Things I did not understand until I had a baby

They say having a child gives you a change in perspective. They are correct. I’m not talking about a new-found understanding of sleep deprivation as a form of torture, “experiencing a love like no other” or even the development of your new pain tolerance standards (would you say it was labor painful? or just broken limb painful?).

What I am talking about is the acceptance–if not the active practice–of things you used to have no tolerance for, like:

Cars full of crap. 

Before baby: So, you’ve procreated and now you can’t clean out your backseat? Really? Sure, I’ll ride back here. No problem. Let me just brush these soggy Cheerios off the seat and side step these three sad, gnawed on action figures. No, no, really it’s fine. I’m sure whatever wet substance I just put my hand in is not pee.

Now: This morning, our backseat inventory included: four books, two very large stuffed animals, a beach towel, a spoiled bottle of milk, two milk bottle caps, sand, one sock, a car seat the size of Texas, and an Elmo mirror. Don’t look in the trunk, it’s a mess. However, should we take a spontaneous trip to the beach, we’re all set thanks to the beach umbrella, a beach chair, two beach towels and the bucket of beach toys that reside in the trunk. Last week, we also toted around TWO strollers for our one child.

The lure of the Mini Van.

Before baby: Have you lost your mind? You birthed a baby, not the Brady Bunch. No one requires a vehicle that big unless they have four kids who take surfing and/or pole-vaulting lessons.

Now: Whoa. Maybe we need one of these:

Every now and then, I entertain the idea of a larger vehicle. The only thing that keeps me from seriously considering a mini van is Dave’s theory about getting a larger house, car, or office: in every case, the more space you give yourself, the more stuff you’ll end up collecting to fill it. If what we are doing to our four-door Volkswagen is any indication, we do not need this temptation.

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What you missed: tantrums

At the 15 month mark, Suzianne bestowed upon us the blessed gift of toddler drama:

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Fortunately, Suzianne and I were flying cross-country during her first real inconsolable tantrum. That’s right, just a momma, her demon spawn and 130 strangers. And a Bloody Mary in a kids cup with a bendy straw.

For 4.5 hours, we wrestled on and off the seats, up and down the aisle. At one point I Momma Mean Whispered, “you are the reason adults cry when they see babies on a plane.” The woman beside me said, “So true, but I do love her hair.”

Then, as the freakin landing gear lowered, so did her eyelids. I was left with this in my lap for the last 15 minutes of the flight:

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As the evidence actual sleep became clear, a chorus of “You’ve got to be kidding me”‘s echoed throughout the cabin. Yeah, people, tell me about it.

Then, of course, nothing could wake her:

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Woe unto you, parents of 12 – 14 month olds. One day, you’ll wake up to find your 15 month old, formerly happy-go-lucky baby looking at you like a Walking Dead cast member:  IMG_7466

This is the toddler warning shot.

I have no advice for you.

Just be sure you’ve got a fully stocked bar. You’ll also need a flask because most of the tantrums happen in public.

Suzianne is especially prone to playground scream fests. The hallmark these is a Boneless Meltdown, followed by Flailing About In Momma’s Arms, and topped off by the Unbendable Toddler Plank, which prohibits stroller insertion. I don’t have any of that on video because I need every available appendage to keep her from falling and busting her head open.

The good news: this phase only lasted about four weeks. She’s about 16.5 months old now and only really goes boneless when I retrieve her in the mornings. She wants her Daddy, not me. But that’s another post…

Three reasons type-A’s make great mothers

I used to beat myself up over being a Type-A mother.

Not sure about the heart disease part, but the rest of it sounds accurate.

But over the past month, I got my groove back. I’ve now discovered several aspects of this “personality trait” that make me a freakin’ awesome mother.

