It turns out that babies are time-consuming little creatures. Those mums you see in cafe bars of a lunchtime, in clusters of carseats and buggies and tiny lolling heads on muslin-strewn shoulders, they’re not whiling away the leisurely hours of maternity leave, after all. They’re snatching a 90 minute or 2 hour block of time in a day divided into such blocks, never enough of them. This is the block during which they get to wear make-up, and fire a dozen questions at the others, seeking reassurance that the night feeds and the evening screeching and the nocturnal grunting are all normal, and that others aren’t sailing through it like that seem to be, that it’s just the same for them: hard work but wonderful.
Of course, I knew this would be so on an intellectual level, and was told this, before Leila. But I couldn’t really grasp how it would I transpire to be. My days- on paper, or to critics- might seem mundane. A little chaotic, to an outsider. But in truth they are wonders of modern engineering, each block planned and filled to the maximum. Life feels very full, sometimes too full, albeit with things not traditionally seen as fulfilling, like scrubbing nappies and milking myself like a cow with a rather alarming machine. Even sleeping is performed like a task, in structured chunks of 2 or maybe 3 or- this one time- 4 whole hours (wahoo!).
Which isn’t to say that woe is me. I actually quite enjoy this regimented way of life. When I had days at home before, I used to make lists of things to do, then more often that not sit paralysed wondering where to start and how to get it all done. Now, I’m a machine, people. Between feeding and rocking and singing Downtown at the top of my voice (it’s her favourite song, ironic since she’s only been downtown once, and only made it as far as TX Maxx, and doesn’t know any little places to go to where they never close), when Leila is sleeping, I swing into action, and each task completed feels like a triumph, a step further away from the first couple of weeks when my postpartum life mirrored Leila’s: eat, sleep, cry. Now I feel happy each time I complete a task: getting dressed, making the bed, hanging out the washing, filling in forms, meeting a friend for a cup of tea. And, on occasion, writing a blog post. Though I must tell you that I’m juggling this with eating a bowl of macaroni cheese and pushing Leila’s pram back and forth in slight desperation (please let me just get this one thing done…).
And don’t forget staring at the baby. Time must be devoted to staring at the baby- when she’s awake and staring back beadily as loved-up nonsense-babble spills from our lips, and when she’s asleep and I look at her and my whole being, not just my heart, constricts and expands. Time must be set aside for gushy waves of love.
Eventually I hope to introduce more blocks into my days. Seeing friends more, going out for meals, maybe using my mind a little (fancy that!). But for now, it’s all overwhelming enough that I’m stretched to capacity by the building blocks of my days, and feel a sense of satisfaction when a day passes which hasn’t seen them all come tumbling down amid snotty hormonal tears. Life is full. And babies, turns out they are not just time-consuming. They are consuming, full stop.