Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Letter to A New MOM


("Mommy's sweetie" circa 3 months old)

I wrote like the wind today, and that rarely happens. I felt my heart being poured out on the glowing LCD screen... and it made me realize that I want to record this in another place (besides my Facebook 'Sent' folder) so that I can possibly happen upon it at a later time.  It is a reply to an exchange with a friend, a mother of a baby only a few weeks old, an exchange that started in just a few simple words that totally broke my heart when her message popped up on my iPhone.  It read: "Please tell me it gets easier ;(".  This was my first real communication from her since she gave birth.  I of course replied that it did.  The below is what I wrote to a Momma who went on to say that she felt like quitting and felt like a horrible Mom. (This woman who is doubting herself, who I've known since we lived next door to each other when my husband and I first got married in 2007, was born to be a mother!  She is one of the most kind and sweet ladies I know, and I would trust her to raise my own daughter.) Gee whiz do I recall feeling like quitting... because I was out of resources and depleted of any restorative rest for weeks on end (sleep deprivation is an actual method of torture!).  Maybe this will help another new Mom, maybe it won't. I have all of 5.5 months under my Mom belt, so who am I? I just hope that some of my experiences that I share below can help to make a difference in someone's life. Some stories I read on the internet have made my day, while others have changed my life. All it took was someone posting it... so here I go. Let it fall where it will. :)

PS - I admit some embarrassing things below.  Please go easy on me.  I look forward to the day I can ask forgiveness of my sweet daughter for the times when I failed her.

My letter...

You are MORE than sane! You are being honest and the fact that you even feel like a "horrible mom" means that you are far from one. None of us are perfect... and it seems like the first lesson of Motherhood we learn is that we fail every single day at something, but we get back up and try again each day. I know Greg and I made many huge mistakes and lost our tempers at times... and we wish we could take it back, but we can't. It's OK, because I look at our parents and they made huge mistakes... but we turned out somewhat decent and we are healthy & happy and love them still! ;) That is WONDERFUL that _______ is there with you for 2 months. Praise GOD! Praise God even more that you have a husband that WANTS to be there with you two and WANTS to help. I don't know HOW single Moms do it... and Greg was such a lifesaver to me. God will give you strength to get through anything, just like childbirth... He will not give you more than you can handle. That is always what I clung to when I was having a hard day... that and looking forward to the next time or day when I was going to get some help, LOL. Take each day one at a time and before you know it, her colicky little belly will mature and you will have new and different challenges. That's not what you may want to hear, but it's the truth. Every time I talk with the Mommas here at my work who are months ahead of me they tell me that what I am going through now (Grace still gets up several times a night) will pass. EVERYTHING is a phase. That is truth that is comforting! "This too shall pass" and nothing is forever... just like the Bible says in Ecclesiastes. I used to cry my eyeballs out... like BALL LIKE A BABY while holding Grace - I was just so miserable. Sometimes that would be what shut her up and put her to sleep... I'd cry for a minute or two and when I opened my eyes it was like God gave me a little miracle and *poof* she was asleep. I am so sorry to hear that you are going through a similar situation like our newborn experience. I had a hard time looking at people's Facebooks (I had 2 friends who had babies born a week apart form Grace. One before, one after) and seeing how easy it was for them. You can imagine my frustration when I would see the Momma of a 3-week-old and 3 other kids saying, "Making cookies!" when I couldn't even wipe my own butt without a screaming baby... and FORGET eating anything before 2pm without a huge sacrifice. Then the other Momma posted a picture of her baby sleeping on her lap while sitting at a Starbucks. I was like "?!?#?#$?$?#$?@#$@%%!!!!!!" Ya know what I mean? My situation was very different. But I would tell people that and I would even whine to my doctor (he sucked by the way) and they would encourage me not to compare our family to others.

Tell me about it... I wanted to quit too!!!! I wanted to run away, but at the same time I was so in love with my little girl that I didn't know what to do with myself as soon as I got away from her for the first time. Trust me, God and nature have blessed us with something beautiful called newborn amnesia... you think it is so traumatic now that you will never forget, but you do. You really will. Even the traumatic things Greg & I do recount sometimes... the memories are numbed and you look back and say "it was worth it and I would do it again for her!"

