I once read an enthnography years ago about women in, I think it was the Phillipines, and how after the baby was born they would bury the umbilical cord in a special place so that the baby’s soul always had a place to return to.
We bought our first house a couple of months ago. I dug a giant hole and purchased a fig tree to plant. And on a Sunday afternoon, my husband and baby and I went out to the garden and under the tree I buried the little piece of cord that was once connected baby and me. And this was how a dream, a really big hopeful dream at least ten years in the making (with plenty of setbacks, detours, and dashed hopes) of someday finding real love, marriage, a home all our own, a backyard for vegetables and swings, and eventually, hopefully, please, a baby or three, unfolded. It was such a big dream and it came true in this small, completely simple way on a totally normal day. Banging cymbals and fireworks seemed most appropriate, like the realization of this moment should be huge and marked by cheers and shouts (a husband! a baby! our land and his baby spirit united and joined forever and I finally did the little ceremony I’ve always wanted to do!), but instead it passed light as a breeze. The dream just happened matter of fact. And there sat the little twisted stump of dried cord laying in the freshly uprooted soil. It was baby’s little piece of soul all snug in its forever home.
I look every day of my 34 years. No one would mistake me for mid-20s. I don’t get carded when I buy alcohol. And no one would ever peg me as late teen, not even for a split second, not even if I was wearing really short cutoffs and Uggs and a sparkly tank top. Nope. I am firmly a woman in my 30s, which is what makes it so strange that when baby was first born I’d walk around town and assume people were thinking that I looked awfully young to have a baby. Could it be hers? Nooooo. My, isn’t she young to have a child. Maybe she’s the babysitter. She must be. A nanny. Definitely. And I’d stroll along saying to them in my mind – Actually, he IS mine. Really. Mine. Can you believe it? I had a baby. Naturally, none of this has anything to do with my physical appearance; it’s all about what I feel like. And somewhere in my head I still feel like I’m 22, or 18, and that I’m a very young person doing astonishingly mature things in the world, like, for instance, being a mom.
I still can’t believe I’m old enough to have a baby.
Honored by a birthday tribute on the best, most hilarious mommy blog out there! http://www.thebabysucks.com
It’s true. We swallowed placenta. We had a homebirth, and a lot of folks in the natural birthing community advocate a little placenta consumption to help offset postpartum depression. So, while I had no desire to cook that expelled organ up with onions or add it to a smoothie, we did have the option of having someone come to our house, dehydrate, pulverize, and encapsulate the Tree of Life in our very own kitchen.
Both my husband and I popped a couple of placenta pills a few days after the birth. Neither of us expected anything to happen. Suddenly, I felt this warmth radiating up the left side of my neck. Do you feel this? Is your neck getting all warm? My energy level was zinging. I got in the bath and I felt like a HAWK. Like a laser-eyed swooping hawk. My husband felt the same. Our pupils were dilated. We were high as kites! On placenta. It wasn’t our imagination. The feeling was nice, very jittery and energetic, which is saying a lot after a 30+ hour labor and several nights of no sleep with a newborn on the blistering breast. I took it again a few days later, just one pill this time, and remember thinking, man, I feel like a lion.
I never had any postpartum blues so I never felt like I really needed a boost, and didn’t take the placenta again. But I’m glad we had the pills made. And they’re still in our freezer for later use – if wanted. They say it’s a miracle hormone to ingest when menopause hits.
- They say you should never consume placenta when you’re sick because it accelerates whatever is happening in your body, e.g., getting sick = sicker, healing from birth = healier.
- The last pill I took led to a burp – a placenta burp. That reduced their appeal.
Took baby to the aquarium for a sweet birthday outing where we could reminisce on all the cute things we did when he was 3 months old and we’d stroll by the big glass tanks and he’d sort of look at the fish gliding by with his new baby gaze and I thought he loved it, really LOVED it… This recent trip, however, only two things mattered: stairs and emergency exits. Both had to be explored in extensive detail. His only interaction with the fish included watching them cruise over, reaching for one, and then throwing a temper tantrum once he realized that the fish could not be had. I dragged him away stiff-legged and screaming in his stroller as he shook his fist at a vermilion snapper.
