Learning Curve

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
– Benjamin Spock

As I write this, we’re somewhere in South Carolina, heading north. We’ve spent the last week traveling down the east coast and now we’re on our way home.

We decided even before Maggie was born that we’d take this trip down to Florida before my maternity leave was over, since I had to use all my PTO for maternity leave and therefore a vacation later in the year couldn’t happen (I earn 6 hours of vacation every two weeks; it’s going to take me months to build up even a week).

I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of traveling 2500 miles with a breastfeeding 10-week-old in tow, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Our plan of attack for driving days has basically been to feed her right before leaving, then drive like hell for 3 hours or until she wakes to eat; stop to feed her and change her and give her 30 or so minutes to stretch her legs; get back in the car and drive like hell; repeat until we reach our destination. I feel bad that she’s spending so much time in the carseat, and on driving days she doesn’t give us the first long night sleep stretch we’ve become accustomed to, but she’s been a real trooper. Usually by the time she just can’t take anymore, we’re pulling in to wherever we’re spending the night.

I’ve become pretty comfortable nursing in public on this trip, too, out of necessity. Before this week, I’d only nursed anywhere besides my breastfeeding group and the nursing room at Babies R Us a handful of times and always with a cover. On this trip, I nursed in the car many times (surprisingly comfortable; I’d never tried it before because I assumed it wouldn’t be), at Epcot about 5 times (only once in their nursing room because, although it was very nice, it wasn’t very centrally located), in the mall, and in numerous restaurants. I still usually use a cover, but twice – both at Epcot – it was too hot under there and Maggie couldn’t get comfortable to focus on eating, so I took it off and just tried to be as discreet as possible. No one said anything, but if they had, I’d have politely told them that my daughter’s need to be fed trumped whatever offense they imagined they were suffering. And for good measure, I checked out the laws on breastfeeding in public in all the states we’d be going through, and in all of them except Virginia, breastfeeding in public is protected (in Virginia, it’s only protected on property owned by the state). I promised David before Maggie was born that I wouldn’t become a “lactivist,” in the sense that I wouldn’t purposefully try to goad people into challenging my right to breastfeed in public to make a point, but I have zero problem standing up for myself (and Maggie) if the opportunity should arise.
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We’re home now. We got back yesterday around 9:30, later than we hoped, but about when we expected. We promised Maggie a carseat-free day today, and I think it will be great for her.

Some other things we learned on this trip:

  • Costco diapers, which are inexpensive and well-regarded by many parents, just aren’t for us.  We had been using Target brand, which also come highly recommended and cost approximately the same, because Maggie was too small for the Costco ones we bought before she was born.  Once she grew into them and we ran out of Target diapers, we started using them.  I do not know why it took us so long – and so many stained, adorable baby outfits – to realize that they are not the best fit for her.  We arrived in Savannah last Saturday night just as Maggie blew out the first diaper of our trip, then another one that night at dinner (this, after at close to two weeks of near-daily leaks), before it finally dawned on us.  We stopped at Target on the way home from dinner that night and were blessedly blow-out free the rest of the week.  David’s at Costco returning the unopened box as we speak.
  • We have everyone fooled. We so often feel like we’re floundering as parents, but everyone else seems to think we’re old pros.  I guess we’ve perfected the art of “fake it til you make it.”
  • We made the absolute right decision for us in putting Maggie in her crib in her own room from day one.  She slept in the same room as us in her Pack-n-Play the whole trip, and while she’s not a terribly noisy sleeper, she *is* a terribly noisy fall-asleeper and wake-upper.  At home, because she’s in the other room and the white noise machine covers some of her crazy grunts and groans, we don’t notice so much so we sleep a little better.  On vacation, we heard everything, and David finally has some sympathy for what I go through overnight (because he was waking up every time she did, which doesn’t usually happen at home).
  • Pro tip: If you want your baby to sleep for seven hours for the first time ever, take her to Epcot for 9.5 hours, where you’ll be required to take her in and out of the stroller a thousand times a day (because they don’t let strollers in many places) and there are a million things for her to see and she will be so worn out by the end of the day that she won’t even notice that you don’t move her from her carseat to the Pack-n-Play.  (As a first-time mom, though, you will be so freaked out that your baby hasn’t woken up to eat that you won’t be able to sleep after hour four or five.  Also, you will be so tired that you won’t bother to get up to make sure the baby’s still breathing.  Probably she is.)

In other news, David and I hardly fought at all on this trip, and when we did disagree or were snappy with each other, we were able to diffuse the situation fairly quickly.  We’re trying to not be so reactive and to communicate better, which I’m hoping will really help us.  So probably I’m not going to end up divorced before my baby is one, which is good.

In other other news, the grapefruit beer at the Germany Pavilion at Epcot is amazing.  Honestly, if I hadn’t been nursing, I might have sent David on his way with the baby and set up camp there and just proceeded to drink my face off.  I’ve Googled and I may be taking a trip to Total Wine today to see if I can find it in the store.

I think that’s all the news for now!

