3

Seasons and surrender.

Today at the library I checked out a book on color schemes. We’re finally starting to decorate our house, and I’m loving how it’s coming along. The furniture, the colors, the textures. Everything says ‘cozy,’ and it’s becoming a place I’m proud of and a place I want to be.

Of course, with all of the changes, there’s this voice in the back of my head reminding me of the very real chance that in two years the army may decide to relocate us. If not, then my husband only has two more years before he retires, and then who knows where we’ll end up.

So tonight, as I’m cuddling with my main men in bed, my mind wanders – when it’s time to move on, what will I miss most about this house? And the answer is immediate: this is where we brought home our baby.

Suddenly, I want to go back in time and undo all of the changes we’ve made.  Here I am, correcting all of the ‘imperfections’ in my environment, not realizing that one day I will look back and associate them with September 1st, 2013 – the day our lives gained another level of purpose.

Yes, I want to be comfortable in the house I’m living in. But I wish I had at least documented the way things were before. Was it pretty? No. But it was a symbol of that chapter of our lives.

I know exactly how I will picture it in my brain forever:

The post-baby-hibernation-mess that happens when you haven’t left the house for weeks because you’re learning how to care for another human being. (Burp cloths stashed in every corner!)

The embrace of stillness as my universe, all 7 lbs 12 oz of it, rested peacefully on my chest.

The ever-present dim lighting, making it feel like it was always a varying degree of nighttime.

Maneuvering through laundry piles to rescue a distressed newborn at three in the morning.

The rigid tension in the air those nights he refused to sleep and I thought it might kill me.

I’ve heard women comment, occasionally, on their fear that they won’t be able to love their second baby as much as their first. At the time, I remember thinking something like, “Well that’s just silly! Of course you’d love your second as much, right? Isn’t that innate?” But now, I understand. Kenneth and I, we’re battle buddies. We learned something scary and new together. We figured each other out, and he was patient with me as I knocked down the walls that allowed me to meet his emotional needs. Now we have this bond, this crazy-insane bond, and I can’t imagine what it would take to build something similar with number two – to be honest, I can’t imagine why I’d invite another family member into this nicely-balanced triad we have going. Gosh, that sounds so mean! (Future second child, I apologize to you!)

But I digress. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, time goes by so fast. Before you know what’s happening, your walls are a different color. And ya know what happens next? You’re packing up the house you brought your baby home to and moving across the country.

During the aforementioned cuddle session with my boys, I had my hand on Kenneth’s little foot, and as he startled he brushed my hand with the toes of his free foot. I was reminded of the butterfly-kicks in my belly, before  I’d ever laid eyes on those precious little toes. Holding his little feet, I would have given anything to live in that moment forever. Or even to stop time just for a little while. Instead, I’ll go back to bed, and fall asleep praying that he won’t be all grown up when I open my eyes in the morning.

3

Who needs who, here?

Happy New Year! Kenneth turned 4 months old yesterday…. I wish I could say that it’s gone by so fast, but truthfully, it feels like it’s been WAY longer than four months. I have to admit, there’s been a huge learning curve that I never anticipated when it comes to caring for an infant. Don’t get me wrong, certain things came naturally:  Showering him with affection? Done. Easy. Changing diapers? Middle-of-the-night feedings? Check, and check! He’s a baby, and he requires a lot of attention, but I love the crap out of him so it doesn’t really phase me. 

It’s the little things that no one explains to you about becoming a mother that get me.  How do you balance keeping a home with caring for such a small, defenseless being?  How do you deal with the anxiety of putting him down to walk away and do something else that just doesn’t seem nearly as important, big-picture wise? It’s been really difficult for me to let go. At first, I felt so uneasy any second that I spent not focused on him. I had to have him within arms reach every second of every day (imagine my husband’s disdain when I realized I was a co-sleeper, and he realized he wasted tons of money on nursery furniture!).