And on another note: today my friend and I talked about the virtues of giving up the relentless quest to be special / extraordinary and to embrace “normal” and how totally freeing and satisfying that is in a bizarre way. Like, it’s this place where happiness can finally land and settle without strife. Whether choosing “normal” makes you “normal” – I don’t know.
Baby’s first year: 10 observations
- Mortality Creating life has finally made me fear death. Suddenly, everything is so precious that to lose any of it is something I couldn’t bear; might not recover from. Before baby it was me in the world, relatively free, loved my family, friends, and my husband mightily, but we were all adults and could make decisions for ourselves, but now, with baby, my sense of vulnerability, fright, protection, love, and the need to be there for him and have him here with me is overpowering.
- Noises If you think you just heard the baby in the middle of the night, you just heard the baby. You might wish or wonder if that little groan was just wind, the TV, or something outside, but it wasn’t. Baby’s code-red siren wailing will begin in sixty seconds or less.
- Humanness I feel like I was living life in a partial way, say, seventy-five percent, until he was born. I loved that seventy-five percent (and all the wine, work, dinner parties and sexy weekends that went with it), but now I feel suddenly wise and deeply human and connected to something that is wonderful and important, and I can’t imagine life without baby. Not for a second.
- Liberation You think having a baby is going to cramp your style and your freedom. It does. But in the bigger picture, it frees you from worry and obsession about yourself and the amount of love in your life quadruples. It’s then very easy to swim in this new world of love and you don’t miss the other stuff. Having a baby was, surprisingly, oddly, the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Like jumping into life’s deep end – there, you did it. Big splash and the water’s fine.
- Bliss Playing with brand new baby in bed, at home, after he arrived and staring into his baby face and kissing his baby head and having him look back at me, realizing this little person is mine – this was like meeting the coolest, most amazing pet in the galaxy and it made me sing out loud for joy.
- Independence Not mine, the baby’s. He’s rough and tumble and constantly on the verge of what feels to me like possible death – a blanket that smothers, something in his mouth that’s toxic or chokes, a fall, a fever, a crash, a stupid mistake – but I have to chill out, step back, and let him fall a little, discover stuff, be the little sovereign spirit that he is. And that’s going to only get harder to do as he grows up.
- Crisis (identity) Mine. Some post-feminist, ultra-modern residue that hangs all over me – needling me – little itchings that tell me I should be both a stellar mom and maintain an impressive career (ah, I am a cliché!). That to do only one or the other is inadequate, and that dependency is a flawed state.
- New Job Being a mom is by far the hardest, most challenging, most consuming, most ever-present, most humbling, exhausting, strategic, nerve-rattling gig I have ever swung. It is also the most fulfilling, satisfying, and fun work. Yep, WORK. Returning to the “office” for a day (i.e., my old job) is like slowly eating ice cream in the sun with ample amounts of time to do things like: think thoughts, look out the window at a building, brush my hair, check email, sound half smart on the phone, pee alone, drink a latte, walk down the street, etc.
- Dirty My best indication of a happy baby and successful day of mothering is to have the boy filthy. He should be covered in sand, dirt, yogurt, banana, inevitably a little snot, ocean salt, greasy sunscreen in his hair, and finally paint, cream cheese, and bug bites by bath time.
- Sleep You think you need it and that’ll it really hurt when the baby arrives and you’re up every two hours for weeks and then the broken sleep continues for months, and by month seven you still haven’t slept more than four hours in a row, but you’re fine. A little delirious, but actually fine. Somehow, you adapt and get on with it and it’s not that big a deal. And as for baby’s sleep, getting the baby to nap or go to bed at a night is a daily experience in transcendental triumph. When this happens, you feel like a farmer who has worked the land since dawn. Like you have accomplished a task that is whole and complete.