Feathered Aspen


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Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep

As a new parent, trusting my instincts isn’t always my strong suit.  I’m impressionable and sometimes insecure.  Here’s this beautiful little girl, and I feel this incredible responsibility.  In the past that word – responsibility – has carried with connotations of obligation or burden, but I say “responsibility” with a gladness and wistfulness.  Weight and girth of this responsibility feels enormous.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but most of the time, it just feels like the most important thing in the world.

Yes, there are other important things.  I am a wife, friend, daughter, teacher, dreamer, runner, and so many things in between.  I have an identity beyond motherhood, but I’m also struck by the gravity of bringing life into this world and being the bow that bends and set that arrow forth (to use the words of Mr. Gibran).  I know that I will makes mistakes – believe me, I already have – but I want desperately to do my best for her.

Which brings me to Attachment Parenting.  Never has a body of thought pertaining to parenthood struck so many chords.  In Lily’s first year, it seemed that every instinct – whether timid or sure – aligned with this thinking.  I loved co-sleeping.  Breastfeeding, although rocky at first, became a cornerstone of our relationship.  I loved carrying Lily from place to place in the Ergo or the Bjorn, and we did everything  pretty much on demand:  no hard and fast bedtimes, no regular nap times, and nursing whenever the need arose.

But after the first year, I’ve begun having my doubts.  It’s strange, because no one told me, “hey, Attachment Parenting is the only real parenting, and anything else is a surefire way to detach your child,” but for some reason, I’ve internalized this body of thought.  At first, I was searching for unconventional ways to parent children, and when I found something unconventional, I leaned hard on its conventions.  It became my barometric for good parenting, and I accepted it nearly wholesale.

Yes, yes.  Very ironic.  I know.  But I’m getting there, so bear with me.  It’s an evolution, people.

So now, 18 months in, I’m discovering some things that aren’t working so well, and I’m having a hard time trusting my instincts, because – like I said – Attachment Parenting has become my barometric for good parenting, and deviating feels like I’m failing on the barometer.

The impetus for this post?  Well, Lily and I got home at 12:45 like we usually do, and I nursed her in our bed for 10 minutes like I usually do, and Lily wasn’t feeling it.  She rubbed her eyes, exhausted, and sat up, ready to play.  So I took her into the kitchen, made myself some lunch to share, and then we ate.  Actually, I ate, and Lily winged and literally put her head on the table, absolutely wrecked.

So I took a page out of Brittaney’s book.  I grabbed her blankie, a stuffed toy, turned on instrumental music, and held her for a couple of minutes in my arms.  “Night, night,” I said, and I laid her down in the Pack N Play.

She cried for three minutes – not hard, but consistently – and I went back in to rub her back for a few seconds.  And then I left again.  She cried – hard – for five minutes, and now she’s asleep.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve literally never let Lily cry it out.  I’ve never put her to sleep without holding her or nursing her or laying next to her.  In her first year, letting her cry it out seemed draconian, but after months and months of being responsible for Lily’s journey to sleep, I’ve decided that something has to change.  My instincts tell me, of course she’s going to cry.  This is her pattern.  This is what she’s used to.  But my instincts also tell me that she can learn to fall asleep on her own, and that once she does, she will sleep better and longer, because she will no longer be dependent upon me.

So I don’t know about tonight.  I’m not even sure about tomorrow’s nap, but those are my thoughts for today.  We’ll just try to figure this out one day at a time.


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Dear Lily,

Normally, a reflection like this might happen on a milestone or a birthdate, but today is not one of those days.  Maybe it’s our summer drawing to a close or maybe it’s my mood, but I’ve found myself thinking about you and me and the past 16 months a lot lately.

There are things that I’ve never written in this blog and thoughts I’ve never really expressed that I’d like to get out here, where I hope one day you will read them.

When I first starting writing in 2009 on A Carpetbagger’s Tale, I wrote for myself and for my far-flung family members.  I’ve always been a terrible communicator by phone, and writing felt like the right medium and a little bit like asking for forgiveness.

