Sunday, April 25, 2010

Looking back, looking forward

We decided to shake off a particularly exhausting week on Friday by going to our favorite bar for happy hour. When the manager came over to say hi to Mia, we got to chatting about kids (his are 5 and 7) and we agreed that one of the best things about little babies is how just before bedtime, when they finish their last feeding, you pull them up for a burp and they slump sweetly onto your shoulder. Their breathing is heavy in your ear as they drift off to sleep, their arms draped around your neck. I said that it's such a precious, serene moment, my favorite of the entire day. The manager gave me a somber look. "You know," he said, "that'll be gone soon."

That's what I keep thinking about this weekend as Mia hits her six-month birthday. (By the way, the copy editor in me is completely annoyed at referring to anything other than a birthday as a "birthday." There is no such thing as a "six-month birthday," people.) But I keep thinking that I don't ever, ever want that part to go away! It hurts my heart just thinking about it. I know it will be replaced with new, even cooler parts. And yet I'm already missing my little baby Mia, who - from what everyone tells me - will soon vanish before my eyes.

Six months - it feels like the most incredible milestone. Particularly if we break it in half. I'm going to be honest with you, I walked around those first three months feeling like I got a bit suckered. You see, when you are a pregnant lady, you can't go anywhere without people clutching their chests and fluttering their eyelids at how WONDERFUL being a parent is. How LUCKY you are. How your life will never be the same, IN A GOOD WAY! And when a rookie like me imagined things like "maternity leave" and "bonding time," it sounded like three months of rocking chairs and lullabies and a soft, cuddly little teddy bear of a baby. Now, if you could just excuse me one moment...


What I mean to say is, I was entirely unprepared for how hard it would be. Even though I was one of those pregnant women who read everything she could get her hands on about having a baby, there were a few things nobody told me.

Nobody told me that you could literally spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doing absolutely nothing except keeping the baby alive, fed, changed, soothed or sleeping. I would watch in horror as the clock ticked off hour after hour after hour, while I sat there tethered to the baby and doing nothing else. And when by some miracle I did find a little bit of time? The list of things on my to-do list was so long it paralyzed me, and I was too exhausted to even fathom tackling it, anyhow. I'm the kind of person who really likes to get things done, a person who makes lists at work every single day and crosses things off with glee. So this part of motherhood was difficult for me.

Nobody told me that taking care of a baby could take such a physical toll on your body. Even more than pregnancy did, in my case. First off, boobs. Breastfeeding was tough for us at first. When it wasn't working right, I was so worried and frustrated. When it was working right, it hurt like holy hell. At the beginning, when Mia was eating every 2-3 hours around the clock, I lived in dread of the next feeding. It took us a solid month before the idea of breastfeeding didn't make me want to cry.

And then there was the rest of my body. Especially during months two and three, by day's end every muscle in my body ached. During the colicky phase - when we commonly referred to our child as "the unholy terror" - we'd spend hours taking turns holding, swinging, rocking and swaying with Mia to try to calm her down. That was a killer on my knees and hips, joints that were already weakened by breastfeeding hormones. For awhile there, I climbed steps like a 99-year-old woman. I also got myself a case of tendinitis in my left wrist from lifting her a hundred times a day. (To be fair, expressing the dog's bladder didn't exactly help that, either.) It's only a very tiny spot that's affected, but the shooting pain can be excruciating.

But here's the nice thing about parenthood: Absolutely none of this matters. Every single problem, complaint or frustration with being a new mom melts away entirely the instant you see this face.

And that's probably why the second half has been so gloriously different from the first. This must be what all those people were talking about! We're getting daily grins that would steal your breath away. Daily giggles and curious stares and funny sounds. I was astonished the other day to finally hear what my daughter's voice sounds like. I mean, clearly she's been capable of making noise since day one. But now she makes deliberate sounds with her real little-girl voice, and it's the most excruciatingly sweet sound I've ever heard in my life. (She mostly just says "Ba! Ba! Ba!" though to torment her grandmas a bit, we are trying to get her to put that syllable between an "O" and a "ma.") Developments like this are thrilling, and conveniently, they bring with them a lovely amnesia that erases all the hard parts from your mind.

And even though I know it's coming, it is impossible for me to comprehend that six months from now, our baby will have teeth. She will be able to stand up, and maybe even walk. She'll be a lot closer to little girl than baby. That's why I'm going to try even harder to slow down and keep in mind the other thing people are always telling new parents: It goes by so damned fast.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Must learn to play it cool

Last night I went on a little walk with Mia, who was tucked snugly into her carseat with the hood up. And a bee flew in there.

