true story: the newborn days were not joyful for me. I know some women are able to love it and bask in their well earned status as new mother of a milky babe. I was pretty confused about what Lux needed, what she wanted, what I was supposed to be doing. Joy was a word a lot of old people exclaimed to me on the street. “What a joy she is!” they said. I scrunched my eyes shut and tried to imagine how they saw her. Where was that ethereal glow, that leapt into their eyes at the sight of her, coming from? They grinned at me expecting an eager nod of agreement, but received only a smile and few fuzzy blinks from my tired eyes. This rumored joy of being a mother felt like an elusive promise in those early days.
I suppose my greatest moments of joy have come from sharing the work of raising Lux with Joe. Watching how he responds to a situation when I am at a loss, learning what inspires him about her, and most especially watching their long-lost-best-friends reunion every evening when he comes home from work. And–that wonderful feeling when you think, “oh I don’t know if I have it in me for this right now,” but wait! Your partner appears and handles it for you, in a way far different from what you would have done. A sigh of relief, and you sit back, watch, and learn.
Meanwhile, toddlers spend at least five minutes every day in a state of sheer joy. We go to a carousal in our park quite frequently. It’s a treat, but not an exotic one for the kids in our neighborhood. The animals are nicked here and there from overlove, but glossy with paint and bedazzled with jewels, and in the evenings they turn on the rows of bulbs and from across the park you can see the ribboning lights spin by. Lux’s current favorite is a rabbit with a pink collar and blue eyes who is completely missing one of his ears. Anyway, yesterday, as soon as the gate opened, Lux took off in a sprint around it, her arms thrown back as she circled the wooden animals. She was completely overjoyed at the prospect of the ride and did a full lap of glee. I watched her mini celebration of the moment in awe. Learning from her, learning from Joe, that’s where I finally stumbled on the promised joy.
This is the third in a series of posts for the Sling Diaries. I’m wearing the Sakura Bloom pure baby linen sling in twilight.
I have always been one to strive forward, ready for the next thing and the next level, breezily leaving the past behind the bend and looking to the future. The woman we’ve hired as my doula suggested I try to cherish these last weeks with only Lux by my side; to focus on the ending of something instead of the impending beginning. The three of us were sitting next to each other with our feet in the murky duck pond of the Public Garden. It was 90 degrees, and Lux was periodically jumping up to gather sticks and then tossing them into the water, joyfully shouting “stick!” with each throw. She was almost completely soaked with pond water and she was loving it. Lorenza said words like “cherish” “dwell” and “relish.” I was sweaty and thinking about how many diseases Lux might be contracting from the water which contained at least three different kinds of bird poop.
But later, when the heatwave finally broke and as the rainy days have come, I have engaged this intention. We stroll through June’s afternoons, rainy or not. We stop to sit on stoops along our street. We pet whatever dogs have the time (according to their owners) to stop and talk to us. We wander on for ‘treats’ (one of Lux’s first firm words), trying chocolate croissants across the city, lemonade from a street vendor, a new box of cereal at the grocery. We climb into bed with a pile of books and share the pillows. (Somehow our hand sign for share turned out like most people’s ‘hang loose’ so I find myself reminding Lux to both share and just relax, dude). We sit in the garden behind our building and meow, hoping the nameless neighbor cat will hear us and climb over the wall, as he does every now and then. “I wait,” she says when I ask if we should give up and head inside. “I play,” she says when I suggest it’s time for lunch instead. We buy strawberries and melons and eat the whole thing in one sitting. We finish our dinner so we can have popsicles. We discuss when Dad will be home, and how he took the train to work, and how he’s probably going to be all wet because it’s raining.
It’s a season of receiving advice, most of it terrible, some of it is gold. My midwife Connie finally told me to quit it with trying to talk to Lux about the baby.”You’re just stressing her out.”
What a relief. I thought back over the times I’d attempted the conversation, all of them met with confusion, anxiety, or denial. The future is a frustrating concept to someone Lux’s age. It better be five minutes away, or don’t bring it up.
And it’s a little hilarious to imagine what I thought all that prep work might ideally add up to: was a screaming infant going to arrive in our apartment and Lux was going to walk up and say “soo good to see you! at last! just what I’ve been waiting for, someone to completely screw with my life and schedule!”
Connie also suggested I encourage Lux’s interest in talking about the baby growing in her belly. A parallel imagination game that, I’m really sorry to say, I’ve so far been correcting. “No, I have a baby, you don’t have a baby,” I’ve actually said. In hindsight, I feel like a real jerk. Now, we’ve started talking about the baby in bunny‘s belly. It was Lux’s idea, but to me this feels like a very wise and safe proposal: a tiny fluffy baby from bunny could hardly do us any harm, right?
