For the last three (five? I've lost count) days in a row, I've been woken up at five o'clock in the morning by a steady stream of baby babble. I sleepily attempt to reposition him on the breast, to which he reacts with a barrage of tiny fists and kicks in the bladder. Then I need to pee. So I get up, groggy eyed, changing diapers with half closed eyes, cooing back at a grinning, hyperactive, increasingly mobile baby. I plop him down on the floor and stare at him play with a giant stuffed rhino. An hour later, he starts to whine and is asleep. On my lap.
So I get stuck here, dear reader. I get stuck on the couch and while I could put the baby down, I don't feel comfortable leaving him downstairs to sleep upstairs. I've never been woken by the baby monitor, and I am afraid the empty, fleshless sound of it wouldn't be effective in waking me. Because I'd just be blogging anyway, I'd rather do it with the heavy warmth of a baby in my lap. This does not erase the exhaustion though. It's picking away at me, this lack of sleep. By fifteen minute increments, I am becoming more of a zombie, who can't remember her phone number or postal code, who keeps hanging up her phone accidentally when people call.
Would you believe that this is the result of getting only eight hours of sleep every night? Yep. By all accounts I am getting more sleep than most of the population. I am a rare breed of person though, one that needs at least ten hours of sleep to function properly. It's not that I'm lazy. I've always been this way, and while I thought that being a mom would break me of my dependence on a good night's rest, I was sadly mistaken. Naps don't help, though I usually indulge in them every two days or so. I wake up with a dry mouth and a bad attitude that can only be fixed with sugary beverages and Mike allowing me to make some mean, consequence-free comments about his housekeeping. Most of the time, even to my sleep-deprived brain, that doesn't seem worth it.
So while the baby sleeps on me, I blog, I facebook, I do a number of things that only recently became verbs. I watch bootlegged television online that I wouldn't be caught dead watching if anyone were around.
Mostly, I watch old episodes of 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom on MTV.
For those of you who have never watched the show before, it follows pregnant teens in a docu-style around their daily lives while pregnant, and then as moms. It's astounding the way their families treat them, telling them how hard it is to be a mom and then just taking the baby for them so that they can go out and party all night long. Sometimes the revelations that these girls have are heartwarming. Most of the time it's just damn depressing.
So then why do I identify with teen moms so strongly?
I am by all accounts, a responsible mother. I go out to the bar probably once every two months, and even then my enjoyment is fairly muted. I am on the younger scale of moms, but still acceptably old. I have a partner who is emotionally and physically available for fatherhood. But there is something that makes me feel like I am a teen mom. Maybe it's the uncomfortable enthusiasm with which my friends approach my motherhood. Maybe it's the fact that I am the only one in my social circle that is married and a mom. Maybe it's the fact that I never really thought I would have a kid, and the culture of motherhood was so new to me. Or maybe, just maybe, all moms feel as lost and unprepared as teen moms do. Teen moms just get more shit for it.
I ask myself if I was a teenager doing this, how it would be different. I'm not sure that it would be, not from the inside out anyway. Mothering is, in many ways, an emotive process. One could argue that they are emotions that need to be developed, that adolescents are not prepared to provide. Certainly, Teen Mom portrays several moms not stepping up and remaining the vision of self-absorbed-teenagedom. Still, I see the emotions that were elicited by my having a child as ones that stand alone. I was not developing them until I became pregnant and I think this is something I would have felt regardless of my age. What would have been different would be the support that I would have available to me. Doubtless me and my mother would have argued about it, my boyfriend would have taken off, and it would probably be me and my dad (who I lived with as a teen) raising the baby. That would be damn hard to take, even now, with my hard won knowledge about phone bills, and a bachelor of arts.
I guess my point is, teen moms are probably as good as their surroundings. I think I relate to them because they're the few who aren't posturing about how their baby is 'so well-behaved' and 'sleeps through the night'. They are clear about their limitations, surprises and exhaustion. Like all of us, they need strong people to hold them up as they go through the most vulnerable experience in a woman's lifetime. Let's face it, without support, all of us are teen moms.