The Baby Year


Warning: the following post may not be suitable for people without children, or those for whom it has been over two years since the child’s birth and for whom words like ‘newborn’, ‘postpartum’, and ‘colic’ do not cause flinching.

A little over a year ago, I read a blog post by a mother who had reached the one-year post-partum milestone. She was honest. She was tired and transformed, and her marriage had been tested. Her words frightened me a little. I was staring down the biggest challenge of my life (or as much of it that was visible beyond my awkward mountain-belly). Still, I was in pre-baby denial that I or my husband would succumb to any of the tsunamis that seemed to crush and bash and sometimes entirely obliterate lesser, weaker, and inferior new parents. We were going to rock this parenting shiz like nobody’s business and barely notice the shift to our new lifestyle.
Yeah, well I am a dipshit about things sometimes.
There are a lot of things I didn’t know a year ago. Such as:
1) Newborns really need to stay the eff inside of a uterus for another three months, but because of humans’ brain size, they can’t. This sucks, because I am not a uterus even though I tried really damn hard to sound and act like one. S was not fooled. She screamed a lot for 3 (5) months.
2) Once you have a baby of your own, a sort of science fiction movie effect happens when you look at all other infants and children and somehow your child’s face is superimposed on them all: at the grocery store, in the swimming pool, on the nightly news. This explains the mothers’ and grandmothers’ behaviors in the checkout line at stores, but for awhile I was mystified that war continued in a world with mothers and children.
3) Oatmeal looks a lot like boogers. FYI.
4) Kids can start walking at 9 1/2 months.
5) Babies loooooooove plastic bags so much that you actually need the reminder-of-death-by-suffocation warning on all bags (that I used to mock before). Plus, babies think toys are dumb after 5 minutes, but the box and ribbon and plastic or tissue paper they come in are awesome forever.
6) It’s possible you will not have sex for three-month stretches, even if that sounds like misery to you pre-baby. Dammit. (Though, sometimes the thought of getting pregnant again might alone be an excellent form of birth control.)
7) Drive-thrus are not just for lazy people. They are for sleep-deprived mothers with baby-vomit-stained sweatpants on, who forget to put a bra on their size HH leaking boobs, and really really really dear jesus help me, need a cup of coffee, a muffin, and 20 minutes of sitting still.
8) It’s true. They do *grow so fast*. They are *so big* every time you see them after a couple weeks. Your feeble parent-brain will make you repeat these cliches over and over.
9) You think you know what you will do when you have a baby: nurse for 3 years, not nurse past 6 months, never talk in baby-talk, always get down on the floor and babble and play with your exploring child, co-sleep with your baby, put your baby in a crib, never be the mom with the screaming baby, never be the mom with the screaming toddler, never let your child watch TV, never give your child whiskey to help them sleep, etc. However, sleep-deprivation torture changes your story. But most importantly, you haven’t met your baby yet. Turns out they are an important variable in this parenting equation.
10) It is hard. You figure it out. Your instincts are right. Follow them when other parents or doctors or lactation consultants or gas station attendants give you advice. You know your child best. Remember that.

