They say to never wake a sleeping one, but when you can hear your 20-month-old on the monitor happy as can be in her crib, and it’s 8:05am, you just stay in bed some more.
I’m currently procrastinating on writing a recommendation letter for my husband, for another person. I’m ghostwriting for my husband who’s supposed to ghostwrite for a pilot I’ve never met. It is incredibly hard finding the words to say to describe my husband, as my husband, to this person.
Yet, I’m a stay at home mom now, with an English degree. And a small grasp on writing well.
So, this is a job for me now.
I always feel like I flail at nearly everything I try. I’m a dabbler, I do pick up skills pretty deftly when needed, but I’ve never gotten to the master-level of much of anything. Except for customer service, if that’s a thing- I am pretty darn good at handing people drinks, whether it be in the sky or in a coffee shop.
And now I find myself at the helm of a job many women dream: I get to stay at home with my kids. I’m not sure if being mommy was a dream I ever had, but it’s what I do now. Sometimes I certainly feel like I’m flailing and failing at it- I lose my temper a little to often. I’m not especially skilled at making my kids healthy food that they’ll actually eat. The house is in disarray more often than I’d like.
I do spend a great deal of time wondering where and how I’ll be in the future. Flying for an airline is something I’ll always dream of doing again. I’d like to go to college again to get a real degree that leads to a real job (nursing). I sometimes think I could write myself a paycheck, somehow, but I also know I’m too damn lazy and private for that.
So I’ll continue on my way as a ghostwriting, semi-blogger mom of three for now.
5 weeks postpartum, as yesterday, and today I attended my third workout class since having H. I am living proof that what the natural birth advocates say: the recovery of a med-free birth is so much easier than other types. I also was fairly active throughout my pregnancy.
This is not to say I’m a total badass. I can barely do a pushup anymore. Doing crunches feels like my core is jelly and after 20 minutes of cardio I’m seriously wondering if the class I’m in is tougher, physically, than giving birth.
Anyway. Today’s class was a step-and-weightlifting class. Step always makes me feel like I’m in an 80’s era, and most of the women in the room were my age in the 80’s. But something about step appeals to me. It’s challenging, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I get the routine down. It’s far enough from “dance” to feel like I can handle the choreography and I sweat.
These group classes bring me back to my Jr. High/ High School organized team sports. I played a sport every season- volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track and softball in the spring. (I must add I wasn’t a talented jock or anything. I just went to a small school and everyone played every sport). While I enjoyed the sports, I can honestly look back and say my favorite part of every practice was the conditioning part. I liked running lines against my teammates at the end of basketball, I liked the circuit training we did during volleyball.
I discovered my first organized step class in college- and for a few years I became obsessed with following the best step instructors around the local gyms at my college city and trying to get a friend to join me. (most of my friends aren’t big into step) For whatever reason, step class has become a thing I do just for me, only with me, I just share the experience with a group of strangers.
It feels SO right to recapture this passion of mine. Having a baby, being pregnant, your body isn’t yours anymore. I haven’t been to an organized group class at the gym since I found out I was pregnant with H. 10 months is a LONG time to give something up you love. It’s also discouraging to feel how out of shape I am (compared to how I was). I’m wearing my husbands workout shirts because my belly is so floppy. But – this is just the beginning. I’m starting the habit back up, and hopefully I can wear my tight tank tops with pride in a few months. My mood is already elevated from the general fact I can do classes again.
In the words of Missy Elliot – (which were inspired by her workout regime) “is it worth it/ let me work it/ put my thing down flip and and reverse it”.
My big boy has to put up with a very busy, overtired somewhat slacking Mom. So today, stuck on the couch, nursing my one month old, and he’s all “I’m Hungry”, and I say, “get some strawberries. I can’t cut them so just eat them whole”.
Five minutes later he comes out with this plate of beautifully cut and hulled berries. No bleeding gashes from his fingers tells me he did a good job. He looks proud and I got to stay on my lazy butt doing the all important job of being a practicing fulltime personal cow for my newest arrival.
I’m trying to tighten my newborns carseat harness, and it’s giving me a big PIA. Again. (Backstory: we have an Outback. With 3 carseats across the back. The babies are in these cheap Wal-Mart seats I hate). In frustration, I scream. Like, really scream. Like, if neighbors heard me, they’d come running to see who was murdering the nice lady with all the kids across the street.
