Month Six.

Lucille is half a year old. My goodness. My sweet girl is making strides, taking leaps and bounds in her growing and her father and I watch this all, kept custody by the wonder and amazement of her existence. We must work to keep our hubris in check, because despite our logical understanding of her accomplishments, that they are par for the course, to us, she really is amazing.

This month Lucy has expanded her palate adding to the list: beets, green beans, broccoli, yogurt, chicken, and pears. To date she eats with voracity all that’s spooned into her little bird mouth – except avocado. The avocado worshiper in me cringes that my daughter does not immediately melt at the site of this perfect fruit, but I understand that her palate is still young and she may eventually come around. Avocado when mixed with banana is a completely different story, in fact banana anything seems to be a favorite.  She was a tad skeptical of plain yogurt, but when mixed with fruit, wolfed it down.

The other big to-do in the life of this infant is the ditching of swaddle. From the get-go, Lucy was swaddled at night. With the onset of her cold, something she’s still working to get over, Lucy had been waking up in the wee hours of the morning in fits of clogged sinuses. After siphoning out the bastard boogies, I’d free her arms and put her back in the crib. She fell asleep each time without any issue. About two weeks ago Big Red and I made the decision to make this the new normal and what do you know, she slipped right into her new sleeping set-up beautifully…or so it appeared. Two nights after the initial honeymoon of being un-swaddled, Lucy began experiencing (thereby including us in her experience – oh joy) a sleep regression. I sourced my amazing mama group and plenty of the women chimed in saying their little ones had gone through something similar around this same age. I also referred to my book, The Wonder Weeks, and wouldn’t you know it, but around week 25 or 26, it claims that many kids will show some kind of fussiness due to a new understanding of the world around them. It could be that she’s now keenly aware of us, and dealing with some separation anxiety when she wakes at night. The only reason I say this is because one evening, I threw in the towel at 2 am, decided against feeding her to quiet her (I really didn’t want to introduce a bottle at night again), and brought her into bed. The little bean nuzzled her body against my mine and was asleep immediately. As much as I love her cuddles, I don’t necessarily sleep well when we co-sleep, so on the suggestion of one of my wise mama friends, we put Lucy to sleep the following night with a lovey. And it worked. It helped tremendously, so much so that a few times when she woke up, she whimpered and cried out, then turned to her lovey, and fell asleep again. The worst part of the regression seems to have passed, and she’s back to sleeping much more soundly. While she’s still getting up once or twice a night, thankfully it’s only to quickly replace a spit-out pacifier.

As for said pacifier, we’re leaving it in for now. When we pull the plug, I anticipate it will be a rough couple of cry-it-out style evenings, and hence my delay for a time when I’m not working so as to recover from  nights of interrupted sleep. Then again, she could surprise us…we should be so lucky.

Lucy continues to grow stronger in her core and sits pretty much unassisted. If on her belly she pushes up, and darn if she isn’t close to hitching those doughy soft knees under her. There haven’t been any recent signs of rolling; it’s as if while in her fourth month she crossed it off her to-do list, and has forgotten all about it. We are not concerned as we know each child reaches milestones at different times and that’s how we arrive at averages.  She loves her play gym jumper, and bounces in that seat like there’s no tomorrow. It’s one of her favorite activities, and I’m almost certain her favorite book right now is Good Night Moon. I read it to her every night, sometimes in addition to another book. Often, when I begin, “In the great green room…,” her face lights up and she smiles.

The long dreary days of winter finally seem to be falling behind us and the sun is showing its face more and more. We have been able to get outside, and sit on a blanket in the yard a few times. My daughter is just now experiencing the wind and glorious sunshine on her face and ginger-tinted hair (yes, it looks like she may in fact be a red head!). She looks around the yard with wonder, watching Olive sniff and play with sticks, and listening to all the sounds. We really don’t need any toys; the sensory experience is more than enough.

As for me, five weeks into this Working Mom business and I can report that we’re all surviving. Most of that survival can be attributed to my Lucy’s successful transition to daycare. She is comfortable when she gets dropped off by Big Red and handed over to her teachers, and she’s content when I pick her up in the afternoon. Honestly, as long as she’s doing well, I can do my job at work. There are moments during the day when I think of her intensely and miss her tremendously, but it’s not accompanied by worry.

