We are up with our days-old baby for one of multiple middle-of-the-night feedings. I finish feeding the baby and hand him off to Tim, who is still in bed, to be burped. I go to the bathroom, come back, take the sleeping baby from my sleeping husband’s arms, and deposit the baby in the bassinet next to my side of the bed. I settle in to bed and work on getting back to sleep. Minutes later, Tim bolts upright, arms outstretched as if holding an invisible baby, and exclaims in panic: “The baby left!” Groggy from my almost-asleep state, I look at him in confusion and ask what he’s talking about. “Where’d the baby go?” he repeats, still baffled at the empty space in his arms. “He’s over here, honey. I took him from you and put him in his bassinet. Go back to sleep.”
At two months old, the baby has started sleeping for longer stretches of time. I still wake up frequently, reach into the bassinet, and gently lay my hand on his stomach to make sure he’s breathing and all is well. I often dream that I’m feeding him and wake up confused when he cries: Wasn’t I just feeding you? It’s not uncommon for me to wake up from one of these dreams, feel a warm, baby-sized mass snuggled up next to me, and panic, thinking that I’ve fallen asleep with the baby in the bed and he’s presently suffocating in the comforter. Usually at some point when I’m feeling around for the baby’s face to make sure it’s not smothered in blankets, I realize it’s Smalls snuggled up to me, not the baby, and fall back asleep secure in the knowledge that dog and baby are both sleeping (and breathing) where they should be.
One night, I wake up from a baby-feeding dream and feel a warm, baby-sized mass in bed next to me. I do my usual hand-on-the-stomach check, verify that the baby is still breathing, and pick him up to move him to the bassinet. I sit up, turn toward the bassinet, am about to place the baby back in the bassinet when I see that the baby is already in the bassinet. Confused, I look down at the curled-up dog in my arms, reflect a moment on how close I just came to setting her on top of the baby in the bassinet, put her back on the bed, and go back to sleep.
1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before? Got pregnant. Gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Last year I resolved to try a new vegetable recipe every month. I did this for about 5 months before getting distracted and stopping. But I did end up working more vegetables into my diet throughout the whole year, which was the overall goal of the resolution, so I’m going to go ahead and chalk this one up as a win.
My primary resolution for this year is simply to be the best mom I can be.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My best friend Amy had a gorgeous little girl 5 days before Alexander was born.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No, thank goodness.
5. What countries did you visit? We stayed in the states all year. But in 2010 we visited 5 countries on our Mediterranean cruise. In 2011 we were too focused on selling the old house, moving into the new house, and growing a baby to do a ton of traveling.
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? I’d like a calmer year this year. Last year we sold a house, bought a house, moved, and had a baby. That’s a lot of major life changes for one year. This year, I’d like to just sit back and enjoy all the wonderful things we have.
7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? October 2, the day Alexander was born. And, although the calender dates aren’t etched upon my memory, I’ll always remember the moment we found out we were having a baby, and then the moment we found out he was a boy. I always thought I wanted a girl, and when Tim and I talked about how many kids we wanted, I’d say “2, unless we have 2 boys, in which case I might want to try one more time for a girl.” I never knew how much I wanted a son until I found out I was having one. Now, having lived with my baby boy for over three months, I feel like I could have a house full of sons and be immeasurably happy.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Giving birth, no question.
9. What was your biggest failure? I wasn’t as focused on my dance classes as I could have been and, as a result, had a couple of performances in which I made several mistakes and didn’t perform as well as I could have.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing major, though I was completely caught off guard by how difficult it was to recover after Alexander was born. I assumed that since I was in good shape, the physical recovery would be a breeze, but boy was I ever wrong. Exhaustion and hormones aside, it was a full six weeks before I had all my energy back and could return to any sort of normal workout routine.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Our new house.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tim, hands down. He has been my rock through all the craziness and emotional instability that comes along with pregnancy, childbirth, and new parenthood. I couldn’t have done it without him, and no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to adequately express to him how much I appreciate everything he does for me. I’d be completely lost without him.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? The Realtors who sold our old house. They were mostly useless and unethical, and working with them was a nightmare.
14. Where did most of your money go? The new house. Worth every penny, though!
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My amazing baby boy.
16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
(a) Happier or Sadder? Happier. So much happier. Not that I was unhappy last year, but I was stressed about selling the old house, and I hadn’t yet experienced the life-changing happiness that comes with having a baby.