Have you ever seen those cartoons where the person's eyeballs leap two feet out of their heads in alarm? That's what I looked like. Pure, instant, total panic. The bee landed right on her hand, and she looked down at it and didn't even flinch. I suppose I should be grateful she didn't immediately stick it in her mouth like everything else she can get her hands on.

I don't actually remember what I did besides hyperventilate and suffer heart palpitations and wave my arms around. She was strapped into the seat, which was strapped into the stroller, so when the bee flew off her hand and down behind her arm I nearly fainted. I have a hard time remembering exactly what happened, but I believe I tried to roll her over, which was stupid because of all the straps. So it was more like I just squished her into one side of the seat. A second or two later, the bee flew away, and Mia looked up at me and started cracking up.

My hands didn't stop shaking for six blocks.

What I'm wondering is, what would have happened if she had been stung? Besides the screeching sobs, I mean. What would I have done for her? Are bee stings very dangerous for someone so little? Dear god, there better not be a next time, but in case there is, I need to find out. Shockingly, I did seem to remember that swatting at the bee could make it sting her, so I think I resisted the urge to wave my hands close to it. So basically, anyone walking by would have seen a perfectly content baby smiling in a stroller, and a mom three feet away yelping and flapping her arms and, I'm pretty sure, saying the F-word once or twice.

I really hope I get better at this.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Best. Vacation. Ever.

So! Believe it or not, I've been off work for more than a week. You'd think that would open up all sorts of time for blogging, especially when I have at least six posts churning in my head that I'm eager to pour out here. But alas, that's not how it turned out. Instead, I was far, far too busy with all the NOT WORKING to actually get anything accomplished.

You see, here's how the average workday goes for me: Alarm goes off at 5 a.m. (Unless, of course, the baby got up to eat at 4 or 4:30, which has happened a few times, in which case going back to bed would be pointless for me, so I just stay up. If she wakes up any earlier than maybe 3:30 to eat, then I try to sneak back to bed for a little bit. Most nights she sleeps till 6 or so, but seriously, you just can't ever tell.) So, to begin again: Alarm goes off at 5 a.m., and between 5 and 6:40 when I have to leave for work, I must accomplish four things: Feed the baby; shower and get ready; eat breakfast; grab my purse, breast pump bag, lunch and coffee before I sail out the door. The order of these things changes every day, as it all depends on what time I hear the little squawks come from the baby monitor. It is stressful.

Then I go to school. There, somehow between meetings and phone calls and e-mails and deadlines, I have to fit two breast-pumping sessions into the workday. These can 25 to 30 minutes. Sometimes I spill milk on my pants. Once I squirted my own self in the eye. Twice I have been walked in on by custodians. (If you have never seen what a woman pumping her breasts looks like, you have no idea how horrifying this is. Just trust me.) It is stressful to pump milk out of your breasts with a machine in your office.

Then I come home, usually by around 3:30 p.m. Between 3:30 and 8, here is what must be accomplished: Change clothes. Feed baby. Express dog's bladder. Hand wash approximately 497 little plastic breast pump parts. Take baby on a walk. Feed baby. Play with baby. Play with dog. If necessary, get groceries, do laundry and/or pick up house. Fix dinner. Give baby bath. Feed baby. Put baby to bed. Express dog's bladder. Pack lunch and pump bag for next day. Collapse on couch. Try very, very hard not to fall asleep 11 minutes into a TV show. Fail frequently. Go to bed.

It's a dead sprint from 5 a.m. till 10 p.m., five days a week.

So, I spent my vacation in pajamas. Resting. Rushing nowhere. Napping. Cuddling with my baby. NOT PUMPING. And grinning from ear to ear at having one whole week away from the chaos.

While I didn't have time for all the writing, I can show you some cool pictures!

Here's little Easter Mia, wearing a dress from her Grandma Eva. I tried to get her to pose prettily next to her stuffed rabbit, Mr. Bun.

However, he soon met the same fate as everything Mia gets her hands on these days.

Here we are practicing tummy time. We do not like tummy time. But we do it anyway. Glad Sal took this picture before the howling began.

Waking up from a snooze with the daycare provider.

We bought Mia a high chair, in preparation for starting her on real food in a few weeks. She LOVES it. And for the first time in months, we can actually sit together and enjoy a meal without a squirmy baby on somebody's lap.

Finally, Mia went to her first baseball game - the San Jose Giants home opener. She had a ton of baseball fans fawning all over her and how cute she looked in her Giants onesie. We made it two and a half whole innings, including beers and barbecue for mom and dad. That's a home run, I say!