We celebrated S’s first year with a playdate with our best buds, a couple of beers the night before with some good buds, and some low sugar whole grain carrot cake (most of this health fest ended up on the floor…OKAY…I ate half the cake) with grandparents. It wasn’t all about S. She has done some hard work this year. We have, too, and we celebrated the fact that we did not kill, maim, divorce, or punch each other (well, S punched me and C a couple of times, but she didn’t mean it…I don’t think.) And we celebrated our new family that is learning to be a family all the time. I will say what everyone has ever said to me about having kids: It’s worth it.
S is hilarious sometimes. She is curious and hyper. She is adorable and strong. She doesn’t have any brakes, so she has lots of bruises. She likes birds and plants and dirt. She hugs teddy bears and tries to talk to little people who are her size. I have to run to keep up with her now. I like her. I am sorry that she seems to have inherited my flat butt.
One thing that has changed now that S is one is that I am no longer a NEW MOM. Sure, I still have moments when the gas pedal on my VW bug of a brain is pushed flat out as I chug up a steep learning curve. Most days I have an “oh shit!” moment when I realize something like the fact that I am going to have to teach my child to sit on a toilet and let things loose or that I am going to have to buy shoes and coats that fit EVERY YEAR until she’s 17. Or 20. Twenty? I don’t even know what that number means. But, I have been broken-in and I’ve mastered some basics like Mom to Mom sales, multi-tasking, planning 2 months in advance or seizing opportunities at the last minute with an abrupt change of plans. I know how to pack a diaper/lunch/toy/medication/change of clothes bag every time we leave the house. I can’t flash the New Mom Card every time I am late or leave the windows down on the car in a rainstorm anymore (though, I now have a Toddler Card, which gets me a few places).
It’s been a year of initiation and sacrifice. It’s been a year of rapid growth. I am truly a different person, and I am still struggling with that, but I am thrilled to be moving on from The Baby Year, because I feel like what is ahead is a whole lot more sharing of who each of us is (all three) and getting to know each other. S rides along with me in the jogging stroller while I get some fresh air and a light workout. She walks around the garden saying, “Woww!” and eating dirt as I weed and plant seeds. She listens when I talk sometimes and I do the same when she babbles something very exciting she wants to share. It’s good to be here. We have been ‘crushed’ and ‘bashed’ and we are not ‘the shiz’ we thought we were, but we are doing OK. I’m glad we made it!
How could you look at those little cheeks and not say, “It’s worth it!”?

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Battle of the Dark and Light: Of Course There’s a Starbucks on The Death Star.

I have to make a lot of decisions during the day. I’m a new momma-jedi. Mostly, I’m concerned about keeping myself and the baby fed, clothed, relatively clean, and happy. One of the many choices is the one to decide whether or not to keep… bouncing… on… the… excercise… ball… until… the kid… takes… a nap!  Or, just pop her in the car seat at that magic moment of fatigue when she will pass out after 30 seconds of car magic and I can rest. This means driving my gas-guzzler twenty minutes one way with the air conditioner on and windows open to buy another (sippycupofheavenlymilkydecafgoodness) white paper cup to add to the pile in the back seat. Still, my priorities get into a light-saber fight now and then. Here’s the advice I got from a couple of “experts.”

Darth: Go. to Starbucks, Molly. You deserve it. The planet. doesn’t matter. Look. Everyone knows. we can live. on the Death Star. when the Earth’s life-support systems. collapse.

(Those periods? He’s breathing.)

Yoda: You know not, jedi knight, the power, have you. Paper cups to make, kill trees, we do.

(Those commas? He’s yoda-ing.)

Darth: You use. cloth diapers. You buy. second-hand clothes. Are you trying. to be a saint? You are a new mother. and you must. be rewarded. for your feats of endurance. and patience.

Yoda: In heart of battle, abandon principles, you must not.

Me: Yodles, man. I haven’t totally abandoned my principles. I feel guilty for filling up the landfill with little white cups. But Starbucks has a *drive-thru*.

And that pretty much kills it for me. The drive-thru. I drive around wondering why every place doesn’t have a drive-thru for those of us running these nurseries-on-wheels.

Yes, I try to be careful with my choices when it comes to my ecological footprint. And I don’t think I suddenly have a zillion excuses to be an Earth-hater. I must admit that I feel better driving a big fat SUV with a baby in the back because every other jack driver in this place has one, and so I’m just perpetuating the problem. I feel better getting 5 loads of laundry done in one day by chucking everything into the dryer rather than getting one load done and hanging it up to dry outside **if the baby takes a nap**. I feel better sipping a warm beverage that someone handed to me through the window while I rest my aching back and a peaceful baby sleeps in the back seat for 40 minutes out of the day (whew).  So many little things that I used to do so easily (like hang up the laundry, run multiple errands in one trip) now make my life so much more difficult. On some days. I fully intend to be better in the future. Like when S takes a nap on a schedule, plays by herself for 3+ minutes, does her own laundry, drives her own SUV, etc. (Okay, maybe before that!) It’s a fact that I’m wasting gas, but I’m doing it to keep my sanity. Who knew that one of the biggest impacts on the environment could come from a baby footprint?