2/26/07

Month 9: Join the Club

Becoming a mom is like joining a club. Overnight (or, in my case, after 20+ hours of labor) you become part of a group of hormone-addled, sleep-deprived, memory-impaired women whose sole purpose on Earth, at least in the short term, is to feed and care for a floppy, wailing, Chihuahua-sized human.

The New Mom Club has no formal meetings; we’re far too busy for that. Nor are all members like-minded; is there a more hot-button issue than breastfeeding, except maybe circumcision or cosleeping? Still, we have plenty of things in common – the desperate desire for a hot shower, for one, and for the return of our bladder control.

New moms have their own particular brand of humor. Poop discussions cause gales of giggles; swapping new-dad shortcomings can consume hours and render still-weak stomach muscles sore from laughter. (Hmmm, new mom workout tip?) We cast knowing glances at strangers in checkout lines with milk stains on their shirts. We tell anyone who will listen that there’s a sale at Gymboree, as if sharing the news of our own engagement.

Suddenly, the sister-in-law you had little in common with becomes a comrade in arms. “Guess what time WE were up this morning?” you commiserate. You begin to look at your mother and mother-in-law as real candidates for sainthood. She raised FIVE children? WITHOUT a dishwasher? BEFORE disposable diapers were invented?!

Sometimes new members have difficulty with the transition. “Why didn’t you girls tell me this was so hard?” a friend recently demanded of us fellow moms, a few weeks into new-motherhood. Oh, but we did. Doesn’t she remember the girls’ nights we spent cursing our breast pumps and sighing over the good old days when any bodily fluids we encountered were our own? No, she was too busy thinking about Friday night happy hour and her new strappy sandals. Let’s face it, until it’s happening to you, you just don’t pay attention. (If you did, you’d be too afraid to reproduce!)

One new mom I know is currently in the throes of the club’s hazing rituals – otherwise known as colic, gastric reflux, cracked nipples, diaper blowouts, and being housebound for days on end. She has not been out on her own since the baby arrived, except for a trip to the dentist – as good as a Caribbean vacation, as far as she’s concerned. Her meals are consumed standing up, with one hand, or skipped entirely. The washer, dryer, dishwasher, and bottle warmer run around the clock.

I wish I could make it easier on her. But as the rest of the initiated know, induction to the New Mom Club is something every gal has to go through herself.

There is life on the other side, I promise. Why, just the other day I left the house by myself for two whole hours. So what if it was to return overdue library books and hit the Stairmaster to stall the impact of gravity on my rear-end? We members of the New Mom Club celebrate the small victories where we can find them.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Call a new mom you know. Instead of barraging her with advice, listen, sympathize, and tell her about one of your funniest and most embarrassing new-mom screw-ups. She’ll appreciate it even more than a casserole, trust me.

2/19/07

Guest Blog: Dad’s P.O.V.

Hello, Dad2Miles, a.k.a. “C.” here. I just returned from a four-day conference for work. No, it was not forever but my wife was acting like I was leaving her to reunite with my secret “other family” in Tallahassee. Before I left she was asking me questions like “What happens if the plane goes down? What will happen to Miles and me if you get killed?” Out of frustration I replied, “Well, for starters you guys get to live, while I’m apparently doomed to a fiery death.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job and occasionally I have to travel for work, but sometimes I think my wife has a distorted view of reality. So I thought I’d give you a brief glimpse from Dad’s point of view, which I think is important to telling the whole story.

Oh, and by the way — as it turned out, my wife’s visions of me gallivanting on a tropical beach somewhere with blonde bikini-clad sales professionals was pretty off-base. The reality of the situation was that I had to go to Albany for a sales conference during the height of the heaviest snowstorm of the season. A train, a plane, an automobile and 15 hours later I arrived. I won’t bore you with the details of my horrible trip as I’d rather use this rare opportunity to share with you A Day in the Life of Dad2Miles.

I’ll begin by stating that I, too, love being with our son, and contrary to the tone of this blog at times, I enjoy taking care of Miles. I am hoping maybe a play-by-play of a typical day from my POV might help people understand what a Dad like me goes through.

