Thursday, August 4, 2016

What I Learned in July


Well, wow. This list is...extensive. I guess I've learned a lot here lately? Which is good because when I do my goals recap next week, y'all will see that I haven't actually done very much. So it's nice I'm learning alot. Or, more accurately, analyzing a lot. Which, who knows if that's good? Maybe it's at least keeping me sharp? I guess most of my energy right now is mental energy.

1. It honestly doesn't matter how well your baby sleeps if you struggle with falling back asleep after every wake up.
 I was having a conversation with a new friend at the pool and she asked how Sarah Lamar slept. I told her pretty well and that my nights really aren't bad because I can basically nurse, burp, and change her in my sleep. Peyton and my sister in law have such a hard time going back to sleep if they're woken up and really occurred to me what a huge blessing it is not to struggle with that. I've thought about how fortunate I am to be able to go right back to sleep easily, but I guess I hadn't realized that there are really two factors in a momma-newborn sleep situation: the momma and the newborn. Ha!

2. I would probably would have to fight the SD of seven years ago on it, but tiny babies don't require that much space or stuff.  
 I set up a changing station in our room and it's very minimal- I have a towel and the wet bag on the floor and that's where I change Sallie. There's a small tray on the side of the Pack N Play and I was amazed at what all it would hold- diapers, wipes, alcohol, diaper cream, her vitamins and dropper, a burp cloth, a toy, and the much loved and shockingly still functional "Twizzle" (musical soother thing) from years gone by. As I've mentioned before, her real clothes hang in the kids' closet and I use bins under the crib for storage but her jammies and stuff are in the bottom drawer of our dresser. We have her diapers (all of them until she's potty trained!) in a storage thing in my closet. She's pretty much set up camp in our room. I've felt a lot more organized with a slightly more minimalist approach this time. 

3. The stuff I carry around with me has changed, too. Some of it is me learning things over time; some of it is three unique babies with different sets of needs. In addition to diapers and wipes, with Annie I had tons of toys, diaper cream, a largish medicine kit, and a paci sanitizing contraption; with Graves I brought the Velcro swaddler, about five pacis, and sometimes even the rice sock. Now I bring a bonnet and a tiny fan (we're outside a good bit), a light blanket, a very simple extra outfit, a wet bag (even when we're using disposables it works great for dirty/wet clothes), and the sling. 

4. I shared this already but I've never enjoyed a baby so much. With AP, we struggled with the reality of unexpected parenthood and carelessly thwarted plans until the moment we held her in our arms. My anxiety became really difficult to manage and we were trying to learn to be a husband and wife in the middle of learning to be a papa and a momma. I fretted about schedules even though she slept beautifully and I tried to determine what her cries meant even though she rarely cried. I imposed dumb rules on myself- like not doing anything else while I nursed her. Partly, I think, because I was ashamed by my reaction to the pregnancy and wanted to bond with her so badly. And partly because I was, every day, trying so hard to prove my worth as a mother. To the world, to Peyton, and to myself. With Graves, while he was very planned, two kids was a hard transition and I struggled to learn his ways and bond with him initially. It was a full year of survival mode. I spent a lot of time exhausted, anxious, and paranoid everyone was judging what were my very best efforts. And I wasn't honest about it with myself or anyone else. This time I've worked incredibly hard to be honest with myself and with P. I've tried to be transparent in all the spaces it helps me to be so. I've realized it's an extremely worthwhile use of my limited energy to process all of this in real time instead of down the road. And I'm in my early 30s instead of my mid 20s. I know the hard times (and good times) are just a blip in the span of a lifetime with our Sarah Lamar. If she's asleep, she's asleep. If she's awake, she's awake (and typically in one of our arms- I ain't worried about Babes getting spoiled). And if she's crying, I almost always nurse her. The time when the solution to life's problems is that easy is unbelievably short. I'm able to be present in organic, non artificial ways. My lifestyle is much more simplistic, my anxiety is better managed, I more often notice ordinary wonders all around me, and I know where my worth lies (and it's not in how well I mother them, as important a vocation as it is). Those things are about as magic as the baby shampoo I'll be in the corner sniffing for the next thirty years. 

5. I've also never enjoyed being near a baby so much. 
We are making much better use of our gear than we did the first two times. I have Sarah Lamar's swing in the kitchen most of the time (why didn't I think of that before??) and sometimes move it to the study. Her bouncy seat is in the den and if I'm on our bed (not sleeping!) I really like to put her on the Boppy pillow (or my chest of I'm not doing something I need my hands for). With Annie and Graves it seems like I put them in their crib/the Pack N Play a lot more (and she does do about one daytime stretch and a good bit of her nighttime sleeping on the PnP). Partly because people recommended it and I was anxious about sleep issues but also just because I don't think I enjoyed being near a tiny person quite as much. This time, I just like to have her in the same room with me. The other day Mickey took her on the deck for about an hour and it's the longest she had been out of my sight ever. 

6. It is revolutionary having my big people be big enough to trust. As responsible as she was, I didn't trust Annie alone with Graves for ten seconds at two. But I pretty much started leaving them alone with her day one. I mean, I wouldn't go take a nap or anything and I don't leave her in the middle of the floor but I secure her in something and go about my business and trust them not to do any damage. That's a HUGE thing, especially with Graves and something I wasn't expected to be a reality for years We talk a lot about guidelines and safety and he's really impressed me. He does love to "hug" her head, which looks terrifyingly like a choke hold but is actually pretty gentle and she's SUCH a sport and never cries and rarely even wakes up. 