So here we are, we’re not waiting. We’re relishing. One of us might be a little tired, a little sore in the back, and little overstretched, but we’re relishing all the same.
1. I probably eat a box of this a day. This bunny-themed version is a cheerful pink and for unspecified reasons has been on sale at grocery stores across the city for the last two weeks. And yes, I’ve legitimately considered buying stock in Annie’s Natural Foods.
2. Local pickles. You can taste the dill and horseradish in these. “Let’s just have pickles for dinner,” I called to Joe. “Yup, you’re pregnant” he called back.
3. One thing Boston does really well is the Sub Shop. If people ask if I have cravings, I say “yes, pizza and sub sandwiches.” Of course we all know that all humans crave pizza and sub sandwiches. Which is why the industry created the word “crave.” Now you can justify it biologically!
4. Local peanut butter, but it’s my favorite brand because it is the best flavor. My position is don’t bother with the flax seed enhanced stuff. That research is suspicious and it taints the flavor.
5. My favorite with everything–the macaroni and cheese, the Market Basket ruffle potato chips that I go through a bag of on a weekly basis, honey, scrambled eggs… There is NO reason to buy any version besides the Total full fat. I wish that 2% junk would stop crowding the shelves.
6. Is it just me or is the grapefruit super good this year? I end up just drinking the juice because Lux likes to eat the whole fruit and I don’t mind splitting that type of stuff.
Note that none of these involve cooking. Coincidence? Um, no.
ps: I found these snack ideas totally eye opening.
Planning for Rome has almost been usurped by a new topic: planning for a new apartment. Though we would swear up and down that living in under 500 sq ft is good for us, the prospect of just a little more space has our minds reeling. I have a list of furniture and things we’ll need that’s titled “new apartment new life.”
Now’s a good time to do a post on sharing a room with Lux this past year-n-a half. Occasionally people ask me how that’s going and I often don’t know what to say because I’m so accustomed to it.
She sleeps in the top corner of the crib, closest to me. We put her water bottle there and she often wakes for a drink during the night. In the morning when she wakes she noisily reads aloud her books that were left in the crib from the night before. After that she dangles each of her stuffed animals over the edge of the crib and documents their fall to the ground with loud pronouncements. Eventually we lift her out and try to convince her to come cuddle in our bed with us, but typically she marches out of the room and then marches back in, until I ask her if she wants some oatmeal. Then she nods with glee as if I’ve announced we’re adopting a puppy.
The fact that I know all of this is one of the things I like about room sharing. I also like that she doesn’t wake up to noise in the room, both because we have a small apartment and because we just don’t bother with being very quiet when we’re getting ready for bed. Travel too, is eased because sharing a hotel room is the usual. When she’s sick, it’s just a quick hop from the bed to check on her, or soothe her back to sleep. The times we’ve gone through brief sleep “regressions” (when babies decide to wake up earlier than the typical schedule, like say, 4am) I’ve been able to both say “we’re still sleeping right now” but not abandon her to be by herself while she falls back asleep.
Around 12 months there was a point where she woke up early, and it felt like she was waking up because she wanted to see us. But right around that time a friend moved into a two-bedroom and confirmed that her daughter woke up early even in her own room. Roughly one month later it became old news to Lux that we were there and she woke up later, clearly with no concern about whether we were there or not.
A mom once asked me how I would feel putting Lux in her own room now, and I shied away from the question. It sounded lonely. And she nodded her head, as if in confirmation to herself that this showed a negative side effect of our plan–being afraid of the eventual separation.
But soon she will have her own room. I look forward to turning on a bright bedside lamp and reading myself to sleep (I do this now, but by the dim light of the closet). I don’t look forward to having another room to check for distributed toys. I’ll miss saying “good morning!” from my pillow when she wakes up. I think she’ll notice that the new space is her room and will enjoy hiding away in there. And of course, she’ll sleep better than all of us once baby #2 comes along.
Does the idea of a one-bedroom house appeal to the minimalist in you? Or sound stifling?
I often think of this as a place to write, but sometimes I want it to be a normal blog with lots of photos too.
If you ran into me on the street, you would notice that I look suspiciously pregnant. You would probably feel awkward because I would forget to bring it up and force you to. My brain can’t quite catch up to the fact that at 15 weeks with Lux I was still letting people in on the secret, and at 15 weeks with bébé de deux I’m practically in maternity t-shirts.
