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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Where is the Me in Motherhood?

 

These past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. Work has picked up quite a bit which has left me working late and skipping my lunch time workouts. A year or so ago I would have found this mildly annoying but this is a new era. This is the era of baby. Working late means I can’t spend much time with HEB in the evening who goes to bed at 8. Skipping workouts at lunch almost entirely eliminates exercise from my life since putting HEB in the stroller equals sleep. No evening runs/walks for me.

It’s more than that though. There’s the sleep deprivation for sure as the wee babe has taken to sleeping mostly through the night only once or twice a week (yes, sleep training is soon to come), but that’s not it either. It’s me time. I feel selfish just saying it but that’s what it comes down to. That’s where my daily struggle lies. I miss my time. I came into parenting with the misconception that all babies nap. I knew I’d feel tied down at times but then I thought that there would be naps and I would blog or sit on the porch alone and feel like a human. Well…. bullshit. There are no naps.

I miss riding my bike to work.

I miss writing this blog.

I miss working in the yard.

I miss staying up late just hanging out by myself.

I miss doing crafts and knitting.

I miss my house being passably clean.

My mother continues to tell me, “This, too, shall pass,” and I know she’s right but I should clarify.  It’s not that I want my old life back. I’m just searching for some balance. Where is that minimum I can use to get by? What parts of me can still be present as I learn to be a mother? What parts are still mine?

After a couple weeks of struggle, today I went for a run walk (where there was a moment of running). I went up a path I’ve never gone before. I was in the sunshine. I listened to music. I didn’t worry about anyone else. It was only 30 minutes but it was glorious. Now I’m off work early and sipping a beer. I’m almost a person again.

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Still there is so much guilt in writing this. I pull up my photos to look for one for this post and I see a pictures of HEB on my recently passed birthday and mother’s day. He is the best baby! Those were wonderful days! And yet here I am still feeling the way I do. There are many circumstances that make motherhood way more difficult and I have none of those. My point is though that this is all hard even when everything goes your way. My hope is that if someone else is feeling terrible about feeling terrible, if someone else is not sure who they are now that they’re responsible for another, that you know I’m right there with you.

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Okay, he sometimes sleeps, but only for about 10 minutes at a time. 

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Pretty much my favorite photo ever. 

 

Heartstrings

Being a mother is exactly as I thought it would be and totally different all at once. I know I’ve just gotten started on this path but it’s already a whirlwind. I expected to love my baby in ways I couldn’t understand. I expected to feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived. I even expected that I would alternative between hate and love for parenting.

All those things are true and yet I really had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t understand the physical connection I would have to Haines. A friend asked me to describe what it was like to love him and it was so difficult to articulate. I know everything a person can know about him but he’s still a total mystery. I’m tuned in to his babbles and kicks but I don’t always know what he wants or why he’s upset. I don’t have a clue who he is going to be. He could grow up to be a serial killer and yet I just love him. It truly feels like a string has been tied from my heart to his and whenever I think of him I feel the tug. Whenever he cries it tugs. Whenever he laughs it fills up and explodes with happiness.

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Explosion.

The physical connection is more than that. Do you remember making fun of your parent when the car stopped suddenly and they put their arm out in front of you? You laughed because in a real accident their arm wasn’t going to stop you from being thrown forward. You thought it was a silly gesture, but it wasn’t a gesture at all. It was instinct. It’s my hands jumping to protect Haines from his own wobbly head even when he’s secure in his seat. It’s my body being thrown into motion at the sound of his cry. It’s never turned off. If I can hear him my body is alert, ready to go.

This feeling of being ready to spring into action is something I’ve repeatedly described as feeling “on”. It may be the thing I didn’t understand the most before he was born. I knew my hearing would become attuned to all his little noises and I’d heard of leaking breastmilk when the baby was in distress but I didn’t understand… the absence of an off switch.

Have you ever been to a networking event or a conference where you’re expected to mingle with people you don’t know? I don’t excel at this. I plaster a smile on my face, introduce myself and shake some hands but the anxiety of having to talk to strangers never leaves me. I hate it. When the event is finally over, my shoulders gradually draw down away from my ears and I can relax. The exhausting act of being on your best behavior and speaking to others whether you want to or not gives me the same sort of feeling “on”.

Except with a baby relaxing is a learned skill. It doesn’t just happen at bedtime. When Haines was first born and my mother or Tyler would tell me to go take a nap I would lay in the bed and cry. I would cry and cry and imagine they weren’t taking good care of him. My mother and my husband may be the last people on earth that wouldn’t take good care of him. It was insane but I couldn’t turn my off switch. No matter the circumstances, I couldn’t relax.

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Thank goodness this has gotten better or daycare would be a disaster.

 

Maternity Leave: A Welcome Change that I’m Completely Freaking Out About

My maternity leave ends next week. I feel completely and totally torn about it. There are many things I’m looking forward to. They include:

  • Using both hands to eat my food (rather than holding a baby in one arm and dripping a sandwich onto myself with another).
  • Talking to adults on a regular basis. Every day I feel eagerly await Tyler coming home only to have very little to say when he gets home. “What did you do today?” “Um, took a walk. Did some laundry. Changed some diapers. Didn’t lose my mind?” Communicating takes practice.
  • Using my brain! I will have actual work to do. I will have to write emails that make sense, solve problems and advise others.
  • Exercising. We have a gym at work that also offers lunchtime classes. I’ll easily be able to run, take a class or use the workout equipment without cutting into my family time.
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To cuddle or not to cuddle? To cuddle. 

There are also many things I am freaking about.

  • For 40 hours a week our itty, bitty baby is going to be with someone else. Someone who seems very nice but who I don’t actually know. When he fusses will she comfort him? Will she talk or sing to him like I do? Will he get all that needs (which admittedly is very little because he’s an itty, bitty baby)?
  • After 12 weeks of struggling in the absence of any structure, I will be moving back into a fairly rigid environment. Baby must be dropped off by whenever in order to get to work on time and must be picked up by this time in order not to pay a fee. I will have to put on clothes, brush my teeth and generally look appropriate. IN THE MORNING! This seems impossible.
  • What if my brain doesn’t work? I wrote a letter recently that included the sentence “Pregnancy and a newborn kills my smarts.” I didn’t write it to be funny. That’s just the way it came out. Now I’m going to have to write at work? Oh good. This should go well.
  • I truly lucked out being on maternity leave during this particular winter. It was filled with 70F days. We’ve taken many walks and explored a lot of our area. Even though I like my job I don’t look forward to going back to a windowless office that used to be a closet.
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Don’t get me started on all the smiles I will be missing! 

Of course, I was lucky to be able to even take maternity leave as so many mothers can’t. I work for a business that is large enough to have to offer FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and we are able to afford to take the time. At times the lack of income was stressful (then again, I tend to freak out about money all the time) but we were generously helped by our families and friends who brought meals, helped with groceries and generally offered their support. While I wish moms in the US had the options that many other countries have regarding leave, I recognize that the 12 weeks I was able to take, though short, was still a gift.

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Haines and I have been spending these days with a lot of cuddles, long walks and an upcoming visit from his Nana this weekend. I’ve also been making a playlist for the munchkin as I try to improve my bedtime song repertoire. I welcome suggestions if you have any! (I know it needs more ladies. I’m working on it!)