I knew there’d be plenty of surprises that accompanied becoming a mom. Everyone tried to prepare me for how hard things would be as I adjusted, particularly given the fact that I wouldn’t be sleeping. Yet I had NO IDEA what to expect in terms of fatigue. I guess it’s hard to truly process what it means to stop sleeping until you experience it firsthand. But it turns out babies like to eat, a lot, and with zero regard for what time it is or if their parents are becoming blurry-eyed, emotional lunatics.
In the 12 weeks since our daughter was born, I’ve spent more time awake at odd hours of the night than I ever imagined possible. I’ve become an expert at navigating my house in a half-conscious stupor, preparing bottles with one hand and deftly swaddling in the dark. I’ve learned to function on so little sleep I sometimes wonder if I’ve morphed into some kind of insomniac superhuman.
Along the way, amid the utter mayhem of not sleeping, I’ve gained a few essential parenting ninja skills:
1. Night vision: I can now successfully travel across my house without opening my eyes. I’m like a Roomba, gently knocking into walls and furniture as I find my way to the nursery. I’m sometimes startled to wake up during daylight hours because I’ve grown so accustomed to functioning in darkness.
2. Acrobatic foot dexterity: Having a baby means your hands are always full. To compensate, I’ve become an ape-like master of foot control. I can pick up small items, open drawers and turn on the night light with my toes. I’ve tossed laundry into a hamper and even spread a blanket out with my feet. Could this become an Olympic event? Likely not, but it’s wildly entertaining and helpful.
3. Bionic arm strength: If someone challenged me to hold a 12-pound dumb bell in a static bicep curl for 15 hours a day, I’d laugh rudely. But then I had a baby who didn’t like to be put down, and so I held her. All day. Every day. And for a while I was physically unable to straighten my arms. Now that she’s adjusted a bit, it’s become an amazing way to work out without actually having to workout.
4. Bouncy wobble walking: I don’t want to brag, but I’ve developed a pretty unique wobble walk that lulls even the most fussy of babies into a peaceful slumber. I may look like I belong on a middle school dance floor, swaying awkwardly to the melodies of Boyz II Men and K-Ci and JoJo, but believe you me this is one magic saunter. This is an especially breathtaking maneuver when partnered with # 2 (think: Elaine Benes at a company party).
5. Ruthless adaptability (also known as shameless lack of dignity): Sleep on the floor using your baby’s hooded towel as a blanket? Sure. Trudge back to bed at 4 a.m. covered in spit up? It’s ok. Forget the last time you flossed? It happens. These seemingly disgraceful transgressions are totally acceptable — heck, they’re encouraged — while parenting an infant. Just use caution when sharing these achievements with non-parents, as the reactions are somewhat offensive.
6. Emotional Ambivalence: I think that when you become a parent you become a bit of a crazy person. This is best demonstrated by a newfound ability to use laughing and crying interchangeably. There are actually a surprising number of situations where laughing and/or crying hysterically can be appropriate responses, like waiting in line at the post office with a crying infant, or trying to cook dinner while wearing your baby. I’m going to have to monitor this one closely as I return to work because it won’t translate well on conference calls.
I’m eager to see what additional powers I’ll acquire on this crazy road called motherhood. I wouldn’t mind returning to a normal sleep schedule one day, but until then, I’m opting to push through the haze and embrace these moments. It’s not so much looking at things through rose-colored glasses as it is genuinely special to share every possible minute with my baby. Even if it’s at 3 a.m., and even when I’m covered in baby puke.