Sweet moments in motherhood

Mornings are our special time together, alone before the rest of the house awakens. I love sharing these dark and quiet moments with you, and worry about the day you’ll outgrow them.

You quite dramatically stretch and groan as you awaken: face scrunched up tight, arms reaching as far as they can, like you’ve just been released from a sleepy cocoon.

When your eyes first see me, you offer a humongous grin; it takes over your whole face and you squirm excitedly.

I pick you up and you melt into my neck, molding perfectly to my body. It’s the only time all day that you’re perfectly still, and it reminds me of when you were first born.

Your fuzzy PJs, your sweet morning grunts. You smell like pure joy and I soak you up.

You rub your eyes and start to peek up at the world, then nuzzle back into me, too sleepy to face the day just yet.

Eager for your bottle, you snort and huff, turning your face from side to side like you haven’t eaten in weeks.

We go through our routine. We talk and listen to music and get ready for the day. I’m exhausted but fulfilled, and I love you.

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An Open Letter to Sophie the Giraffe

Dear Sophie,

My daughter has been a fan of you for weeks now. I certainly appreciate the way gnawing on your legs soothes her gums, but I’m becoming a little concerned with the amount of time you two are spending together. It’s not that we don’t love and value you–trust me Soph, you’re part of the family and this is hard for me to say–but you’re really interfering with bedtime.

Take last week for example: we were running through our usual routine, and you became positively insistent that you be brought into the mix. At first I thought, “Absolutely not–no toys in bed.” But you refused to relent and ultimately, we caved.

“What harm can one sleepover do?” I questioned. Well a lot, apparently, when the invited guest refuses to sleep and squeaks incessantly.

Every time we check our baby monitor, there you are staring back at us, wide awake. Any time the baby stirs, there you are, squeaking your oblong face off. It’s weird, Sophie. So much so that we usually end up tiptoeing into the nursery to put you back with the other toys.

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Look I get it, you’re a big deal. You’re eco-friendly, you’re French, you were in Three Men and a Baby for crying out loud. You’ve been making waves in the silicone-toy market since JFK was elected and were featured in the LA Times a few years ago. As far as giraffes go, you’re the real deal. All I’m saying is you’ve been a little creepy lately and I’m not sure what it means for our future.

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I want to say these sleepovers can continue, but if you refuse to ever go to sleep I’ll have to draw the line. I’m just asking that you get some rest when the lights go out instead of staring back at us all night.

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My hope is that this letter helps you recognize the impact you’ve been having on our lives so we can start working toward a solution. If you want to take some time to think it over, that’s totally ok. I know this is coming as a surprise but really do mean it with the best of intentions. I’m confident we can reach a place of mutual happiness and respect, and will see you in the morning.

Yours,

Jessica

The path of least resistance

Have you ever had to ask for directions in a foreign language? You end up using enough incorrect phrases and wild gestures to appear completely inept and ridiculous. Even the most sane individual becomes a lunatic in these scenarios. It’s kind of hilarious when it’s not you.

I’ve faced this more often than the average wanderluster because I have NO sense of direction. None. And early on I was so afraid of being vulnerable or looking dumb that I refused to ask for help. I wasted hours literally wandering in circles.

It’s a scary feeling to be completely out of your element and unable to find your way (scarier if you’re hungry and/or need to pee). But these humbling experiences helped me realize two important things: 1) I don’t know everything, and 2) It’s ok to trust others and accept help.

Those six people who all pointed up the same hill when you busted out a map? Go that way–they’re not screwing with you. This territory is more familiar to them and you’re not gaining anything trying to blaze your own trail.

I learned this lesson all over again when I became a mom. Everyone has advice for new moms (seriously, even our mailman), and early on I teetered precariously between being too self conscious to ask for help and overly skeptical of advice I did request.

I was so frustrated. I felt like I was being scrutinized every time someone offered me more advice. Until it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t about ME; everyone was just trying to help…to point me in the right direction…not tell me that I was doing anything wrong. Many people around me had been down this road before and were simply offering me directions.

I gradually stopped resisting well-intended suggestions in a neurotic attempt to create my own, “better” path. I fell into one that was a comfortable combination of seasoned advice and my own instincts, with plenty of hilarious mistakes along the way, and that’s been the real path of least resistance.

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Please don’t compliment my post-baby body.

Every time someone tells me, “You look great for just having a baby!” my heart sinks a little.

Don’t roll your eyes; of course, anyone—with or without a new baby—likes to hear she looks beautiful. It’s the deeper context behind these comments that evokes a range of emotions. What a world it would be if women were revered and distinguished for post-natal physical changes, rather than pressured to erase every reminder of this special period.

Pregnancy is hard. Let me repeat: PREGNANCY IS HARD. I was blessed with a very easy one and I still view it as the most taxing thing I’ve ever experienced. You’re carrying around an extra 30 pounds, constantly sweaty, emotional, swollen and exhausted. Back pain, morning sickness, heartburn, you name it. Your body becomes a utility to sustain a second life, and the punch line is that you’re expected to work and be generally pleasant while this occurs for 40 weeks. Childbirth is a beautiful and holy experience, but one that can initiate a separate series of physical changes and strains.

Despite the myriad of challenges, any mother would endure it again a million times to experience the joy of motherhood.

