Trust

I heard an interesting comment on the radio recently by a woman who was giving advice about how to be a better co-parent with your spouse.  My interest was obviously piqued, as I want to be good at that, but I was a little disappointed.  She said something along the lines of: my husband will often do things that I don’t understand, like wrestle or play noisily with the kids.  I have to remind myself that his way of parenting is not wrong and just let him do this.  

Maybe I have more in common with this woman than I felt in that moment, but I really couldn’t relate to not wanting my husband to have fun with the kids.  I LOVE when David comes home and swings the kids around or dances through the living room with them on his shoulders.  I am so glad he is the kind of Dad who is active and involved and demonstrative with our little loves.

But, I do have my “things.”  Like, I tend to think I am better at keeping the kids’ routine (and I am), or that I am the best at changing their diapers (I’m not) and getting them to nap.  Although I get the most practice in these things since I’m with the kids every day, I do not always know best and am often wrong about what they need (and David is right).

Once upon a time, we were packing up our life in Lansing and living our last crazy days in the US before flying overseas, and we were stressed.  The baby was handling it all pretty well, but I wanted to do everything I could to make sure he was getting enough rest and staying relatively on his “schedule.”  One afternoon, I needed to run errands and David was going to stay home.  He would keep the baby, he said, and they would take a nap.  I was incredulous.  This was a crib-trained baby who would make exceptions to sleep next to his Mama, but he didn’t just nap because someone said so.  But, wanting to be a supportive wife and let David also take charge in baby matters, I left the two of them to figure it out.

The next time I walked by the room, this is what I saw:

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And there you have it.  A lesson learned in trusting my husband’s parenting and just letting him be.  I’m so glad I didn’t prevent this peace from happening with my “perfect” plan.

 

One to Two

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I posted a question on Facebook somewhere around the third week of having two children:
“Know what was easy?  One kid.”
With just two short sentences, the condolences, encouragement, and praise started flowing towards me.  I didn’t even say having two kids was hard/awful/I’m dying, but maybe everyone just knew that from their own experiences?

The night before we had Sarala, we knew it was going to be our last night as a family of three.  We wanted it to be special, so we took Judah out for frozen yogurt before bedtime.  I had wanted that whole day to be special, actually.  I had plans of taking him to the zoo, one last time, as just the two of us.  Or baking cookies together, because one of my sweet friends did that with her first.  But the thing is, I didn’t have time for any of that.  It was a Thursday, so first I went to MOPS and left Judah to play with his little friends.  When it was time to leave, he had found a toy police car to ride around in and didn’t want to leave.  I hated that I had to drag him away, but I did.  He needed a nap, I needed to pack a hospital bag.  By the time David was coming home from work, any attempted specialness was zapped from the day.  Frozen yogurt was a last ditch effort.

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And you know what?  It wasn’t necessarily special to Judah, who was needing correction and redirection the entire time as he ran around other people’s tables and tried to steal their yogurt cups.  But for me, it was everything.  I was seeing my firstborn as a baby for the last time.  That night, when we tucked him in, we weren’t going to be there to get him out of his crib in the morning.  Someone wonderful had volunteered to do that so he could sleep while we woke at 5am for our hospital appointment.  The next time I saw Judah, I had a tiny baby on my lap.

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At first, he was enthralled.  He was so gentle and sweet to the baby, and he even chose her name (it was multiple choice, but he still made the decision!).  It seemed, at first, like maybe it was going to be ok.  But about two days into our week as 4, Judah didn’t want to eat.  He also wouldn’t sleep.  It was day two or three at about 1am when our 1-year-old was (still) crying in his bed that David and I looked at each other and knew we were losing our minds.  Both of us had been into his room, praying and holding him, putting him back down.  It didn’t make any difference.  What we had on our hands was a toddler in depression, or transition, or both.

