A Bad Case of Jealousy

I will start with the requisite disclaimer: I really like my life. I have a great husband, a happy baby, a sweet dog, a cozy home and a good job. I am undeniably one lucky lady. But…sometimes I get a case of overwhelming jealousy.

Over the last couple weeks friends near and far have gotten new jobs, visited old friends, explored far away lands, and so on. And I feel a little…stuck. Neither babies nor corporate jobs lend themselves to lifestyles of travel. Every tiny thing in baby life is new and yet each day is mired in repetition and routine. Every day Haines shows us a little bit more of what he is capable of. He gets more food in his mouth. He imitates and repeats our actions. He stands on his own two feet a few seconds longer, a tiny balancing person.

IMG_4403

Each little thing he does makes my whole body feel lighter. I actually can feel the physical sensation of joy filling me up. It’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And yet… it doesn’t negate the feelings of jealousy. I still am at a point where I am:

  • Figuring out how to make our routine fit my needs too. Every morning we try to find that perfect mix of play and get shit done. Each evening we try to unwind while keeping Haines entertained and hopefully giving Clara some attention too. When we break away from our routine for some social occasion it’s worth it but we often pay a price. Weekends are more fun now that Haines is more interactive, but still each day follows a fairly strict schedule. We wake up at the same time bright and early and follow the most important rule: fit nap time in whenever possible. When I can get a few minutes of Haines playing by himself or napping I work in vacuuming, baby food making, writing, bathroom cleaning and other things that aren’t particularly exciting. Still they’re essential for mental health.
  • Learning how to incorporate adventure into our lives. We don’t have the funds or the time to plan a European trip but we are finally starting to travel with baby HEB. We’ve visited all our parents (minus one that lives overseas) and have a trip to Charlottesville in the works next month. We’re even going to take our first overnight trip sans baby which is nerve wracking but incredibly exciting. When I feel downtrodden I don’t venture out as much but I know to stay upbeat I need long walks outside on the beach or in the park and so forth. I’m working on making outdoor, physically active time a required part of the weekend.
  • Reevaluating my career. This is easy to do being a new mom back at work. I have struggled over the last 6 months to feel confident in my abilities as a professional. When you are sleep deprived and feeling completely blinded in your home life, it spills over into your work life. Still even when I am feeling confident as a contributing member of my workplace, that often means I feel as though I’m taking away from my time or my focus at home. I don’t plan to leave my job or stop working but still I find myself changing the way I think about work and how it adds value…or doesn’t… to my life as well as I add value to my work.

One of my friends recently learned she’s pregnant and while she’s over the moon elated she also expressed feelings of apprehension, fear and general “what have I gotten myself into”. Everyone gets this idea that you can’t be both grateful and scared, happy and doubtful all at the same time, but every day I’ve experienced so far since becoming a parent is somehow a mix of total elation, frustration and a little jealousy.

IMG_4422

Yesterday Haines was asleep when I picked up from daycare and laid his head on my shoulder as we walked to the car. I could relive that one simple moment all day, with his soft chubby cheek on my shoulder, his sweet baby smell right next to me, his body normally wiggling, finally quiet. So I may, from time to time, mourn freedoms I used to have but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

IMG_4434

Advertisements

Postpartum Baby Fever

Somewhere around 6 months postpartum baby fever hit me. I felt weirdly intense about my friends’ new babies and pregnancies. I followed another million mom Instagram accounts. I started to think about Haines as my first baby rather than just my baby. I sized up our guest bedroom for bunk beds. WTF.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve never had baby fever before. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved babies. I love their tiny features and wispy hair and baby smell. I like babies that look like old men (90%) and ones with outrageous fat rolls (sadly, not mine). I have never not wanted to hold any baby I’ve encountered, but I’ve pretty much always been on the fence about actually birthing one. So, when I was struck down with baby fever after recently learning what it was like to birth a baby (without pain medication no less), it was particularly shocking to me.

