the importance of being selfish

29 weeks

My birthday is next week. I’ll be 36 years old. Right now, after a night that ended abruptly at 4:15 (deep, dark 4:15 seen through the tiniest slits of my eyes because I just couldn’t pry them open) when you woke screaming (again), I feel like I’m going on 65. Actually, I’ll probably be better rested at 65.

Anyway, people (meaning Daddy and Nonna) have been asking me what I might want for my birthday, and the only things that come to mind are intangible. I have no need for anything other than: Sleep. Quiet. Time for myself.

This makes me feel selfish, of course. I’m not even seven months into this mom thing, and I’m already feeling like I need a break. A serious one. Perhaps a days-long one. I want to get my hair cut. I want to do my nails. I want to go shopping, once, for myself. And without you strapped to me.

I must have zero stamina. I must be weak. I must not really love you as much as other moms love their babies.

This makes me feel horribly, terribly guilty. After all, I wanted this. I wanted you. So not only am I selfish, I’m an ingrate.

And as I stood over you, then paced with you, then sat with you grappling at my neck and hair and drooling all over me at 4:15 a.m., feeling like I could cry but knowing that adding my tears to yours would do absolutely nothing to help the situation, I realized that I am grieving. I miss my old life desperately sometimes (mostly at 4:15 a.m.). More guilt.

But really, I think it’s natural for new parents to grieve their former lives, and it’s something–much like postpartum depression or sleep deprivation (both of which are no joke)–that we need to talk about more openly rather than in hushed tones, as if they’re something to be ashamed of, and setting up unrealistic expectations for storybook lives in which baby is the end all, be all, bestowing such joy upon the new family that nothing else matters anymore. I will say it: I miss my old life.

I miss the impromptu dinner dates with Daddy, the evenings at the theater, my after-work runs, my lazy weekend mornings idling hours away over the crossword puzzle, no more than two loads of laundry, evenings in front of the TV doing my nails, baking for no reason other than the joy of baking, reading for fun and time, time, time galore. I had so much time, I don’t even know how I spent it all. I miss the freedom. And I miss my relationship with Daddy and with my body, both of which have been neglected more than not.

So as I start a brand-new year of my life (which happens to coincide with the beginning of your eighth month, unbelievably), I’m telling myself not to look back but I’m gifting myself the freedom to be selfish every once in a while and not to feel bad about it. I know that taking care of me–whether it’s physically (I need to get back into the gym or at least go for a run before everything turns irrevocably to jelly) or emotionally (I will make arrangements so that Daddy and I can have us time every once in a while)–will ultimately allow me to take care of you more effectively and more willingly. Sleep would help, too.

There is courage and strength in being selfish, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that. Nonna sent me a piece about this with a note that it’s important. It is important. Nonna has taught me my whole life how to advocate for myself, and it’s critical now more than ever. If I allow my life to be consumed by yours or by our family’s, without thought to my own well-being, I will have failed her and myself.

While I will do everything in my power to teach you to be generous and big hearted and charitable and to do unto others as you’d have done to you, I will also teach you to be selfish when appropriate. Love love love with all your heart, but remember to love yourself most. I will try to do the same.

This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You tried pancakes for the first time, and toasted coconut ones at that. You are a fiend. I had to cut you off. (You also tried zucchini and didn’t hate it.)
  • You sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time and ate off the table when you and Daddy came to have lunch with me at work.

sick guppy

27/28 weeks

Two weekends ago was one of the best ever: We took you to our beloved National Aquarium for the first time, followed by our second-only date night since you were born.

You were in wonderland at the aquarium (which, by the way, has a secret family room complete with screened-off compartments for nursing–brilliant!). You were mesmerized by the rainbow of graceful swimmers behind those huge glass panels, and you really focused and took it all in. It was crowded and noisy, and you spent quite a bit of time watching the people around you, too. By the time we took a break for lunch, you were overstimulated and exhausted. I turned you around in the Bjorn so you faced in and could rest your head on my chest, and within minutes, you had wandered off into your dreams. No doubt you were dreaming of your first out-of-utero snorkeling excursion!

