Tuesday, August 28, 2007

12 Weeks

Twelve weeks old. Three months. This little person has been out and about for twelve whole weeks now. I looked at some pictures from her first three weeks, and could not believe how tiny she was compared to the robust little being who now fills my days and nights. In the past two weeks, she’s had a language explosion. There were a few noises here and there, a little cooing or babbling, and she loved it when we had “conversations” where I would mimic her, but her game is at a whole new level. She’s making noises now that resemble parts of actual words, vowels and consonants which we receive with delight. We’re pretty sure she says “hi” already, because as first-time parents we are convinced our baby is a genius. She says it to people when they walk in the room or come up to her, and she says it when she sees the smiley face on her favorite toy, so it appears she knows how to use it and therefore we count it as a real word and not mere noise. Even my skeptic of a dad, who politely laughs when I tell him my baby is a genius, is convinced.

In the past few weeks, her personality has emerged loud and clear. She has a “blankie” now, which is really just a cloth diaper, i.e. a square of white gauze material. Not the thick kind, but light and loosely-woven. She waves it around, she chews on it, she plays peek-a-boo with it. She has to have one wherever she goes, clutched in her chubby little fingers. She latched onto it over a month ago, during a phase when she was starting to grab things and loved to have fabric in her hands. Her quest to hold handfuls of fabric resulted in her grabbing the skirt of anything even vaguely dress-like we’d put her in, and hoisting it over her face. If only we could’ve taught her to say “free show!” while she lifted her dress, we’d be YouTube superstars right now. One day she grabbed the gauze diaper I was using to wipe spit-up off her face, and refused to let go. The free shows immediately ceased. While it would’ve melted the heart of a knitting relative if she’d latched onto one of the many hand-made blankets bestowed upon her by distant aunts and grandmas, I am happy enough with her choice. These diapers come in packs of 12, they are machine-washable and easily replaceable. I can only hope she chooses more comfort objects that make my life just a little more stress-free.

A development that has melted my heart in the past month is clinginess. Sometimes, she just wants her mama. No amount of “oh, Grandma’s baby needs ______” or “here, she wants to bounce” or “she wants _________” from the self-appointed baby experts will suffice. It has to be me. She can’t really reach for me yet, she’s not that coordinated, but when I hold her after one of these episodes she clings to my shirt like a baby koala. It doesn’t happen very often, because I am blessed with an easygoing baby, but when it does a tiny, selfish part of me smiles. You see, for the longest time I was convinced that Piper didn’t actually care who I was. I was also mostly-convinced that she actually preferred my mom to me. My husband repeatedly told me I was nuts, but I just felt like “oh, THANKS. I went through all that crap, crawling around on the floor of our apartment for two weeks because I couldn’t walk and then having a c-section and then getting raw, bloody nipples from breastfeeding and you don’t even like me best?! What the fuck?!” I know parenting isn’t all about getting what I want or rewards or whatever, but it’s nice to finally see a return on my investment. I’m banking these moments against the inevitable teenage “eww, stay away from me!” phase.

So now when she quiets down immediately after being passed to me, I hug her and smell her head (shut up, I know y’all are baby-head-sniffers too) and at last feel like her mother.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

10 Things

10 Things I miss about California:

10. Cheap, yummy, authentic burritos.
9. People who don't freak out about "traffic," i.e. more than 3 cars on the road.
8. Having our own apartment where we can have sex, crank the A/C whenever we want, eat curry, sushi, or falafel without someone wrinkling their nose, have the baby to ourselves, sleep naked, know where all our stuff is, receive our mail, and sleep on a couch which is a real couch and selected specifically for its comfy-nap-enabling qualities and is not a loveseat specifically selected for its sleep-discouraging properties.
7. Employment.
6. Distance from our families.
5. Being able to drive an hour and see the ocean.
4. Being able to wear flip-flops 11.5 months of the year.
3. Driving on roads that are not full of giant potholes.
2. The friends we made there. They were few, but we miss them all the same.
1. The dream of California - being able to say that you live in that weird, hot, fabled place.

10 Things that make me glad we moved back to Michigan:

10. Jimmy John's, Bell's Oberon, Bilbo's Pizza, and Faygo.
9. The possibility of getting in on the ground floor of some gentrification instead of having to buy into the tail-end.
8. Watching Piper interact with her grandparents, aunts, and uncle.
7. Our friends.
6. Taking the baby outside for a bedtime walk up and down the street at 11 p.m. and feeling totally safe.
5. Summer rainstorms.
4. Going to the grocery store and not being accosted by 6 kids selling candy, 3 people with petitions, a rep from the L.A. Times, two panhandlers, and a stray dog.
3. Can now say "governor" without snickering.
2. Can reference any point in the lower peninsula of the state by pointing to a spot on my hand because this state is shaped like a giant mitten.
1. Looking at the real-estate section of the paper.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday was today, and Piper's gift to me was sleeping all the way through dinner so that I could actually eat my food. It's only the second hot meal I've had since she was born. Normally sitting down to eat triggers some sort of automatic response in her, and she decides that she is starving right this minute. So I feed her, and return to the table to bolt down my now-cold food before she decides she wants an extra helping of boob.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Motherhood

A question I get asked a lot lately is "How do you like motherhood?" There are variants, like "So, how's motherhood treating you?" or "How are you doing with this whole mom thing?" or "How do you like being a mom/having a baby/having a kid so far?" I never know how to answer these questions. "Um, I don't know, how do you like breathing?" Because it is a lot like that. Things come automatically. She is here, she is my child, I care for her. These are facts, irrefutable and unyielding. I don't think about it any more than I think about breathing. She slipped into our lives like a key into a lock, all the parts falling into place as the tumblers turn. Besides that, there have been so many changes in our lives over the past two months that it's hard to ponder them individually.