I started to think about all the new baby things we would need for a second baby, as if we actually needed them. Two babies in cloth diapers- was it possible? As if we actually had another baby on the way. I asked all my coworkers about their children’s age gaps. Planned/not planned? Too far apart or so close together it makes you want to jump off a cliff?

Finally, over one of these conversations I fully fessed up on my baby fever status. My coworker said, “Oh, of course you have baby fever! You were pregnant and then you had a baby and all these things are happening. It’s all so exciting but then it’s just stops. Everything becomes normal.”

At first I thought this was insane. My life isn’t normal. There is a baby here! I have become a parent! He keeps teething and getting bigger and now he crawls at an alarming speed. How is that possible?! The last 18 months (pregnancy + baby) have been a huge whirlwind.

But, I guess this is my new normal. I am a parent…of a baby…who will become a child.

 Unknown Adventure

Pregnancy is so incredibly exciting. Even when it is agony, it is exciting. There is this unknown adventure growing inside you. It is easy to spend much of your time in disbelief that your body is capable of this. No really, this is how babies are made.

At the same time, everyone is talking to you about the baby, the belly, the future. This can be the most annoying thing ever, especially if you do not like to be the center of attention, but it also adds to the excitement. Either way, the dynamic has shifted. There is always something to talk about- you. This is handy because while you’re pregnant your world feels especially small. It’s hard to move your brain past the excitement but also the practical aspects of a new person. So, how exactly is this going to work? Today we are two people, but tomorrow we are three?

IMG_2400

Kindness

Most of the time people are also extra generous and kind to pregnant women and new parents. They stand up so you can have their seat. Your friends stock LaCroix at their house so you can have something to drink. When you birth that tiny person they even bring you food so you don’t starve to death. You are in fact so tired you would probably starve if someone didn’t just straight up hand you food.

But then these things start to come to an end. You start to put adult beverages back in your life and eventually the meal train stops. You also just start to adjust and your baby (hopefully) stops torturing you with needing to eat every 25 seconds. Eventually everyone sleeps and you’re able to go to the grocery store and buy snacks that you can eat one-handed. (Even if your baby isn’t feeding, he’s still most likely on your body in some way.)

img_0284

Some people even come from other countries to meet your baby.

Baby Steps

Everything is a total novelty. Every day someone asks me how Haines is and I wish I could explain the new thing he has learned that week but unless you are where I am, it doesn’t mean much. I could tell you that he has started jabbing the air in little punches when he is excited which is adorable but also dangerous because he also sometimes catches himself in the face. I could tell you that this weekend he started standing by himself for several seconds in a row which is a huge step for him.  I could talk about how he’s able to get way more food in his mouth when he feeds himself at dinner time but let’s be honest, last week he was getting like every 8th pea in so there was a lot of room for improvement. It’s baby stuff. Unless your baby has also just learned to eat peas with his or her tiny fists, it’s just not that exciting to you. That’s okay, though. I want you to be more interesting than that, too. (I’m working towards it.)

IMG_4346

#2

I’m not trying to say that people who have babies back to back just want to keep all the baby excitement in their lives going. People want their kids to be close in age. People want to knock out all their sleepless months in one stretch. I get that! But if you have recently had a baby and been struck down with baby fever (severity may vary) there is a chance that you are also in the same spot as me.

There is a chance that you are also caught up in a whirlwind  of everything new and everything cute. Realizing that for me was what finally freed up my mind from bunk beds and new baby names. Now I’m just enjoying a baby who will be 9 months next week and I have the space to figure out what might be the right time if and when that baby needs to become a big sibling.

IMG_4307

Eight Months Old: Babies Grow Up

Haines turned eight months this week. Eight months. Eight months! This feels like the most incredible shock to me. How has he been in our lives for eight whole months?

Eight months is a baby that wants to get into everything. He’s crawling and pulling up on everything. Stand up with him and he’s walking a few wobbly, happy steps at a time with hands tightly grasping on for help. Each move forward is a little dance- the bouncing of feet and a swivel of the hips.

