Having a baby changes your life. Everyone knows that, but then it happens to you and you know it know it. I’m still the same person, but I am more. And also less. And also different. Okay, there are layers to this thing that I haven’t yet figured out, but that’s what blogs are for, yes?
So a year + in, I thought I’d do the list thing. Here are a few changes I’ve noticed in myself, especially over the last month (wherein the hubs was gone and I was parenting solo, albeit with monster help from the grands).
1. I am a human garbage disposal. Growing up, this was my dad’s job, but I have taken on the task and I am very good at it, if I do say so myself. I will finish a half-eaten pear while eating noodles with my hands. I am cookie monster without the puppet metabolism (unfortunately). See also: eating weird things at weird times in weird places. Yesterday, lunch was half an avocado straight from the skin alternating with cold bean salad while standing up in my kitchen. At 2:30pm. I am not ashamed.
2. Accomplishing little things (showering, going to the park, cleaning) make me feel like superwoman. When you’re alone with a kid, your hands, hips, thoughts are very much occupied. This makes doing little things difficult.
3. I am the planniest planner in plantown. 80% of my time is now spent planning ahead so that I’m not stressed in the moment. I have not yet thought about how stressed the planning makes me and I’M NOT GOING TO SO SHUT UP. I should say the planning is all for the kid. No, I should say the planning is all for the people who I’m forcing to be around my kid. As we venture further and further from home (first flight/big trip completed recently – yay, superwoman [and supergram and supergrandad]!), I want to do everything I can to make sure my kid doesn’t screw up other people’s day. I know he will, but it makes me feel better that I tried.
4. I am superstitious despite myself. If we had a bad night, I’m not going to re-use PJs, even if they are perfectly fine. Sometimes I will even change the sheets, just in case something on them/in them was bothering him. Unlike my lunchtime habits, I am definitely ashamed of this. I think it will get better as Mixo communicates more, but for now, trying to figure him out is like running through a pig farm blindfolded. So I do the dance, sing the song, and cross my fingers that it all works out okay. Superstition lady comes out mainly when it comes to…
5. Sleep. I now understand the value and beauty of sleep. When we make it through a full night, I am elated. When we don’t, I hate everything and everyone. The highs and lows come fast and hard when you’re a parent.
6. I now know exactly how lucky I am to have the partner that I have. If people actually have kids to keep a marriage together, they are insane people. I’m hoping this is just a pop culture trope and it doesn’t happen in real life, but I fear it does. Kids will test the hell out of a marriage.
7. I’m less afraid to speak my mind and I’m more sure of what I want. It’s Mixon-specific, unfortunately, and still a work in progress, but when someone’s doing something that doesn’t work for me, I stop it. I love tips and advice, and I will listen to anything, but I’m less afraid to hurt someone’s feelings by giving them a definitive no. ‘Less’ is the operative word here. As I said, this one is still in-progress.
8. I spend my life talking and singing. My. Entire. Life.
9. I don’t care what other people think (as much). There’s a fine line on this one. Planner lady in #3 of this list does her work so that I don’t have to worry about it in the moment. I want Mixon to experience the world, to explore it. And as long as he doesn’t put his banana hands all over a stranger’s pants (that has happened) or pull on someone else’s boobs or arm/neck fat (this has so far been reserved for me), I’m okay if he talks loudly or walks around, as long as it’s somewhere where that doesn’t ruin someone else’s experience. Some people don’t care about kids, I get it, and #3 lady is doing what she can to make sure you’re ok. But at some point, you gotta let go and realize babies be crazy. We all have to live in the world, Mixon included.
10. I notice things more. It is impossible not to be observant with a baby around. When your kid is pointing to everything and making a ‘huh’ noise, you name it, and that forces you to notice the little things. Most of the time, it’s a chair or a boot, but other times, it’s the way snow is crunching under your feet or how it feels to bite into an apple. It’s literally a new perspective on life, as in never-before-experienced. And I get to witness it. Pretty cool. (Also a very nice bonus for my career as a writer.)
There’s more, there’s always going to be more. And it’s not all good. This is a list focused on the good, because that’s where I like to live, but kids are rough, and babies are rougher. You can’t communicate, they can’t communicate, and everybody is exhausted. That’s why they make them so adorable.
