Here There and Everywhere

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Alex will be 6 months (!) on Saturday.

Recently I was at Target (by MYSELF in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY) and breezed through the newborn isle, chock full of tiny onesies and muslin swaddles and little blankies and I thought, “I don’t need anything here.” Somehow right now my Instagram feed has become more crowded with little sweet snoozing newborn babies and I can still sort of remember what Alex’s little body felt like in my arms when he was just a potato.

I’m eagerly awaiting a future where he can toddle around and I can read a story to him and he understands, instead of just reaching for the book and trying to chew on it but actually just poking himself in the eye. I’m excited to bring him to the cabin, and celebrate his first birthday, and take him to cut down our Christmas tree (for real this time).

And I want right now to just stay right now for a little bit.

040816-27I’m constantly in a state of wanting things to move along, while wishing they could stay the same. Our first week, I remember saying to Alan “I want him to stay this size forever and ever.” He smelled sooooo good, and he was so soft and warm. He wasn’t wobbling around in my arms and headbutting me in the mouth yet. But also right now I’d LOVE him to stay him the same. He sits on the floor, content to grab things and look at the cat, and he smiles and coos at me when I get his attention.

I want him to stay napping even though I miss playing with him at the same time.

I’m exhausted and want him to get to the stage where his napping is just a little more regular, more predictable. I’m excited and nervous at the same time to start solids, or to stop using the infant car seat, because it’ll just be one more sign that this baby’s growth is a runaway freight train that I can’t stop. I’m so paralyzed by sentimentality that I wonder if the rest of my life I’m doomed to mark every new milestone simultaneously with mourning and elation. I want to be in all these places at once, and I can’t be, and that’s a difficult thing to accept.

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It’s been a huge struggle, these first six months, and for better or worse, I’ve felt every conceivable emotion. The lows are so low and the highs are sky-high. But I’m grateful to feel. Your mind and body go through the most unimaginable changes when you have a baby and while I’ve had serious reservations, I feel like I would still absolutely have like, 10 more babies.

But none of them will be Alexander Richard Royce. Happy Half Birthday, sweet babe.

Gift Guide for Moms

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Mother’s Day is approaching! It’ll be my first one and that is honestly so bizarre for me. Mother’s Day. I’ll admit, I don’t really think of myself as ‘mother.’ I guess I prefer Mama for now (it’s folksy!).

Anyway.

I myself haven’t always been the best daughter when it comes to gifting on Mother’s Day. Sometimes I plan ahead, make a visit, buy flowers and a card, other years it’s kinda “Oh-yeah-it’s-today-I-better-do-something-*pulls at collar*”. Rest assured, I’m prepared this year. Hoping you are too, but if you’re not, here are a few items I think most women would appreciate.MOMS

Walnut Print Stand (don’t forget the prints!)  |   A lovely card  |  Rosemary Scented Tattoo
Mama Bear t-shirt  |  Simple Fare Cookbook  |  Gem Earrings
Marble Concrete Bowl  |  Initial Necklace  |  Live-edge Walnut Serving Board

And if all else fails, there’s always fresh flowers, treating her to brunch, giving her your HBO Go password, orrrr a donation in her name to Planned Parenthoodbecause she raised you right. ◾️

(Photo © me, from the botanical gardens in Christchurch, NZ)

Lately

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Things are ticking along in our household… Alan undertook the GREAT task of building raised beds so I could fulfill my goal of having a garden this year. I’ll dedicate a blog in the future to that, but it’s been pretty cool to get to know how that process works (because I had NO IDEA) and it’ll be a lot of work but it’ll be so rewarding.

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Alex remains a happy little boy. And I feel like a broken record while talking about his poor sleep habits. I’m constantly keeping myself in check, telling myself that our problems could be worse and we could have a baby who sleeps like 4 hours a day total and also is low on the height and weight chart and a bunch of other stuff, but like, STOP IT. Your problems are not invalid because they’re different than other peoples’ problems. I still need sleep just like everyone else, and 4-5 hours of sleep every night for 6 months is – not normal or healthy -. Unfortunately, this is just my reality for the foreseeable future, so I might as well cope as best as I can.

 

041317-39041317-40041317-41Now that Alex can sit up on his own and generally keep himself entertained for at least 20 minutes, I have more little moments during the day where I don’t feel as guilty for just zoning out on the couch, browsing my phone. Sometimes I turn on the TV and -GASP- sometimes I let him watch. Motherhood is exhausting, and on top of judgment from others (whether real or imagined), nothing competes with the judgment we give ourselves, and that sucks. Mothering a baby is one thing, but I think we also need to Mother ourselves.

💞

Getting Better all the Time.

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I’d planned to make this post about how hard this whole parenting slog is.

But, duh, we all know that. All parents know it even more. Taking care of a baby is war. It’s the hardest most physically and mentally demanding kind of work there is. There have been times where I’ve thought there’s no way I’m going to put myself through this again. The lows I experience are super low. But there are some high high highs too. Like, every time I look at this face.