I just went out for a few hours alone for the first time this weekend. When I say “for the first time,” I mean for the first time of my own accord. My husband dragged me out on my birthday, so we left Kenneth with a sitter for a few hours, and twice we’ve had to have someone watch him for a couple of hours when we went to counseling.  But just the other day, I had this very sudden, very strong feeling that I needed to get out. I needed to take my ‘mommy’ cap off for awhile, and just be ME.  It felt so good to hang out with one of my girlfriends sans baby, and though I felt a twinge of guilt when I walked out the door, it was appeased when A) I recognized that I left him with his daddy, and I can trust him to take the best care of our precious baby and B) I felt like a new woman when I got home. 

Today, I discovered that having him next to me is part of the reason I’ve found it difficult to get anything done around the house. I left him in bed, turned on the baby monitor (which we’ve used, oh, probably less than 5 times since he was born), and kept it close by as I worked on laundry, cleaning, etc. while he slept. And oh. My. Goodness. I got so much done! It’s hard to explain, but when he’s in the same room as me, I find myself checking on him constantly. Even now as I write this, he’s sleeping in his swing, and I’m glancing over there every 30 seconds, then losing my train of thought. It’s like my “maternal instincts” have been in overdrive since he was born, and are just now starting to wind down.  (I’m glad I’m seeing improvement, otherwise I was going to ask my doctor for some tranquilizers at my next OB appointment! Holy anxiety.)

Re-reading this, I know I sound like a crazy person.  There are probably lots of mommies out there who have had all of their shit together since day one, but I must admit, I am not one of them.  I don’t know if this paranoia is related to my miscarriages, or postpartum hormones, or sleep deprivation, or what… But it could be worse, right? I’m certainly not neglecting him! On the contrary, he is so adored by myself and his daddy. And he’s such a happy baby, you can tell that he knows it! 

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4

Mombie Attack

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I apologize – I know these images may be disturbing to some viewers.  Sadly, I must take the initiative in raising awareness of a nationwide epidemic. The Mombie Virus is running rampant, infecting new mothers across the United States every day. Risk factors include (but are not limited to) mothering a child under 6 months old, being a stay-at-home mom, being a single mom, moms who have chosen to breastfeed, moms whose babies are particularly fussy/high-needs, and moms caring for a newborn as well as a toddler.  If you are a mother who has recently given birth to twins or triplets, you are at even higher risk – please skip to the end of this article and follow the treatment described there as a precautionary measure.

Husbands/new dads, the following are signs/symptoms that your counterpart may be infected with the Mombie Virus:

  • Walking more than 2 feet across your bedroom requires at least one good light source.
  • Upon asking your wife when the last time was that she left the house, she spends more than ten seconds searching for her answer.
  • She’s spent more than one week cycling through the same two pairs of pants (particularly if they are pajama pants).
  • You’ve run out of clean drinking glasses before she’s gotten around to running the dishwasher.
  • You’ve asked your cleaning service to skip a cleaning to give you more time to get your house clean enough for them to clean.
  • She spends the majority of her day topless, as her baby requires constant feeding (this is especially concerning if she has subsequently forgotten what wearing a shirt feels like, and has ventured outside half-naked).
  • She hasn’t had 4 or more consecutive hours of sleep in longer than 6 weeks.
  • She complains of ‘phantom crying,’ believing she’s heard her baby cry when she’s separated from him/her, only to discover the  baby sleeping peacefully once she’s rushed to its aide.
  • She seems consumed or obsessed with the idea of being the perfect mom, and has neglected her own needs in manic pursuit of this elusive status.

If your wife exhibits 5 or more of these symptoms, please execute the following steps immediately – Start by having her spend no less than 45 minutes in a warm bubble bath. Then, send her out the door with your credit card and a map of the closest nail salon and massage parlor.  If she exhibits all nine symptoms, add the closest DSW to the map.  If you’ve followed these directions explicitly, you should see improvement within 24 hours.

**Note: This treatment is only effective if you remove the baby from her care before sending her on her way.

5

Baby Love

Well, Kenneth turned one month old yesterday! It’s hard to believe – it feels like we just brought him home from the hospital. I remember, a couple of days after he was born, thinking back to a few nights before that when his daddy and I had been watching The Walking Dead every night and how it felt like that was a different life. Things are starting to feel ‘normal’ now, and this is starting to feel like my ‘real’ life.  It’s hard to remember life before Baby Kenneth – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my old schedule (i.e., no schedule, and unlimited sleep!). But I think I’ve definitely got the better part of this deal. Yes, things are totally different now, and (almost) every second of every day revolves around this little life we’ve created.  The truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I don’t know what I’d do without him, and can’t imagine life before him.

