Writing with a New Baby

Babies sleep a lot. Except, it seems, when you want them to. My daughter will sleep in the car on the way to the grocery store, in the stroller the whole time we’re at the grocery store, and then for about two minutes after we get home. Which is just enough time to put away half of the groceries—the perishables, basically. Does she sleep at night? Sometimes. Does she sleep for long stretches of time? Sometimes.

The problem I didn’t think about before she was born is that whenever she’s asleep when we’re at home, I want to be sleeping, too. Or cooking, so that I can sate the ravenous hunger of a nursing mother. Or cleaning, so that all the burp cloths around the house get into the hamper before we do laundry again. Add in a full-time work schedule (which also adds: time spent cleaning breast pump parts + commute + putting on non-pajama clothes and brushing my hair + cooking/packing a lunch to bring + frustrating blocks of time where I have to beg her to wake up to feed before I leave in the morning…)—basically my time for writing has disappeared. Does this mean I can’t ever have a stolen minute or two to write? No. She’s on my lap right now squirming and I’m typing away. We just won’t mention that time she spit up onto my laptop keyboard, or how uncomfortable it is to lean at this awkward angle so that I can reach the keys with both hands and still keep her from falling off.

It’s frustrating, actually, how many minutes you recognize as “Oh, I could have been writing” minutes just as your little one begins to wake up and need you again. Supposedly breastfeeding even gets easier eventually, but at three months old it’s still pretty necessary for me to hold my boob in place for her, so she isn’t slipping off or smooshing her nose into it until she can’t breathe. Ever try to type with just one hand? I could probably get good at it eventually, but by the time I did she’ll have outgrown this phase and it won’t be necessary.

The point, really, is that even with the eight weeks of maternity leave, even with the naps she takes, even though she can’t talk yet and is only starting to be vaguely interested in toys—something always comes up. Writing always gets bumped down the list. It’s easy enough to do the dishes when you’re out of forks and the breast pump parts need to be clean again by tomorrow. Not so easy to put off those dishes and just write.

(Also, Netflix is evil. You sit down to nurse and you think, “I don’t want to type away super slowly with only one hand while I do this…” and so you turn on Netflix. Except an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is 45 minutes long, and you aren’t going to stop it halfway through just because baby girl is done eating. Even worse? Finding out you have HBO Go access through your in-laws cable subscription and finding 20 movies you’d love to watch…)

I thought, before I had her, that I would find plenty of time to write. It seemed inevitable. I would be healthy and whole again, after a very ill, soul-wrecking pregnancy. I failed to calculate all the extra minutes spent folding and unfolding that stroller, taking her for walks so she can see the world, staring at her cute face and talking to her to make her smile. They’re essential, all these extra moments. Even the hour you have to spend walking her up and down the hallway, bouncing her a little in your arms, while she fights off sleep because she just doesn’t wanna. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Truly. It’s just a sad consequence that I can’t write as much as I’d like to. I miss it, and sometimes that makes me really sad. She’s worth the trade-off, for sure. And yet…

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