My newborn stared blankly at the space just over my left shoulder.
My 20-month-old looked at me and creased her forehead.
My 6-year-old said, “Mommy! We don’t yell like that!”
He’s a sensitive boy. I mean, I know every mother says that about her actually violent little bully of a boy, but E really is sweet. He’s more into Daniel Tiger than any other TV program and really refuses to like any superhero. I try to put on TNMT or Power Rangers and they don’t capture his attention.
Anyway, I get the kids all strapped in, go in the front seat and the guilt of throwing a fit creeps in. So I ask E, “What would Daniel Tiger say about when you are frustrated?”
He instantly breaks into a jingle about taking a step back and asking for help.
This tactic works with almost every situation we encounter. Anything challenging or trying- questionable vegetables on his plate get a “You gotta try new things/ cuz they might taste good!” to sharing to scary weather: if you got a problem, Daniel Tiger can solve it.
I mean, I hate the damn show. It’s annoying. I can’t even stand the background noise of it in the next room. But DT has some great life advice everyone, aged 2-102, could really pay attention to. Oprah’s got nothing on good old Daniel Tiger.
Deep into the “newborn” stage, everyone always stresses the importance of routine. My kids do well with a routine, but I also try not to make anything cemented as far as scheduling around it goes. Life is flexible and I want easy-going kids.
Within myself, I’m trying to develop some sort of daily routine. I feel a constant competition with “the other mothers” in trying to make my home, my life, my kids, myself organized, smart and healthy. It’s easy to appear a certain way, but I actually want to adopt and really really be as envy-worthy of the glossiest blog and instagram Mom out there.
I’ll never reach this ideal but we all need goals.
Our life is further complicated by my husbands profession. Back when I was a flight attendant, he and I called ourselves “part time spouses and parents”. We switched off duties of homing-and-raising our son together, sometimes passing each other for just a few minutes before the other one flew off for work.
So, anyway, routines. My husband has his own way of doing things; and right now he’s on his first long stretch away from home since H was born. He spoiled me the past month. Sleeping in, food ready when I awoke, the pot of coffee steaming – waking up like a princess. He bustled in and out of the house with the two older kids, library programs, school drop-offs and pick-ups and he’d even take them out of my hair when he went to the gym.
This is day two of six days without him, and my morning schedule looks something like this:
4am- H wakes up. Feed him, fall asleep with him on the boob.
4:30 am- Move H to side-car co-sleeper
5:30 am- L is crying. Stumble out of bed, go to her room, pick up pacifier that’s on the ground, tell her it’s not time to wake up yet.
6am-ish- E crawls into bed with me.
6:30am- E is gone, H is hungry again, L is making increasingly louder noises on the monitor. I put H on my boob, and hear the clink of a spoon on a bowl and know E helped himself to Cheerios-and-milk so he’s good.
6:45am- H is done eating, E is still eating his self-served breakfast, and I can hear L is playing in her crib. Time to scroll through the Facebook.
7:25am- L is crying now. I drag myself out of bed. H is sleeping. E is playing in the living room. We turn on “Good Day NY”, the Fox channels morning show. Greg & Roseanna are my friends and we get through the morning together.
7:30am- After changing a poopy diaper and rinsing it off in the toilet, L & I make our way to the kitchen. I pour her her cereal, start the coffee maker, and pull out the overnight oats I made the night before. It’s Wednesday so that means I still have 3-4 sections of the NY Times Sunday Paper to read through.
7:32am- H is crying. I go get him, change him, swaddle him, put him in the swing.
7:40am- As I make my way back to the kitchen, L is standing in her high chair. Done eating. I pick her up, wipe her off and let her run. Coffee is done so I pour myself some, sit down.
7:41am- E comes in kitchen. He’s hungry for second breakfast. I slice him his English Muffin.
7:43am- L comes waddling into kitchen, crying, needs snuggles. We go read a book in the living room.
8am- E is watching train videos on YouTube, L is coloring, I sit down. I read a few opinion articles from the Times and sip my coffee.
8:10am- H is hungry. I go to the couch and we nurse.
