Monday, December 27, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Believes in Magic

A woman in her thirties is not a believer of quick fixes are easy ways out. She was in her twenties, at least I was, but by this time of her life she's figured out that what Mr. M had on my high school physics board every day was dead on: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Most of the time.

As I said in my last post, I've been reading a lot about how to be a Mom. How to swaddle. How to schedule. How to supplement. How to deal with one bionic boob. And while I've said to myself that every baby is different, and that A and I will figure this out in time, I think subconsciously I've been searching Dr. Sears, Gary Ezzo, and any other so-called experts to give me some magic formula to be a good Mom. Maybe not even that-- a functional Mom. A Mom who isn't afraid of giving her daughter a bath and finds time to brush her hair every day.

It was a conversation with L, mother of three (gasp!) children, that got me thinking. I was telling her about A's inability to sleep in her crib, and how the stress of it was going to result in a need for Botox in a few years, when she said, 'You're just going to have to try a bunch of things, and see which one works for her.'

Creativity is not my forte unless it involves sarcasm, but I figured that a woman in her thirties should always listen to a fellow WIHT who has done this three times before. So that night, when it was time to put A in her crib, I remembered that she slept really well one time-- on her back-- when she was wearing a snowsuit after we'd come home from a trip to the lactation consultant.

See? Proof:

So then I thought that maybe it wouldn't be all that crazy to break that snow suit out again, and see if it worked.

The result?
(Taken right after waking up from a long nap-- she was just as surprised as I was that she was still in her crib!)

This snow suit, not surprisingly a hand-me-down from L herself, has been dubbed the Magical Snowsuit by yours truly. Time for bed? Magical Snowsuit. Time for a nap? Get me the snowsuit. Baby being fussy? Maybe she just wants Magical Snowsuit action.

More Magical Snowsuit action (other snowsuits have proven slightly less magical):

The snow suit idea is no where to be found in any of my books, but it works. At least it works for me. For those of you who might still be doubting the wonder of this discovery, 1 snowsuit + 1 cute baby = successful sleep experience. Successful sleep experience for A = successful sleep experience for Mom. And that, my friends, is magic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties is Changed

Dear Anna,

Today you are four weeks old. That means that when I walk through Target and people stop and ask how old my baby is, I can say ONE MONTH. It is a big deal, moving from weeks to months. God help me when I move from months to years.

It's been a crazy four weeks, little one. Most of the time we have spent just trying to figure each other out. Newborn babies are supposed to sleep, eat, and poop, right? I thought this was going to be a fairly straightforward gig for the first month or so. Not so much. In your first week you got too little, I couldn't figure out breastfeeding, and you wouldn't sleep anywhere but in someone's arms. We've come a long way since then (you are now tipping the scales at almost SEVEN pounds!), but you're still not into your crib for sleeping. Just so you know, your Dad agonized over the selection of that crib, and if you could please figure out how to sleep in it that would be really great.

A woman in her thirties is a realist, and I'm just going to say this so we're clear: you are the spitting image of your father. I figured you'd look mostly like him based on our ultrasound photos, but this is kind of ridiculous. There are two things you have that are mine: detached earlobes, and this big toe:

Sorry, Pumpkin. A lifetime of holes at the tops of your Keds awaits. Sometimes people are funny and say that your eyes look kinda-sorta-maybe like mine... but we both know they're just being nice. You are your Daddy's girl.

That's not to say we haven't got a pretty good thing going here, you and me. There have been times when you've cried in anyone's arms but mine-- sad for everyone else, but so happy for me. When you nap long enough for me to throw in a load of laundry or make lunch, I pick you up and smother your baby cheeks with kisses and say, 'Thank you for letting me eat, oh thank you thank you!' You're too little to laugh yet, but I think you like it.

Our feeding times are the best, maybe because we struggled so hard to get to the place we've come. Sometimes after you feed you get this look on your face:

And I melt completely away. Then you fall asleep on my chest and I hear you breathing and I know what it means to be in love with someone unconditionally. Then you splatter fart and spit up on my boobs.

Daniel is doing okay with your arrival. At first he was skeptical, even a little sad, but now he's become quite protective of you. He often sniffs your hair and then licks your ear, and I like to think that's how he's getting to know you. Here's my favorite picture of the two you together:

As you know from your first outing, I'm a pretty avid reader. I've read lots of books about how to take care of you, all of which contradict each other. To schedule or not to schedule-- that seems to be the question. Despite the advice found in books, doctors, advice nurses, lactation consultants, moms, dads, and fellow women in their thirties, I can only say one thing with confidence: I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Each day I wing it. I guess that makes you my wing-baby.

What I do know is that every night since you've been born, when I have a couple of seconds to wash up before going to bed, I touch my face and it feels different to me. How could that be? But I now realize what it is-- I've spent so many hours in the last four weeks stroking your cheeks, telling you that I'm here and everything is going to be okay, that when I touch my own face I expect to feel yours. It takes me a second to realize that it's just me, and then I think about how I can't imagine what my life was like before you came into it. I guess that's one of the many ways you are truly a part of me, as I am of you.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Gets It

I've been a Mom for three now, and I think it's safe to say I've learned more in the last three weeks than I learned in 17+ years of schooling, three years in China, and in any book I've ever read, combined. I keep telling people that nothing and no one could have prepared me for how wonderful and difficult the first weeks of Anna's life would be, and it's true. Women in your thirties... Moms especially...I get it now. Here are some of the 'it's I'm talking about:

To the Moms who go straight to formula after a couple of days attempting nursing. Last month at this time I would have said, 'Gee, it's natural. How hard can breastfeeding really be?' I get it.

