"Mommy Moments"

The latter part of this week has been something of an emotional stumbling block that I wasn’t really expecting. With my six-week postpartum check-up now behind me, 15 pounds left to lose before I’m officially back at my “fighting weight” (and err…size…ahem…), a baby boy that I swear changes each and every hour of the day, and a husband who is gearing up for a business trip to a country embroiled in almost constant drug-driven conflict and violence, you could perhaps say that I’m hanging on for dear life. Not exactly the stability I was hoping for a month and a half after the most life-changing event of my entire 26+ years.

The whole thing just recalls that whole conversation with my friend Amy about how the “new normal” is that there’s not going to be a “normal” for awhile. Doesn’t mean that’s any easier to adjust to, though. And with my hormones still doing unusual things throughout the adjustment from being pregnant into being a milk machine, I’ve been having a lot of these things that I call “Mommy Moments.”

I just want to start of by thanking Taylor Swift for a song on her new album called “Never Grow Up.” Yeah, thanks Ms. Swift, for somehow finding a way to make me cry even harder than I did when listening to “Fifteen” from your last album. Geez Louise, ya know, I pride myself on being a hardcore rock fan, a woman who has manned the rail at Nine Inch Nails, tried to knock some drunk chick out in the pit at Chevelle after she felt me up one too many times, and even jumped around like a crazy person at a Slipknot concert in ’09. But deep down, I’m just as emotional as anyone else – heck, who am I kidding, I am THREE TIMES more emotional than most people. So yeah, songs have often driven me to tears in the past, and this song really just yanks at my heart strings. I’m not really sure how Taylor Swift – someone who isn’t married and doesn’t have kids yet, and who isn’t really even old enough to drink – managed to nail the bittersweetness of parenthood, the amazing process of watching your kid come into the world and the dread about the days when he or she won’t need you quite so much, and the loneliness that many of us felt the day that we ourselves left the “nest.” But she nailed it. I would advise all my fellow gals – mommies and non-mommies alike – to listen to this song with caution, because you will probably need a kleenex or two. *sniffle* That’s where one of my Mommy Moments happened earlier this week – listening to the new album and happening upon that song RIGHT AS Russ opened his mouth into a wide smile and began to giggle at me for the very first time. The timing couldn’t have been more divine or more heartwrenching. That happiness and joy…it’s just too much to take sometimes. I cannot explain it except to say I never understood how much my parents loved me until now. What a humbling realization that is. And Russ won’t really understand for a few decades to come. But yeah – watching that amazingly beautiful smile spread across his face and those joyful little squeaks of amusement come out of him, all while Ms. Swift was singing “Oh darlin’ don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up / just stay this little”…yeah, I was a goner. Actually I’m a goner again – moving on…

I’m just so oddly emotional! Argh! I don’t like crying! I just want to be happy, and I am happy, but it’s the kind of happy where you cry a lot. Does that make sense? I sure hope so…

My emotions haven’t really been helped much by Jonathan’s impending business excursion to Mexico City. I’m sure you’ve all heard the various news reports about the drug violence in different parts of Mexico. Truthfully, most of the violence is centered in areas like Juarez, Tijuana, etc. But there is some level of danger being an American in Mexico right now, and my 6’6″, 270-lb. hubby isn’t exactly easy to miss. I know he’s staying in a very safe, tourist-oriented, nice area of the city, and that he’ll be with an armed driver/guard whenever he isn’t in the office or the hotel. But I cannot shake a certain level of discomfort that is just going to be there until he’s back from his trip. He’s not just my husband anymore, he’s Russ’s dad, and I’m pretty torn up about the fact that Jonathan isn’t going to be able to see him or hold him for close to two weeks. It just makes me appreciate people whose spouses or parents go to places like Iraq or Afghanistan…I just cannot imagine doing this with Jonathan gone full-time. Ugh, that would be horrible! In the meantime, I’m going to take tons of pictures and video for Jonathan to see on Facebook and/or when he gets home. We’ve got a phone card so that we can talk (international calls on Verizon are $$$$$), and we’re going to do Gmail chat at night, also.