Where am I?  This story has so many threads, and I’m afraid I’ll miss something or perhaps bounce around and not make any sense, but I guess part of this story starts with me and my relationship to my parents.

I love my family.  I love my mom, my dad, Mandy, David, Hannah, and Eamon.  I love my extended family members, living in different parts of Minnesota, the United States, and Britain.  In my heart, there is no shortage of love for these wonderful people.

The hard part of this story is a weakness or perhaps an obstacle that I have not overcome.  Your daddy and I have lived all over this country, and honestly, I don’t see that changing.  Denver is wonderful, and I love our home here, but I know us.  I know that our sense of adventure and wander is so strong that it would be nearly impossible to stay in the same place for more than five or six years.

And so.  We move.  We live in Tacoma, in New Orleans, in Denver.  We travel the globe.  We drive to the coast, and we camp in the mountains.  We move.

So how can someone who keeps moving also love her family and show them that she loves them?  I don’t have an answer to that question, and it hurts my heart to think about how many I have hurt because I haven’t been able to find that answer.  For a lot of people, it might be the phone, but…  Whether a weakness or an obstacle, again I have not overcome that particular aversion.

Writing is something I love, and it always has been.  I would be lying if I said that writing this blog didn’t also give me a lot of satisfaction and joy.  But it does feel a little bit like asking for forgiveness.  Like a little consolation gift for all of the ways that I have failed to communicate and show my love.

So the first thread of this story has to do with my role as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece and how I carry a weight with me.  I carry a weight of all the phone calls I have not made, all the cards I have not written.  The birthdays I have missed, and the small extraordinary details of everyday life that I do not know.

This is where I pick up my next thread:  you.

I had no idea.  I think this is the part where parents say:  I had no idea how much I could love you, I had no idea what it would be like to be a parent, or I had no idea what I was doing when they handed you to me the day you were born.  And all those things are true.  I had no idea.

But what I really had no idea about was this:  you are a part of me.  You are every bit as essential as one of my limbs or organs.  When I watch you explore the world, when I see you watch other people, taste new things, say “Hello” brightly…  It feels like a part of me is doing those things, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know that you are Lily, ruler of your domain and of the household.  I know that you are your own person, your own body.

But what I’m having a hard time sorting out is how I feel so independent from my own parents, and yet, I know that they must feel about me the same way that I feel about you:  I’m a part of them, every bit as essential as one of their limbs.

This makes me very, very scared.  What do you do if one of you limbs keeps moving away from you?  How do you bear it?

This parenthood thing is terrifying.  Your only 16 months old, and while I love watching you grow (and you just get more and more wonderful by the minute), I also just want to keep you this way.  Barbara Kingsolver described it like two planets, orbiting one another.  Like that.

Ok.  Switching gears.  This next thread has to do with the me that existed before you.  It’s the planet that existed before your gravity pulled me into orbit.

On my planet, there is lots of running, reading, writing, traveling, mountain combing, cooking, and crafting.  This planet thrives off of time-consuming pursuits, many of them artistic, some of them solitary, and most of them enjoyed even more with companions.  I used to pride myself on never getting bored.  I don’t get bored; I do stuff.  Fun stuff.

Or I did.  Your gravitational pull meant that tides came up and changed the entire landscape.  Those loves?  They’re still there.  I see them under the water sometimes.  In stolen moments (usually while your napping) the water recedes enough for me to pick a small project out of the tide pools.  But it’s never enough time, and soon enough the water comes rushing back in, and now there are half-undone projects under the water.

For now, I’ve had to prioritize.  Running.  I want to stay healthy for me and for you and for Joshua.  I need to stay sane.  And this blog.  It’s your baby book.  It’s our history.  It’s a method of communication with our family.

There’s a part of me that wishes that the water were deeper or murkier and I couldn’t see those old loves.  The half-undone projects.  They make me feel torn and disloyal.  Sometimes, I’m praying that you’ll fall asleep so that I can get something done, and then I’m praying that you’ll stay just this way, small and in my arms, forever.