It did get easier!  Just not right away.  When David had to go back to work after a week, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it through the day.  Judah loved to sit on his sister, feed her choking things, push her swing until she was hanging from the seat belt.  I couldn’t leave the two of them even for 30 seconds.  Somehow, I made it through a month like that.  His crazy no-eating-no-sleeping went away in a few days, and a love for his sister also started to grow.  I began to see glimpses of what my David has always told me: the best gift we could give him was a sibling.

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But still, everything changed when I went from doting mother of one adorable toddler to splitting everything I have between two babies.  One lap, two kids, zero personal space.  But really, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Six months in, it is bliss.  Does he still occasionally hit his sister with his trains?  Maybe.  But you should’ve heard them laughing at each other, over nothing at all, the other day.  Actually, here you go.  Enjoy. 🙂

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Africa

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Although I grew up in a third-world country, I had never seen flies swarming around children’s eyes until I visited Ethiopia in 2006.

At the last minute (a few weeks before the team was leaving), one of the girls who was planning to go with a group from my church found out she was pregnant and didn’t want to risk her pregnancy for 10 days in Africa.  I couldn’t blame her, although I also knew I would be getting the better end of the deal: I was able to take her spot in the group as well as use the funds she had raised.  I just needed to raise a bit more and I was on my way.

At that point in my life, I had been to several countries in Europe and Asia, but the Dark Continent was still a mystery to me.  Wrapped up in that mystery was, as usual, a boy.  A very articulate one, at that, who had followed the siren call to Africa during a time when going there instead of finding a regular job after college was as trendy as pumpkin spice lattes and skinny jeans.  He, obviously, was not as shallow as the rest, although perhaps I was.  Thrilled to be heading to a new continent just one country over from the one where HE was, I went.

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Now, this was a missions trip, complete with everything missions trips entail.  Team meetings, early wake-up calls, and (at least in this case) hut-to-hut evangelism in intense African sunshine. If anything can burn away all but the altruistic motives in me, it’s the early wake-up calls.  Although I was thinking about The Boy more than I should have, I was also all there.  Eating spaghetti in a dusty “motel,” because everything on the menu was American copy-cat food.  Walking down dirt roads, past ancient cannons.  Holding little black hands and smiling back at their Crest-bright smiles.  I took hundreds of pictures.  I told strangers about Jesus.  I told new friends on the team about the deep-stirring desires of my heart.

One man on the team in particular will always hold a special place in my heart.  He was middle-aged, athletic, father of two daughters around my age, and told stories of running up mountains back home in California with his dog for hours at a time.  I had been a runner in college, but this was clearly out of my league.  I ran with him and a few others from our team one foggy morning as the chickens were waking up.  Over streams, past women carrying produce to or from a market.  I could hardly keep up, but I wanted to be strong, so I did.

Something that particularly impressed me about this man was the way he was drawn into the stories of the people around him.  I was trained from infancy (not on purpose, of course) in the fine art of caring about people’s needs as long as I’m around them, but returning to Life As Usual as soon as I step foot in my home.  Not him.  He met a man during one of our day-trips who needed help with a condition in his eye.  My teammate, the Compassionate One, spent the evening tracking down medicated eye drops and finding a sure way to get them to the man who needed them.  Now, since I have third-world-country “sea legs,” people have often mistaken me for being a good fit to go the extra mile in uncomfortable cross-cultural situations.  I guess in some ways, I am.  But there’s a difference between not puking at the burning smell of urine on every naked baby and actually caring about those little ones.  The ability to chew and swallow inedible foreign food and stomach the smell of cow manure inside a hut should not be confused with compassion.  But since I had a nice camera (to take pictures of people’s medical conditions for doctors in the US) and an iron stomach, I was asked to join one of this compassionate man’s side trips.  I desperately wanted to be that person, the one they thought I was, so I went.  Plus, someone needed to take the pictures.

I can’t remember many details about the medical issues people had (this was years before nursing school for me, and only vaguely interesting at that point).  I only remember lots of people crowding in, lots of flies gathering at the corners of dark eyes.  In one hut, three little girls sat near me and I smiled at them.  We couldn’t understand each other, but I had in my backpack a piece of universal little girl currency: fingernail polish.  At the limit of what smiling can communicate, I began to paint their nails.  They were delighted.  I’m not talking about a little bit happy or just not too shy to let me; they were thrilled to have mint green nails.  And I was thrilled to find growing in my heart a type of caring for these little girls.  I wanted good things for them.  I wanted that nail polish to last weeks for them, because it made them so happy.  I wanted Jesus for them, through me, to them.

