A few months ago I saw one of my friends’ babies turn half a year which they celebrated with a full-blown party and half a cake. Get it? Half a year — half a cake. “Is that a thing now like gender-reveal parties and smash cakes?” I thought at the moment. “Who wants to spend time on making a cake the baby won’t even remember or eat?”
Fast forward to my son’s half birthday, and you’ll see me in the kitchen at eleven at night beating sugar and eggs together. My half a cake was Deb Perelman’s “I want a chocolate cake” cake. Technically, I, of course, baked a whole cake, then cut it in half, and stacked the halves on top of each other. All the calories of a whole cake, but only half the guilt!
In the past six months I’ve written on the topic of motherhood twice: about my pregnancy and about the first three months of being a mom. As I want to make motherhood a recurring topic on my blog I’ve been keeping a running list of post ideas in my notebook: from sleep regression to being a mom in the times of quarantine to the postpartum body image.
It’s only after looking at the list that I realized the absolute majority of my ideas are about the struggles of motherhood. Which are many.
Talking about having a baby is not unlike leaving a review on TripAdvisor. You take the time to write one when your experience was horrible. When your hotel is great it’s expected and doesn’t deserve a mention.
When your hotel is out-of-this-world amazing you’ll probably think: “Oh, I totally need to leave a good review upon returning home”, then proceed to never write one.
But if, God forbid, the water pressure in the shower wasn’t to your satisfaction, a five-hundred-word tirade is going up on every reviewing platform known to man.
Same with kids, don’t you think? We endlessly rant about our sleepless nights, lack of time, and mess at home, while the happy mamas looking lovingly at their babies seem to be the stuff of diaper commercials.
I couldn’t help, but wonder… Why do we take the time to voice our frustrations and annoyances, but not the joys and little everyday miracles? Why does it feel so good to complain in detail about another challenging day to a friend, but mentioning a quiet disaster-free day is almost boring? And how do we turn it around?
I am channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw here, can you tell? I, of course, am not writing this while wearing lace underwear and jewelry in front of a window with the view of Upper East Side. My window looks out at a quiet street in a mid-sized German city. On the other side of the street is an apartment building, and I watch my neighbors smoke on the balcony every ten minutes or so.
As for my outfit, extra large cotton panties and a grey linen robe it is. Jewelry is safely stored away as to not be ripped off by tiny hands like my hair is on a daily basis. I do have something in common with Carrie Bradshaw. Her column was called Sex and the City, but really she was writing about love and what it feels like to be a woman looking for love, being in love, and falling out of love.
I write about motherhood which on the surface might sound like dirty diapers, pumping and swaddling talk. But really — and I hope it shines through — this is a love letter to my son. That’s why today I decided to write about all the good. All the incredibly boring, fleeting, easily-forgotten moments when my heart skips a bit or melts or whatever other heart-related cliches you can think of.
I love the morning cuddles. They are recent. I am not even sure you can call them cuddles as one of the two participating people doesn’t understand the concept of cuddling or stays still for more than ten seconds. He crawls, turns, and sometimes accidentally falls into my arms, but I’ll take that.
I love his toothless smile, especially when I enter the room and he smiles at my sight. It’s the most incredible feeling when someone you love so much is genuinely happy to see you. It’s like having a crush in high school who notices you, smiles, and says “Hi!”. Only in real life your high school crush never knew you existed. And this tiny human being not only loves you back, but he doesn’t even care that your hair is dirty and your pants are stretched. He just wants you to be around.
And that is also a kind of high. To know that someone needs you. That if he’s upset, it’s in your arms that he’ll calm down. That it’s your touch he’s craving, your voice that’s soothing him. Sometimes when I spend hours trying to put my baby to sleep I wish someone else could do it. But deep down, if I am truly honest, I enjoy this co-dependancy.
When I rock him to sleep I imagine a few hours of free time for a bath, a book, a slow-cooked dinner (for the record: never happened). When he finally falls asleep I want to kiss his sweet little nose and wake him up.
And oh the precious moments of waking when he stretches his tiny arms and legs and makes the cutest face. When I put him, still sleepy, on my chest, he’s warm and smells like milk. In those moments nothing else matters. I think to myself, “You can be cranky, you can wake me up every hour, you can cry if you want, just stay like this on my chest for a few more minutes”.
Sometimes the things that make me joyous are the exact same that annoy the hell out of me. Since my son started turning a few months back, dressing him has become a challenge, to say the least. It seems like he always has some pressing matters whenever I get a fresh diaper out of the box. Bam! And he’s turned onto his stomach and starts crawling while I am scrambling to fasten his diaper. “Will you just stop for a second!” I say impatiently on some days. On others we roll all over the bed laughing and I scream “Svobodu pipiske!” which is Russian for “Free the pee-pee” until we forget about the diaper all together.
But the best part is to watch my husband put on a diaper on our always-on-the-way-to-do-business son. I laugh till I cry. Actually, watching my husband become a father is the best part, period. It didn’t feel new or strange or different. More like it was meant to be and now it is happening. I enjoy seeing his soft side: kissing our baby, making him laugh, cuddling with us in the morning. Oh, look we made a full circle back to cuddling.
There’s so much more in our daily life that brings me joy: breastfeeding, dressing him in whatever ridiculous outfits my heart desires, making him laugh usually by saying or doing something extremely banal on repeat.
Going forward I would like to focus on the good more than I do on the difficult. It’s easier said than done. I know that in a few days I’ll be sleep-deprived, my body aching, my mind clouded. And then I will resort to complaining. And if you are my friend and you happen to be on the other end of my ranting, please listen. But then ask me: “What made you smile today?”