8:15am- E needs his lunch made. I put it together as quickly as I can. H is on couch and his anger is growing. He misses the nipple.
8:20am- Suck suck suck. I sip sip sip my coffee and watch my buddies Greg and Roseanna tease each other about their high school prom dates.
8:30am- E gets restless. Starts his count-down-to-school. Every minute gets an update, “It’s 8:32 mommy! Almost time for school!”. It’s tiring to hear but I need the reminders. He knows his mommy well.
8:35am- I ask E to get L’s socks and shoes. This is new today. He gets them and actually puts them on her feet. I now have a new chore for him.
8:40am- I put H in the ring sling, we go outside, I strap L in the stroller, we head off for school.
8:45am- Say hi to our crossing guard friend. Drop E off.
8:50am- Pick up our dog, Sadie, and continue on with morning walk.
9:30am- Home for morning. Start a load of laundry. Sip my cold coffee outside on the porch, watching L play with flower petals. H is still sleeping in the ring sling. I take pictures of Lu crawling all over, and selfies of me and H.
It’s hectic in the morning but I like it.
Now it’s nap time. I’m going to watch “The Wire” and snuggle w/ H as L should stay asleep for at least another hour.
I am a member of many “Birth Month” Mom Groups – groups made up entirely of women expecting a baby the same month you are. Groups vary in size; most of the ones I’m a part of have about a hundred or so other women in them. They are often secret so they stay private.
Going through the pregnancy/ early newborn stage as a member of these groups is so helpful. Especially for first time moms. Any question you have is answered by many other women who have similar issues or feelings. You get close. You share intimate details. It’s an online-sisterhood and I find the relationships and intimacy addicting.
This go-round with H I felt like an old-bag “been there done that”. It’s my third child, my most recent pregnancy was only about a year before, and it was my second time being an active member of these types of groups. There is always a whining mom, a mom with drama (usually relationship related), a mom with serious health conditions, a mom who is a know-it-all, a mom who forces her viewpoints on the other women.
I’d like to think I’m an accepting of all viewpoints type of presence online. Supportive and positive to everyone. I cheer their victories, and I boo their hard times with them. I’m politically correct. I should be a damn Facebook Group Senator.
But I’ve experienced some pretty varied births, and went through major hurdles to breastfeed my first born. I’ve had a c-section, I’ve had an induced birth with an epidural, and I’ve had a 100% medication free birth. I know what to look for in choosing an actual VBAC supportive doctor or midwife. I know that just “trusting” your OB because they are an OB doesn’t mean you’ll have the birth outcome you want. I almost feel like I can pinpoint the women who will end up with an “emergency” c-section just based on how they describe their upcoming inductions etc. I have very strong opinions of this type of thing just from my own experiences.
But where do you cross that line? That line of saying – “watch out”. I’m also in VBAC support groups and I have no issue telling it like it is to women looking for advice or help; but to a fragile, impressionable first-time mom, I don’t want to cross a line that can’t be uncrossed.
Especially when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s fucking hard at first. It can hurt if you don’t do it right. It takes an insane amount of self-confidence to know that your baby IS getting enough milk and your body IS capable of doing it. If you aren’t 100% dedicated to breastfeeding, at any moment you’ll give into the allure of “topping” the baby off with formula (especially if you are sleep deprived). I’m not saying all supplementing ends with a breastfeeding relationship severed, but it can.
But how am I supposed to tell a new mom, oftentimes recovering from serious surgery, to just “trust herself” and that her baby waking up every 1.5 hours is normal and just to get over it? I can’t do it. So, instead, I complain to my husband about it. Or type it up in here.
I wish I knew then (circa 2010, the birth of my first) what I knew now. Experience is everything. I won’t be some “mama hen” to these ladies online, and really, what I ought to do is just log-off and forget about it; but, in a strange way I “know” and “care” about these women. So I just fret about it from afar, behind the keys of my keyboard.
I woke to the grunt and gurgle of H around 3am. As I scooped him up in my arms and pulled down my top to feed him, I had my cellphone in one hand, ready to scroll through the newsfeed of Facebook.
Facebook in the nether hours is every newborn moms best friend. I don’t have any sort of guilt when it’s dark out and the house is asleep.
So, once again, 3am and I’m eager to check in on some of my Moms groups on the FB- many women are in labor and I love seeing the updates. But – I was denied entry.