Type-A mommas inherently are:

1. Futzers. We can’t sit still when there are Christmas tree pine needles on the floor that need Swiffering, a diaper drawer that needs re-organzing, bottles that need washing, laundry that needs folding, and a baby book that needs to be taken out, flipped through, and then put away without updating. You call it OCD or ADD, we call it productivity and a clean house. Potato, patattah. Whatevs. Ya’lls socks are clean.

2. Always prepared and highly organized. Laugh all you want at my massive diaper bag. We’ll see who is snorting when your baby needs extra pants, a blanket, bib, a bedtime story, socks, Orajel, Tylenol, solid food, one of my four pacifiers, formula from my tower, or a mini Sophie. Awe, no, I’m just kidding. I’ll come to your rescue, but I’m totally gonna give you a judgy, lifted-eyebrow, “I told you so” look.

3. Not afraid of you, child. Listen, honey. I made your face INSIDE OF MY BODY while I was working, commuting AND avoiding alcohol. I will wash that face when I feel like it. Also, I will trim those nails of yours, even if I have to sneak into your room in the middle of the night. See, these things are on momma’s to-do list, and you, sweet love of her life, are not going to gum your way out of this. Now, come here and let’s fix that hair…

 

Guilt-free assessment: months 0 to 7

My momma’s hormones were whack, ya’ll.

I don’t feel guilty when I think about the first seven months of Suzianne’s life, just sad.

Seven whole months with her were wasted on my postpartum depression. It’s not my fault and there is nothing I did wrong, but it still breaks my heart.

It started March 6, the day after Suzianne was born. Before they send you home with the tiny version of your spouse you just made, they make you sit through this class about how to diaper, bathe and generally keep your baby alive. All the other new moms were sitting on pillows, looking attentive. I sat on my pillow and cried. Hard.

I remember the pit in my stomach each evening as “the night shift” approached. Many new moms refer to night feeding as “snuggle time” on their Facebook pages; it was not snuggly for me. It was simply sleep deprivation. Around 7 p.m., my mind would begin to process the “night dread” — I knew what time it was without even looking at the clock.

March 6, 2012

For three months worth of night feedings, I ate grapes, counted the windows in the office building next door (43) and wondered if I would ever sleep again. I did not enjoy this “special time together” as so many other moms seem to. I didn’t even enjoy weekends.

In those first few weeks, when it came to breastfeeding, I experienced overwhelming anxiety and anguish. Knowing that I was only able to produce enough milk for the moment, and not enough to store away for later, like so many of my friends could. Even when I was pumping 15 ounces a day, she needed more, and I had to supplement 10 ounces of her milk with formula. That felt like a failure to me. My friend Olivia (who breastfed her baby for 12 whole months) reassured me that I was awesome, then sighed, and said, “There’s nothing like pumping breastmilk to put a specific measurement of ounces on a woman’s worth.”

***

In April, from my perch on a sitz bath, I called my best friend and bawled as I told her I was a horrible mother. That I didn’t know what I was doing and felt like it was not fair to Suzianne. “I’m not good at this,” I kept repeating. She listened and told me I was a wonderful mother, that Suzianne loved me and all would be okay. Four more months would pass before I believed her.

In May, my back went out. I remember laying in the bed, not being able to lift Suzianne or play on the floor with her. For some reason, I was convinced that those few days of little interaction with me were scarring her for life. I laid on my pillow and cried.

In July, I went back to work; the hormones started to level out and I began to feel like myself again. Until I stopped breastfeeding. Just like my friend Beth warned me about, my hormones went through another insane shift ALL OVER AGAIN. It was like when you are trying to rewind “Smash” on your DVR, and you push the button a little too hard and you have to watch a scene with “Ellis” again… again. Just awful.

In September, when we were in Hawaii (hard life, yeah?), I finally figured out my hormones were still whack. Here I was, five months after Suzianne was born, and still getting emotional and exhausted by trivial things, like not having a white onesie and corresponding bunny for the six month photo. But it was being away from her for a week–and being really, really relieved about the break–that led me to the conclusion that I remained a little off. I felt a little better once I acknowledged it, but I couldn’t shake the fog. So, I sat at the pool overlooking the Pacific and cried.