I find myself wondering how you will think of me as you mother.  I wonder how I will be your champion and how I will fail you.  I wonder what will drive you crazy and what you will admire.  I wonder if you, like me, will find an orbital path that takes faraway.  I wonder if you will have a hard time communicating with me.  I hope not.  I hope you’re not like me.  I think it would break my heart.

Which loops me back to the beginning.  The part where I love my family and the part where I am failing to be the kind of daughter I hope for in you.

So this is the struggle.  These are the things that I have discovered and grappled with in the past 16 months.  Being your mom feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the most important.

The last thing that I wanted to write about in this letter to you is you.  At first, we wrote little details and milestones every month, but it’s been a while since I did the monthly updates.  I try to keep updating the blog with pictures and stories, but it’s been a while since I just wrote about you and who you are becoming.

Let’s start small.  You have 10 teeth.  Four on bottom and four on top, plus your two canines on top.  They came in at 15 months.  You started crawling at 10 and a half months and walking at 14 months.  These days, your babbling includes many syllables and different sounds, and you have a signing vocabulary of about seven words:  water, food, more, milk, all done, night night, and up.  As for talking, it’s still just mamama and dadada and HI!  When I see you around other toddlers your age, you seem taller than the girls and smaller than the boys.  You’re wearing mostly 18 month clothing.

Ever since your birthday, your hair seems to be growing in more and more.  In the summer sun, it’s gotten super blonde, and your skin (despite TONS of sunscreen) has gotten darker.

You’ve also started copying us.  You dance when we dance, laugh when we laugh, and you pick up and play with anything we touch.  Your face is so expressive, and you have the biggest, warmest smile in the world.

Let’s see.  You only ask other people for milk, never me (like you’re announcing what you’re about to do instead of asking), and you sleep spread eagle in the bed (seriously, you take up more space than your dad and I put together).  You still love sitting in the jogger while we run and going for walks in the Ergo or the Poco.  Slides are your favorite.

You LOVE Oscar and all of the cats, and you spend a good chunk of every day terrorizing them, poking at their eyeballs, grabbing their fur, and laying your head against their middles and giving them hugs.  They endure you will patience and beseeching looks.

You’re eating so much!  Three meals a day, plus snacks.  Our easiest and relatively guilt free on-the-run snack is a Larabar, and you love them.  You’re a pretty good eater, and now you’re even better because we decided to keep bread out of the house.  It’s not that you won’t eat anything but bread, but if you see it, then you don’t want anything other than bread.

What else?  You nap once a day now for a good 2 to even 3 hours in the middle of the day.  Mommy and Daddy are losing a little bit of steam with the cloth diapering, but even now, it’s about half the time in cloth diapers.  When we go back to school it will be more like 75% of the time.

As for nursing, you went down to just three times every 24 hours in the beginning of June, but we’re back to about five times now.  I was being a bit more careful in June because I wanted my period back, and now that it is back, I’m being a little less careful.  You have a nasty habit of grabbing, pinching, and pulling at my chest, and when I try to stop you, you throw a fit.

For some reason, I only just discovered how fun it is to dress you up.  There have been the gender debates and so forth, but I’ve decided that vilifying fashion is just another example of dismissing traditionally female domain as “shallow” or “unimportant.”  So we’re going with it, and it’s fun.  You have a skull and roses skirt, a Harley Davidson T-Shirt, tons of well made stuff by Nana, and a little strawberry purse.  Oh.  And you’ve started picking out items of clothing and then bringing them to us and then throwing a fit if we don’t put them on you.  This is why you will sometimes be found with a fuzzy wool sweater and a tank top on top of the sweater.  (Or one of my shorts or skirts or scarves looped around your neck.)

You are, by turns, snuggly and independent, happy, laughing, and babbling or throwing a little tantrum (prostrate on the ground).  The other day, you had me in stitches when you grabbed our little cheese sampler bag on a picnic and then took off down the trail like a little bandit, looking over your shoulder and squealing.  When I caught you, you laughed and laughed.

