Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Happiest Baby is the One I Have Had the Least to Do With

When Erez was born back in February, I was a little worried. After the relatively relaxed and blissful week long stay in the hospital, we transitioned home, and he almost immediately started exhibiting colicky behaviors. He would cry for hours on end and there was little I could do to console him. I would walk/bounce him around the house, make soft shush-shush noises in his ears, give him gripe water, gas drops, and whatever else I could find that would possibly offer my boy a little solace.
As it turns out, it was a formula issue. I felt guilty enough for not breast-feeding my baby boy, having breastfed my other two kids. Knowing that formula was giving him serious issues and discomfort KILLED me. Figuring out which formula worked for Erez quickly became my number one priority.
And I DID find a formula that worked for him. Once we made the switch, it was only a matter of two or three days before my unhappy newborn transformed into a happy baby. Since then, Erez has become our HAPPIEST baby. His resting face is “smiley face”. He is always giggling and cooing, and on the rare occasion when he DOES cry, it is always for a very valid reason.
I should be thrilled, right? I mean, my baby boy is AMAZING. He is the kind of baby parents dream of having. He is the Gerber baby, only happier. He seriously has a personality that inspires me, and he is only six months old.
So what’s my issue?
My happiest baby is the one I have had the LEAST to do with.
I went back to work exactly 8 weeks after Erez was born. I felt like I had to. I liked my job, and I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to have to go through a whole new job search to find a job I liked LESS.
So, as a full-time working mom, I see Erez briefly in the mornings and in the evenings, and get to spend a good amount of time with him on the weekends. I cuddle with him in my bed at night. But that is it.
With my first born, my eldest, I worked only part time and pretty much attached her to my hip for the first year of her life. I wore her in slings, held her incessantly, breastfed her on demand. With my second son, I took a year off from work so I could be with him ALWAYS.
It’s not that they were UNhappy babies. But they were not THIS happy. They were never as happy as Erez is, every single day of his life.
I know that babies are born with their own personalities and all, but this happiness situation has caused me to seriously question how much of an effect my attachment parenting had on my other two kids. Maybe it negatively impacted them? I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but did breastfeeding make my other kids LESS happy?
I know Erez loves me. He looks for me in a room, he reaches for my hair or my face, he smiles (of course!) from ear to ear when I pick him up at daycare in the afternoon. But I am not the center of Erez’s universe, the way I was for my other two. His life does not depend on me the way theirs did. I am not his food source, his transportation, and his constant playmate the way I was with the others.
Here’s the thing. Right now, I am at a place where I don’t WANT to be totally depended on. I kind of feel overwhelmed with momhood. I occasionally feel the urge to run away from all the responsibilities that come with being a mom. I have seriously been craving “me” time, and have been wanting to rediscover the part of me that is not a mommy, that has been pushed to the backburner over the last six years. So why, when I am craving more independence, do I still wish I was so much more important to my baby and so much more a factor of his happiness?
Like many people, I like to feel needed. I like to feel valued. I like to feel deeply loved. It makes me feel big and great and purposeful.
I truly hope I can experience those feelings with Erez. I hope I can learn to embrace his happiness, not as a sign of what I may have done wrong with my other kids, but what I have done right with all of them. I hope I can see it not as a result of me having less time to love him, but as a result of him feeling loved despite our limited time together. I hope I can take pride in his happiness, rather than using it to question my own value.

I hope I can feel all those things. I’m just not there yet.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Considering a third baby? Read this.

If you are even considering getting pregnant with a third child, it is important for you to know certain things.

Needless to say, I won't be the only one warning you about how your life will change once the third baby arrives. You will get many warnings about life with three kids, both warranted and unwarranted, from many different people. 

When you go to the bank in the third trimester of your third pregnancy, the bank teller will smile sweetly at you and ask you if you are expecting your first baby. When you smile back sheepishly and tell her that you are expecting your THiRD child, her expression will change. She will know the balance in your savings account, and she will suddenly be telling you with her eyes that you CANNOT afford a third child. 

She may be right.

When you and your family bravely go to Chuck E. Cheese one night for dinner during your thirty seventh week of pregnancy, the manager will specifically come over to you, corner you, and tell you with a very tired face that he too has three children. He will share with you that he is working seven jobs including this one, just so he can send his children to college. He will say that the third child changed EVERYTHING, and you will sense that he does not mean "change" in an amazing, exciting, revelatory way. 