(b) Thinner or Fatter? Fatter, but I’m only about 15 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, so I don’t mind it so much.
(c) Richer or Poorer? Probably about the same financially (I think? I got a raise last year, but I’m also just coming off the un-paid portion of my maternity leave, and our mortgage payment is bigger, so I don’t really know.) Definitely richer in the non-material sense.
17. What do you wish you’d done more of? Slept, especially toward the end of the year.
18. What do you wish you’d done less of? Cried. Pregnancy and post-partum hormones made me cry so much more than I normally do. I’m not a big crier, so this really bothered me. And then I cried about how much I was crying all the time. It was no good.
19. How did you spend Christmas in 2011? We went to Virginia to see Tim’s parents, then flew home Christmas Eve and spent Christmas with my parents. It was a busy couple of weeks, but lots of fun!
20. Did you fall in love in 2011? I fell head over heels in love with my son. And I fall more in love with my husband every single day.
21. How many one-night stands? What a married man and woman do in the privacy of their home is none of your business.
22. What was your favorite TV program? How I Met Your Mother. We finally discovered how hilarious this show is and watched all six seasons on Netflix before getting caught up with the current season.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Not even a little bit.
24. What was the best book you read? I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy and The Night Circus. The Best Birth was great for preparing for labor and delivery.
25. What did you want and get? A new house. The most perfect baby boy.
26. What did you want and not get? A quick sale of our old house at a good price. But it eventually sold in the end, so I can’t complain too much.
27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 28, and went to Ft. Collins and did a tour of my favorite Mexican restaurants. It was a delicious, burrito-filled weekend!
28. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? Elastic. Maternity clothing is a study in uncomfortable layers of elastic, and I’m so glad to be done with it.
29. What kept you sane? Tim. Also, being able to eat all the cheese and burritos my heart desired. But mostly Tim.
30. Who was the best new person you met? Alexander, obviously.
31. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011. Nothing in the world can prepare you for the incredible joy that comes with being a parent.
I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve never felt that I was particularly good with kids, and even though I wanted kids of my own and was excited to be a mom, I always assumed Tim would be the Fun Parent, the one the kids would love hanging out with. I would watch him with other people’s kids, and my heart would melt. He knew how to interact with them, how to get on their level and just have fun. I never had any doubt that he would be an incredible daddy. I, on the other hand, often feel self-conscious around kids and usually assume they are bored with me. So, excited as I was to have kids of my own, I never had any desire to be a stay-at-home mom.
And then I had a kid of my own. And everything changed.
Cliche, I know, but it’s true. This little man, this tiny, adorable, little human with big blue eyes and a grin that will slay you in your tracks has made me reconsider everything I ever thought about what kind of a parent I would be. It’s been a gradual change: there were days early in my maternity leave, after Tim went back to work and I was left to entertain the baby by myself all day, that I thought “I am really not cut out for this stay-at-home parenting business.” I was exhausted. I was dealing with post-partum hormonal craziness. And while I enjoyed hanging out with my son all day, I also watched the clock, counting down the hours until Tim came home.
But as the weeks went on and Alexander and I figured each other out, things got better. We both got more sleep. We had lots of fun together. And when Tim got home from work, I wasn’t always so eager to hand the baby off and have some time to myself. We found a good groove, Alexander and I, and for the first time I began to think that being a stay-at-home mom might actually be pretty awesome.
Of course, regardless of how awesome it would be, it’s simply not an option for us financially. Teachers don’t get paid a ton of money to begin with, and when you add to that the extreme budget cuts this state keeps passing down to its school districts, trying to support this family on Tim’s income alone is just not a realistic possibility for us. So, despite my newfound desire to be a stay-at-home mom, I resigned myself to the reality that I’d be returning to work within a few short weeks.
It was hard. Really, really hard. As the third month of my maternity leave went on and I got ever-closer to returning to work, I struggled. There were days when just the thought of leaving my son behind while I spent 8 hours in an office reduced me to tears. I’d lie in bed at night sobbing into Tim’s shoulder about how much I was going to miss the baby. I fought back a massive amount of self-imposed guilt over not being able to devote all my time and attention to my precious baby boy. It was a rough few weeks, to say the least.
