the importance of being selfish

29 weeks

My birthday is next week. I’ll be 36 years old. Right now, after a night that ended abruptly at 4:15 (deep, dark 4:15 seen through the tiniest slits of my eyes because I just couldn’t pry them open) when you woke screaming (again), I feel like I’m going on 65. Actually, I’ll probably be better rested at 65.

Anyway, people (meaning Daddy and Nonna) have been asking me what I might want for my birthday, and the only things that come to mind are intangible. I have no need for anything other than: Sleep. Quiet. Time for myself.

This makes me feel selfish, of course. I’m not even seven months into this mom thing, and I’m already feeling like I need a break. A serious one. Perhaps a days-long one. I want to get my hair cut. I want to do my nails. I want to go shopping, once, for myself. And without you strapped to me.

I must have zero stamina. I must be weak. I must not really love you as much as other moms love their babies.

This makes me feel horribly, terribly guilty. After all, I wanted this. I wanted you. So not only am I selfish, I’m an ingrate.

And as I stood over you, then paced with you, then sat with you grappling at my neck and hair and drooling all over me at 4:15 a.m., feeling like I could cry but knowing that adding my tears to yours would do absolutely nothing to help the situation, I realized that I am grieving. I miss my old life desperately sometimes (mostly at 4:15 a.m.). More guilt.

But really, I think it’s natural for new parents to grieve their former lives, and it’s something–much like postpartum depression or sleep deprivation (both of which are no joke)–that we need to talk about more openly rather than in hushed tones, as if they’re something to be ashamed of, and setting up unrealistic expectations for storybook lives in which baby is the end all, be all, bestowing such joy upon the new family that nothing else matters anymore. I will say it: I miss my old life.

I miss the impromptu dinner dates with Daddy, the evenings at the theater, my after-work runs, my lazy weekend mornings idling hours away over the crossword puzzle, no more than two loads of laundry, evenings in front of the TV doing my nails, baking for no reason other than the joy of baking, reading for fun and time, time, time galore. I had so much time, I don’t even know how I spent it all. I miss the freedom. And I miss my relationship with Daddy and with my body, both of which have been neglected more than not.

So as I start a brand-new year of my life (which happens to coincide with the beginning of your eighth month, unbelievably), I’m telling myself not to look back but I’m gifting myself the freedom to be selfish every once in a while and not to feel bad about it. I know that taking care of me–whether it’s physically (I need to get back into the gym or at least go for a run before everything turns irrevocably to jelly) or emotionally (I will make arrangements so that Daddy and I can have us time every once in a while)–will ultimately allow me to take care of you more effectively and more willingly. Sleep would help, too.

There is courage and strength in being selfish, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that. Nonna sent me a piece about this with a note that it’s important. It is important. Nonna has taught me my whole life how to advocate for myself, and it’s critical now more than ever. If I allow my life to be consumed by yours or by our family’s, without thought to my own well-being, I will have failed her and myself.

While I will do everything in my power to teach you to be generous and big hearted and charitable and to do unto others as you’d have done to you, I will also teach you to be selfish when appropriate. Love love love with all your heart, but remember to love yourself most. I will try to do the same.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You tried pancakes for the first time, and toasted coconut ones at that. You are a fiend. I had to cut you off. (You also tried zucchini and didn’t hate it.)
  • You sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time and ate off the table when you and Daddy came to have lunch with me at work.

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