He may be right.

Many many other people will warn you that you and your husband are about to be to be outnumbered, as if you and your children are at war with one another, and you are about to LOSE that war.

They may also be right. 

Listen. Having a baby, whether it be your first or your ninth, is always incredible. Babies are beautiful creatures. Everything they do, even the expressions they make when they are farting, is adorable. There is no denying the cuteness. But no matter how cute that baby is, the reality of life with three kids is pretty UN-cute.

For instance, your day is going to begin at 3:30 a.m. No, you are not suddenly going to become a morning news reporter. You probably chose not to pursue news reporting as a career because you specifically wanted to avoid having to wake up at 3:30 a.m. And yet... Your adorable baby will wake you up at 3:30 am, screaming for nourishment.  You will feed him, burp him, change his diaper, and rock him back to sleep. At 4:30 am, your middle child will wake up, completely convinced it is time for breakfast. You will show him the dark sky outside his bedroom window, tuck him back into bed, kiss him on the forehead, and tell him not to open his eyes for another three hours. By about 4:45, you will JUST be falling back to sleep when your oldest child will wake up, begging you to help her find her iPad so she can watch YouTube videos of things being made out of Play Doh. At 5:15, your middle child will wake up again, and will threaten to cry loud enough to wake the baby if you don't bring him downstairs for breakfast immediately. So you will bring him downstairs and you will feed him Cocoa Puffs.

Also, you are going to immediately brew a very BIG pot of coffee. You are going to drink 3/4 of the pot before 6 am.

Getting your family out the door of your home is going to take 27 days of planning. You will need maps, strategies, back-up plans, emergency contacts, and a member of the military to make it happen. Your eldest child will somehow forget to wear socks or shoes. Your middle child will wear all of his clothes backwards, will take fifty seven hours to decide what he wants to bring to school for show and tell, and will suddenly want to talk to you about every rock in your front yard before he gets into the mini van. Your baby will hate his car seat so much and will cry so hard it will make him spit up all over his onesie and blanket, so you will have to change him, and then you will get him back into his car seat just in time for him to poop in his diaper.

You will have exactly thirty four seconds to get your own body ready to leave the house in the morning. Your self-maintenance routine will have to be uber efficient, and will need to be able to be completed during the time you are idling in your mini van at a red light or stop sign. You will keep your deodorant and your eyeliner in your pocketbook and you will not care that the man in the car next to you is staring at you as you stick your left hand under your right armpit while applying your eyeliner with your right hand.

You are going to need to make sure your place of employment offers a very liberal "sick day" policy, because for 359 days out of the year, at least one of your children will be ill with something very highly contagious. On the days when your children are NOT deathly ill, you will go to work feeling like you are going to accomplish a lot. Twenty minutes later, the principle of your eldest child's school will call to tell you your daughter stuck a bead up her nose and they can't get it out. 

You will know all of the names of all of the staff at the pediatrician's office. You will have a chair that you consider YOUR chair at the pediatrician's office. You will seriously consider bringing a sleeping bag and camping out in the hallway outside the pediatrician's office just so you can save on gas.

You are no longer going to eat at meal times. Dinner will be spent holding and feeding your baby with one hand while pouring ketchup, buttering noodles, cleaning juice spills, cutting chicken, peeling apples, and wiping faces with your other hand. If you intend to eat, you will need to make yourself a plate of something edible, hide it under your shirt, and sneak into the bathroom to eat it in under four minutes. You will need to learn to consume food without ever needing to actually chew it. 

Also, your eldest child will become obsessed with collecting very teeny tiny toys that are exactly the right size for your baby to choke on.

Also, your two older children will love coming up with new fun games like "let's see who can stick their fingers as far into the baby's eyes as possible" or "who can break the baby swing by using it as a human catapult?"

Getting all three of your children to bed is going to take eight and a half hours. You will need to fill up 2 water bottles, break up six arguments over who gets to play with what toy during bathtime, brush 40 teeth, read 81 books, and sing 172 lullabies. Your eldest will try on seven different pairs of pajamas before settling on the ones she wants. Your middle child will ask 2,693 questions about the universe. Your baby will spit out his pacifier nine million times and cry every single time it happens.

And finally, at 1:37 am, you will feel relaxed enough to watch a few seconds of TV and fall into a deep, deep slumber, until you are once again woken at 3:30 am.