Like the Grinch, I think my heart grew a few sizes that day.  It never did capture the Traveler (that’s a story for another day), but it grew.

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Baby 101

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Dear Friends Having Babies for the First Time,

Isn’t it so exciting?  And overwhelming too!  There are so many things you need, so many more you don’t actually need and will just clutter up your house, and a few you would never buy on your own but will be so glad someone else does.  I’m six months into baby numero dos.  Let me help you wade through these baby-accessory waters!

First of all, there are a few things you absolutely need to have, and you already know this because you’ve read all the mom lists and have checked them twice.  But since I love to make lists, here you go.  You’re welcome! 🙂

1. A good car seat.  Here’s my two cents on this issue.  We ended up with the Chicco Keyfit 30 system because someone gifted it to us.  And I really like it!  But I will say, I like the stroller, but rarely used or needed the feature that allows the car seat to fit into the stroller.  The stroller itself leans back far enough that it never seemed necessary, and having the car seat in it just seemed bulky.  But that might’ve just been me!  Now, another thought I had recently as my 6-month-old hits the 20-lb mark and is already stretching her little toes to the end of that car seat: I haven’t had a baby so far who looks like they’ll make it much past 8 months in that thing.  It says it fits up to 30 lbs, and I believe them!  But I can’t picture a baby who would be able to actually fit that long in the seat length-wise.  Maybe if you have a really fat one?  Anyway, it’s a good car seat, but just prepare yourself that it won’t get you through the long haul.  We had to get Judah a new seat at 8 months, and will most likely need to do the same with little Sar.

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2. A crib.  Get one you like!  There are lots of options, from mini cribs (which is what we’ve used) to the kind that will keep transforming until your kid is in college.  If we knew we would be staying in one place forever and ever, we might just get one of those.  As it is, we’ve gone the Craigslist route and will be able to throw Judah’s crib away once he’s done with it without feeling any remorse.  It cost us $20, and squeaks when he moves, which sometimes wakes him up in the morning.  I won’t miss that crib, but can’t go without it!

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3. Changing table — I feel like this is optional.  Is it nice to have?  Sure.  If you will have a dedicated nursery for your babies, get one!  And if you can manage to match your crib/changing table/curtains/burp rags, go for it!  I’d be happy if I somehow fell into a situation like that.  We have a dresser that’s the perfect height for a changing table, and even has a changing pad and soft cover on it, and we used it for a while!  But after a few months, I’d say about 98% of diaper changes happen on the floor.  So if you’re on a budget and low on space, I think you can skip this one!

4. Clothes.  Women of all ages love to buy baby clothes!  So more than likely, you’ll end up with way more than you need.  After being the happy recipient of some amazing hand-me-downs, and also having showers and gifts of clothing, I finally had to go through Judah’s baby clothes boxes and make some cuts.  When it was all said and done, I limited myself to keeping 10 of each thing: 10 onesies, jammies, and pants in each size (0-3, 3-6, etc.).  For our babies and laundry rhythm, that has been plenty!

5. Pack-n-play — you just need one.  You do.  No matter where you live, it will happen one day that you want to be somewhere at bedtime, or want to go camping but don’t want the baby to crawl out of your tent, and you will be happy you have one of these guys!  We have two, a mini and a regular size, and use both (because of our two-baby situation).  It doesn’t need to match your travel system or your baby’s favorite blanket, but you do need one.  Also, we kept Judah in one in our room for the first few weeks of his life.  It was really nice to have the kind with the bassinet and changing table options so we had a complete baby set-up in our room in the space of one small crib.