And the friendliness!  You love crowds.  You say hello to just about everyone, and you are so curious about what other people are doing.  You crane your neck and stare at families and other children, and you just watch and watch.  You are so curious, and in those moments, I think you are just like me.  Heart on your sleeve, wanting to make friends but just a little bit too shy to make the first move.

Dear Lily, I love you more than you will ever know, and I am so grateful that you are a part of my life.  You are teaching me so much about what it means to be a woman, a daughter, a mother, and a friend.  You full of joy and wonder, and you make me look at the world with more of each.  I am so thankful for you.  I hope this letter conveys what this past 16 months has been like for me and for you, and I hope that someday you will read this and feel the strength of our love for you.  And maybe, if you choose to have a child of your own someday, maybe this will be a part of your story, too.

Love,

Your Mamamama


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A Change

I turn 27 tomorrow.  I’m officially in my late 20s, and although I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of  cracking jokes about how young we are/were, I think I might have to stop.  I guess we’re a normal age with a normal set of responsibilities and complications.  The other day, I made a joke about being ancient in my office at work, and I got a funny look.  I realized that I actually am the oldest one.  How did this happen?

Lily’s been sick for nearly a week now, and her napping has been contingent upon one of us holding her the entire time.  I don’t mind, but as a result, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs.  The voyeurism is entertaining, but the inevitable comparisons leave my psyche a little worse for wear.  In general, my psyche has felt a little worse for wear anyway.  In some ways, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.  Parenthood has forced me to slow down and be in the moment more than ever before, and I’m in love with this place we call home and everyone that fills it.  Lily practically blows happy fairy dust out of her ears, and my practice of thankfulness has made me – well – more thankful.

In other ways, I’m feeling a bit…  Melancholy.  Lately, my tablespoon of melancholia has me thinking about this life I’m leading and the lives I’ve dreamed of leading.  Up until now, I’ve felt this abundance of time.  I finished college on time, and when most post-grads were still jobless or thinking about going back to grad school, I had been making a salary for a year, and Joshua and I were getting married.   I thought:  I’m making good time!  I’m young!  We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and we can do whatever we want!

Or maybe I didn’t.  On some level, that’s what I thought, but on another level, I’ve played the devil’s advocate exceedingly well.  Not everyone gets to do what they love.  Sometimes, what we love to do just doesn’t pay the bills.  Who says that just because you love something means that you’re also good enough at it to be paid a living wage to do it?  Why are you always dissatisfied?  

I’m my mother and my father’s daughter.  From my mother, I get the dreaming, scheming side of me.  This is the side that has very, very nice visions of tiny houses in the wilderness with our naked, sprite children dancing through the garden.  It’s the side of me that wants to live on a commune, and commune with the wilderness.  The side of me that travels and writes.  It’s the side that could do with less, that wishes to live sustainably and minimally.

From my father, I get my drive.  I have goals; I meet them.  I want something; I get it.  It’s this side that is practical, efficient, and hardworking .  This side thinks:  where will I get insurance?  How will we make enough money to pay the bills?  Let’s take smaller risks, ones that don’t involve going bankrupt or living without insurance.  If you want a change, why don’t you do it the safer way?  How about another degree?  

I don’t mean for my father’s side of me to sound so mundane and boring; in fact, without this side, I doubt many of our lives’ adventures would have reached fruition, but currently, this is the side is making me feel stuck.  Could I keep teaching?  Yes.  Could I teach something else and like it more?  Probably.  Are there things that I truly love about teaching?  Absolutely.  Do I feel like I’m loosing a part of myself?  Um.  Is this work fulfilling?  No.  

And there it is.  At the end of the day, when I go home, I am drained.  I rarely feel proud or excited or inspired.  In the wake of all the stress that surrounds me at school, I have few reserves for stressful situations at home.  David’s cancer, Lily’s ear infections, Joshua’s basement renovations – these all leave me feeling absolutely tapped.  Like there’s nothing left, and if just one more thing happens, there won’t be enough hours in the day or generosity in my heart to deal with it all.