What a face.

When Alex sees me, 9/10 times he smiles this big smile. Sometimes he coos. Sometimes he kicks his little legs. Having the love and trust of this little person and being able to see it so plainly displayed is so rewarding. He doesn’t know how to filter himself or hide his emotions, and isn’t there something so pure and gentle about that?

Today he is five months old. Early on everyone says “it gets better.” But we’ve been experiencing sleep regression, early teething symptoms, a long and persistent cold… It gets rough. Some times I feel like it’s harder now than it was in the beginning. But we’ve had good patches before, and I know there are so many more ahead of me. Would I really make myself miss out on the joy (and there is so much joy) of another baby because of a few (and then some) bad nights?

Not to discount my own struggles, of which there are a lot, but more and more Alex shows us what kind of little person he is. He’s so happy, and strong, and smart. If the payoff for getting to know this guy is some hard nights where Alan and I are switching off rocking and feeding for three hours, well, I’ll take it.

Because when I see this boy my face nearly splits open.

One month down.

alex-2I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write this. Currently I’m sitting in my office, still in the clothes I slept in, my t-shirt soaked in breastmilk. Alex is sleeping (!) in his crib, and I’ve got the video monitor next to my computer. I’m on tenterhooks, almost constantly. Awaiting a peep or a cry. Luckily, for the time being, he seems to be out.

So I want to talk about what the past month has been like.

First of all, parenthood takes an enormous about of courage. I don’t mean to build myself up too much, but it’s true. You sort of understand before you become a parent that your life is going to change in a gargantuan, unknowable way, but there have been several times since Alexander was born that I’ve thought My God, what have I done? You don’t really think about how little you’ll really sleep, and there is no end in sight on the sleeplessness that occurs. I often contemplate that it’ll be years and years before I can get a decent night’s sleep again.

Because even though he generally will sleep all night (6-7 hours usually), I never achieve a deep sleep, because I’m on alert; always ready. When I’m feeding him at night or early in the morning, I just think as soon as this is over I can close my eyes again. Oh how sweet those little vacations in my brain are.

But there are more serious observations I’ve made, that I wanted to share with you (and parents will probably already know this).

Everything about prenatal and postpartum care in America seems designed for privileged women. In nearly every country in the world, there is state-subsidized maternity leave. In the more enlightened countries in Scandinavia, there is mandatory year-long leave for mothers and fathers. Alan got three weeks off from work, and that was pooling together the last of his PTO and sick time and some of it was unpaid. The amount of stuff I couldn’t do for myself in those first few weeks meant that having him there was a huge lifesaver. It was too painful to sit in the car so I couldn’t drive myself anywhere. I could barely walk 30 feet without peeing myself a little. They recommend taking four baths a day. Without Alan going to the store or running errands or getting me everything I needed for those 3 weeks I don’t know how I would’ve gotten by. The burden of being the only food supply for a tiny helpless infant was already so great and at times unbearable. There have been many tears out of frustration and feelings of futility when feedings became hard or long or Alex was clearly hungry but being uncooperative. Painful latching, feedings bleeding into each other… Everything about this is difficult and the fact that there isn’t more support for women in these early days is criminal.

We also got the hospital bill recently. Without health insurance, we would’ve been looking at a year’s worth of private college tuition. alex-4

Alex is a difficult baby. He’s temperamental and finicky. What works to get him to sleep one night (like mimicking his crying, which confused and hypnotized him immediately and he conked out), won’t necessarily work the next. I’m actually shocked he’s sleeping right now. I didn’t even have to put him in the car seat or his bear suit! Everything about him is unpredictable. People ask me questions all the time: is he hungry? he seems hungry. does he need a nap? is he too cold? God, I DON’T KNOW. I barely know this little guy. Most people don’t begin intimate lifelong relationships with people the first day they meet and move in with them and suck on their boobs for sustenance.

Babies are hard. Did that need to be said?

BUT. Alex is also wonderful and beautiful and he’s cuddly and he smells good. He’s got the cutest little face with no eyebrows and I even don’t mind changing his diapers. Even though I think about how I won’t be getting sleep for the next 5 or 6 years, I also think about what he’ll look like in 3 months, or 1 year, or when he’s running around on his own, with his own interests and personality. I get to raise him. I get to share with him all the traditions I love — like cutting down our own Christmas tree and listening to Charlie Brown, or going to the cabin every summer! Even when he’s being difficult, I can still somehow find a way to giggle at the way he searches for food like a little rabid wolf, or his sweet little cries (which sound like he’s trying to say his dad’s name).

So yeah, holy hell, the first month is now behind us, and I have no delusions that things are about to get easier. Maybe they’ll get better in some departments, but there will be new departments introduced every day. But, we got through the first month. I’m going to celebrate. Maybe by loading Alex in his car seat and taking him to the Starbucks drive thru for a SCM for me. alex-1

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