6. Baby carrier — this is a pretty personal item, because it’s almost like a pair of jeans.  You want it to fit you well, and you will be wearing it almost every day for a while (unless you don’t like carrying your baby.  But are there really people like that?  I guess I’m not.).  I have owned and used an Ergo, Baby Bjorn, Moby wrap, and sling, as well as a homemade wrap and Indonesian baby carrier.  Of those, I have used the Ergo almost exclusively.  The Bjorn, as much as I liked it because the baby can face forward or backward in the front position, was just not comfortable for my shoulders with my fat baby inside.  Unless the design has changed, there is simply not the support of an Ergo.  I like the Moby, but I did not love it quite enough to go through the wrapping effort each time.  With Sarala, I used it for a week or two, then moved on to the Ergo.  I will say, if I could go back in time, I would get the Lillebaby carrier instead of the Ergo, because it has the good features of both the Bjorn and Ergo.

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7. Diapers and wipes.  This is an item for a longer post, because we use cloth diapers and I love it!  That was an intentional use of pronouns. 🙂  David and I both change the babies, so we both use the diapers, and I am the one who loves it because I am in the daily grind of cleaning and keeping up with the diapers, and am happy to be saving money and some nearby landfill in the process.  So more on that another place.  But wipes?  These are, hands-down, the best.  And I’ve tried them all!

8. Breast pump.  If you plan to breast feed, and you absolutely should unless there is a physical reason (either separation or actual body limitation), then you need one!  We love our Medela.  And as a result, we have used just about every bottle under the sun.  The result?  We like the basics, mostly because our babies have never required anything fancier of us.  They don’t have colic or other feeding issues, and will drink anything we hand them.  That being said, they have seemed to enjoy the Dr. Brown’s (we got the fancy kind with the glass bottles because I was just that way when I was making a baby registry for the first time, and someone indulged my craziness) and also the Tommee Tippee trial-sized one I got once in a mom-to-be goodie bag.

9.  Miscellaneous little necessities: baby wash, diaper ointment, pacifiers, bottles, nursing cover, burp cloths (the homemade ones from older women in your church are usually the very best!).

10.  The best diaper bag in the world.  It just is!  My fabulous, generous friend gave me this for my birthday, and it hasn’t left my side since.  I will use it with every baby, and may just keep using it even after I don’t need the changing pad attachment!  (I’ll let you know. 😉 )  Reasons it’s the best?  I love the color, which might seem unimportant until you realize you will see and wear this more often than any clothes in your closet.  Also it has great pockets, is soft so it can collapse or expand when stuffed full for traveling, and is still easy to carry even when it’s packed to burst.  I love it!

Things you shouldn’t buy for yourself, but will be so glad someone else did:

Aden + Anais bamboo muslin swaddling blanket — now, I’m not usually this kind of girl.  I keep things pretty simple, but let me tell you: someone gave me this blanket as a gift, and I have used it every single day since Sarala was born.  It has been a blanket, nursing cover, mosquito cover, tent, and burp rag.  And it is the softest blanket ever.  I am now gifting these to my friends having babies because I love my own so much!

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Sophie the Giraffe — this is another one like the muslin blanket.  I didn’t know my babies needed one, and would never have bought it on my own.  BUT, we were gifted a Sophie (two, actually, and sadly we’ve managed to lose both of them 🙁 ), and she is a wonderful baby toy!  I would rather have a few toys the baby really likes than surround them with things they play with for a few seconds and move on.  Something about Sophie is really fun for the wee babes!

A Bumbo seat — this just isn’t an absolute necessity, but it is really nice to have.  If you get the tray, too, then it’s doubly nice.  I love having a place to put the baby when they can’t sit up quite yet.  Or (even though this is against all the rules of Bumbo-use) it’s nice to be able to have the baby join the family for dinner at the dinner table… or on the dinner table.  But remember, it is a Bumbo floor seat.  Just so we’re clear. 😉

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Two!

Judah, how old are you?  Two! 

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This is a conversation we’ve been having with Judah several times a day for the past few days.  We never taught him how to say “one,” and haven’t told him to hold up fingers and say “this many,” either.  He’s ready to say it, and he says it proudly!

