Two weeks ago today my world changed. After a relatively quick and easy delivery, we welcomed our first child 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. Attentive and excited church members brought meals and offered their help to the newest member of the Cairo branch. 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 polluted Cairo air. Soon after we brought Finn home, the internet blacked out for over a week, cutting off my lifelines to the outside world as I found myself without e-mail or phone services to talk to the people I needed 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 grandma to stay a few extra days for support as Patrick went back to work. With her generous help, 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 murmured 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 powerful 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.