I can’t believe my baby (who is no longer a baby) is almost a year and a half old. She turned seventeen months on Monday. She is a full-on toddler. Running, climbing, tantruming, talking… Here’s a slideshow of her year so far:

Okay, so I’ve had two different but connected experiences lately. Some women I know are pregnant for the first time, or just had babies, and I desperately want to give them unsolicited advice. I know, everyone gives unsolicited advice to pregnant and new moms. But mine is so good! Mine isn’t all intrusive and fucked up like all that other advice, really! Except I think I just weird people out. Just like I was weirded out when people told me seriously random shit about their horrific childbirth experience, or post-partum healing, or whatever. When it’s your first time, all you want to do is stick your fingers in your ears and go, “LALALALALALALA!” And honestly, that might be the smartest thing. Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth,  postpartum, and new parenthood is totally different. And the advice-givers are more interested in validating their decisions or sharing their trauma than helping. Hmm. That might apply to me as well.

The other thing is I keep daydreaming about getting pregnant again. It would have to be an immaculate conception because David will move to Mexico to be a dive instructor before he gets me pregnant and signs on for another 1.5 years of Crazy Alternate Wife.  I think some of it has to do with wanting to get another shot at doing it right. Which is nuts for more reasons than I can count. Also, my hormones (a.k.a. Continuation of the Species Chemicals) tell me there is nothing more beautiful and desirable than getting pregnant right before a fucker of a hot summer. Because they lie and they hate me.

So I give you, “Stuff I wish I’d know/done/ignored before and after birth” in the hopes that I will no longer feel the need to brain dump on unsuspecting pregnant women or beg my husband to knock me up again. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Pregnancy stuff I think you need/should know/do

  1. Don’t listen to advice unless you ask for it. Change the subject or ask them to stop.
  2. Don’t listen to birth stories unless you have asked to hear them. They just make you crazy and paranoid and have no relevance to your birth. At all.
  3. Don’t freak out about/over prepare for/ spend a whole lot of extra money on the birth. I wish I had taken all the money I’d spent on my doula and used it for a post-partum helper. That $750 would have gotten me a lot of naps.
  4. Prenatal Yoga is The Bomb. It helped me physically and emotionally. I got support from the other ladies, respectful advice, and made some good friends who have become my primary mama support group. Physically, it made a huge difference. Start when you get pregnant and keep going until you can’t move your toes any more. That being said, try different classes until you find one you like. There are some great tirades way back in this blog written after going to classes I didn’t like.
  5. Get The Snoogle. Dear God, I hate that name. But you can wrap it around you multiple ways and you’ll need that as the baby grows and your body doesn’t work the way it used to. It will allow you to sleep without setting up a mountain of pillows you have to dismantle every time you have to get up to pee, which may be many, many times per night.
  6. If you’re going to take a babymoon, don’t be an idiot like me and take it in the first or third trimester unless you’re one of those freaks who never gets nauseous or swollen or uncomfortable. Aim for the golden second trimester when you’ve got energy but you’re all cute and pregnant looking.
  7. This is really for after, but get the My Brest Friend Deluxe (oh dear God what an awful name) nursing pillow and put it in your overnight bag for the hospital. Just do it. Nothing sucks more than trying to learn to nurse on those awful hospital pillows. This thing will make your life infinitely better. I promise. And if you want more nursing boob advice, I’ve got it. Nursing is no joke, the adjustment period can be formidable.

Birth

  1. Don’t stress out about it. It will happen however it happens. Learn about the process, but don’t try to predict the outcome or craft your ultimate birth experience. You will probably remember very little of it. To me anyway, it was a tiny blip on the massive radar screen that is new parenthood. And my blip lasted 36 freaking hours long. But do you know what’s worse than 36 hours of labor? The tandem stomach flu the three of us got last fall. Way worse. In spite of the hairiness of my labor, I still felt super powerful at the end, and glad I hadn’t tried to script it in any way. Kid healthy+ me healthy = Good. Basta.

