Just about every time I try to line up motherhood with my expectations, I draw a blank. I don’t think I had much of an idea what to expect, frankly. As with all my endeavors, I read a lot and prepared what I could. I knew what to put on my baby registry. I had a basic idea of the milestones for the first year. I was up-to-date on car seat safety. If you could read about it online or in a book, I was on it.
What was left, therefore, to surprise me were the more emotional responses to the day-to-day with a baby.
I was prepared for the physical exhaustion that comes with a newborn (well, if not “prepared” at least anticipating its arrival). It’s practically impossible to make it through pregnancy without someone commenting about how you should enjoy your sleep now because you’ll never sleep again. “Mommy Needs a Nap” is a fairly well-worn trope (second most common: “Mommy Needs Wine”).
I was, however, utterly unprepared for the mental exhaustion. Suddenly, every little thing takes so much more planning than ever before. Say I wanted to do something wild in her first six months – like, say, have dinner in a restaurant – the mental dialogue went something like this:
“OK. I have the diaper bag. Will she be hungry? Should I bring a bottle? Yes, always. Should I wear her or bring the stroller? Where will she sit while we eat? Should I bring the infant car seat? Do they have those slings for infant car seats? Where will the stroller go while we are eating?”
I spend so much of mental energy planning and preparing for Ada. This has gotten both easier and harder now that she’s older. Ada fits in a high chair now, but needs near-constant entertainment and a close eye. Timing is also more relevant now. Last summer, she’d sleep wherever, whenever. This summer, kiddo is on a nap schedule and tends to slowly melt if that nap is delayed.
I blame this mental fatigue when I feel like I have nothing to bring to adult conversations save for anecdotes about my child. I hear myself telling another Ada story and slowly think, “Oh man, you are such a cliché! Don’t get your phone out! Do NOT get your phone out! They don’t want to see photos!” but before I know it, I’m scrolling through my phone’s camera roll recounting tales about how much Ada loves the local splash pads. Motherhood can be pretty consuming.
(But seriously, she loves splash pads! Look!)
Benign Memory Loss
One moment, I’m standing with my screaming baby at Target humming Jesus, Take the Wheel while planning to order all necessities via Amazon so I don’t have to leave the house again until Ada is five and the next I’m walking home and she’s asleep in the stroller clutching her plastic hedgehog with her cherubic little hand and she just takes my breath away.
Later, Will asks me how the day went and I reply, “it was really good!” He mentions reading my panicked tweet from the Target trip and I suddenly remember that a portion of the day was not “really good” but I’d already forgotten about it.
Really, I think this is a biological mechanism. If people had ironclad memories, no one would have more than one child. Sometimes, I turn to Will in wonder and remark that I remember that childbirth hurt but I don’t really remember. It was pretty bad, right? It hurt a lot? He looks at me, head cocked, fear in his eyes as though he’s awaiting the punchline. Continuation of our species depends on me not really remembering.
But seriously, man, splash pads.
Quasi-obligatory note that these two items, while truthful to my experience, are recounted here largely in jest. Yes, motherhood is surprising and consuming and flat-out bananas at times, but I adore it.