Friday, May 27, 2011

My super sweet lunch date

So, Hubby has off from work today, and he knows I have been feeling a little down, so he offers to take me out for a nice lunch. Baby Girl being the social butterfly she is, she is always well behaved in public, so a lunch date for three sounds perfectly reasonable, lovely even. So, I put some clean jeans on me a new dress on Baby Girl (because she is always better dressed than I am. Always), and we head out the door.

We are seated immediately at the restaurant, and all I can think is how lovely a day it is. We get to the table, I strap her into the high chair, and the waitress takes our drink orders (water for me, of course) and smiles at Baby Girl who promptly giggles and poses - does this kid know she's cute or what? Then I glance down at my shirt which feels wet, thinking oh man, did she spit up on me already? But it isn't spit up.

It's poop.

So, with only half a word to my husband, I grab Baby Girl and the diaper bag and jet to the bathroom. Now, this is the kind of restaurant where the bathrooms have pumps of scented soap. And a bottle of lotion. And hairspray. And mouthwash. You know, just in case.

And I'm in the biggest stall of the bathroom, with Baby Girl strapped to a changing table, prattling away to keep her from crying, and swabbing desperately at my shirt with a Shout Wipe. Only the poop isn't coming off, it's just kind of spreading. Now I have a giant beige wet spot on my shirt. And I have a change of clothes for the baby, but somehow she didn't get any poop on her clothes. Just mine. Thanks sweetie.

I go back to the table and quietly explain to hubby what happened. His eyes get wide and he asks if I want to leave, but I really don't, so I strap Baby Girl back into the high chair and look at my menu. The old ladies at the next table coo at her, and she hams it up. The waitress takes our order.

Then Baby Girl starts fussing. Hubby picks her up, but she just squirms. I try to hold her, but no luck. Finally I concede that she must be hungry.

Now, I'm a big breast feeding advocate, and I have no problem with nursing in public. I don't think it's offensive at all, and I am totally all for it.

Except, y'know, when it's my boob.

But I'm pretty handy with a receiving blanket, so I slide to the back of the booth and try to feed her. Only she won't latch. MY baby? Who would nurse every 20 minutes if given the options? Is this a pod baby? And just as the waitress comes back with our food, she throws the blanket off me in order to look up and see who's coming.

Once we get everything, ahem, covered again, she finally starts to eat and I realize that I can't eat a crabcake sandwich with one hand. Hubby tries to help. ("Should I feed you? Should I move your plate?") I sigh, and pick at some french fries, trying to secure the blanket and maintain an adult conversation.

Then, inexplicably, Baby Girl decides to scream at the top of her lungs.

And miraculously, hubby scoops her up. Walks outside with her. And I am sitting there, still collecting myself, when he comes back with an un-crying baby and slides into the booth next to me.

And, finally, I am able to eat my almost-warm crab cake and talk to my husband. I smile and look around and am so grateful to be there, in this lovely restaurant with the two loves of my life.

And, y'know, with poop on my shirt.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I suck at making friends

For me, one of the hardest thing about being a new mom is the isolation. I'm used to being at school all day, surrounded by snarky teenagers and snarkier teachers, and suddenly it's just me and Baby Girl. While she does have a bit of the snark in her, she's not quite the most gifted conversationalist yet. (Although, "A-babababababa" is HILARIOUS. At least she thinks so. Somehow I'm not sure I get the joke.)

But I'm lonely. As much as I want to make light of it or play it off, or try to act cooler than I am about the whole thing, I'm lonely. And some days (like today) that makes me really sad.

I have friends, but they live states away now. And they don't have kids. And they're at work during the day when I'm struggling with the quiet.

On my better days, I try to be really proactive and go out and try to make friends. I go to library story time. I take long walks through my neighborhood, hoping to encounter a tribe of SAHMs who want to take me into their fold. I send messages to friends of friends, inviting them over for coffee or out to lunch.

But it never works. The moms at story time all know each other already and don't seem interested in knowing me - although honestly, I don't push to hard because I'm too self conscious and afraid of acting like a fool. My neighbors smile and nod at me, but I don't know how to make those conversations anything more.

And last week? I invited one of the other wives from hubby's work over for coffee, and she accepted. I was so proud of myself. I cleaned my house. I baked freaking cookies. And then? She canceled.

I wept all afternoon.

It's hard to feel like I'm not completely unloveable. It's hard to make myself vulnerable when my brain is telling me that rejection is so certain. But if I keep putting up walls, I'll never make a new friend again.

I'm at a loss.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The good stuff

I was talking to a new, dear Twitter friend yesterday and had myself a mini-revelation. (Why does the advice come easier when it's to other people?)