So now is the part of that situation where I stop to wonder at how I have two babies, and how one of them is already 2 years old!  People probably always say this about their kids growing up, but it feels at the same time like the shortest and longest years of my life.  I can’t believe it has only been two, because it feels like Judah has been part of of my life, and our family, forever.  It’s one of the reasons I can’t wrap my mind around the grief a parent must experience at losing a child.  Once they’re here, it’s like they always have been, and I can’t picture my life without picturing my Judah.  But then, it’s also crazy because I remember his birth like it is a current event.  I remember the whole appointment before I was induced, the long day in the hospital watching a monitor as I went into labor, watching a mirror as I pushed a baby out of my body.  There are so few days that I can remember more than a few moments of here and there, but that day is recorded in video form in my memory.  I can rewind and fast forward, pause and stare at the way my life as I knew it dropped dead and I was reborn a mother.

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Judah, I loved you when you were growing inside me, and I loved imagining how you were going to be.  Would you have brown eyes like your Dad, or green like me?  Would you be a big smiler, shouter, fast walker, big eater, dancer, like chocolate?  But seeing who you actually are, watching you grow and demonstrate your personality, put words to your thoughts, is better than I ever imagined.

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This past year of your life has been immense.  One year ago today, we had a big party in our new backyard.  You wore a shirt that said “Happy birthday to me,” and didn’t know how to walk yet.  A week later, you took your first steps.  Carefully, because that’s how you are.  Now you can hop hop hop like a frog, and jump into swimming pools.  You are careful, but not afraid.  You are kind, but know what you want and are good at getting it.  I love how you figure out problems, like how to switch on the lights when you can’t quite reach, or how to get to the iPad when I’ve put it on a high counter.  I love how much you love your car seat, because it means we’re going somewhere.  And you don’t even care where–you’re ready to go!  (I’m like that too.)  I love how patient you are, how you share with your sister, how quick you are to say “sorry.”  You say 150 words, and ten of them are: thank you, pray, please, I love you, Mom, Daddy, Sister.  I love that about you.

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You are a treasure, Judah, and I am so proud of who you are.  I love that I get to be your mom.  I love that I spend my days with you.  Happy birthday, big boy.  But please stay little for a long time!

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Patriotism and peace

I’m not exactly patriotic, so if you are looking for a red-white-and-blue post about America vs. Everyone Else, this won’t scratch that itch.  I was born overseas, and the 4th of July was a holiday for us mostly because my Dad liked to light firecrackers and those were available where we were.  But I do tear up every time I hear the song “I’m Proud to be an American,” because I am.  My nationality isn’t complicated, but my politics and worldview are.  I am American, but first I’m a mother and friend and neighbor.

So, September 11th, 2001.  I was a sophomore in college in Southern California, and a cross country runner.  We gathered in a circle every morning at 5:45, prayed, went into the dorms to grab whichever teammate had missed their alarm, and ran.  That morning, we were finished just before 7, and before almost everyone else was up.  I was walking down a long hallway in the early morning quiet, past a men’s lounge with a tv on, and stopped to see what we have all seen in re-run form hundreds of times.: everyone’s worst travel nightmare, airplanes that fly into, rather than over, the tall buildings.  I felt what you felt: confused, then stunned.  Did that actually just happen in real life?  And the lounges started to fill with people.  No one went to class, we just had a collective camp-out in front of televisions across campus, looking over our shoulders every once in a while just to be sure no one was storming our campus and taking us hostage.

Maybe that last part isn’t exactly what people were thinking, but it began to dawn on me that everyone there had lost something.  I don’t remember there being any personal connections to the humans who died that day in those buildings or airplanes , but something died in each one of my friends: security, and the feeling that no one could penetrate our great America’s defenses.  Suddenly, with two buildings missing in a New York skyline, everything changed.

I was thinking about this today at a gathering of moms that happens every other Wednesday.  Since it happened to be 9/11, introductions were our names, our kids’ ages, and where we were on this day 12 years ago.  Not a single person had trouble coming up with their version of the story, and probably that would be true in any gathering around the country.  Something big happened that day.

