I was thinking the other day about a comment Amy E made few posts back; regarding my ambivalence about baby messiness she pointed out that "it could be worse." Which is totally, completely true, and you realize this the minute you have a baby. There are a million things that you are suffering and a million things about which you are worrying, and yet you say to yourself: "Wow. It could be worse." You could be a single parent with six kids. You could have a baby in the NICU. You could have an even younger baby in the NICU. You could live on the sixth floor with no elevator instead of just the third floor with no elevator. I find myself completely overwhelmed by all the amazing things that parents do, just because they have to. Never am I so amazed by other people as when I'm getting the baby and the dog and six bags of groceries up to our third-story condo, and think to myself "....wow. People do this with babies AND two-year-olds. AT THE SAME TIME."
What strikes me most is that, really, we could hardly have it better. True, we have lots of stairs. But we also have streaming afternoon sun. We have this completely amazing, happy, healthy baby. We like each other so much. We like our work, and our dog, and our city, and our condo by the lake, and our neighbors, and our amazingly supportive friends, and our families near and far. As our life shifts from the world of potentials--potential children, potential careers, potential homes--to the world of the real, the here and now, I think, everyday: I am so lucky. I think, in my secular way, that we are so blessed.
And yet! And yet. What's interesting, and hard to communicate, is that in the midst of our incredible good fortune, we are working so very hard. There's so much to do, and it's so difficult to negotiate the differences between all we've come to know and like about ourselves in the last thirty years and the reality of what our lives are like now. The other morning Brandon and I were standing in the kitchen, feeding Elliot--our gorgeous sweet child--his cereal, and I just felt myself buckling. "I don't know how it's all going to happen," I said. "How are we going to do this?"
"This" here being a nebulous diectic, pointing variously to my dissertation, our careers, our interests in art and music and conversation, our need to exercise, both of our deep needs for freedom and time alone. Who are we without these things? Who are we without the ability to privilege them, honor them with the commitment of our time? And yet, who would we be if we didn't put them all at least a little to the side, acknowledging that Elliot needs us and deserves us, and that an intense commitment to family is our one priority that has not changed.
I think about our life, and our son, and all those people who are navigating the world under even harder circumstances. I feel a bit like Miranda on her island, looking for the first time at a future she didn't know had existed. "What a brave new world that has such people in't!" she said, in wonder and exaltation and fear. I suppose what we were learning is that we thought we knew something of the challenges of life. We thought we understood about ambition, and sleepness nights, and all of that. But instead, this is it, this new negotiation. All those people who have it "worse" than us, this is what they are teaching us: you can do more than you ever dared to imagine. It will just be--you will be--very very different than you thought.