Category “Lil Mil”

…And We’re Back

I’ve been putting off writing this post. I’ve been putting it off because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.  I’m still not.  But now the day has arrived and if I don’t say something today, it will have come and gone without my saying anything.

I went back to work today.

After exactly seven months as a work-at-home writer, I am once again a go-to-work lawyer.

Yesterday, I sat cross-legged on my couch in tattered jeans and my favorite t-shirt, nursing an increasingly squirmy little girl while balancing a laptop on my knee.  Today, I am sitting at an actual desk, wearing clothes that are refreshingly (and yet, heartbreakingly) free from drool, poop and vomit.  I am wearing heels.  I smell nice.  I smell like me.  In the past eight hours, I have used a myriad of multisyllabic words to people who have used them back.

I miss my baby.

I miss her less than I thought I would.  I miss her in ways I didn’t expect.

This wasn’t part of the plan.  Detours never are.

The Whole Story

Over Thai takeout last Thursday, a close friend and I caught up.  It’d been over a month since I’d seen her, and even longer than that since we’d had a talking-really-talking-conversation.

As we munched on spicy green beans (her) and gingery mushrooms (me), B said something that stuck with me.  “Reading the blog makes me feel like you and I are talking regularly,” she mused.  “But I realized the other day how little I know about what’s really going on with you.”

My first thought was “but if you read my blog, then you do know what’s going on with me.”  But then I ran through a mental list of things I don’t blog about and realized how little I actually do blog about.  Book and baby.  And lately, only baby.

So I filled her in on all the other stuff.  Marriage.  Family.  Finances.  Work.  The meaty stuff I never write about.

The meaty stuff I never write about.

I write about struggles for time and conflicted feelings and sleepless nights.  I write about my pursuit of productivity and my quest to live in the moment.  But I don’t write about how the three Bs have affected my marriage.  Or the toll my elective  unemployment has taken on my bank account.  Or the fact that I will eventually have to go back to work full time.

If you’d asked me eight days ago why I don’t write about these things, I would’ve been ready with an answer:  my blog is about writing a book while raising a new baby.  These other things are peripheral.  Not the point.

But last week, giving B the full picture instead of just snapsnots, I realized that, when it comes to the pursuit of our dreams (writing that book, producing that film, starting that company), nothing is peripheral because everything – every part of us – is implicated.  You can’t compartmentalize.

And yet we do.  Not only on our blogs, but in real life.  We talk about work and life and the give-and-take between the two.  Our struggle for the illusive “work/life balance.”  And then we proceed to relay snippets about our jobs or our creative endeavors.  Tidbits about our kids or our spouses.  Rarely acknowledging that the struggle exists not because we haven’t figured out how to balance Work and Life, but because these two categories aren’t actually separate.  Work intersects with Life.  Work sometimes is life.  And then there are the elements that don’t properly fit into either category.  Where do mortgages go?  Work or life?  Hobbies?  Housekeeping?  Health?

I write about book and baby and blog.  I mention boy.  But those four categories aren’t the full picture of my life.  And those four categories aren’t actually categories.  They are people and passions that overlap and intersect in places and in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, and they bump up against and compete with other people and other passions (and other people’s passions).  When I neglect to write about these intersections and friction points, I leave out crucial pieces of the puzzle.  I don’t tell the whole story.

I want to tell the whole story.

Inevitably, my conversation with B turned to this blog.  Its future.  What the next 100 days will look like, and the 100 after that. “What’s next?” she asked me.

I didn’t have the answer ready then, but I have it now:  what’s next is the rest of the story.  The rest of my story.

Five months ago, I set out to write a draft of my first novel in the first 100 days of my baby’s life.  That’s the story I’ve been telling here, in snippets and tidbits, since the day Lil Mil was born.  But it isn’t the whole story.  It was never meant to be.  It’s just the first chapter of a longer, fuller, better story, one that ends with a cover and a spine.  A book.  My book.  Sitting on a shelf in Barnes and Noble.

Or maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe it ends somewhere entirely different, somewhere I don’t expect.  I won’t know til the very last page.

In the meantime, I have a dream to pursue, a little girl to inspire, a husband to love and a mortgage to pay.  That’s the story I want to tell.  The real story.  The whole story.  What embracing the detour looks like, every day.

I don’t want to leave anything out.  I want to talk about the gritty stuff.  The not-so-easy to talk about stuff.  The meaty stuff.  The stuff that makes pursuing our dreams both the hardest and the greatest thing we’ll ever do.

The whole story is worth telling, I think.  It’s the only one that matters, anyway.

Break Time

I need a break.

At least, that’s what I thought when I dragged myself out of bed this morning after a whopping two hours of sleep.

Apparently, waking your four-month-old up at nine o’clock to watch the DVRed LOST finale with you is not the wisest of plans.  Turns out, it’s sorta like investing 121 hours of your life in a crappy television show.

A dumbass move.

So I spent the bulk of last night shuffling from our room to Lil Mil’s nursery, determined not to undo all our hard work by getting her out of her crib.  I showed her who was boss, alright.  She stayed in her crib, and I stayed awake listening to her angry protests, voiced every 18 to 22 minutes, all night long.  It was a win-win.

