The early weeks of motherhood hit you like a transport truck. The extreme sleep deprivation, in particular, plays tricks on your brain. In the hours between 2 and 6 a.m., I’m often not sure if I’m awake, in a waking dream, or hallucinating.
In a state of sleepless delirium, I find myself writing this column in my mind. Unfortunately, I am also simultaneously breastfeeding one or more babies and do not have free hands to type. This is especially unfortunate, because I’m sure the 3 a.m.. oddly psychedelic Fear and Loathing in Vankleek Hill-style columns would have a particular appeal.
However, I do have one free hand, some of the time, and nothing is as effective at keeping me awake, and therefore my baby from falling from my sleeping arms to the floor, quite like looking at my smartphone. The bright glow, the world at my fingertips; the smartphone is a miracle of modern motherhood. How did mothers survive motherhood before?
There must have been so many long, quiet, unfilled hours. There was no way to pass them with the latest in celebrity gossip, international news, political analysis, and New York Times long-reads. For me it’s been more than passively reading random articles; I’ve been able to look up instant advice on everything from when babies start sleeping through the night (or at least for more than two hours at time) to different parenting philosophies, to the latest in snot-sucking technology. It’s a university education in motherhood, right in my pocket.
I’m also snapping a ton of photos of the babies. I’m that person now; the only recent photos on my phone are of my children. The many, many images of them sleeping are indeed a misleading portrayal of the peacefulness of these weeks. I can share those images across the world to family and friends who can’t get enough; create an archive of them for our future enjoyment, and dream up witty captions for the inevitable funny faces each child specializes in. It’s a small creative outlet.
I’m sending more text messages with my left hand and this is surely going to improve some part of my brain capacity. I’m playing music that I assume babies will like, I’m on twitter posting observations about my new life, and I’m cataloguing small victories (like painting my toenails) on Facebook. All of this connection to the outside world is more essential than I had realized. The early weeks of motherhood are isolating, but with a smartphone at the ready this is minimized. On the internet I’m still Jacquie, while at home I’m constantly Mom. In the past few weeks I confess I’ve almost preferred online interaction to the in-person visits. I can squeeze in a few moments of conversation as it suits me (and when neither baby is crying), and those moments are currently few and far between. Bonus: there’s no need to put on pants for my digital friends.
The challenge of course will be transitioning from this parent (the one with the smartphone at the ready for the marathon nursing sessions), to the one with the smartphone at the bottom of her purse, unchecked, because she’s so engaged with playing with her children she does not have time to check it.
In the meantime, I’ll continue trying to capture all the images of the fleeting smiles that I can, and continue jotting down ideas for this column with my free left hand.