I told her to try as much as she could to focus on the stuff she was enjoying so the bad stuff didn't get bigger than it deserved. And then I realized that all I've been thinking and talking about is the bad stuff. While it's okay to feel sad and frustrated and overwhelmed, and I don't want to pretend I don't feel that way, it's also important to remember and recognize that sometimes it feels great. I'm not just waiting for this stage to be over. I'm enjoying so many things. For example:

Instead of crying when she starts to get tired, she gets grabby. And sucks on everything. I can almost hear her say "mommy, I'm not tired. I just want to eat your face, mommy. Mommy, can I eat your face, mommy?"

She is a genius at blowing raspberries. Particularly on her daddy's face. Presumably because she knows how much he enjoys a good flatulence joke.

I can lie on the floor with a blanket over my head and say "Where's mommy?" and Baby Girl will crawl across the room, pull the blanket off and laugh hysterically. She totally loves me. And she's got that object permanence thing down. (I'm a nerd. A proud, proud nerd.)

And there are a million more things that I love and enjoy. That I enjoy even when I'm tired, even when I'm frustrated. When I feel bad, it's easy to think that I always feel bad, and that I always will feel bad, but it's just not true. Sometimes I just need a little reminder.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In which I write even though I don't feel like it

This is around the time that I would normally realize how raw and open I'm being, panic that everyone will hate me, and quit. But I'm not going to.

I woke up this morning with Baby Girl in my bed and couldn't remember why I did that. Did she wake up a lot? Or recently? I didn't mean to bring her to bed. Although she was awfully snuggly. But, wait, no, sleep associations. Bad mommy.

I decided to have decaf this morning because I was afraid I was getting too dependent on caffeine again. Too late.

I spent the morning, even through naptime, staring at my computer in a fog instead of cleaning the house for my in-laws' upcoming visit.

Baby Girl was out of sorts, too, poor thing. She's cutting a tooth. And pulling herself up on furniture and then screaming about it. And apparently she doesn't like blueberries. Who doesn't like blueberries?

I was about to lose my mind this afternoon, so I turned on the TV. I love the TV.

Now Baby Girl is asleep on my tummy. And I know this post is ridiculous and random and whiny, but I wrote today. So there self-sabotaging self.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I feel sad sometimes

It feels like a stupid thing to admit to. I mean, yeah. Sometimes I'm sad. I'm a person. Sometimes I'm sad and sometimes I'm angry and sometimes I feel scared or guilty or uncomfortable.

But lately I've been wondering if this is more than that.

Sometimes, when she's crying, I feel like I can't breathe. I'd rather sit with her in the rocking chair all night than let her cry even a little bit. It's not because I think it makes me a better mother, or even because I worry about the effects crying has on babies (although, thanks for that extra thing to be anxious about, Dr. Sears). It's because the sound of her cries causes me physical pain.

Sometimes, when she won't eat her cereal, I want to scream. If she flings it at me or rubs it on her face or puckers up her lips and starts to whimper, I want to let out a blood curdling screech or break down in tears. Sometimes I do break down in tears.

Sometimes, when she wakes up from a nap early, just as I finish switching over my laundry and am finally (FINALLY) about to sit down and read an actual book and enjoy a cup of tea while it's still hot, I want to weep. Or go in my bedroom, shut the door and curse as loudly as possible. And then I have to go pick up my Baby Girl, who is by this time weeping herself because it took me more than a minute and a half to pick her up, and I feel like the worst mom in the world as I kiss away her tears.

And I'm wondering if this is normal. I'm wondering if I need help or if I just, you know, need some help. I don't want to over-analyze or to pathologize what I'm feeling. Because you know? It's hard. It's overwhelming. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm tired. I'm isolated. I'm grieving for my old life, for a life where I was competent and appreciated and had adult conversations. These are all truths of my situation. And maybe, even though people don't talk about it, it's totally normal to feel this way.

But maybe it's not.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Secret Mommyhood Confession: My barefoot baby

We were at baby story time the other day at the library, when I noticed it.

"Touch your toes!" said the librarian. "Where are your toes? That's right, they're inside your shoes!"

I looked down at Baby Girl's tiny (and delicious) toes then looked around the room. Every baby but her was wearing socks and sneakers.

Wait. Did I miss something? Do babies need to wear shoes? I mean, wait, this is the library. Maybe you need to wear shoes at the library? Was there a memo I didn't get somewhere?

