I wanted to wait a few weeks until I wrote this post. Partly because I realized pretty early on that there’s not an easy answer to the question I pose in the title (and even if there was, it changes pretty much every hour). But also because, for the first two weeks of Vivi’s life, my mom was staying with us, so I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “real life” with a baby until this past week.
So, you’re wondering, how has it been?
In some ways, it’s a lot how I expected. A newborn is really time-consuming. (SHOCKER.) Mine wants to be held as often as possible. She’s hungry a lot. She doesn’t really do that much besides eat, sleep, and poop. I don’t have any time to myself except for a few moments stolen while she naps or when Joey comes home and can spend some time with Vivian. I’m usually not as well rested as I could be. (Hahahaha understatements!)
In other ways, it’s not at all how I expected. And not always in a good way.
For example, I was really worried about breastfeeding. It was something I felt very strongly about and really wanted to do, but I had heard so many stories of women who had trouble — babies that couldn’t latch, milk that dried up or never came in, intense pain or discomfort that deterred them from sticking it out. It seemed like this supposedly natural process was a minefield of potential parental disappointment.
But I was fortunate. Vivi starting nursing literally moments after she was born, and we never had any issues while in the hospital or the first few days at home.
And then the real milk came in. And (apparently) with gusto. Suddenly, I had a baby that was getting too much milk and who would promptly spit up everything she had just eaten after every feeding. There were days I literally changed both of our outfits upwards of three times, and I regularly found myself near tears that this one thing I thought I had down was suddenly (and literally) backfiring on me.
Thanks to some advice from our pediatrician, though, we got through it. Sure, I still get doused in vomit occasionally (the creed of new parents everywhere), but it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore. (Remember this post? It’s so much worse after you actually have the baby.)
My voracious little eater aside, though, most of the surprises of motherhood have been positive for me.
For one thing, I was always kind of worried I wouldn’t be that into the newborn phase. They really can’t do that much yet, and a lot of their (extremely limited) awake time is spent fussing because they’re hungry or tired. We usually get 20-45 minutes of happy, fully alert baby at a time. I was worried I would be bored or, even worse, mildly irritated most of the first three months. But I’m really happy to say that I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It helps that I just love this little girl so much, even just staring at her while she sleeps feels like a fun activity for the day. But I also just really appreciate getting to be with her every day and watching her change nearly every hour. She’s extremely curious, and I love watching her slowly discover the world around her. She’s also so strong, and it kills me seeing this tiny person hold her head up for the first time or scoot her body around on her play mat.
You know you’re a new parent when: watching a veritable slug of a person kick on their tummy for five minutes thrills you.
Basically, the whole experience has been even more fulfilling than I ever imagined. And now that she recognizes me on sight and can make prolonged eye contact? Well, I’d be lying if I said the first few times she looked at me — really looked at me — didn’t draw a few tears from this new momma. (Though we can probably blame some of the weepies on the hormones and sleep deprivation, right?)
Speaking of sleep-deprivation (because I know you really just want the gory details, not any of this “gosh I love my baby” mush), I’m happy to report that Vivi sleeps decently well. She usually sleeps from 6:30-8ish out in the living room with us (either in someone’s arms or in her swing chair), but I try to have both of us in bed (me in my actual bed, her in her bassinet) by 10/10:30. After that, she typically wakes up about three, sometimes four times, but we usually get two 3- to 4-hour stretches of sleep between the wake-ups. Vivian also takes a short morning nap (about an hour) around 10/11 a.m., and a longer nap (2ish hours) around 2:30 p.m (I try to join her for that one). The rest of the evening is a mix of wakefulness and sleep until the process starts all over again.
If it sounds like not at all a real schedule, it’s because it isn’t. It’s just the life of a newborn — they sleep a lot, but rarely for all that long. In fact, there is typically at least one night a week that she throws the whole thing out the window and just wakes up every hour and a half the whole night through.
Fun fact: That’s also how they torture prisoners of war.
True Life: My baby could be an evil dictator.
But you know what’s kind of funny? Even though I feel like I should be a zombie, I don’t really feel more tired than I usually did pre-baby. These crazy bodies of ours are capable of adapting to just about anything, apparently.
So, yes, I’m tired a lot. And regularly covered in someone else’s bodily fluids. And sometimes (often?) smell. As in, I literally stink. (Post-pregnancy hormones make you sweat a lot.)(GLAMOUR!)