Since I don’t believe in due dates anymore, I’ll tell you that the baby is due in July, shortly after Lux turns 2. I think this is the perfect time to have a baby, and not just because I already had a baby on this exact same schedule (read: same seasonal clothes!). I think it will give Lux just enough time to grow up a bit and understand what’s going on, maybe even to be excited. Don’t let that statement lead you to believe I was some how in control of the timing of when I got pregnant, because I was not, and it was a good learning experience to realize that.
To answer your first question, we will be finding out whether it’s boy or a girl because we loved doing that the first time. The baby will probably be born across the street again, at Mass General. To answer my first question, we may or may not be moving out of our one bedroom apartment.
Our announcement for Lux, way back when.
ps: My friend pointed out that it’s just too coincidental that Lux and I are pregnant at the same time! Of course, that’s why I had to have her in this photo session with me.
my sweatshirt is from my cousin Caitlin’s partner’s Detroit clothing brand. I love it, thanks to Joanie for letting me take it after I begged it off her.
This extreme heat combined with Lux’s approaching first birthday has the early days of motherhood on my mind. The sticky floor in our kitchen, the faint hum of a hundred air conditioners through the window, the smell of baking bricks has triggered a wave of memories I’d forgotten in the last few months. I know several of my readers are expecting babies soon! I thought I would share a few things I would have loved to know in the first month or two.
Lie about your due date on Facebook. Smudge it a little starting two or three weeks beforehand, no one will notice. Majority of first births are late, up to two weeks! To keep the dear friends and family at bay during those endless last days, give yourself a little leeway.
Ask for food instead of gifts. If you have friendly neighbors and hopeful friends, tell them you would love for some hearty food in the weeks after the birth.
A doula might be a bit expensive, but it could be the best money you’ve spent. It could save you the cost of an epidural and c-section! And be enormously comforting to you and husband. It isn’t an indulgence, it is a wise investment. If they do postpartum visits and help, all. the. better.
Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive, and infuse it with your scent.
Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting, and unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.
Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.
Nap when she naps. Truly truly truly. If you can do this as much as possible, you’ll feel way better about the bizarro sleep patterns.
Avoid sleep training until three months. Do not spend hours googling methods when they are two weeks old. Your hips have to learn to sway, your mouth has to learn the comforting noises, your baby has to stop being a foreign alien to this world. It takes time, and no one’s cheap tricks will help.
Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: yes other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.
The sooner you can quiet the fear of your own intuitions, the sooner you and your baby will feel confident in your decisions.
Three questions you might ask yourself and will later look back and wonder if you were insane: Is little Lux getting enough stimulation? Am I keeping her from learning? Am I being a “good” parent at all times?
*Do you have bits of advice you whisper to new moms? I’d love to hear them, please share. Please ignore these until (..if ever) they are useful to you. : )
well well well. Judging by the old blog stats, you guys are still with me. Thanks for that. If you wrote an interesting tweet, or posted a good Instagram, or spent some time on a blog post, you probably entertained me at 3am sometime in the past two weeks. Thanks for that too.
This baby-birthing and baby-having is really big deal. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned that before. It is occupying. You put your body through the most strenuous physical activity of its life, and at the end of it you are handed a small human who has lots to tell you but only hand gestures for words. And relies on you entirely for food and drink. Who likes to fall asleep in your arms and has reflexes that make her grab you tightly.
I’d like to tell you my birth story but I don’t want to scare you.
Just kidding. But actually women say that to each other quite frequently.
But really, my story is one where everything I didn’t want to happen–namely “failure to progress,” an epidural, a c-section–happened, and it was still okay, and actually had some pretty great points throughout. Like the friendly nurses who gave me hugs and told me they believed in me. Like Joe rubbing my back for twelve straight hours. Like the midwives who deferred to my decisions, and encouraged me to think for myself. Like the fact that, after laboring without one for twenty-four hours, an epidural can feel like the most unbelievable hospital-approved drug on earth. Like Lux being enormously healthy and fat, and when she appeared in the operating room there were astonished cries of, “where were you hiding her!” Like how our insurance pays for you to recover in a hospital for four days, with meals brought to your bedside, and nurses who jump to bring you more diapers, and cots for your husband so you can sleep next to each other.
really, I have to say, nurses are the shit.
And now we have Lux Amelia:
She’s laying next to me right now, sleeping away. And her little nursery that could is working perfectly.