Adorable only goes so far, though. The best thing about being a parent, the thing I try to remember when everybody is sobbing, is that we get to watch them turn into people. Hopefully kind, funny, amazing people. That’s pretty much why I had a kid, and the process is exactly as awesome as I thought it would be.
People kept saying it to us. You’ll find a norm, you’ll get comfortable, and then – bam – something happens. Teething, sickness, apocalyptic thunderstorms, a change in the star-moon alliance gridzone of astrology… Something changes and your nights are not your nights. Your baby is no longer your baby.
Mixon’s First Big Sick could have been much bigger and badder. It was a simple fever, no other symptoms, but because this was our first fever and because we couldn’t see our pediatrician the first time, we ended up at the doctor’s office twice. Both visits were a very necessary complete waste of time.
I know calling a fever a ‘big sick’ is hilarious to most of you, but we’ve had really good luck with Mix. He’s had two colds. Period. In his life. That’s mostly because we were all hermits for the first three months and didn’t really branch out a whole lot until recently. So for him (and for us), this was big.
He’s all better now and making up for the food he didn’t eat when he was sick (seriously, I need to get a funnel and just pour). We were lucky we still had formula to waste and at least a bit of milk still in the boob, because that’s basically what he lived on.
And now comes the process of getting back to that magic-eye mindset, where things just work themselves out. Last Blog Post Amanda was such a douche…
Now, I have a baby who’s past one and still on formula and a tiny bit of boob, one who wakes up at least once a night wanting more of said formula or boob, and one nightmare of an evening that I’m having trouble getting out of my head.
This is compounded by the fact that hubs has been working a lot and will be gone the entire month of November. I will say again how much I do not know how single parents do it. There are some days when a few hours will make me want to curl up in a ball and leave the childcare to the dog and cats. The dread is building for me, the guilt is building for him, and the ‘la, la, las’ are sometimes not there when they need to be.
All I can say is that the hubs and I are ridiculously lucky to have our parents so much in the picture. Their worry barometer may be overly high, but that’s only because they would reach into their chests and pull out their hearts if it would help make the Mix feel better. I should have known it would be this way – the same goes for their own kids.
I know there are harder times to come, bigger sicks, and just little annoying ones that throw everything off. And then the return to normalcy will be another Sisyphean climb up a steep mountain. But at least we’re doing it with some pretty cool people.
I wasn’t a very confident child, but there was one thing I knew I was amazing at: I could unlock a Magic Eye painting in seconds. The random series of dots and waves quickly became a dog or a boat or the Eiffel Tower, I yelled it out, and I was queen for the day. I’ll let you take a moment to be wowed.
The early years of parenting are a lot like those paintings, though I’m horse-transport slow at unlocking the mysteries of the baby. And what’s worse, when everything is waves and dots, I tend to Google and freak out when the answer is usually: wait. Just wait and it’ll all become clear. It’ll work itself out. Weaning, for example. After wondering and searching and posting about how to do it, it’s happening pretty naturally. Food – kind of working itself out. Sleep – I know I’m lucky here, and please don’t throw tomatoes, but it’s also working at the moment. This will probably be the case for a few more days, and then everything will change again. A new, confusing painting will be up and I’ll be back on the Google train, wondering why he’s not saying words yet or why his left eye looks like that or…
When you become a parent, you join a community of people who have all gone through/are going through the same things, but not exactly. It’s the most universal individual experience I’ve encountered. And it’s helpful to remember that. Everyone has their own set of Magic Eye paintings.
(I’m sure the person who came up with those paintings knew they would be used as a metaphor in many of these “can’t-see-the-trees-for-the-forest” situations, but please excuse the tired use. I just wanted to remember how nice it felt to be really good at something.)
A week ago, Mixon had never fallen off of anything.
Sure, there was the time I hit him in the back of the head with my iPad, the time I dropped a remote on him, and the time I cut him with nail clippers, but we had yet to hear that thud that turns your stomach into a dirty garbage can full of old potatoes and banana peels.
There is a thing that happens with babies, and I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but they get older. The new sounds, expressions, laughs – they’re all great, but there will also be movement.
Mixon is now a champion roller who prefers to sleep on his stomach, thank you very much. He is also seconds away from crawling.
So exciting, right? Sure, but also terrifying. I quickly ordered a play yard that has a small likelihood of actually fitting in my living room and some other safety stuff, but there’s more to do.
