When you have a newborn baby you temporarily forfeit any sense of being alone. Even when you aren't feeding, rocking, changing or holding the baby, you're usually thinking about doing one of those tasks. Sometimes I wake up in the night and realize my adorable little tumor fell asleep while feeding and has been tucked against me for hours. So I lay in the dark cuddling my sweet baby James and wonder to myself, Is this what happiness feels like?
And then the sun comes up. It's an exercise in absurdity to ponder the question of one's happiness at the crack of dawn after being awake for large chunks of the night, knowing that in minutes your older children will be knocking down the door and barking for breakfast. The other day as I changed my baby's diaper he projectile pooped, the target zone stretching from my neck, down my trunk to the couch and carpet. I sat there stupefied for a few seconds thinking to myself, Is THIS my life?
But despite feeling chronically deprived of time, sleep and personal space, I've never enjoyed any of my babies as much as I'm enjoying this one. Fourteen weeks of bed rest is nothing if not a prison sentence and suddenly I'm free. I've never enjoyed the fall, the pumpkin patches, dressing my girls for Halloween, taking walks, spending time with friends, trying new recipes and simply living as much as I have these past few weeks. It isn't perfect. There are so many moments that could be defined by a snapshot of projectile poop smeared down my shirt, and yet the hard parts of my life aren't my take away. They don't define my days.
I'm convinced that happiness comes in two minute increments. When I say that I'm enjoying the fall, I'm actually referring to those fleeting moments when I pause at the window to notice the colorful leaves blowing across the yard and the family of miniature scarecrows lined up on my front porch. But then I have to venture out into that freezing cold air to collect kids from school. Freezing my toes off while I wait for my girls is decidedly not the best part of fall.
And our trip to the pumpkin patch? I'm so Clark Griswold when it comes to any sort of organized family outing or special occasion. I was practically twitching with excitement at the scent of fried twinkies and the view of Chatfield Park's corn maze stretching ahead of us. The girls skipped along side of me as we headed toward the hayride. It was perfect. And then came the forty-five minute wait in line for said hayride, during which time the wind picked up and began blowing grit and dust in our faces. So I did what any overtired new mommy would do; I suggested we pack it up and head home without even choosing a pumpkin to take with us! Not the most popular decision among the little people, I might add. But for those precious minutes before the wind picked up and the line became long, things were perfect.
Whether you live in a hovel or a house, what matters is that it feels like home, and I believe that line of thinking is especially true and useful in matters of everyday life. Whatever road you've chosen and whatever hand you've been dealt, it will only improve the situation to notice and appreciate the fleeting moments of happiness as they come. In a continued effort to adjust to "normal" life and make our family of six successful and happy, I'm rereading Grechen Ruben's book The Happiness Project. I read it a few years ago when it first came out, but I think a slow paced re-read feels especially appropriate right now. Happiness doesn't happen to you, it's something you think about, read about, work toward, and notice. If all my days, at least the ones in the near future, are filled with sleepless nights and exploding diapers then fine. But by golly we're gonna bake cookies after school and we're gonna snuggle in bed, and read stories after dinner and then I'm going to take a bubble bath. And they lived happily ever after!