There has been another profound phenomenon I have experienced. Prior to Lucy, I could watch anything on TV or see anything out in the world without having to endure lasting reactions. It seems as though the moment I had my daughter, I broke open. I now wear my heart outside of myself, and it prattles about on a blanket, feet hitched up, clasped between two doughy hands. Since having my daughter I cannot watch anything that has to do with children who are in harm’s way or are suffering. I can’t do it. There is an intense visceral reaction, often one of nausea that stops me. Nor can I see children, while out and about, who struggle—be it from physical or mental challenges, without having to fend off tears and being overcome with a profound sense of gratitude for the health of my daughter.

Finally, finally – I went for a run. It has taken me nearly six months to get back on the horse, but saddle up I have. On Monday, April 1, I laced up my sneakers for the first time in what seemed like forever, and hit the pavement. Big Red agreed to pick up Lucy so that I could run right after work. It has become overwhelmingly clear that once I am home, unless it’s to go on a walk with the baby and the dog, I will not be exercising. There’s just a little too much to get done, and I absolutely enjoy my time with my daughter – time with Lucy is just not something I’m willing to give up. Unfortunately after my inaugural run, the weather, and a terrible night of sleep, thwarted my efforts. The goal still remains that after work, twice a week, I hit the streets of Oakland, tunes in my ears, lungs heaving from inactivity and each step carrying me towards bettering myself. Next week is our spring break, so I’ll have an opportunity to lace up again. I’m no longer in a quest to be “skinny.” Long gone are those unrealistic achievements that purely set me up for failure. In place is the new goal: health and fitness. Monkey see, monkey do, and I don’t want Lucy growing up watching her mother pick herself apart in the mirror. Instead I want her to see a woman who is proud of the body that created a human life and exercises to feel good and keep healthy. If I keep that as my mantra, I know I can stay the course.

Happy six months, my sweet Lucille.


Month Five.

How is it possible that my newborn baby is five months old, that she’s started school, and that I will be returning to my job tomorrow morning? Hindsight may be 20/20, but it is also viewed in fast-forward. When you’re in the moment, time moves as it does – slow and steady, but when seen from the rear-view mirror, those moments quickly become specks on the horizon.

Lucille is an absolute joy. She is sleeping through the night, going to bed at around 7 pm and waking near 6 am. One of the biggest leaps she’s made this month is the addition of pureed table food. To date, my girl has tried and enjoyed: sweet potato, banana, peas, apple, squash, avocado, brown rice, and carrots. She eats with a smile, and eats well. Currently, she’s getting food twice a day, the puree accompanying a complimentary bottle. Bottle volume has increased to 5.5 ounces. Laughter is abundant, and Lucy is really into her doggie, Olive. Olive is the recipient of many smiles, and lots of petting, both of which she accepts gracefully. She does not seem to mind the occasional tug on her fur from little hands, but we are still trying to teach Lucy to be gentle with her. My gal, at her four month appointment, weighed in at 14.5 lbs, and measured 25.5” long. She is growing, growing, growing. Her feet remain a source of curiosity, and she’s constantly grabbing them. Her tongue is also of fascination and she loves to use it to make various noises, some of which include blowing bubbles, making raspberries, and talking. There are a string of sounds she now makes that sound like, "ma-ma-ma-ma." No sign of teeth yet, but plenty of gnawing on toys and whatever hand is handy. Big Red and I agree that she tends to favor her left side, both in the grabbing of objects or kicking – will she be a lefty like her Mom?

A week ago, Lucy started school (aka: daycare). Our first drop off went very well. Big Red got her together without too much trouble (he’ll have to do morning drop-offs since my start time at work is very early), and we made it out of the house by 7:20. When we arrived, her teacher, Miss J., greeted us warmly and helped us get our things settled. Big Red held Lucy the whole time, letting her take in the new surrounds from the comfort of his arms. We were there no more than 20 minutes, and when it was time to go, I kissed her cheek, Big Red handed her over, and we bolted. My goal was not to hear or see her cry because I knew if I did it would make it that much harder – on everyone. In recent weeks, Lucy has become wildly aware of her surroundings, and who is holding her. She does not like being held by anyone but Mom and Dad. Knowing this, we went over our drop-off plan the night before, and thankfully it worked. I did not call that first day, to see how she was doing, because I did not want to hear any kind of shaky news. It would have only made me upset and worried. Instead, I went about my business at home, caught up on some bills, tidied up a bit, and sort-of, relaxed. When it was time to pick her up at 12:30, I made my way there, and prepared myself for whatever report of her morning I would hear. She was in different clothing then when I’d dropped her off, and that was attributed to some minor spit up. No crying baby, and she’d eaten her food – that’s a win in my books!

