First Time Mom

What We Mean When We Say Enjoy Every Second

If one were ever inclined to purposefully turn a barely sane mother-on-the-verge into a tornado of rage, they must only utter the words, “Enjoy every second.”

This message is treasured by experienced mothers as if it were a cure-all salve made from unicorn tears. When delivered, it often comes with a knowing smile, and gentle pat on the arm. “Enjoy every second, dear,” says the Grandma at Target while your kid is standing in the checkout isle, pants around their ankles, screaming because you won’t buy them a bottle of rainbow vodka, and the Richard Simmons workout DVD they are white-knuckle clutching in their angry little fist.

Having someone tell me to enjoy every second used to make me want to Hulk-out. It is literally impossible to enjoy every second, and on that merit alone, it’s a dumb thing to say. So much of parenting is tedious and tiring and frustrating and NOT enjoyable in any way shape or form, and anyone who puts that kind of unrealistic pressure on me is obviously clinically insane, and is instantly discredited.

Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.

And then I had a second kid.

Holy time warp, Batman.

Getting my daughter from birth to two and a half, when her brother was born, felt like an eternity. Actually it felt like five or six eternities, because every step was foreign. Every move was questioned, every decision scruitinized. Every cry she let out (and there were a whole metric shit ton of them), was agonized over because I never knew how to handle them, nor could I ever pin point the cause of them.

Having someone casually suggest I enjoy ANY second of that made me want to throat punch them.

But since the birth of her brother, it’s all I can do to NOT focus on these fleeting seconds.

Since his birth almost 10 months ago, not only has he nearly turned into a toddler, but my daughter is now a little girl. Her body is long and lean, and capable of carrying her own things. Her brain is quick and sharp, constantly suprising me with how much she knows. There is not one ounce of baby left in her, and only the teeniest bit of toddler lingering in her graceful movements and wild laughter.

Seeing this makes me acutely aware of how quickly these 10 months have gone. It makes it easier to sit and stare, while my son naps in my lap, trying to etch every lash, every wrinkle, every puff of tiny baby breath into my brain, because I know in another blink of an eye, he will be a boy.

Knowing this, and watching it all happen with lightening speed, I now understand why strangers tell you to enjoy every second.

Parenting is hard, and parenting tiny humans, especially in the beginning, is dock-a-spaceship-on-a-satellite hard (that’s probably a thing, right?). Even if your focus isn’t on “perfection” merely surviving early parenthood is hard enough. Babies, it turns out, are assholes a lot of the time! Spouses can be super freaking annoying about alllllll kinds of things when you’re learning how to parent together. Parents and in laws can cross every boundary you can think of (well, maybe not every one), and make you want to rip out whatever hair hasn’t already fallen out. Work! Pets! That rabbit turd of a man Trump!

All of this is normal (except Trump), and all of this is hard. But all of this serves as a distraction from the magic that is seeing your baby turn into a human in just a few short months.

Of course if the old woman in the checkout line could corner you for 15 minutes, and your half-naked toddler would stop screaming about the Richard Simmons workout DVD so that you could actually hear her quiet wisdom, she’d tell you all of this. But she only has one second of your attention, which is why she condenses it down to three words.

Enjoy every second. Because damn, does it go by fast.

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The Weight Of It All

Last night I dreamt I was drowning.

Standing on a branch of tree, I watched as the water grew closer and closer, first creeping over my feet, then inching up my legs. Looking out I could see people on dry land, but was afraid to step into the water because I didn’t know how deep it was, or how I would get to where they stood. Up and up, the water rose, past my knees, past my hips, up to my chin, over my head. I woke up panicked, just as the water completely submerged me.

Sitting here today, on a day that could classified as nothing other than one of those days, it’s not hard to draw meaning from my dream.

I am absolutely drowning.

I’m drowning in stuff. Toys and crayons, laundry and books – a quick survey of my floor would shock even the most tenured of Hollywood maids. I’m drowning in to-dos. Cleaning, organizing, planning, catching up. Piles of things waiting to be sorted, dealt with and filed away. I’m drowning in guilt. Guilt about my parenting failures, about how little one-on-one time I get to spend with my daughter, about the food we eat, and how much TV she’s watched lately while I find my groove as a new mom of two. Guilt about how frustrated I often feel. I’m drowning in the unknown.