But I was also thinking about families, because one mom shared that someone she knew died in those towers.  He was a poor kid, someone she had played baseball with growing up, and he was an only child.  That day, his parents lost their only son.  I felt like someone punched my stomach.  Maybe it’s my maternal instinct, and maybe I just understood for the first time today what others all felt 12 years ago.  I don’t care much about imaginary lines that make countries or what type or how many passports you have.  But I do care about kids without their dad, dogs waiting all day for an owner who won’t be coming home, and parents who will never, ever forget, not ever, because it’s the day a skyscraper buried their child.  That is something worth remembering.

Comfortable.

I remember someone telling me once that she didn’t begin feeling comfortable in her own skin until she was thirty.  Thirty!  I wish I could remember who said this to me, because I can assure you the reason I recall the comment is not that I thought it was wisdom-filled.   Rather, it was categorized in my mind under “Things I hope I can prove wrong with time.”  Because, for starters, thirty was old.  How was a person supposed to have a good life if they didn’t even feel comfortable until they were past their prime?

The fact that I thought this means it was probably when I was about 21.  So for the past 10 years, I’ve asked myself: are you comfortable yet?  Is this skin feeling good?  

The trouble is, the kind of comfortable that person was talking about is like the difference between pushing an umbrella stroller and gliding effortlessly along with a BOB.  For our second sweet baby, we were the lucky recipients of one of these amazing strollers, and let me tell you: I did not know good stroller-pushing until I got my hands on one of those!  Some friends were babysitting their friend’s son, and he came with everything a modern baby could hope for, including coordinated travel system and, of course, a BOB.  Since it was right in front of me and I was already in my baby-having years, I thought I’d just see what all the hype was about.  And the hype?  It was about lives and perspectives changing with one buttery-smooth push on this ridiculously expensive stroller.  Was my cheap little stroller working?  Sure.  Was it comfortable to push?  Well, I thought so until I felt the difference.

I guess that’s what I felt tonight when I was standing at the sink.  My husband is in the final weeks of cramming/studying for some little exam, so I am carrying a bit more than my usual share of the dishes.  And laundry.  Etc.  So I was thinking about this, how my night has mostly been making food and then cleaning up kids who were dirty after eating that food, then getting the dishes situation back under control from the cooking.  It hasn’t exactly been an exciting night around here.  Which is what made me think about being comfortable.  I can remember nights exactly like this early in our marriage, and they felt hard, like everyone else was out having a good time and I was chained to housework via a pretty ring and some promises.  Tonight, though, I didn’t need to use any positive self-talk to convince myself that this was a good night, too.  I just sort of knew.  Even though my attitude still needs work sometimes and I don’t automatically love doing dishes, I noticed tonight the absence of a familiar feeling.  I can only describe it as what a horse must feel when they’re pulling against a bit and reigns.  Like everything wants something different and my whole being is straining against the now.  But that was gone.

Now, I might just be having a good day, and maybe tomorrow I’ll resent mundane things like housework, but I think I know what she meant about thirty.  It didn’t happen magically on my birthday, but I’m pretty sure it’s been coming on for a decade.  I am not straining and hurting for a version of my life that only exists in my imagination.   I feel: comfortable.  As me.  In my own skin.

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My sweet little family, reading the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed.

Up.

I’m up with the baby.

She’s six months old, as of the turning of the calendar last night at midnight, just under 20lbs, and not half as hungry as she thinks she is right now. She was sleeping so well just a few months ago, almost 12 hours by 3 months! I made the mistake of thinking we were past the midnight feedings, which is only a mistake in that it makes the reality that much harder to adjust to. About the 5 month mark, she started waking up again to nurse. She’s hungry, I told myself. She needs me! So we reverted to the schedule we had in the first month, with me shuffling across the living room to find her in the middle of the night, wanting to cry along with her because I’m so tired I almost can’t stand up.