Lucy’s first week at school was great success other than a small souvenir from her first stint: a cold. Yup. Kept her home with me on Friday just so that she could rest. Naps at school are a little hit or miss, and while I’m sure she enjoys the hustle and bustle in the room and interacting with her peers, she really needed to rest properly. I’ve always known illnesses were part of the daycare deal, and while they suck in the moment, they do help to build her immune system. In reality there are many, many strains of every virus (pink eye, the common cold, etc.). I know she won’t have antibodies for all, but at least she’ll have some, making her a more sturdy kid when she’s older.  The flip side to this was a couple of sleepless nights for me. Big Red sleeps through Armageddon, so the bill falls on me to get up with her when she’s congested. The good news is she falls back to sleep quickly; the bad news is this happened several times in the wee hours of the night. Not to mention a few un-reported trips into her room to lean my head deep into her crib, and inch from her face, and take note of her breathing.  What the hell did I ever worry about before I had her? Lucy has been a trooper, though, and is as happy as ever despite her snotty nose. We lucked out with this kid, I tell you.

Tomorrow I go back to work, the first time in a working capacity since Wednesday, October 9, 2013. I am as ready as humanly possible, logistically, but I’m not sure what the emotional toll will be. I reached out to my Mommy Group for some uplifting, expressing my concerns, not with my ability to teach, and not with Lucy being at daycare, but rather this whole Working Mom business. And I capitalize that because it deserves such recognition. More likely than not I will have no shame in taking the anti-anxiety medicine I have, as I have started to feel the initial pangs of what will, if left alone, turn into ugliness. I have no freaking clue what the next few months will hold, how difficult and exhausting it will be, but I have promised myself the following:
No matter what, I will be kind to myself. If the house is disheveled and my options are to spend time with the daughter I haven’t seen all day or pick up clothes, I will choose her. If there are assignments to grade, but the day has finished, then they will have to wait until tomorrow. If the tears come, I will let them fall. I am not a robot, I am a human, and there will be bumps along the way, but I will trust in finding a way.

Happy five months, my sweet Lucille.


Month Four.

She is four months old today, and I'm more in love with her than ever. 

In reaching her fourth month, Lucille’s two biggest accomplishments have been being able to sit unassisted for almost a minute, and sleeping (HALELUIJAH!) through the night. She slept through the night, FOR REAL, needing no patting and no replacement of the pacifier, for the first time, just two nights ago. Picture me doing Balki Bartokomous’ dance of joy. Unfortunately for me, she didn't have a repeat last night. Such is the story with babies - three steps forward, one step backward. At 2 am, I am resolute in my desire to sleep train her (cause I know she can do it), but then morning comes, and then it's time for her first nap of the day, and I still so very much enjoy holding my baby as she falls asleep in my arms. I'm constantly having an internal debate about wanting to have a child whom I can just lay down in a crib for sleep, be it evening or nap time, and the selfish desire to hold and rock her into dreamland. That's Mommyhood for you. For now I'm holding onto her - literally. In a couple weeks I'll revisit the idea, because if we're going to do it, I'd rather do this before heading back to work.

She has blossomed into a full-fledged gurgling, cooing, smiling, and even on occasion, chuckling baby. Lucy goes places with me and with us without much ado, and is pretty easy-going in that respect. She loves her doggie, Olive, and Olive loves her. They are becoming great friends and it warms my heart. She's a champ with tummy time, but really isn't doing much rolling over. She's graduated to 5 ounces per bottle!! Tomorrow she has her four month appointment, and we're both so curious to see how much she weighs and how tall she's become. This morning we gave her a little taste of avocado, more as a ceremonious moment, rather than one about really eating. Her face was priceless, and whether or not she actually swallowed any avocado remains unknown. I'm just glad she was interested in it. We'll keep giving her opportunities to try out this new thing called "food."

