I’ve been back to work, part-time, for just about a month. Yesterday, I was talking to a coworker who’s a week away from her due date. I asked how she was doing – and nodded sympathetically when she said her body is aching and sleep evades her. I remember that – it wasn’t that long ago for me, after all – and then she said, “I just can’t wait for my life to get back to normal.”
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t help but chuckle that all-knowing chuckle that drove me crazy when I was pregnant.
There is no “back to normal” anymore – now or from here on out.
There is only a new normal.
My new normal life is a shaky one. It involves waking up multiple times a night because one baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet. It’s packing the diaper bag the next morning and then – while I’m still in pajamas – running into the street to catch my husband’s attention because I didn’t pack the boppy pillows. It’s getting dressed, hair done, and makeup applied in less than 10 minutes before running out the door myself. It’s working and compulsively checking my phone to make sure the girls are okay, my mom’s okay, everything is okay. It’s working through lunch so I can not feel guilty if I sneak out just a few minutes early. It’s feeling terribly guilty when I have to stay late.
My new normal is ordering thousands of dollars worth of clothes online because 20 weeks postpartum, I still don’t really have anything to wear (maternity clothes long since donated and passed on to friends and pre-pregnancy clothes light years away from buttoning) and there’s no way I am taking twin babies clothes shopping with me. So I order everything that may, possibly fit and then stack the no-go’s back in their boxes until I have time to run to the UPS store.
My new normal is eating dinner at 8:30 or 9, when our party animal daughter is finally asleep – or passing on dinner all together because I filled up on pretzels and cheese while trying to fill her up so maybe, just maybe, tonight will be the night she sleeps through.
My new normal is thinking I’m doing a good job keeping up with friends, until I realize it’s been a month between visits. It’s forgetting to return texts, phone calls, emails. It’s watching tv shows in 15 minute bites and taking months to read one novel. It’s getting to magazines months after they’re published and immediately tossing my formerly inspiring women’s health magazines because they’re just too depressing. It’s seeing ads for upcoming movies and thinking, “I should write that one down so maybe we can Netflix it in a few months.”
Could I tell all this to my doe-eyed coworker? There’s no way. I wouldn’t have believed it myself – everyone says it’s so hard and a part of you wonders, “Is it really?”
Caring for a little, brand-new human is hard work. Caring for two little, brand-new humans is extra hard work. It’s hard to let go of your old life and swing yourself, unabashedly, into this new, uncharted adventure. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to impromptu happy hours, unplanned nights out, or weekend getaways.
Of course I wouldn’t change it for the world. As I rocked my girls to sleep tonight, there is no where else I would rather be. And that’s what everyone says, too, and before you have kids, you wonder, “Really? You wouldn’t rather be in Tahiti?”
But the truth is, you wouldn’t.
I appreciate the joys more now – finishing an entire cup of coffee before it goes cold. Enjoying a dinner out while the babies are behaving is pretty great. Enjoying a dinner out when the babies are with their grandparents is even better. I see things in a new light, as my girls are experiencing them – Chloe’s fur seems softer, afternoon breezes feels cooler, bubble baths seem magical. When I look for the little joys, they’re there.
But it’s hard, this new normal. It’s exhausting. It’s challenging down to your core. And it’s not going away. Yes, parts get easier as the babies get older. And in the same breath, parts get harder.
I get it now. That’s why people chuckle. It’s so much more polite than laughing outright.