See, for reasons going back two years, I have used a variation of my first name on the FB. Ni Cole, Nic O Le, etc. I was reported last month for having a fake name and warned sternly to put my real first and last name in, I ignored it, and now I am being required to submit a photo of my government issued ID to the overlords in order to access my account.
If it wasn’t for FB’s further integration into my everyday life over the past few years- the event feature, the “sign on with FB” option Spotify offered, I’d be done. I have a love/hate relationship with the FB anyway (like most other people I am sure).
But I know my life – socially mainly – is so tied up with the damn website that I have no choice. I have to take my punishment seriously and submit my ID. I feel like a punk. I hate it. I want to unsubscribe to the addiction. Now is the perfect time but —- I’m already craving my next dose of mindless scroll.
One day I will quit. I really will.
Just not yet I guess.
I was going to write a post comparing the birth of H to the birth of E, but it digressed and what I really want to record is the special, long, fast, confusing, easy, tiring “fourth trimester” of a newborn.
H is a good baby. But maybe I’m a more patient and easy going mother this third go-round. When he stirs, or cries, I offer my breast. He takes it. I swaddle him when he’s sleepy and hold him until he’s dead-weight asleep. Sometimes he sleeps next to me in bed, sometimes he sleeps in his side-car co-sleeper. I wear him in a wrap a few hours a day when we walk, or go to the library, or if he just needs it. I’m at the point where I can follow my own instincts and just do what feels right, natural.
[I must add here, it’s infinitely easier taking care of a newborn with a supportive husband. He’s taking care of E & L and keeping them busy and I’m able to bum it out at home whenever I please. Thank you honey]
Newborns are simple creatures. I can confidently say now I’m not a mom who gushes over a newborn, or even my own newborn. Yes, I am connected to him. At times it’s like he’s still inside of me, still part of me, connected through muscles and tissues and blood (which is why the fourth trimester analogy of newborns makes perfect sense to me). Sometimes I realize I haven’t looked at him from a distance in hours because he’s been on me or wrapped to me. I mostly see the top of his head or the side of his face as he’s nursing. Diaper changes are the only time I see him without him touching my body in some way.
My husband asked me on the first or second night at home: “Do you love him?”
Funny word, love is. Of course a mom loves her baby, but that “in love” feeling, that “proud” feeling I get when I look at my older, more fully developed kids, it’s just not there yet. I’m still getting to know H. I’ll think we are making a meaningful connection just gazing into each others eyes, and then his eyes cross, his tongue portruds out, and he rips one of his loud farts. I get a preview of his beautiful smile-to-be when he’s asleep, but the first real joyful grin in response to me only happened two days ago, and he’s 3 weeks old.
I’m a member of many mom groups on Facebook, and as H’s namesake would say, “First time moms kill me”. They post things about how their 4 day old is “bored” and wonder which toys are best for them. They talk about their week old “getting back to normal” in a routine after a rough sleepless night. They put in personality to their offsprings that I’m pretty sure aren’t quite there yet. I could just be a cynical know-it-all so I don’t post my thoughts (although I had a hard time with the “bored newborn” woman. I so wanted to tell her just to pick her baby up and cuddle it as long as it wants, that’s the only stimulus a new baby needs, but I’m not looking to start a mommy-war on Facebook).
I took a Philosophy class my freshman year of college and I’ll never forget the unmarried, single professor talking about how newborns weren’t really humans yet. I was slightly horrified by it. Now, my baby and all my babies were and are precious to me and I would defend them to the death, but there is some truth to what Dr. Philosophy had to say. Newborns are so defenseless, such helpless little creatures and I love being the support and comfort my newborn needs, but beyond the sleeping, eating and defecating, there isn’t much there yet. I can already tell H is going to be a pretty laid back kid, but I also know that can change at any moment.
I think H is my last baby. So I’m savoring this fourth trimester as much as I can. I am “spoiling” him as much as I want, indulging him and his cries, letting him fall asleep on the boob, staying up watching TV late with him in the crook of my arm, and right now it’s the perfect relationship. In the grand scheme of a lifetime the newborn phase flies by. So I’m just trying to slow it down a bit this time and let me tell you, H isn’t protesting this at all.