With a toddler and a baby, we are at a stage where everything requires so much effort. Nothing is simple. Not a phone call, not a diaper change, not a story or a meal. I can’t take out the trash, or go to the grocery store without disrupting a nap, or sacrificing a round of much needed outdoor playtime. My attention is constantly being requested by one or both of the kids, and any free time I get is usually squeezed into the 20 minutes between when I finally get the baby down and then crawl into bed myself shortly after, completely exhausted.

Hardly enough time to find any kind of balance. Not enough time to recoup any energy.

With two young kids, everything I do requires patience and time, and I’m sad to say, I feel as though I hardly have any left of either. I spend my days in a constant state of triage, trying to judge who, or what, needs my attention the most, often discovering that I’m a day late, and a (fifteen) buck (late fee) short.

I read once that the early childhood is reportedly the most unhappy time in your life. It seems so counterintuitive. How could you be anything but happy when you are cradling your baby, gazing down into their tiny scrunched face? But in the thick of it, I can attest to its truth, and preach of how short-sighted that kind of thinking is.

Because it’s all so much – the love, the joy, the fear, the work, and it all comes on so soon. Sure, you have an idea of what you’re getting into, but much like watching an oncoming wave, you don’t know exactly just how hard it’s going to hit you until you’re actually in it.

And boy howdy, am I ever in it.

These little people, whom I love with every fiber of my entire being, they are taking it all. This beautiful, huge, all-consuming love that pours from my heart, it comes at a cost. And right now, I am paying the price.

My time, my patience, my independence, my own needs and desires – they are all being chewed up and consumed to fuel this crazy love that nurtures these incredible children. “Enjoy the moment!” People say. And I do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t also acknowledge the other side of it. The side that leaves me breathless. The side that feels like I’m drowning.

Much like my dream, I feel overwhelmed by it all. Submerged. Desperate. Unsure of what will happen next. And much like my dream, I can see people on the other side, people with kids who are just a little bit older, and a little bit more independent. “It will get better,” they say, and I know that, too, is true. Motherhood is a job, and just like with any job, adding on a new task (or a new kid) takes some time to figure out.

Sink or swim, I am in the thick of it, with only one option: Just keep going.

And it is here, in the simplicity of having no other choice, that I finally find solace. Just keep going. One step at a time, until we have once again made it through another day. And with every day that passes, we get a little better. The water gets a little more shallow, the other side a little easier to get to.

The weight of it feels unbearable at times. But I’m learning it isn’t.


Image credit: Cover image

How To Survive Your First Month Of Parenthood

Congratulations! Baby is here, and you’re back home. If you’re anything like me, upon arriving home and sitting your bruised and battered behind down oh-so-delicately on your couch, you gaze upon your snoozing infant with pride, and then promptly wig the fandango out because ohmygodwhatdowedonow?!

Having now survived the first month of parenthood, twice (**enthusiastically pats self on back**), I’ve gleaned a few tips I’d like to share to help you get through this raucous rodeo with as much zen as possible.

Wear comfy clothes: Your body has taken a lickin’. Do it a favor and don’t squeeze it, cram it, squish it or otherwise mess with it by attempting to stuff it into pre-pregnancy clothes. Get a bra that fits. Wear pants that feel like love. One surefire way to add unnecessary stress to your day is by making yourself physically uncomfortable in an attempt to be cute. Screw cute. Do comfy.

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Eat: This one is easier said than done, as more often than not any time you go to feed yourself, someone else requests food. Loudly. And as they say, the screaming, frothing at the mouth, purple-faced wheel gets the grease (or the milkshake). But nine times out of ten, if I find myself getting all ragey, it’s because I’m ravenously hungry. So eat. And drink water while you’re at it, too.

Invest in a baby carrier of some sort: Babies like to be held, but even eight pounds gets heavy after hour 1,734. A Moby or Ergo (or whatever you fancy) that turns you into a human marsupial can be a real lifesaver. Or at least a hand and arm free-er-up-er.

Wash yo’ face: I had no idea how hard it would be to find time to shower with two kids, but at the very least, washing my face with hot water makes me feel better. Also, I may or may not use baby wipes on my armpits occasionally. And by occasionally I mean daily.

