This weekend has been marked by 2 public outings with the babies, one more succesful than the other. On Saturday we went for a farewell lunch with Marcin’s parents and mine, who are leaving this week. Maja and Janek obliged us by remaining unconscious for the entire lunch, waking up at the end to eat and fall straight back asleep again. It was a very strange feeling to see my little wombat son with his wrinkled brow sucking on a bottle in his pyjamas in a restaurant on Plac Konstytucji, and made me realise how divorced from the outside world I’ve become.
On Sunday, riding our wave of left-the-house-successfully-with-2-small-children excitement, we tried again, catching the bus up to Żoliborz to eat a hamburger with a swarm of (mainly child-owning) friends. Janek objected loudly to this excess of socialising, and I found myself pacing up and down on the periphery of the occasion as I’ve seen so many others do before me, attention desperately divided as I tried to simultaneously soothe a recalcitrant infant and pretend that I could still behave like a normal grownup enjoying the society of my peers. Marcin felt comforted by the event, feeling like part of a tribe. I felt faintly excluded, no doubt getting my karmic come-uppance for all the times I’ve been irritated by other people’s focus on their children. The people most interested in our kids were the other kids, especially our friend’s daughter Matilda, who fed Maja and was fascinated when I told her that when I’d first seen her, she had been even smaller than Maja was now.
Anyway, I suppose that this is just the beginning of a long process of assimilating my private baby-world, with its musty milk odour and wakeful nights and raging self-doubt, with the sane exterior universe where nothing much has changed. One day I will be a full participant again- meanwhile, it’s worth keeping my hand in.
After 8 weeks on earth, two small people are emerging from the bundle of tears and demands, totally different from each other. There is now an advantage to having tw0- they are seldom grief-stricken at the same time, and so I don’t fall into the erroneous statistical assumption that since 100 % of my babies are grumpy, I breed grumpy babies. The exception is when they are getting stabbed in the head or their fat little thighs with a great big needle, but then there’s no need to wonder what the trouble might be- the need for a diagnosis is what bothers me, rather than the tears themselves.
I am also feeling slightly more human. We have instituted a shift system which allows me to sleep from 9-1 or thereabouts, which on top of an afternoon nap makes me relatively well rested. I now feel like a normal tired person who went to bed too late and got up too early, rather than a cognitively defective zombie who cannot stand the madness and cannot imagine it will ever end.
And, at last, there is an element of predictability in our lives- they go to bed at about 7 and sleep until around midnight, allowing us to tentatively re-enter the social market. Though I miss my sleep shift, it seems a small price to pay for staying up with the grownups and talking about the cognitive capacities of the octopus and Andean treks instead of infants and their excretions.
So here we are on the other side- all home and slowly accustoming ourselves to our new configuration. I have been surprised by the emotional tenor of these weeks- besides the exhaustion (which everybody warns you about), the other emotion I have felt constantly is guilt. Now that I have moved on from the grateful-to-find-them-alive-in-the-morning phase, I feel constantly anxious about whether I’m doing it right, paying each of them enough attention, giving them enough stimulation. Neither of them have been very interested in traditional breast feeding, so I feed them breast milk from a bottle and feel guilty about that too. Marcin has a healthier approach- he thinks that the mere fact we aren’t crackheads makes us ideal parents, and has no feelings of inadequacy at all. He is mastering the field of baby farming like a true engineer- working out the best system of nappy fastening, considering the hydraulics of burping. I am in charge of logistics, and have read so many different bits of advice about raising children that I’m about to go mad.
I have finally had to admit to myself that regulating their activities is at least as necessary for me as it is for them .I need to know what to expect from them and when; they’re still strangers, smiling their mysterious dolphin smiles in their sleep and squealing over their own incomprehensible tragedies. I also need to know what I have to do and when, since the cognitive impairment brought on by lack of sleep interferes with my ability to improvise. I wouldn’t say I’m a born mother, but I can rise to a logistical challenge when I’m called, and I have a fair amount of stamina. Here’s hoping it’s enough.