Babcia

When I packed up my car and moved across the country eight years ago, the hardest goodbye was with my mom. I remember standing in the dark street, hugging and crying. I knew she’d miss me, but she never, not once, told me not to go. This is what I wanted and she supported me.

I’ve only recently come to appreciate that she and my dad make a pretty excellent team. My dad is the constant cheerleader–effusive with his praise and love. (He’s been known to send a sentimental email and hit REPLY ALL so that each and every one of my friends know how proud he is of me). My mom is strong and quieter, but no less loving. She holds her breath and lets us live our lives, while still guiding us along, even as we enter our 30s. (She’s been known to take on all of our stress, carrying our burdens in an effort to save us from pain and disappointment).

We’re different people in many ways, but I think that’s only a testament to her wisdom and ability to teach. All three of her daughters are so very different from each other but we know what we want and rarely have a hard time working to get it. I could not imagine a better Babcia for my daughter. I know she’ll help us to raise a bright, confident young woman, just as she’s already done three times.

When I think about that June night in 2007, I imagine what it will feel like to say goodbye to my baby as she makes her way in the world. My heart feels like it’s being pulled apart in all directions and a lump develops in my throat. The urge to reach out, pull her in, and say, “Don’t leave me” is overwhelming.

So thank you, mom. Thank you for your strength, your unwavering support, and your unconditional love. YOU are the glue that has held us all together for the last three decades.

We love you.

Lena and her Babcia
Lena and her Babcia

 

 

9 things I didn’t know before I had my daughter

Lena is almost 13 months old . Like most moms, I found her birthday bittersweet. My baby is no longer a baby, all of those first year firsts over and done with.

But I’m excited about this new phase. She’s walking, talking, and in my opinion, more adorable than ever. And if I’m completely honest, I’m glad it’s over. This first year was so. damn. hard. Scott and I have been talking a lot about what we learned and how clueless our pre-baby selves seem now.

I resolved to write something to sum up my thoughts. So here it is, my little list of what I didn’t know but now do:

1. The pain of labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. I knew I wanted an epidural long before the first contraction. And after nearly 24 hours of active labor, I finally got that sweet, sweet relief. Only it didn’t last and after an hour of pushing, I was wishing for death. I was sure they’d have to C-section that baby out of me because I couldn’t do it any more. Sure, once she finally arrived my focus was on her, but I knew something was wrong. The doctor muttered something about second degree tearing and promptly left. Recovery was long and hard. I bled for over a month. I had a terrible case of hemorrhoids that still occasionally plagues me. At three months postpartum I still had regular pelvic pain if I sat or stood too long. And sex? Please. At 7 weeks postpartum I was told I was “healed” and cleared to have sex. Really?! Who are these unicorn women who are begging for sex 7 fucking weeks after pushing a baby out of their vagina? For 6 months, I was pretty sure my vagina was now an exit only door for eternity.

2. Growing, birthing, and nursing a baby gives you superhuman powers. Okay, so while this experience left me feeling physically decimated, I have never felt as empowered as I did in the days following Lena’s birth. I don’t understand how you CAN’T be a feminist after becoming a mother. Seriously, our bodies grow, birth, and feed other human beings. I’ve pushed past a lot of physical limitations in my past life as a competitive runner, but all of those feats pale in comparison. Women’s bodies are absolutely incredible and I hope my daughter grows up knowing that.

3. Sleep deprivation is no fucking joke. People like to joke with soon-to-be mamas by saying, “Sleep while you can!” At least I always thought it was a joke. It’s not. Sleep deprivation, and by that I mean months of sleeping 1-2 hours stretches, is mentally and physically debilitating. Many mornings I drove to work on auto pilot only to arrive and have no memory of how I got there. Because you can’t just walk away from a screaming baby, crawl into bed and fall asleep. You are a hostage until that baby finally conks out.

