One Hundred Hours of Solitude

7 Feb

Two weeks ago today my world changed. After a relatively quick and easy delivery, we welcomed our little boy into our family. I was surprised by the experience of labor and delivery, having expected the worst agony and trauma of my life and instead having only a few hours of pain followed by excited nervousness and a few quick pushes. (yes, I realize how lucky I am, don’t hate me). Even the afterpains were overshadowed by the joy of staring at my little guy and calling him by his name for the first time, or seeing him quiet in Patrick’s arms, searching his face like a long-lost friend.

The initial days passed in a blur of love and tenderness, of resting while grandmas cooed and husbands rushed around tending to every need. Meals were brought in by attentive and excited church members who wanted to meet the baby and offer their help. I felt supported and capable, intoxicated by the rush of love for this new person, excited to slip into the new role of motherhood, even foolishly romanticizing the nightfeedings when it would just be Finn and I bonding in the middle of the night as we rocked in silence.

Those halcyon days are disappearing as grandmas depart, Patrick goes back to work, and I find myself faced with the prospect of being on the job 24 hours a day. I am trapped in the house for at least a month, until Finn’s little lungs can withstand the Cairo air. The internet blackout cut off my lifeline to the outside world for a week and I found myself without e-mail or phone services to talk to the people I wanted to. The world seemed to be closing in on me and the sense of claustrophobia was overwhelming. I found myself constantly feeling alone, cut-off, trapped. In the evenings the exhaustion of this would cave in on me and I started to panic. We decided to ask LeAnn to stay a few extra days for support as Patrick went back to work. With her generous support, I’ve started to feel more human and am slowly transitioning into the role of full-time mom.

I now indeed find myself rocking with Finn in the middle of the night, the two of us silent in our separate solitudes of sleepiness and fatigue. I’m getting to know hours of the early morning that I had forgotten existed and along with the tenderness when I lift a crying Finn out of his co-sleeper, I feel exhaustion. In addition to softly singing lullabies, I spend these hours enticing him with pleas and promises if he’ll only sleep for a few hours longer.

But in those quiet hours of the night, I sometimes look down and by the glow of the streetlights outside I can see his dark little eyes on my face and I take myself back to that primal rush that I experienced when he was first born. Before the doctor had even lifted him, I found my arms reaching desperately to grab him and pull his warm wet little body to me. I touched him all over and covered him with my hands as if to comfort him and let him know I was here. I nearly swatted the pediatrician away when he tickled Finn’s tummy to release that lusty little first cry. I instinctively and urgently wanted to take care of my boy, despite the nurses reaching to clean him up, the pediatrician getting ready to check him, the exhaustion of my body screaming for rest.

I draw on the reserves of that feeling in these hours of solitude, when he starts to cry and I lay still in bed, hoping he’ll drift back to sleep. I draw on it when I walk with him and frown and sigh in frustration at not understanding his cries while he squirms and cries in frustration about being so little and misunderstood. My lower moments occur during this time when I question my ability and desire to be a mother. They are erased a few hours later as the sun rises and I see his curious perfectly shaped eyes and run my finger over his pink unbelievably soft skin and forgive him what feels like the hundreds of hours spend in dark solitude the night before.

7 Responses to “One Hundred Hours of Solitude”

  1. mom February 7, 2008 at 9:58 pm #

    What a wonderful mother you are becoming. My heart overflows with love and pride.

    P.S. LeAnn, we love you. Thank you.

  2. jeff carrier February 7, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    I am at a loss for words. This entry is so touching in so many ways, I’m sure you’re the best mom ever, with the exception of my mom. I hope this transition is easy and natural. Love truly conquers all things; exhaustion, fatigue, etc. Best of luck, I’m sure you’ll do well.

  3. tracy m February 8, 2008 at 1:43 am #

    Ah, Melissa, welcome to the club. And I don’t mean that to sound flip or off-the-cuff- I really mean it.

    I remember when Jeffrey was a baby, 6 1/2 years ago now, weeping from sheer exhaustion in the middle of the night. And yet, that primal urge to love takes over- and you do. And you do and do again. Motherhood doesn’t just stretch your body- it changes who you are, and takes you to heights and depths you never knew you could live through.

    Someone told me once that the oceans of the world are fulled with mothers of the world’s tears. Now, with a few years under my belt, I can say, I agree. Happy, sad, love, angry, frustrated, joyous, weary, elated, they’re all in there…

    I love this post. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Grandpa & Grandma February 8, 2008 at 3:56 am #

    what a wonderful letter-We heard all beautiful and wonderful things from your mom.The love you and Patrick and now Finn share.The wonderful way you and and Le Ann get along,which is a real blessing.Two wonderful families found each other.Great grandma Olga is crazy in love with Finn,i have a picture of him in every room.I make loving sounds and coos to him all day !I know you will be a great mother and Patrick a loving father and husband.I put the birth announcement at FUMC and it came in todays news letter.I will save one for you.
    We love you all dearly,
    Great grandma and Great grandpa

  5. kennan February 8, 2008 at 4:11 am #

    mel, motherhood can indeed be a lonely place sometimes. thank goodness for being able to know you are the world to somebody so tiny. hang in there. keep writing, it is therapeutic. keep doing things! and if you ever swear at your baby in the middle of the night, just do it in that “oh my! you are such a little crapper for waking up again!” high-pitched sticky sweet voice and he’ll never know the difference.

  6. Kay February 11, 2008 at 8:37 pm #

    Melissa what a beautiful post. Monday marks my 30th anniversary of becoming a mom. So much has happened during those 30 years. and I wish I would’ve taken the time to write more. During those times when you feel overwhelmed you can go back and read your feelings and it will help you get through the rough spots. When Benji was born we had just moved to Texas and I remember coming home from the hospital and feeling so alone. I can’t even imagine what you must feel being so far away especially when the cable was cut.
    You are both wonderful parents. Finn is lucky to have you.

  7. Shabnam April 2, 2008 at 2:50 pm #

    This is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL post that i have ever read. You are the best 🙂

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