Also, when I say I was in love with Grace... it was more of a knowledge, not always a FEELING! There were times that I disliked her and I would tell her that. (I know that sounds awful.) I would FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! get her to sleep for a nap which was nearly impossible and the SECOND (no exaggeration) I laid my head down on the pillow she would start fussing again. I came to have major anxiety and would cringe every time I heard her make those noises. I distinctly remember telling my Dad I felt like Grace was being a "brat" that day and I felt awful saying it but I told him it was the truth.

The actual love *feeling* for your baby sometimes even takes a little while, and that's OK. I probably didn't really feel the crazy LOVE in my heart for Grace until I came out of the survival fog. If you guys are like us, we were in survival mode for a LONG time. I bled for 10 weeks after having Grace to find out I had rotting placental pieces in there... no wonder we had thrush that wouldn't go away! My body was trying to heal all SORTS of things! No wonder I didn't have the ability to do much more than survive, right? You do what is priority and let everything else fall to the side. Housework and all that jazz, who cares. That's what family and friends are for. (We'd love to come help you do any chores by the way, please let us do some when we come and visit!) Oh, and now I have a term that I call BABY LOVE DRUG. Having a child is the best drug in all the world. It gives you the HIGHEST high you will ever have in your life (and it just keeps on giving, no diminishing returns!) but it also brings some of the lowest lows. Anything worth something though takes work, sacrifice, pain and a cost. Anything truly free would not be valued the way something is when you have to pay a price.

The more you talk to Moms out there you will find out that 80% of them can relate to you on most of what you're going through... I have NO idea why Moms don't warn you about this before the baby. I guess they don't want to burst your "ignorance is bliss" happiness bubble. I was SHOCKED that it was so difficult because Greg and I are people that go above and beyond in everything that we do no matter how hard, and we could barely handle it... so how does the rest of society do this? The honest truth is that people don't always tell you about their struggles. People post the happy things and smiley pictures on Facebook. I wanted SOOO BAD to post all my miserable struggles on Facebook, but I didn't want to look like I was complaining. I had desired my beautiful baby so badly, I didn't want to look ungrateful and immature. BUT, there is definitely a NEED for that and a place for it... with friends!

My advice for today is...

* Make sure you have a good pediatrician. Greg and I are just NOW finally deciding we are not happy with ours, even though we were "iffy" about him from the get-go. If you're not in love with yours, get a new one. Looking back, someone we liked and who actually CARED about what we were going through and was attentive to Grace could have saved us a TON of stress and tears and arguments and grey hairs. We are going to be switching.

* Try an exercise ball. You're like, "Whaaaa?" Seriously, this saved our LIVES and sanity. One of my best friends was moving to LA and stopped by to meet Gracie. She just happened to have been a nanny for the past couple years to 2 babies and she just HAPPENED to have her exercise ball in her car that she had packed up on her move up there. She blew it up for us and we bounced away... Grace was happy. It is so exhausting having to hold them all the time. Grace would pretty much only sleep ON us. Preferably Greg after I would feed, he'd hold her and burp her and try to keep her upright so she could digest her food. The ball lets you sit down but keep them moving and bouncing to their heart's content. We have since retired the ball because at some point the baby needs to learn to self-soothe and go nighty night with very LITTLE work on your part because they get heavy, etc etc. So I would love to bring over the ball for you if you'd like to try it. I will blow it up for you too... it comes with a little foot pump.

* ROUTINE!! Oh my gosh I wish I had known to do this earlier!! They say that babies have very little that they know and are familiar with, so having a routine (as much as is possible) is very comforting to them. We didn't really do this with Grace until she was like 3 months old! Having a routine such as eat, play sleep, repeat... and a bedtime routine... they are very comforting to a baby, even in the beginning. I'm sure you have read about that, but if you want, give it a try and see if you notice any difference in 3 days (I've read 3 days is how long it takes to change a behavior).