There’s this thing about parenthood that I’ve discovered – which also holds true for marriage. People tell you congratulations when they learn you are expecting, they smile like they’re so happy for you, they give you words of wisdom and try to tell you what it might be like.  But it’s one of those things that you can’t possibly understand until you’ve done it.  And behind the smiles of the well-wishers is all of the knowledge they won’t be able to impart upon you. The things you just have to figure out for yourself.

Things no one tells you about parenthood:

You will change consecutive diapers.  It will feel like a waste of money when you hear those velcro tabs sealing followed immediately by a sound indicating a 4- or 5-wipe job.  It’s not a waste of money. Consider the alternative, and thank God that you got the diaper on in time.

A shower becomes a token gesture.  Please, continue to shower every day for your own sanity, and so that others in your household don’t judge you. But accept the fact that many times, you will barely have dried off before you are covered, again, in poop or pee or breastmilk, or a combination of the three.

God invented the breast pump for a reason. So mommies can have 15 minutes in which no one expects anything else from her. So that hubbies can let their wives get a 4-hour stretch of sleep. And so that said wives can enjoy an alcoholic beverage on football Sunday. Cause let’s face it – after 9 months of watching every substance that passes through your lips, you’ve earned it, mama!

On the subject of bottles – you will feel guilty when you see your hubby put the ‘artificial’ nipple to your babe’s lips.  Simply recall the hours you spend each day with your darling at your breast – or even better, in the middle of the night! That should nip that guilt right in the bud. Also, you may feel something else unpleasant, and it may take you a moment to realize that it’s jealousy.  Yes, your child will willingly take his nourishment from something other than you.  Yes, your feelings might be a little hurt.  That will disappear the next time he falls asleep while you’re nursing him.  Nothing will ever replace you as his mama.

On the subject of sleep – you will discover that you need much less sleep than you thought.  There are parents who will brag about how their 5-week-old baby is sleeping 7 hours a night. Don’t expect to be one of them.  Don’t expect to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time.  But know that you were made for this, and that when your baby is up for 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the night, you will find the strength within you to push through.  And no one wants to tell you that you might briefly resent your baby for this.  Don’t worry, that’s normal, too.  It will pass.

Also in regards to sleep – no one tells you that for every night that it seems like someone stole your angel baby from his bassinet and replaced him with a demon child, there will be a night that’s almost magical.  You’ll wake right as you hear your baby start to stir, take him in your arms, and nurse him until he passes out, drunk off your milk. And you will follow suit – drunk off of baby love. Everything will happen just how it’s meant to, and you’ll feel like the best mommy in the world (and yes – you are!).

There will be times, when your milk lets down just before he tells you he’s hungry, or when he’s laying on your chest and he matches you breath for breath, sigh for sigh, that you feel more ‘one’ with your baby than when he was in your body.  Everything will feel ‘right,’ and you will know down to your core that this is what you were created to do.  These are also usually the moments you are overcome with emotion.  It’s okay to cry. You were part of a miracle.  Drink it all in while you can – you’ll never get these moments back.

In celebration of Kenneth’s one month birthday (yes, I’m totally about to become that obsessed mother who thinks her kiddo is the cutest one in the world. Except, mine actually is! :P) :

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fuzzymonkey

daddytummytime

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babytoes

angelbaby

 

AND in celebration of mommy – cause I worked hard to make this baby, and I’m damn proud of my body for the way it took it like a champ!

Six weeks pregnant.

Six weeks pregnant.

One month postpartum.

One month postpartum.

Not bad, if I do say so myself! And that’s with zero exercise – unless you count breastfeeding (’cause let’s be real, sometimes it feels like a workout). If I didn’t have a blood clot the size of Texas in my leg, I’d say my body handles pregnancy pretty darn well.  Who’s ready for round 2!? 😛