That became abundantly clear one day when I was at ‘Milk Club’ at Vanderbilt (a lactation support group that’s really just an excuse to get cute babies together and play). We all put our babies up on the table and talk about naps and poop and boobs.
We talked about falling babies that day, that’s the thing.
Mixon flirted with some lady babies and had some fun and then it was time to go home. I had brought enough toys and gear for 5 babies, which is my norm. I started packing it all up and took my hand off of him for ONE SECOND. I looked back at the table and there was no Mixon.
I looked around frantically for five seconds [years] and then I heard it – the shriek of (in my mind) betrayal. It’s a special what-the-fuck-is-happening scream that echoes in your ears for days. He was on the ground under a chair lying on his face. At least we were at a hospital.
After about a minute, he had calmed down, but I was still shaky. I made that hospital joke, kept calling myself a bad mommy, and held him and held him and held him.
Well, at least I had done it. We all now knew that Mixon was a mover and a shaker. Gone were the days of letting him lie.
Nope. As much as I wish I could have done the lesson learning for everyone, some of us have to do it ourselves. A person who shall remain nameless put Mixon on the couch that same day. It’s fun to prop him up, because he looks like this:
As the lesson-learner, I cautioned him/her that this was probably not a good idea anymore, since he no longer stays there like a potato (if he takes after his parents, we’ll have ‘potato: part 2’ in his teenage years).
I stayed there watching the boy until said person came back into the room and rolled his/her eyes.
Yesterday, though. It happened. A couch-sit, a thud, a brain-shattering scream. He landed on his back this time, so at least he’s evening out. So now both this person and I have been there.
We’re lucky – no injuries yet. And maybe we have now done all of the learning. No more tears ever, right?
In other news, we started Mixon on solids. We’re doing mainly baby-led weaning. This was broccoli, which he WILL NOT TOUCH until I bite the tree/flower things off.
While I was pregnant, breastfeeding seemed like a pretty cool thing. I didn’t really think much about it, except to plan on doing it for about a year. I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy people who do it until the kid is taller than boob height, but I wanted to give my kid as much of the good stuff as possible.
A year sounds hilarious to me now.
I hear women say how beautiful/wonderful/magical breastfeeding is. I hear the words coming out of their mouths, but I don’t understand them. For me, breastfeeding is just a thing. It’s no more magical than changing his diaper. Actually, it’s less, because he can’t smile when his mouth is full. And he loves getting on that changing table.
Let’s run down my situation:
- I haven’t had plugged ducts or mastitis. Breastfeeding is not a painful experience for me.
- Mixon has had no trouble latching on (this was the only thing I was worried about pre-baby).
- I work from home.
Those all add up to a perfect, lovely breastfeeding situation. But my boobs had other ideas. Milk production. That’s my issue. My B-sized boobs can’t keep up with a dude who frequently enjoys 9 oz. meals.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that he needed more, but after multiple tear-stained pediatrician visits and a downward trajectory on the growth chart, I’m happy to be supplementing with formula and pumped milk.
Breastfeeding is a sacrifice. It’s another three, six, 12, 24 months of someone else using your body. So many liberal mamas are pro-choice, but militant about breastfeeding, and I think there’s a contradiction there.
I tried everything to increase my milk supply. The forums and the LLL and the Kellymom.coms made it sound so easy. I fed on demand, spent my life pumping, bought the expensive herbal pills, and ate the oatmeal (I’m still doing all of the above, by the way). When I’d think about supplementing, I’d see the NO, DANGER, DO NOT ENTER posts about how it would kill my milk supply completely. When Mixon’s ex-pediatrician looked at me condescendingly and said “formula isn’t poison, you know,” I wanted to punch her in the face. OBVIOUSLY it isn’t poison, lady, but it tasted like failure.
The truth is, the supplementing has been liberating for me. I can actually go out without stressing that I need to be there to feed him or get home to pump as soon as I can or my milk supply willgoawayandnevercomebackandmybabywillhatemeforeverand…
I still have some stupid hope. I’m wondering if he’ll want less when he starts solids – maybe then I’ll be enough for him. (SEE this language? I’m like a scorned woman.) I’m wondering if he’s just catching up on growth spurts he missed and will even out at some point.