I have lots of other advice from my months of experience with a sweet but sad baby, but for now the above are my little nuggets of advice for the day. Grace smiled very early on and was such a sweetheart... but there was obvious pain and discomfort going on (besides the brace she had to wear!) that just broke my heart. _____ is such a sweetheart for having to go through so much at such a young age. The poor things have to leave our warm bellies and enter a scary world! Take everyone's (including mine) advice as a grain of salt and go with what you like. TRUST your instincts... I cannot stress that enough! Even doctors... you know your baby best.<3 Mommas have a special gift of instinct, which is no surprise after the bond we have after carrying them for 9 months.<3
We love you guys so much and I hope we can come over soon. I'd like to come on a lunch break some time even just for a quick visit to bring you food or something. I remember how much a prepared meal meant the WORLD and a million dollars back then. We are super busy this weekend but were talking last night that we could come over after work. Grace is a lot easier to take out of the house these days, Praise God. Would tomorrow night work for you guys? Let me know. :)

Hugs and hugs and more hugs! You both are doing a great job!! If she's still alive, then you are a success. It's a ton of work, but it is SO exponentially rewarding. You just haven't been able to reap any harvest yet. Once you start getting smiles, giggles and she reaches for you when you come home... your heart will be SO happy.

OK I officially just wrote a book there. I need to go get this published, LOL. Hope I brought some joy or laughter or relief to your day. I'll say it again... we cannot wait to meet _____!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Races

Saturday we went to the races with my Mom & Dad. My Dad and I went years ago, back when I was going to community college and working part-time (the easy life!). We had SO much fun that day, we vowed to go again. Every year I tell my Dad we'll go, and every year I forget until it's too late we almost missed them again this year but we finally made it happen! I won about $13 on the first race with a quinella bet, but over the next few races Greg and I left with 60 cents. ;) We only bet the minimum, and if you count parking we lost. The family time and memories are priceless of course!

I was so impressed with my baby girl's temperament. She enjoyed all the people-watching (just like Mommy & Daddy there) and surprised me by handling all the hollering at the end of each race just fine! :)

It has been SO nice now that we have been able to take her out in public with very few hiccups. It was so stressful for the first few months with feedings and naps... and not being able to pump anything for bottles to easy the burden. It's been about 2 months since her last "meltdown" that caused us to leave our good friends' baby shower just after arriving, which was most likely caused by gas. Poor thing.

So glad we got to experience the races with my Dad & Grace together. I took more pictures, but this is what I have on my phone!  You better believe she got tons of "oohs" and "aahs" from the ladies in her classic big hat! A strawberry hat for my Little Strawberry, of course! ;) A gift from Emily!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 Months

I've been writing and re-writing blogs in my head each day for awhile now. I've been beating myself up for not posting pictures of our weekend and a quick story. Basically, I've been driving myself crazy out of fear that I'm not documenting these sweet first few month of Grace. I know I should be easier on myself, but for some reason I've always had a hard time being consistent in most areas of my life. Each time I post a blog I sit back and exclaim, "that was easy! I'll certainly keep it up from now on!"... only to go another few weeks of missed days. I can always go back and try to write it down, but we all know that's not the same. The little details fall through the cracks.

Today's post should be a catch-up of the last few weeks, but I'm going to cut myself some slack. I'm going to try to take the pressure off (that might just be why I have such a hard time) and just write what comes to mind - no objective or goal.