IMG_4192

Eight months is listening to non-stop babbling and laughter, punctuated by inconsolable wailing. It is teething and a faucet of drool that only stops for spit up. His spit up has reached new heights of grossness as it now comes with food and not just milk.

Eight months is watching the most adorable strawberry blonde tufts of hair peek from behind boxes and toys. The hair isn’t hurrying to grow in but his cradle cap makes it look like more.

Eight months means we finally have a night time sleep schedule with a solid ten hours of uninterrupted baby sleep. It doesn’t mean we have a nap schedule. Sometimes it means bouncing a baby for the whole afternoon while he whimpers. Sometimes it means driving around the lake for an hour. It is still being shockingly tired.

Eight months is less about mom and baby and more about family. There are still struggles to shift responsibilities from one parent to another but mostly, often, it feels good. Mostly it feels like we are partners and not only that, but that we have space for one another again.

IMG_4109

Eight months is a baby whose face is full of love. He watches his dad move around the house with total admiration and fascination. If I smile at him his eyes are so full of light and joy. Do we all start out like this, so in love with the world?

Eight months is having a small sense of routine and how things are supposed to go. There are predictable cries, predictable times of the day and things that just make sense. He’s asking for milk. It’s time for a nap. That whimper means he’s going to start wailing soon. It’s getting to know him.

IMG_4215

Eight months makes it harder to say goodbye in the morning when he’s so playful and interactive. I’m still glad to be at work and to have this outlet but I thought it would get easier to leave him in the morning. It doesn’t.

Eight months means my brain is still foggy but the visibility has improved. I see now how quickly this time passes. I can see now that I’ll get my brain back one day and in the meantime I’m doing fine with what I’ve got.

IMG_4220

My living room at the time of this post. 100% embarrassing- don’t care. 

Eight months is blogging while I hold a sleeping baby with a double ear infection. It is stressing all week about my workload until he’s sent home from daycare and now? Totally letting go. It’s not that important.

IMG_4237

 

Parenting and the Art of Conversation

Or How I’ve Become Incredibly Boring

I have nothing to say. Well, not exactly. It’s more like I can’t remember what I have to say. Like, during the week I’ll think “Oh, isn’t that interesting/funny. I’ll have to ask so and so about it when I see them this weekend.” Once I finally get to hang out with whoever, I can barely remember anything about them, let alone the cool thing I wanted to share. It’s more like, “Think of something to say. Um, I think they have a job. Just ask them about their job.” 

I have all kinds of thoughts. I read articles and blogs daily. I watch films and documentaries. Most of the books I read are worth talking about (not all, but we don’t have to discuss my secret love of Charlaine Harris’ novels). All the same if you were to ask me what I’ve read or seen recently I’d just black out. Um, Barnyard Dance? Goodnight Moon? I’m sure there was another book too…

I’ve blogged before about losing my mind and I had tried naively to attribute that to a social media addiction but taking Facebook off my phone really hasn’t helped. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m not on my phone all the time (honestly I don’t know what everyone’s doing on their phones- I run out of things to look at pretty quickly). I’m just tired. Haines even sleeps through the night most of the time but I’m still ready for bed at 9. I thought everything would turn around once he started sleeping decent hours, but it’s almost like I’m making up for the sleep I lost.

So if I run into you somewhere and stare at you blankly don’t be offended and please don’t write me off. I’m in here somewhere trying to remember something remotely interesting to tell you.

IMG_4183

Um, I like tea. It’s caffeinated right? I know I like caffeine.

IMG_4169

Do you want to talk about this kid? This is easier for me. 

IMG_4186

July: A Cure for What Ails You

Um, I don’t know if you’ve realized yet but July is basically over. And since the seasons still revolve around school in my mind, this means that summer is on its way out. (Although not in any way related to temperature. It’s hot and humid here!)

Baby days are very strange. Each day passes pretty slowly but the weeks just fly by. My baby is 7 1/2 months old. That’s insane! It really just seems impossible to me.

