At the end of our “pre-natal in a day” class, Teapot’s dad and I lined up with the rest of the attendees to receive a rolled-up piece of paper from the instructor. It wasn’t a certificate of completion. In fact, we didn’t know what it was. “Don’t open it now,” the instructor told us. It wasn’t for now. Or even tomorrow. Or the day after. It was for after the baby arrived, she said, and you can’t take any more. You’ll know when.
The rolled-up piece of paper sat on our nightside table for about a month. Teapot wasn’t sleeping well, which meant I wasn’t sleeping well. I had no sense of daytime or nighttime, and the constant darkness of winter just exacerbated the sense of endlessness. The constant feeding, rocking, soothing, crying.
I texted my younger sister, herself a mom of two: “Will I ever sleep again?” It wasn’t rhetorical. I was absolutely serious.
“No,” she said, “not like you used to.”
Another time, at 3 a.m.: “Why won’t she sleep by herself? Why?”
“Because she loves you. Because she didn’t have to for nine months.”
Damnit, I thought. Damn you, uterus, was another thought.
I wanted to run away, to flee down the dark street outside our window that vanished into the horizon. Sometimes I wanted to bring Teapot with me. Sometimes I didn’t. I felt helpless. Helpless from pain, from the onslaught of hormones, from sleep deprivation. From the oh god, what have I done? of it all.
“I want to open it,” I said one night. Teapot’s dad agreed. But I was afraid. What if it wasn’t our darkest hour and we opened it, and read it, and things didn’t get better? Still, even the hope that there was hope was enough for me to take the chance. I unrolled the paper and read aloud.
“Dear Parents,” it began. “I come to you, a small immature being with my own style and personality. I am yours for only a short time…”
It went on to list ten points. Some really resonated.
Number 3: “Please hold, cuddle, kiss, touch, stroke and sing to me. I was always held closely inside of you and was never alone before.”
Number 5: “Please try not to expect too much from me as a newborn baby or too much from yourselves as parents. Give us both six weeks as a birthday present – six weeks for me to grow, develop, mature and become more stable and predictable, and six weeks for you to rest and relax and allow your body to get back to normal.”
Number 8: “Please remember that I am resilient and can withstand the many natural mistakes you will make with me. As long as you make them with love, you cannot ruin me.”
It wasn’t a magic bullet. But it helped. It helped to read those things, to remember that even though the days seemed long, the years were short. That whatever was happening at the time, good or bad, it too would pass.