Emily Grace Whebbe

3 Weeks Into Motherhood, A Question Looms: Now What?

Emily and her daughter, Revira. i i
Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe
Emily and her daughter, Revira.
Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe

Revira is now 3 weeks old, and we find ourselves on Madeline Island, Wis., more than 200 miles from home: her first journey, and our first vacation with a baby.

So far she hardly seems to notice we're away from home — unlike me. Before having Revira, I was a light packer and an easy traveler. I didn't realize how much you have to think about while traveling with a baby! One example: I've been eyeing those fold-down changing tables in public restrooms for years, wondering if I'd ever have to use them. Now that I have a baby who needs changing (often), I can't imagine putting her pristine little head on them, much less contaminating one of our burp cloths between her head and the table. I'm sure they're clean and fine to use, but my grandmother taught me early on that things in public bathrooms are dirty, no matter how clean they appear.

Yes, I have turned into that mom (in some cases). And thus on our first road trip, when we stop at a gas station, Revie and I sprawl across the back seat of our wagon as I change her diaper. She slips around on the leather a bit, but it feels oddly more refined.

Our first three weeks have been relatively easy and calm: Revira hardly cries, only letting out a bird-like squeal when she gets impatient with a diaper change or when she's hungry. It's cute, really, as if she is calling my name with a quick howl. She sleeps well, even gets around four hours in a single nap at night. She's so adorable, I find myself spending most of my days staring at her, wondering how I filled my days before her arrival.

About Emily

Emily Grace Whebbe, 26, from St. Paul, Minn., is a first-time mom who gave birth to her daughter, Revira, on Aug. 4. She delivered naturally with a midwife at a birth center, accompanied by her partner, Kai.

Breast-feeding has been going extremely well (minus the one morning I woke up with a golf ball-sized lump in my breast from a plugged duct. Nurse, warm compress, repeat all day, and that solved that). Although I suppose I should be more cavalier about it in public. Being as stubborn as I am, I'd rather have someone confront me if they are uncomfortable rather than hiding myself while feeding my baby. It's kind of my way of publicly stating that breast-feeding shouldn't be something that is anything but normal.

As I sat on the shore of Lake Superior the other day quietly nursing Revie among many beachgoers with no blanket over my chest, Kai reminded me that some states don't have laws that protect mothers from being charged with public indecency while breast-feeding. Since we were out of our home state and in Wisconsin (Minnesota has extensive laws protecting breast-feeding mothers), I was unsure of their laws. (Although I didn't care and told Kai that I wouldn't mind being charged, I did check later, and Wisconsin matches Minnesota in that they don't charge mothers with public indecency while breast-feeding.)

I love breast-feeding her. I love that my body allows this. I love the sound she makes as she eats, and the serious face she gets when she first latches on.

Having a baby is teaching me to be more patient, to live more slowly, and at the same time, more quickly. In any given day, I probably spend hours simply watching her eat at my breast, doing nothing else but observing her. In those same hours, I used to multitask better than most people; fixing myself lunch, scolding the dog for chewing on something, making a phone call and working all at once. Now, I'm proud of myself if I can reach the glass of water while feeding Revie. It's frustrating at times, feeling like I'm not getting enough things done, but I remember that she is my job right now, and my top priority; and I can change a diaper in no time while half-asleep. That has to count for something.

Revira, at 1-week-old i i

hide captionRevira, at 1-week-old

Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe
Revira, at 1-week-old

Revira, at 1-week-old

Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe

I find myself wondering how this perfectly healthy, strong (she has been able to hold her head up at length since birth) and beautiful baby was created by my body. Sure, I saw the placenta that nourished her; and I obviously witnessed my pregnancy firsthand each day. But I still don't understand how, 10 months ago, she was but a bit of cells; and three weeks ago, my body was carrying her; and now, I lay her on my stomach and wonder how she ever fit.

I look at my body, which looks pretty much the same as it did pre-pregnancy, and wonder how it could create her and then just go back to being single. It's as if I've won the Tour de France, and ... now what? What could my body possibly do that could be more incredible than growing a baby? I guess what I'm really saying is, I keep feeling like this life isn't real; that I didn't give birth three weeks ago, because thinking about it in a rational, practical way doesn't make any sense to me. It is as if it is so incredible, it cannot actually be measured or compared to any other life event.

My body feels weird now, as if by being "normal" it's not living up to its full potential. Although I was pregnant for nine months, a part of me never believed I could actually give birth successfully. Now that I've seen my body do just that, I want to push it to other extremes, see what it can do. Maybe I'll climb Mount Everest (with baby on my back). Probably not, but at least now I wouldn't question my ability to do so, as I would have in the past.

The main thing that has been on my mind since having Revira is our future. I ask myself "Now what?" each day. I don't find myself interested in having any real "job," but caring for her and providing enriching experiences for her. But I do need to have money. Although I can go back to my old website clients (as a freelance developer and designer), I'd love a change of career "scenery." I imagine something more meaningful, or at least more entertaining to rival staring at Revira. I can't imagine sending her to day care, so I'm looking for something that will allow me to work from home. If anyone has any suggestions (or job offers) please let me know!

I hope next summer finds Revie and me in a garden, teaching her about plants and soil, maybe even in our own garden that grows enough food to sustain us. Maybe she'll chase around chickens and goats. I know it's a far cry from the life we live now, but a year ago, I was returning from living in Costa Rica and owned a used bookstore. Life has changed — a lot. I remind myself that anything can happen.

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