(This post is going to be about baby/mom stuff, and not at all gay/exgay related. I’ll get back on track with the issues soon. But I think some people might want to know how we’re doing. If you don’t, just skip this. There are no incisive criticisms or deep insights below.)
So the big news first: Baby DM was born almost two months ago.
She is unbelievably beautiful. I keep almost saying “perfect” and having to catch myself. For one thing, that’s blasphemous. For another thing, she has back hair (!), although I have been assured that will disappear with time. She is healthy and doing well, although she’s got quite the ornery temperament,–I think she’s what people euphemistically call an “unusually sensitive” and “intense” baby. But I can’t get too upset about that, as I myself was colicky and high-needy when I was her age, so it’s just my karma coming back to bite me. As a man sows, so shall he reap. She was very lanky at birth (below average in weight, well above average in height), but she has the appetite of an elephant and has been “filling out” with a vengeance. Supposedly, they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. I’m a little skeptical about that now that she’s put on her fifth chin or so, but her pediatrician assures me that this is just marvelous. To all those who prayed and/or wished us well, thank you.
When she’s in a good mood, she loves to smile at me (and smile bigger when I smile back at her) and occasionally she laughs with me too. She’s starting to try to “talk”–i.e., make random noises at me when I’m talking to her. She growls and squeals with delight and anticipation when she catches a glimpse of a bared breast, and lunges toward it with a gaping mouth. (Chip off the ol’ block, I suppose.) She’s started to pay attention to her toys, and has a favorite–a woolly mammoth that was mine when I was a baby. She gets visibly excited when I bring him over, and she talks to him and swats him over with her hand.
She’s awfully cute.
It’s been cool to watch her evolve gradually–her hand motions getting ever so slightly more controlled, her vocal abilities getting more complex, her facial expressions getting more interesting, her eyes becoming more alert and aware and intelligent. It’s been fun to watch her change from a completely clueless newborn, freaked out by this cold and too-bright and terribly scary world where one experiences hunger, discomfort, and pain for the first time, into a baby who has a little bit of a grip on post-womb life and seems to be starting to enjoy it! It’s crazy to think that, Lord willing, I’m going to get to watch her progress from baby to toddler to little girl to adolescent (yikes!) to teenager and beyond. But it’s hard to imagine that looking at this helpless little blob-person.
These past few weeks have been a bit of a rough ride. I knew intellectually, as everyone does, that a new baby is tough. But there’s knowing it, and then there’s living it. In the first few weeks, I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it, and I couldn’t fathom how anyone ever intentionally has more babies after going through this once. It was pretty humiliating to feel that I was floundering through something so ordinary, so normal– a thing that some of the dumbest and laziest of hetero underachievers manage to accomplish. I mean, I’ve got all these achievements and distinctions, and yet I felt like I couldn’t handle this basic everyday mammalian behavior, something that billions of people have done. I was completely exhausted, my system was thrown into shock by this new lifestyle and responsibilities, and I was frustrated by my inability to keep my baby happy.
And it was really challenging for Mr. DM and I as a couple, the first significant challenge for our marriage I think. Before the baby, these past almost-three years of being together were super-easy. Mr. DM used to describe it as “a perpetual slumber party–with sex!” It was just easy and fun, pure delight, a little slice of heaven. I think we probably argued or fought once every four months or so, but only for like 10 minutes before laughing at ourselves and making up. But a baby makes things tough. Both the sex and the slumber in our sexy slumber party have gotten much harder to come by. And our relaxed rhythm of devotion to each other and taking care of each other has been upset by this newcomer. Before, we had a neat give-and-take equilibrium of affection going on–somehow it usually worked out that when I needed support and a little extra TLC, he had the energy to give it to me, and vice versa. And when we were both down we could just wait for the weekend to snuggle up together all day long and retreat from responsibility and the cold cruel world outside. But now little Baby DM is basically a vacuum sucking up enormous quanitities of energy and love, and she can’t exactly reciprocate yet. And there’s no retreating–her needs are relentless and non-negotiable. Stress and tiredness really brought out the sinner in both of us. We struggled with both wanting to be listened to more than we wanted to listen, and with wanting to be comforted and cared for more than we wanted to comfort and care. We started getting snippy and cold with each other, and we both felt abandoned, that the other person didn’t have our back like they used to. Secretly, I was wondering what happened to the wonderful man I had married, and he was wondering whether I still loved him.