The other part of me sees him freaking out with joy every time he sees a bottle and screaming at my boob, dreams of enjoying more than one glass of wine, and really loves the idea of never seeing the pump again. This part of me thinks that maybe six months is a good time to stop the madness. At least I won’t have any issues with weaning…
There are bajillions of women like me, and I think the tide is starting to shift. I’m hoping we’ll fall somewhere between the ’80s formula-heads and the present-day breastfeed-or-die crowd. I’m calling it third-wave mothering.
Third-wave feminism is less about fighting against something and more about empowering women to make their own choices without limitations (made possible with the work of the first- and second-wavers, of course). I think we’re there with breastfeeding. Third-wave mothers don’t have to shout about how amazing breastfeeding is, we know. Now we can make our own decisions based on that knowledge. Yes, there are still battles to be fought on the breastfeeding front – nursing in public, for one (I’m looking at you, Delta) – but I think it’s time to take a step and make sure we’re not shaming women for making the choice that’s best for them. I understand the need for ‘breast is best’, but we need to remember that there is, often, a person attached to that breast.
Third-wave mothering, third-wave parenting, is parenting free from judgement. Just because something is right for my baby doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. I’m writing this with one hand and Mixon is reading along as I feed him formula from a bottle.
Just like third-wave feminism pulled back from the second wave fear of women who stay at home, I hope third-wave parenting will pull back on the fear of formula. I’ll say it again – nursing is a sacrifice. You’re allowing someone else to control your body – the same someone who did it for 10 months, btw – and that should always be a choice.
Mixon is over two months old now, and as we near the end of the fourth trimester, the head is flopping less, the parents are sleeping more, and the ‘oh my god what have we done-ness’ has started to fade.
Now that I’m an expert at this parenting thing, I thought I’d break it down for those of you who have been there, those who are about to be there, and those who need a dose of schadenfreude. So, here are my ABCs of new parenthood:
A is for “awww” – you will hear/say this more in one day than you have in all of your years combined.
B is for BM – you have never cared this much nor been this close to poop in your life
C – clueless. They send you home with this new human who can’t speak and you’re supposed to know what to do. You won’t. If it’s comforting, remember that every other new parent, regardless of how many books they’ve read or things they’ve bought is equally as clueless. If it’s not comforting, I’m sorry.
Doubt. So, so much doubt. You will doubt your doubts and then doubt the doubting of the doubts. Now the word ‘doubt’ looks weird to me.
Early. Hopefully one of the parental units is a morning person, because you will watch the sun come up on a daily basis. Mixon usually goes to sleep again after he’s eaten, so it could be worse. Maybe it will be in a few months…
F is for failure. You will feel like a failure a good portion of the time. I don’t think this gets better as they get older. So…
Growth. It’s pretty amazing to watch someone growing up in real-time.
H is for hard. This is by far the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.
Internet. Your best friend and worst enemy. I tend to stick to forums and skip over WebMD
Judgement. Judge and ye will be judged. Everyone thinks their parenting style/decisions are best.
K – kids. You will become much more interested in other people’s children once you’ve had your own. See above for why. You will also become weirdly interested in when/if couples without kids will have kids. Misery loves company…
L is for love. There was no ‘wash of love’ for either my husband or me. In fact, you will probably experience feelings of hate in those first few weeks. Not hatred of this helpless creature screaming in your arms, hatred of the situation. But the love comes, I promise.
Mommy – you will call yourself/your partner this, and it will feel weird. Also: daddy. Also: son.
N is for nursing. A much-more-complicated-than-it-should-be process that can knock you down, lift you up, and leave you with a numb arm, painful boobs, and restless leg syndrome. Oh, and magic. And love. And whatever else you’re supposed to feel. Mostly, I just feel a kinship to cows. But ‘breast is best’, so we keep on trucking.
Omnipotent. You’ll wish you are.
P – partner. If you’re lucky enough to have someone you’re raising this child with, it’s helpful if you have a ridiculously strong partnership. This is especially true if you’re actually trying to work together to make decisions. You will fight, you will cry, but you’ll also see new sides of each other and find similarities that might surprise you. See also: hard.
Q is for quiet. When you finally get an over-tired infant down for a nap, you will do whatever it takes to keep him there. I have never cooked so quietly in my life.
Right. There are no right answers. Keep this in mind when dealing with your P.
S – stretching. Apparently, it’s human nature, because infants basically come out of the womb doing it. It’s adorable. S is also for smiles. Because seriously.
