Archive for the ‘ Musings ’ Category

Mixed Emotions About Milestones

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

We discovered this weekend that Vera loves her some Exersaucer. I could just cry.

This second time around, I feel a little differently about milestones than I did the first. On the one hand, I want my little girl to develop and grow and explore the world around her with ever-increasing curiosity and independence. On the other hand, I want to bind her little limbs and keep her in a calm, dark room in the hopes that she’ll stay my cuddly chubby baby forever.

Mostly I want that first part.

Clint brought the Exersaucer out at my request. Vera strained her neck to check it out as soon as it entered the room. She watched intently as Clint cleaned it off for her, and when we lowered her into it, she beamed and gaped in excitement and disbelief. She struggled to hold her body erect, head wobbling unsteadily, testing new neck muscles. She willed her hands toward the nubby-eared giraffe, then the clear bead-filled tumbler, swatting, Zombie-like. She worked that thing like a bartender at happy hour, giving attention where attention was due, then promptly shifting it all to the next in line.

“The days of the bouncy seat on the kitchen counter are coming to an end,” Clint said.

Endings. They piggyback in on all these amazing beginnings.

I’m more acutely aware of it this time around, because I know how things unfold and I know she’s my last. I did feel the same way with Roy, whom I made pinky-swear on video, before he hit his first birthday, that he’d live with me forever and ever.

I know. There’s a chance it will not hold up in court due to his minor status, blah, blah, blah. A mama can try.

But I also wholeheartedly cheered the first rollover, the first Bumbo session, the first unassisted stand, without this undercurrent of loss.

Mostly, I live on the bright side. This new development buys me more hands-free time, gives her more exercise and mental stimulation and means we’ll soon be able to get rid of a few of the thousand or so cumbersome swings, seats and things we have propped around the house to contain her.

I can’t stand those damn swings and seats.

I miss them already.

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Baby’s First Day at Daycare

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The first time I tried to start my daughter in childcare, she was two months old. I cried just dropping off the check.

But I’m a freelance writer, and Corporation Me has no paid maternity leave. Before I had her, I’d determined that two months was what I could manage. It sounded like plenty.

When that two-month mark arrived, everything was in place. I’d cranked my workload back up to full speed. Roy was back in daycare full time, with a provider I love and trust, where Vera could join him.

But the reality of two months old snuggled in my arms; helpless, adorable little Vera Loraine with the easy smile and the chubby thighs and the excited screeches. If only someone would pay me to cuddle her full time. I’d be awesome at that job.

I brushed my tears off as typical. Reminded myself that some people don’t even get two months and that this was the trade-off for my incredible job flexibility, which allows me to work from home, come and go as I please, and take most Fridays off with the kiddos. “You won’t feel ready no matter when you do it,” my friend Konnie consoled. She was right.

I forged ahead. The night before her first day, as Clint put Roy to bed, Vera and I bustled about the house getting her packed—diapers, bottles, pacifiers, extra little onesies and sleepers. I laid out her first-day outfit, a cute little blue polka-dot swing shirt and stretchy pants with pink cherries embroidered on the chest. I nursed her to sleep, then sat down to write out her schedule and preferred soothing techniques, as my provider requested.

Again, tears. They wouldn’t stop. I just didn’t want to tell someone else how to comfort my two-month old. I wanted to comfort my two-month old.

When Clint came downstairs and saw me he said, “Don’t bring her in. We’ll figure it out.” He was right. The tears were excessive enough that I had to pay attention. We would figure it out.

With Roy, this would’ve been near impossible. The boy only napped twice a day for 45 minutes at a time, if that. Vera, on the other hand, is a champ napper (thank you, universe), sleeping four hours at a time with hour/hour-and-a-half periods of wakefulness in between. I managed to keep up with my full workload during these prolific naps, plus evenings and weekends, gobbling her up like a crazy woman during her brief awake times.

Flash forward a month and a half. The house is a complete and total wreck from top to bottom. Non-essential paperwork is accumulating, and likely becoming essential. We are making it work, but at the expense of things like these, which can only be ignored for so long. We are making it work, but just barely.

A month and a half is a long time to a baby. Vera still sleeps well, though less. She’s wonderfully alert and grows more interactive each day. She’s got cheeks that don’t stop, and at three and a half months old, she’s filling out six-month clothes quite nicely. She’s healthy, happy and strong, and an absolute pleasure to hang out with.

Last night, when I packed her bag, I didn’t cry. I didn’t when I typed up her schedule, either. I did when I dropped her off, of course. Who wouldn’t, handing over those tiny onesies, eensy diapers and wee yellow sunhat? The directions, the bottle of milk and then the little baby chubby cheekers, smiling that wide, toothless grin?

I cried all the way to the gym, where I logged my first 5K since she was born. Running always helps me.

We’re starting with a half day. I’m focusing on how lucky I am that my job’s flexible enough that I can ease us both in like this.

I’ll probably look at that photo above, taken over last week’s trip up north, a hundred times before I pick her up at noon. It makes me smile.

So how did the first drop-off day go for you?

 

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Writing About Motherhood

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Funny thing about motherhood—we’re all having totally unique experiences doing the exact same thing. My post about the Time breastfeeding cover earlier today further highlights that often discordant commonality.

