Finding Balance

Finding balance has been the hardest part of the four months I’ve been back to work.  Wanting to be as productive and on my game as I was pre-baby but not sacrificing my baby for my job.  I know I’m not the only mother to face this.  I’m not special or any worse off than anyone else. 

Most days I’m pretty good at recognizing that this is the life I chose.  I knew before I got pregnant that I would be a working mom.  Because I like to work.  I like getting up, getting out of the house, having adult conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, not working is not an option.  We are a two income family.  But, knowing that staying at home is not an option helps me to put things in perspective.  I am able to remind myself that part of my job as C’s mother is providing for her.  Because I work, she has a house with a yard she can run and play in (you know, after she learns to walk), she has Pampers on her butt and food on her table. 

I don’t feel like a part-time mom.  But it’s hard to know that my kid spends more time with her grandmother than me.  It’s hard to realize at 10AM on a Tuesday that I’m already so far behind that I have two hours of work awaiting me after I put C to bed.  It makes my gut twist when I see my husband look at me out of the corner of his eye when I answer an email while I’m feeding her.  I feel guilty calling my mom three weekends in a row to ask her to babysit while I try to catch up.  I hate that I probably missed the first time she rolled over and I recognize that may be one of many firsts that I miss. 

The place I question myself the most as a mother is letting my job take up so much of my time and my attention.  I’ve promised myself that when she needs me I’ll be there for her.  I’ve sworn that I will be there for her doctor appointments.  I will leave work early for sporting events.  Hell, maybe I’ll even coach her softball team (eh.. maybe not.  I’ll be the mom that brings the snacks.)  These are easy promises to make when your kid is five months old.  I’ve never had to put them into practice. 

Until last week.  When I took a few days off work.  In the middle of tight deadlines and deadlines that I had already missed by a mile (at this point are any of you wondering why I’m still employed?).  I put a request into my boss, said my kid needs to be on a better daytime schedule and I would be out for a few days doing it.  And out I was.   Now, the scheduling thing didn’t really work out because she got sick.  But I was with her father when we took her to the doctor (twice).  I comforted her when she cried, walked the hall with her at night and didn’ t think about what was happening at the office.  Even when the little red light was flashing on my phone indicating that I had emails. I ignored them when my daughter needed me.  Granted Nap War 2010 was an epic fail, but I feel a little better in knowing that I can turn off the career driven voice in my head and focus on my baby.

Flashing my “First Time Mom” badge

I don’t have Mommy instinct.  There I said it.  To everyone who said “you’ll just know what to do,” I say “you lied”.  I don’t know what to do.  When C was a wee one and went through a fussy spell every night in the early evening, I read “Happiest Baby on the Block” to learn how to soothe her.  I decided what to dress her in for bed because it was what a friend of mine dressed her daughter in.  When she got to the age that I thought she should be learning to put herself to sleep, I asked another friend for advice and bought “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”.  We decided to start solid foods because the doctor said we could.  “Just knowing” has not been a part of my parenting experience.

So.  When I kissed the back of C’s head yesterday afternoon and it was hot enough to make me take her temperature (101.4) I immediately flashed back to our child birth class.  The one where a pediatrician came in and talked to us about when to go to the doctor.  My head was spinning as I texted friends, talked to my mother-in-law and called Craig.  My thoughts were jumbled, 90 miles an hour and went something like this: 

“My baby has a fever. OMG.  MY BABY HAS A FEVER.  It’s 101.4.  That’s high for babies, right?  The doctor said to bring her in if it was more than 101 and they were under 6 months.  Or was it 100 degrees and 3 months.  I can’t remember.  I think it was 101 degrees, under 3 months.  But she’s 5 months.  So, what do I do?  I should call.  No, I’m not calling.  She could be teething.  I’ll give her some Tylenol.  Ok, I should still call.  They’ll make me bring her in and it could be nothing.  Maybe I’ll give it an hour.  No, in an hour the office will be closed.  I think maybe I’ll call and ask if they can see her.  But Oh, hell, I haven’t showered yet today.  I’ll wash my face while I call.  OH MY GOD MY BABY HAS A FEVER.”