Grace has been a sweetheart lately in that she's been such a good girl. She's been flexible with us a lot lately when we've taken her out places to eat and meet friends. She got to meet her Grandpa Greg this last weekend which was awesome! Here are a few things she's been up to in no particular order:
  • She holds onto my nose and mouth and gently "pets" my face while nursing. I love that she's so gentle. 
  •  She's still grabbing her feet up to her mouth, occasionally getting to suck on her big toe.
  • Her hair's getting noticeably longer and filled-in.  She used to have some "recessed hairline" areas.
  • She's skinny-ing up.  She lost her baby belly maybe a month ago.  Okay, it was a FROG BELLY like I had as a baby.  It has made diapering her SO much easier!  We used to have to get the diaper up high enough in the back but wrap the velcro tabs around and down diagonally to fit her properly!  Her face is becoming less round and smooshy by the day.  Every now and then I see her face shape coming along... and every now and then I'm happy-sad about it!
  • She still loves her walks.  We've taken her front-facing in the stroller a couple times recently, but she whines after awhile.  Apparently she prefers being closer to us in the Baby Bjorn carrier, holding our hands and being able to rest her head back against us when she feels like it.  We of course prefer that too, when our backs can manage it.  Just thinking of how entirely peaceful, secure and happy she looks on her walks in the baby carrier make me happy right now! :)
  • She's 5 months last week but fitting her 6 month clothes perfectly.
  • She was 15 pounds almost exactly at her 4-month check-up.  I imagine she has to be around 17 pounds by now, my big baby. 
  • Some days she talks a lot, but lately she's been more quiet.  Mornings and bedtime are usually when she babbles the most.  I've heard some new consonants lately... most notably, her "p".  She likes to blow on her thumb while sucking it now (the thumb-sucking her been less recently) and generally make lots of blowing "p" sounds with her mouth and tongue sticking out.  We have both witness her doing this and the "raspberry" sounds after she's made a poopy diaper.  We wonder if she's trying to tell us!
  • She can't really stand being in her Bumbo seat anymore.  She straightens her body (I call it planking) and tries to free herself from it, and she's close!  They recalled them this last week and are requiring you to install belt kits into them.  Grace needs this, but by the time the kit arrives she probably won't sit/fit in the thing!
  • She's getting SO close to crawling.  She can really get around right now wherever she pleases.  A few rolls and squirms and she'll get there.  This is why I am dying to move, but that's a story for another day!
  • No sign of any pearly whites yet, but they must be coming soon!  She's been showing all the teething signs for so long now, but she's been a little fussier than normal the past 2 days, in addition to some weird nights.  She cried every time we put her down last night during her night feedings, and it seemed like she fidgeted in her sleep the entire night before.
  • I'm getting excited to see my baby sit up all on her own!  They say we should expect this around 6 months.  I think it will make her interaction with us all the more fun!
  • I need to remember that she will not be a baby forever.  Sometimes I forget that she will be able to communicate with us very soon.  This morning when I dropped her off for daycare I kissed her and said my goodbye to her in the car.  I hope to make this a routine for her, so she knows to expect it (not that I will be able to tell).  I am thinking, though, that soon she will know to expect it and will be able to make me aware of that.  I have to remind myself we won't always be speaking different languages.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Consonant "M"!

Yesterday while strapping Grace into her carseat I heard the sweet sound of "maaamaaa-buh"!  I was startled and looked up to Greg who immediately said he had heard it too.  He said she was looking right at me when she said it!  I quickly shook it off and dismissed it as some new sounds... I don't quite think she was saying "mama" towards me or meant it as my name, but it sure felt good!

Consonants are a new achievement for Grace!  Great job sweetiepie!  (She has all the vowels mastered, that's for sure.  We love waking up to her new vocal chord practices in the morning.)  She turned 20 weeks exactly yesterday. :)

On our way to Grandma & Grandpa's I heard something akin to "mama" again.  Yay!  I don't mind being "Mama-Buh" either though.  If she was trying to call me "Mama Butt", though, I'd prefer just "Mama". ;)

Another thing she mastered this week?  I mean, MASTERED too.  She can finally chew on her teething toys without having a breakdown!  Woohoo!  She actually enjoys them.  Now she will chew on them from Point A to Point B in the car, no crying and without dropping them.  (Okay, sometimes.)  This is great news!  I can actually see my baby enjoy her toys now, and I don't have to give her soft burp cloths to "chew" on instead.

One more thing... this morning was possibly the happiest-baby-morning I have ever had!  I fed her when she woke up and got the usual pause-from-eating smiles, but today she was just so snuggley!  A dream come true!  I laid her on top of me and she just kept looking up with me with the most sweet gaze.  At one point, I looked down at her and was almost startled by how pretty she looked.  Her head was laying sideways on me and she had the most peaceful look on her face.  She looked up at me like I was really something... and it just set my day off to a great start.  It really rocked me to my core, it was such a great feeling.  All I could do was squeal to Greg how we have such a gorgeous daughter! 

Here are some pictures from yesterday... it was a great Sunday filled with homemade chocolate cake (thanks to Grandma Evie) and time catching up with "Aunt" Sarah.