July was a bit of a rollercoaster. It started off drowning in mom guilt (mom guilt is to be defined as totally unnecessarily guilt having to do with parenting) but after some personal time it really evened out. It felt like the medicine I didn’t know I needed.

A Dose of Time Off

For weeks I had been nervously anticipating a 5 day work trip to Texas. As time got closer the more it became apparent that I really needed this time away. The week before we switched Haines to formula with bed time and wake up nursing sessions only. It was incredibly emotional and stressful for me, but traveling with minimal pumping was so much more enjoyable. I was sad to give up breastfeeding but this was a huge silver lining.

Over the past few months I’ve felt myself get more and more uptight. While I’m relaxed in many areas of baby life, the introduction of solid foods, baby sleeping in his own room and becoming mobile really threw me for a loop. Getting to eat fantastic food, drink good beer and hang out with awesome Austinites was really a total reset for me. I came back home with a fresh mindset and a whole lot more patience.

A Dose of Using My Brain

My time away and fresh mindset has allowed for a lot more reading! This July I read We Should All Be Feminists, Americanah, and Hunger. I’m working on A Manual for Cleaning Women and getting ready to start All the Lives I Want. I feel like a person with a brain that works! Woo hoo!

IMG_4089

A Dose of Love & Marriage

No one really ever talks about how a baby affects their relationship. It’s always just love and marriage and baby makes three. Well, sure all of that but it’s so much more. I’m not sure if I have all the words for it yet. It’s been challenging. I thought Tyler and I would be going through the same experience but we weren’t. Childbirth felt both traumatic and empowering. The changes in my hormones made me feel depleted emotionally and physically. Maternity leave was lonely. Those experiences were all me. Sure, Tyler was affected by them but he didn’t go through them. We came into each phase from completely different entry points and left with very different perspectives.

Somewhere around the 7 month mark there has been a shift. I can surely attribute part of that to sleeping more but it’s also communicating more. Our baby is happy and learning new things every day. We feel more like best friends and partners than we ever have.

IMG_4032

A Dose of Slowing Down

The weekend I got back from Texas I did nothing. Nothing but lay on the floor with a baby who is learning to crawl. Nothing but make silly noises and sing made-up songs to a tiny guy who thinks I’m very funny. I didn’t go to grocery store or clean the bathroom or do laundry or anything else on the long list of the things that needed to be done. I didn’t think for a moment about doing otherwise. It was the best.

Although work often makes me overwhelmed and anxious, I’m trying to keep this attitude while I’m at home. This time with Haines is important and although sometimes I feel like I should doing other things, this isn’t time I can get back. So I’ll just be over here blowing raspberries and trying to worry a little bit less.

IMG_4074

Yes, that is a creepy glowing owl bath toy. He’s way less weird in person. 

Switching to Formula: Mom Survival Tips

I follow a lot of moms on Instagram. I follow a lot of moms who breastfeed and make their own baby food and use cloth diapers and plan on homeschooling or any number of other demanding, admirable things. All of these inspire me and motivate me to provide the things I hope to for Haines. I can breastfeed, puree those carrots, cloth diaper and teach my baby all kinds of things. And go to work? (And by work I mean on someone else’s schedule.) Well, shit.

Pumping at work was never fun but started out really well. I was pumping more than I needed each day. Slowly things changed. It went from just inconvenient to downright difficult with meetings pushing my pump time or me just getting busy, forgetting or putting it off. Several times I’ve had to travel during the day and pumped either in my car or in a bathroom stall just enough to get through the day and be comfortable. Over time it’s thrown off my production and for several weeks I wasn’t able to produce enough for the next day despite increasing the number of times I pumped. Each day we had to dip into our freezer stash to have enough milk. It was depressing to watch my small stash disappear.

IMG_3558

I used to be able to fill this bottle. Then I got lucky if I could fill half.