Craig made the decision easy and told me to call.  So I did and got an appointment for 6:10.  Where she played and giggled in the waiting room.  Another mother even said to me, “She sure doesn’t look sick”.  Then they took her temperature and found it was 99.4.  Could be a difference in thermometers, could be that the Tylenol kicked in.  Doctor gave her a clean bill of health and said to watch her an if it got to be 104 to bring her back. 

OHHHHH….104 is the magic number.  OK then.  Here is my first time mom badge and my $20 co pay.   Have a lovely day.

“Give faith a fighting chance”

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance, I hope you dance

-I Hope You Dance; LeeAnn Womak

Dear Baby Girl,

It’s been five months since you entered this world and completed my life.  In five months you have learned so much and taught me even more.  In our lifetime together there will be many more lessons for us both, but today I want to talk to you about faith.  Not the kind that comes with the structure of going to church, although we will talk about that at another time.  But the kind of faith where you just sort of let go, and let life happen. 

I’ve talked to you a lot about working hard to get what you want.  I’ve preached about being determined and not giving up.  And I mean all of that.  But there’s another side of it.  Sometimes, honey, some things are just a leap of faith.  There will be some things that you can’t control, and then you have to let it go and have faith that it will work out. 

Love is leap of faith.  Trust means putting faith in someone else. Reaching for the stars means having faith that you’ll catch one.  Forgiveness means having faith that you won’t regret it.  My greatest hope for you is that you’re able to do all of these things.  Chose to throw caution to the wind and love someone with a fierceness that will scare you.  Then trust that he will have the good sense to guard your heart with care.   Go after your dreams and give it all you’ve got, even when the outcome is unsure.  And, when your feelings are hurt or someone is unkind to you, find a way to forgive and rebuild your friendship. 

There is a certain relief in giving something up to God, to knowing that it will work out – one way or another – and trusting that the final outcome will be what’s best.  It’s a hard place to get to.  And being there once doesn’t mean it will be easy the next time it feels like something is out of your control.  But when all else fails and there’s nothing left to do but hope?  Then hope, little one.  Take a deep breath, give faith a fighting chance and dance. 

I love you, sweet girl.

I need a baby instruction manual

I don’t even know what word I would use to describe this weekend.  Hard. Terrible. Frustrating. Painful.  There was fussing and crying and tears.  There was yelling and a head of lettuce thrown across the kitchen*.  There was bitterness and heartbreak at not understanding what she needed and pleading with her to just TELL ME what she wanted.  There was a massive glass of  wine consumed late Saturday afternoon. 

For the first time since C was about three weeks old, there was literally nothing I could do to comfort my daughter.  She didn’t want to play, didn’t want to sleep.  She was fed, dry and comfortable temperature-wise. And after a few hours the sound of her crying was literally like a knife to the heart.  I just wanted it to stop.  I tried laying her down and letting her cry while I cried on the floor beside her pack ‘n play, but frankly I suck at that.  So I walked around with her and let her cry in my arms and did my best to keep it together.  (Obviously not completely successfully – hence the head of lettuce that I threw into the kitchen sink when she screamed as I tried to make a sandwich.)  When she calmed down a little I put her in the exercauser while I took a bath.  That lasted exactly two minutes. 

When Craig came home he found us on our bed – me with my hair still in a towel and inches from losing my mind and C eating with tear-filled eyes.  He took her and gave me time to pull my shit together.  As I calmed myself down, I devised a plan.  The baby needs a schedule.  Kids thrive on knowing what comes next.  It’s what all the books say and want every friend of mine who has babies older than C swear by.  And, it’s what my gut has been whispering to me for two months.  So, OK.  I decided I would take a few days off at the end of the week, and come hell or high water,  I will put this baby on a schedule.  She will get up at a consistent time and nap at consistent time.  I expect more tears (from both of us) and more wine (for me).  But we will do this. 

Only now, 28 hours later, writing this, I’m wavering.  Because now, it’s hit me that she’s five month old and maybe, just maybe, she’s fussy because she’s teething.  I’m not sure if it was process of elimination that gave it away or Craig pointing out that she was chowing down on a teething ring like it was baby crack.  Why oh, why didn’t I think of this earlier?  And why didn’t I trust my gut two months ago when I thought she needed a schedule?  If I had A) this would be behind us or B) I could narrow down the cause.   So, now?  I don’t know.  I still think she needs a schedule and I still think I’m going to try to put her on one, but hopefully with a little more patience and understanding that what I had on Saturday. 