Parenthood

  1. Get as much help as you can for the first few (and I mean six) weeks. Call in all your favors, save your pennies. Grandparents, friends, night nurses, post-partum doulas, whatev. It was super overwhelming at first for us, and we had a lot of help.
  2. If you’re feeling freaked out, talk to someone who you know will be supportive and non-judgmental. I don’t know how I got the idea that I would be a perfect, balanced, competent parent but I was WROOOOOONG. It was exhilarating, terrifying, blissful, and painful, sometimes all at once.  I went back to therapy two weeks after having Lillian. I have other friends who joined new parent support groups that really helped. You feel like everyone has done this, why is it so hard? Because it’s hard for everyone. If it’s not they’re catatonic or lying.
  3. Stuff. Most stuff you need for the baby can be borrowed. Other than a crib, nothing you use in the first six months to a year will be in the rotation for very long. Bassinet – incredibly useful for the first three months. Dust catcher after that. Swing – dude, you need a swing. But only for about six months. Bouncy chair things – the only way I could take a shower for six months was to strap Lillian into one of these things. Then she started crawling and it was done. So either buy them at a resale store and sell them back, or borrow them from a friend who is between kids. The only things in our house that are semi-permanent and worth the investment are our IKEA crib (very cheap) and our BOB Stroller (very not).
  4. Books – just throw them the hell out. Once you get on the milestone train, it’s a long way down. Comparing your kid to the “average” kid in America (regardless of your actual lineage) may make your child seem like a giant/midget/freak of some kind and he or she is not. He or she is just your kid. It’s hard enough to tune into the blaring radio station of mother instinct without eating yourself alive with self-doubt.  Bringing a bunch of “experts” into the mix who want to sell books does not help.
  5. Find a pediatrician you like and trust. My therapist pointed out at one point that I was avoiding taking Lillian in to have something checked out because I was afraid of her doctor. Doh. I switched doctors. Much better.
  6. Stay away from the interwebs.  I’m not saying that a little research can’t be useful when you want to check something out, but stay away from Dr. Internets in the middle of the night when you’re feeling sure that your kid’s 101 fever is actually spinal meningitis, mkay?
  7. Advice. Random strangers, well-meaning relatives, innocent bloggers (ahem) will tell you all sorts of crazy shit about the validity of your parenting, the health and well-being of your kid, and other stuff it would never cross your mind to say to another human being. Ignore them. “But they mean well…” No, they don’t. If it makes you feel bad, it’s not useful. It is so hard to feel confident about this terrifying, epic, massive job of creating and raising a little human being. Just don’t let people fuck with you.
  8. Be flexible. Your kid is totally unique and so are you. We made mistakes in the beginning by expecting Lillian to follow “typical” patterns that blinded us to her actual needs. I think everyone does this at first. But your kid will communicate what she needs, and you have to be listening to figure out how to respond. And then her needs will change, and you’ll have to respond differently. Forever. Don’t get so attached to a school of thought that you stop observing and responding to your kid.

Wow, that was fun!

Lillian turned a year old a few weeks ago. I have been seriously slow in getting this post written. To be fair, I was teaching my first class, grading a truckload of papers, throwing a rather large party, and hosting my parents. Then I fell over and died.

It was actually pretty fun, though exhausting. Did I mention I love teaching? I really, really love teaching. I’m pretty much focusing everything right now on trying to find more teaching gigs, though it may take a while. I’m also looking at starting a PhD. For realz.

Back to the baby stuff.

The party was a big success and Lillian looooooved the extended attention from her maternal grandparents. Lucky for me, she didn’t start walking till a couple weeks later, so she was more easily contained during the madness. Here are some adorable pictures:

Trying her new rocking elephant with Grandma Nancy

Feeding Mama

Opening presents.

 

Tiffany made amazing coconut cupcakes with mango filling. David and his friend Chris made excellent fajitas. The babies made a mess. A good time was had by all. You can see lots more pictures here.

The last month has been baby-birthdaypalooza. All the babies in our playgroup are turning one and having parties. This weekend we have two! That first birthday party is a crazy gauntlet! It’s not like the babies will remember it, but I personally felt like I needed to get in touch with all the people who thought I’d fallen off the earth in the last year. Next year her party will probably be more about Lillian and less about us. All the parties have been different, but fun. We’ve eaten a lot of cupcakes.  It’s been cool hanging with all the parents and babies and realizing we’ve all made it through the first year more or less intact.

Since then Lillian has started walking, which is crazy. She is so coordinated, and so very mobile. She has also decided that high chairs are for punks, so my days of long lunches with friends seem to be over. She has also decided that nursing is boring and stupid and she likes her straw cup full of whole milk way more. She’s not totally weaned, but we’re getting close. It’s all happening a little fast for me! Slow down, kid.

 

Lots has happened since the last time I wrote. I got really depressed. I got a job. I got less depressed. I started the  job. I’m now stressed and busy, but relatively happy.

