Life as a New Mom

A first-time mom adjusting to her new everything


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A saga, in three acts

SETTING: Carolina home, present time over the course of a week

 

ACT I.

A mother-in-law visits.  She is well-meaning and the visit is nice.  She takes many photographs of her grandson, and promptly changes all her Facebook everything to use those pictures.  This is to the chagrin of her daughter-in-law, the baby’s mother, because the grandmother receives outpouring of congratulations on how awesome the grandmother looks with the baby, and demands for more pictures.  The baby’s mother is annoyed that people feel they can demand unlimited pictures for Facebook.  Also, she is likely annoyed by the implication that she has the time to take pictures because clearly babies are easy and all you need to do is throw them at the wall like pasta and a well-cooked picture magically appears.

 

ACT II.

Our intrepid mother takes her not-yet-3-months-old son to the DMV in order to re-title and register a car, along with getting new plates.  This is done early in the morning, in an attempt to beat the lines.  The son has ideas other than cooperation, resulting in embarrassment and frustration for the mother, and annoyance for everyone else because they’re already at the DMV, an uncharted circle of Hell, and now there is a crabby baby in Hell with them.

 

ACT III.

Wherein our mother and baby are besieged by a father-in-law.  This man detests their mother-in-law/grandmother, and is an otherwise pushy and obnoxious fellow.  The heroine of this saga, our young mother, tolerates him with forbearance while making absolutely certain this man will never be involved in caring for the baby.  Perhaps this is unjust, holding a baby as hostage for good behavior, but the mother does not care.  Someone who believes that everything is about him and is older than 3 does not have sufficient empathy for being around the baby. Until the father-in-law establishes a pattern of repeated, respectful behavior with no derogatory comments toward the father of the baby, our young mother has no interest in pursuing a relationship and therefore the baby shall have none either.  This visit culminates in tension and the father-in-law’s departure is met with a sigh of relief and thanks to Odin (because this is a SAGA, and those are all Norse if the literature are to be believed…and I like thinking of myself as a Valkyrie).

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Things I never expected

  • Changing my shirt in the middle of night because Widget vomited down the inside of my bra
  • Doing everything one-handed because Widget does not like being alone
  • Having massive (for me) boobs that aren’t as much fun as I’d hoped.  I blame thrush.
  • Having moments when I can’t console him, his face is the color of steak, and I wonder what I’m doing wrong as a mother
  • The hilarious cranky faces Widget makes
  • Drool all over me, ALL the time.  Seriously.  All the time.
  • How difficult baby nails are to cut and how desperate I’d be for the Claws of Pain to let go of my neck skin
  • How much Widget’s smile looks like my Daddy’s


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522,720

That’s how many minutes are in 363 days.  It’s how many minutes it took for my mother to die, me to have a baby, and my father to die.  In a way, I really appreciate that my parents were apart less than a year.  But in others, the entire situation feels incredibly unfair.

The reason I haven’t posted in a while is because I had the baby Dec. 4, after jackrabbiting through labor in just under 8 hours, including a 2.5 hour nap and 2.5 hours of pushing, and a near miss on getting an epidural.  Overall, I guess I was pretty lucky to have such a short labor.

They kept me 3 days in the hospital, where I learned that feeding the Bobblehead needs to happen without a blanket or he’ll just sleep, and showed my dad his grandson via video conference since he wasn’t coming down until January 10th.  I was discharged the 6th, went to our first pediatrician appointment the morning of the 7th, and at 3:30 in the afternoon I got the phone call telling me the police found my daddy dead in his home, of sudden but natural causes.  He was 61, and died 3 days before the first anniversary of my mama’s death.

So, at 4 days postpartum and being home just over 24 hours, we loaded the car with clothes, gear, baby, and dog, and drove 9 hours from the Carolinas to Ohio.  As executor, I had to be the one to do everything.  In the past week, I’ve cleared out his apartment, started insurance claims, begun probate, and had his funeral.  We’re going to try to go home Tuesday or Wednesday next week.  Today my son is 11 days old, and lived at home about 28 hours.

I don’t know what life will hold after we get back; there has been no chance to just bond as a family or establish a regular schedule.  I hope it’s easier once all the estate business ends and I have nothing I must do except care for Bobblehead.  Maybe it won’t be.  All I know is it’s amazing what you can do physically, mentally, and emotionally when you have no choice.