20 weeks!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Love-Receptor Overload

I love being a Mom!  Thank you God for my daughter.  I still get caught up in those unreal moments where I'm stopped dead in my tracks, frozen in the "I can't believe it's true!" thoughts that return over and over again.  Randomly I'll be looking at my sweetiepie like "no big deal" and then all of a sudden the magnitude of the reality sitting there before me just overwhelms me with joy and I'm dumbfounded.  I'm in rapture but I'm braindead at the same time.  My brain must simply reach love-receptor overload.  What on Earth am I talking about?  I'm try to describe how it feels for me sometimes, being a new "Mom".

The other evening I was home with Grace while Greg went to the skatepark to unwind.  I was tired after work, and felt like a boring, lame Mom because I just wanted to lay down.  I took Grace with me to bed and told her I was going to teach her how to sleep in a bed and snuggle.  She's 4 month's old, so she has no idea what I babble about.  I laid her head down on the pillow, and pulled the covers up over us.  She promptly drew her thumb to her mouth and began sucking and humming away.  I felt very understood. :) We laid there for 20 whole minutes, just snuggling and staring at each other.  It was special.

One thought that came to mind that night, that has stuck with me, is just how bewildering it is that God gives us the opportunity to have children - but that's not it.  He allows us to experience it even more than once, if we so choose.  I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around that idea.  This one little vessel of love and pure, amazing creation so perfect... and God's not selfish.  He lets us experience life in others, little ones, every day and everywhere.  I cannot imagine how big my heart would grow to have another baby.  Another child would be such a blessing (one both Greg and I would love to experience if it's to be) but the-most-amazing-exploding-challenging-growing-never-ceasing-other-worldly-supernova-nirvana love - times two???  I wonder!

When We're Apart

Monday was Gracie's first day going to daycare.  I took care of her as a stay-at-home Mom for 4 months, the longest stretch being away from her being about 4 hours.  That was awhile ago (June 11th) on our 1st date night when we went bowling and inhaled 25-cent wings at North County Tavern + Bowl.  99% of the time, if I was "away" from her, we were at most a whole room apart.

I took care of Gracie at home on the weekdays by myself for a total of 3 months, because I had Greg there with me for the first 2 weeks and the last 2 weeks of leave.  I say all this to paint a picture of how attached-at-the-hip we were.  I was feeding her almost every 2 hours for about 3 months... now at 4.5 month old every 3-4 hours.  This includes nighttime (she's still not sleeping through the night but she's goes down so easy now!).  I was always with my baby, and honestly didn't know how to do/think/talk about anything non-Grace related.  To make a long story short, returning to work was HARD.

I raced home after being away from my baby for 10 hours on that first day.  My Mom cared for Gracie my first two weeks back at work, and then this week is the first week in daycare.  Daycare was like the first day of going back to work all over again.  You don't know what to expect... you don't know how your baby will feel in the new environment, around toddlers and in someone else's arms all day... and will she be held enough?  Turns out Grace had a great day.  One of her caregivers told me that she is "such a happy, smiley baby".  Greg said she seemed very happy when he picked her up.  She sang in the car the whole way home (her new thing... so cute dangit!).  Now she sings on the way to and from daycare each day.

Monday afternoon, when I walked through the door after work and greeted Grace in Daddy's arms, I was blessed with one of the best feelings a Mom can have.  An experience that you go, OK, that was it!  A "first", and a definite one.  Grace put out her arms for me... and I had one of the HIGHEST moments of my life.  Who needs a drug when you have Baby Love?  Haha, I kid!  Anytime I need a "hit" she's there to lift me up with her generous giggles or a song ("aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!").  The sweetest voice my ears have ever heard, the softest, most angelic face my eyes have ever beheld, and to hear her name is to feel my heart burst -- Grace.

Yesterday was Day 14 of being back at work.  It was honestly the first day that it physically hurt me to be away from my daughter.  I looked at her picture, and it made me so sad to be staring at her on a screen, at one moment captured in time, rather than seeing/hearing/feeling/breathing her in real-time.  It's hard being a working mother.  I pray it's not like this forever.  I'm thankful, though, that Greg and I are able to both have jobs, and that we have found people we can trust to watch and love our daughter for a time.  Also thankful that Greg can take leave and be home with her in the afternoons all the way until November.  See that?  Counting my blessings. :)

Vintage image courtesy