That night, Nonna and Opa babysat so we could have an evening out to celebrate your Aunt Danielle’s birthday. It was the first time we’d ever skipped bedtime with you, and while it was a little heart wrenching (I ran straight to your room to kiss you goodnight when we got home), it was so nice to have an adult-oriented evening out with friends.

The next day (the first day of March), winter whipped us yet again with an icy, frigid mess in the form of frozen rain. We probably wouldn’t have gone out, but your Aunt Peggy had invited us for lunch, and since she lives five minutes from us, we figured it would be an opportunity to get you out of the house. While the world outside was enveloped in a treacherous sheet of ice, we ate warm soup and yummy sandwiches–and you joined us at the table (literally, as we’d forgotten the tray for your high chair), eating sweet potato and banana. It’s a good thing Peggy had an oilcloth on the table; you made a mess!

That evening, while we were playing in your room, you army crawled for the first time, pulling yourself forward on your elbows determinedly to reach a toy. So you’re officially on the move, and you’re surprisingly efficient at getting places without using your knees, so Daddy and I now have to work, quickly, at making the house safe for you.

On Monday night, I heard you cough for the first time ever; it was a sad, little noise. I didn’t think too much of it, especially since we had your six-month well visit scheduled for the following morning. Daddy and I both went with you, and we asked your pediatrician to listen to your lungs; she said they sounded clear. You got another round of shots that day (two plus an oral vaccine), and you took them like a champ.

By Thursday, though, when winter raged one last time and dumped another 6-8 inches of snow on us, your cough had erupted into something much nastier. Your fever had peaked at 102.5 (scary!), and we were plying you with Tylenol to keep it low. You were congested and miserable, your cough had become raspy and rattling and you were wheezing when you breathed. You woke multiple times a night because you couldn’t breathe, but you fought us with all your might when we approached with the saline nose drops and the snot sucker.

Nonna and I got you back in to the doctor’s on Friday, and your pediatrician prescribed a steroid inhaler, assuring us it was just in case things got worse (your fever was under control) because your lungs still sounded clear. Trying to find an aerochamber attachment and pediatric mask for this Albuterol inhaler on a Friday night (I won’t bore you with the details of the multiple phone calls to pharmacies, prescription carrier, insurance, durable medical equipment suppliers and so on) was akin to searching for the holy grail. On Saturday, I asked the pediatrician on call how other parents manage to do this, and he set us up with a nebulizer and a new prescription for the Albuterol liquid solution that works with the machine.

By Saturday afternoon, when nothing had gotten any better, we’d decided a nebulizer treatment was warranted. After a first failed attempt at getting you to sit still with the mask anywhere near your face, we figured out that plopping you in front of the TV while sitting in my lap kept you calm enough for me to hold the mask over your nose and mouth for the five minutes required for the treatment. And it did really seem to help.

But by Monday, our nights had become nightmares. You woke multiple times, screaming in what sounded like sheer agony. Nothing could calm you: not  picking you up and walking with you, not Tylenol, not gripe water, not saline nose drops and snot sucking (that only seemed to make things worse), not singing, not rocking, nothing. One night, you screamed for nearly an hour straight. Another night, I broke down and nursed you somewhere in the deepest depths of the middle of the night, something I haven’t done since you were a month old. None of us were getting any sleep, and your panicked screaming started to scare us.

Mimi and I took you back in to the doctor on Monday, and again she confirmed your lungs were clear. We were just going to have to wait this out, she said, and indicated that if you were battling RSV, as she suspected, it might be three to four weeks before you were completely rid of it. We just needed to stay the course.

Every day, we hoped that night would be better. Still, the screaming continued. I resolved to give it a few more days and then take you back in; the screaming wasn’t normal, and I was afraid something more serious was going on.