4. Babies are born with personalities. Pre-baby me stupidly assumed that newborns are human lumps who eat, sleep, occasionally cry, and that their little personalities are developed after months of being out in the world. NOPE. Some babies are sure of what they want even before they leave the womb. But since they can’t communicate those feelings yet, they get frustrated and the emotions are INTENSE. Such is my lovely daughter. In hindsight, I should have known. She was an active bugger in utero who kicked and kicked through the night. (Which is why I wasn’t sleeping well even then).

5. Modern parenthood is a political minefield. As if getting to know your new little baby and adapting to your new life wasn’t hard enough, you have a slew of other parents, new and old, waiting to not-so-secretly judge you. Cry it out? Baby led weaning? Vaccinations? Clothing choices? It doesn’t matter what you choose, someone has an opinion. Thank god for those rare communities of mamas who support and encourage instead of tear each other down. My new motto is “If it works for your baby and your family, DO IT.” I also now recognize that I was an insufferable childless prick (ICP) who had definite ideas about what kind of parent I would be.

6. Friendships change, often in unanticipated ways. Pre-baby, I assumed there would be initial distance in my friendships as I figured out this whole mama thing. I also assumed that I would become closer to my friends who were also having kids. In some cases this has been true. But surprisingly, I’ve seen many of my childless friends even more since Lena was born and they’ve become superb aunties.  Some acquaintances who are also new parents have quickly become close friends as we’ve bonded over shared experiences. And some formerly close friends with young kids have drifted away as we focus on our own families. In any case, this is where we are now, and like all phases of life, I’m sure it will change up again. But I’m supremely appreciative of the awesome friends who helped us through this first year.

7. Marriage will be tested. I’m pretty damn lucky in the marriage department. If we had major fights during this first year it was because my husband wanted to help MORE and felt like he couldn’t be effective. (To be fair, he doesn’t have boobs). Also, the sleep deprivation. I have a supremely patient husband and I realize that more than ever. That being said, it’s easy to see how parenthood tests a marriage. We easily could have devolved into the blame game, name calling, and other cheap shots. And it’s not like we’re in the clear–we’re parents forever now. We’re always working on it. Always.

8. You can have it all. Kinda. And not really. I never in a million years dreamed that I would be a stay-at-home mom. I would have the job, the kids, the house, the marriage, and the social life. After returning to work I quickly realized the precarious nature of the work-life balance. And the fact that I didn’t have it. I felt like an absentee employee, a stressed out mom, a distant wife, a shitty friend, and a totally unbalanced human being in general. Not to mention a neglectful housekeeper. Something had to give. I wanted to be home–I always did. At least for a little while. So we’re making it happen, though it’s tough. Some days I think about how I’d like to be back at work, get caught up in a new project, eat hot lunches, poop in private. But many days I look at my baby and want to eat up every second with her. I want to have the time to watch her watch the world. And I feel like I do have it all, mostly. But I found my balance and this is where I’m happy right now.

9. Parental love is indescribable. If the world is as it should be, you grow up knowing that your parents love you. I did. But you don’t really, truly understand what that love means until you’re looking at your own baby. It’s overwhelming, all-consuming, and ineffable. I don’t expect Lena to fully get it, but I want her to feel the security of that love every second of every day. I want to wrap her up in it like a protective armor as she faces the world. Childhood is scary and unnerving, even in the best of circumstances. I think adults tend to forget that. But I’m working every damn day to hear Lena’s frustrations and fears and do the best I can to guide her. Pretty sure I’ll have another list next year as I learn to parent a toddler. Yeesh.

 

As the first birthday approaches

This Saturday, my baby turns one year old. This time last year, I had just started maternity leave. I was gleefully gathering pictures and writing a pregnancy notebook to give to my girl when she got older and could appreciate it. I was reading. And sleeping (kinda).

This week I’m feeling all the feelings. That tiny girl is now walking around my house and saying things like “mama” and “hi” while waving and clapping her hands. She’s *really* a tiny person, complete with her own personality, preferences, and frustrations.

I plan to write my birth story within the next few weeks but it’s much harder than I anticipated. I mean, part of the difficulty is trying to remember the details of the whole 48 hour ordeal 365 sleep deprived days later, but I’ve also found it to be slightly trigger-inducing. March 28th is my baby’s birthday but it was also a day of injury and trauma for me.