Just the other day I was sifting through the various video clips I have of Lucy, and I came across the only one from her very early days. In this clip she is just five days old, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I totally teared up watching it: a wee little thing, barely able to make any noise other than those kitty-like mews.  I ached so desperately to hold that sweet bundle again. The truth of the matter is, of lately, I’ve been feeling quite sentimental. I’m almost certain I can attribute this emotional phase to the fact that in just a short month, I’ll be back to work, and Lucy will be in daycare. I’m ready in many ways to get back to work, and even a little excited. And I’m of the belief that daycare will be good for her social development. She’ll make new friends and meet new people; her world will become that much bigger. But I’m also sad knowing that once we step into our new daily rhythm, during the week, I’ll only have a few hours with her while she’s awake; a dramatic departure from our days as we know them now. 

I’m working hard not to dwell on how much time is left before our next big step, because I don’t want to waste this final month doing just that. Instead, we’re enjoying our days together, playing, laying around, going places when the stinking weather allows for it. I’m not usually one for getting irritated with winter, but this winter season has been a doozy. Sitting in our storage room is our lovely new jogging stroller and we’ve yet been able to christen it because every two seconds it’s snowing or freezing, or everything is frozen over making for one large ice rink.

It’s a special time. I’m well-aware that these days I’ll never get back. Seeing that video of my five day old baby made that painfully clear. I have a bazillion photographs to document these fleeting moments, but I’m also constantly reminding myself to put down the camera and just enjoy her.

Be in the moment, fully present, just us two, mother and daughter.

Happy four months, my sweet Lucille.


Month Three.

Her face is changing right before our eyes. It’s both alarming and astounding. Big Red and I were recently looking at pictures taken just weeks ago in comparison to now, and the transformation is remarkable. It frightens me how quickly she is growing; I want to keep her this way so much longer than life will actually allow. Somehow though, nature understands a mother’s heart and with all the changes have come new and exciting milestones, sweet ones that temper that passage of her littleness.

In her third month Lucille has gained incredible control of her head and neck, and while in tummy time is learning to roll front to back. It’s obvious she now sees people come in and out of the room, and her blue eyes follow them easily. There is a constant attempt to find her thumb, but mostly she gnaws on her fist. I’m hoping she finds her thumb soon, as that might then replace the pacifier, and in moments of needing pacification, she could do it herself. Her babble is becoming more insistent and more purposeful and there are hints at laughter, short chortles, but no big belly giggles just yet. Smiles are abundant. She swats at objects and her grasp is strong and meaningful. She's even hitching her knees underneath her during tummy time! For the most part, Lucille was getting up around 4 am for a feeding, sometimes with an earlier one at around 11. Seems though recently, it's a for sure awakening at 11 or 12, and then again around 4. As of today, we've upped her intake to 4 oz. per bottle. We'll see if that makes a difference. Our evening routine has been established with a bath, bottle, bed trifecta. Soon we will start incorporating some reading after the bottle portion seeing as now her attention span is a little better. Lucy comes into bed with us around 6 am, sometimes even after the 4 am feed if she's having a hard time going back to sleep, so I guess we are sorta co-sleepers, or rather “co-sleeper in” parents. I love how her body just finds mine and she snuggles into the crook of my arm. And when she wakes, oh my. Those smiles. She’s such a happy little girl. We are now reading on a daily basis, during the day, and she seems to enjoy it.

This was also the month of Lucille’s first Christmas, and what a Christmas it was. Lucy finally got to meet her only living grandfather and uncle, my dad and brother, and her auntie, my brother’s fiancĂ©. The three flew in just a few days prior to the big show. She met Santa, twice, and made out like a bandit in the gift department. On Christmas morning, she was the star, and didn’t mind. She sat like a lady on Big Red’s lap, in her red Christmas tutu dress, and I helped her open her gifts while the room full of people stared and took pictures, calling out her name. At our house for gift opening time we had in addition to my family, my mother-in-law and Big Red’s Uncle. A full house!

Month three was also one of revelations for myself: I got a clear diagnosis of a mild case of postpartum depression (PPD). Yep, I drew that bullshit of a card. The day my family arrived for Christmas week, I experienced an “episode.” It was so similar to what I experienced once while in the hospital after just having had Lucille, and a couple times after we came home with her. I decided to call the doctor.

I have learned that the term PPD can be misleading. I am not in fact actually depressed. What I have experienced are attacks of anxiety. Both the therapist and psychiatrist I spoke with explained that the medical world has lobbied to have the term changed because not all women only experience depression. Some experience anxiety and some experience both. I’ve got the anxiety portion, and let me tell you that even though my case is mild, and having had only dealt with roughly four episodes, it sucks in a big way. It is debilitating and frightening: heart pounding, chest pressure, nausea, restlessness, weepiness, total lack of sleep and the sense and fear of being unable to care for the baby.