Make it easy: Give yourself some leeway as you learn the ropes. Now is the time to try out that grocery delivery service, or order something off Amazon you’d normally get at the store. Take any extra pressure off yourself until you find your feet.

Say no: Don’t want to do something? Say no. Don’t want someone to come over and meet the baby for whatever reason you have (and it doesn’t have to be a good one)? Say no. Or have your partner do it for you. You’re the master of this ship. You call the shots.

Say yes: Is someone offering to bring you food? Always say yes. Take up your pal who wants to bring your older kid to the park, or walk your dog, or water your garden. Say yes to things that will reduce your stress by even one iota.

Indulge: There is nothing easy about this time, and finding parts that are enjoyable can be hard. If there is something that brings a smile to your face, do it. Ice cream after dinner (or whenever, for that matter), binging on a shameless reality tv show while you nurse, a couple sleeve of girl scout cookies -whatever floats your boat- do it. Indulge a little because you need all the help you can get.

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This, times about 32 other cookies…

Sleep: Get sleep. Get it however you can. Go to bed at 7pm. Take a nap at 7am. However you can squeeze some sleep into your life, do it. Sleep may not beget sleep, but it does add back a few precious drops of patience to that oft-used well.

Get outside: Feeling punchy? Get outside. Put kiddo in a pack, and walk around the block. Hear the birds. Feel the wind on your face. Almost get run over by a 90-something year-old man who ran a red light, and then realize how much you appreciate your life, even if it sucks a little right now.

Put on some tunes: One of the hardest parts about new parenthood (or just having a new baby in the house) is how isolating it can be. It takes a while to find your groove, so days will go by where socialization doesn’t happen. Turning on the radio, or jamming out to a favorite album can help remind you there is life outside your door, and even if it feels like it, you’re not alone.

Call your doctor if you feel weird: This one is super freaking important. Bringing home a baby is hard. The trifecta of sleep deprivation, hormones, and pain can make it difficult to find your feet. Add to that being solely responsible for someone else’s needs, who, as luck would have it, is incapable of voicing what they want, and you have a recipe for one hell of a headache (at best). While a certain amount of irritability, anxiousness, moodiness and exhaustion are normal, sometimes what you are going through is more serious. A quick call to your doctor or midwife can help you determine how best to proceed, and can give you resources to make your transition into parenthood easier.

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Image credits: Cookie monster, The first 40 years, memes belong to HMDHM

 

Days Like This

Oh sweet baby Jesus. I forgot how hard this is.

Anyone who has had a baby will be quick to tell you how hard it is in the beginning, but much like the pains of labor fade (and they do, trust me, you DO NOT remember how shitty that part is), you don’t actually remember how hard it is until you’re in the thick of it.

But I’m here now, and I’m going to tell you, it is hard.

Your body hurts in ways you didn’t even know it could. Your brain is absolute mush. You are more tired than you’ve ever been. And on top of it, you are basically trying to solve a human Rubik’s cube with a very loud alarm that tells you over and over you are doing it wrong.

Even if you’ve already done this before, it’s all new again. Everything is different. Things that worked for your other babies doesn’t work. Or you’ve just forgotten (damn you Moby for making me relearn how to do fabric origami with a 15 foot piece of cloth on no sleep!). Or maybe some things are even easier. But regardless, everything is different.

Well everything except one thing: This is hard.

But here’s the thing. Some days the hard will be too much, or at least it will feel like too much. Some days the tears will outnumber the smiles. Some days all you will do is sit in dirty pajamas and nurse, shush and rock your way from sunrise to sunset, while your messy house, greasy hair, and smelly breath taunt you.

Other days, though, you will get up and get out and feel alive again.

Now there’s no balance to these days, and it may feel like the scales are heavily tipped in the wrong direction. But eventually it will even out, and even further down the line, the scales will tip the other way.

So from one mama in the trenches to any one else out there, sitting in dirty pajamas dreaming of a shower, a cinnamon roll, and about 97 hours of consecutive sleep, I am here to remind you that we will get through this part, too.

And in the mean time, I will be available for Twitter chat or Facebook messenger tonight, and every night for the foreseeable future from the hours of 10:30pm to 1am, when I hand our newest Rubik’s cube over to his daddy with strict instructions to not wake me unless the house is on fire.

