I’m reporting live from the depths of the newborn stage: My baby is 12 days old. I can’t tell you the weather or time because days and nights are blending together, and I’ve rarely gone outdoors. I don’t know when I last showered, or the last thing I ate, or where my slippers or sanity are hiding.
But there’s something that I’m finding particularly strange: I currently don’t mind the sleep-deprived, newborn stage. That’s probably the sleep-deprivation talking, right? Maybe. Probably. But there are a few reasons for this crazy talk.
At what other time in my life is it perfectly acceptable to devote every shred of energy around the clock to caring for a tiny human, and not much else?
Are there many other points in my life that I have so deeply, so fiercely appreciated the aroma of a warm, fresh pot of coffee permeating through the air in the morning?
That large, messy bun atop my head is actually sort of growing on me.
I have porn star boobies. Sure, I can’t do anything fun with them, and I realize their impermanence and ultimate fate. But right now? They are pretty freaking phenomenal.
My “wardrobe,” aka the clothes which are so ridiculously mismatched and ill-fitting, cause me zero concern—because there is no dress code with this ’round the clock job and my baby isn’t judging me (not yet, at least, although I am getting side-eyed by my toddler. I will choose to ignore).
My skin—my face especially—is thanking me for allowing it a chance to breathe and not clogging up its pores with makeup.
The well-wishes from friends and family make me feel warm and loved, especially from those who know exactly what I am going through. Take, for example, the fresh-baked muffins brought to me this morning by one of my best friends, which I devoured without a shred of guilt before they even had a chance to cool.
There’s the fact that there isn’t a damn person in this world who expects more of me at this moment—and if they do, I truly don’t have to give a damn.
No, I’m not fully functioning during the day, but I don’t plan on operating heavy machinery or driving because my body needs to recover anyway.
There’s the reality that nobody cares if I accidentally put my hair ties in the refrigerator, my shirt on backwards, and wonder aloud ridiculous things like why my baby isn’t purring like my cat does, and does that mean he doesn’t like me? This type of crazy is to be expected.
But basically, the best part of it all is that I have nowhere else to be but here.
This is what leads me to the depths of the sleep-deprivation—the dead-of-night feedings, when it feels like we are the only ones in the world who are awake. My one job is to care for this tiny person, who also has nowhere else to be. No schedule, playdates, meetings, work or friends, or desire to be anywhere else but here. He doesn’t know anyplace else. He doesn’t care. It’s just me and him.
I can hear the creaks and settling of the house, and the gentle sounds of him drinking. If I listen close enough, I can even hear my hormones and emotions dancing to the soundtrack of my insane thoughts. That part is not easy, of course; I have worries, anxieties, and sometimes nothing short of a Stephen King movie playing inside my mind as my body slowly unwinds and unloads the tension from pregnancy.
But I have nowhere else to be but here.
I wonder how I am so lucky, to live like this, to have a roof over my head, to have a nice, warm bed to return to before and after those long and tired night feedings. I may not understand it all, but I am grateful for my situation.
I am grateful that I have nowhere else to be but here.
When I was in the hospital just days ago and was feeding our son, I was visited by a lovely nurse named Florentina. She was sweet, had a thick Italian accent, and smelled like my Nonna Tina. She observed me for a moment and offered a few technical breastfeeding pointers. “Pull him closer. He’s-a gonna wanna stay at the end, because it’s-a less work for him,” she said. “He’s a smart-a boy. You gotta make him work for it, or else it’s-a gonna hurt you, and he won’t get the right amount of milk.” I knew the pain she was talking about because I experienced it with my firstborn, so I took her advice and pulled him closer. She reminded me to keep him awake, to make sure he got a full feeding before falling back asleep.
“If you don’t, he’ll want to stay there. He’d stay there all day.” Then she paused, and said something that’s been ringing in my ears ever since: “After all, it’s the best place in the whole world.”
She is right. And as I hold him close during those long and frequent night feedings, I think how I—we—have nowhere else to be but here.
And it’s the best place in the whole world.