Category “Life With a Newborn”

Welcome to the Chaos (Day #95)

As I held his tiny newborn form, marveling at his perfect little ears, his delicate little mouth, the paper thinness of his precious little eyelids, it hit me.

It’s over.

Not my book, not this project.  Certainly not my journey through motherhood.  But Life with a Newborn.  Crazy town.  Those first few months post-baby when it feels like someone has turned your life upside down and shaken it.  There is beauty in the chaos, of course.  Precious, fleeting beauty.  But it’s chaos nonetheless.

Lil Mil and I, we’re somewhere else now.   A place where things are just a beautiful, but (slightly) less chaotic.

My friend has just arrived in that crazy town, a place where the nights are sleepless, the needs are ceaseless and the world is a blur of bodily fluids.  Holding her precious baby boy, my heart ached for those just-outta-the-hospital days.  When everything is so new.  So scary.  So exhilarating.  So … much.

Welcome to Life with a Newborn, sweet friend.  Enjoy every minute.

Meet my friend Kelli’s “Small Baby.”

“Here’s How It Happens” (Day #91)

Ah-ha moments are great.  But they are also deceiving.  Ah-ha moments trick us into thinking we’ve uncovered some immutable truth about ourselves or our relationships or our lives, which we then internalize as The Way Things Are.  I am a person who _______. Done.  End of story.

But the story doesn’t actually end there because people and relationships and lives aren’t immutable things.  The truths we brush up against in these revelatory moments are temporal truths.  Not the Way Things Are.  Just the Way Things Are Right Now.

After my post on Thursday (the product of an ah-ha moment), I received this comment from Kate @ Savour Fare:

Here’s how it happens.  You get pregnant, and you are happy, but if you are normal, you are also scared out of your mind.  Then you have the baby and you are exhausted.  Then you find your groove, and you are happy, but you are consumed — you become the all-encompassing mommy.  You occasionally go out without your baby, but you find yourself talking about her and thinking about her incessantly.  And then you go back to work and you cry because you miss her, because she IS your world.

And time passes, and one day you wake up and you are YOU again.  Not mommy-you, but the old you, the one you recognize.  Except now you have this extra little PERSON in your life, who adds a whole extra dimension of richness and emotion and delight and frustration.  And sometimes even reminds you of yourself.  And you have your world, and your identity, but it’s suddenly in hi-definition.

These wise words, they instantly struck a chord.  “She’s nailed it,” I thought to myself.  “She’s exactly right.”

But then, I realized:  I can’t say for sure if she’s right, because I’m still here, and she – Kate – is already there.  Down the road.  Ahead of me on this mommy path.  And in that moment, I saw a glimpse of where I am headed.  Of who I will be when I get there.

And it was then that I had an even bigger ah-ha moment.

Lil Mil is changing before my eyes.  Growing.  Becoming.  Every day.  And so am I.

My identity isn’t a before and after picture.  I wasn’t That Person then only to become This Person now.  I didn’t leave the “old me” behind to become the “new me.”  I am at once both old and new.  My identity isn’t changing so much as expanding, making room for all the intricacies and complexities and contradictions of a life-in-process.

I am growing.  Becoming.  Every day.

The C Word (No, Not That One) (Day #88)

I have officially become a cliche.

I suspect that many (most?) of you know this already.  Perhaps you discovered it yesterday, as I did.  Or maybe you made the pronoucement here or here or here.

Think about it:  four months ago, I was a pregnant twenty-something who was afraid that motherhood would turn her into a person she didn’t like very much, convinced that being a mom would require her to give up the stuff she REALLY cared about, like her career and her beauty routine.  Today, I am a thirty year old woman whose beauty routine consists of washing her face with handsoap and slopping lotion on her dry bits who refers to herself in the third person as “mommy.”   To other adults.

How did this happen?

That question is rhetorical, of course, because we all know exactly how it happened.  Post by post by post.  The question now is, how do I feel about it?  How do I feel about the fact that I am exactly the person I was terrified of becoming?   A person who cried when she realized she couldn’t bring her baby to bed with her anymore (and then proceeded to sleep with her on the carpet in her nursery every night for the next week).   A person who talks about her child’s poop.   At the dinner table.    A person who doesn’t need (or even want) a break from this mommy gig.  A person who refers to motherhood as “this mommy gig.”

How do I feel about the fact that I have become a mommy cliche?

I LOVE IT.

I love that I am transforming the way so many mothers before me have.  I love that my experience resonates with so many women who have been where I am.  I love that cliches like “isn’t motherhood the greatest?” and “it goes by so fast” and “enjoy every moment” don’t feel like cliches anymore.  Motherhood is the greatest.  It does go by so fast.  And we must enjoy every moment, because once those moments pass, we can’t get them back. 