Really, I’ve had more Mommy Moments these past few days than I can even remember, and perhaps that is the scary part. These moments are so fleeting, and never before have I had quite so much respect for the passing of time and the passing of our lives. We have to soak these moments up, because we cannot get them back, and sometimes, we cannot even fully remember them. All I know is that this little boy is the reason I was put on this planet. I had wondered more than a few times before what my purpose was. I get it now – it’s this.

Peace and quiet…for now

At the moment, Russ is sleeping soundly in his bassinet and let me tell you what…that’s a rare sort of silence. Boo-boo is nearing the six-week mark at which many babies hit a growth spurt, and as seems to be the tradition for my little guy, we’ve begun the spurt a bit earlier than expected. Seems the only thing he seems to have been late for was being born!

Russ is growing so fast, I almost feel like time is being sucked out of the room and I’m getting left behind in this weird continuum where I can’t quite figure out exactly how we got to where we are. Has it really been six weeks? Wasn’t he just born yesterday? Wasn’t I just taking a pregnancy test the day before that? I know I keep saying it, but it’s just incredible how fast time is passing – so much so that I can’t help but reiterate the points I’ve already reiterated ten times before. But really…this time is fleeting. Now I know why everyone told me to brace myself for my entire life to begin moving in warp speed.

This weekend, we took Russ to the lake house for the very first time and it was AWESOME! I’ve actually daydreamed a lot about introducing him to a place that is so special to me, Jonathan, and my family, and it was just as wonderful as I’d imagined – especially when we found out that my brother and his wife and son would be there. Watching my nephew Wes meet his baby cousin was absolutely precious. Wes is only four, but he seemed keenly aware of how to talk to a baby, how to handle them (for the most part), and what babies need as far as food and diapers and all that. Probably the funniest thing was that I breastfed Russ most of the time while sitting on the couch with a receiving blanket draped over the exposed parts – didn’t bother my family, didn’t bother Russ, so it didn’t bother me. But Wes of course got curious and came over to see what was going on.

“Where’s baby Russ?” he asked.
“He’s right here,” I said, pointing at his legs sticking out from the blanket.
“What is he doing?” Wes asked.
“Well, he’s eating,” I replied. Wes then walked right up to the blanket and pulled it up to show Russ’s face! LOL!
“What’s he eating?” he asked me.
“Milk,” I said.
“Milk from your arm?” Wes asked, seemingly puzzled. This is where I forgot how smart little kids are…
“Uh…yeah, kinda…” I trailed off. Wes was onto me!
“I thought milk came from here?” he said, pointing to his chest. I underestimated this little guy!
“Well, yes, it actually does, how’d you know that?” I asked.
“I dunno, I just knew!” he said, before patting Russ’s leg and running off to go play. Totally nonchalant!

I guess I learned a little lesson about breastfeeding from my young nephew. For starters, it’s important to call it what it is and not treat it like it’s some sort of “age appropriate” issue. For another thing, how cool that someone (probably his mommy and daddy) educated Wes about breastfeeding so that he understood the process. Whether by breast or bottle, feeding a little one is never something to cover up or shield others from – yet in this modern world, there seems to be an equal load of stigma attached to both feeding methods for babies. I guess I got sucked into that stupidity for a little bit there with the lame attempt to pull the wool over Wes’s eyes. He sure keeps me on my toes!

Now we’re back home from the weekend away, and getting ready for some changes coming up. For one thing, Jonathan is going on a business trip for a few days and I’ll be taking Russ and the dog and going to stay with my parents. They’re excited to have us, and I’m excited that I won’t be going it alone in Jonathan’s absence. I’m not looking forward to time without Jonathan, but I guess making the best of it is the way to go, and I’m so lucky to have the option to go back home for a little bit.

