Deja vu — romanticizing the newborn days

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m blogging. I know enough about blogging by now to know that posting on a Sunday afternoon is blogger stats death by careless timing. I should probably wait until tomorrow. But still, here I sit – my fingers unable to stop the rhythm of the click-clacking of keys, even though they don’t have anything special to write, anywhere important to be. But there’s a reason why I’m here. Something I need to work out the only way I know how.

I’m having déjà vu.

Last night was the sixth consecutive night that I’ve fed, bathed, and put to bed three children by myself; the sixth consecutive night of foregoing my dinner in order to get meals (or something resembling a meal) into three separate mouths; the sixth consecutive night of wrestling two-year-olds into clean diapers and pajamas; the sixth consecutive night of negotiating, intervening, mediating, and sometimes threatening* in order to keep this train moving on track to the intended goal – bedtime.

*Threatening? You ask. Yes, threatening. It’s come to that.

Me: Mia, brush your teeth.

Mia: But it’s so boring.

Me: It’s not supposed to be fun.

Mia: Do I have to?

Me: If you don’t, sugar bugs will invade your mouth and eat holes in your teeth and they’ll fall out. All of them. Every single one.

(Insert a shocked/confused Mia here)

So there. Ha. Score one for me. Oh, but wait. She has that look in her eyes.

Me: I know what you’re thinking and you can forget it. The tooth fairy doesn’t visit kids who neglect their teeth.

But back to the déjà vu. I don’t mean I’m having déjà vu in a Groundhog Day sort of way, though I am getting a routine down to the minute, which feels a little Groundhog Day-ish. What I mean is that these evenings are tinged with all the same hues as when Mia was an infant and Zach worked well into the night. There’s a sense of loneliness and exhaustion but also a bit of freedom and empowerment.  I got this. (By the way, single moms, I bow down to you.)

Last night, however, I was not feeling free or empowered. I did not have this.

It was just before bedtime. The first floor of our house had been aimlessly ransacked by tiny terrors, and rather than stage a Clean Up Party I decided to avoid the mess, pretend it didn’t exist and move the party upstairs. Where they proceeded to ransack that level as well. I didn’t have the energy to stop them, so I let them go at it.

Toy baskets were dumped, play food was catapulted through the air, books were moved by stacks from one room to another, clothes were shed (not for the preemptive pajama quiet-down time but just because), blankets were strewn across chairs and couch to build a fort. It was mayhem. Happy mayhem, but still mayhem (with the ever-present knowledge that I would be the one to put it all back together again). There was one point during all of this – I was about one puzzle piece to the face from curling up in a ball and surrendering completely – when I began to reminisce of my nights with Mia as an infant.  The nuances and textures of these nights were different, but the theme was the same as last night: survival.

Mia had acid reflux. She seemed to be in pain when she ate, spit-up constantly, and took out all her frustrations at night. On me. I’m sure if I think hard enough, I would remember being frustrated as well – at her stomach, at the medicine that was supposed to help, at the incessant crying, at Zach for not being home, at Mia for spitting up EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME, and at me for being helpless to comfort her. There were nights that I took her out on the front porch in her stroller and walked back and forth. The fresh air usually did little to calm Mia but they helped to calm me, which put me in the right frame of mind – a positive frame of mind – to do what would inevitably come next. I would take her back inside, turn on some music, and dance with her in my arms. And it worked. Sometimes we danced for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour. Her song of choice, my golden ticket as I eventually referred to it, was Glamorous by Fergie (don’t judge), and to this day when I hear “G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S…” I’m transported right back to that living room whose carpet bears the ghost footprints of a new mom’s dancing feet.

I’m sure if you had looked in the windows, you would have seen a frazzled, bare-faced girl with dark circles under her eyes, greasy hair slicked back in a ponytail, spit-up crusted on a faded t-shirt, bouncing another tiny girl in her arms. Both of them dancing to the intended goal – bedtime.