***

In October, I went with mom to a GNC store and asked the guy, “Do you have anything for postpartum issues? He said, “Sure!” and escorted me to the menopause supplement section.

I said, “No, no. Not menopause hormones, ‘just had a baby hormones.'”

He said, “Your problem is that you stopped taking your prenatal vitamin after you had the baby, amiright?”

Me, “Yes, but this is hormonal, not vitamin related.”

Him, “It’s the vitamins. Take these for two weeks and bring them back if you don’t feel better. I swear.”

I do feel better. Thank you, GNC guy. 

***

From March 6 to mid-October, my head was cloudy and my heart was heavy nearly every day.

I don’t know if it is the vitamins, the perfect San Diego weather, or my hormones finally leveling out, but I’m feeling normal now.

Proof: Thanksgiving week we spent seven straight days with Suzianne in Nashville and I never lost my mind. I never one got flustered or upset about anything baby-related (I did get emotional the last night there, but that is only because I really miss my Nashville friends).

Holiday travel with an infant and no baby-sitter was just the test I needed and I passed like a boss.

I’m me again. I have always liked me, so I’m really excited about that.

***

Dave and I spend more time with our baby than most families are able to. It’s a luxury I do not take for granted (this time). It’s fun to finally feel and experience those new mom warm fuzzies that I’m always reading about on Facebook. I, too, could spend a full hour just starring at Suzianne! She’s remarkable! I didn’t feel this way until recently–there was too much hormonal clutter in the way.

Moving to California has brought with it a most awesome gift: a second chance at spending quality time with my infant. I don’t deserve this do-over, but I’m grateful and am soaking in every moment.

Me and my baby — November 23, 2012

Bizarre

You know how there are those moments when you can’t find your sunglasses? Your eyes dart around for them; then, a split second later, you realize they are on your head? That’s what today feels like.

This morning, we dropped Suzianne off with Nanny D, the FABULOUS nanny we are sharing with an equally fabulous family near Dave’s work. We are doing this part-time for the next two weeks to break us both in gently before I go back to work.

I was teary-eyed from the moment I woke Suzianne up this morning. Yes, you read that correctly. She was still asleep at 7 a.m. {squeal!} {high five!} 

When we pulled up at the house, I got teary again; Suzianne was completely chill and was all, “Sup, ya’ll. I’m here. I’m sorry my mom is acting like a weirdo.”

And as I’m showing Nanny D how to swaddle Suzianne with one arm out, I realize that she’s resting happily and quite comfortably in Nanny D’s arms. Not a care in the world and cute as button.

I took a deep breath and followed Dave out to the car. And then cried. I got on the Metro and kept crying.

Although the first two hours without Suzianne were sad–as my fellow Metro riders will attest-since then, my time alone has just been bizarre. For the first time in 14 weeks, I’m not with her.

Back to the sunglasses: I keep feeling like I’ve forgotten Suzianne; like I’ve left her somewhere. For a split second, I look around for her in a panic, only to realize she’s with Nanny D.

When I got home this morning, I went for a run. In the middle of the run, I freaked out because it was–I was sure–close to Suzianne’s feeding time and I was not home. I quickly remembered she was not at home either.

It’s odd being in this apartment without her. When I got back from my run, I just sat on the floor and stared at her toys while noshing on a brunch of savory quinoa (thanks, Dave!) and Gatorade.

When I went to take a shower–during the day; with the door closed!–I took the monitor with me, then realized I was monitoring an empty nursery. New habits die hard:

As the day goes on, I am feeling more guilty about all this than sad. But just when I was starting to lose my mind a bit, I got the most wonderful text from Nanny D. Suzianne is doing great, of course. Her activities this morning have included eating, napping and “smiling at trees.”