Around 4 a.m., it finally got quiet.  I’m going to pretend it’s because Lil Mil fell asleep, but I’m fairly sure Husband got up and shut her door.

Staring blearily at my computer screen this morning, wishing I could pour my coffee down my throat so that I wouldn’t have to expend the energy to actually drink it, I decided it was time to hire a babysitter.  So I dug out the various names and phone numbers friends have given me and called one.  Score.  She was free on Friday.

Buoyed, I set off to meet my friend S for coffee.  Last night’s sleep deprivation was working its magic on my little night tyrant, who had now lapsed into the ultra cute I’m-so-tired-I’m-just-going-to-stare-straight-ahead-mode.   Aware that her sleepy stares are the calm before the I’m-too-tired-to-do-anything-but-scream storm, I hurried to get us both into the car and on our way before she had a meltdown.  The timing was perfect: I started the car just as she was getting fussy, and by the time I pulled out of our driveway, she was out.

She woke up twenty minutes later, just as S and I were settling into our chairs.  I could tell she was still sleepy, so I pulled her out of her carseat onto my lap, where she sat quietly while S and I talked about the joys and struggles of being work-at-home moms.  The juggling act.  The time crunch.  How much we would get done if we just had a regular babysitter.  Not every day, but once a week.  Okay, twice.  Twice would be good.

As we were talking, a woman came through the door.  She smiled at me as she headed for the counter to order her coffee.  It was the smile of a fellow mom.  I smiled back.  When she passed back through on her way out, she stopped.

“How old?” she asked.  I told her.  “Mine’s nine months,” she said. I smiled.  Made some comment about how fun that must be.  “So fun,” she agreed.

“I hate being away from her,” she said then.  “People always ask me, ‘don’t you want a break?’  And the truth is, I don’t.”  She shrugged, flashing a happy smile.  “I don’t want a break.”

I looked down at Lil Mil.  Her little face was turned upward, staring at me.

Suddenly, neither did I.

(But I’ll take one, anyway.)

Something’s Gotta Give

The call was only supposed to take 15 minutes.

A 15 minute conference call is doable in Life with an Infant (adios, Life with a Newborn, I’m in new territory now!).  Worst case scenario, Lil Mil cries for 15 minutes.  And that’s if she’s crying the moment the call starts, which she rarely is.

Most of the time, she doesn’t cry at all.  She’s either napping or eating (the sucking and slurping sounds are another issue all together – with less than a foot between my boob and my ear, every eating noise Lil Mil emits makes it to the airwaves.  And don’t get me started on the other bodily sounds she likes to let loose while eating).  Or playing happily in her ExerSaucer.

Which is how yesterday’s call started.

But wait.  Before I tell you about yesterday, a word about the conference call conundrum for those of you who haven’t experienced it.  True conference calls involve multiple parties and a myriad of scheduling issues.  Rarely is everyone available at the same time.  Inevitably, someone will have to “jump off early” or “hop on late.”  (Apparently, multi-party phone calls are fast moving trains.)

The conundrum is this:  infants are not silent beings.  They are loud, distracting, impossible to ignore creatures who demand your attention and will not rest until they receive it.  Conference calls require relative quiet.  There are enough distractions with all the adults on the line (crappy cell service, interrupting assistants, the persistent beeps and dings of other electronic devices).  Adding a crying baby to the mix?  Call chaos.

The mute button works, but only if your role on the call is to listen (not that you can listen when your child is shrieking like a banshee, but the mute button at least allows you to convey the illusion of listening).  Unfortunately, when you’re either the lawyer or the writer on every call you’re on, you don’t get to be silent.  You have to talk, AND you have to sound like you know what you’re talking about.  Credibility is key.  Baby noises?   Not your friend.

So, just schedule calls during naptime, right?

If you are a WAHM, you are laughing.

Life with an Infant is more routinized than Life with a Newborn, but only in the most relative sense.  The term “nap schedule” is used by inhabitants, but loosely.  Thus, while you can attempt to schedule the call during naptime, there is a strong possibility that (a) your child will refuse to nap at her regular time or (b) the call will get bumped up or pushed back at the last minute, throwing everything off.

Both happened yesterday.

Both also happened a month ago, giving me the (false) impression that I could predict what would happen in this scenario.

A month ago, I had a call with my manager to discuss a new TV idea I’m planning to pitch this development season.  At Husband’s urging (yes, this is me blaming him), I put Lil Mil in her crib and shut the door.  It wasn’t naptime.  In fact, she had just woken up from a nap 2 minutes earlier, right on schedule.  If my call had started when it was supposed to – 30 minutes before it actually did – I would’ve had 25 minutes of uninterrupted talk time.  Perfect.  I only needed 15.

But, of course, the call was pushed back indefinitely.   And just as I was changing a fussy Lil Mil’s post-nap diaper, my phone rang.  No time to get situated to feed her.  No time to get her set up in her bouncy chair.  So I took Husband’s advice.  I put her in the crib and left the room.  I would let her cry it out.

And cry it out she did.  And by cry, I mean scream and shriek and wail like she was being boiled in hot water.  It was awful.