The holidays kind of sucked. I don’t really know why, I just got into a well of bummed-outness and couldn’t claw my way back out. At the worst point, shortly before Christmas, I got offered a job as an adjunct college professor. My confidence was at an all-time low but I couldn’t turn it down – I’ve been wanting to teach  for a long time.

So now I’m a part-time professor and still mostly full-time mom. I have a babysitter three mornings a week who ROCKS and lets me get at least some of my work done during the day. Being a professor is kind of like being a mom, too. Yes, you have to punctuate. No, you can’t copy things off the internet and pass them off as your own work. Yes, you have to turn your homework in on time. Bitching aside, I really like it. It’s hard, hard work, but really fun. And vastly rewarding when I see a student make a connection and improve their understanding or skills.

I felt like I had been losing some core part of myself, and my emotional equilibrium with it, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of going back to schmoozing and networking to build up my business again. It seemed sooooo trivial. So the Universe did me right by dropping this job in my lap. It feels like meaningful, important work. Plus it’s nice to have a little income. I’m hoping to eventually teach two classes a semester.

Miss Lillian seems to be making more connections every day. She is much more aware of my moods now – for better or worse – and is full of her own expressions of emotions. She imitates sounds, claps like it’s going out of style, and flirts like crazy.

I can’t believe she’s going to be a year old in a couple of weeks. It’s crazy. This time last year I was big as a whale, not sleeping (how things don’t change), and having a hard time doing things like walking and writing. And living on Tums. The only thing I miss is going to yoga four times a week. And naps. Long, long, multiple naps per day. I miss them. I looked like this:

Did I mention I’m 30lbs lighter than I was then? Yeah. I don’t miss being huge and having somebody kicking my ass from the inside any more. Babies: better out than in!

 

I think I’m having an identity crisis. How fucking cliché is that? I get so bent out of shape when I feel like I “fail” at mothering (or housewifing). Failure can be not getting the baby to nap, not getting the laundry folded and put away, not making a good dinner, making a good dinner but not making it from scratch, not paying enough undivided attention to Lillian, not running enough errands, running too many errands, and the list goes on. And on. Does it seem a little crazy? Uh, yeah.

I take parenting criticism waaay to personally. This is crazy, because I’m REALLY GOOD at taking criticism usually. I’ve been a musician, a grad student, and an entrepreneur. All of those things are like taking criticism for a living. You listen, take what works, discard the rest. Not internalize it and use it to define your value as a mother! Argh!

I was all into being an entrepreneur before I had Lillian, and now I don’t know what I’m into, or what I’m good at. But solely defining myself by my expertise (or lack thereof) as a mother is not good for my psyche. Granted, the last few days have been spectacularly crappy, but I’m tired of getting exhausted and emotional.

Lillian and David and I have all had a bad stomach flu for the last several days, each of us in different but nasty stages at the same time. If I had a sneak preview of this particular type of experience before I got pregnant I would have run screaming the other way. It’s not as bad as the first six weeks postpartum, but it’s running a close second.

I guess if I try to get back to my Buddhist roots, not having an identity is ideal. Letting go of labels is a good thing, right? But the problem is I’ve taken on UberMother as my identity and I’m not her. I’m just a new mother who fucks up just about the same amount as every other new mother. So every moment I’m not UberMother I feel like a big FAIL. Which is silly.

Being older has some advantages and disadvantages. Having some wisdom, flexibility, and adaptability are good things. I think I generally make good decisions for Lillian because I don’t take the party line on parenting and I don’t react the opposite direction. I look at what’s going on and adapt as necessary. I’m aware enough of my own emotions to not let them cloud my decision making process as much as I would have when I was younger.

But being at a stage in my life when I feel like I have my shit basically together, and then suddenly not knowing which end is up is a little trying, especially nine moths out. Maybe it would have been easier if I was younger? Or maybe not. Maybe this shit is just hard.

I’m not going to write a whole lot about it since it’s all about the pictures. We had two Halloween events – a Weds. play date and a barbecue at our house on Halloween Sunday. The first helped us figure out how much dressing and photography the babies would tolerate for the second, so we got really good pictures the second time. The party was a blast, everyone seemed to have a good time, including the babies. There was some excellent food which I neglected to take pictures of. You know where my priorities lie these days. I am, however, eating some dairy now with no ill effects and very slowly easing into the soy. This makes mama happy. Enough about me. Pictures!