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The Only Word Worse Than Moist

Words are powerful. They have the power to evoke memories and emotions alike. They move us to take action, or calm frazzled nerves. Words unite us or divide us depending on their message. They can fill your soul with love, or, break your heart into a thousand itty bitty pieces. Words are powerful.

Take, for example, the word “moist.”

I’m willing to bet that at least 80% of you just scowled and wrinkled your nose as if you had just smelled a day old poop diaper left in a hot car during a Miami heat wave. It’s not a pretty word, and depending on your personal experiences, probably brings up an unpleasant memory, like the shared gloves in our elementary music class that were used to play the fancy brass bells. Pulling on a cold and moist pair of cotton gloves when it was time to take my turn on the bells was on par with pulling up your wet one-piece after a pee break at the public pool, which is to say exceedingly difficult and gross feeling. Needless to say, my dreams of being a professional bell toller ended around the same time as the ring worm infection I got from the gloves got diagnosed.

While I don’t love the word moist, it doesn’t really skeeve me out too much. I mostly think of cake or muffins. But there is a word that sends spider-in-your-hair type shivers shooting down my spine: Rash.

Yep. Rashes make me irrational. Big time. Without fail, upon seeing a rash, the same thoughts always go through my mind:

1. Whatthefuckisthat?

2. A RASH! I’m itchy. My eyes itch. I have a rash in my eyes?

3. Well that is profoundly disturbing, and obviously hella contagious.

4. I am itchy. I am itchy all over. My eyebrows itch. I have a rash in my eyebrows?

5. This is ring worm? This is chicken pox? This is measles? This is poison ivy? I will google it.

6. GOOOOOOOOOOOOD GRIEF! I’m NEVER googling again. (Seriously. Never google image search the word rash. And especially never click on this link that shows you THE WORST PICTURE OF A RASH YOU’VE EVER SEEN. Don’t do it.)

Having a toddler in the house, I see my fair share of rashes. Diaper rashes and viral rashes that come after a fever. Nothing that has been contagious, and nothing that has been serious by any stretch of the imagination. But still. Rashes make me itch.

So let’s hear it. What’s your least favorite word out there?

When Does This Get Easy?

Yesterday while walking home after picking my husband up from work, I was, to put it simply, wigging out. This week Baby 1.0 appears to have dropped her last remaining nap. Though each day we try, and try again, she just won’t fall asleep, and by 5 o’clock, we are both at our wits end. Nearly in tears, I explained to him how each step has been so hard for us, and I just have never felt like we were really getting it, if you get what I’m saying. This whole time we’ve been surviving, but I have never felt like we are thriving. With her deciding this week to drop her last remaining nap, yet again, I am left scrambling as I figure out how to manage this next developmental stage.

Today the frustrations again reared their ugly head after I lowered a sleeping child into her crib, just to watch her eyes pop open, and remain open. How stupid was I to think that for the first time this week, I would get to pee alone, and then eat a sandwich without someone screaming for me to draw another picture of a cat.

Now before you get all “It could be worse on me” trust me, I get it. The guilt of feeling frustrated and complaining that my healthy, wonderful child won’t sleep or eat when there are people with sick kids, or worse, no kids due to some tragic situation, makes me feel absolutely despicable. I should just be thankful I have a kid, right?

But for the love of all that’s holy, would it be too much to ask that the kid I have just eat a meal or two every day without me having to chase her around the house with 18 different options, and then, because she is tired and needs it, get a little sleep? It’s eating and sleeping, I’m asking for here, not the solution for the conflict in the Middle East.

So what do I do? What can I do, other than just put one frustrated foot in front of the other, and carry on as we always have, waiting for us to both settle into yet another new pattern. I’ve been through enough with Baby 1.0 to understand this is temporary, and in no time at all we will both adjust to 13 hours of awake toddler-time. But until then, all I want to do is cry, eat four chocolate croissants, and whine about it on a very public platform. When does this get easy?

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Proof that one time, she actually did nap.