At least twice a day I was stressing out watching my pump bottles stay mostly empty. So I upped my pumping to 5 times a day but still wasn’t making enough. I had really wanted to use breastmilk exclusively for Haines’ first year but the stress was taking over. It seems ridiculous but breastfeeding became all I could think about. Tyler, not surprisingly, was incredibly supportive of making whatever changes I needed. Right before he turned 7 months we introduced formula.

IMG_3993

Happy 7 months baby!

There was no immediate relief for my anxiety. Just choosing a formula made me feel insane! Organic or non-GMO, sweetened with lactose or something else, designed for less spit-up or to help with fussiness? Good lord. Eventually I just chose the one that seemed the most organic and hippie. This brought me some relief. The first few days were really hard. The best way to sum it up is I spent about 5 days crying. I didn’t want to give up nursing but with my first work trip looming, it felt like the best choice for everyone. Haines adjusted fairly well although he fought the first couple bottles and his stomach took a couple days to get on board. We ended up mixing his formula with breastmilk to help with the flavor and his digestion. We also cut out the little bit of rice cereal we were giving him (formula and rice cereal can mean constipation, just FYI).

We’re about three weeks into formula and feeling better about it. I’m still nursing before bed and for the first feeding of the day. Although it’s nice to still provide breastmilk for his health, it really comes down to that I wasn’t ready to give up nursing. I love the way it calms him when nothing else will. I love the comfort it brings him when he’s teething or upset. I love having that card up my sleeve and I love that it’s my card. No one else can do it.

IMG_3956

A lot of breastfeeding isn’t as sweet as I thought it might be. He scratches my face or pulls on my nipple often. Then sometimes it’s just hand holding and everything is just right.

 The cost of formula doesn’t help. It’s something I really wanted to avoid. It’s expensive and babies drink a lot. We’ve tried two brands so far with the Costco brand lined up to try next. Honest Baby and Whole Earth’s Organic have gone over well. The Costco brand is non-GMO and only sweetened with lactose so even though it’s not organic, I think I won’t feel terrible giving it to my baby. (Mom guilt to the extreme over here, y’all.)

Many people have commented on how relaxed I am with Haines. I pass him off to anyone who will hold him. I don’t tell people how to hold him or what he prefers and I don’t worry when I find him across the room with a baby-loving person I don’t know. But life in public isn’t life in private. I feel more uptight, more anxious than I ever have before. My mom hawk eyes have grown in. I worry about every bump and scratch even though I pretend I don’t. The switch to formula brought this out in me to the max.

But I’ve finally relaxed about our new feeding arrangement and I’m enjoying it. I love being able to hand off feeding to someone else when I’m in the middle of something else- like sleeping! Unfortunately it also means I’ve moved on to a new focus for my nerves. This week- baby swim lessons. (They’re actually really adorable! More on this later.)

Tips for switching to formula:

(I am not an expert. These tips are not for your baby, they’re for you. Chances are your baby is fine.) 

  • Buy a formula that is too expensive. Make sure it says all the right things on the label. This will make you feel less guilty about the switch.
  • Now go to Costco or Walmart or whatever and get the formula you can afford. Use that one next.
  • Start with a 75% breastmilk, 25% formula mixture once or twice a day. Increase the formula each day as you start freaking out less.
  • If you have some frozen breastmilk you can utilize save it to use at bedtime when it might be most comforting to baby.
  • Drink a glass of wine when feeding baby formula. Realize that feeding baby formula means that you can drink alcohol with less anxiety about it.
  • If you’re really freaking out, eliminate the bed time and morning feeds last. These are the sweetest ones and the hardest to give up (in my opinion).
  • Take a break and realize how nice it is that your boobs no longer hurt when you’re away from baby. (This is several days into your transition.)
IMG_3976

This is a baby on formula. He’s clearly pretty upset about it. 

Okay, you’ve done it. You’re onto formula now. Don’t worry, you’re only a few days away from your next big concern. Damn you diaper rash/mosquito bite/developmental cues/teething/sleep patterns!