But then, just like that, things began to improve. On Thursday, you were looking and feeling significantly better. Your breathing had cleared, and the wheezing and raspy cough had dissipated. You were still waking up a couple of times at night, but when you did, your cry sounded much more like you. On Saturday morning, I looked over at the clock when I heard you cry for the first time, and I actually rubbed my eyes and looked at it again to make sure I was seeing it correctly: 6:45 a.m. You’d slept for almost 12 hours straight.

And so here we are, having lived through your first significant upper-respiratory infection (with Daddy and I now trying to fight it off ourselves). I can only imagine what’s to come once you start daycare in a couple of weeks (eek!). Our job is to try to keep you as healthy as possible–and when we can’t, to keep you as comfortable as possible. Those 10 nights or so were rough, and I can tell you now there’s absolutely nothing worse than listening to your baby scream and watching the minutes tick by on the nursery clock. But that, too, passes. May we never have to pull out that nebulizer again.

This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You are army crawling everywhere–and you’re so fast. You are highly motivated by your wooden activity block, your push toy, the cat condo and (strangely) the edges of your play mat and your rug upstairs (you like pulling them up). Also, you like swiveling yourself in full circles while on your tummy on the wooden floor.
  • You tried butternut squash for the first time and loved it. You also like honeydew, although perhaps not quite as much as cantaloupe.
  • We’ve officially lowered your crib mattress one notch.

from where we stand

26 weeks

They told me not to blink, but somehow it happened. And here we are, a full half year in, time racing away from me at a pace I’ve never known it to keep before. You’re six months old. You’ve hit too many milestones for me even to tell you how many they are anymore, “firsts” come and gone, never to be firsts again. It makes me a tiny bit sad in the midst of this hurricane of joy that has upended our lives. But really, I’m way too busy being happy to spend any time being sad.

As you lay across my lap this evening, having nursed yourself to complete relaxation as you often do at your evening feeding, I thought about how far we’ve come. You came into the world spindly and scrawny, and we exhausted so much energy those first weeks trying to get you to eat and to gain weight. Now, your Buddha belly precedes you, your thighs push the outer limits of your 9-month pants (!) and if we photograph you at the right angle, you have no fewer than three chins.

26percentThe tears I shed over our early breastfeeding woes seem like they defined a previous life, decades ago, and my heart dances for our success. When you were born, I said I wanted to breastfeed you at least two months. At the two-month mark, I said I’d be happy if we made it to four. At four months, I said that six months was my ultimate goal. Well, here we are, six months in, and you still nurse contentedly. I’m so proud of us–proud of you for sticking it out through the struggle and proud of me for not giving up when it would have taken so much pressure off of me to just let it go. (I still hate pumping, but I’ve found ways–like browsing Facebook and spending money on Amazon–that make it less tedious.) So here I am, one of the 26 percent of (American) full-time working moms who have breastfed their babies at least six months. I’m so very, very proud to have earned this badge; for me, it’s one of honor.

I’m also proud of how you accept your world and all of the new things you’re encountering. You’ve embraced solid food with gusto (although given my adoration of all things edible, that’s not surprising), and you are always willing to try something we put in front of you, grabbing it with your tiny, pudgy hand and bringing it, so efficiently, to your mouth to sample. So far, you’ve given carrots, sweet potato, avocado, parsnip, broccoli, apple, pear, banana and cantaloupe a whirl. Oh, and oatmeal (spoon fed, of course) is a clear favorite. You scream for it between bites and then want nothing more than to lick the spoon clean when you’re done.

You love water; you’ve learned to take (less-than-graceful) sips from a nosey cup, but when you see it coming, you can barely contain your excitement. I’m fairly certain you’d leap out of your high chair to lap at it if you could. You haven’t quite got the whole technique down–you often stick your tongue out into the cup, like the cats do–but you’re close. You’ve also tried drinking from a straw, but we’ve had less success with that.