Milestones, Or Acceptable Ways To Publicly Declare Your Baby Is Superior

We’ve all been there. You’re at the park, quietly watching your little while they play calmly in the sandbox with a broken shovel and a pine cone. From the corner of your eye, you see her approach, her seasonally appropriate attire clean and cute, her hair in a suspiciously full, yet contained top knot. In a moment of panic, you look down at your own outfit, and discover a dried out macaroni noodle stuck to your sweater in the exact location of your nipple. You manage to remove it just before she gets there, and breathe a temporary sigh of relief, but dread washes over you as you see the bright yellow semi-circle the noodle has left behind, creating a rather convincing “friendly cyclops” effect on your right boob.

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It’s like this, but maybe just a few less noodles.

She delicately arranges herself on the edge of the sandbox, reusable coffee cup in one manicured hand, eco-friendly, gender neutral, Montessori toy in the other. And then, as if coming straight from a Hannah Andersson magazine shoot, in toddles the perfect toddler. This toddler is wearing matching everything, and unlike your child, they don’t have walrus-like tusks of snot hanging off their face. They enter the sandbox, and in the distance you hear the faint, but distinct, sound of bells signaling the start of round one.

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These guys rolling up to the sand box is (marginally) more terrifying than finding a clown in a dark alley.

For a few seconds, nothing happens, and you think “Maybe this is the nanny? Oh please be the nanny…” But this thought is interrupted by the seemingly innocent complement/question one-two punch, “She is so cute! How old is she?” And it begins. For those of you who don’t yet have kids, this seems so harmless. “She’s just being nice!” you may say. But really, like a raptor testing the fence, she’s just found her way in. “She’s 15 months,” you reply. And then because you don’t want to come off like the ogre you feel like, you reply with “I love your daughter’s shoes. How old is she?” Here’s where it gets serious. Secretly you are hoping and praying her kid is at least 6 months older. Look at the way she scoops the sand, and dumps it in to the bucket with such accuracy! And did she just speak in full sentences? She has to be at least 22 months. “My little angel is 14 months!” she says, confirming your worst fears.

From here it gets ugly quick. You discover that her little princess started sleeping through the night at 2 months, and continues to do so, in her own bed. She sat up at 3 months. She crawled at 5 months. She walked at 8 months. She is basically potty trained. She speaks three languages, not including sign language, which she can also do comfortably. It is after finding out she saved the preschool hamster by giving it the Heimlich that you look over at your own offspring, and discover they are currently chewing on a sand-covered apple core they’ve just unearthed.

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Sand. In your teeth. It hurts me to even type that.

Before you get too down on yourself, let’s pump the brakes on this train wreck and put things in perspective. It’s horribly cliché to say “every baby is different,” but it’s the most simple way to put something that is, quite simply, the truth.

I find myself getting caught up in this nonsense still, when some over-achieving wonder-tot spits some crazy toddler knowledge at Baby 1.0 and me. Just this weekend, we shared the sandbox with an 18 month old who could speak in full sentences (we actually witnessed it), and according to his mom, could read. Baby 1.0 doesn’t even really have a word yet, and while she knows what the word “nose” is, she can actually only locate it on my face maybe 60% of the time (for the record, my nose is in the standard location, midway between both ears, on the front of my face). But instead of (me) pooping in the sandbox and going home and ordering the entire Baby Einstein series off Amazon in a panic, which I considered, my husband and I just shrugged and told ourselves, “Every baby is different. She will get there.”

These comparisons are often not malicious, as I too, find myself wondering how Baby 1.0 stacks up against the average toddler. But sometimes they sure can feel that way. My guess is I’m not alone in feeling judged, or in all honesty, judging every once in a while (every day). Our babies are like our own little 4H projects, and just like when the judge comes to your stall and points out your cow has a googly eye, you feel like you need to compensate and tell him all about how, googly eye and all, your magnificent cow is able to sweep the barn if you attach the special sweeping mitts you made to her feet. Maybe this hasn’t happened to anybody else, but you get the point. Every baby has their downfalls, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t 10 things that make up for that downfall.

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This cow does not have a googly eye. It does, however, have what appears to be a case of cow narcolepsy.

I think for my own sanity, I need to replace the question “is my baby is better?” with the acknowledgement that “every baby is different” more readily. I should make it my mantra, and carry it with me, probably for the rest of my life. I can only imagine these comparisons continue, in some degree, forever.

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Image credits:

Mac and cheeseHannah AnderssonSand eaterCow