12:30 a.m.: Dad wakes up fearing for his life as sleeping Mom frantically attempts to push him off the bed. The baby is not currently in our bed, however, making it impossible for Dad to have rolled over onto baby. Dad’s cry for help awakens the baby.

12:45 a.m.: Dad goes to baby’s room to rock him back to sleep. Dad’s heart rate returns to normal and he falls asleep in baby’s room with baby on chest.

2:30 a.m.: Dad places sleeping baby back in crib and attempts to return to bed. Dad finds that Mom has now commandeered entire bed. Dad, dejected, retreats to guest bed.

7:45 a.m.: Dad is awakened by daylight and the sight of squinting Mom who is holding wet crying baby while telling him that he is going to be late for work. Dad takes wet crying baby and scrambles to get ready for work. Dad strategically places baby in high chair with some cereal to finger while Dad gets dressed.

7:55 a.m.: Dad returns the changed and fed baby to Mom in bed as he attempts to exit the house in disheveled clothes. Sleep deprived, frazzled wife pleads for Dad to take the day off; Dad ignores pleas and is able to escape the house.

10:30 a.m.: Dad receives phone call at work from Mom with yelling baby in background. She is wondering why he hasn’t called to check in yet. Dad has no acceptable excuse.

11:30 a.m.: Dad receives second phone call from Mom at home, this time it’s an emergency. Mom needs help and medical advice as baby has just successfully peed in his own face. Dad calms down Mom and assures her that men have been doing similar things for hundreds of years and that baby will be OK.

5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Drained from his day, Dad races home, sees baby being held out of the front door as he comes up the walk. Dad takes baby, plays with baby, feeds baby and puts baby to bed.

11:00 p.m.: Dad joins Mom in bed. He ties bed sheet around his waist to anchor himself in for another night.

2/13/07

Month 9: A Week in the Life

My husband left me today. No, not forever! For four days to go to a work conference – which may well FEEL like forever to those of us stuck at home by ourselves with a baby. Don’t get me wrong. I love being with my son. Most of the time. But frequent breaks are key to any mom’s sanity. My weeks tend to go a little something like this:

MONDAY: Baby wakes up, Dad goes and gets him, changes him, and takes him downstairs while Dad gets ready. Mom steals an extra 20-30 minutes of sleep before Dad brings baby to her and leaves for work. Mom and baby snuggle, then go downstairs. Baby plays on floor while Mom makes coffee, thinking about how lucky she is to not have to squeeze into a suit and sit in traffic. Mom whistles, baby giggles. Both are clean and dressed. Meals go smoothly, naps are on schedule, and Mom might even make it to the grocery store and prepare something for dinner.

TUESDAY: Baby wakes up, Dad goes and gets him, changes him, and takes him downstairs while Dad gets ready. Ten minutes later, they’re back. Dad has to leave early “to pick up the dry-cleaning.” Mom attempts to get a few more minutes of sleep, but baby is not interested. He is exceptionally smiley and dressed in a cute outfit, though, so Mom doesn’t mind. In the afternoon, the sitter comes, naps go well, and Mom gets some work done. Dad makes dinner.

WEDNESDAY: Baby wakes up, Dad goes and gets him, but doesn’t have time to change him or take him downstairs before work. Mom reluctantly gets up, wrestles baby into his clothes, and attempts to keep him from diving into the empty tub while she goes to the bathroom. Downstairs, Mom pulls baby away from plugs, oven, dog bowl, and trash can while she fixes breakfast. Morning nap lasts 12 minutes. Baby’s new favorite game is “Bash Heavy Objects On the Dishwasher Door.” Unshowered and dressed in sweats, Mom drags baby to the mall to get the heck out of the house. Dad works late, Mom misses yoga, and there’s nothing for dinner except peanut butter sandwiches.

THURSDAY: Baby wakes up crying at 4:30 a.m. Dad goes and rocks him back to sleep. Baby wakes up again at 8, after Dad has already left for work. Baby is soaked, crib is soaked, and the dog has peed on the kitchen floor. Mom reheats day-old coffee and throws some Cheerios on the highchair tray to placate crying baby. Both Mom and baby are wearing dirty pajamas and could use a bath. It’s too cold to go anywhere. Both are in bad moods. Naps turn into hour-long wrestling matches. The TV stays on all day long. Oprah’s actually pretty interesting.