This isn't the first time we've been different. A few months ago, I started grocery shopping on Friday mornings, when all the cool moms from the rich side of town shop. Every one of them had her impeccably dressed baby in a Moby Wrap, while Baby Girl sat in her carrier in the cart, playing with her toes.

Am I setting her up for a lifetime as a barefoot outcast? Am I always going Will her shoelessness sometime down the line come back to haunt her, as she is labeled the weird kid with the clueless mom?

Or maybe not. Maybe she'll grow up to be the cool rebel who refuses to be constrained by shoes or any other arbitrary rule of the establishment.

Either way, she does have some pretty great toes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No, she isn't sleeping through yet, thanks

Every conversation I have about Baby Girl eventually ends up like this.

Random Person: So, is she a good baby?
Me: Oh yes. She is SUCH a good baby.
Random person: Oh good. So she's sleeping through the night?
Me: ... no ...

I am crazy about my daughter. She is beautiful, hilarious, and so good at so many things. Sleeping isn't one of them. At 8 months old, she still wakes up twice every night, and her naps are sporadic at best.

I blame myself.


I know that there are a lot of things I don't do right. At night, I let her fall asleep eating sometimes. If she's fighting bedtime, I bring her back downstairs to watch Glee with me. I tried to sleep train once and was so ambivalent that I ended up in the nursery rocking chair sobbing, while my wide awake baby looked at me incredulously. For her naps? I don't have much of a schedule. I usually snuggle her to sleep. And then sometimes keep holding her all through the naps - not because she needs it but because I do. Although she's a fan too.

Is this why my 8 month old isn't sleeping through yet? Or is she just not ready? Does she wake up at night because I'm spoiling her? Because she's hungry? Because she's teething? Because she's just so darn crazy about me she can't stand to be away?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. Well, that and the baby. Okay, mostly the baby.

I want to "trust my instincts." I want to "do what I know is right." But years of school and academic experience have taught me that the answer to problems is research. So I've read everything on the Internet and half of what's in my library and, instead of making me feel better or fixing the problem, it's only made it worse. And my solution to the information overload is more information.

I'm tired. 8 months of interrupted sleep is a lot. What's much worse than the exhaustion though is the shame. When I admit she isn't sleeping, other mothers look at me like I'm crazy. My doctor gently scolds me and tells me I should let her cry. My mother in law says "but why wouldn't she be? She's eating solid food," as if to say that she doesn't believe me. My own mother just tsk tsks and doesn't say anything.

And I smile and make a joke and then go home and cry. I sit thinking Am I a failure as a mother? Is she a failure as a baby? Should I let her cry it out? Will I have to breastfeed until she's 4? and on and on.

I want to be a good mother. I want to get some rest. But right now, honestly, I think I just need to love Baby Girl the best way I know how and start to learn to trust the both of us that this will all work out in the end.

I'm tempted to start lying when asked. But maybe that's what everyone else has been doing all along?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have a confession to make

So many things in my life have always been easy for me. In high school? I never studied and aced the test anyway. When I was teaching? Totally laid back, I could call an audible and wing it if something didn't work. My wedding? I called the vendors my friend used and just said, Do whatever it is that's done.

Then we decided to have a baby, and you know what? That was easy too. I had no problems getting pregnant, even though I totally expected to. I had a completely uneventful and easy pregnancy and a delivery that was almost TOO fast and easy (I'll have to tell that story another time).

So into this life comes Baby Girl. And on the surface, that looked like it was easy for me too. Baby Girl and I were immediately really good at breastfeeding (almost too good). She was well behaved in public, so I could take her anywhere. I made jokes. I lost all my baby weight in 6 weeks. Everyone said how great I was doing, what a laid back and calm mom how I was, how much they wanted to be like me.

But they didn't see me crying. They didn't see me searching the Internet all night long, thinking I'd find an answer to why she was crying. They didn't see the dark part of my head where I told myself I was doing everything wrong, where I second guessed every decision, where I was convinced I was a bad mother.

And the more people thought I was good at it, the more I felt like I needed to be. The more I felt like I needed to keep the fear and sadness on the inside. I was afraid to talk to people because I had nothing interesting and clever to say, and I didn't want them to know how sad and boring I'd become, or worse, to figure out that I didn't have anything under control. That for once in my life I was trying really hard, and I couldn't fix it.

I stopped writing. I stopped reading anything that wasn't about taking care of babies. I stopped being me.

And so, I've decided to finally tell the truth. I'm not good at this. I'm not a natural. I'm not a super laid back mom. And I'm sure there are new moms who need to hear this too, who are so afraid of what will happen if they aren't perfect: Being a mommy is wonderful. But sometimes it's hard.