Until I became a mother about three-and-a-half years ago, my experience with children was rather limited. I'm the youngest of three children. I saw my younger cousins somewhat infrequently. My babysitting days were erratic and short-lived. One summer, I was a day-camp counselor for three-year-olds. The toileting, the in-and-out-of-bathing-suits, the feed-me . . . It was enough to convince me that I'd rather be an arts and crafts counselor, which I did for the next three summers at sleepaway camp.
Let's just say that when Ann was born, RaggedyDad (also the youngest growing up) and I were, for the most part, baffled by her. She cried. All night long. I was so delirious with exhaustion, and so worried about keeping my parents up all night (we were there for two weeks following the birth). I started and finished novels night after night, holding and feeding Ann intermittently, wondering what this new, bizarre life of mine as a mom would ultimately turn out to be.
Thankfully, babies have no clue at the outset just how terrifying and confusing those beginning weeks can be for their parents. Ann stuck around, as did her parents, and we figured a lot of things out. About nursing, about sleeping, about crying (both of us!), and just about being together. In the midst of her colicky phase, my pediatrician turned to me and said, "Ann's getting through this. But how are YOU doing?" That was all it took to get me to start crying right in his office! RaggedyDad had just made a quick visit to Belgium for his sister's wedding, and it was all Mommy, all the time. I'll never forget Ann's one-year checkup, when, with no condescension whatsoever, the same doctor said, "She's come a long way, and so have you - great job, Mom." I was totally vindicated from my previously blubbering self, and brimming with pride.
Lots of other sleep-related adjustments followed, and Ann was not much of a sleeper through them all. Weaning. Giving up naps. Becoming a big sister to Andy. Moving out of the crib and into a bed. Toilet training. Nighttime training. I think that kids really teach us a great deal. Ann taught me not to be afraid of my kids, and once Andy came along, I think I had mostly internalized it. Of course, Andy teaches me every day that each child is different! But our basic principles for how things operate in our household stay mostly the same, and I no longer worry if I have the "right" to maintain decorum.
Now that bedtime involves the two of them, and not a toddler and a newborn, it's a flurry of cleanup, supper, bathtime, pajamas, stories, goodnight phone calls to RaggedyDad and my mother, toothbrushing (I'll have to post a picture of Andy brushing his teeth one of these days - it's his big thrill of the day!), Shema/HaMalach HaGoel, "I love you and I like you"s, and then . . . quiet. By 6-6:30 p.m., I'm over on the other side of the apartment, catching up on the mail, IMing with a friend, and just resting. I listen for Ann's whispers to quiet, and for the soft snoring in stereo to start, before the rest of my night begins. We've come a long way, babies!