Friday, December 28, 2007

the rock

A colleague at work told me about parenthood:
"It's a small skillset, but it's all about endurance."

Of course I couldn't have known what he meant when I was in the halcyon days of my third trimester, all glowing and excited. During labor I thought I had a glimpse of what he meant, but only a glimpse as the powerful forces of nature give you too much momentum to dwell much on the moment.

Since birth, though, lots of time to dwell on that word. Endurance.
The first week of my son's life was a challenge surrounding the most basic of needs - nursing. He couldn't latch, I didn't know what to do to help him, we both cried (me) and screamed (him) in desperation and pain (me: sore nipples, him: hunger). The days were a painful marathon of attempted feedings, with no respite because I always knew the next nursing session was only minutes away. Even a successful feeding was unsatisfactory because the last failure glared in my mind, and the next attempt loomed. Eventually we did reach the finish line of that leg of the competition, but there was no trophy, no fanfare, it was simply the first round.

Since that first week we've had other challengs: nighttime feedings, sleeping for less than two hours at a stretch each night for two months, colic. This month we've entered another seemingly un-win-able challenge, and I feel the 9 letters of that glorious word (endurance....endurance...endurance...) being etched into my skin. Again it is a most basic need, this time sleep. At first he didn't want to be put down once he was asleep - and by "didn't want to" I mean he had a crazy radar that went nuclear each time his body neared a flat surface that wasn't my arms. Then he stopped falling asleep with nursing, causing us to have to seek out the Sandman each and every time (4 times a day) sleep was needed. Now his not-wanting-to-be-put-down radar is so sensitive (probably from the six times I've managed to trick him into napping in his bed) that even when I successfully put him down, he wakes up within the hour without getting a real nap.

But who am I to complain when so many other parents have survived this?

For a long time I'd imagined getting a tattoo after my first child was born - something about water coming out of a split rock, surrounded by bunnies and flowers, something all fertile and lovely. But now I envision something different. It's all about the rock - the rock that split open, the rock you sometimes want to bash your head against, the rock you sometimes want to leave him out on, the rock you want to sit on and meditate, the rock in the middle of your favorite hike that has been scarred with graffitti, the rock you wish you could be to get through everything that is ahead.


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