I love who I’ve become and who I’m still becoming.  I love that it is in and through my experience as a mother that I am discovering a wholeness I never knew I was lacking.  A this-is-who-I-am completeness I thought I already had.  That’s not to say that being a mom has become my end-all-be-all – it hasn’t.  I don’t feel as though I am a mother more than I am other things.  Motherhood is just another piece of the identity puzzle for me.  But somehow, it’s the one that connects the other pieces.  It’s the one you put into place and then sit back and say, “I see it now.  The whole thing makes sense.”

The oddest part for me is the fact that now, looking back, it seems so obvious that I would end up where I am now.  And so funny that I couldn’t see that I would.  Which I guess isn’t odd or funny at all, really - after all, that’s what makes the path from there to here so cliche.  This is what happens to women like me.  This is what motherhood does to us.  Not all of us, of course.  Not in every case.  But so often.

Often enough to make it a cliche.

In retrospect, I understand it.  With a little foresight, I could have predicted it.  But the truth is, when I was there - when I was her  – I never imagined that I would end up here.

Some of you did.  Some of you knew this would happen.  Some of you want to scream “See?!” and “I told you so!” at your computer screen (which, let’s be honest, makes you a little cliche, too).  You knew it would happen because it happened to you.  And that’s what makes this cliche so beautiful:  in it, we find ourselves, and then we look around, and we are not alone.

I am a cliche. 

How cliche is that?

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(Moms:  have you become a mommy cliche?  Do you think such a thing exists or am I just perpetuating mommy stereotypes by acting like it does?  Are you different post-baby than you thought you’d be?  Do you feel like you have a lot in common with other moms or not so much?  Non-moms or moms who don’t like the mom questions:  does it make a person less interesting if they seem to fit into an existing social mold?  Should we strive to be unique and different and surpising?  And most important:  Do you know where I can get an awesome cliche necklace like the one in the picture?)

The Opposite Is True (Day #87)

I remembered why I’m doing this.

Not that I’d forgotten — I hadn’t.  But sometimes in the midst of the actual doing, the reason behind the doing fades into the background.  As it should.  It’s hard to get things done when you’re busy thinking about why you’re doing them.  The Why can be distracting.

So can a moany, kicky (not a word but should be a word) baby.

These things are related.

As you all know, I’m rapidly approaching my Day #100 deadline and I’m wildly behind schedule.  So far behind schedule that I’ve abandoned the schedule for a “just get as much done as I can today” approach.  I think it’s working.  I have no idea if I’ll have a draft complete by May 11th, but it seems within the realm of possibility that I might.

With 13 days to go, every day matters.  I’m fighting to stay balanced, but it’s hard not to have tunnel vision.  This is important to me.  And while it’s not absolutely imperative that I finish on Day #100, the deadline does matter.  There will come a day in the near future when it will be time for me to go back to work.  On that dark and stormy day, whether I want it to or not (I won’t), the novel will get pushed down the priority list.  Way down.  Which is why I need to finish this book NOW, so I can transition from trying-to-finish-my-novel mode to trying-to-sell-my-novel mode before my days as a stay-at-home-writer-mom are up.  Or – even better – so I can actually sell my novel so those days don’t have to be up at all.

An irony:  when I started this project, my biggest fear was that my baby would derail my career goals.  Baby and career were at war in my mind.  I worried (okay, assumed) that motherhood would require me to accept something Less Than in my professional life.  My baby wasn’t even here yet, and I was already looking for ways to manage its existence, so afraid that he/she would get in the way of what I Really Wanted.  Now, three months into this mommy gig, I am looking for ways to manage my career, unwilling to let it get in the way of what I Really Want.  To be here.  To be present.  With my daughter.  Because of her.

Which brings me back to the Why.

Yesterday, I was staring at my screen, struggling to finish this BFF fight scene that’s giving me so much trouble.  Lil Mil was kicky and moany and fussy.  She was tired.  So was I.  Neither of us had slept well the night before.  We both needed a nap.

I weighed my options.  I could try to get her to sleep in the vibrating, singing, spinning bassinet next to my desk so I could keep working.  I could take her up to her crib and put her down for an official nap.  Or I could pick her up, carry her to the queen-sized bed that was once in her room and is now in my office, and lay down with her.

Yes, the last option was the least productive.  From a sleep-training perspective, you’d probably even call it unproductive.  But as we were lying there, foreheads pressed together, both of us dancing on the edge of sleep, a thought popped into my mind:

This is why I’m doing it.

Yes, I want a career as a writer.  I want someone to pay me to create stories I care about.  But more than that, I want a career that enables me to have those moments with my daughter.  Moments I’ll either have or miss.  Moments I’ll either be there for or I won’t.

And that’s the irony:  I thought motherhood would be at odds with my goal.  The opposite is true.

Motherhood has become the reason for it.

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How has your detour changed your goal?  Has the goal itself changed or just the reason for it?