And yet, despite this crazy life, you will have zero regrets. Why? Because everything that third baby does is going to be absolutely adorable.

Friday, April 1, 2016

10 Day Countdown

It is now ten days until my maternity leave ends and I return to work. Part of me feels ready to be reunited with my desk, with my Google calendar and daily emails and responsibilities and deadlines. The other part of me gets caught up in staring at Erez's face, hoping he will be okay in daycare, and feeling my heart break a little in advance of our separation. I wish things were different, that maternity leave was longer, that I could be present in a more complete way to witness his daily milestones. I ache that I won't be. But I also love my job and don't want to sacrifice it, or make a change in my career, or give up the second paycheck that benefits everyone in our family. It is a shame and wrong that our country isn't better about these things, about giving parents ample time to be with their babies without having to choose between their jobs and their children.

The past seven weeks with Erez has been everything: beautiful, rewarding, exhausting... He is and always will be my miracle baby. When I look at him, I think about my surgery last February. I think about the hard decision I made to give up pieces of my body in order to hopefully up my chances of a prolonged life, of being there for my kids, and how I was strangely rewarded by the universe with a pregnancy, as if I was being told my decision was a wise one for yet another reason. Erez is also proof that my body rallied after a crazy ordeal, and how lucky I am, at forty, to have had yet another healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy. He is my "everything happens for a reason" baby and my "expect the unexpected" baby.

Here is just a little of what I have learned about Erez over the past seven weeks: he is a better sleeper than either of my other children were; he loves to touch and hold fabric; he loves it when I gently touch his forehead; he really dislikes having a poopy diaper; he sleeps with his eyes open sometimes (creepy); he raises his left eyebrow a lot, like he is already highly skeptical of the world; he makes noises all the time - when eating, sleeping, peeing, breathing; he likes when I talk to him in a Minnie Mouse voice; he enjoys looking at lights and curtains; his resting face is that of an 87 year old man, but when he smiles he looks like a baby; he loves snuggles; he hates burping; he seems to notice all the artwork on our walls, and seems to especially like the tree art piece that I made that is hanging above his crib; he hates his car seat and bouncy chair but loves his rock n' play; his one left dimple is possibly the cutest thing in the entire world.

I hope that even when I return to work, I will feel like I have adequate time to notice lots of new things about Erez. I hope I will learn lots of new ways to make him smile and laugh, that I will appreciate his new sounds and movements, and especially that I will have enough time to show him how much I love and adore him, and how grateful I am to be his mommy.

I plan to make the most of these last ten days, and to try and embrace these hours as much as I can, knowing they won't last forever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Acting Like A Baby

My five week old son is adorable and is the love of my life, but let's face it, some of his behavior is AT BEST questionable. This morning I spent a few minutes (or maybe more than a few... I AM on maternity leave and DO have some time on my hands) fantasizing about what it would be like if a "Freaky Friday" situation happened and me and my baby suddenly switched bodies. It would be so incredible to be able to get away with half the stuff he gets away with, even just for one day.

For instance:

- At night, once every two to three hours, I would be able to wake up all of the members of my household with a bout of hysterical, rageful crying. And in the morning, they would miraculously still love me.

- I would smell like a combination of sour milk, spit up, poop, baby oil and Desitin, but everyone would still hug me without wincing.

- I would be able to cry like mad every time I farted or pooped.

- People would spend hours upon hours trying to amuse me and make me smile, and I would reward them by looking at them like they are a bunch of a**holes. 

- I would be able to wear cute little onesies with pictures of smiling dinosaurs or vintage race cars without need for justification.

- When driving, I would start crying every time the speed of the car dropped below 15 miles per hour. 

- I would be able to make this face after finishing every meal:

- People would be PROUD of me for napping.

- I would suck on a hard rubber object all day WITHOUT folks suggesting I need therapy.

- I would be able to perfect my animal impressions, including angry screeching pterodactyl, and stuffy-nosed heavy-breathing pug dog.

- People would think my slightly furry body and disproportionately large head are soooo cute.

- I would have no awareness of the current presidential race.

Of course, there are DOWNSIDES to being a newborn baby (I am specifically thinking of not being able to ingest caffeine or alcohol), which may outweigh the benefits. And who knows? My son probably stares at me all day wondering why I am behaving like such a freak, and wishing he could switch bodies with me for just one day.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Party of Five


And then there were five of us. 

