By Jennifer Batchelor:
So much of the newborn phase passes in a blur. With no boundaries to your days (or nights), the calendar trudges forward even though you feel trapped in a never-ending loop of feedings and diaper changes. When I try to remember that time with each of my two children, it’s like reaching back through a haze—I can see the vague outline, but very little is sharp. Or rather, there’s precisely one day that I can recall with exacting clarity: my first full day alone with both kids.
My son was 3 ½ and my daughter was three weeks old. My husband’s paternity leave had ended the week before but we’d kept my son in his four-days-a-week daycare, which meant Friday was the only day I had to navigate on my own. Just 10 measly hours from the time my husband left the house until the time he’d return. No sweat.
(You see where this is going, right?)
My daughter picked that Friday for her first growth spurt and insisted on nursing every 45 minutes. Since it took her roughly 30 minutes each time she ate, this meant she essentially nursed nonstop, all day long. My son, who was used to Fridays being Mom-and-Nathan time, wanted to play a game or work a puzzle or build with blocks or fill-in-the-blank with any activity that required both my hands and all of my attention. He made a mess of his lunch, refused his nap, and—by 3 p.m.—insisted he’d played with every single one of his toys.
My baby wailed in my arms. My son screamed at my feet. And tears streaked down my own cheeks as well.
I couldn’t do this. How on earth did anyone manage more than one kid?
All I could feel was a desperate need to escape. My jaw clenched against sobs and screams, I clicked my daughter into her carseat and rounded up the iPad and a pair of headphones for my son. I loaded everyone into the car, headed for the longest road I could think of with no traffic lights, and just ... drove. Twenty minutes north, then twenty minutes back south, back and forth.
As the miles passed beneath my tires, the baby’s wails quieted. I glanced in my rearview mirror; she was asleep. My son met my eyes and smiled and gave me a thumbs up before returning his attention to the screen in front of him. I felt my jaw loosen and my shoulders relax.
Maybe I could do this, after all.
I spent two hours driving mindlessly that afternoon, and ended up right back in our driveway but it was the reset we desperately needed. I deployed it so often after then that I even gave it a nickname: The Pause. If at any point all three of us ended up in tears, we hit pause on our day, loaded everyone in the car, and went for a drive. Sometimes I’d swing through a drive thru to get Nathan some chicken nuggets or myself a coffee from Starbucks. But always, the same road and the same miles, until the baby was asleep, my jaw was unclenched, and my shoulders relaxed. I’d time my return to our driveway so that there was just enough time for baths before dad got home.
We always ended up back where we started, but with an entirely different perspective.