Needless to say, the dreamer side of me is displeased.  Nowhere in my fantasies of a tiny house commune in the middle of mountains did a full time job with sassy children factor in.  Mortgages, two cars, child care…  These didn’t pop up either.  The concept of not having enough time to write, cook, or run to my heart’s content?  Inexcusable.

For a bit (ok, for a long while), I had been counting on having a second baby and using the excuse of childcare expenses to quit my job.  The sensibility of quitting when the cost of childcare outweighed my income had appealing symmetry, and I felt satisfied that I wouldn’t have to explain to “all those people” why I had chosen to – gasp – give up my salary and all the security that comes with it.  Which is nonsense.  I really only care about what exactly four (ok, maybe five) people in this world think about me, and I would have no problem telling the other 8.6 billion to go stuff it, thank you very much (‘cuz I’m sassy like that.  Got it from my students.)

But my period shows no signs of coming back any time soon, and Lily shows no signs of asking us to forgo co-sleeping or self-weaning (puh-lease, sister.  Those boobies are mine.).  Plus, thinking of a second baby as an escape plan from your job that is slowly sucking your dreams/creative life-blood out of you is probably not the healthiest solution to my problems.  (Note.  Melancholia aside, if I could be 6 months pregnant yesterday, I would be.  I.want.baby.in.my.belly…  After all, the dancing sprite children are at least one thing that my two sides can agree upon.)  So I need to think about this in a different way.  I need to start making changes happen, rather than waiting for things to happen to me or for a more socially acceptable break.

Aaaaand that’s about it.  I know.  My thoughts are very evolved.  Time’s a wastin’; I better hurry up and do something about it now…  But what?

If you’re curious about who has inspired this mad rambling and bohemian wishing, read a bit from The Road is Home and Documenting Delight blogs.  The first is fairly astonishing, given that the author is an intense and somewhat brooding child-prodigy who travels about the world shooting for Diesel and Billabong and had her baby at 19 (and whose father is Elder Firebrace, and somewhat insane but kindly aboriginal story-teller living in Surrey).  The second is much more down to earth (or down under, given that they’re both Aussie), but both women had babies young and live unconventionally.

I had planned to write a bit more, but baby girl and husband just woke up from a nap, so I’m going to go play with them.  Hugs and kisses.  E.

 

 


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Count Your Blessings, Girl

Lily’s nearly a year, and as her birthday approaches, I find the memories of this time last year are so fresh, it’s hard to believe a year has already passed.

And, I must admit, reminiscing over my big belly and newborn Lily makes me want to do it all over again 🙂  I don’t if this is true for all parents, but for me, as I gaze into Lily’s beatific face, wreathed in big cheeky smiles, I’m loving her and already missing this exact moment, all at once.  Every time I hold her and kiss her (which is pretty much every other second when we’re together), I just want to bury my face in her belly and hear her laugh.  I want her to grow big and strong and kind and smart, but I want her just like this, too.

I love Lily, and I’m loving having a baby in the house.  So I want another.  I’m not done with this baby business yet!

So yeah.  Parents tell me it’s hard.  I see the haggard, sleepy faces of other parents bringing their babies to Lily’s school.  They have another toddler and maybe another on the way, and they warn me:  enjoy it while it lasts.  Once you have two, you’ll never sleep again.  You’ll pray for time to yourself, and you’ll hate your husband.  Just you wait.

And you know what?  They’re probably right.  They told me that the first couple of months with Lily would be difficult, and they were.  I had no idea that you actually had to feed a baby every two hours, that they peed and pooped (hopefully) just as often, and that breastfeeding hurts like a sonofabitch at first, but it’s true.  It happened.  And then it got better.  She held up her head.  We went to the mountains.  Nursing stopped hurting and started being great.  She sat up, smiled, laughed, cooed.  And now we can’t imagine our lives any other way.

So I want to do it anyway.  I’m fearless and a little naive, but I learn as I do, and I’ll remember to count my blessings, because I’ve got a million.

