I text my friends to wish them a happy due date, telling them that I’m excited for them. Text sent, I go and look in the mirror.
The wrinkled t-shirt I pulled out of the pile of unfolded laundry in our room is even more wrinkled after a restless night. Its front is stained with milk: in the next 10 minutes its shoulder will also be covered in spit up. Under my stained shirt, my stomach is stretched in a way that still feels unfamiliar. The stretchmarks are always a surprise. I look tired, and my hair is too long. I try to think when I last had a haircut, I can’t remember. I try to think about when I might go for another haircut, and I can’t imagine. I’m pulled away from my pathetic reflection by the sounds of a stirring baby: the same sounds that pulled me away from my bed no fewer than four times the previous night.
I go into the baby’s room. Picture-perfect before she was born, a basket of unfolded laundry now sits in the middle and books are flung across the floor. I turn off the humidifier and the white noise machine, mechanisms necessary for sleep. I’m greeted by a smiling baby. She is kicking happily in the center of her crib, surrounded by a small ocean’s worth of spit up. Despite yesterday’s bath, she smells like sour milk. I pick her up, and immediately realize that she has pooed out the sides and up the back of her diaper. Again.
After the first of the day’s three outfit changes, I have breakfast while I feed the baby. This, in itself, is a feat: I’ve eaten cookies or nothing more mornings than I care to admit. Today I balance my bowl of cereal in the hand partially pinned under the baby’s head, and try not to drip milk onto her clean outfit. I eat lefthanded, a newly acquired skill. While I eat, I think about my friends, awaiting the arrival of their any-day-now baby. I think of our own anticipation in November, and the days that followed. Even remembering, I feel overwhelmed by the exhaustion and the pain. I think about the long labor that ended in a c-section, about how I could barely turn or pull myself to sitting afterwards, about how my body leaked and bled. I think about the night when Bingo cried constantly, and all of the tears (both hers and mine) that came both before and after. I think about how I really had no idea, and how often I still don’t. And I think about my friends, and how some of these things might still be ahead.
And then I’m pulled back to the here and now, mostly because the baby has managed to sink her elbow into my bowl of cereal despite my breakfast gymnastics. Finished eating, she turns her head and smiles up at me. In the past five and a half months, she’s transformed from a fragile newborn into a sturdy (and pudgy!) child. I think now about all of the things she does. She rolls, and sits (sort of), and wrinkles her nose when she laughs. She has likes and dislikes, favorite toys and games. After an absence (no matter how short), she greets me or Sea with an enthusiasm that radiates through her entire body. She is more herself every day, and I am more myself with her. As exhausting and chaotic as these days sometimes still are, they are palpably different from those first overwhelming weeks when I found myself wondering– more than once– what we had done. These days are different, filled with more with joy than fear. I am wrinkled, I am exhausted, I am happy. And I am excited for my friends.