Tuesday, April 27, 2010
If I had a dollar for every time in the past eleven or so months that I've heard "it gets better after..." I would not have to go back to work. It gets better after the first trimester, after the twentieth week, after the birth. It gets better after the first ten days, it gets better after the first month, after this, after that. I have loved every second since Thora's conception, even the really challenging parts, and it's all been challenging. So I never believed any of this. But this week, everything got better. Really!
It started out tough. Thora was going to bed at midnight or later, sleeping half the day, fussing all evening. I was determined to, as a good friend put it, get her "in our time zone." It wasn't as hard as I thought. We became diligent about getting up with her in the morning and starting our day together. This was harder for us (especially Johnny) than it was for her. We are not morning people. But we can learn. We stuck with it because we really wanted to emphasize the difference between day and night. When she wakes up at night she doesn't stay awake for long because it's dark and we're asleep on either side of her. I can roll over, nurse her, and slowly feel her relax and fall back asleep. She definitely knows it's night. And now she also knows that it's morning. She wakes up before us and talks to herself, laughing and chuckling and gurgling happily until we wake up. It's adorable and makes the fact that it's 7 am on a Sunday bearable. And to take back our evenings, we have created a really nice bedtime ritual of reading out loud. We start at around seven. We get her ready for bed and all lie down together and I start reading. Reading aloud is not new to us. We've been doing it for years but we stepped it up when I got pregnant and now it's a nightly thing. Thora seems to love the sound of my voice. We're reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet right now. We read for about 45 minutes to an hour. I read and I nurse her and run my fingers around her eyes and up and down her nose and she nods off usually by eight or so. (But sometimes we keep reading anyway because we're so into the stories!) This was a truly revolutionary change in our parenting.
This week we also graduated from the bassinet in the stroller to sitting upright in the seat. Not that I ever really used the bassinet because Thora did not like it one bit and really, I do prefer to wear her. But the diaper bag gets heavy and sometimes it just makes more sense to take the stroller. But how ridiculous is it that we have this disgustingly overpriced stroller (that I LOVE, I admit it, I LOVE IT) that Thora absolutely hated? Pretty darn ridiculous. When your Bugaboo gets more use as a clothes horse than it does a stroller, you know you need to change something. So when I saw that she was getting decent head control, we switched out the bassinet and set up the seat. Now she likes it! She can see me, she can reach out and touch her bugs, she can hear me, and she is not flat on her back like an upset turtle or beetle. She does not like being on her back (since birth she has preferred to sleep on her side) and now she does not have to. The seat reclines! And I can actually reach the pouch below the seat and put things in it (a nearly impossible feat when it is set up with the bassinet). All of this instantly made long outings a million times easier.
After a long hiatus, I got a chance to open the baby books again this week. I skimmed the Sears Sleep Book and after some thought realized that Thora will pretty much only nap in the wrap and when I am moving moving moving, and that if I try to work from home during prime napping hours I am almost sure to have an exhausted and fussy baby who refuses to sleep more than ten minutes at a time and a logged-in computer that will get zero attention. What is the point of doing neither work nor parenting well? I abandoned the computer by 1 pm and wrapped her and went food shopping. I walked all the way down to the Whole Foods on 97th and discovered what clearly every other new mother on the west side already knew. Babies LOVE to nap while you go food shopping! Being at Whole Foods at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday was an eye-opening experience. At least eight out of ten shoppers were women, and nine of ten women were either visibly pregnant or they were wearing or pushing sleeping babies or toddlers. Imagine that! I got errands done, Thora got a great nap, and we didn't disrupt her bedtime, so I had the whole evening to catch up on work, which I did without interruption since she was asleep and Johnny was happily playing Nintendo. It was amazing.