But I don’t cry, I just get the baby and do what’s easiest: nurse her in my bed until we’re both asleep, and try to hang on to the edge of the bed as her little body stretches out across the middle of our mattress. This is what she wants even more than a full belly. I know this. She doesn’t even nurse long. But it doesn’t take much to make this midnight eating and snuggling a thing she needs. Suddenly she’s up twice a night. We start her on solid foods a week early (5 days shy of 6 months) to see if she’s just not getting enough during the day (she’s getting plenty). But it doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, by the third night it’s 2am that she’s calling out for me. This time, I do cry. And I know we need a different plan.

So here I am, in that other plan. I put her crib in the guest room so she won’t keep her brother up, gave
her the pacifier, and walked away. Now I am listening to her sad little cries. Not screaming or starving or desperate, just wondering why she’s alone and not snuggled up against my body in the middle of the night.

Even though I know she’s fine, and in a night or four will be better for this since she’ll get the sleep she needs and know how to put herself back to sleep, it’s hard for me. I hate the sound in her cry like I’ve betrayed her, like she’s alone in the world. If only she knew. I have a monitor piping her cry into my room, even though I could hear her across our small house without the amplification. And although I could turn her down and try to sleep, I’m writing this so I don’t miss anything. So I don’t sleep through it if she really does need me before she gives up and goes back to sleep.

When it feels like I’ve left her alone, I’m actually hanging on her every move, listening to her little grunts, analyzing the space between her crying. Is she wearing herself out? Or gearing up for more? Or maybe she just needs me to hold her but not feed her! Could that be okay?

But I know I need to let her do this, and even need to let her believe she’s alone or it won’t work. She won’t grow the skills and strength she needs to do this on her own. And even though I hate to hear her cry, I know even she would want me to let her try to do this herself.

Maybe. Or maybe I should go pick her up? I miss snuggling that fat little dreamer to sleep.

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For my babies

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Suddenly, I am a mother.

I call the shots, make the grocery list, say “no” to Chicklets at the checkout counter.  I am a mother.

For lunch I eat whole wheat bread crusts with the shape of a dinosaur missing.  I peel mandarins and pull each section apart, even peel the pale fibers off so you’ll like it better.  And then I find little orange segments in the toy baskets, squished under my feet before I sweep.  I am a mother.

I pat your soft bottom 273 times as I stare at your eyelids, which swing open and closed and open and closed until you give up.  I want to sleep, but do laundry instead.  I am a mother.

I pray on Wednesday that the trash truck will come while we’re home the next day, because Thursday is trash day and you’ve waited for it all week long.  When I hear the sound of bagged garbage hitting metal, I grab your hand and we run for the door.  I am as excited as you are.  We sit on the grass and watch until the flashing lights round the corner.  I am a mother.

I practice animal sounds, leave dough on the spoon for you, make pizza because you finally figured out how to ask for it.  And then I realize later you meant “pretzel.” (Oh well.)  I am a mother.

I say, “What do you say?” and wait for your “thank you.”  I can’t teach gratitude but I can teach you manners.  I am a mother.

I brush little teeth, tie little shoes, make little beds, encourage big dreams.  I clap when you push off the edge and go down the slide.  I am a mother.

I write your name on the card even though you’ve never seen what’s inside (and I spent thirty minutes staring at tea sets and pet shops and little ponies trying to understand what a 3-year-old might be wishing for her birthday).  I am a mother.

I bake 45 cupcakes, wipe baseboards, twist streamers, blow balloons, invite chaos.  I tell myself I’ll do less next year, but I won’t.  I might even do more.  Because it’s me trying to write “I love you,” in the biggest font possible.  I am a mother.

I cried when I saw that an entire human had emerged from my body.  Not just a dream I had dreamed while resting my hand on the smooth arch of my own body.  You were separate, terrifying.  A crying baby.  My crying baby.  I said to my own mother, next to me,  “I can’t do this!”  Because I felt it already, as soon as I saw you.  I knew you would wreck me.  Had already wrecked me.  I didn’t belong to myself anymore.  I was a mother, your mother.

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