The Edge

When your day (and night) is all about putting the needs of your little one before your own, how do you catch that second (or third or fourth or fifth) wind?

“Well, my mama told me there’d be days like this…”I have a cat named Otie. He was just about two months old when I got him out of a barn. Once I got him home, he hid in the closet the whole day, completely rejecting any attempt I made to lure him out. But in the middle of the night I awoke to him licking my nostrils and purring like a diesel engine. Eventually he curled up under my chin, and that was it: the mushiest cat in the world was born.That was three years ago. Though he is considerably bigger, Otie is still a giant softie who likes to lick my nose and sleep under my chin. Given his affectionate tendencies, I was really concerned with how the baby would affect him. After all, he is a cat: I couldn’t sit him down and explain it to him. All the books offered guidelines for such a transition, like getting the cat used to not sleeping in your bedroom before the baby comes. But with my hormonal pregnant logic I decided that he wouldn’t understand the eviction, and I just couldn’t bear to banish him from the love and affection he’d grown so accustomed to. So I did nothing. The baby came, and Otie seemed relatively unphased. He spent more time outside, only coming in to eat, and he began sleeping in a hand-me-down moses basket I unintentionally left by the dining room window. I thought, all in all, he was handling it pretty well. I thought wrong.The cat peed on my winter boots. Not once. Not twice. I’d say a good dozen times or more. He just went into the downstairs closet and peed on my winter boots. Of course, it took me almost three months to discover this, and on day two of Coraline’s no sleep, all fuss marathon special. Needless to say, I was, in that moment, overwhelmed and utterly bereft.I don’t think any mother is unfamiliar with that feeling (though she may not have had the particular pleasure of having that feeling whilst cleaning up cat piss). But what do you do? When your day (and night) is all about putting the needs of your little one before your own, how do you catch that second (or third or fourth or fifth) wind? Here are a few things that have worked to bring me back from the edge, at least some of the time:As David Bowie once said: “Dance magic, dance.” I put on some music and Coraline and I have a dance party (she’s particularly fond of Van Morrison and the Talking Heads). Whether I snuggle her in the wrap or just hold her, bouncing through the house seems to neutralize her grouching, and mine, too. By the end of the first song I’m usually having so much fun the crankiness gives way and I’m ready to greet her next meltdown with a smile.Motherhood is largely about multi-tasking, right? What better way to embrace the killing of two birds with one stone idea than with a warm, relaxing bath a deux? You’re exhausted and frazzled and there’s not a spare set of hands in sight. Run a warm bath, throw in some baby-friendly oil or bubbles, grab baby, and hop in. You can scrub-a-dub the little one (who — if they’re anything like mine — is nothing but giggles and sunshine in the tub) and give your body a break at the same time. Sometimes Coraline will nurse and doze, which gives me a little quiet time to soak and recharge my battery.Post-boot disaster discovery I cancelled dinner plans with a friend via text message. Between my cranky baby and my own foul mood, I thought we’d make terrible company. But my friend — a very good one — stopped by my house on her way home from work anyways, to see if she could do anything to help. She ended up just sitting with me while I nursed, entertaining me with stories of her life gone comically awry. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex, and since having Coraline, I’ve often felt like I don’t fit in with my childless friends anymore: But that couldn’t be further from the truth. While they may not be terribly interested in the things I have to talk about, the things they talk about are certainly still interesting to me, and provide a welcome distraction when I’m in baby overload.The only thing nicer than a friend who drops by when you’re having a bad day is a friend who drops by with wine when you’re having a bad day. Now, let me be clear, I do not condone drinking while breastfeeding (or while caring for an infant, period), but I’m not talking tequila shots here. I know many, many breastfeeding mothers who will enjoy a glass (or two) of wine or beer, and honestly that’s really all it takes to take the edge off. One friend’s new mommy musts: a daily shower and a five o’clock Guinness. She insists that Guinness helps increase your milk supply (probably because it relaxes you). Talk about killing two birds with one stone…

Shannon Gallagher and CoralinePhotograph by Brie Gallagher

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