I don’t want anyone else to forget either, and I hope that someday someone will read what I wrote, and maybe have a better idea of what they’re getting into. That is why I tried to do the 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press. You might be wondering how I did this. Honestly, I think we’ve been through worse. Not much worse, but slightly worse. Night float and back-to-back call or doing an emergency case at 3 am and then going to the office at 8:30 am. The only way writing daily poems was possible was because of those 2,3,4 am feedings where I sat there with a baby on one boob and a pump on the other, hunched over till my back and neck were sore, but with a phone in one hand typing away deliriously. I have appreciated the process of having to produce something every day. I enjoyed experimenting with form and style. I know not every poem is a gold mine, but there might be a few salvageable nuggets that will survive a final revision for a chapbook or a full-length manuscript. You can read all 30 poems, along with the poems by the other January poets, here.
Fair warning, a few of them made me cry while I was writing them. My favorite is “in which: we consider the weather”. The donation link is at the top of the page if you’d like to contribute $10 to keep Tupelo Press afloat. You can choose which 30/30 poet you’re donating in honor of.
In Other News
3 am isn’t a time for emails, though, and for the past few weeks, I realized that I have sent cute baby pictures in lieu of an explanation for not responding to emails and calls and texts, and it seems to have been acceptable for a time. I can’t imagine going to work while doing this. Being a mom to an infant is a round-the-clock, full-time job. My only goals each morning were: 1) shower, 2) brush my teeth, and 3) keep the child alive. I can tell you that, in the past week, I was able to accomplish #3 every day, but not always the other two. Today, things just started settling down. Four weeks of parental leave is not enough. Six weeks is not enough. 12 weeks, maybe, is enough. Our country needs to do better with postpartum care and parental leave. But that is a story for another Op-Med.
I haven’t talked about this much, but I am finally ready to discuss it. I refused to jinx it until my baby was firmly in hand. But I wrote about a miscarriage that I had last February, and it was published in December in The Polyphony, “A Surgeon’s Miscarriage”. You can read it at the link, but trigger warning: descriptions of blood, gore, and miscarriage. If you’d prefer not to read it, I don’t blame you at all. I can barely revisit it after writing it. I am so grateful that everything worked out okay in the end, but it has been a stunning eleven months, from miscarriage to moving to worrying every day that this baby would be alright.
Even now, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer improbability of having this tiny human in my arms when I’m standing or sitting with her, rocking her to sleep at 2 or 3 or 4 am. It’s certainly not something that my 14-year-old self, who didn’t even know that gay people grew up to be living, breathing, married adults with children, could have imagined. Tonight, while bathing our daughter, L whispered, When we were sitting in my dorm room in college, did you ever think that someday we would be giving our baby a bath in Atlanta?
No. Back then, maybe a tiny crumb of me hoped, but I would never have expected.
I realize that we’re not the first people to ever be parents or to have to figure out the care and feeding of a newborn. But for every newborn, a new set of parents is born, so, well, this is new to me. And I marvel at it. I savor it. I document it.
I can’t imagine doing anything else now except being her mommy. It’s like I always say, It’s just another adventure.
Sorry this was a long one. It makes up for last month, which I wrote literally on the eve of giving birth.
Until next month, always go black tie.
Check out my website: www.carmenfong.com
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