Many times over the past ten weeks my husband has looked at me in wonderment and confessed that I am handling all this much better than he thought I would. These tiny confessions do not anger or upset me, because I know that these statements actually mean you amaze me and I love you fiercely. Children were never on my radar, and neither one of us knows exactly how he was able to talk me into this whole adventure in the first place. He thought I'd have more trouble coping, adjusting, getting into a groove - whatever you want to call it. But it all comes as naturally to me as breathing.

My brain has instinctually recorded and translated her cries, given me a crash-course in Piperspeak. I can tell from the other room when she is hungry, overtired, or scared. I almost always know what she wants or needs, and it is a way of knowing that goes to the very core of my being. This has led to a few crazy-making moments when someone else will be holding her and she starts to cry, and the other person will say "oh, she's wet" or "I think she wants to go outside" or "She just wants her Grandma" *coughmymomcoughcough* when I absolutely know that she's hungry. But I am nice, I do not snatch the baby out of the arms of the other person and say "You're doing it wrong" even though I really want to. I let the other person try their solution for a few minutes. I let them try and pretend that her red-eyed, real-tears-dripping, banshee-howl crying with Extra Vibrato For That Pissed-Off Feeling means she really did want to go outside or be hugged extra-tight or have an extra blanket put on or whatever it is the person thinks she needs that is totally the wrong thing. I let all the Amateur Baby Experts take their turn. And in the end, many of them hand her back to me and say "she needs to eat" or "she's hungry" in some super-authoritative voice, like I was the one holding things up in the first place. Which sometimes makes me want to cry, but I suck it up because I am a nice person and I know that everybody wants a little baby time and I'm trying not to be a bitch by refusing to share.

I love my baby, but I do not say things like "I didn't know what love was until she came into my life" or "I can't imagine my life without her" because they are not true. I was told to expect an overwhelming rush of love, something strangling and drowning-deep. I am still waiting for that. It's more a creeping kind of love, a growing sort of love that is as matter-of-fact as her existence in our lives. It is there, every day, just as she is.

Which is not to say it's all sunshine and roses. In the early weeks, I was so tired and in so much pain (psychological as well as physical) from getting her into the world that I sometimes wished I hadn't. It wasn't that I didn't love her or that I wanted her gone. I just wanted to feel normal again, not sore and exhausted and stressed, and I couldn't help thinking that my life would be much easier at that moment if I hadn't just had a baby. I knew what to do for her, how to take care of her, but that didn't mean I liked doing it all the time. I already felt pressure to be a perfect mom, and our move back to Michigan was looming, with all its attendant financial, familial, and emotional concerns. My C-section left me wounded in body and spirit and there was no time to rest and recover.

Some nights when I was up late watching Six Feet Under DVDs over and over because I was lonely and breast-feeding her every twenty minutes for six straight hours, I would question my ability to do this. If I was thinking things like Oh God, please don't be hungry again and shut up shut up shut up, please PLEASE PLEASE just stop crying and fall asleep already at two weeks, how would I handle toddler tantrums or teenage rebellion? And the thing about kids is: there is no break. Before this, I just had to get through finals week or tough it out until my benefits kicked in or finish that project or wait until we got back from our trip, and then I could rest. Then I would get a break. But with a child, there is no break. There is no done, there is no out, there is no over. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are up late with a crying baby and wondering if you'll ever feel like yourself again, facing months until you can sleep through the night and years before you can take the plastic thingies out of every electrical socket in the house and many many years before your house will be cool, quiet, and nap-friendly in the middle of a weekend day...it can drive you mad. It can crush you if you're not careful.

When Piper was only hours old, I sat in my hospital bed and held her as she slept. I had just successfully breast-fed her and was riding the high of my new mama-hood. Oh, yeah, I thought. I can do this. She sighed contentedly, her belly full of warm milk and my arms wrapped around her. I looked down at her tiny face and then looked at my husband, and we spoke of how small things would now mean so much, how we would live for tiny moments. A smile, a laugh, an A-plus spelling test, a prom picture, first steps, watching a bicycle stay upright as she pedaled down the street. It would all start with this moment, sitting there in my shoulder-snap hospital gown, the place where the surgeon had separated her from me throbbing a little as I cradled her tiny body in my arms.

That’s what life is like now; a series of moments. Every day they come and go and I live each one and then try to remember it, hold on to it, keep it with me as long as I can.