I knew the baby would be tough, which is part of why I was so quiet over the past few months. I guess I was hoping I could figure out some shortcut to spiritual growth–that maybe if I read the right books and prayed the right prayers, that the Lord would make me a bigger and better person by the time the baby rolled in, so I’d be able to take it all in stride. Of course that’s not how it ever works–in these ten years of Christian life, I’ve learned that growth for me anyhow always seems to come through being overwhelmed. It never seems to come in time to spare me the overwhelming, even when I’m smart and diligent enough to pray for it in advance.
But gradually somehow I’m sort of getting the hang of this. I’m sure as soon as I say that, I’m going to end up in way over my head again, but nonetheless, I’m getting somewhere. Little Baby DM is teaching this ignoramus a little more about parenting every day. And I’m learning to just go with the flow. So, for example, she’s usually contented when she’s in my arms, but pretty much howls everywhere else during the day. This drove me nuts for a while, but I’ve come to just accept it, and my arm muscles after a few days of cramping have adjusted accordingly. (And I’ve become a master of picking things up with my unusually prehensile toes.) And yeah, this makes it hard to do a lot of things, but I’ve come to accept that too, and just relax. If I can get her to nap briefly on a pillow in my lap (where she is right now), great; if not, fine. She’s my priority, and if everything else falls through the cracks, that’s okay. For the time being, no plans or agendas, except tentative ones held loosely.
And she and I are getting to know each other, and are getting more used to each other. That has helped enormously. I’ve figured out how to soothe her pretty consistently, and I’ve come to understand what upsets her, so at least some of the time we can avoid a meltdown, and I know what makes her happy. So now I can relax and enjoy her. When I was feeling helplessly dragged along by the current of her incomprehensible emotions, terrified of the next purple-faced screaming fit, I couldn’t even enjoy her peaceful times, because of the anxiety which hung like a cloud over my head. But now that I understand her more, and therefore have a tiny bit of a sense of control–as much as we ever have in life–I look down at her sleeping in my lap and she is just so beautiful and wonderful. I can’t believe something so awesome came out of me!
And in the past couple of weeks I’ve started to feel great. Don’t get me wrong, there are rough patches, especially in the evenings, but there are also lots of times when I’ve never felt better or more alive or more focused. Baby DM has done wonders for simplifying and improving my life. I spend less time obsessing and pondering, and more time doing, getting pulled out of my head into my flesh and my senses. I’ve become a morning person, because she has no interest in sleeping once she’s seen daylight, and thus I have been cured of my lazy gradstudent sleep patterns. which were far less healthy. I’ve pretty much cleaned caffeine out of my system, because I read that the half-life of caffeine in a newborn is three to five DAYS, and it just ain’t worth it. And even though I haven’t quite lost all of the pregnancy weight yet, I’m just so thrilled to have something vaguely resembling my old body back, so that I don’t feel like a manatee. And I’m having fun introducing all the wonderful things in the world to my daughter, seeing/hearing/smelling/touching them again for the first time with her.
And Mr. DM and I are learning to adjust and redefine our relationship to make room for baby. There’s no chance we’re going to get back to our perpetual slumber party any time in the next 20 years, maybe 25 as we hope to add a few more arrows to Mr. DM’s quiver before we’re done. So we’ve got to be creative. We’re learning that we have to be aggressive and determined in making time for us, because it’s not going to come about naturally. And, we’re learning to accept each other, to not be angry/bitter at the other person for being as tired and frazzled as we are and therefore not in a really great position to bail us out. Rather than expecting the other person to be the “strong” one when we need them to, we’re learning to be “weak” together, and to accommodate ourselves to each other’s weaknesses, and carry each other’s burdens. The coldness and the snippiness are gone, and our fears are allayed. We remember why we got ourselves into this, and it’s worth it.
And something in me just goes wild in the best possible way when I see him with Baby DM, watching him play with her, smile with her, or attempt to feed her. (She isn’t really a big fan of bottles of expressed breastmilk, especially if she knows I’m in the vicinity with the real thing on tap, so these attempts have very mixed success.) It stirs up something in me, and adds a whole new layer and dimension to my love for him, in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. He is going to be a wonderful father–so gentle and patient and sensitive.
So that’s the personal update. I’m sure the parts where I talk about my new life as a parent are laughable, as I’m sure I don’t really know anything yet, and that I haven’t seen nothing yet. But it seems right to talk about how things look to me now, clueless as I am, and I suppose we can all look back on this post and laugh at me together when I am older and wiser.
And I will say something gay-related soon. :)