One month. She is one month old today.
A bite of breakfast pizza, run to the diaper bag to restock the wipes. The pacifier falls out of her mouth and she cries instantly. Run back. I feel guilty about the pacifier, but also, she seems to hate everything. The sling doesn’t work. Holding her doesn’t work. Not today anyway. I put her in the stroller with the pacifier. I think I hear disapproval everywhere, sometimes.
I think something happened to my toe but I don’t have time to check. She woke up this morning and was immediately upset. It feels never-ending.
I love her. I look at her little face and cry sometimes because I love her so much. I try to think back to the moment she was born, and I became a mother, and I just sat there, being stunned and not even knowing how to position my arms around her. But then she cries miserably, and I am back to trying to make it better. I write sentences in between everything. I wish the pizza didn’t have garlic, but it does and there isn’t time for anything else. I bang my teeth hard, trying to take a hasty gulp out of the iced tea bottle. At least there’s iced tea.
I am scared of this baby. I should be strong and calm and my calmness should radiate off of me, engulfing her, but I am afraid of her. Please don’t cry, I think at her. Please stop crying.
“Babies can tell when you’re stressed out,” people tell me.
“You’re doing great!” says a stranger in the grocery store, after I struggled through the door with the stroller.
Last night, when we walked with her for hours and hours through Brooklyn Heights (constant motion helps sometimes), a group of teenagers loped by, laughing loudly, flirting with each other, being hilarious and witty (“Hey, Ty! Matt wants to know if you want some of his nuts. His NUTS!”). And I thought for a second that we must look so irrelevant to them. This haggard couple with their vindictive baby, dressed in haphazard gym clothes, long-faced with exhaustion, fading into the background even as we squeezed by on the narrow sidewalk. We’re over to them. Their night is just starting, and it’s full of potential. We are the part after the climax, that the movie won’t show unless it’s gritty and boring and about “real life.”
Bear said, “Do you think we seem irrelevant to them?”
“I think we’re just background noise,” he said.
We talked about the things I wrote above.
But really, we’re just beginning. With a screaming baby that no one would call “good.”
“Is she good?” my grandmother asked.
“Yes,” Mom told her. “She’s good.”
But we know what “good” means. And it isn’t her.
She also isn’t “easy” or “sweet.”
So then she’s a bad baby, I guess. A complicated, difficult baby. Which is really what I expected, in a way.
She’s a baby who doesn’t care what it might be nice for a baby to be like. She’s my baby, though. I made her.
“You’re doing such an amazing job,” said Bear, being supportive, since I obviously looked depressed and maybe had poop on my leg from when I changed her diaper on my friend’s floor and Eden pooped violently on both me and the pretty rug. A minute before, I had been telling my friend that I was really getting the hang of this whole baby thing. I knew now to bring the right amount of wipes.
I had to ask her if I could borrow some wipes.
“I made her,” I told Bear ruefully. “I’ve got to deal with her.”
“Look!” he always says, when she stops crying for a moment, “We solved it! She’s never going to cry again!”
She screams. We laugh for a second. Then we go about the business of trying to make it better.
This time is precious, I tell myself. It’s precious. She is so new.
“Okay, okay,” I say to her, “let’s try some more boob.”
She glares at me suspiciously over my nipple, latching on like she has to guard it in case someone tries to steal it away. Me, maybe.
“You can keep it,” I assure her. “Seriously, knock yourself out.” And I mean that.
I wistfully imagine the two of us, chilling together on a blanket in the park, admiring the distant Statue of Liberty. So free.
She pops off the nipple, furious– clearly I am not exuding enough calm– and screams.
* * *
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a red dress pushing a stroller. At least I can wear a red dress while I’m doing it. I admit it, I kind of feel like a sexy young mom. It’s fun.