P.S.   I’m not pregnant yet.  Haven’t even gotten my period back.  So it might be a while, but considered yourselves forewarned 😉


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A Day in the Life…

Yesterday, I dropped Hen off at her school at 7:30 AM.  From there I drove exactly 3 miles over the speed limit to arrive at work, running late (as always).  I shucked my coat, stored my bags, and signed out state testing materials.  Gathering my two students, I then spent the next two and a half hours testing.  Instead of lunch duty, I hopped into the staff bathroom, plugged myself into a wall, and performed my motherly duty for 15 minutes.  From there, I raced to gather materials for the next three classes.  Upstairs, I corralled my next class from their lunch tables and brought them back to their desks.  Do now, notes, check for understanding, check, check, a little brain pop, practice.  Next class, same thing.  Next class, covering for the writing teacher who’s out with a concussion.  Explain how we are made out of stars.

At 1:11 PM, dismiss class and scoop up a change of clothes.  Change.  Corral 10 reluctant track-letes and 6 very eager track-letes.  Harrangue them for waivers and physicals.  Gather paper work.  Check the clock.  We’ve got 40 minutes left.  Can we run around the lake (2.7 miles) in that time?  You bet!

Split up the reluctant from the eager.  Send the eager in one direction and the reluctant in the other.  Run with the reluctant.  Cheer on.  Let’s go!  You got it!  Don’t stop!  Make it 1 mile.  Tell the huffy-puffy reluctants to walk back (with bounce in your step!), and walk-run the rest of the way with my sweet shadow.

Run into advisory two minutes late, sweaty, red.  Clean up!  Clean up!  Looks like a bomb hit your desk!  No one’s leaving until the floor is SPOTLESS, yes, you sir.  Pick it up!

Dismiss.  Grab lunch.  Eat and lesson plan for Monday at the same time.  Eat and lesson plan for Monday and shoot the shit with other teachers and straggling students at the same time.

It’s 3:30!  Run around the lake again with a fellow teacher.  Hop in the car, drive exactly 3 miles over the speed limit to get baby girl.

Baby girl’s asleep.  Should I wake her up?  Check directions on my phone.  Estimated time is 45 minutes, more with traffic.  Sorry baby girl, let’s go!  She wriggles, cries.  I realize I might actually explode if I don’t feed her right now, so I sit cross-legged on the floor and feed her while toddlers cruise by.

Buckled in, windows down, listening to directions from my phone.  Drive to the opposite end of town.  Baby girl sleeps.  I’m late.

Pull into the parking lot.  Am I a horrible human being for not bringing a gift for the birthday girl?  Oh well.  I drove for over an hour to get here, so that counts for something, right?

In the door.  Baby girl wants to nurse again.  Chat for a bit with a couple other mommas.  Patrol the babies.  Drink Prosecco, eat cake.

Change diaper, nurse once more, and we’re out the door!  Bye!  Kisses!

It’s only 30 minutes back to the other side of town without traffic, but baby girl is PISSED.  Crying, gasping, I’m contorting my arm behind me to rub her head and drive at the same time.  Call Joshua.  Almost home.

Park in front of the house, unbuckle sobbing girl.  Give her kisses and nuzzles.  Sweet girl.  There, there.  I love you.  Let’s go find Daddy.

Walk to the bar and grill.  Scan the tables.  See husband.  Kisses.  Hugs, brief recap.  He still has more work.  No problem.  You stay; I’ll go take care of baby girl.

In the house, I make a bee-line for the refrigerator.  Starving.  Eat heaping spoonfuls of egg salad with nothing else.  Baby girl whines.  Not interested in the egg salad.  Wants to nurse; wants to sleep.  It’s 8:30 PM.

Change out of filthy onesie and tights.  Change diaper.  Nurse.  She’s asleep.

I hear Joshua get back.  I try to wriggle free from baby girl’s grasp, she lets out a cry.  I make shushing noises.  In the other room, I can hear Joshua cleaning.  I fall alseep.