You love water so much, in fact, that last weekend, when we took you outside for a few minutes during the biggest snow storm of the winter–it dropped about 10 inches–you grazed some of the light, fluffy snow off the top of our yard and stuck it immediately into your mouth. Yum! Cold! You did this consistently for the 10 minutes we were out there.

When you’re not focused on feeding yourself, you’re rolling about or on your tummy, trying to inch yourself toward a toy. In fact, you’ve managed to pull your legs up underneath you in an attempt to crawl, I think. You’re not there yet, but we’ve been watching your early experiments with the mechanics of it all. You’re also now sitting up with no support; that happened just this past weekend, and Daddy and I nearly died. One minute, you were tipping over from a sitting position as you’ve been doing for months now, and the next minute, you were sitting up and righting yourself when you started to lean. It’s incredible. This makes bath time lots of fun, as you no longer have to be propped up in your tub. You reach for your toys, sometimes tipping forward face first, but you navigate that small space like a pro.

These developmental leaps of yours simply amaze me. You study everything so carefully, really drinking it in, exploring everything (primarily with your mouth) and then processing it. Inanimate objects are fun, but things that move on their own are the absolute bee’s knees for you. The cats are your favorite things ever; you smile and giggle every time you see them, and I’m so thankful for them–for the pure glee they bring to your life.

This past week, Nonna had to take a couple of sick days (hired help these days … ), so I took a day off of work to be with you and then Daddy took one, too. On our day together, we went to Storyville at Woodlawn Library, a Disney World-esque wonderland for kids built around reading, playing and imagination. There are all sorts of fun areas there that I know you’ll delight in exploring when you’re older (a tree house, a caboose, a theater, a play house, etc.), but for now, we hung out in the Baby Park. You sat on the foam floor and played with new toys (new to you)–preferring the ones that made the most noise, of course–and we read a few books. You didn’t want to leave, and we’ll be back frequently, I’m sure.

Today, in our effort to dedicate some time every weekend to an activity that’s you-focused (it’s so easy to putz around the house all weekend when we’re working full time, and there’s always so much to do, but this is also our only uninterrupted you time), we’re taking you to the National Aquarium for the first time. I can just imagine how you’ll react to seeing all those fish and sharks and skates and eels and turtles swim about. I’m excited for you!

What fun life has become with you! You’re at such a delightful age now. And what a difference from those first six or eight unending weeks when we couldn’t understand how or why anyone would want to have a baby and certainly not more than one! Well, I get it now. And with your milestones ticking away so quickly, I can appreciate the inclination to keep having more kids, just to have a little bit more time immersed in these wonder weeks when everything in beautiful and shiny and new.

This Week in Guppy Growth

  • Sitting! You are sitting up by yourself, completely unsupported, and doing a bang-up job at it, too. You’re able to compensate when you lean, and you only very infrequently topple over anymore. Crawling’s not too far down the line: You’re managing to scoot forward a little by bringing your knees up under your chest. It’s still pretty disorganized, as far as movements go, but you’ll get there soon enough. Daddy and I have a lot of work to do to get the house ready for that step.
  • We finally took the changing pad and bassinet off of your Pack N Play and turned it into a playpen; we’ve stuffed it with toys, and you seem to enjoy spending time in there. It’s great for us, since you’ll entertain yourself for good chunks of time while we take care of things like bottle washing and lunch preparing.
  • You love going places with us in your Baby Bjorn One carrier, which has replaced the K’tan, which we used exclusively the first few months. We tried turning you around to face out, and you are happy with this new arrangement. So much to see!
  • I think we may have to lower your crib mattress. It’s on the list for this weekend.
  • You’re fascinated with two toys that had been “saved” until now:
    • a wooden Zany Zoo block with activities on all sides. You like to stand next to it (supported, of course) and hold onto the wires bent all which way on top and play with the beads that slide along the wires.
    • a push toy (in “non-push” mode) that looks somewhat like a lawn mower but has lots of moving stuff on top that you can bat at.
  • Just this past week, you tried cantaloupe and pear. You’re a huge fan of both.