Can we change how we regard womens’ bodies following pregnancy? I don’t view my body in pre- and post-baby terms, and don’t understand why society urges such a distinction. It’s still me; I have just one body. No matter what it’s been through or where it looks different, it’s amazing.

Every day when I look at my daughter I reflect on the pure miracle of her existence. I am deeply awed with how my body nurtured and sustained her. I love and respect myself in an entirely new way, and am grateful for my good health like never before.

Our society is so consumed with physical appearances that we denigrate pregnancy and childbirth—the most sacred miracles in a woman’s life—into something that mustn’t leave a trace. These are events that should be forever celebrated, rather than rushed into memory.

Instead of comments on how much weight I’ve lost or my fitness levels post-baby, I wish someone would acknowledge the fact that I showered today, got to work without spit-up on my clothing and am functioning on 3-hour stretches of sleep. That’s the really impressive part, and the stuff we should compliment.

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It’s Saturday night and this is happening

I’m writing this on my phone while sitting in a parked car, in my garage, in total darkness. The baby fell asleep on the drive home (after screaming for 20 minutes), and I just need to sit and absorb the quiet for a bit. She’s sleeping contentedly in her car seat and I dare not wake her just yet.

There are lots of aspects of parenting that no one can appropriately warn you about: the fatigue, the emotions, the feeling of spit up gliding down your shirt…

But the thing I never expected and continue to struggle with is a lack of down time. Time to do absolutely nothing. Not to blog, talk on the phone, cook or clean. To be lazy and selfish and free from any demands.

As an introvert, this kind of quiet is essential to survival. It’s how I recharge and restore energy–an endangered resource these days–and center myself amid the chaos of this new life. The moments are fleeting when I can actually mentally let go and simply marinate in the moment.

When the baby was born, people constantly offered to come watch her so that I could go out and get things done. That was hugely helpful and kind, but what I always wished they would say instead was, “Let me come pick up the baby and take her for a few hours so you can sit in your house and just be still.”

She is my world. She needs me. And I cherish being needed. This is a sacred duty, motherhood. But it’s hard not to lose myself in this process from time to time.

So, it’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in a dark garage with a sleeping baby, and oddly enough, I’m perfectly ok with that. These changes and challenges are pushing me to bend where I’m rigid, and stretch where I want to be stagnant. It’s uncomfortable a lot of the time but the reward is so, so worth it.

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Favorite Baby Products

As a new parent, it’s amazing HOW MUCH STUFF you amass. It’s everywhere. We’ve been overtaken. Even with a surplus of guidance, we still ended up with lots of things we never used and others we’d gladly stockpile. Babies are all unique, and I know this list varies for each family, but several friends who are expecting have asked for my must-haves. Here are some favorites, bearing in mind that none of this is actually required, but all of it is majorly helpful. And I’m sure I’ll have an entirely new list in another few months.

Life Savers:

Summer SwaddleMe blankets: Once you learn about the Moro Reflex, you, too, will savor these blankets which are basically baby straight jackets. Turns out velcro is all you need to keep your infant from smacking herself in the face and waking up every three minutes while sleeping.

MAM pacifiers: These are the only ones Lila likes and are unique in that they come in a special mini size for newborns, where most brands only offer 0-3 months or 3+ months. They also come in glow-in-the-dark styles which makes them automatically cooler.

Mobi Wallmate: An automatic night light is something I bought on a whim because it was on clearance, and am thankful for every day. With a baby, your hands are always full, and you spend a lot of time looking for things in the dark.

Rock ‘n Play Sleeper: Oh man. Can’t rave about this one enough. It has been our saving grace for a baby with reflux and where she still sleeps for the most part, at five months.

Nose Frida the Snot Sucker: Bless you, crazy Swedish product engineers. This thing is so gross and utterly ingenious.

Dohm sound machine: Experts say that the noise level in the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so babies are–understandably–a little freaked out by silence. This thing is the best. Not only does it offer steady white noise to help lull baby to sleep, it really effectively drowns out other noises so you can actually do things around the house. People will tell you not to tiptoe around your sleeping baby, so that she learns not to be a light sleeper, but when you haven’t slept longer than an hour in three weeks, this thing will be your best friend.

Boba: Babywearing is great for baby and convenient for parents. It allows you to do all kinds of important things, like eat and get the mail without an international incident. I chose this carrier on a friend’s recommendation but I know people love the Ergo and Moby as well.

Whale of a Tub: Bath time is a nightly ritual. In fact, for a period of early weeks, it was the only place Lila didn’t cry during the day. We took LOTS of baths. Gas drops – any brand: Believe it or not, baby farts are kind of cute…but they’re also painful for little tummies, and that means crying. And crying. And more crying. We would buy these by the keg if it was possible.

Boppy changing pad liners: Blow outs happen. These make them less offensive to clean up.

Munchkin formula dispenser: So that leaving the house is a possibility.

Boon Lawn drying rack: Just yes.

Newborn side-snap t-shirts: My mom got us some of these and they’re the best for brand new babes. They’re soft, easy to put on a blob-like newborn and don’t interfere with a healing umbilical cord like a onesie can.

Other things:

PJs that zip > PJs with snaps.

Receiving blankets make great burp cloths.

You won’t need many newborn clothes if you have a summer baby (or a whenever baby if you’re in AZ).

Buy diaper cream, nose saline drops and probiotics.

Mercury = bad. Get a digital thermometer.

Try to avoid bath products or lotions with dyes or scents. baby_items_44007882