The Portugal Years – Year Three: Once you have a baby, you have a baby…

Bethy about 3 months old.

There you are one fine day when suddenly you find yourself responsible for another human person. It is a change that will shape and  mold you in ways that you  never could have imagined. This small creature that recently burst into the light of day will be part of you forever.  The most passive mother becomes a grizzly bear in a heartbeat when her child is in any kind of danger and goes to war for each of her precious offspring. Clothing, sheltering, and feeding these small creatures are the easy parts. 

As first-born, I wanted to do everything right first time every time. (Stop that snickering…I heard you.) I learned more from my children than they have from me. The biggest lesson I learned was how very self-centered I am. I thought I had buried that demon right after Harry and I got married, but it was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg . I like having some time for myself to just sit alone and daydream. Or read. The reading part was easy. Nursing babies need very little attention, and I could read to my heart’s content while I fed Elisabeth.

It was my bad, that first riptide in motherhood. I am an early to bed kinda girl, and I like my sleep to be undisturbed. Elisabeth went to sleep just fine. But. Around 11 every night she woke up and cried for an hour or more. If I fed her, she gave it back to me. I got cranky. Harry felt helpless, but he was the one who rescued me. He picked up Elisabeth, slung her over his shoulder and walked up and down the hallway all the while singing the Oscar Meier Hot Dogs theme song. When he got tired of the original lyrics, he improvised. Eventually, we figured that her wakefulness at 11 p.m. was a result of me imbibing caffeinated coffee. Ooops.

Lesson two was the shower. I fed Elisabeth when she woke up, bathed her and dressed her.  Then I put her in her basket so I could get a quick shower. I expected her to give me at least ten minutes.  As soon as I left the room, she started crying. Nothing stopped her. I learned to take record breaking short showers. She didn’t want to eat. She just wanted me.

Cooking dinner at night was another challenge. Harry would come home with the newspaper and sit down to wait for dinner. The baby was always fussy at that time of day. Finally, I’d hand Bethy over to him to entertain so I could finish preparing dinner. The crying never stopped, but I got dinner done. Harry had to do without the cheese sauce on his broccoli though. When I walked into the living room to call Harry in to eat, he had her was hanging over his arm like a sack of potatoes. Every time she smelled food cooking, she wanted in on the action; I had to feed the baby before I could eat. I resigned myself to having no hot meals for the better part of the next couple of decades.

There was some respite along the way. Bethy’s Tia Cindi offered to babysit so Harry could take me out for a break when Elisabeth was about four months old. She was, according to Tia, perfectly good. Of course. She had saved it all up until five minutes after I fell asleep.

What kinds of things stretch and grow you?

37 thoughts on “The Portugal Years – Year Three: Once you have a baby, you have a baby…

  1. This was very good. No one has ever explained in such good detail what it is like having your first baby. All they would talk about is the lack of sleep and sometimes lack of help. I must admit I value a good night sleep and my world would be rocked if I couldn’t have that.


    1. I survived and went on to have two more. But you are right – probably few people talk about it in detail because they blocked it out of their memories. Look how long it took me to talk about it. Bethy was born in 1981. 😀


  2. “It was my bad, that first riptide in motherhood.”
    Oh Susan, that’s a great line. Most excellent. One of those where I read it and thought “Ohhh I wish I’d thought of that.”
    Beautiful imagery. Excellent writing. Great installment.


  3. Amazing entry. We did not have children, but I so respect those who do. I’ve had many friends who were first-time moms. I loved your candor, and the joy in all of this comes through! 🙂


  4. At the risk of sounding like a dufflepud: Great job Chief! That Chief always gets it right! Couldn’t have said it better myself Chief!! Love you!


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