I hate, hate, hate that I was so flustered with my baby.  I’m annoyed at myself for being short with my husband and that when she went to bed, I feel asleep (probably from the massive glass of wine) instead of taking time to actually talk to him.  I feel guilty that I didn’t lift a finger to do any kind of cleaning and very little cooking all weekend long.  I’m anxious that I’m starting the work week with a list that didn’t get any shorter over the weekend. 

I know that this was not the norm.  (Actually the cooking and cleaning thing is, but I want to work on that.)  I’m usually a really good mom to my daughter.  I know that it will get better and it won’t always be like this.  I just really think that babies should come with instruction manuals that tell you if they are tired, teething or just hate you. 

*No lettuce or child was harmed this weekend, I swear.

Where I whine about naps (or lack thereof)

Please stop, child.  Please.  I beg you to stop with the fussing and the whining and the crying. Please cool it with the kicking and the thrashing of your head and the spitting out of the paci.  You just ate and I changed your diaper.  It has been 2 hours and 25 minutes since you woke up from your last nap.  The second of the day.  The second time today that you closed your eyes for exactly 30 minutes.  You don’t want to be entertained, you don’t want to be cuddled.  You don’t want to be in your swing or your jumperoo. 

So, you know what?  You NEED TO NAP.  You need to close your eyes, breathe deeply and drift off to sleep.  I know that you think 30 minutes every three hours is enough sleep, but as your mother, I beg to disagree.  It leaves my happy, content, easy to please baby grumpy and whiney and tired 45 minutes later. 

Napping is good for you.  I’m sure there’s a book on all the reasons, but just trust me.  It’s good for you. 

And it’s good for me.  I need you to nap.  It is 12:53PM and I have not showered, I ate a bowl of cereal five hours ago, and I’m not entirely sure that I brushed my teeth.  I have work to do, laundry to fold and bills to take to the mailbox.  These things are challenging, if not impossible, to do while you are attached to my hip or when you whine the second I leave the room.  So I’m sorry, but I need you to nap. I need a break from the constant demands of work and I think that’s supposed to happen on the weekend; but not if you don’t nap. Especially when your daddy is working. 

So, please, for the love of bottles, stuffed animals and loud obnoxious toys that make you squeal with delight.  Please nap. 

If bribery is more your thing, I will buy you a car when you turn 16 if you nap. 

PS.  And, because I’m feeling extra needy today, if you are reading this and have tips for getting a baby to nap regularly, for more than 30 minutes, in a pack ‘n play or crib, please tell me how you do it.  If it works, I will buy you a car too.* 

*Totally lying, but you will have my undying gratitude. 

Don’t Be Fooled

Don’t let those big eyes pull you in or the loving embrace of the doll fool you.  She looks all sweet and innocent here.  All loving and gentle.  All ” OH  MY GAWD what a sweet baby, I just want to reach into the computer screen and scoop her up.” And she is a sweet, sweet child with her doll and her father.  But with me…. no such luck. 

When I feed her, I get clawed in the face.  When I change her diaper, my hair gets pulled.  She scratches, she pinches, she tears earrings out of my ears and she tries to pick my nose. (In the interest of full disclosure I’m constantly picking hers too, so we’ll call that one even. )  Twice this week I’ve had to change clothes ten minutes before leaving for work thanks to diaper blowouts.    Have you ever tried to bath a baby in heels and a dress?  Not easy and usually ends in only a slightly better disaster than in which it began. 

It’s a good thing that this little girl doesn’t pack much heat behind her punches or I’d have some explaining to do!  So, someone tell me, when can I expect my kid to stop trying to kick my ass?

A Little Blog Love (& a post full of links)

I’ve been mulling this post over for a while because I am completely unsure how to approach it.  When I started blogging, it was all about it being a journal of my pregnancy.  A few weeks later, I thought to myself, “Hey, I bet my mom would like this.”  So, I sent her the link.  Then I included a very dear friend and my sister.  Then my mother-in-law and my aunts and here and there, a few more friends.  Somewhere along the way, I sent it to my husband as well.  (It seemed to be the right thing to do, since this is his story too.) 

