Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bright days, blue nights

Last night A. and I went on a date. His parents are in town visiting/helping, and watched the babes for a couple of hours while we went out to dinner. It was nice to get out of the house and have some time alone together. But it also felt disconcertingly normal -- almost like any other Saturday night in our life up until this point. I didn't feel like a parent. If you told me that, no, I didn't, in fact, have two baby daughters waiting at home, I might have been convinced. And realizing this made me feel quite guilty. Aren't I supposed to be rapturously in love with my daughters? Aren't I supposed to spend hours just staring at them, marveling? Aren't I supposed to feel like a mother? I want to. I'm dying to. When does it start?

I love these babies dearly. I love watching their little faces scrunch and stretch in sleep, love the way it feels to hold them, love to kiss their little cheeks and heads and mouths, and am still quite amazed each time I see them feeding at the breast, being nourished by my body. And yet, I have to admit, they don't feel quite fully mine yet. They can't interact or smile or acknowledge. They are mostly either eating or sleeping -- there isn't much in between. In other words, as lovely as they are, they are also rather boring.

If you haven't had children, or if you happened to have a soft-focus Hallmark Card mothering experience, you're probably thinking that I'm a horrible person. But I daresay that I'm not alone in feeling this way. And I think it's a big part of why the first weeks with a newborn are so hard. Yes, the lack of sleep, the constant feeding sessions on top of the demands of "normal" life (i.e. eating, showering, laundry, etc.) are in and of themselves challenging -- doubly so with twins. But what makes it even harder is the sense that you're basically just life support for these little munchkins. You give and give, and receive little in return. You feel, in a way, like your faith is being tested.

For me, it's the hardest in the evenings, when I've lately tended to be a little weepy and down (damned hormones), and when the night lies ahead, promising no real rest. I wonder: Why did I want this? Will it get easier? What is wrong with me?

By morning, though -- that first daylight feeding, when the four of us are all in the bed together, and A. and I are alert enough to laugh at Clio's dramatic hand gestures and Elsa's strange squeaks and grunts, and both babies finish their feeding milk-drunk and smacking their lips and smiling in their sleep -- things feel brighter. Thank God for the mornings.


Anonymous heather said...

I only had a singleton, so I can't imagine how hard it is with twins, but I felt exactly the same way you do. It took me a long time to truly fall in love. It made it even harder that my husband seemed to bond instantly.

I remember singing in a lullaby voice to my crying newborn "shut the fuck up." I liked him, thought he was cute, but just didn't know what to do with him most of the time Should I even admit that?

The good news is that it does happen. I remember really starting to fall in love around 3-months, and by six I was truly over the moon for my son. He is almost two and I find new ways to love him more each day. I am expecting my second in April and I'm very happy to have the knowledge that even if it doesn't happen right away, it will happen.

7:52 PM  
Blogger BabelBabe said...

the best advice i ever got was from my darling pediatrician who told me, "the first three months are all about survival." and the hardest time is that 3am bit.
i admit to a shameful movie-watching habit the first few months both at night and during the long boring days; I also watched the entire first six seasons of ER. No, I am not proud : )

get yourself out of the house, even if it means taking them to the mall and walking around or sitting with them in the food court with a cup of coffee. make the effort to call/email friends and neighbors...the more human adult interaction you get, the better off you will be. (I am fairly certain I frightened my mailman, however...) even when they get older and more...interesting.

and don't long for them to start talking because, trust me (I have three), once they do they NEVER SHUT UP.

hang in there. you are clearly not a horrible person, just a very normal mama.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

Oh, if you don't read Mom 101 you must. She expressed these sentiments perfectly today.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous RCH said...

I remember those feelings all too well. I remember crying and crying and saying to J. "I hate this! I hate this!" and feeling like a truly awful person.

When people would come visit us after she was born, they would gush and coo and tell me how adorable she was, always offering the advice to "treasure this time" because they grow so fast. I had to bite my lip to keep from saying: "Yeah, she's adorable, but she's sucking the life out of me!" or "YOU treasure her and give her back when she's more interesting."

I wondered for a long time when I would actually feel the love that parents are supposed to feel instantly. I think felt a weird, protective urge instantly (a don't-you-dare-hurt-my-baby kind of instinct), but it took a few months before I actually felt love. In fact, it was right around 3 months when I really LIKED motherhood...and then I went back to work and brooded over the unfair timing of maternity leave.

But things do change, especially when they get more interactive, and now it's hard to believe I ever felt that way. It's amazing how love grows.

On another note - good for you for getting out on a date so soon!!

10:37 AM  
Blogger Churlita said...

My youngest daughter only woke up for a few hours from around 1 am until 4 am and my older daughter woke-up around 6am. I remember a few nights when I was so exhausted, I was sure my youngest daughter was an alien because her eyes were so big and she refused to wake-up during the day.

Like everyone else already said, it gets better. It also gets harder in some ways, but so much better. Now that my oldest daughter is in high school, I'm stuck with the opposite problem - trying to figure out how to see myself as not primarily a mother.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Larki said...

Joining my voice to everyone else's to say yes, you are normal, and yes, those first months are really just survival. I remember exactly the experience you describe, though of course I had singletons so I had it much easier. But 4 pm always brought tears for me, and that feeling of being out of the house sans child, and feeling perfectly normal, was so disconcerting...and so strong! And the exhaustion! Like Heather above, I used to sing horrible things in a sweet voice to my kids. And sometimes I had to go in the basement and scream and throw things (well, that's something I STILL do). It was just so hard, every day.

I have had children for four years now, and I am only just beginning to identify myself as a mother. And even now, when I'm away from them I don't really miss them: I just feel sort of normal again. Go figure!

7:37 PM  

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