Tomorrow will be six weeks since he was born, and you know what can’t be too far behind that mark…the follow-up with my own doc. As far as I’m concerned, the largest parts of my postpartum recovery are over and done with. Would I want to feel like that all the time? Uh…no. But honestly, I think women get so used to hearing the horror stories about birth injuries, recovery, bleeding out the wazoo, and having zero sex life for months or years…it’s blown out of proportion. Truth is, the majority of women may have one or two taller hurdles in their own unique postpartum journey, but most women don’t get slammed with every single awful thing all at once. In my experience, expecting the worst and hoping for the best really helped. I was pleasantly surprised with so many parts of my recovery – like the fact that I was actually able to get outside and not only walk, but even run a bit in the weeks following Russ’s birth. Of course, not everything feels like it’s in exactly the same place as before I was pregnant, but that’s life – and he is SO worth it. Jonathan and I got out for a three-mile run while we were at the lake this past weekend, and even though I can’t smoke him like I used to on any runs we went on, we had a great time stopping and talking when I needed a couple of walking breaks towards the end. I feel very, very lucky and blessed to be where I am, and now that the first six weeks are over, I’m ready to find out what adventures and trials await us.

As for me and the little guy, I think it’s time for a nap! Zzzzzzzz…

Can it really be?!

It doesn’t make much sense to me, but somehow an entire month has passed since our precious baby boy made his way into the world. My entire concept of time has pretty much been turned inside out at this point, but I’m not fighting it anymore (like I was that first week or so after he was born). It just doesn’t seem like he should even be here yet (seems like I should still be pregnant or something), but at the same time it feels as if he’s been here for years. I can’t really remember exactly what I was doing before all of this, as cliche and corny as that may sound. But enough about me, lets talk about Russ.

For one thing, Russ no longer resembles a smushy ball of marshmallow cream the way he did as a newborn. He actually has discernable, unique features and traits now that are really starting to come out, which is amazing to behold. You spend so much time before your baby arrives wondering exactly what they’ll develop into, who they’ll look like, what personality they’ll have – and then you get this newborn that seems like barely formed clay in so many ways. But very quickly, he’s grown out of the “just born” thing and into the “I’m here!” stage. It’s pretty fun to watch, but still quite humbling to realize how quickly he can change.

He’s starting to smile and make little cooing noises that sometimes almost seem to be amused giggles, but without the giggling. It’s strange and kind of hard to describe, but there’s a personality forming there that I just love. He is so into what’s going on around him, so aware, and I am really happy to see that awareness already forming in him. That’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves, to be honest – unaware, oblivious people. You know, the kinds that get in front of you in Walmart, shuffling along at the speed of a snail stampeding through a puddle of peanut butter, talking on their phone, ignoring their (often annoying and undisciplined) kids, and then come screeching to a halt right in front of you while they stop and ponder whatever little thing is running through their mind at that moment. I can’t deal with it!! So I’m really happy to see that Russ is already so in tune with the sights, sounds, and people that are all around him. I hope that as he grows up, that will continue to grow and flourish in him.

Also making an appearance – and this is something I’m really excited about – is Russ’s recognition of music. Not necessarily saying that he actually “recognizes” certains songs/artists (though he might, who knows?), but simply that he hears music and responds to it. He seems to really prefer hard rock and “alternative” (whatever that means these days) over lullabies. Jonathan and I have both lulled him into a deep sleep this past week using pretty hard tunes that would make most babies curl into the fetal position and scream bloody murder. So far, bands he seems to like include Slipknot, The Darkness (gotta love ’em, even if they did only produce one album before disbanding), Nine Inch Nails (Mommy’s so proud), Five Finger Death Punch, and some older groups like Journey, ACDC, etc. I do like a little country music also, so he’s had his fair share of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Jamey Johnson, and Lady Antebellum – usually in the mornings, when he’s a bit fussy and needs some settling, so I pick him up and we “dance” to the music until he falls asleep. I know that you’re not supposed to fall into the habit of rocking your baby to sleep, yada yada yada, but I don’t buy all this baloney about “spoiling” your baby. He’s a baby, I’ll worry about spoiling him when he’s a bit older than a month. For now, we’re gonna dance.

