Happiness. I’ve been thinking about the difference between real-time happiness and in-the-past happiness. For me, “in-the-past happiness” is something that time and distance produce. Space from the moment is what allows you to register that you were, in fact, happy then. Real-time happiness is when you know while you are living something: I am happy.
I am a semi-regular offender of experiencing happiness in the past and it pains me. But sometimes it is easier to realize how much brighter and beautiful and happier it all was in retrospect.
In a day and age when living in the moment is held as highly as eating well and exercising enough, I feel twinges of guilt when my happiness is sourced from memories instead of the actual moment. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the case for the 4th trimester.
The 4th trimester is commonly referred to as the first 3 months of life with your new baby. It is a time laced with adjustment. From those tortuous sleepless nights to the magical bonding with your baby, these months are unique. Despite the lack of sleep, it is obviously a time to be cherished. A time of happiness.
But my question is: can it be more real-time happiness than in-the-past happiness? I’m hoping to work hard at making it as real-time happiness as possible. I don’t want to look back to know that I am happy now. (Could this be a sliver lining of a global pandemic? Having the time to think about all of this…?)
Our son is 6 weeks old – halfway through the 4th trimester – and he hasn’t been held by anyone but me, my husband, and a handful of doctors and nurses. This is not what we expected. Every day is limited to what we can do in our home, aside from our daily walk(s). Some may say this is true of most days with newborns – to which I probably agree – but ours are limited by not just a baby but also the government.
Days are tedious. But, as I’m trying to remind myself constantly, they are also joyful. Every day I get to spend another 24 hours with only my husband and my son. We’re in the middle of the Great Pause and I’m navigating it by soaking in the first few months of my baby’s life at home. …Literally government mandated to stay at home. What a bizarre, beautiful, perplexing thing.
Despite the fear of COVID-19 and the monotony of social distancing casting it’s shadows on our days, I know these short months are so special. I am grateful – and want to be present – for these moments filled to the brim with my boys.
Right now, at 6 weeks in, our days look a bit like this: Most days Cam wakes up between 5am – 6am for a diaper change and a feed. After this we either put him back down in his cradle or remove all of the pillows on our bed and let him sleep with us for “morning cuddles.” I love starting the day with our morning cuddles, despite actually sleeping way better if he goes back down in his cradle. Babies are loud and squirmy when they sleep, which makes sharing a bed with them decidedly less restful.
Between 8am – 9am we head downstairs and, in-between pulling shots of espresso and toasting bagels, we take turns dancing around the kitchen with Cam. Then it’s time for his morning nap, which is usually downstairs in his vibrating seat. (Although I am reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and it says for meaningful sleep babies should be in their crib and not be moving. Ek! We’ll work on that eventually…)
The next 7 – 9 hours are spent changing diapers (usually Mike), breastfeeding and pumping (obviously me), going on walks (sometimes 2-3 a day), managing to feed ourselves lunch / clean up (so many dishes), and soothing Cam (which means STANDING with him – why do babies prefer to be held standing vs. sitting and how do they know the second you sit down? HOW?!).
All of the sudden it is dinner time and it’s a shot in the dark on who will be cooking it, if Cam will be awake, or if we will be eating in shifts. We’ve had all sorts of evenings. I’ve managed eating a burger one-handed while feeding him but we’ve also had nights where we’ve cooked, ate without a babe hanging on either of us, and even tag-teamed the kitchen after. Once timing even worked out where I fed him and pumped right before our pizza was ready… meaning I was able to have a beer with dinner.
Every other night we give Cam a bath, which he seems to really like. And then it’s time for bed – something we haven’t figured out the exact science to yet. Typically though, I feed him and then shower while Mike burps him and tries to get him down in the cradle. Sometimes he’s successful and it’s early enough for us to watch a show together before going to sleep ourselves but other times Cam is wide awake when I out and needs some extra calories before snoozing.
I’d say 60% of the time we get a decent night sleep. Cam’s longest stretch so far has been 7 hours (!) but it is typically around 5 hours from the initial time we put him down to the first time he wakes up, and then about 3 hours, and then down to ~2 hours (this is our morning cuddle stretch). We have certainly had our hard nights, but thankfully these are more of a rarity than a regular practice.
Just this week Cam started giving us small social smiles and OMGTHEYARETHEBEST. He has a good appetite and is able to take a bottle now with pumped milk. Initially he loved his pacifier but now he makes a face like we are trying to poison him when we put it in his mouth. He LOVES being on his side. Tummy time is usually spent on one of our chests and he can hold his head up for a decent amount of time. He also strains his head up from our shoulder when he is hungry or tired and then inevitably slams it back down when he his neck muscles give way. For some reason Mike and I both find this slightly amusing.
When he wakes up, he does the cutest “baby stretches,” as we call them. Like he’s had the longest day at work and just needs to stretch it out. When we take him out of his cradle and unzip his swaddle (more on that in another post), we like to say “FREEDOOOMMM!!” because he instantly pops his arms out to the sides. Cam has the uncanny ability to be crashed out on a walk but wake up right when we hit our driveway, basically every.single.time. He has a hungry cry and an I’m-bored-cry. His hungry cry is as ferocious as you’d expect it to be. His favorite sleep spot is dad’s chest, where he sprawls out like a starfish. Socks are hard to put on but once secured in place, he doesn’t seem to mind them. Diaper changes aren’t a big thing to him, like he knows “yeah yeah this is just apart of the deal, isn’t it?”
He’s our little light and the best thing about our days.