Also this week I got the bright idea to start asking questions. I emailed almost everyone I know in Manhattan with children, asking a bunch of questions. I got on Google and found one website which lead to another and another. I signed up for a few classes. From the folks I emailed, I got some great info and a ton of great resources to check out. And I had two playdates (yes, I now use this word) with a very good friend who has two small girls of her own. She taught me some very simple things (and I mean very simple) that were so enlightening and world-rocking that parenting suddenly became significantly easier for me, kind of like discovering Whole Foods at 2 pm on a Tuesday. The first revelation: The diaper bag snaps onto the handle of the stroller. Repeat it after me, the diaper bag snaps onto the handle of the stroller. Eureka! I never knew that. Did you know that? I swear I never would have found the secret buckles if she had not shown me. Now I can reach my phone, my lip balm, my ziploc bag of almonds or pretzels, my water. I don't have to pull over and stop and bend down, risking bumping into the people behind me and getting sworn at (which happens all the time). And she gave me a soothie. For the perhaps two people reading this who do not know, as I did not know, a soothie is a type of pacifier. Everyone seems to know this. Thora does not love it all the time and neither do I, but sometimes she will take it and I can reclaim my pinky and let it dry out. (Other times she makes a terrible gagging sound and spits it out.) But when she does take it, she will fall right asleep. Plus watching her suck on it and being able to see the inside of her mouth is sort of creepily hypnotizing. Anyway, I suddenly feel wired in. Connected. In the know. Part of the Cool Moms Club. Weeks ago I knew about Sophie the giraffe and I every time I passed a kid in a stroller hanging onto Sophie for dear life I privately congratulated myself for knowing about her. Now I feel a hundred times more linked in. Now I know about soothies and the Skip Hop's secret buckles and even Barnard's Babysitting Agency! About the UWS meetups! About the 92nd Street Y! I subscribed to Time Out New York Kids! It's like being accepted into Skull and Bones (or, okay, maybe the Shriners) and being taught the secret handshake. I kind of want to drive a miniature car or at least wear a silly hat so that people know I am one of them.
You can laugh but trust me, these little things make a huge difference.
I think the biggest difference from this week, though, is in my husband. My wonderful, cooperative, involved husband who loves his daughter more than he loves anything else in the whole world. He has been there from the start. He sings, dances, and laughs with Thora. He changes diapers, bathes her, bounces her. He is a natural at being a dad. But this week he mastered two things that make my life so much easier that I want to get down on my knees and thank the gods that made fathers wake up and realize that yes, they can do this stuff too.
First, he said the magic words: "I would do anything for the two of you." He says this often, and I know he means it. But this week I made him put his money where his mouth was.
So, he learned to make a bottle. Not just give her a bottle, but make one. That means finding the milk in the freezer (this is more challenging than you might think if you have not seen our freezer), thawing it out, finding the drop-ins - that look not unlike condoms for breast milk - and all the other pieces, and warming the whole thing up and feeding it to Thora. Now that he can do this, I do not have to do it. This means I can leave them alone together and not stress that Thora will starve.
Second, he bravely accompanied me to one of the workshops I signed up for. This awesome store we found while I was still pregnant, MetroMinis, is now significantly closer to us and easier to get to. They have lots of amazingly well crafted German toys (I already knew about German toys. See? Card carrying member of the Secret Society of Moms Who Know About German Toys, that's me!) and baby carriers of every size, shape and color imaginable. We'd already gotten a mei tai there ages ago. Anyway, this store offers a lot of free workshops. I took the liberty of signing Johnny up for Babywearing 101 and very nicely accompanied him there. I thought it would be mostly for him, but to be honest, we both learned a ton. I learned that I have been wrapping my Moby wrong all this time! Just in time for her to outgrow it, I now know the right way to do it. And I learned some tricks to make the mei tai more comfortable. And I feel almost brave enough to try the Storchenwiege outside. (Almost. I'm saving that for after I take Intro to Wrapping.) But best of all, Johnny, who up until this point refused to wear Thora (which made the idea of him as primary caregiver when I am back in the office nearly impossible), found a carrier he liked. He got himself an Angel Pack, in all black of course, and practiced with a very fussy Thora, who gave him the thumbs up he needed by promptly falling into a dead sleep as soon as he got her situated in it. This was a win. We bought it and he wore it right out of the store. And we ran an afternoon's worth of errands (including a surprisingly pleasant trip to Home Depot to order the blinds, where this time we were treated like royalty) and all I had to do was push an empty stroller.
Watching my husband wearing our baby stirred up so many interesting feelings and thoughts in my tired brain and heart. It made me feel like we were more of a family, that we were on more even ground. Now there is nothing I can do that he cannot do (apart from breastfeed). He can feel what up until now only I felt - that closeness and love you feel when you are tummy to tummy with your baby and you feel her belly and her breathing and her whole little being against you. When she rests her head on your chest and sleeps. When she grabs at your fingers and your fingers are free to grab her back because your back and hips are carrying her weight instead of your hands and arms. I have to admit, a tiny part of me felt sad because up until now I was the only one who carried her that way, but at the same time I saw a world of opportunity. Now leaving Johnny alone with the baby will be a thousand times easier, which makes my professional life a whole lot easier, and that in turn makes everything easier.
My only regret for the week is that I didn't take pictures of Johnny falling in love with Thora in the Angel Pack today. When I said this to him, he said "Don't worry, there will be lots of opportunity for that." Which was music to my ears!
Posted by Teeny and the Bee at 11:29 PM