A friend of mine and I were discussing my phrase “the new normal” the other day, and she managed to put into words a phenomenon that I hadn’t yet been able to really put my finger one – the “new normal” when you become a mom is that there suddenly isn’t a “normal” at all. Everything is constantly changing and evolving, and the only thing that becomes routine about all of this is that you are always, always trying to figure out something. You’re always trying to find your footing, and the minute you think you’ve got it, something else about your baby changes and you’re back to playing catch-up. Not that it bothers me, it’s just that I think I’ve done more “troubleshooting” in the last month of being a mom than I did in the past 3.5 years at my job. And that can really put some things into perspective.

Jonathan and I have agreed that over the last few years when we were both working and just focusing on each other, I discovered that I don’t necessarily handle stress “well.” I handle certain kinds of stress incredibly well, yes – but other kinds (like the kind I often encountered in some situations at work) break me down very quickly.

Of course, that’s about all I can say about that without going too deeply into detail, and I like to keep things relatively vague and impersonal when it comes to discussing work issues. But I’ll leave it at saying this: being up to my wrists in poop, pee, and a yelling infant (and doing it on significantly less sleep than I was getting before, and while trying to recover from giving birth) is definitely easier for me to handle than oh, say, playing corporate politics and guessing what “important” people want me to think, wear, do, or say. I may not have the “potential” or the je ne sais quoi that is necessary to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder – in fact, I’ll go you one better and admit that I definitely don’t possess those qualities. But I can tell you one thing: I’ve got what it takes to be this kid’s momma. He is the biggest, most important, most complex, most challenging, and most rewarding “project” I will ever, ever take on. I have faith in that, even if I don’t always feel like I’m good enough. Most of the best moms I know (including my own) hold the maternal juxtaposition of having faith in their ability to be the best mom possible, while also having insecurity about the job they’re doing. Perhaps that’s what keeps these women on their toes – whatever the case, I’m taking a page from their book. Thank God I have models to look to, especially my own mom and my sister and sisters in law, my mother in law, and a few other choice examples. Don’t really know where I’d turn to without them.

So that wraps up Russ’s first month! New pics are coming, I just have to find the time to sit down with Hubby’s work computer and edit them/resize them (his photo editing program is so much better than mine) – in between doing copious amounts of laundry, trying to stay hydrated while breastfeeding (harder than I thought it would be, oddly enough), realizing for the 8th time this week that I need to do my toenails because they look like crap, etc. But I’ll get to it eventually!

Three weeks old and growing so fast!

I find it completely surreal that three weeks ago – right now, at around 10 am on the morning of September 15th – I was just nearing 5 cm dilation and was munching on ice chips, awaiting the much anticipated arrival of my little boy. Though I have certainly said it enough, I really just can’t believe that the pregnancy is over! Not that I am planning to start any second pregnancy again for a good long while, but there is a definite disconnect in my mind right now that this perfect little person was created by me and my husband, was grown and nurtured by my own body, and was born in such a drama-free, calm way. I can’t believe how lucky I am!

As I type this, Russ is sleeping in his bassy and making really cute faces like the one you see above (Those lips! Those cheeks!!). He cracks me up because he stretches out, puts his arms behind his head, burps, and farts in his sleep – such a guy!

This past week has seen a few new developments for our little man. He rolled up on his side several times in the past few days – at one point coming very close to rolling over onto his stomach, if not for his pesky arm thwarting his efforts – as well as started making more eye contact, smiling more, and cooing a lot. Oh my gosh, the cooing…it sort of melts my heart, it’s so adorable!