T is for tears. Yours, your partner’s, and your kid’s. There will be tears.
Underfed – Babies are very good for dieting. They see you chomping down on a sandwich or pasta and they start screaming. You eat fast or you don’t eat at all. Babies hate evenings, for some reason, so you can forget about a nice quiet meal at the dining room table.
V is for video. I thought I took a lot of pictures of my dog, but that was nothing. This weird little creature is fascinating, and you’ll want to capture every moment that doesn’t involve pooping or screaming. Though Mix is pretty damn cute on the changing table.
Worry. You will. A lot.
X is for X. There are always plenty of unknowns.
Yes. This is the answer to the question “is it worth it?”
Z – zombie baby. Maybe this is just Mixon, but he frequently gets crap in his throat. This makes him sound like a zombie when he breathes. It’s sad in a funny way.
Clearly it sucks sometimes, but I think (hope) you forget these early days when they start talking (the coos are already awesome) and hugging (we’re getting there) and playing until you’re ready for the terrible twos and it starts all over again. And since I now want everyone on the planet to have kids so that Mixon has a bunch of cool friends, I will say it again. Yes. It’s totally worth it.
There are many surprising things about having a baby: how an outfit that was just right could be crazy tight two minutes later, how a face can change so much in a day, how it is no longer a huge issue to have pee, poop, spit or milk on various parts of my body/clothes, and generally how in the hell we made this thing from scratch.
What is not surprising is how clueless we are. See, babies don’t make sense. They’re like really bad telenovelas, bringing you higher highs than you’ve ever had just before slamming you with lower lows. From “It’s a miracle, my husband’s sister’s boyfriend woke up from his coma with two working arms!!!” to “Too bad he used those two working arms to murder 200 of my closest friends.”
My husband and I respond to the lows as I think any parent would (any human, really): we see a problem and we want to fix it. The obvious first step is finding out what the problem is. For us, easy, the problem is a sobbing baby. For the baby… well, that’s the question. The pediatrician told us that we should start to be able to distinguish his cries, so that we can understand what he’s trying to “tell” (read: scream at) us, but we have not yet mastered that particular skill.
Here is the list we run down when Mix starts fussing (a word that I never used before having a child and now use on an almost hourly basis):
This is my go-to answer, especially since it’s a problem I can solve with a boob, a chair, and a smile. Of course, it takes the kid about an hour to eat, so it requires a bit of prep on my end, but I’m getting good at doing things one-handed. I think I may have deciphered his hungry cry. It sounds like he’s being chased by a cheetah, Bigfoot, and Paula Abdul.
My husband doesn’t love this answer, especially when he’s alone, but I’ve been pumping so that he can solve this problem just as well as (and a lot faster than) I can.
An easy fix for both of us. We’re still using mostly disposable diapers right now, because he’s too little for the cloths we bought, so it’s extra easy. I’m ready for the eye rolls when we switch entirely to cloth, but it’ll still be pretty easy. And this kid is usually freaking adorable when he’s naked/being changed, so that’s an added bonus.
This is not a great answer, because we haven’t mastered getting him to sleep, but it makes us feel better to have an answer – any answer.
He’s got crap in his throat/nose
This is one of my husband’s favorites. We’re getting the hang of the bulb syringe for the nose problems (this comes into play when he’s boobing-it and can’t breathe through his nose), but there’s not much we can do for the zombie baby with stuff in his throat. All we can do is gently pat his back and tell him to swallow that crap down. He doesn’t listen very well.
He needs to poop, but can’t
This one was THE ANSWER for the first few weeks, but I don’t think it’s viable anymore, since this kid is a poop champion. My husband disagrees.
One of my faves. If he’s eating a lot and fussing a lot, it MUST be a growth spurt, right? Of course, if he was growing each time I suggested this answer, he would be a giant baby by now. I stand by it, though.
Aside from me sneaking my hand/lips to his forehead every now and then, this isn’t an answer either my husband or I have put forward since we thought he had diarrhea (he didn’t). We’ve been very lucky in this area.
Babies are, of course, terribly confusing, and most of the time, there is no ‘answer’. But for lost-in-the-weeds parents, it’s helpful to pretend there’s some sort of magic cure just waiting to be found. A baby cry cure. Get on it, science.