It's still so strange to me, because for many minutes of almost every day, I still feel like I am my twelve year old self... Just with a job and a few wrinkles and car keys and a mortgage... And THREE kids. THREE.

In the months leading up to Erez's birth, I was told by many friends, acquaintances and strangers that the third child CHANGES EVERYTHING. I was told that my husband and I would henceforth be outnumbered and powerless in our own household, that we would instantly age by about ten years, and that the only way to get through parenting more than two children is to not care about anything. I always half believed these folks and half thought "meh, it can't be THAT bad!"

And it's not. THAT. BAD. But in the month since Erez was born, I have come to nickname our home "Casa de Chaos" as a term of endearment. Our bundle of joy came with a bundle of adjustments for everyone in our family, and we are all still acclimating, slowly but surely.

Erez himself is adorable. He is tiny, cuddly, sounds like a pug dog, and has eyes that seem to fill up his entire face. For the first week of his life, Erez was such a super calm baby that I almost thought something might be wrong with him. Then I brought him home from the hospital.

I honestly feel bad for the kid. He went from the cushy warmth and serenity of my womb to the quiet sterile tranquility of the hospital to the absolute madness of our home. His siblings love to get right up in his face and squeal at him or shake things at him, try to dance with his tiny body, and seem to have screaming contests whenever he is trying to nap. 

And then there are the digestive issues. His first formula made him gassy and fussy. The second formula made him constipated and fussy. He went from being a happy baby to a very very sad and cranky baby right around week three, I believe mostly because his system just wasn't dealing with the nourishment he was taking in. The third formula seems to have made him a much happier, calmer baby again. Fingers crossed. 

Generally, Erez seems like my "old soul" baby. I can't quite describe why I feel this way, and maybe my perception will change as he grows, but his little face seems wise, serious, concerned. He smiled at me this morning and I was so thrown for a loop, because I have gotten so used to his furrowed brow and pensive expressions.

As for the rest of us, well, Oren probably had the worst of it. He went from being my baby boy to needing to compete for lap time and hugs. Shortly after Erez came home, Oren started waking frequently at night, having more nightmares, throwing more tantrums, getting more boo boos, and just generally being super sensitive. He seems to have settled in to the new normal a bit and the anxiety seems to be waning, but my heart definitely broke a little bit for him. If I could somehow add hours to the day, I would add an hour where I could just hug Oren and make sure he knows that he is (and will always be) my beautiful little boy.

Ember has been awesome. She has taken on the role of older older sister like a champion. She wants to hug the baby, feed the baby, carry the baby, and I think she thinks she could do a better job than me raising Erez. She has acclimated and compromised without much fuss, just the occasional need for lots of attention. Her ability to adapt to a pretty enormous change has really impressed me.

Chris is doing well, other than continuing his ongoing battle to get adequate sleep. He has been an amazing partner, doing all the stuff I have no time to do anymore, kissing my forehead and hugging me when I seem overwhelmed, and keeping this parenting gig light and fun and silly, even in the stressful moments. It goes without saying that I wouldbe nowhere without him. Actually, scratch that. I would totally be in an asylum without him.

And me? After getting over the initial shock of what it is like to care for three kids, I am doing really well. I'm finding my groove. Yes, I still spend a great deal of my time feeling guilty over my inability to breastfeed the baby, over my upcoming return to work and Erez's daycare attendance at such a super young age, over my lack of availability to Ember and Oren, over my talent for eating a crap ton of chocolate even as I finally attempt to reclaim my body after five years of pregnancies and surgeries. The list of things I feel guilty about is truly endless. But I have always been rather good at beating myself up over things I both can and can't control. The good news is I am also getting better at recognizing my own limitations, patting myself on the back for staying sane and positive (most of the time), and appreciating all that I have, which is SO VERY much, especially now that we are a party of five.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A prayer on the eve of my third baby's birth

Thank you for bringing me to this moment, and for giving me this miracle - I know it is not to be taken for granted. Thank you for the love in my life, my caring and amazing husband, my beautiful children, my family, my friends. I know they are not to be taken for granted. Thank you for giving me this body, and the ability to have children - I know it is not to be taken for granted. 

Let me have the presence of mind to fully appreciate this moment, and to focus not on the anxiety of birth but on the beauty of it. Let me make wise decisions in what I can control, and let me understand the decisions that are not mine to control.

Life is divine, fragile, complex, and mysterious. I am filled with awe and wonder.