FRIDAY: Baby wakes up crying at 5 a.m. and stays awake. Dad says, “You can go this time,” then rolls over and sleeps through his alarm clock. Baby has no clean socks, and only too-small undershirts. The box of wipes is empty. Baby headbutts Mom in the nose while trying to jump off the changing table, then manages to slam his fingers in the dresser drawer. Mom feels like the worst Mom ever. There is no coffee and no milk for breakfast. Baby alternately fusses, cries, and shrieks throughout the day. No naps are taken. In a last-ditch attempt to get baby to sleep, Mom takes the long way to the grocery store and sits in the parking lot with the engine running until baby wakes up. When the check-out clerk asks Mom to help bag the groceries, she feels like yelling, “Dude, are you kidding me? This is the only break I’ve had all day!” Dad stops at the liquor store and the haircut place on the way home WITHOUT ASKING. Mom passes baby off to Dad, then storms upstairs to sulk and send out her resume for jobs involving extensive overseas travel. Later, after the baby is fed and in bed, she goes downstairs. Apologies are made. Takeout is ordered. A movie is rented. Another week in the life of a new mom has come to an end.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Uh, anybody got one? Maybe a tip on how to stay sane when it’s snowing and you’re stuck in the house all day?

2/2/07

Month 9: Stunt Baby

Life with baby has become a little more, er, “challenging” lately. Miles is no longer a cute little portable accessory. He’s still cute, but less portable – the child weighs a whopping 20 lbs! I laugh when I think back to the days when I couldn’t do bicep curls with the 8 lb. handweights at the gym. I could probably curl that with one finger now.

So, the constant weight lifting is one challenge. But the bigger one is that THIS BABY DOESN’T SLEEP. I’m telling you, he goes down for a nap and 20 min. later he pops back up like a Weeble Wobble. (Remember those?) He’s up at least once, if not twice a night again. (He teased me by sleeping from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for a week or two. Just when I’d gotten used to it, he was like, “Psych! The after-hours party in my crib is back on, Mama!”)

I swore I would never be one of those parents who drives their kid around in the car at all hours to get them to sleep, but wouldn’t you know it? There I was yesterday afternoon, doing just that.

It really makes you appreciate drive-thrus. I went 2 miles out of my way to the drive-thru Starbucks. Banking and fast food are no problem, but I really had to go to the post office. I heard there’s a drive-thru one about 45 min. north of us. Don’t think I didn’t consider it. But gas is expensive, people. And my library fines are through the roof due to lack of a drive-thru book return.

Back pain, no sleep, and, oh yes – constantly saving my baby from self-destructing. Miles morphed into Stunt Baby overnight. He crawls really fast now, loves to snack on electrical cords, and pulls up on anything within his reach. The kid thinks he can walk already. He pulls up on the coffee table, clears it of all objects instantly with his sticky little mitts, and then LETS GO.

At first I tried to catch him to keep him from hurting himself, but then – and I know it sounds mean – I thought, “Hey, he’s got to learn about gravity at some point.” So now I just let him go. Most of the time, he does these dramatic backward falls like a stunt guy in an action movie. He looks mildly startled, but doesn’t cry. Occasionally, if he’s tired or clips the side of the coffee table, there are tears for a few seconds. Then all is forgotten and he’s scaling Mt. Sofa again.

We’ve tried to babyproof as best we can, but you can’t wrap the entire house in foam. Nor can you block off every outlet, potted plant, electronic device, or door that might slam tiny fingers. Plus, we’re not about to start sleeping on the floor. Miles regularly tries to dive headfirst off the bed. Sometimes it’s all I can do to grab one chubby ankle before he slips over the edge. He thinks it’s a fun game. We call him “Bat Baby” because he loves hanging upside down like a bat in a cave.

Yup, this one’s all boy, people. I better start investing in helmets and mapping out the fastest route to the ER now. If I wasn’t so … sleepy …

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Keep reading material in the car. That way, if your sleep-resistant baby happens to fall asleep while you’re driving, you can pull over and pass the time with a book rather than risk the dreaded “transfer” (as in, car seat to crib). I have a 0% success rate with that maneuver.

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