Halloween Playdate!

Tinkerbell!

Halloween Playdate!

Such happy, well behaved babies!

Halloween Playdate!

Whoops.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

Yes, I dressed my child up like a fairy and put her on a pumpkin. Sue me.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

It's a baby rainbow!

Halloween Playgroup BBQ

Chaos eventually ensues.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

Yes, I dressed like a fairy too. I know.

 

DSC_0917What is the difference between a seven month and an eight month old baby, you ask? Three more teeth, for one thing. And that’s just the last time I checked. They keep popping out.

Lillian has always wanted to be freely mobile, and now she’s gotten her wish. She crawls everywhere, and pulls herself up to standing on anything, no matter how unstable. Then she climbs on top of whatever she pulled herself up on and tries to pull up on whatever is above it.
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She stuffs everything in her mouth. We’ve had some fun incidents with paper, leaves, and some unidentifiable substances.  She’s also expanding her actual food eating repetoire. She enjoys broccoli, potatoes, bits of chicken, and she really loves coconut milk ice cream.

The weather has turned bearable but not cool here in Texas. I’m really looking forward to some cooler weather so we can break out her unbelievably cute fall wardrobe. She’s got an adorable sweater from Grandpa and Grandma Oster, and a bunch of super cute outfits from Auntie Michelann. I would change her clothes three times a day, but she’s not so fond of it and protests loudly.

She has the cutest Halloween costume ever! Pictures soon.

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No, I'm not teething. Why do you ask?

Lillian turned seven months old on Saturday. That last month just disappeared. But major stuff happened during it. We got our first cold. Then we got it again. Yuck! Two sick parents and a sick baby = not so fun. But we staggered by like always. I’m starting to mend other than my useless lungs which insist on pretending they have asthma despite the metric ton of steroidal inhaler I’ve pumped into them. Man I hope Lillian does not have my asthma, because yuck. At least it’s way easier to treat these days.

More fun stuff: crawling! Really crawling. Not almost/slightly/scooting/army crawling – the real deal. Don’t believe me? Bam!

Every day she’s getting better and faster at it. It took her about a week to make the mental connection: see object – go get object (insert object in mouth/bang against other objects). Now she’s got it and is booking it around the house. She’s also pulling herself up to standing on stuff, and grabbing stuff out of baskets (laundry, toys).

She says Mama a lot these days. Or more accurately, “MAMAMAMAMAMA” – especially when she’s upset. I think she’s supposed to be too young to associate the sound with me yet, but tell me that when she’s shouting across the house at me.

I thought she was teething for the last week. She had a big swollen lump on her top gum, but it kept not showing up. After a spectacularly fussy day on Saturday, I felt around her gums again and there it was, all pointy and hard. That brings our grand total of visible teeth to three.

For whatever reason, ’tis the season for dead rodents to be left around the house by well-meaning terriers. They considerately leave them where Lillian is most likely to be playing, necessitating a lot of disinfecting and vacuuming. Loki is very competitive with the baby, and has limited tolerance for her hi-jinks, especially when they involve crawling on top of him and pulling his ears. This might be revenge? A peace offering? Mostly it’s just really icky.

Lillian is just an awesome kid. Even when she’s got this icky cold, she’s really funny and active and curious. I can’t wait for all of us to be healthy again. The weather has turned in Texas and it’s finally starting to feel like Fall. We’re going to spend more time outside and take advantage of the cooler temperatures.

Morning walk

The Princess surveys her subjects.

You know how I’m this stupid perfectionist and I feel like I never do enough/get enough done/accomplish enough? And how it’s ludicrous?

So sometimes when David gets home from work and I’m all like “Aaaaaah, I’m exhausted TAKE THE BABY!” and I then survey my messy house, unfolded laundry, dog-fur laden floors, and half-finished dinner I think I really just kind of suck at this homemaker thing.

So today I decided to count the number of things I was doing during a 10 minute interval:

  1. Wear the baby (because our house is not completely babyproofed and she doesn’t want to be put down right  for whatever reason).
  2. Cool the baked squash (for baby food).
  3. Bake sweet potatoes (for baby food).
  4. Vacuum the living room.
  5. Dry laundry.
  6. Fry bacon (for part of dinner).
  7. Prep acorn squash (for dinner).
  8. Write blog.