While keeping my super-secret blog, I read blogs.  Funny blogs. Witty blogs. Blogs that brought me to tears with their honesty and sincerity.  Blogs that made me think about the kind of mother I wanted to be. And blogs that made me wish I had taken a photo journalism class in college. I watched bloggers talk to each other and felt a little bit like an e-stalker, but really thought to myself, “I want that too.”  I want to vent about a baby that doesn’t sleep and have someone chime in and say “Been there.  Done that.  It’ll be OK.”  I would be lying if I said I didn’t care if I was noticed.  I tend to like the spotlight – a little (OK, a lot). 

So, for about two months, I’ve been blogging publicly.  Listed my corner of the internet on Top Baby Blogs, joined in on the all the tweeting on Twitter, started commenting on other’s blogs and getting to know ladies that I may never meet.  My husband doesn’t understand it, but that’s OK.  I get giddy every time I see a comment on my blog show up in my email.  So, imagine my utter shock and disbelief when two people who have great blogs decided to pass a little blogger love onto me last week. 

LCW from Waking Up Williams and Joanna from Rasing Madison passed me the Beautiful Blogger award.  It might have been the first moment I actually realized that people were reading this blog.  Maybe not thousands of people.  I mean who do you think I am, Dooce?  But still, people, and there was something about what I was writing that made them think of me.  And then I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. 

So, anyway.  Thank you, ladies.  Now.  Onto the passing of the award. 

The rules state that I should: 

~Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog. Check

~Copy the award and paste it to your blog. Check

~Tell us 7 interesting facts about yourself. Coming right up

~Nominate 7 bloggers that you love and link to their blog. One second…. 

7 (sort of, but probably not really) interesting things about me: 

  1. I waited for five years and four months for my husband to propose.  64 MONTHS!  My friends and my family thought I was nuts, and actually I did too sometimes.  But I learned that some things are worth waiting for and I firmly believe that it shouldn’t have happened before it did.
  2. On what I thought was my chance to flirt with a cute guy (who would turn out to be my husband six years later) Craig brought a date. 
  3. I suck at keeping secrets.  Especially my own. 
  4. I hate the bitter cold of winter.  HATE HATE HATE.  Yes, hate is a strong word, and yes I had to use capital letters to tell you how much I hate it. 
  5. I think DVR is the best invention EVER.  I love saving up a bunch of shows and watching them on the weekends – sans commercials. 
  6. I went to Penn State and didn’t attend a PSU football game until 5 years after I graduated.  Not that I didn’t like the games, I waitressed in college and those were always BIG money days, so I worked instead. 
  7. Craig & I built a house last year and the biggest lesson I learned is that concrete is effing expensive. 

Ok, that was hard.  Now, the easy part.  I am passing this award to the following people:  For many of them this is probably so “been there, done that” but if nothing else it’s a shout out that I think they are great and you should be reading them, if you’re not already. 

  1. The Pursuit of Mommyness
  2. Becoming Sarah
  3. Bringing up Baby
  4. Theta Mom
  5. Maybe if You Just Relax
  6. Parenting in Progress
  7. The Mommyologist

Happy Reading!

Click Please

I know this is a little bit like inviting you over for dinner and then sending you out to pick up a pizza and beer… but if you would be so kind to click this little box which will take you to the Top Baby Blog website, it will equal a vote for me on their Top Baby Blog list. 

All you have to do is click the link.  It won’t look like it did anything when it sends you to their website, but it has a super secret code that counts as a vote for me.  I don’t get anything, just possibly more people who will find my blog.  Most of who will enjoy reading it and/or leave me nice, supportive comments, but one or two who will send me emails about how I should quit abandoning my child, alone in the middle of a room in her dirty diaper, while I go out and conquer the world for a paycheck.  True story.  It happened.  Plus, I will think I’m cool to be surrounded by all the other super fabulous blogs that are listed on Page 1. 

Oh, PS.  You can come to my blog and click the link every day… you know, if you want. 

XOXO

What if I forget?