I’m excited to get back to blogging. Probably a little bit about life with Lux (life d’Lux?) but mostly the usual hodgepodge.
Walk to the library to pick up two books, take home six. Feel silly at the checkout, but you finish four of them, including Joan Didion. Wish you would have listened to everyone and read her three years ago. Set aside last two for a comforting re-read of Lolita.
Go to Haymarket and find the ugliest, biggest lemons for sale: 7 for $1, but you don’t get to pick them out. Watch skeptically as he selects them (you’re thinking of your cake), so skeptically that—or perhaps because you look so pregnant—you watch as he throws 2 extra in the bag. 9 for $1! Walk around the rest of the market feeling like the luckiest.
Use all the lemons to bake lemon cake. Make tomato sauce. Think about how those two culinary feats—cake from scratch, sauce—are referenced as the most homemaking tasks of all recipes. It’s because of the time; the crazy extra effort that might not even register on your tongue. But you made them because they sounded good. And they are good. Forget to take your prenatal vitamins and just eat lemon cake for a day.
Sit in the breeze of your new air conditioner. This ugly enormous machine that juts in passerby’s faces outside of your window without their permission, that you don’t quite understand the environmental impact of but understand it’s frowned upon, is the first purchase that makes you feel truly adult. It feels guilty indulgent, like taking a rose bath in the middle of the desert with water squirted from carried bottles.
Go out for Italian. Hunting for spicy: order the homemade fusilli with Fra Diavolo sauce. Eat all the fried peppers in the calamari. Talk cheerfully of how this is your last date free-of-other-human-responsibilities, avoiding the weighty (43 lbs; 8 days) fact that you both wish the baby had come yesterday. Be grateful the physical ripeness of being overdue makes this transition, freedom to responsibility, easy and obvious.
Dear readers! Before the baby gets here and trashes the place, I would love to show a few photos of where she’ll stay.
The nursery wall, as we call it.
The rocker was my modernist-loving grandmother’s, and the crib (former laundry basket) is a makeover story done by Joe (he posted a few before photos). I love the mobile, it was the first nursery item we were given, and for most of the winter it hung in our living room as a promise that we would someday have a place for it. We’re planning to hook up an ipod to the radio with white noise tracks so it can double as a sound machine, along with playing NPR for me.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen when I posted a photo of Joe finding the globe in the trash near our apartment. It works perfectly as a soft ocean-and-continent-glow nightlight. It’s a still mystery why it was in the trash as no deadly spider babies have yet emerged from it.
In our apartment storage is an enormous challenge, so we definitely needed a new place to put her clothes. We bought the two pieces of furniture at an antique warehouse in southern MA. Joe repainted the cabinet when we were in Maine, and the knobs on the changing table are from Anthropologie. Those orange bins will be all cloth diapers, since I finally found someone in Boston who does diaper deliveries.
This Kurt Vonnegut quote (from A Man Without a Country) is a good one for us. We’re always noticing after the fact how nice something was, and never quite settling down in the moment. We used this sign and the “crib” in the market last year, so it feels like we brought a little bit of our past adventures along with us.
We changed up the artwork in the rest of the bedroom as well, and I love this old schoolhouse map for its pinks, oranges and blues. It’s so cheerful (and historically educational, since most of the facts are wrong now).
Looking over at this wall, for me, is like sitting before a grotto of flickering candles. The fact that we finally appear to be physically ready to welcome her, and she will have place to fall asleep, and a place to put her clothes, is incredibly soothing. Possibly the most soothing thought I have ever encountered. I try to fall asleep facing that wall.
When a new-mom-friend told me that a Christmas Kindle gift had brought books back into her life post-baby, I immediately knew I needed one.
We’re not quite friends yet. I’m a serious library card carrier and rarely buy books, even used ones. So the idea that I have to buy any new book I want to read, even if it is a bit cheaper than cover price, seems crazy. And that I can’t lend the book, once I’ve bought it: even crazier. And that I’m direct depositing into the Amazon machine instead of the local bookstores…let’s not go there.
But reading one-handed, with no hardcover girth to balance, tossing this digital lightweight into the bag alongside a few diapers, or lightly clicking from chapter five of Baby’s First Year back to A Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing…that does not seem so crazy.
Joe surprised me and personalized this strange creature by downloading a bookplate for my screen, one that he made for me years ago and I already use in my physical books (that is Curious George, but because I love monkeys, not because I love George so much).
Any savvy Kindle users out there who want to recommend a few free good books? And who’s starting the Kindle discountedbook of the month club? I am IN.