But I really wouldn’t trade a second of it. Because while I’m sure I’m making a million “mistakes” along the way, I feel like I’m good at this. Or, rather, that I can be. I feel like, slowly, I’m figuring this little girl out. And, maybe in spite of everything, having a lot of fun along the way. Because just when I think I’ve hit my limit and might be the worst mom ever, she does this:
And suddenly everything feels like it’s going to be all right again.
So what’s it like to have a baby? It’s overwhelming and incredibly trying. And it’s also completely wonderful.
I haven’t felt like I’ve had that much to blog about lately. It’s not like nothing is going on in my life. (Psst…baby’s due in two weeks. Kind of a big deal? I guess?) It’s just that we’re sort of in a holding pattern at this point.
The nursery is done. The rest of the apartment pretty much is too, minus a few details (like needing bedside lamps, etc.) that I am officially putting on hold for the next few months while I figure out the whole aforementioned “baby” thing. The only things I can conceivably see myself doing in the next week or two are nesting-related. For example, I spent 45 minutes this weekend scouring the grout between the tiles on the floor of my bathroom. (It is GLORIOUSLY white now, for your information.) Apparently it’s normal to get fits and bursts of energy at the tail end of pregnancy where you do things like scour grout or clean out closets or hand-trim your carpet. Apparently.
I’m also spending the last couple of weeks checking off a few to-dos. Going to the dentist. Getting my hair done. Finishing the book I’m reading. Seeing friends and planning at least one more “date night” with Joey. I have no idea what to expect from the next few weeks/months, so I’m essentially trying to soak up the normalcy I’ve grown accustomed to before everything changes.
But other than that…we wait. So bear with me during the downtime. I can’t imagine it will last too long.
I want to talk to you about the father of my child for a minute.
He’s pretty handsome, right? Not to sound totally shallow, but it’s pretty fun waking up to a handsome face every day.
His handsomeness is not what I’m here to talk about. I just think it’s fun.
What I really want to talk about? How excited I am to have a baby with this person.
On some level, I always knew Joey would make a great dad. I don’t think you marry someone without at least considering whether or not they would be a good parent unless you are dead-set against having kids yourself. I was pretty sure I did want kids, so I thought about it. Andyup, I thought, he would be good at it.
Which isn’t to say we both didn’t have some growing up to do first. When you get married in your early 20s like we did, you probably have more growing up to do than most. And when you get married in your early 20s like we did, it’s not always a smooth, simple process.
I’m incredibly grateful, though, that we grew up and together. In fact, I think Joey and I have never been a better match than we are today.
I’m also incredibly grateful that we both grew into people that, I’m pretty sure, will be pretty good parents. At least, I know Joey will.
Joey is the kind of guy who remembers my friends’ various diet restrictions, just in case they want to come over for dinner, so he can cook them something they’ll like.
Joey is the kind of guy that, when he figures out something that makes you laugh until you almost pee your pants, will find as many excuses to do that thing as possible because he just likes seeing you crack up.
Joey is the kind of guy that babies notice from across a room and instantly grin at, as if simply seeing his face is the best part of their day.
Joey is the kind of guy who, when you’ve spent all day carrying your pregnant belly around to just limp home and collapse on the couch and lazily ask for a glass of water even though you’re two feet away from the kitchen, he’ll immediately get it for you without any fuss even though he was probably already making you dinner. No heavy sighs or dramatics. He just wants to take care of you.
Joey is the kind of guy who, in birth prep class, will make you try every practice labor position on the birthing ball and test every massage apparatus so we can be sure we’ve found the ones I like best. Then he’ll commit to memory what I liked so he can help as much as possible when we do this labor thing for real.
Joey is the kind of guy who, when I’m exhausted and finally starting to get tired of this growing-a-human thing and let myself complain a bit, tells me what an amazing job I’m doing and how brave, strong, and great he thinks I am.
Joey is the kind of guy who wants to read to the baby every night, but first he wants to wait until I feel her moving so he knows she’s awake and “paying attention.”
Joey is the kind of guy who never, ever loses that look of amazement and wonder in his eyes when he feels the baby kick or move in my belly.
Joey is the kind of guy who whispers to my belly before we go to sleep, sharing a private moment with his daughter that always ends with him telling her how much he loves her and can’t wait to meet her.