5 Ways to Survive Without Sleep (AKA Being a New Parent)

Oh cruel, elusive sleep. I miss you so. In all my non-parenting years you had so rarely failed me. Sure, the occasional illness or stressful time kept me awake but generally we were faithful friends. I was kind to you, you were kind to me.

I didn’t understand how good I had it. A friend once called pregnancy the empathy gauntlet. You get a little taste at how difficult it can be when you don’t fit in spaces, when your body doesn’t feel like yours, when you suffer from low blood sugar, when you have dietary restrictions and so forth. And then there’s the insomnia. You’re incredibly tired but you can’t get comfortable, can’t stop feeling anxious, can’t sleep.

And then the baby is born. Now you could totally sleep if you were only given the opportunity. Nope!

Haines was sleeping 8 hours at 10 weeks (sometimes) so we thought we were golden. We thought we were rockstar parents. It turns out we were just naive. Since I returned to work he’s slept through the night only a handful of times. Sometimes I think he knows that I’m about to break down and he gives me an extra hour. Sometimes he seems a little less aware. When I was on maternity leave, not sleeping sucked but it was manageable. Tyler always made an effort to give me a break and often got up with Haines when he inevitably woke up at 4 or 5 so I could sleep an extra couple of hours. Now that we both work those days are few and far between.

I realize that babies often don’t sleep through the night. I knew that going into this whole “having a baby” thing but I just didn’t get it. Like childbirth, breastfeeding or pregnancy in general I knew what it meant in theory but not in practice. With Haines’ arrival all of the sudden I realized that new parents (or not so new parents) all over the world were in this situation. They were raising children, going to work, taking care of their home and not sleeping through the night. It blew my mind. That might sound crazy to you but it’s a whole new world when you’re suffering through a day of work after a night in new baby hell and you realize this is just the norm.

IMG_3303

Mornings are hard.

Truly it was a revelation. And then the people on the news are saying all these crazy things like don’t drive if you’re tired. Like they said if you miss an hour you could be in danger. Miss an hour?? What if you have a baby? Then you’re always tired.  You always miss an hour! How am I supposed to go to work? (Side note: obviously there’s a difference between being baby tired and being truly sleepy while driving which is really unsafe.)

The Sunrise Series

Now we’re in the beginning stages of testing “cry it out”. Everyone told me you’ll know when you’re ready to sleep train. The moment I felt less responsive to Haines’ crying at night, I knew I was ready. I was tired enough to listen to him tough it out. We’re on day 2 and we’ve seen some minor improvement. In the meantime I’m trying these survival techniques:

  1. Consume absurd amounts of caffeine: I now prefer to drink black tea several times ado. I’m also being a little more forgiving with my soda consumption. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
  2. Limit my alcohol intake: I don’t drink as regularly or as much as I did pre-baby life due to breastfeeding and the lack of sleep but I’m trying to take it down a notch again. It makes me too sleepy and takes away from the quality sleep I am able to get from time to time. It’s not my first choice but I surely it’s only temporary. (PLEASE!)
  3. Make time for exercise: This is significantly easier said than done. I normally work out on my lunch break but lately my lunch break has been spent working. This negatively affects how much energy I have in the afternoon but also my attitude. Being able to be somewhat positive is directly tied into exercise for me.
  4. Lowering the expectations: Sometimes I go to bed at eight. Sometimes I don’t do any dishes. Sometimes I barely remember to brush my hair before work. We all do what we can.
  5. Ask for help: Tap your spouse for a shift. Call a relative. Get a babysitter. At some point it’s about survival. Take a nap. I got to take a couple naps in Florida and my mom and sister took Haines for each night in Oklahoma. It was magical. I was like a whole new person for a couple days.

I’m sure you all have golden children who starting sleeping through the night at 2 weeks and have never stopped but I’ll be over here lying on the floor trying to convince my baby to take a nap. You’re supposed to model appropriate behaviors right? I’m all over it.

IMG_3853

This is a rare sighting of a baby napping in the wild. Capture the moment- it may never happen again!