How things have changed / by Christina Rosalie

Yesterday afternoon it poured. Thunder rumbled for a over an hour, and later, everything was beautifully drenched and glistening. I took Bean out after his nap. We walked around our small Connecticut yard, taking one last look before our move tomorrow, at the garden beds DH and I dug last spring, now filled with snap peas, beans and lettuce, the lilies and roses, and the heart-shaped lilac leaves. Bean drinks the outdoors in with his eyes. He turned 19 weeks yesterday, and it seems like so long ago that he was that itty-bitty bean in my arms, newborn, and unable to focus. It's incredible how much he's changed, and I've changed since he was born. Each day brings exponential growth it seems. His brain is at such an incredible, plastic point in its development, absorbing everything and synthesizing: making meaning. He associates certain sounds with things now. He has grown to recognize the sound of DH making espresso in the morning. Drawing shots, emptying the grounds, etc. He recognizes our voices too, even when we're out of the room, and quiets when he's crying if he hears one of us calling to him.

Just in the past couple of weeks the kid's hair has been growing like crazy, and he's really discovered his hands. Suddenly also, he has developed this whole range of brilliant expressions, and he's rapidly discovering their impact on us. Yesterday, sitting in my lap he started to explore cause and effect by intentionally dropping his pacifier on the floor just so that I would pick it up for him and say "oops!" He grinned and then squealed with delight every time.

It's funny now for me to try and remember life without Bean in it. Like so many babies in the world, he came as a unplanned surprise. It was this time last June that I began telling people I was pregnant. It felt SO weird to say those words. I felt embarrassed almost. Totally unfamiliar with the idea, and a bit uncomfortable with it. Not that I didn't want to be pregnant. We'd been talking about the idea of a family seriously for months, but somehow I pictured that having kids was something I'd do when I was thirty. And then suddenly, there were those two crazy blue little lines.

I remember sitting on the couch with DH trying to wrap our minds around this new fact. I had a great deal of fear about having a baby I realize now, mostly because there were/are so many people in my life who flooded me with congratulatory warnings, "You're life will NEVER be the same again, EVER!" friends with kids would say ominously. "Enjoy your sleep now, you'll never sleep again," was another famous admonition. But it was really the less blatant references to the sacrifices I'd have to make as a career woman deciding to have a baby early on, rather than waiting till my thirties that got to me.

Having grown up with a mother who told me frequently that I was an unplanned baby who came at the wrong time in her relationship with my dad, and if I'd been born later, their marriage would have been different, I think I unconsciously accumulated a lot of baggage around having a baby. I somehow believed that unless everything was carefully planned and timed, my life would essentially be over. I'm still getting over the surprise of discovering that this isn't at all how I've felt, actually having Bean.

I suppose I was reluctant to be pregnant. I am so passionate about the outdoors--about biking and running and hiking and I felt really hampered by my huge belly. But I think I was also internally hampered by what I was imagining motherhood would be like. So many people, strangers and friends alike, feel an ABSOLUTE COMPULSION to tell you all about their horrific labor stories, and how totally difficult their lives have become: overrun with plastic toys, no sleep and argumentative inlaws. I expected that my life, post-Bean would be one of huge sacrifices. That DH and I wouldn't have fun anymore. That suddenly, hugely, momentously, our lives would be totally different.

And our lives are different, but not at all in the ways I imagined really The first six weeks with Bean were complete total hell. I'll grant anyone that. I had an episiotomy, and could barely walk, not to mention I'd had the most horrible stomach flu of my life for the twenty-four hours preceding labor. (That stomach flu, by the way proceeded to wipe out everyone who'd come into contact with me: my midwife, DH, his parents, my mom. In the first week after Bean was born, when everything seemed to be spinning, it felt like our house was a part of the Hot Zone.) I felt derailed. Tired on a cellular level. Completely unhinged by Bean's crying, my constant hot flashes, and the surreal experience of crashing into a hormonal brick wall.

But that time of total derangement dwindled. Around eight weeks, Bean started to have a regular sleeping routine--all on his own accord--and though he still wakes up once a night to nurse, it's something we both do while we're half asleep, my nights seem whole upon waking. And now, 19 weeks after he was born, he's this incredible little squirming bundle of giggles and squeals, and instead of making our life harder, he's made it fuller.

I don't really know how to explain this feeling of fullness better. DH and I are very laid back parents. Instead of expecting the worst, we both expect that things will be okay. Having both grown up with homeopathy, we seem to trust that our bodies are designed to heal and to stay well. So most of the worry that rips through some parents after the arrival of their child hasn't seemed to take over our lives, and I think this in some way affects Bean's disposition. Incidentally, he is an incredibly happy baby, who cries only when he needs something, and is content to ride around with us in the Baby Bjorn or hang out on a quilt on the floor, watching us as we go about our lives.

And though we have made changes, huge changes, since his arrival and because of it. Our lives are also very much the same. We still have fun together. We still have sex. We goof around. We still hike and people watch and go to Starbucks like total geeks to play chess at 9pm, or out to breakfast, and Bean is just a part of it all. A great, silly, incredible part that leaves us gasping with wonderment and gratitude. This little boy, with eyelashes as long as a camels, and a smile that makes our knees wobbly, is not the sacrifice or the trouble everyone warned us about. He’s just a joy, plain and simple.

Of course there are the times where I still feel nuts after having talked to no one but a four month old all day. And there are other times that I wonder what it will be like this year, to stay home instead of work (more on this later). But I don't feel like these things are sacrifices--just changes. And lying in bed at night sometimes, listening to Bean's breathing in the co-sleeper next to me, and DH's breathing coming steady and rhythmically from my other side, I feel my heart thumping around in my chest like a rabbit, and I can't name the feeling I feel. It's just too huge.