As I assumed would happen after little Ollie’s arrival, my reading has been all over the place.
There are times I can binge-read for hours, feeling focused and content with a sleepy baby in my arms. And other times I’m a knotty-haired, stone-cold mess who can barely open an eyeball to take in the news, let alone get lost in a complicated novel.
Ah, life with a newborn.
But I’m not me when I’m not reading. In the months before my actual due date, I had ambitions to choose a “meaningful” book for the time period of his birth. I didn’t know if I’d have a chance to actually read in the hospital, but I wanted something special and dear to help usher my mama heart into the next phase of life.
I don’t remember what I was reading before my wedding, but I do remember the book I brought to my first date with Spencer: Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Back in my online dating days, I quickly figured out I liked arriving before my date so I could scope out a good table and settle my nerves. Getting there “a little early” — say, 10 minutes, like a normal person — quickly became a half hour or more, so I took to reading to kill the time.
Plus, you know, I thought it made me look sophisticated.
Choosing “the book” for Oliver’s birth changed when, of course, I became sick with preeclampsia and he arrived eight weeks early. We didn’t have a hospital bag packed before I was admitted, so I had Spence grab whatever was on my nightstand — along with my trusty Kindle — for the long haul.
My family brought magazines; I had the world accessible through my e-reader. But in the chaos of that week-long hospital stay and Oliver’s birth, I barely read a thing. My concentration? Shot. I did finish one book — a simple love story — but forgot the plot almost immediately afterward.
It’s been almost five weeks since Ollie’s birth . . . and I’ve actually finished a few novels. I don’t know when I’m reading, exactly, because I feel like a zombie about 90 percent of the time. Oliver eats every three hours and hasn’t yet mastered the idea of day/night, so he’s awake from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. pretty consistently. We are, too, of course.
Sometimes I watch TV — all I have the energy to do. But other times (magical times, really), I can muster the strength to grab my Kindle. It’s beautifully easy to cuddle a newborn in one arm with an e-reader in the other, and this book-loving mama made sure to begin practicing that skill immediately.
I can’t tax the ol’ brain too much, though. I’ve been popping into lighthearted, easy-to-read stories like Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I stumbled across Kimberly Rae Miller’s Coming Clean, a memoir of the author growing up in a hoarding household, and read that fast, too.
And I’ve been reading to the little guy, of course. We brought books to the hospital so I could introduce him to Eric Carle, a childhood favorite, but I wanted the first book we shared in his nursery to be really special. With the sunshine streaming in, I grabbed a gifted copy of Dr. Seuss’ classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
And I cried, of course, holding this tiny baby while talking and thinking and hoping for his winding, unknowable future. Though Ollie’s room doesn’t have a “theme,” per say, Dr. Seuss features prominently. We have a favorite Seuss quote ready to hang and a “One Fish, Two Fish” mobile above the crib he’ll sleep in after moving up from his bassinet . . . someday.
Someday. Some magical, sparkly day.
After the weeks of chaos following his early birth, I finally feel like we’re settling into a routine. Life with a baby in the house is definitely insane — both easier and harder than I was expecting — but full of beautiful little moments, too. I’m gaining a lot of confidence as a parent and Ollie’s caretaker; Spencer and I have changed hundreds of diapers, given dozens of bottles, changed onesies and socks and given our first bath.
Though it probably sounds silly now, those were things that worried me just a few months ago. Fear of the unknown, you know? But if there’s anything I’ve learned from being catapulted into parenthood, it’s this: you’ll figure it out. I was initially panicked that I hadn’t washed his clothes or gotten the nursery together or read the first chapters of the child care book my mom got me. There were just so many things that I thought I had to do, you know?
But we didn’t. When in doubt, we Google. The baby laundry was done and folded in no time. What we didn’t already have — like preemie clothes and diapers — made its way to us through generous friends and family, and the things that would have once paralyzed me with fear — NICU stays! insurance calls! leaving work early! childbirth! — just sort of . . . worked out.
It helps that I’ve changed, too. Though always a calendar-keeping planner, I’ve realized you can’t always shape life into perfect, convenient squares arranged in the pattern of your choosing . . . and I’m a much happier person when I just surrender and adapt. Digging my heels in the sand serves no one. And when pressed? I am capable. Strong. I can handle it.
So many lessons from this crazy, glorious, hard and wonderful time in our lives.
Ones I’ll continue to ponder . . . between naps.
Especially when my Kindle battery finally gives out.