So in the meantime, we’re gearing up for a little celebration complete with a homemade birthday banner, a taco bar, and of course, cake.

The kid turns 1 this weekend!
The kid turns 1 this weekend!

 

Strangest Craziest Explained

“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”

–Marguerite Duras

For many of us, our mothers are the primary caregivers in our early years. They carry us in their bodies for 9 (actually 10) months. We are wholly dependent upon them for food, shelter, care, and comfort.

So how is it that this person with whom we are so physically and emotionally intertwined can appear so foreign and impossibly crazy?

Because of US. We did this to them. These women were relatively calm, sane individuals before we arrived on earth. Let me now list for you some of the strange, crazy things I’ve done in just the last 11 months.

1. I have expressed breastmilk over a toilet in a public restroom.

2. I have arrived at the pediatrician’s office without my driver’s license and credit card. TWICE.

3. I have accidentally texted inappropriate bodily-related information to someone other than my husband.

4. I have googled things like “orange poop, cream of wheat consistency,” “when will I sleep again,” and “can babies read minds.”

5. I have walked out of my house to the neighbor’s (2 blocks away) without realizing that my shirt was pulled up and my nursing bra exposed for all to see.

How did I get this way? I’m not alone. Check out any online mom forum and you’ll hear these same stories, many of them far crazier than my own. Listen to this. In my scientific opinion, three main factors contribute to this condition.

Sleep deprivation. It’s no joke. The early days of parenthood are hazy and full of tears, mostly yours. Babies don’t know night from day. These tiny humans need to eat every two or three hours and they don’t feed themselves. You’re stressed,  your partner is stressed. You annoy the hell out of each other.

Even after the newborn days have passed, you’re forever trying to catch up on sleep. Every time junior hits a new milestone, sleep goes from bad to worse. Everyone and no one seems to have an answer to your baby’s sleep “problem.” See this.

I don’t have much hope for the toddler years since the kid can now get herself out of bed. I imagine parents of teenagers lay awake with worry if their adolescent is out and about in the world. Maybe I’ll sleep again when Lena’s 35? Probably not. I’ll be worried about her not getting enough sleep because she now has her own baby…

Tiny humans, big problems. When you become a parent you become hyper-aware (some might say obsessed) with things to which you gave little thought in your regular adult life–what brand of underwear to wear; the color, consistency, amount, and regularity of bowel movements; ordinary head colds; bedtime routines; every little piece of lint on your floors and whether or not your mobile infant did in fact put that in her mouth. To non-parents, these conversations are MIND NUMBING. To other parents, it’s a rare opportunity to share notes. Either way, these are inane-sounding conversations.

Parenting is a fucking minefield and everyone has an opinion. Modern parents have access to scientific studies about what is best for their infants and children, a benefit our parents and grandparents didn’t enjoy. Yet this information comes at a cost–an overwhelming and simultaneously contradictory barrage of voices yelling, “do this, don’t do that.” While this is undoubtedly a 21st century phenomenon, I suspect that even your great-great grandmother suffered from at least one relative who knew what was “best” for baby.

All of this unsolicited advice is maddening. If your mother ever seems like she has multiple personalities, this is likely the reason. There actually are 452 voices in her head telling her to what to do.

While I like Marguerite Duras’s observation about mothers, allow me to amend it slightly:

“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met. Unless we become mothers ourselves and then we wonder how the f#$@ she held it together as well as she did.”

So. Go hug your mother. She’s tired and is likely talking to herself.

This is a thing!

cropped-10624782_10101066842920284_4115028295760066236_n.jpgHi, Mom! I’m sure you’re the only one reading this. Thank you for knowing it’s your job and obligation to read the crap I write.

And hello to anyone else who finds their way here. This is a thing now–I have a blog where I can rant and rave about motherhood, marriage, work, and life. Muah haha.

Please, stick around. Leave a comment. Look at cute pictures of my child. I’ll try to entertain you while simultaneously explaining why you should give your mom a break. She’s doing the best she can. How do I know? Because so am I.