I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to think of a guy better suited to being a dad.
I’m so glad I married this man. I’m so glad we stuck it out through the not-so-smooth-or-simple parts of growing up together. And I’m so glad I get to have a baby with him.
And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
You’re the best, Joey. You’re going to be so great at this — you already are. I love you from the left to the right.
Last week, a group of my girlfriends and I got together for our book club. Before we dug into the actual book (and the plethora of treats), we sat around a bit catching up on our lives.
Since my life is basically just baby these days, we talked about that when we got around to me. My friend Kristina asked if pregnancy had been what I expected it to be or if anything surprised me.
I didn’t have a very good answer at the time because I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since then.
Honestly, I always kind of thought (hoped?) that I would enjoy being pregnant. I don’t know why. I mean, a lot of people don’t. And it certainly comes with a host of discomforts. But for whatever reason, I looked forward to the chance to carry a baby and felt optimistic about the process.
And, for the most part, I have really enjoyed it. Yes, it helps that I am incredibly fortunate that getting and staying pregnant went smoothly for me. Yes, it helps that I managed to dodge difficult morning sickness and a host of other unpleasantness a lot of women go through. Some of those things I could impact, others were just the way it turned out. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.
But there was one aspect of pregnancy that I always assumed I would have a big problem with: gaining weight.
I mean, it’s kind of a head trip. As a woman, you’re nearly constantly bombarded with confusing messages about your body and what it should be, and, as a rule, those messages tell you that you need to be smaller and weigh less. Like a lot of women my age (like a lot of women any age?), I spent a large portion of my life trying to weigh less or trying to maintain my lowest weight.
And now you’re telling me I need to undo all that hard work and deliberately try to gain weight? Are you crazy?!
Part of me was deliciously enticed by the possibility (guilt-free weight gain!). Another part of me was totally terrified.
So…I was scared. Because I didn’t want to feel negative feelings about anything associated with creating my baby. I wanted the process to be filled with love and joy as much as possible. Maybe that sounds naive, but it was how I had always pictured and hoped the experience would be.
And then I got pregnant. And, yes, obviously, started to gain weight. And you know what?
It hasn’t bothered me even the teeniest, tiniest bit.
It probably helps that I NEVER weigh myself except at my doctor appointments. Not in pre-pregnancy life, and certainly not now. Like always, I let the way my clothes fit and the way I feel determine if my size is acceptable, instead of attaching too much meaning to a silly, downright objective number.
I’m not delusional — I know that I’ve gained 10-12 pounds (maybe more…I have an appointment next week) in the last seven months. It’s just that…I couldn’t care less. Yes, I know it’s weight for the baby (even though the little miss is only two-ish pounds, the rest is all fluid and uterus and that whole extra organ your body grows to feed your baby, the placenta), so maybe that contributes to my not freaking out about it.
But beyond not caring about the extra pounds, I feel so much more loving toward my body than I ever thought I would. It’s like I’ve found an old friend after years of (at times) abusive silence.
I’m so proud of my body for not only growing a human full-time, but also for sticking it out through the still-challenging workouts that I put it through to maintain my mental balance. I cherish the increasingly convex curve of my stomach way more than I ever did its flatter counterpart because this tummy lovingly cradles my baby all day and night. I want to high-five my swiftly changing reflection so I can congratulate my body on being a total rockstar and miraculously knowing exactly what to do to create and nurture another person.
The most surprising thing about this process, for me, is how much awe it has filled me with. For women and their amazing bodies. For God who created them in his incredible wisdom.
I’m proud of the mental journey I’ve made and my newfound ability to see myself as I really am for possibly the first time in my life — wonderfully made.
Even just writing that sentence fills me with, well, all the feelings.
I’m excited. I’m so, so, so excited that it’s almost time to finally have our little girl in our arms. Joey and I talk every day about how much we can’t wait to meet her and how much we’re looking forward to even the most mundane moments. (Baby’s first yawn? It’s gonna kill me dead.)
I’m nervous. You guys, I’m going to be a mom. That’s…big. One of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I want so much to be good at it without driving anyone (myself included) crazy. That’s a lot of pressure.