The good news is I’ve got amazing docs on board and given my symptoms, they have resolutely concluded that my case is attributed to the imbalance of hormones in my body. I was not able to continue breastfeeding (because of the anxiety), and I got my period back quite quickly – both of these factors have largely contributed to my body’s inability to gradually return to its normal levels. I have been prescribed anti-anxiety medication that I keep on hand for an as needed basis. I have not had to use them, and I’m hoping I don’t have to at all – BUT, if the need arises, “mommy’s little helpers” are stashed for the occasion. I was also told to, as time and circumstance allowed, to try to get back into exercising, which is definitely something I’m starting to want to do again, to drink lots of water, and to make sure I’m eating plenty of protein. Hopefully, in a couple more months, with a few more cycles, according to the docs, I’ll be out of the woods. Thanks to a groupon, I got one month of unlimited Bikram yoga, and started going on January 2.  I’ve been trying to go three times a week, and feeling much, much better. I’m not counting calories, but have definitely improved the quality of what I’m eating, and my water bottle is always nearby.

Month three was a big one for the both of us, Lucille and me. My daughter is a light in my life; she amazes me on a daily basis. We rang in the new year with hopes of a better 2014 and so much ahead of us. Although I want to shellac her and keep her this little for so much longer, I’m allowing the excitement of what is to come carry me through the twinge of sadness as she grows.

Happy three months, my sweet Lucille.


Month Two.

My daughter has existed outside of my body for two months now.  For 62 days, Lucille has breathed the air of this world beyond the dark warm waters in which she first came to be. For 62 days I have been a mother. Ask me what that means exactly and I feel like how the Scarecrow looks when he furrows his brow and puts a finger to his temple. 

I am both the noun and verb of mother: “a woman in relation to a child to whom she has given birth,” and “to bring up a child with care and affection.” It is a state of existence, a frame of mind, a physical entrapment or attachment depending on how things are going that day, or even the hour, or possibly the minute.

I am still perpetually tired; there is a thin film of haze that lives in my brain, but it's manageable and unlike the heavy fog of the first few days when we brought her home. When given the opportunity to nap, though, it seems impossible. When I put Lucy down, a small bean in the middle of our king size bed (we call it the magic nap bed - cause IT IS magic and she naps better there than anywhere else), and lay down to nap alongside her, I don’t. Instead I end up staring at her perfect little face. I watch her pink bowtie lips purse and smile, the small bubbles that sometimes form. I marvel at her long eyelashes and the ever so kissable cherubic cheeks. I’m amazed at her miniature hands down to the creases in her knuckles. This is what it is to be a mother. To be hypnotized by someone only 62 days old, so much so that you’ll forgo sleep just so you can stare and burn every fraction of their being into your memory, knowing full well you’ll pay for the deprivation of rest later on.

Since birth Lucille has grown 3 inches and now stands (is it appropriate to say this since she doesn’t actually stand yet?) at 23 inches tall, and weighs in at a solid 11 lbs, 7 oz. She’s meeting all her milestones and smiling in reaction to us. She recently discovered her fist and sometimes her thumb and she can, on occasion, roll from belly to back during “tummy time.” In month two Lucy has gotten to meet my mother, the west coast grandma, she experienced her first Thanksgiving, and she met her first friend and future playmate (Big Red's buddy had a baby girl). Lucy tracks both her father and me as we walk into or out of a room and she likes bath time. 

The biggest realization I have had in month two of Lucille’s life is that I can do this. I can now identify, with respectable accuracy, her cries – thus nurturing a happy baby. No longer is it just about meeting the need of a cry for hunger or of tiredness or a wet diaper. She is, in ways we probably don’t even know, absorbing the world around her and learning to live in it. Lucy is playing with her tongue more and more, sticking it out, clicking it inside her mouth – a precursor to baby babble? She kicks her legs vigorously and waves her arms when she’s excited; a primitive form of communication, what will someday turn into noises, then words, and then sentences. And then maybe someday into a Pushcart Prize or the Nobel Prize for Literature. Relax - I know that would be me projecting my desires for my life onto her. I refuse to do that. If Lucille wants to be a writer, bravo. If she doesn’t, bravo still. She will be who she wants to be, so long as it’s not a stripper. BUT, if she did actually want to be a stripper, then damnit I hope she’d be the best one out there (all of you gasping clearly don’t know my sense of humor).