If she’s happy, I’m happy. But this day feels like she’s taking one long nap. So, I can’t promise I won’t run back to her room in 30 minutes to check her breathing.

 

Hey, preggers! Read this.

Dear Momma-to-be,

Hey, sister. How are you feeling? You look amazing today. I know you’re all glowing and double fisting BBQ chips right now, but I want to talk a bit about labor and delivery.

Wait. Where are you going? Look, if you listen to me for just a few minutes, I’ll bring you a jar of Nutella. 

Now, then. Let’s cut the chase. Here’s how it’s going to go down:

You will be strong and powerful* 

Why are you blinking at me like that? Have another chip or 10 and hear me out.

I’m sure you were hoping I’d say “you’ll be great!” or “just get an epidural and it will be a piece of cake!”

But this is serious business, this human-creating thing. Labor and delivery is work. It’s exhausting, intense, miraculous work. It is work your body was made to do. And–you Type-A’s will appreciate this–your body does it so well

Your job is to breathe, focus and allow your body to work its magic. I don’t mean to belittle your fears. They are valid. The thought of going into labor is scary; the unknown always is. But you will rock this, lady. I promise.

By the way, it does’t matter whether you deliver vaginally or via c-section:

  • your body will produce a life; 
  • you will witness a miracle; 
  • you will be strong and powerful. 

However, if you deliver vaginally, you will poop on the table in front of your spouse. He/she will not mind because the baby’s-head-is-coming-out-of-your va-jay-jay-and-OMG-that-is-SO-COOL-honey-you-have-to-see-this-bring-in-the-mirror!  

Sister, please don’t over-think this. Prepare by going to a good Lamaze class and having your spouse read The Birth Partner, but don’t over-think it. There’s no need to; your body knows what to do and it will do it when the time is right.

One last thing: I am so proud of you. For nine months, you will have sacrificed beer, wine, brie, hotdogs, roller-coasters and sushi. You’ve peed 27 times a day; and by the time your ninth month rolls around, you’ll not be able to tie your shoes–or see your own lady parts. Know this: you are a ridiculously impressive, beautiful vessel of life. A vessel that will very soon be able to drink again. Hang in there.

In the meantime, rest up, read this book, schedule a mani/pedi, and get ready to have your world rocked by this tiny, beautiful creature that love, your uterus and God made.

xoxo,

Margie

 

Week 13: we’ll pass on pause

This weekend, I saw a Facebook post from a gal that read:

My baby girl is NINE weeks old! Someone push the pause button!

My first thought was “Who would want to ‘pause’ the week when your infant is only sleeping 1.5 hours at a time during the night. I don’t care how cute her baby is, this woman is 75 kinds of cray-cray.”

My second thought was “Who would want to push pause on any of this?”

Every day, Suzianne is discovering and doing freakishly cool stuff. I would not pause this for the world.

Oh, sure, it would have been nice to have loitered around that glorious one week of Suzianne sleeping in 7-to-9-hour stretches. That’s over, by the way. We’re back down to 5 hours at night.

But, if we had stopped time to take in the sweetness of life in that moment, we’d never have had this week of her learning to bat, grab and shove toys into her drooly mouth:

We’d have missed her newly-established–and quite vocal–preference for being propped on the couch like grown up…a grown up who eats the heads off dolls and reads cooking magazines:

If we had a pause button, we’d have missed her first real moments in the Bumbo. And if you know me well, you know that I believe random baby-in-a-Bumbo photos are awesome and pretty much the sole reason folks should procreate:

Pause would have meant missing the discovery of Suzianne’s first love: Sebastian The Playmat Monkey. These two are soul-mates; she talks to him for several minutes at a time. From the sound of things, it is pretty serious:

This week also ushered in a not so horrible attempt at baby wearing. This time we gave the K’Tan a go (h/t Rakelle):

Suzianne seems to find this more comfortable than the Bjorn, but being that close to my chest still just makes her hungry. So, when I say “we gave it a go,” I mean we never left the apartment. And when I say “not so horrible,” I mean she waited a good 15 minutes before screaming bloody murder.