7. Sometimes playing games with an impulsive small person takes some creativity. Thankfully, Annie has a lot of that.   
When you don't have much self control and your sister is a tiny legalist and had anxiety about RULES, you play games with a bathroom door between you.

8. One of my favorite things to do that I hate to do is scrub the pavers with sudsy water on my hands and knees.
 I've tried quite a few cool looking gadgets and fancy easy-to-use mops but Minnie told me along time ago this was the best way to clean your floors. She was right. I've only done it one other time since we moved home- it was the hottest week of last Summer and I swore I wouldn't do it again until it cooled off. And then I got pregnant and I was so sick and throwing up all day and by the time today was over I was to the point where I got out of breath just mopping normally. I've been mostly just mopping them with an old fashioned mop every other week and sweeping them whenever Graves looks in that direction (good grief, five year old boys are messy!). But I did it again today and it makes such a huge difference.

9. July is National Ice Cream Month. Peyton celebrated by buying ten pints. I'm kidding, he had no idea it was National Ice Cream month, they were just on sale. And I celebrated by leaving the freezer ajar last night and melting two of them. Whoops. Glad we didn't loose anything else. And he went and bought ten more for the two we lost.

10. I have absolutely no confidence in what James Dobson says about how you can tell a child's personalities at like six months. My big kids personalities are SO different now than they were as babies. It's almost the exact opposite of what I would have predicted based on babyhood behavior. Annie was a very laid back baby who morphed into a super intense, tightly wound (though incredibly amazing) bigger person and Graves was a very high needs (though also amazing) baby who morphed into one of the most easy going people I know. 

11. Children can thrive without having an elaborate Summer.
The other day they spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the kitchen  pretending to freeze their action figures in "carbonite". Sometimes I worry I don't interact with them enough, but I love that they still don't know the word "bored" (#perksofhomeschooling) and are so creative when I give them space to be. 

12. There's no milk in that elbow. 
 Nevermind, that's something Sallie learned.  

13. It's so interesting how the things you fear can become things you're passionate about. I was just telling a friend of mine who is a midwife how it took me SO long (and is still a process at times) to be comfortable with pregnancy and birth and breast feeding. Pretty much to be comfortable with bodies. Honestly when Annie was born I couldn't even describe myself as a woman (I much preferred girl) or say the word breast and both birth and nursing skeeved me almost beyond what I was able to bear and to some extent terrified me.

14. Names are so important to me. This probably sounds weird and vain and I think it's a combination of things- how incredibly important names are to me and how long we waited to find the perfect name for our daughter (or how long we waited for it to find us)- but not a day has gone by that I haven't thought at least once about how much I love her name and how unbelievably perfect it is for our precious girl who was simply Sister Baby for so long. One of the most special things about Sarah Lamar's first few days was finally, decisively settling on her name. There are things about her birth and first few days that I now sort of wish were different but I told Peyton that, as long as it took us to pick, there are not a lot of things I've ever felt so sure about in my life. I know that sounds downright stupid in a way. I mean, it's not an issue of eternal significance. But I second guess myself most of the time, replay every situation, and analyze things to death. But I haven't with this. Not once. And that feels like a gift. To be able to just rest in something and enjoy it.

15. Sallie's nickname reminds me of the color yellow for some reason. 
 I have no idea why, but it's a STRONG association. An old friend told me the other day that every time I mention our girl she thinks of Sally Brown, Charlie's sister. I never realized it, but this too, is how I picture a Sally. Our Sallie will likely be a bit darker featured but I associate it with a happy little sunshine person and always the color yellow. 

16. My people are, gratefully, pretty flexible.  
(I, typically, am not.) We took our first trip since Sarah Lamar was born and it went pretty well. We drove up to Oxford one afternoon and explored the campus and the next day Peyton worked and then we hung out on the square, had dinner, and came home. After we checked out of the hotel the second day, we had about four hours to kill until Peyton's shift ended so we ate lunch at Newk's, visited Petsmart, and had dessert and enjoyed the play place at CFA. There were a few pull my hair out moments and I do HATE driving in unfamiliar places, but overall it was pretty easy. Both big kids fell asleep on the way home and Annie said "oh no, we'll probably be on that bad schedule again". By which she means they go to sleep at two in the morning. Win some, lose some.  

17. The difficulties of having a newborn are- for me!- nothing compared to the hard work of gestating and this time that has been exponentially true. Now that she's here, the only real hardship I've battled has been the sadness over so many lasts and the complicated feelings of being very excited to watch her grow up and the simultaneous fear of just that. I've tried not to be too dramatic (and I'm sure failed- like the one or twelve times when I was pregnant and sobbing and I told P I'd perform the vasectomy myself if I needed to) but now that I'm no longer pregnant, I'm realizing it's toil on my body even more. I feel like a new person and I'm so thankful. Even the rain hasn't been debilitating like it was. I'd LOVE more little ones one day (and Peyton even alluded to how he'd probably start wanting another once Sallie gets bigger ) but they ain't gonna come to us thata way! And I'm slowly but surely continuing to make peace with that.

18. That said, we tired. But, some days- most days- I don't even mind it, you know? I told Peyton recently that it was weird we were past our physical prime (he was talking about swimming laps). We started dating when I was eighteen and in some ways that doesn't seem so long ago. (Why is time blowing my mind so much these days?) But when I catch a glimpse of myself or look in Peyton's eyes, I can see the age. And that's okay- we've worked hard since we were eighteen and twenty one- we've created three new lives and done our best to invest in them daily, we've moved twelve hundred miles across the country and twelve hundred miles back in a year and a half, we've lost people we loved and gained new friends, and we've learned a whole bunch. 

So that's it. Like I said, I feel like I learned a lot and it was fun to document it all!  

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