Maggie at Epcot

Maggie at Epcot

Eight Weeks

No one is ever quite ready; everyone is always caught off guard. Parenthood chooses you. And you open your eyes, look at what you’ve got, say “Oh, my gosh,” and recognize that of all the balls there ever were, this is the one you should not drop. It’s not a question of choice.
–from Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos

So, when last we left off, I was telling you how hard having a newborn is.  Four weeks later, it’s still hard, but it’s gotten infinitely easier.  Part of it is getting more sleep – Maggie regularly gives us a good 4-hour stretch the first sleep of the night, then two more stretches between 2 and 3 hours each – though I am living for the day I get at least 6 hours in a row.  Part of it is that now I know her better, and we have a rhythm – learning her sleep cues and watching her awake time to get her down for naps before she starts fussing has been key.  Part of it is growing out of the constant crying, and although we probably still have a few more weeks of regular nighttime fussiness ahead, she’s already so much better in that department.

She’s also started smiling, which is basically the best thing in the world and makes everything else seem like not that big a deal.

But there are other things that are harder now.  David and I butt heads constantly and sometimes I think we’re not going to make it.  And in the worst of those times, I think I don’t care if we do.  We were such a team in the beginning, despite a few sleep-deprived hurtful comments, and now it feels like we rarely agree on anything relating to Maggie and each of us is so sure we’re right that we don’t try to see the other’s point of view.  I feel like I’m constantly asking his permission for things and he feels like I’m constantly telling him he’s wrong.  I don’t know how to get through this.

There’s already so much doubt and judgment in parenting, and when the person who shares this responsibility with me questions the way I do things or the suggestions I make, it makes it that much worse.  As I write that, of course, I realize I’m probably causing the same anxiety in him.

I do care, of course, and I don’t want to split up.  Even in my worst, angriest, saddest moments, I know we’re better together than apart.  I also know it’s unwise to make any big decisions when my hormones are still all over the place and I’m still so sleep-deprived.  And so I bite my tongue.  Some things, once said, can’t ever be taken back.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.
– Mark Twain

Wednesday’s Writing Group prompt: What is the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

I am not going to go into details on this (so maybe I’ve picked the wrong thing for this prompt?). Something happened to me – or, more accurately, someone did something to me – many, many years ago. It fucked me up in a lot of ways for a really long time, and probably still does, to an extent.  But the person responsible is not a monster; I don’t hate this person, and I’m not angry at this person. I forgave this person a long time ago and, honestly, it wasn’t even that hard to do.  I’m responsible for me, and any anger or hurt or resentment I carried over what happened only hurt me, kept me from moving forward, so it had to go. And that was the end of that.

Tidying Up

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. 
– Erma Bombeck

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Next to godliness, or just keeping yourself off of Hoarders?  Where do you fall on the cleanliness/organization spectrum?

Well.  I’m not that married to clean, so much as I am neat.  I actually actively dislike the idea of cleaning, especially dusting, though I love the end result.  But clutter makes me crazy, which means David often makes me crazy.  Look, I just took these pictures of our respective desks, no staging involved:

My desk

My desk

David's desk

David’s desk

And so it goes.  If I took pictures of our dressers, the level of clutter would be comparable.  Basically, this is a thing I’ve just come to accept.  I more or less ask him to limit the clutter to these two areas (and his half of the closet) and keep the rest of the house clear, and that works for us.  When it starts to bother me, I remind myself that company doesn’t spend time in our bedroom and we can always close the door to the office if need be, and when it’s just us, who cares?  Relax, lady.

Three Big Years

And most of my memories have escaped me
or confused themselves with dreams
If heaven’s all they want it to be
send your prayers to me, care of 1983
– John Mayer, 83

Today’s Writing Group prompt: What were the 3 most significant or pivotal years in your life so far, excluding the year of your birth?  Why?

1993: I meet J in August at our summer job. We spend hours in his car, just talking (honest!). I’m his first kiss. I will love him, in some way, for the rest of my life.  I spend the fall semester of my senior year of high school living in Barcelona with my family. At first I hate it – it’s taken me away from everything I know and all the experiences of senior year. After I enroll in school there, everything changes – I’m surrounded by kids my own age who are eager to befriend “la americana,” and we wander the city together for hours on end. I spend four months falling in love with a country, a city, and its people, in a love affair that continues to this day. I cry endlessly when it’s time to come home.

2002: Say it with me: I lose my hearing overnight at age 25; chaos, depression, anger, madness, and, ultimately, acceptance, ensue. Two weeks later, I fall and tear my rotator cuff, ultimately requiring surgery.  Two weeks after that, I come out to the parking lot to find my car with a flat. When I can’t get the lug nuts off I sink to the pavement and cry in defeat until someone drives by and takes pity on me. It is not a good year.

2007: I turn 30 and celebrate in Richmond with a wonderful, intimate dinner with friends and family. I earn my 50-pounds magnet from Weight Watchers. I graduate law school 15th in my class and earn a scholarship selected by the faculty. I move to D.C. to start a somewhat prestigious job, and sometime in my first week on the job, I meet David.  I sack up and ask a man out for the first time in my life – he turns me down, but it doesn’t matter. I buy a new car and then get in an accident five weeks later. In December, David and I have drinks outside work for the first time, and I realize that I am in deep, deep trouble.