Not everything changed this week though. Suzianne still looks just like her daddy:

She also still hates tummy time, being tired and STARVING.

But this week, she’s literally learned something new every day. It’s insane. And I am so happy her life keeps moving forward.

Who needs pause when you’ve got play?

I broke the baby

Yesterday was Suzianne’s two month check up. Great news: she’s 10.6 pounds and 22 inches long. All her parts are in working order. Including the plumbing, as evidenced by the explosive poop diaper she treated me, the car seat and the nurse to.

Two items of note:

1. The doctor placed Suzianne on her tummy. She lifted up her head, looked both ways and then SHE ROLLED OVER. 

Me: “Wait. What just happened there? Did my baby just roll over?”

Doctor: “You have a freakishly strong child. Be sure to record this in the baby book.”

MY CHILD IS BRILLIANT, ya’ll!  Kids aren’t supposed to roll over til their like 14 or whatever, but MY baby did so at eight weeks old.

As you’d expect, I was beaming with “Holy crap I am a freaking rockstar of a mother” pride when this happened:

Doctor: “Now, about her misshapen head.”

Me: {wide eyes. blink blink.} “No, no. She was born with a perfectly round head. I once had the stitches to prove it.”

Doctor: “Okay, but NOW the left side of her face is misshapen because she only lays on and favors her right side. I’m going to send you to a specialist to makes baby helmets for this condition.”

 

And that’s when it hit me: I broke the baby.

See, Suzianne is a slide sleeper. Although I place her on her back to sleep, I rock her to sleep in my lap; always on her right side, because she likes it:

When she’s in the crib, she’s on her back, but she moves her head to the right. When she’s on her play mat, she looks at things on the right. Tummy time: between lifts, she rests her head on the right side.

All my rocking and cuddling of her–always on her right side–has made the left side of her face slope down. Thanks, Gravity. You jerk.

So, now we begin the “Hey! The left side of the world is fun, too!” process. We have to make her sleep with her right side wedged up so she can’t roll to it. I’m having to change the way I hold her, feed her, rock her, put her in the car seat, crib, etc. We’ve been at it one day and she’s confused, but not too upset by it:

Next week, I’ll make the appointment with the Baby Helmet guy and hope that by the time we see him, our home interventions will have already cleared up the problem.

Have you dealt with this issue? If so, throw me your suggestions in the comments.

Sorry, Dave and Granny Sue Sue. I didn’t mean to break our baby!

 

Week 5: I’m starting to understand why people have children

The first four weeks of a baby’s life are a lot like pregnancy: it’s beautiful, but it ain’t pretty. 

I love Suzianne. But during those first weeks, I really had a hard time understanding why folks KEEP having children after they already have one. Don’t they know what they are signing up for? I seriously pondered this for three weeks. During this time, didn’t stare adoringly into her eyes; mine was a gaze of overwhelming, throat-clinching fear.

But folks kept saying it would get better; it totally has. For example, I now can drink a Fat Tire while nursing. BOOM.

How’s that for multitasking?

Week five shall forever be known as The Week Things Started to Get Fun. (Besides the day my mom left; that was not at all fun). I think the “fun” has to do with my hormones calming down and my confidence going up.

When you’re not stressed out/having breakdowns about how you don’t know what you’re doing, you actually can enjoy mimosas and manicures, and visitors; you can make fun of explosive poo, and attempt the origami that is the Baby Bjorn.

Here’s Dave showing off his mad baby-wearing skills. Proving he can take care of our spawn while playing video games AND doing some sort of odd Captain Morgan stance:

Also fun, watching the new and cool things your child discovers and does each day. Like how to make boogers the size of a penny:

No wonder she couldn’t breathe on Sunday.