4:30 AM, she wakes up with a great hacking cough.  She coughs for two hours with no rest.  I try to nurse her, prop her up, give her water.  Joshua stacks up pillows behind him and lays her on his chest.  She sleeps.  Joshua gets up 15 minutes later.  Time for work.  I take a shower.  Change.  Baby girl wakes up.  Change diaper, change her.  Nurse.  Kiss her smiling face.

Out the door.  Buckle up, back to her school.  A little late.  In the door, reading, cuddling, playing, soothing.  Snack.  Change her diaper, nurse.  Back in the car.  To the grocery store.  Baguette for bruschetta, pita for Middle Eastern tonight.  Guess I’ll try the coconut water, and some half and half for coffee.

Back in the car.  Drive home.  Baby girl’s asleep.  Tiptoe in the house, set her in the bedroom, lift the door in its frame so there are no creaks, shut the door.  Go get the groceries.  Tidy up.  Roast the eggplant for babaganoush, roast the bell peppers for stuffing, cook the orzo.

Drink the coconut water, lesson plan for two hours.  BP Oil Spill, Nonrenewable Energy, Fossil Fuels, CO2, Global Warming, questions, practice, project, quiz.  Done.

Check on baby girl, still sleeping.  That’s good.  She’s so tired.

Hungry.  Eat the rest of the yoghurt, sprinkle in some granola, straight from the carton.

Do I have time to post?  How should I start?  How can I explain why I haven’t posted in ages?


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14 Weeks

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Welcome to the Lily Time-Warp, where 3 months pass more quickly than you can say, “Bob’s your uncle,” and yet days seem to pass in a slow, sultry, and desultory manner.  Our schedule is determined by Lily, and as a result, time slows down.  All plans are salted heavily with the knowledge that things can change, and this uncertainty foists me into the present moment in ways more powerful than any meditation, sutra, or asana.  Like most things that I have discovered in parenthood, I’m caught in a paradox:  twitchy from my goal-oriented, productive-minded pre-mama alter ego, and already wistful, watching her get bigger, already missing these hours and days and weeks of holding her, feeding her, giggling and cooing.

While not tightly wound in a superlative sense, I have never been a vision of serenity, and although I felt a sort of condescending aversion to uptight mamas before I had Lily I have certainly had to wrestle with my own expectations in the past few months.  The desire to do what is right and good for Lily is over-whelming.  The chances of failure are great, if not inevitable.

So if I desire to be an unconventional parent, then what do I deem right and good?  The compilations and writings of Peggy O’Mara and other attachment advocates strike a chord with me, but at the same time, parenting advice that smacks of self-righteousness and martyrdom chafes uncomfortably.   In the end, I am reluctant to embrace any model or philosophy in its entirety.  I want to maintain a degree of flexibility, a modicum of spontaneity, and perhaps hardest of all, an ounce of humility.  Now, more than ever, Dr. Bob‘s motto resonates with me, “Think That You Might Be Wrong.”  Parenting hardly seems a hard and fast science, and when confronted with the messy details of daily life, most models and philosophies – no matter how unconventional – seem a bit too pristine for me.

This healthy dose of rationalization comes on the heels of a couple of compromises I have made thus far.  Convinced and inspired by documentaries such as “The Business of Being Born” and “Born in the U.S.A.,” as well as the writings of Ina May Gaskin, I  planned to have a natural childbirth.  Most people are quick to dismiss the guilt and disappointment I felt in the wake of my labor.  Shouldn’t I be content with my beautiful baby girl?  It seems ungrateful to have these feelings when all I should care about is the blessing of a healthy baby.  And then on the other end of the spectrum, there are those by whom I feel judged, and while this is almost certainly a projection of my own self-doubts, I feel my own self-judgement harshly.  In my retelling, I feel compelled to mention the length of my labor, my own comparative stamina, etc, etc, and all the while, I feel myself squirm with the transparency of my excuses.