Yes, I could’ve rescheduled the call.  But it had been rescheduled so many times already.  And Husband had been so certain that the let-her-cry-it-out approach was an acceptable parenting strategy… So I went with it.  I took the call and she cried.  And then, 10 minutes into it, she stopped.

And I freaked.

Phone still glued to my ear, I darted upstairs and threw open her bedroom door.

And there she was, smiling and cooing and playing with her feet.  Happy as a clam.

It was a breakthrough moment, really.   She’d soothed herself.  She could soothe herself. I was proud and elated.  And completely assuaged of my guilt.

Fast forward to yesterday.  My call was supposed to start at 2:30.  At 2:15 – naptime! – Lil Mil was wide awake.  Which made sense, because her late morning nap had run longer than usual.  Since she’d just been fed and seemed happy, I decided not to put her down.  I figured she could play in her ExerSaucer for the duration of the call, which I didn’t expect to last longer than 15 minutes.  It’ll be fine, I told myself.  Worst case scenario, she’d start crying as soon as I put her in and would cry for the duration of the call.  But that wouldn’t happen because (a) she never cries right when I put her in her ExerSaucer and (b) duh, she knows how to soothe herself!   Odds were, she’d play the whole time, and if she happened to cry, she’d be able to calm herself down.

But then 2:30 rolled around and the eye rubbing and yawning began.  I thought about putting her down, but the call was supposed to start RIGHT THEN, so I opted for the ExerSaucer instead.  If I’d known the call would start 7 minutes late, I would’ve put her in her crib.  But I didn’t.  So I put her in playland, dialed into the call, and left the room.

Ten minutes into the call, she started wailing.  Which would have been fine had the call been 15 minutes long like I thought it’d be.  But it wasn’t.  It was an hour.  The first thirty minutes of which were devoted to me pitching an idea and feilding questions about it, which meant I couldn’t put the call on mute and go soothe her.

So she wailed and wailed and wailed and I told myself she was fine and that eventually she’d soothe herself and that this was a skill she needed to learn.

And then she got quiet.

And I freaked.  Not as much as last time, but enough to sprint up the stairs to her room.  I was hoping to find her playing happily.

Instead, I found her slumped over, head resting on her arm, looking pathetic and impossibly cute, her little eyes all puffy and red from crying.  Fast asleep.  She had literally cried herself to sleep.  In the upright position.

This is the struggle, I thought to myself, no longer listening to the voices on the call.  This is exactly it.  I want to be a WAHM.  I want to pursue my dreams and advance my career and climb that ladder of success.  But there is this person on this journey with me.  A person who can’t help it that she makes baby noises and doesn’t nap on schedule every day.  A person who wants my undivided attention.  Who deserves it, even if she doesn’t need it.

Problem is, my attention is divided.  That’s the W part of WAHM.  That’s what makes this a juggling act. That’s what makes it so hard.  It every moment, at every turn, it’s a give and take.  It every moment, at every turn, something’s gotta give.  I wish it were as easy as a priority list, but it isn’t, because it’s not a question of priorities.  I know what my priorities are.  I know who comes first.  That’s not the struggle.  The struggle is how to put that priority list into practice.  How to live it.

She was fine, of course.  She napped like a champ, then woke up smiley and happy and ready to play.

And play she did.  With her mama, who, for the rest of the afternoon, shelved the laptop and the telephone.

Something had to give.

My First One (Day #98)

Dear Lil Mil,

We were alone that weekend. Dad was in Ohio visiting Grandma and Grandpa and wouldn’t be back til Monday. So it was just you and me.

Our first weekend together.

I wish I could remember what the weather was like that Sunday morning. What the sky looked like. The temperature. Anything. But I can’t, because the weather wasn’t important to me that day.

I was preoccupied with you.

When you’re a little bit older, you and I will watch Mary Poppins together. I’ll tell you that it was one of my very favorite movies growing up, and that I used to be able to recite every word. And when it gets to the scene early in the movie when the Admiral’s weather vane does an 180 degree turn, I’ll remember that Sunday morning, a year ago today, when my life suddenly changed directions.

I’d gone out the night before for a digital test. I’d taken a regular one that afternoon – the cheapest one I could find – and had spent hours staring at the little white strip, squinting at the ultra faint hint of pink that I could only see if I held the test up to the window and turned it just so. And even then, I wasn’t sure I actually saw it. By Saturday night, whatever had been there had faded to white, leaving me to wonder if it’d ever been there to begin with. So I drove to the drugstore in my pajamas and bought a digital test. I’ll take it tomorrow morning, I decided. First thing.

And 8 hours later, there it was in black and white: PREGNANT.

It was Mothers’ Day. I was a mother. But it was more than that. In that moment, staring at those eight letters, overwhelmed by emotions I couldn’t begin to name, I became your mother. I didn’t know anything about you, and yet, somehow, right then, I knew you.

And, oh, how I loved you.

So this day is our day, sweet girl. The day our journey began. Lord willing, someday there will be other little people who will call me mom. But you will always be the first. And this day, it will always belong to you.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Peanut.

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