Speaking of detours – please send me your detour story!  In the spirit of today’s post, I want this Friday to be a tribute to The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me detours.  What unexpected event/opportunity/situation was a game changer for you?  How is your life better because of it?

When Someone Can Say It Better (Day #82)

I had a post planned for today.  A short one, as promised.  I intended to write about what it means to be here, now instead of always projecting to there, then (a thought that continues to peck away at my brain as I endeavor to stay focused on today amidst the flashing and distracting lights of the ever-nearer Day #100).  But then I read this post by Lindsey of A Design So Vast and realized that she has said it better.

My Real Life Has Already Begun

By Lindsey Mead

The effort to be present in my life has been the single most important thing I’ve undertaken in the past couple of years. Maybe ever. It has transformed how I think about the world and myself, and the relationship between the two. When I say “being present” I mean, literally, being engaged in and awake to my life. This sounds so simple, right? Well, for me, it’s not. No way. Perhaps I had further to go than most people: I am certainly one of the most preoccupied and distractable people I know, and I take multi-tasking to an Olympic sport (and then past it, where I start doing so many things I’m doing them all poorly). I’m extremely rarely engaged in just one thing, or one person.

It’s hard to articulate just how pervasive this not-presence was. And doing so makes me feel ashamed. I would often check my voicemail, remember that there were five messages, and be unable to recall the content (or caller) of a single one. I’d turn the wrong way down familiar streets because I was not paying attention. I used to play Scrabble with my family (under duress, since I am not an avid game-player) and play solitaire on the side because it was too slow otherwise. I play tetris on conference calls and read google reader during movies.

Beyond just distracted, though, I was also, even more toxically, wishing my life away. Every night, I’d hurry my kids through bathtime so I could get back in front of the computer or my book. I’d will them to JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY so I could have my night alone. And now? I’d give a lot of things to have some of those nights back. I’d go to soccer practice and spend the 90 minutes worrying about all of the rest of the things I had to do that day. I’d leave events early in preemptive worry about being tired the next morning.

I was never really there. And sometime in the past couple of years, I realized I was missing my life. There are great swaths of Grace and Whit’s babyhoods that I simply don’t remember. I took a ton of pictures, so I can look back at those, but I truly don’t have memories beyond the photographs (and I wonder if I was taking pictures, somehow, to compensate for how utterly not-there I was).

I suspect this behavior was a defense mechanism, because opening up to the actual moments of my life meant exposing myself to the reality of their impermanence. I knew instinctively how painful this would be. At some point in my early thirties, however, the balance shifted and I wanted to be there more than I wanted to avoid that hurt. I didn’t want to miss anymore of Grace and Whit’s lives. If it meant I had to take on some pain, some acceptance of how ephemeral this life of ours was, I was willing to do that. It is certainly my childrens’ arrival that precipitated this shift in outlook for me: the stakes were higher once they were here, and it wasn’t just my days I was squandering anymore.

It sounds trite, in some ways, but it is also essentially true: this moment is all I have. This moment is my life. Somehow, gradually but irrevocably, this realization seeped into my consciousness over the past few years. I realized how much I had already wasted, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I am already heading into the middle of my life, and I don’t want to miss anymore of it. All those days that I felt I was waiting for my real life to begin, what a loss they all were. Colin Hay’s voice sings in my head, along with Ram Dass’s iconic book (I treasure my copy), Be Here Now.

So I’m not saying that I believe we should every single moment be playing trains with our kids on the floor. That we should evade our responsibilities to engage constantly in a always-happy celebration of childhood. Impossible, both of those things. And unrealistic. I’m not saying that there aren’t heaps of laundry and piles of dishes and lunches to endlessly pack and unpack in my life. Of course there are. I just mean that I want to be there while I do those things.

I am also not saying that I enjoy every moment of my life. Of course I don’t! To pay attention to my life is to receive both the good and the bad, and believe me, there is plenty of bad that makes me sad and regretful. Yes, sometimes it feels like pressure, and I realize I am just starting out on what will be a long, difficult journey. I get snappish and annoyed and wishing things would just be over … daily. But I know now what it is like to be engaged in my life, to really pay attention, and the fullness of the moments where I am able to do that makes up for all the times I fail. It is the memory of that momentary richness that brings me back to begin again. And again.

It is not a surprise to me that I’ve been drawn to reading books that meditate on this theme: Dani Shapiro,Katrina Kenison, and Karen Maezen Miller have all become important teachers of mine, despite their not knowing or having asked for that title. Each of them tells, in her own lyrical and compelling way, of her journey home. Of her journey to right here. To right now. I have been deeply, deeply moved by each of their stories. And the questions are as insistent as they are difficult (just thinking about these sometimes makes me feel like crying): What would it take to really inhabit the hours of our days? And what do we lose, if we don’t start trying?

When I talk about being present, I mean it in the most literal sense possible. I mean being in my life. I want my mind to stay inside my head for a little bit. I want my heart to dwell here, in the rooms of my days.