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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: baby

When a Baby Becomes a Person

Sometime between my world being rocked and right now, something shifted. I think it happened between weeks seven and nine of Mars’ life. He grew and grew and grew, and all of a sudden, he seems to enjoy his own existence. He’s not just turning milk into poop and vigorously dividing cells. He’s discovering. He’s emoting. He’s watching and listening and experimenting.

(For now) we aren’t making mindless bounce-laps around the kitchen table. We’re chatting with each other, we’re relaxing together, and we’re discovering what the world looks like when it’s never been seen before. When Mars kicks and swings and I ask him excitedly (like, really excitedly) if moving around is so much fun, he locks eyes with me and wiggles with even more gusto – as if to tell me that not only is it fun, he’s going to wiggle like a maniac if he thinks I’m into it, too.

Mars is a pretty careful observer. He takes in the world intently and doesn’t get distracted by the antics I try in order to tease out a smile. And as much as I love his smiles, I love his focus even more. He’s letting me get to know him and it’s had a profound effect on both of us. And now that I can see him as his own person, parts of me are returning as well. I went to a yoga class. I read a book. (Okay, fine – part of a book.) I finished crocheting the toy octopus I’ve been obsessing over since November.

For a year, Mars has been an ever-present part of my body – the ten months on the inside and two on the outside punctuated by delivery but eerily similar in their physical and emotional effort. But now, Mars is becoming his own body. Body with a capital B. As in, he has his own mind and spirit in addition to his own arms and legs.

My tears used to be spurred by exhaustion and confusion. Now, I cry because I want him to know how loved he is and how passionately his dad and I will always care for him. And in three weeks, I go back to work. My brain is getting ready for the challenges of my job but part me is aching to stay home and keep discovering things with this fascinating little kid.

So this is why moms get mom-nesia.

I know we’ll still have some major ups and downs and that plenty more sleepless nights are on their way. But I think I get it now.

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Mars, telling me all about his day.

 

Am I Doing This Right and Other Important Questions

Am I a bad mom? Before you answer, hear me out.

Points against: 1) We don’t breastfeed anymore.* 2) Joe and Mars visited family for the weekend without me and I reveled in it (I did have the stomach flu the whole time, so my revelry looked more like… er… death.). 3) I don’t love this tiny baby phase. I just don’t. I don’t know what he wants half the time and there are only so many bouncing-laps I can make around the kitchen table with him before going insane.

Points for: 1) Formula is nutritionally sound and he eats wonderfully. 2) When Joe and Mars walked in the door yesterday, both grunting to each other, it sounded like home to me. 3) He’s not lacking for stimulation, as I’m constantly waving new things at him to see if anything other than bounce-laps will entertain his growing brain.

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I mean, look at that brain!

So am I a bad mom or just a mom? Instagram tells me there are new moms out there who love being new moms. They embrace their new, softer bodies. Their enthusiasm for the role of MOM makes their eyes bright and their skin glow through their (presumed) tiredness. They put on cute stretch pants and make-up and go out for brunch with their babies, somehow overriding the internal voices that scream warnings about public spaces and influenza.

And, yes, my own Instagram feed isn’t exactly a peek into reality. Because when Mars is screeching and I feel like I’m going to pass out, it doesn’t occur to me to snap a pic.

The moms (with mom-nesia?) have told me to enjoy this phase before it’s gone and I’m trying faithfully to abide. I’m locking into my memory that sweet, waxy scent of his hair, the heaving sounds of his sighs, and way his warm body melts into my tummy when he relaxes in my lap. But I’m also hyper-aware of the pee (and, yeah, poop) running down the wall behind his dresser, the piercingly high octave of his “panic” cry, and the surprising sharpness of his nails when they claw at my chest.

Being home alone with him all day is a practice in presence, patience, and prioritization. Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I fail, as Mars and I have ups and downs together and half the laundry mysteriously ends up in the tub. The 1:1 adult-newborn ratio is some tricky math. (Special and enormous shout-out to my own mom, who – during one of my “fail” weeks – dropped her own life to fly out here and help me with mine.)

So when Mars and I are alone, I’ve taken to un-gritting my teeth and whispering “delight, delight, delight” to myself – because I truly want to take delight in all his milestones, even when they’re loud and squirmy. And I’m trying to remember that one day soon, he’ll express delight in something instead of angst, and I have a feeling it’s going to rock my world.

Until then, we’ll clock some more laps around the kitchen table and I’ll try not to muse too hard on what kind of mom I am. Because, honestly, we have more pressing questions to consider. Like, what is that new smell and where is it even coming from?

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Me, looking fly, thumbs-upping Joe during my weekend of revelry.

*Breastfeeding deserves its own post, I think.

The Longest Shortest Weeks

It’s been fifteen days since Mars came into the world. He arrived in a dimly lit room to the soft murmurings of a practiced nurse and the wide-eyed amazement of my husband, Joe. Mars’ actual birth was, for the most part, smooth and efficient. I pushed like I dance – specifically and brainily. Hyper-focused on the instructions and compliant with critique. Unaware of the tearing. Unaware of the bleeding. Only aware of the release and relief I felt as they slid my son onto my chest and Joe cried for the first time since I’ve known him.

In that moment, we blasted ourselves out of the quiet, restless limbo of a late-term pregnancy into the strangest time warp – where we’re rocketing through the days, barely blinking, but the minutes themselves are both beautifully and excruciatingly long.

It’s been a shock to every system.

Some of our parent friends tried to explain the newborn experience to us before Mars was born. They told us it would be amazing and tiring. They said things like, “Prepare to never sleep again lol” in that glib-but-I’m-serious way that made me uneasy. They gave us advice. And promptly told us to ignore their advice because babies are individuals and it’s impossible to predict what they’ll be like.