I’ve been trying to decipher why I still feel this disappointment.  Lily is healthy.  She and I have bonded.  My heart is sewn somewhere on my sleeve.  I am healthy.  I am grateful.  So why is this feeling still lingering?  My somewhat uncertain answers are these:  I am not a religious person, but on a spiritual level, I wanted to be present – in every sense of the word – for the birth of Lily.  To me, something as surreal and sublime as witnessing and feeling a new life come into the world ranks ups there with other rites of passage and affirmations of our extraordinary ordinary humanity.  These are my good reasons for feeling disappointment.  My more vain reasons for feeling disappointment are that of an endurance athlete:  I couldn’t hack it; I wasn’t tough enough; I cut a corner and caved in.  After all, no one is a harsher critic than the one that looks at you through the mirror.

I don’t know if there is peace to be had in these musings, and I sense that they could even piss some people off.  For some reason, these choices are sensitive to people.  I could fabricate some sort of pop-psychology explanation as to why, but I’ll just stick with this is the way felt, and this is why I felt it.

The other expectation that I set for myself involves holding Lily.  Somehow, I got it into my head that what was right for Lily was for her to be held or worn all the time.  But then it got hot.  We don’t have air conditioning, so Denver’s streak of 100 plus days has hit us in full, sweaty regalia.  It turns out that babies like being held when it’s 100 degrees outside just about as much as parents like holding babies when it’s 100 degrees outside.  I fretted for a little bit when I set her down in her swing at first, but then I decided that I was being ridiculous.  Isn’t the goal of good parenting to have a happy, healthy baby and happy, healthy parents?  Lily was clearly happier without our sweaty arms and torsos elevating her core temperature, and after a few soporific, pendulous swings, she was definitely very happy, off in la-la land.  Now, we put her in the swing when she seems ready for a nap (even if it’s not hot).  She sleeps so well and contentedly in her little swing, that this must be what’s right for her.

Finally, and I’m not sure if this falls into the compromised expectations category, I unclench a little more every day when it comes to nursing.  From a stopwatch and written-down intervals in the first weeks, to frantic weigh-ins on our old-fashioned, decorative scale, to 90 minute long feeding sessions, Lily and I have finally graduated to a much more relaxed pace.  Nursing stopped hurting just a little before six weeks, we started getting better at nursing in bed around 10 weeks, and now, the two of us never have to get up at night to go nurse on the couch – whether from pain or worry that she or I might fall asleep mid-feed.  I feel like I can finally trust that she’ll let me know if she’s hungry, and while she definitely wakes up multiple times in the night, it’s easy to turn over, feed her, and have both of us fall back asleep.  Thankfully, I can stop obsessing and worrying about nursing and just enjoy the time it provides me with Lily and to relax.

As for Lily, she’s the best.  I love her so much that I do really annoying mom-things like nibbling her toes, smelling her neck and blowing raspberries all over her belly.  Despite my serious reservations about giving her gender expectations and a complex, I can’t help but tell her how beautiful she is – all the time.  In the past couple of weeks, her tummy time has become more and more impressive – she can almost lift her head at a 90 degree angle (which I find difficult to do), and when she’s propped on her boppy, she kicks her legs viciously and reaches out for Oscar, grunting with exertion and consternation.  She’s begun to goo, gah, coo, and ahh with volume and earnestness, and we love watching her hands fine-tune their motor strength.  She clasps her fingers, sucks on her knuckles and grabs onto everything.

At night, bath time is her favorite, and we splash and enjoy the water before turning in for a story and a night-time nurse.  In the morning, she grins with chubby cheeks and talks up a storm.  Days pass with little to distinguish them apart from visitors and her newest accomplishments, but we’re happier than ever.  I could go on, but the pictures above describe how much fun she is better than I ever could.  Happy Summer.

Dancing to Florence


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Two Months

As Hen approaches two months, I find myself thinking about my new role as a mom.  Of course, I became a mom on April 5th, but as with most new roles, it’s taken some time to fill in my new shoes (and get used to seeing myself in them).  Ironically, the things I might have expected to make me feel like a mom – pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding – weren’t necessarily the things that gave me that particular mommy feeling.  These are profound and certainly life-altering, but it’s the smaller things that have made me pause and think – whoa…  I’m a mom.

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