I come to you from the trenches. Deep, deep in the trenches.
It is boggling my mind every day how much an instant can change your life. Yes, there was an entire pregnancy and then labor to facilitate the transition into motherhood, but really there was no transition at all. You’re different while pregnant, but your world is basically the same, and you, your identity is fundamentally the same as it has been. And then there is this moment when a tiny squirming little person that you’ve never seen before and yet is so familiar is placed on your chest. BAM. No time, no preparation, suddenly everything is different. All the old scraps and remnants of your previous world are still there sure, but the axis has shifted and your orbit has taken on a whole new shape. One for which there is no way to be prepared. One that has become geared in every way toward serving the needs of this brand new life.
I spend some time every day at approximately 5 pm crying because it is bewildering to have most things around you look and behave the same when you yourself feel so thoroughly changed. I keep trying to think it through to make some sense, however vague, of it all. This, of course, is a pointless endeavor. There’s no sense to be made. It’s not a cognitive thing. That’s something kind of hard for a person like me who likes to think, and dissect, and make sense of, in order, I suppose, to achieve some illusion of control. But, any mom, I imagine, can tell you that there is no control, or sense, or predictability that can be achieved through thinking, at least not in the first weeks and months. It’s all physical and emotional.
So physical. Sheesh. Poop and pee and spit up and milk everywhere. You can’t think your way through all that – better not to try. Nor through the cycle of feeding, burping, changing, soothing, repeat, repeat, repeat.
And then there’s the mess of feelings. A maddening pile-up of opposites, of utter bliss combined with total desperation. You wouldn’t think it possible to be so happy and feel so destroyed at the same time. The sleep deprivation and its effects really are something, especially when your little love is not really into sleeping lying down but would much rather stay sound asleep only if held in your arms. (And who could blame him really? A mattress is a far cry from a womb.) There have been a good number of nights in these last three (almost 4, whoa!) weeks where I’ve only gotten an hour or two of sleep. And even those one or two hours may have been stolen while sitting, propped up by pillows in a big safe chair. How long is it that you have to go with no sleep before insanity can legally be used as a defense for you in court?
If I’m being quite honest about the whole thing, it has some elements of torture – being kept awake walking back and forth making shushing sounds when you are so bone tired you wish you could dig a hole into the ground to curl up in and sleep for a year. But you are a slave, and the moment you hear that cry you are completely awake and there, to do whatever needs doing. There is certainly a part of me at 3 am that wants to run or hide or rewind or do anything to get away from the responsibility. But there is another deeper, more powerful part of me that is happy to serve. Because my heart isn’t mine anymore. Because I melt when I see my little babe, when his little hand reaches up toward me and accidentally thwaps my nose, when he coughs and screws up his face like a little frog, when he snuggles into my chest to sleep, when he smiles as he dreams.
I’m looking forward to the day in a year, or whenever it will be, when the intensity of these early weeks have melted away leaving just a montage of lovely, happy scenes. We’re digging in and surviving. But at the same time, I do treasure these moments as trying and exhausting as it all is. I was folding Espen’s teeny tiny newborn sized onesies, clothing that was too big for him when we brought him home from the hospital, but which is now tight enough that we’re graduating him up to size 0-3 months (such a big boy!), and I could tell that I really actually was going to miss this time, when he was so very small, and needed us so very much, and fit so perfectly up against my chest or in the crook of my arm.
These weeks have also made me fall in love with my wonderful, supportive community of friends and family all over again. It takes a village to raise a child. But, in that child’s first weeks, it is the new mother and father that need that village to embrace them and hold them up as they falter forward, finding their way into their new roles as parents. We are so blessed to have that village. The kindnesses of these weeks have been too many to count, from the visits with champagne and cookies, to a surprise piece of cake delivered from a favorite restaurant, to holding the baby so we could eat with both hands, to responding to my SOS text one night when Joel had to work to come and soothe Espen and give me 3 consecutive hours of sleep. And of course all the meals! In the last three and a half weeks, I’ve only had to cook dinner for us 3 times. On all the other days, a parade of nourishing food has been brought to us and sustained us.
I’m still too underslept to be terribly inspired by the kitchen, but I can feel the desire to cook starting to creep back in. I look forward to it. For now though, I have a recipe for you from right before Espen arrived. Actually, we made it on one of the days I was in early labor (it took a couple of (uncomfortable) days – oof). The cherry tomato cobbler idea is from Joy the Baker. A friend brought her version of it to a potluck at our house right before we left Boston, and I’ve been itching to make it ever since. Our garden finally yielded enough cherry tomatoes, so cobbler it was. Rather than blue cheese biscuits, I decided to make extra cheesy goat cheese biscuits for the topping. It’s absolutely delicious. I know tomatoes are basically over for the year, but I thought I’d share the recipe anyway, so as soon as you have enough cherry tomatoes next year, you can make it!
*All the baby photos except the first were taken by our amazingly talented friend and photographer Shirleen. Thank you Shirleen!!!*
- For the biscuit topping:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. fine sea salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- ¾ cup grated parmesan
- 6 tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut intp ½" chunks
- 1 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (chevre)
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- For the cobbler filling:
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. butter
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup sliced fresh basil
- 3 Tbs. flour
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- To make the biscuits, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Use your fingers to quickly rub in the butter until you have a sandy mixture with lots of pea-sized chunks of butter left in it.
- Stir in the crumbled goat cheese and buttermilk until everything is just combined, then use your hands to gather all the dough and press it into a ball.
- On a lightly floured surface, press the dough out into a rectangle that's ½-inch thick. Fold the dough in half, and press it back out to ½-inch thick. Fold again, press into a rectangle that is between ¾ to 1 inch thick, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
- Heat your oven to 375F.
- To make the filling, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until the butter is foaming. Add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes to brown the onions, then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well caramelized, 15-20 minutes, adding the garlic for the last 2 minutes of cooking time.Toss the onion-garlic mixture, with the balsamic vinegar.
- In a large bowl, toss together the cherry tomatoes with the basil, 3 Tbs. flour and red pepper flakes. Stir in the onion mixture, then transfer to a baking dish.
- Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge, and cut it into 2 inch squares or circles and lay these over the tomato filling. You may have some extra biscuits - you can bake those up on the side, or freeze them to bake later.
- Bake the cobbler until the biscuits are golden brown and cooked through, and the tomatoes are bubbling, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.