Dude. That’s a lot of stuff. How many tiny but not insignificant tasks do I do every day? Somehow the baby has clean clothes, and David and I usually do. She eats home made food. We eat home made food with almost no convenience food because of the whole soy/dairy free thing. I take walks. I go to yoga. I occasionally shower. I breast feed. I participate in at least 2 activities with my mamas’ group per week. I pay bills. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking (though David does some grilling). I take care of the baby full time. I take a million pictures, edit them and upload them. I go to therapy. I even sleep sometimes. And all the other crap that has to get done that you then forget about as soon as you’ve done it.

No, I haven’t written the Great American Novel yet. Nor have I run a 5k. Or met many other lofty ad not so lofty goals. But I’m getting by, I have a beautiful family, I’m happy a good portion of the time and not crazy most of it. My kid is happy and wonderful. I think I need to just chill the hell out, no?

So you know how before you have a kid you say, “oh, I’ll NEVER do that” and then after it’s all shot to shit? Well that happens after you have the baby too. Daily, sometimes. I swore up and down I wouldn’t cut bangs on Lillian because it would be so cute if she had long hair that was one length. Except then her hair was all in her face and any barrettes or clips I use run the risk of ending up lodged in her throat since everything ends up in her mouth sooner or later. So guess what?

Haircut!

Bangs!

I called in the professionals (Auntie Tracy) to trim her bangs so I didn’t botch it like I did her neck trim a couple of months ago. And it really is adorable and now she doesn’t have hair in her face all the time.

And then remember that whole sleep thing where I wasn’t going to let my kid cry? Er, well, what happens when they cry for three hours while you bounce, nurse, sing, cajole, and bargain with them, but only for about ten minutes if you leave them alone? We happened on option B kind of by accident. David was alone with her at bedtime a couple of weeks ago and NOTHING was working. So he took a breather and a few minutes later she was out. For nine hours. We had to keep checking that she was still breathing. So we kept at it for the next week or so and things improved incrementally. She hit a growth spurt right after that so she was up a lot during the night to nurse for a few days, but she was getting to sleep faster and easier.

Then we both got sick and that’s been all screwed for the last week. But she’s become an avid climber and scooter in the meantime and so we can’t leave her alone and awake in her co-sleeper which butts up against our bed, because she’ll crawl out of it and roll or lunge off the bed. So probably in the next few nights we’re going to make the big move – out of our bedroom and into the crib. There were a few days where I temporarily lost my mind and started to think that I wanted to co-sleep with her instead of moving her out of our room, but I got over it.

It basically came down to this: do I want a tired, cranky baby who doesn’t have to cry in her crib (even though she cries in the car and other times so who am I kidding?) or a well-rested baby who has a bit of a tantrum at night for a little while? Do I feel guilty? Well, yeah, but that’s pretty much a given. Like I said before this little reversal, there’s always someone to tell you you’re screwing your child up. But we tried all the Dr. Sears stuff and it just didn’t work. She needed to start learning how to put herself to sleep at night and nobody was going to get any sleep until we let her. Believe me, if what we were doing before was still working we would still be doing it. I’m a great believer in not fixing what isn’t broke, but this shit was broke.

Napping has been pretty much screwed since Lillian started her rapid approach on crawling. She’s just too busy and fired up to relax for very long. We get 2-3 half hour naps in if we’re luck now.

Enough about sleep. We’re also big on food right now. I’m still making most of Lillian’s food because I’m a big snob and I like to cook. Lillian likes butternut squash, peas, and avocado. She really hates apples so far, and is iffy on sweet potatoes and pears. I’ve got an acorn squash to cook this week, some carrots, and we might try chicken.

Today I was at a birthday party for my niece and I overheard a mom complaining to another that someone she’d seen feeding a baby at a McDonald’s should have given it french fries. Yeah, I kid you not. MCDONALD’S  FRENCH FRIES. More salt than anyone should be exposed to, let alone a baby, and God knows what else. Oh wait, I do:

French Fries:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid
pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt.  Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to
preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK *(Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Bleargh. And note they don’t list soy as an allergen even though it has soybean oil in it.

I’ve been a food snob for a long time, but since I’ve had to be really careful not to eat any dairy or soy it’s been impossible not to recognize how much crap is in most of our food. And I love junk food, I’m just finding I like local junk food with less actual junk in it a lot more. I like purity in my artery-clogging deep-fried food, thanks very much!

So that’s the latest. Lillian is crazy busy and active these days and keeps me on my toes. I’ll post video soon! Yay iPhone4!

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