I’m sure if I think about it long enough I will conclude that this was indeed a time of survival, but that’s not the first thought that comes to me now. I look back on those nights as one looks back on the blooming of their first love, THE love, the one that would stick. I’m aware that I tend to romanticize life with a newborn, but last night I envied that new mom. Because Life with a Newborn felt like cakewalk compared to Life with Three Small Kids. It wasn’t, I know, but I still couldn’t shake the nostalgia. I wanted to go back to a time when all I had to do was dance.

infant home from hospital

the day we brought Mia home from the hospital

And then it struck me: the idea of dancing. I corralled my two Tasmanian devils and my colicky infant girl who’s now a vocal 6 year old, and turned on the music. I cranked it. And we danced. We moved our feet to this song, and put our hands in the air. We were four spinning tops whirling around the room.  We danced until breathless, until the sun sank over the horizon and we collapsed on the floor. When  I announced that it was time for bed, I was met with some whines and a couple of firm NOs from the 2 year olds, but I ignored them and danced down the hall, and they all followed like little chicks in a line.

I wanted to go back to a time when all I had to do was dance, and so I did. And we did. And I got this.

What about you? Do you sometimes romanticize the newborn days, rendering them more sublime than they actually were?

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12 thoughts on “Deja vu — romanticizing the newborn days

  1. kayfroebel says:

    Lara,
    I loved this! I actually HAVE a newborn right now, but before she came I often found myself “romancing” those days with my first. Even up until weeks before baby girl 2 was born, I would think about the days that I spent bouncing on the large exercise ball or dancing down the hallway with my first to “bubbly” by Colbie Calliet because that was her song of choice. I was so concerned that I wouldn’t have the time for these same moments, but they have just changed. I now dance down the hallway with my newborn, and my 3 year old dancing behind me.

  2. runningafterale says:

    I do now romanticize the newborn days. At the time I thought that they would last forever and that they were so difficult. Now I wish I could re-live them. I did not appreciate them as much as I should have. Then I woke up when I realized how fast my little boy was growing. So I look back at even my most difficult times and they seem magical.

  3. bluebirdsunshine says:

    I am always waxing lyrical about the newborn days. In my mind, the newborn light was different – softer, golden, hazy – when I was spending hours snuggled up in the dead of winter with my boy as a newborn in my arms. Such a precious time. Makes me sad that we can never have those exact times again, so silly!

    • Lara Dotlich Anderson says:

      Exactly — the light was different. I think that’s why I focused on my daughter’s newborn days. As my first, all I had to do was cuddle up in that soft light and let the world melt away. When the boys came along, everything was different, busier. The light was a bit harsher. xx

  4. Cecilia says:

    I love this. I’m experiencing this in parallel. I have a 9-year-old and I’ve been romanticizing a lot lately, even though I still remember the way I used to wish those early days and months away so I could get some sleep and have some time to myself. I have so much time to myself now, but motherhood feels so much harder now (attitude, peer influences, etc.). I am guessing that every stage will make us nostalgic for a previous one. I don’t even want to think about empty nest! By then maybe I will even take the teen years again 😉

    I love your ending, and how you danced with your kids anyway. I need to remember to do that.

    • Lara Dotlich Anderson says:

      Yes, motherhood does feel so much harder now, even with a 6 year old (the attitude sometimes astounds me). There are so many more variables and equations whereas the newborn days are more about the nuts and bolts of parenting. It’s not nearly as mentally exhausting. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. pennypinchingpeach says:

    Love this! I don’t romanticize the newborn days at all, but I cherish the sweeter memories. I sing and dance with my children, too. I did it with my newborn one & only, I sang to my second newborn when he was in the NICU and I was hoping for sleepless nights with him, and I sing and dance again with my two crazy, homewrecking munchkins now. Some days are completely out of control chaos, but I cherish the ability to be here with them both to dance. My husband works alot, and his shifts run 24 hours or more (he’s a firefighter/paramedic), so I also do alot on my own.The worst catastrophes generally happen when Daddy won’t be home anytime soon. LOL

    Beautifully shared.

  6. Heidi says:

    I definitely romanticize the newborn days. Especially now, when I wrestle with the give and take of an almost 12 year old. Some days, I’d give anything to go back to our dancing midnights, fraught with colic and loneliness. Just because it was simpler. I didn’t know what to do, but that was okay. We swayed and bounced and rocked. We cried. But I knew that the only thing I could do was try and try to comfort him. Eventually we would find sleep. And that was the ultimate answer.

    But now as we traverse middle school’s rocky ground, it isn’t that simple. So many decisions about how I parent him seem critical right now. Push too much or prod too little and it seems disaster is imminent.

    I try to remember to trust. That there isn’t too much different from the rocking and swaying of those newborn nights to the pushing and prodding of today. That like you were able to find a new version of dance, I will find a new version of ours, too. It may not give me an ultimate answer, but it will provide some solace along the way for both of us.

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