In two months, I have come to understand motherhood as both helplessness and as someone who has superpowers (you were right, Pam).  The helplessness is the kind that comes with watching your daughter receives her first set of inoculations. How a mother’s heart quakes when her child is in pain. But the superpowers are the innate ability to comfort. She knows me, and when I hold her close, she is pacified. I am awash in oxytocin when this happens – pure satisfaction unlike any other.

The other day as I was feeding her, I asked her, “Do you like me, Lucy – do you love Momma?” I was obviously not expecting a response, but the questions were real, something I’d been wondering for a while. The next day, a friend who lives in Colorado sent me the following text:  I had a dream you and Lucy surprised me with a visit at school. As tiny as Lucy is, she was speaking. She said, “Lucy is happy. Lucy loves mommy.”

And there was my answer.

Happy two months, my sweet Lucille.


Identity: Putting Myself Back Together After Baby

As a new mom, I have been fortunate enough to find a group of other new moms that meet every week. We congregate, sit on cushions on the floor with our babes, and talk. And we talk and talk and talk about everything. I’ve said before that stepping into motherhood has brought me to my knees, made me cry more than I ever thought I would, and has sent me on a doozy of an emotional roller coaster. For all those reasons and so many more, this community of women has been invaluable to me. It has allowed me to share my insecurities and questions without fear of judgment. Each week that I go and sit on the floor with Lucy next to the others, I leave feeling a little more reassured in my work as a mother.

Recently during one group visit, a Mom brought up the idea of identity. She was struggling with figuring out who she was post-baby, and Kathy, our ingenious and fearless leader, asked the rest of us how we were dealing with this idea of identity. I didn’t say anything, but left considering my new space in this world.

I know logically I’m still me, but even knowing this, I sometimes have a hard time fitting all the pieces together to make sense. A friend from work texted me the other day and asked if I was enjoying my time with Lucy, to which I replied “yes, very much,” but also that right now I “can’t imagine going back to work in March and having to turn on my teacher brain.” How will I quiet the new mommy brain I’ve acquired in order to turn on my teacher brain again? It seems impossible because as of the moment, my mommy brain is what occupies 90% of my life. Then, a few days later, something happened that made me realize the former me is still there and eventually, it will all fall back together again – I got my period. Seems like a minor event, but it wasn’t in the sense that it was a clear reminder that even though I’m now Lucille’s mother, I’m still Ilene.

The best way for me to understand this new identity that I have, or rather than new, let’s say revised identity, is to liken it to a prism.  Some time ago, a dear friend of mine was traversing dark days. She sent me an article she found in an online journal which stated that we, as women are always “in flux, [we] are changing, [we] are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how [we] want to put [ourselves] back together.” It is a powerful idea to believe that we have the choice how we want to see ourselves and not let anyone else dictate that for us. The article also goes on to talk about how we are prisms, and why diamonds are as beautiful as they are – because they are fractured. Consider a diamond with no cuts, no facets. It would be dull, no? In order to help myself along this journey, I have taken to thinking of myself in these terms. I am a work in progress. The me that I knew before this baby is still there, but stripped down/fractured. Right now my waking life consists mostly of caring for my daughter, but slowly, the pieces of me that were, are returning.

Like a choreographed dance, I am learning one movement at a time. I had a baby. My cycle returned, and in a few months, I will go back to work adding another piece to this dance. Eventually I will add back things like photography, exercise and cooking meals from new found recipes. Each movement adds another dimension to the self, another step in choosing how I put the prism of my identity back together again. Right now that idea of "normal" appears to be far fetched, but I remind myself to be patient. Patient that in time I will find some kind of new normal and be able to do these things again. 

I know it won’t be smooth sailing all the time, and it will never be perfect, but it will be me. 
And that will be okay.


Month One.