I’m (a little) stressed. There is so much I want to do before Vivian makes her grand entrance. Blame it on the nesting, but whatever it is, here’s everything that has been crowding my to-do list:
1. Finish the nursery.
Obviously this is a big one. We’re planning to paint her room this weekend (and I’ll hopefully get a start on the mural wall on Sunday). I also have some frames that I need to paint and fill for her walls. As soon as that’s done, we’ll order the crib. I’ve been looking around on Craigslist for the perfect dresser/changing table, but I haven’t found the right one yet. I also need to start finding alternate places for everything we’ve been storing in the room until now.
2. Organize the hall and front closet.
I’ve mentioned before the weird abundance of closet space our apartment has. The front coat closet and hall closet are two that I feel are a bit underutilized at the moment. Now that we’re much more settled, I want to basically take everything out of each of them and put it back in a way that makes the most sense. Being me, I’m of course weirdly excited to do this. In a similar vein, I also want to reorganize our cellar space. This is largely a room for Joey’s sports equipment and bigger items we don’t have room for, but I think it could be a little neater.
3. Do my bi-annual clothing cull.
I’m very serious about my twice-yearly clothing sorts where I get rid of anything that is cluttering up our closets. Since the little miss will be arriving around the time I usually do my fall closet purge, I’d like to get that taken care of over the summer. (Since, you know, I’ve heard people with newborns are fairly busy people.)
4. Just…generally clean everything?
I think I can definitely blame this one on the nesting, but I want to get at least one deep cleaning in sometime late summer. My mom is planning to spend a week or two with us after Vivi is born, so I know she will be extremely helpful with the general upkeep of the apartment, but I’ll feel better if I know everything has had a fairly recent scrub-down. I also want to finish up any last-minute decor plans I’ve had rolling around my head so I’m not, I don’t know, staring at those spots on the walls that need paint touch-ups in Vivian’s third month. Hypothetically.
5. Get my own maintenance in.
As I said, people with babies seem pretty busy. So I want to get myself in order (as much as possible) before the baby gets here. That means dentist appointments, hair appointments, and any other last-minute things-that-make-me-feel-healthy-and-like-myself appointments needs to be scheduled sometime in August. Think of it as a pre-baby tune-up.
Okay, all written down, this list feels much more manageable. I really need about four solid weekends to get everything done. (Not the easy request since July is already pretty much taken up, but I still think I can get it done.)
Are y’all okay if I spew a little mush on the blog today?
Seriously…just a bit? A tiny bit?
Oh wait. This is my blog. I DO WHAT I WANT.
About a month ago, Joey and I decided that not only did we want to take a “babymoon” before our little lady’s imminent arrival, we needed to.
Think about it: A baby is forever. After she’s born, it will never be just the two of us again. Sure, one day she’ll grow up and move out and get a job and her own life and whatever. But really, it will never, ever be the same as it has been for the last four years.
So, even though we are in super-saver mode these days, we ponied up the cash for two tickets to my grandparents’ condo in Florida. Of course, we weren’t being totally reckless. Staying at my grandparents’ place is significantly cheaper than booking a hotel or an all-inclusive resort (the dream), and we would have our own kitchen, meaning we could save on at least a dinner or two and all of our breakfasts and most lunches. And while we would have loved to take a 10-day trip, we opted to extend our Memorial Day weekend an extra day to preserve my precious few vacation days.
Though I will admit that I sprung for the slightly more expensive plane tickets that would give us direct flights to the most convenient airports in both locations. Because what’s the point of taking a relaxing vacation if the trip home is going to get you just as rattled as you were before?
The result of our plans? I don’t want to overstate this, but the trip was, in a word, perfect.
I’m always a little irked by those people who put #blessed in their Instagram captions because, to me, it seems like a fairly overt humblebrag. But after that trip with my husband, I have a hard time describing my feelings any other way. I’m so humbled by the way my husband loves me. I’m so grateful that we have the opportunity and the means to get away from regular life now and then to reconnect. I’m filled with awe by this tiny life growing inside me.
God is so, so good to us, and I hope I can hold onto these feelings even when things aren’t going so smoothly. Because while I don’t feel #blessed, I do feel blessed to live the life I do with the people I love.
So now it’s back to “real” life, with jobs and bills and schedules that don’t include things like “morning swim in the pool” and “leisurely lunch by the ocean whenever we feel like walking to the restaurant”. But you know what? The trips to the beach may be over and my tan has probably already begun to fade, but I think this fullness in my heart will last a while longer.