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A family dynamic

Sandy’s questions, over at The Reluctant Entertainer were so good I ended up writing a massive comment and thought I’d write a post as well.
This is the first year my husband and I will have some external motivation to develop our own family dynamic.  With the holidays coming up, this affects our ability to entertain guests or travel to our extended families as guests.  Baby is the entire reason we now have the motivation to strike out on our own and find a new rhythm for our holidays.

Previously, we had a routine that worked for us as a couple, since we had no children and could easily travel with the dog for the 8 hours one-way it took to get home to our families for Christmas and Thanksgiving.  They had, of course, fallen into the rhythm of hosting these holidays, and it was always expected that we would be there at one family’s celebration (or both, in the case of Christmas).  It was complicated because my husband’s parents are divorced, so there were essentially 3 sets to see.  But we never saw the need to rock the boat, and the one year we offered to host Thanksgiving, people said they would come and we were alone after everyone decided it was inconvenient to drive to us.

This year, the question of their convenience doesn’t matter to us as a family as much.  We do want to see them, of course, but at the same time we emphatically do not want to travel with a newborn for that period of time.  It provided a great opportunity to sit down as a couple and discuss what mattered most to each of us and reach a compromise.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I always feel closest to my husband when we resolve issues like this together.  It brings us an additional degree of intimacy, because we’ve proven to each other that we can open up about our feelings, good and bad, and be safe with each other.

So we talked.  About how he wants to involve his family, and I want to establish ourselves as a family first, with our own traditions.  How I was afraid of traveling that long with an infant, and disrupting any forming routines.  How I was concerned about the immune system that wouldn’t be fully established.  How we both deeply want to share our family with our extended families during the holidays, and how our family is now ourselves and Baby.  We talked and talked, and came to the conclusion that we could manage about 2-3 people at a time, not staying with us at the house, for long weekends.  We’ll offer each couple or person a weekend, invite them to stay for 3 or 4 days, and if they can’t come we’ll do our best to make it work with them, but our schedule will be our top priority.  And we’re not inviting anyone for the weekend of Thanksgiving, or for Christmas Eve/Day.  Those are for us, our first opportunity to share the best of our childhoods with Baby, and once we figure out what we want, next year we can discuss with our extended families what we would like to see happen (and compromise again!).


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Holidays…

It should be fairly obvious from all the advice out there that holidays make new and new-ish parents cringe.  I am no exception.

My experience has been that even though my husband and I have been together over 5 years, we still did holidays mostly the way our parents wanted us to.  It wasn’t a battle worth fighting, and we were comfortable in our traditions, even though we had to adopt some of the other family’s in order to make everything fit.  I am slightly shamed to say that my parents made way more of an accommodation than my in-laws, but now that we’ll have a child for the Big Holidays (possibly Thanksgiving this year, though I’m due about 4 days after, and definitely Christmas) I am not willing to go with the status quo.

Until now, it’s been about doing what our families wanted and trying to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.  The result of this, of course, was that we never really had a good time.  Extra complications arise due to my in-laws being divorced, so there are 3 sets of parents involved.  Where’s the harm in this, you ask?  So far, there hasn’t really been any harm aside from our feelings of stress when we try to make everyone happy and no one actually is happy.

But we haven’t had the chance to develop our own holiday traditions, or find our own holiday identity.

This Thanksgiving, no one is allowed to come down.  That was a rule put in place by me, because I don’t want 9 people in my home either right before I have a baby, or right after, or (god forbid) during their visit.  Christmas is likely going to be delayed, again at my instigation.

I have no problems with people coming down to see us – our family all live 8 hours away and I understand they’ll want to meet the newest family member.  As my sister-in-law T. put it,”we’re not coming down to see you anyway – nobody cares about you!  We just want to see the baby.”  The visit is a double-edged sword since they live so far away: we get to see them, a rare thing, but they never come down just for a few days.  It’s usually at least 5 days, and they stay with us.  That can’t happen this year.

It’s about knowing yourself; I know I’m introverted and social situations drain me rather than energize me, and having them come while our child is barely 1 month old is too much on what will already be drained resources.  I also know that having so many people staying with us before 12 weeks is ill-advised in terms of baby’s immune system.  Our Christmas compromise is this: people must stay at a hotel instead of with us, and they must come in January, so we have the actual holiday to bond and spend as a family.  I’m also not refereeing the non-amicable divorce between my in-laws, so they’ll have to either be cordial or work out with us when the other is coming so paths don’t cross.

I hope this all goes as smoothly in reality as I imagine it happening in my head…