It’s a paradox that, to me, illuminates the compulsion many of us feel to read the experiences of other mothers and to get our own experiences down.

If you’re in the latter camp, do I have the book for you. Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers just came out last week. It’s by Kate Hopper, a writer and writing teacher with an MFA in creative writing, who specializes in helping moms write about motherhood. The book addresses various parts of the writing process (chapters include Getting Started, Using Humor as a Tool and Publishing: From Books to Blogs), with exercises and example essays from seasoned writers including Anne Lamott and Catherine Newman. It’s meant to be explored at your own pace; to be dipped in and out of as inspired. Smart, no?

Full disclosure: I agreed to feature Use Your Words because I love the topic and often get asked about it. After doing so, I happened to run into Kate at an event here in the Twin Cities. Turns out our families are rooted to the same small Minnesota town. We gabbed like long-lost cousins, but I have a feeling that’s just how it happens with Kate. Her writing knowledge and accessible nature mingle comfortably in the book.

Check out this realistic pep talk (excerpted):

“My hope is that you will get started on a number of pieces as you work your way through this book, and that when you finish it, you will have enough momentum to keep going. It’s wonderful if you can write a little bit each week, but I don’t believe you need to write every day to be a writer, and as a mother, I know that writing can be difficult to fit into your day. But as you begin this journey as a mother writer, think about when and where you can squeeze writing into your life. Maybe you have one hour every Friday morning. Maybe you have 20 minutes three times a week as you wait to pick up your children from preschool or soccer practice. If you work outside the home, maybe you can go somewhere quiet on your lunch break and write twice a week. Be realistic about planning your writing time and be flexible. If you miss a day or a week, don’t worry; there’s always tomorrow.”

In other words, you can do it. And Kate can help.

If you’ve ever wanted to write about the mothering experience, or if you already do and crave a little fresh insight to your craft, I highly recommend checking Use Your Words out. Also: I fully intend to post about a writing contest where you can win the book, and possibly a consult with Kate and publication at Literary Mama, but have to get a few things ironed out. Check back if that piques your interest.

Happy Friday, all!

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Finding Beauty in Dandelions Again

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

 

 

I’d forgotten how beautiful these cheery yellow weeds are to the eyes of a child. It all came flooding back as he rounded the bushes and barreled at me clutching two, their green stems in widely varying lengths squashed skinny by his enthusiastic grip. “Dandelion!” he shouted. “One for Vera. One for Mommy.” I set one on her leg for her to admire, as best a three-month-old can.

Thrill over this newfound activity propelled him across the lawn, where there were plenty more to collect, despite Clint’s recent efforts with his new full-sized weed digger. In the end, there were enough flowers to form the very first hand-picked bouquet from my son. I’d take it over a dozen store-bought roses any day.

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The Unique Pace of Baby Bonding (Or Love Letter to My Two-Month-Old)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

With Roy, it hit me like a truck. A big ol’ bulldozer. Like a hungry young prizefighter, or a grand piano whose pulley-rope snapped twenty stories directly above. Bam! I was done for.

A fierce protectiveness expanded inside me so quickly it seized my heart; pushed a boulder into my throat; forced tears from my eyes. I was blind, dizzy, sick in love with this nameless tiny boy, who took his first breath mere moments earlier. Mine, I thought. I can’t believe that he is mine forever.

With Vera, it happened differently. Not to say that I didn’t love her immediately, because I did. I loved her before that, even. Maybe that was part of it. The first time around, I didn’t fully comprehend the connection between baby in tummy and my son until I saw him. Held him. So when I did, the reality of that connection, and everything that comes with it, exploded like a Fourth of July finale.

With Vera, the floodgates were already open. I knew her name. I felt her personality. I had no trouble connecting the thumps jostling my tummy to the little tiny feet kicking from within, connected to roly-poly legs, which I would squeeze and gobble one day soon, which would carry her across a room way too soon after that. I got it. And I could not wait to meet her.

So when she arrived, she was just here. Finally here. There was crazy excitement and pure joy, but not exactly trucks and pianos.

Friends had told me not to worry about loving kid number two. They had worried; didn’t know how that surprising, expansive, all-encompassing love for your firstborn could possibly leave room in your heart for anything else. It grows, they told me. Somehow, it grows.

So I didn’t worry. I just loved her and waited.

I bathed her and slept next to her, with my lips touching her head. I wore her in a sling, pulling up the sides so she could sleep against my chest in darkness and resting my hand on her back to feel the steady rise and fall of her breathing. I took her on walks and named the things that made her eyes wide: Birds. Leaves. Flowers.

I listened to her, too—to the trilling coos directed at stuffed animals dangling above her bouncy chair, to the happy grunts and gulps as she suckled, to the throaty groan-sighs that accompanied whole-body stretches as she woke from deep sleeps. I locked eyes with her and smiled. She smiled back, all slick gums and glossy baby-blue eyes and cheeks so chubby they run seamlessly into second chin.

And then, it happened. I’m not sure exactly when, I just know that I feel it. That crazy-powerful mama-bear love; the I-would-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-bus-for-you love.

My friends were right. My heart grew. Not in one big, painful bang, but in a happy succession of pretty little fireworks.

I can’t believe that she is mine forever.

How did it happen for you, my fellow mamas? Papas, too. Fast or slow?

 

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