These last couple weeks have been HARD. Not hard like physical exertion or hard like grief, but there have been, honestly, elements of both. This hardness draws on aspects of every other hardness out there and then reaches straight into your center and pulls out a deep, aching love. It’s a love that feels like hope and terror and exhaustion all at once. This love physically intertwines two rapidly changing bodies – both of them in recovery and both struggling to keep up with life’s new demands.

I’m in awe of every mom who’s ever lived.

In the midst of the hardness, things that might seem small and insignificant are amazing and enormous. His first poopy diaper! His obsession with windows! My first post-partum bowel movement! (Real talk: pooping after birth is its own, special kind of labor.) I’m not kidding when I say that the first time we breastfed and I didn’t grimace and whisper curses into the night felt like the day I completed my graduate thesis. (FYI, we are back to cursing. This is an ongoing saga.) And some things are ridiculous and delightful, like when I catch Joe, covered in pee and laughing, congratulating Mars on a surprisingly strong spray.

We think everything Mars does is interesting. Every sigh. Every grimace. We’re proud of his new folds and rolls, tickled by his punches and kicks, and wrecked when we can’t calm his shuddering cries. He’s a mystery to us – but it’s our job to know him, so we keep waking up and trying our best. And the next time we see just a hint of a smile, love will come bubbling out of our throats and make the nighttime curses seem a little less potent.

 

Day 119: For Little V

As I alluded to on Sunday, two of my dear friends welcomed a little peanut (human) into the world this week. She’s six days old today and I get to meet her this afternoon (!). Since she probably won’t understand anything I tell her today, I’m blogging her a list for future reference.

Dear V,

Here are some things you should know:

1. Lots of people love you.

2. Your parents are super cool. There might be a time between ages 10 and 20 when you don’t think so, but you’ll come back around.

3. Your super cool parents might embarrass you sometimes. You can get back at them by telling your dad you’re a Centrist (but only say it if you don’t really mean it; he loves that).

4. You were born into a world with a lot of problems, but you’re surrounded by incredible role models. There are problem-identifiers, solution-makers, strategic thinkers, beauty-seekers, doers, fixers, connectors and all-around kindhearted people. Your world will be full of opportunities, no matter what path you choose.

5. It’s okay to fail, whether you’re building a Lego castle or a business. Everybody fails. Just pick up the pieces and try something else.

6. Your mom will know if you’re smoking pot in the bathroom or hiding cigarettes in the car. She just will.

7. You and I are going to make some dances together. I’ve already come up with a few ideas, but I welcome yours as well.

Love,

Ashleigh

PiratesYour cool/embarrassing mom and me back in 2006 when we were pirates. 

Day 48: The Ordinary Baby

Colleen, one of my most amazing friends, recently had an amazing thing happen to her. She had a kid. Since she’s so amazing and her family’s story is so amazingly lovely and inspiring, I asked her if I could interview her for this blog. She said yes.

The Family
Colleen is a dedicated proponent of the arts, one of the kindest women I know and is beautifully tall. Chris is not taller than his wife (even though I always think he is), and is thoughtful, smart and a true gentleman. Colin is seven months old. He likes avocados, hates peas and has really strong feet. He also has a huge family, as Colleen puts it, “by blood and by friendship.”

Parenthood
I asked Colleen how parenthood has changed their lives. Her response:

 “I could probably be more profound with this if I could remember what I was like before. All the clichés are true—you become less selfish, the world has more meaning and you have a whole new prospective on everything. You use a new vocabulary, and at times it feels like you are speaking a new language. It’s also challenged us in a way we never really understood before—and that challenge begins anew every day. I’ve always been sensitive, but parenthood has amped my sensitivity up by about 1000%.

And although I’ve never been particularly crafty, I have a newfound interest in crafts. The idea of forming memories and traditions through an act of creating something with my family has become even more important.

In addition to being one of the coolest babies I know, Colin also has Down Syndrome.

Colleen and Chris received the diagnosis right after Colin was born and the news shook their little family quite a bit. Reflecting on Colin’s birth, Colleen said, It hurt so badly in the beginning. While it’s embarrassing and humbling to share, it’s okay now because we made it. And it is so good.

Colin and the bearColin and the bear.

Down Syndrome
From Colleen:I never in a million years thought this would happen to us. And my preconceptions of what ‘this’ was were based on my own misconceptions. Colin is just like any other baby. He will grow into being a toddler like any other toddler, and will grow into a young adult just like any other young adult. He will have the same feelings, thoughts, happiness and sadness that you and I feel. Having Down Syndrome just means he might reach milestones later than his peers. It doesn’t mean he won’t live, love and fulfill his dreams just like any other person who is given the opportunity.

And I don’t say that with blinders on because I’m his mom. I say that because I see it every day. I had so many doubts at first about all of this, and about my family’s ability to live in this world where people use words like ‘special needs.’ However, I can say at this point that our world is no different than anyone else’s, except now we have a little man with big hair.

Colin and my sunglassesColin, his big hair and my sunglasses.

The Zoo
I asked Colleen what she and Chris are looking forward to doing as a family. She said:

 “In addition to building our own traditions, we want to do what everyone wants to do. Travel, go to the zoo (Chris said that; I hate the zoo), Halloweens, Christmases, Sunday hangouts with our friends and family, etc.

I’m happy to say that Colin and I already have a parent-approved date scheduled for his second birthday. I picked his second instead of his first mostly because I need a year and a half to plan (I was going to take him to the zoo).

To read more about another family raising a beautiful kid with Down Syndrome, check out the blog Enjoying the Small Things.

Colin and the treeColin, after he defeated the bear and my sunglasses and escaped into the Christmas tree forest.