At just a week shy of five months old, C has clearly left her newborn stage in the dust.  Gone is the teeny tiny human that would lay on my chest in the afternoon and sleep for hours.  No longer can I cradle carry her in the sling.  She needs to be up, facing out, ready to take on the world.  Her hands and her legs are in constant motion, as if, given half a chance, she would take off running.  

While things may not have changed greatly – our days are still all about the rhythm of bottles, diapers and sleep – there is a definite difference between our baby girl at 4 weeks and our girl at 4 months.  I don’t want to be eating her birthday cake this fall and not remember the weight of a newborn who spent 16 hours a day in my arms. I want to file away the moments that she gazed into my eyes while I was feeding her with a look that said “I trust you.  I need you.”  I want to close my eyes and remember how the sound of my voice or the comfort of being wrapped up in a sling would immediately put her to sleep.  I want to remember the sweet smell of milk on her breath and the lavender scent of the lotion I used after her bath.   

Those first few weeks were filled with nerves and anxiety, with excitement and visitors and complete love and adoration.  The three of us became a family the moment she was placed in my arms and I want to remember how I felt when I looked at her.  How she screamed her head off until they laid her in my arms when she briefly stopped as I pressed my lips to her head and softly said “Hi baby girl.  I know you.”   

3 weeks in, giving a new meaning the phrase "sleep when she sleeps."

 

So much has changed.  Every milestone she reaches equals a stage or a moment of time that she’s leaving behind.  Instead of laying on my chest, she likes to lay on her side curled up next to me.  She no longer likes being held up to my shoulder for fear that she will miss what’s happening behind her. When I feed her instead of just looking at me, she’s touching my face, reaching for my cheeks or pulling on my ears.  She is slightly more predictable and just as opinionated as always.   She recognizes my voice, reaches for me when other people are holding her and follows me with her eyes when I leave the room.   

In possibly a few weeks, definitely a few months, this stage will have passed as well.  She’ll be crawling, or scootching across the room; we’ll be playing games of throwing things on the floor to see if Mommy will pick them up; and instead of the shoulders of my shirts having milk stains her bibs will be stained with baby food.   

My hope is that when that time comes I can remember the milestones and the every day moments that we’ve passed in the process; the tiny bits of time that have shaped myself, my baby and my family.

Cabin Fever is Worse than the Flu

It started with a little bit of itching and dry skin.  A few days later there was an ache in my stomach and an irritation in my voice.  A week after that it was full-blown fever with the urge to crawl out of my skin.  A look back at my calendar and taking the time to ask “When was the last time I was not at work or not at home,” made the diagnosis painfully clear.  I have cabin fever. 

It is possible that I live in the snow capital OF THE WORLD.  No, I don’t live in Alaska but between the months of December and March you wouldn’t know the difference given the feet of snow that fall on us. This wouldn’t be so bothersome if:

  • It could be 50 degrees and snow.  The snow is actually pretty.  The biter, bone chilling cold sort of pisses me off.
  • I liked to ski or participate in other outside activities where your fingers get stiff, you lose feeling in your toes and the snot in your nose freezes.  Oh, and if I liked flying down a hill at breakneck speed with only a jacket and some fluffy pants to break my fall. 
  • If getting out of my town – population 7,000 with one WalMart and two restaurants – didn’t mean that you were risking your life the moment you drove (or skidded) onto the highway. 

I’m a girl who loves the days that include nothing more than cuddling up on the couch with a good book or a sappy movie.  But I can also only take so many of them before needing to DO something.  And, with the weather we’ve been having the last time I did something, other than work or take care of my child was three weeks ago.  And that was taking my baby and meeting my mom for dinner.  If I had to try to identify the last time that I went out for drinks with friends or had dinner out with my husband, well, I’m not going to do that because then I will get all bitter and dramatic and “woe is me, I’m not the same person I used to be.. blah, blah, blah.”  (And that’s a post for another time.)

Point of this story is that tomorrow is Saturday and not a work Saturday.  And it’s not supposed to snow.  Therefore, tomorrow morning, I  am will be shopping (retail therapy, my friends) by myself and tomorrow night, I will be celebrating my dad’s 50th birthday with my family.  I am not only leaving my house and my town once, I’m leaving it twice! WHOO-HOO!