Let’s have a brief catch-up session: I’ve had a baby, it’s been amazing, I’ve taken 3.5 months of solid maternity leave and now I’m ready to begin tapping back into my professional life once more. Okay, good, we’re all caught up on the basics since my last post.
Here’s a peak at me with my son, Sevi, during those early weeks:
The most amazing thing about spending time with my son has been watching him rapidly evolve from a sleepy, totally-freaked-out-by-this-new-world-outside-the-womb newborn into a social, delighted and fairly organized three and half month old. Yes, he cries, he fusses, he gets bored but the hallmark of this last month has been joy. Pure, unabashed joy. This kid smiles like there’s no tomorrow!
At first I thought this joyful nature might just be some evolutionary tool built in to ensure parents don’t abandon their kids. Infant care is, well, a lot, and if kids didn’t progress from sleepy, fussy lumps into engaged, social creatures with smiles that win their parent’s hearts, we might have a shortage of toddlers in the world, if you know what I mean.
I’ve since come to another conclusion. Yes, a child’s first smile is no doubt timed just right to keep parents healthily attached, but when those smiles unfold into a picture of that pure, unabashed joy I was talking about, I think it’s actually pointing to something deeply important about who we fundamentally are. Our inherent nature is one of joy. All the time we spend worrying and fretting and organizing and controlling and forcing and accomplishing is understandable. But on one level it is not even real. It is certainly not essential.
Of course, I write all of this in the midst of my own anxieties about combining work with being a breastfeeding mother and having a child who is somewhat bottle-adverse. My husband and I are trying to sort out childcare and I was up every two hours last night. I’ve felt somewhat miserable all day. That’s not to mention that most of my pants still don’t fit and I have existential concerns about the life and death and well-being of my child. Sometimes it’s hard to feel remotely sane, let alone joyful.
I am also aware that with each year, Sevi will have experiences that hurt him and wound him. Like all people, he will feel the need to erect walls for protection. He won’t smile quite so frequently as he gets older and that open, trusting stance will become damaged. He will undoubtedly move away from his own most essential nature and need to work to reconnect with it.
Perhaps the gift of parenting an infant – at least this infant (my mother will tell you horror stories about my oldest brother who cried for six months straight) – is demonstrated in the fact that I can walk down the hall, pick Sevi up and get immediately high off of one of his delicious smiles. I have easy access to this reminder of my own essential nature and therefore I have easier access to a way of peeling back the layers, letting go and experiencing the fountain of joy within.
For that – and for Sevi – I give immeasurable thanks!