(This is my second time around with a newborn, and truly I think about almost nothing. I hardly ever change his diaper, he’s had one bath since August 10. Serious. My firstborn fared a bit better in the bath department although just barely. And now I have zero routine or schedule to speak of. I haven’t even – gasp! – written down when he eats or for how long or on which side.)
(Also, the part about President Barack Obama comes at the end in case anyone is wondering.)
Back to Baby, I mentioned that I don’t think about anything anymore, so I don’t know why I even noticed that he was having trouble eating or why I was concerned about my milk supply, but here’s what happened.
He started crying, I got out of bed, checked my phone, it was just after 2am. I picked him up, started feeding, and then possibly fell asleep. Maybe. I couldn’t remember. Then I was awake, I didn’t feel like I had much milk, I couldn’t remember if I had fed him on the other side, and I was thinking, which was likely my first mistake because no one should be thinking at 2am, but think I did and it sounded like this:
It feels like I’m running out of milk. I wonder why. I should be eating or drinking more. Maybe I’m drying up. Maybe I’m pregnant. Could I be pregnant? What would I do if I was pregnant? The baby would be due right when Daniel is a year old. Three kids under three. Is that even possible? What if it was twins? I know two people whose third pregnancy was twins. Could I stay sane with four children under three? Would I get post partum depression?
Then I spent a few more minutes thinking about PPD. No one should be thinking these things, but especially not at two in the morning. At this point I decided to check the time again. It was 3am. Problem solved. I had fallen asleep, he was a the one side for one hour. Of course I felt empty.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Vanity Fair published a lengthy profile about President Obama. It is a great read whatever your political persuasions may be. But the point that caught my eye was a comment he made about how he chooses his clothes.
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
I read this quotation and the article during the 2012 presidential campaign, and it was a light bulb moment for me.
I finally understood why I was so exhausted those first months after our oldest was born. The lack of sleep will always be the obvious culprit when we wonder why it is that we don’t feel the way we used to feel. But the hidden factor is the sheer number of decisions – however big or small – that we make every few minutes.
Is he hungry? Should I be putting her to sleep? Swaddled or not? Too cold? Too warm? Should I wake him up? Is it the right time to cut fingernails? What is that on her scalp? Tummy time? Too much tummy time? What size will he be in a few months? Should we go out? For how long? When will he next need to eat?
The first months are the get-to-know-you months, the time when you’re understand this new person, and that process involves hundreds of tiny decisions, decisions that exhaust you and make it difficult to make other decisions.
This idea will stay with me forever. I’m a thinker anyway, and even without kids, my brain is usually running around with lots of questions. It has to be quieted, decisions need to be pared down for me to experience an internal peace and silence.
How can I minimize the number of decisions I make every day? And in the event that I can’t, I try to be as easy on my self as possible in those moments when my brain can’t handle another decision or another question.
This post is Day 8 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)