To the Moms who drop off their children at school wearing robes, slippers, and/or curlers in your hair. There was a time in my elementary school years when I would have made fun of you. I get it now.

To the stay-at-home Moms who I thought lived a glamorous life of cookies, naps, and All My Children. Um, yeah. Hardly. I get it.

To the Moms who have cried over spilling pumped breast milk or having to pump and dump after one too many. Before I would have thought, 'Gee, just pump some more.' I get it.

To the Moms I've been annoyed at for coming to work late with excuses of sick children, spit up in hair, and/or other feces-related issues. I'm sorry I judged you. I get it.

To the single Moms and Dads. YOU ARE HEROES. I get it.

To the Moms who bring 1000 pictures of their little one with them wherever they go. I skimmed those pictures all too many times. Your baby is a perfect angel, just like mine. I get it. That, a woman in her thirties 'gets' the most:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Remembers

When I was twelve, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He was given six months to live, and fought hard during all six of those months. Today marks 20 years since he died.

Writing that down, that very life-changing truth of my life, is very strange for me. Firstly, I can't wrap my head around the fact that I am old enough now to say, 'twenty years ago...' anything. And secondly, I really don't talk much about my Dad. Something happens when a girl in her teens and a woman in her twenties and thirties shares with others that she lost a parent at a young age. People get uncomfortable, they offer awkward condolences, and change the subject. I got used to it after awhile, and my Dad has lived in quiet recesses of my mind for a long time now. It has been easier that way.

Twenty anniversaries of a death don't all come and go the same. The first few were hard. I remember my teachers being very concerned about me during the holidays the first couple of years. I remember being very angry on the fifth anniversary-- for some reason five years seemed eternal. But after the seventh, eighth, tenth, fifteenth passed, I noticed that December 4th came and went the same-- always cold, always blue-skied, almost always solitary (except for K, who always remembers). It's only been in the last few years of reflection that I've come to think of today as a 'good' day-- a day of release from pain.

But it is more than that, isn't it? My Dad was so much more than his six months of suffering, yet this day is the one carved out as the day to remember him. I don't want to remember him on December 1st or 3rd of his final year; I don't want to define him by the illness that took him. A woman in her thirties remembers the whole person, and here are some of my favorite memories:
  • My Dad and I had a song. 'Kokomo', from the Cocktail soundtrack. I had that tape and played that song over and over in my Dad's orange truck. We sang it at the top of our lungs. Today, if I hear that song, I smile and think of him.
  • My Dad was a sucker for his girls. Mom was constantly pinching pennies and would never look past K-Mart or Mervyns for our school clothes, but Dad could be talked into anything. Case in point: My white and pink LA Gear sneakers, the ones with the flowers on them. Dad got a stern talking to for that one, but did I ever love those shoes. Thanks, Dad.
  • I loved laying under the piano when my Dad played. He pounded on the keys fiercely, almost angrily, and the echo from under the piano was somehow very comforting to me. It still is, though I haven't napped under a piano in a long time.
  • Dad knew the streets of San Francisco like the back of his hand. We went every weekend to see our Grandparents, and he would always take us the hilliest ways and speed up so we'd get 'funny tummies'.
  • When Dad came home from work he would sit on the orange chair in the living room and let us slide down his legs. I can still smell the starch from his work shirts as I climbed on him, still feel his cold badge pressed against my back as I slid down his long legs to the floor.
  • Dad loved to laugh. When my brother and I giggle for hours over the same Airplane! jokes, I think of how we both got our love of slap-stick from him.
  • Dad helped me practice basketball. This picture is my favorite of the two of us. I'm sure he knew that I was hardly the next Michael Jordan, but I couldn't tell it by the way he would sit on the sidelines at my games and cheer me on.
I don't think of my Dad the way you might imagine I would. I didn't get sad at my wedding (my brother was the perfect escort down the aisle). I don't need a few minutes alone to compose myself before speaking of him. I don't spend every December 4th in mourning. It's the small things that throw me; the unexpected moments. I thought of him a lot in China, and wondered how he would have taken that life adventure of mine. I thought of him during my pregnancy, comparing L to him in the most subconscious ways. And I'll admit it-- I think of him when I'm making what I know is a bad decision. There have been times when I have thought, 'Dad, if you're watching me now... don't.' It is in those ways that my Dad has lived past his 49 years.

A woman in her thirties has had her share of loss, and if she hasn't she is the luckiest schmuck in the whole wide world. But for those of us who have lost and will eventually lose people we love, we prioritize the remembering. Not the pain, not the suffering, and definitely not the death. The spirit. It is of utmost importance for a woman in her thirties who, unexpectedly and blessedly, has been charged with the task of living. It's the final gift we give to those who've gone before.