The holidays came and went, and when people asked me when I was going back to work, instead of my standard “Not until January” response, the answer was suddenly “Tuesday.” And somehow, the closer it got, the easier it became to think about. I was still dreading spending so much time away from my little guy, but at the same time I was starting to look forward to going back to work. I really enjoy my job, and I was excited to see my favorite coworkers again. Plus, we had made arrangements for Tim’s younger sister to be our nanny, and I knew Alexander was going to be in extremely good hands while Tim and I were at work. While I was still worried about how much I’d miss him, I was finding a bit more inner peace about the whole situation than I’d previously had.
Inner peace or not, it was still a rough transition. The night before I went back to work, I cried while stretching out the bedtime routine as long as I could. I snuggled him for an extra long time after he ate, then we read two bedtime stories and snuggled some more before I finally gave in to the late hour and put him down in his bed. In the morning, I smothered him in hugs and kisses before reluctantly stepping out the door. I almost cried when I got in my car and pulled out of the driveway, but I managed to hold it together. As I pulled into the parking lot at the office, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe this is really happening.”
Then I got to my desk, turned on my computer, took a deep breath, and was fine. While I waited for the IT staff to re-activate my email, I put a few pictures of Alexander on my desk and swapped holiday stories with my cube neighbor. I sorted through 3 months of emails and enjoyed getting caught up with my boss. For the most part, my first day back was easier than I expected it to be.
By 3:00, though, I was starting to struggle. I missed my baby and was in full-on clock-watching mode, waiting for 5:00. It was one of the longest afternoons ever, and when I finally got home, Tim was waiting at the door with the most adorable sleeping baby in his arms. I scooped the baby up, held him tight, and finally gave in to the tears. I had a good, long cry while snuggling my baby boy, and it was the best I’d felt all day.
The next day was easier, and the day after that even easier. I have a picture of Alexander’s super cute grinning face as my desktop background on my work computer, and while it usually helps me get through the day, there are also times when it just reminds me how much I miss him. Luckily, one of the perks of having my sister-in-law be our nanny is that I can ask her to bring the baby and meet me for lunch any day that I need a baby fix. It’s still hard at times, but it’s getting better every day.
As much as I miss my little man when I’m at work, I absolutely love coming home at the end of the day and seeing a great big smile spread across his face when he sees me. Maybe Tim’s not the only one who gets to be the Fun Parent around here. I may not be really good with other people’s kids, but my own son seems to think I’m pretty darn great, and that’s more than enough for me.
This month, Alexander learned about traveling. We went to Virginia to visit Tim’s parents, a trip that involved planes, layovers, and lots of time in the Baby Bjorn. He was a great little traveler, with minimal fussing on the planes, and he tolerated being schlepped around Colonial Williamsburg very well.
We did get to change multiple diapers and outfits mid-flight, which was fun, except Alexander was the only one who had a change of clothes in the carry-on, so some of us had to sit through the rest of the flight with the results of a diaper blowout on our jeans.
Fun fact: Most airplanes don’t have baby changing stations in the lavatories. On a related note, next time you travel, you may want to wipe down your tray table with a Clorox wipe before putting food on it.
We had a really good time in Williamsburg, touring around, soaking up the history, and hanging out with Tim’s parents. We also got to meet up with our friend Mike, who we don’t see nearly often enough, and his adorable son. AND we got to meet Lindsey and her husband Edgar for dinner. Lindsey and I have been online BFFs for years, and it was so much fun to finally get to hang out with her. She’s every bit as awesome in person as I expected her to be.
This month, Alexander also learned about Christmas. At 5:00 Christmas Eve morning, we flew home from Virginia and went straight to my parents’ house in Ft. Collins. It was incredibly exhausting, but once we all got to take a nap we felt better.
Alexander was so tired from staying up most of the night waiting for Santa to come that he slept through most of the presents Christmas morning. Silly kid!
The night of the 26th, though, he gave us the best present of all by sleeping through the night for the first time. A solid 9 hours of sleep! Don’t tell anyone, but he’s been consistently sleeping through the night ever since, and it has been marvelous. It’s especially good timing since this was also my last month of maternity leave, and going to work is a lot less exhausting than it would be if I were still getting up for a 3am baby feeding.
My return to work is a story for a different post, though. For now, I’ll leave you with this picture of Alexander on his 3-month birthday. He’s more than doubled his birth weight, and he’s getting more adorable by the second.