Coming up in the next few days, I’m going to start ordering his birth announcements, as well as prints of his newborn pictures and photos from the hospital, the birth, the first days and weeks at home with him, etc. I can’t say I’m going to turn into a full-on “scrapbooker,” because I seriously don’t see that happening. BUT I do love putting together photo albums – just good old, classic, simple photo albums that can be enjoyed for generations to come. With all the digital storage that is so popular these days, I think it’s still important to keep real, printed photos on hand. Similar to the way I feel about print journalism in the age of the internet – paper is still my preference.

Another new development – not on the baby front, but on the mommy front – is the return of some of my former athletic prowess. Before I found out I was pregnant, I was running, doing Lotte Berk (similar to Pilates, but most of it is done standing up), and lifting weights, and I was feeling the best I had in YEARS. I was also really into hiking, and I was eating well – getting enough calories to fuel all my activities and enjoying food, but I also had tons of energy. I was just in a really good place, right up to my last good run – a five-miler I completed while visiting my family back home in Conway, on December 23rd. Funny how you remember dates like that. After that last fateful run, things went downhill quickly – though I didn’t know why at that point! On January 5th, when I took a pregnancy test and it came out positive, I wasn’t sure if I would continue attempting to run for as long as it remained comfortable. My answer came when I began trying to jog that afternoon at the gym: Nope, no way, and no thanks. My bladder already felt like it had a brick sitting on it, even though I was only 4 weeks along, and I honestly just didn’t feel quite right about running. I decided to stick with walking and easy cardio like the elliptical machine for the remainder of my pregnancy. So, for all intents and purposes, I have not run more than a few steps ALL YEAR LONG! Well, that changed yesterday!

As a runner of just over eight years, I’ve learned over time that my mind is what tells me when it’s “time to run,” not my body. My mind has always been the driving force behind my running, because lord knows, I am not built for running. It definitely doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m not fast, not particularly graceful – I just sort of plod along faithfully and hope for the best. When Jon and I took Russ over to the middle school track near our house last night to meet up with a friend of mine for her run, I figured Jon and my friend would do the running, while I toddled along with Russ in the stroller. But after noticing that my walking stamina was really picking up – and not missing the fact that I’d had running on my mind all day long – I decided to give it a go. I walked the curves of the track and ran the straights, and did that for close to two miles. Really, without the stroller to slow me down, I would’ve felt okay running longer stretches (Jon took the stroller for me for a few rounds before deciding that it was making running in a straight line way too difficult). Now, I didn’t overdo it – I don’t want to compromise my milk supply or stress my body out, as I am still only three weeks postpartum. But I think when it comes to postpartum recovery, you just have to listen to your body. I woke up this morning feeling only a slight bit sore in my legs, and otherwise am feeling great! I can’t believe that I did it! It will take me awhile to get back to where I was before I got pregnant, but I felt very proud of what I was able to do yesterday, and if that was all I did for the next few months or so, I’ll be happy with it still. It’s really important to both me and Jonathan that we set a good example for healthy and happy living for Russ, and that starts with “walking the walk (or run) and talking the talk.” We love ice cream and cookies in this house, but we want to make sure that he gets a nice, well-rounded sense of how to live a healthy overall lifestyle.

Anyhow, off to feed the babe and shower so we can run to the grocery store. Happy three-week birthday, my son! What a blessed mommy I am. 🙂

A Beautiful Baby

We do have a beautiful baby, if I don’t say so myself! Here are a few pictures from our newborn photo session with my friend Kristen – a great friend and a wonderful photographer who was also responsible for those fabulous maternity pics I had taken about 12 weeks ago. Can’t believe that baby bump is gone and Russ is finally here – it’s still insane to think that the nine months I spent being pregnant are now behind me and that my son is actually here with us – but at the same time, after only two and a half weeks with him, we cannot remember what life was like before he came along.

We’re just so blessed. 🙂