I’ll have to check and see if there is place to document “First Booger” in the baby book.

Speaking of books, this week, I started to pick up on some things I used to do regularly, like write thank you notes and read. Only now, I find my Kindle has sprouted tiny arms and occasionally smells like poop:

I’m also happy to report that this week, Suzianne is starting to smile at us–and not just when she’s gassy. She seems to know our voices, too.

We’re grateful for these precious, early days, when our baby is an all-around happy kiddo who is completely oblivious to how geeky and weird her parents are.

This week, I really did catch myself just staring at her for 20 and 30 minutes at a time. This week, I’m only overwhelmed by how much I love her. How perfect she is. Sometimes I look over and see Dave doing the same thing. Even Georgia does it.

NOW I see why folks have children. They do it because of moments like these:

 

Week 3: in the interest of keeping it real

Whoa. This week was very much like my first trimester of pregnancy: I’m so thankful for this opportunity, but dude, it’s kicking my butt.

It’s so hard to explain how even when staring into the beautiful face of your happy, content, healthy infant, you can feel so overwhelmed, inadequate and frustrated. Also, so many awesome things happened this week, like Suzianne meeting her Great Grandparents,  her Uncle Larry, and our fabulous former DC neighbors:  

But it’s the little things, like not sleeping at night and forgetting to eat lunch…and dinner, that start to add up. Soon, you can’t handle bigger things, like attending to the backlog of thank you notes (sorry, friends!), mastering the breast pump or scouting out a private place to breast feed your child when you’re out at a fancy Ruth’s Chris steak dinner.

Yes, last Friday, we went to Ruth’s Chris to celebrate my Grandparent’s 59th wedding anniversary. The smell of steak was too much for Suzianne (that’s my girl!); she was immediately STARVING. Like, OMG, my momma SO NEVER FEEDS ME, ya’ll. 

The first time I nursed her, we were standing in the women’s room for 20 minutes because I was trying to be nice and not take up the ONE stall. I got several mean/confused stares from ladies coming and going. Thanks for your support, ladies.

Of course, 30 minutes later, she smelled potatoes au gratin was STARVING again. Like, for the love of all things holy momma, WHY DON’T YOU EVER FEED ME?

Determined not to re-live my ladies bathroom debacle, I sought out a more private place. But no such place could be found–even in The World’s Largest Ruth’s Chris. So, I nursed my baby here–on the nasty carpet floor in front of what I later figured out was the Men’s bathroom (sadly, the spider that was camped out with me is not pictured):

I only realized it was the men’s room when a nice gentleman asked if he could “squeeze by.” I thought he was exiting the building through a stairwell. Then: WHOOSH.

{Headsmack} Only the best for my baby! (sigh)

The encouraging part was when the nice dude stepped over me and Suzianne to exit the men’s room: He turned to me and said, “I want you to know I fully support what you are doing. It’s the best thing for your child. I’m just sorry you are having to do it here, like this. Ruth’s Chris should really have a ladies lounge for you.”

Amen, brother. I so appreciated that man! But I sat there and cried anyway.

The good news: our girl turned three weeks old yesterday. She is a thriving, healthy, happy little lady. We are blessed. Even if my hormones reduce me to crying fits most days.

If my momma weren’t here, I may have lost my mind by this point. Good lord, I owe my momma so much. There’s no way I can ever repay her for taking such good care of me and Suzianne these past three weeks. We love you, Granny Sue Sue:

Also, a big shout out to the Internet, which enables the amazingly thoughtful women in my life to send me emails and Facebook messages of support. I appreciate your tips, tricks and humor more than you know, friends.

The good news: every woman who has ever had a baby has shared these same emotions. It’s so hard, but so awesome all at the same time. So, I’m picking myself up, Fabreezing the carpet (there may or may not have been some infant projectile vomiting last night) taking a shower and starting anew. Here’s to a cry-free week four!