Today my sweet Lucille is one month old. A month. I’m not entirely cognizant of how time has tucked into itself. We are moving through the days and nights somewhere caught between mild lucidity and a foggy haze; the leaves on the maple tree out back have long since reached their peak and just a few are left clinging desperately to the branches. Friends have walked into our home to marvel at and meet our daughter, bringing with them delicious food, and gifts for the babe. There have been phone calls home to California to talk and Skype with the west coast grandparents, and more diapers than I can count have filled our garbage cans. I’m certain I’ve looked at the clock in Lucy’s room on more than one occasion, forcing my wickedly tired eyes to focus on the big hand and little hand, only to realize it’s the wee hours of another morning.

This is first-time parenthood. Overwhelming, exotic, all-consuming, and exhausting. I’m still not certain how it’s possible that the honeyed smelling baby asleep next to me (as I write this), is ours. Literally ours of our flesh. It’s almost too much to comprehend and maybe that’s why it’s easier for folks to call babies, miracles. Then there’s no need to explain or understand.

I knew going into this – parenthood – that it would be a topsy-turvy time in our lives. The magnitude of just how completely a baby can turn your world upside down is humbling. It will bring you to your knees and the tears, oh my. The tears come for both good reason and no reason at all.  You can read as much as you think is necessary, research, and prepare, but actually living a newborn is an experience almost impossible to articulate.

As of today, here’s where I stand. I am tired but managing despite the lack of a straight 8-hour stretch of sleep. The mornings are a little tricky because I try to get myself fed before the baby wakes up. I have a general sense of when she might wake up, but it isn’t always accurate. What I should do is get up an hour before her expected waking, but I’m so freaking tired from having been up three hours earlier, that I linger in the warm cocoon of my bed.  Once she’s up, she’s changed and fed and then entertained for a short while before she falls back asleep for a catnap. The rest of the morning unfolds in a series of feedings and naps. There’s always the “big” nap to look forward to, which usually happens somewhere around 1 pm. That’s the time of day when I have the most down time, but “relaxing,” per say, isn’t always possible. See there’s this thing that happens when you have a baby. Biology has dictated that since you spent nearly ten months bringing this little creature to life, it was damn well going to equip you with all the tools necessary to keep it alive – read: a keen sense of hearing. I can hear every squawk or peep and I immediately go on standby ready to meet her needs. Essentially I’m on call ALL day.

The afternoon looks a lot like the morning, and we all look forward to Big Red getting home.  Dinner is not always a tandem event, sometimes he eats while I mind the baby and then we switch. If we’re lucky, she’ll be napping and we can get dinner down together.  She goes to bed after her last “evening” feeding,somewhere between 8:30 and 10:30 pm. And then it’s quiet time for the both of us for a short while before I inevitably succumb to the lead weights strapped to my eyelids.  Big Red handles the “dream” feed and then I take care of the crazy 3-4 AM –ish feeding.

And then somehow yesterday becomes today and we do it all over again.

There are moments of pure bliss and joy when I look at her, especially when she’s fallen asleep on my chest and her little body is a delicious warmth curled into mine. At the moment, nothing could be better and I want little else than to hold her this way for hours on end – forever, really.  I inhale her scent and rub my cheek against the silky softness of her head. Then there moments of wanting to press pause and take a break, wanting to get out of the house at will, wanting to take a shower, wanting to eat a proper lunch.  Life with a newborn is a double-edged sword, and in the fissures of total exasperating frustration, I quietly tell myself that this phase is tough and that we will get through it because it’s just what you do.

There is a sense of pressure though to “enjoy every moment.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told this in the past month. Show me a new mom who actually enjoys every single moment and I’ll give you my next paycheck. Not realistic AT ALL. That bar is failure in the making. There are more moments of joy than there are frustration, but they certainly don't negate the frustration. That's reality. My good friend Dacia sent me a text the other day and it went something like this:
                                                Nobody knows what the f*ck they’re doing with this parenting
                                                thing. In the words of Phil Dunphy, “You fake your way though
                                                it. And you just hope you don’t raise a serial killer.”
True that.

Somewhere between late nights, fussiness, feedings, diapers, and kissing the cutest cheeks in town, I have missed fall altogether. When I pass by the window in our dining room, I am startled to see our maple tree has long since reached its colorful peak of red and gold and the leaves now lay scattered in our yard.

As we move into the hibernation and stillness of winter, I remind myself that my best is the best for Lucille (thanks, Anna), and all that she needs right now is to be kept warm, fed, clean and loved.

I am certain my daughter, my daughter, is receiving all four – especially love. In spades, she is loved. Happy one month, my sweet Lucille.