A Love Like This (and other new realities)
These first three weeks of mommy-hood have been full of surprises
By Shannon Gallagher
Baby Coraline, three weeks old
Photograph by Shannon Gallagher
I’m sitting at my desk, bouncing on a physioball with the little love of my life wrapped snugly to my chest. Heaven. I knew that there was a light at the end of my pregnancy-loathing tunnel, and that she was it, but never in a million years could I have imagined the endlessly abounding love I would feel for this small person. I would have been pregnant a decade to have her.
In fact, these first three weeks of mommy-hood have been full of surprises. I think actress Maggie Gyllenhaal said it all too well (in an interview regarding her role as a radical New Age hippie mom in the movie Away We Go): “Shortly before my daughter was born, I had a fantasy that everything was going to be organic and cloth diapers… And then, of course, you actually have a child you have to manage in the real world with all the complications that brings.” This certainly does not mean that all the months of green baby preparation and research are for naught; I’m looking at is an exercise in theory versus practice. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
The love hormones you experience with natural childbirth are powerful stuff, far more powerful than one could imagine. While I will never (ever) forget the intense and difficult process of labor and delivery, by the time that baby is out you (and baby) have set sail for Fantasy Island —stitches, swelling, and utter exhaustion don’t stand a chance against the pure joy of finally meeting your baby. I may or may not have become one of those people I swore to hate during pregnancy: When asked about my delivery, I find myself going “It was hard, but really not so bad.” That Mother Nature, she’s sneaky — to ensure the continuation of our species she made sure that despite it being quite possibly the most difficult physical experience of a woman’s life, she would do it again in a heartbeat (and readily convince her childless friends it’s practically a cake walk).
Cloth diapers are pretty overwhelming. My conviction didn’t stand a chance against all that fabric and a squirmy newborn. Three weeks later I find them far more user friendly, though admittedly I’m not yet using them exclusively: While they fit her better each day, they don’t fit under any of her clothes. So I’ve been using Seventh Generation chlorine-free disposable diapers along with the cloth. I feel guilty, but it’s a transition phase (and I think I’m heading in an all-in-one direction, but we’ll save that for another post).
Breastfeeding is great… and far more emotionally involved than I ever anticipated. Coraline took to it right away and is a champion eater (she gained 2 pounds in as many weeks!). I am amazed daily at my body’s new utility: Not only did I grow this little one in my belly, and pushed her out, but now my body naturally manufactures all the nutrition she needs. That being said there are moments when I feel utterly overwhelmed, particularly when she’s having a high-need day and wants to nurse constantly. But love conquers all — just one look at the lil’ pirhana and I’d lay down in traffic for her. Allowing her to remain permanently attached to my breast seems like the least I can do.