Seen, Not Heard: Crying Babies, Airplanes, & Tootsie Pops

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When my daughter was almost three months old, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Hawaii.

Like many new mothers who would travel for the first time with a baby, I was terrified.

What if I had the kid that kept everyone from feeling the Aloha?

You know the one. The baby on the plane who does not stop crying. FOR HOURS.

I mean, my daughter was borderline colicky, wailing it out at the witching hour with the worst of them. It was horrible, and confusing, and exhausting, but it appeared she was finallygrowing out of it. I hoped.

But what if she wasn’t?

Babies are unpredictable. In three months of mothering, I didn’t know much, but that was one thing I knew for sure. There was a fifty fifty chance that baby girl would freak the f out. The noise. The altitude. All the strangers. Plus, I worried that my fear of flying would somehow rub off on her.

So, I decided to follow the lead of an adorable Pinterest photo I’d seen. I put together consolation prizes for the poor passengers seated next to us.

The night before our trip, I spent hours filling plastic baggies with tootsie pops and ear plugs. I wasted entirely too much paper in my attempt to get the font size just right on the note I included, the one apologizing for any crying before it happened. I sacrificed valuable sleep to preemptively make my fellow travelers a little more comfortable.

But, of course, no ear plugs were necessary and my kid was a glowing example of what traveling with a child can be like. Easy-ish, all the gear and diaper changes in small spaces aside.

So when I recently saw a mom friend sharing pictures of the in-flight, I’m-sorry-my-kid-might-cry goodie bags she made, practically identical to my own, and likely also inspired by some Pinterest travel board somewhere out there on the internet, I started thinking.

I started thinking about how you don’t see the guy with the bad gas writing notes to his fellow travelers apologizing that he smells like a dozen sick chickens have hatched rotten eggs inside him. (What’s the difference between him and a baby? HE can control himself, save a medical condition).

Nor do you see the overweight passenger, buying you and your row mates a round of drinks because his or her arm is protruding into your lap the whole flight.

Or what about the old lady in the wheel chair? The one who gets to disembark before anyone else does. Sure she holds up the line, and probably pisses a few people off, but you don’t hear her grown children asking the flight attendants to make an announcement thanking everyone for being decent human beings.

Because farts happen. People get fat. People get old. And you know what else is a natural part of life? Babies. And babies cry. Sometimes a lot. It sucks. But that’s the way it is. And the fact that babies cry definitely doesn’t warrant dirty looks and parent shaming. Nor does it require consolation prizes.

Recently we had some people staying at our vacation rental. When they arrived, I asked the typical, “How was your flight?” question. They replied with a rant about a brat on the plane who wouldn’t shut up and the brat’s incompetent parents.  Okay, so they didn’t say that exactly, but they might as well have. It was clear they took personal offense to the crying baby and the miserable people who made it. Sure, this couple was just being honest. I’d probably have said something too, if asked, but with empathy and concern for the poor parents and their unhappy child. Because had it been an obese person they were seated next too, giving them a little less leg room or something, I highly doubt they’d have had the audacity to vent about THAT with such obvious disdain. Kids and their parents seem to be the one group left available for bashing without fear of unleashing the politically correct police.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with social media messages that we shouldn’t be sorry. We shouldn’t be sorry for our post-partum bodies. We shouldn’t be sorry for our messy houses. We shouldn’t be sorry for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. There’s a whole list of things we have permission to no longer be sorry for. So should we really be begging for forgiveness from people we don’t know for something that’s as synonymous with life as breathing? Crying happens dear riders of the headache inducing skies, get over it.

I think we’ve come a long way from the “Children are to be seen, and not heard” generation, but I think we still have a long way to go in building the new village. I picture the new village as one in which we have understanding and patience and respect for the littlest among us. Their crying included. Clearly there’s work to be done to foster a culture that is kind to those that might slow down the herd or, God forbid, prevent you from enjoying your airline peanuts in silence, if that’s what you call the sound of turbo jet engines.

I know the issue of crying babies on airplanes seems like an inconsequential one in a news cycle of racially motivated violence and terrorism, but this matters too. Being tolerant of the inconveniences imposed upon us by those that further the species, and being kind to the people who choose to raise them is important. Just remember, that baby on the airplane you wish you could gag with your neck pillow, might be wiping your behind in the rest home someday.

So would I do it over again? Waste sleep and money on bags of candy for people I don’t know and probably will never see again, simply because my kid might make someone else miserable for a few hours? Simply because my kid might do what kids, by nature, are prone to do?

Absolutely.

In addition to tolerance, the world needs a little more sweetness. And if my now three month old son’s adorable, innocent face doesn’t do it for you. Maybe a tootsie pop will.

The Hardest Part

It was a typical end of the week afternoon in my backyard when I realized what I dislike most about being a mom.

My single best friend had stopped by for a visit. She was attempting to entertain my kids while I grilled dinner, me cursing myself for not bringing home a Costco rotisserie chicken instead all because of some article I read about the dangers of carrageenan.

In between baby coos, and trying to dissuade my toddler from feeding dog kibble to her stuffed animals, my friend and I talked about her Friday night plans, because of course I didn’t have any beyond DVR.

She, on the other hand, had options.

The kind single girls dream of.

Reservations at a swanky restaurant was option one. Jazz and wine at the Museum of Modern Art was another. Meeting up at a new gastropub downtown was a third.

In an hour or so, she’d leave me to bedtime routines and cranky babies, when she’d scurry off to luxuriate in a long uninterrupted shower before slinking into any number of in-the-moment outfits. She’d then head out into the night, the possibilities as fragrant as her perfume. Her mind swarming with thoughts of work and wine. She’d probably get drunk. She’d probably order late night takeout. She might even kiss a stranger. My friend could be recklessly irresponsible if she wanted to, answering to no one.

Picturing all that lay ahead, for both of us, was when I realized what the hardest part of parenting is. And it isn’t what I thought it would be.

It isn’t the poosplosions. The goriest of them always happening when you’ve forgotten the extra wipes or spare outfit or when you’re wearing white.

It isn’t the stretch marks. Oh the stretch marks. No hundred dollar cream or magic potion is ever going to restore the skin on my hips to what it once was.

It isn’t the crying. The newborn colic crying. The 6 month old teething crying. The toddler tantrum crying. The just because I want to annoy you crying. The two children at once crying. While pretty freaking awful, it isn’t even the crying. Though there’s no other more disconcerting sound in the world than a child in pain, be that pain real or imagined.

It isn’t the mess.

The expense.

The discomfort of having to hold your own pee, to deal with someone else’s.

The hardest part isn’t even the sleep deprivation. I thought the sleep thing would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Car keys have ended up in the freezer. I’ve slept through my first born LOUDLY dumping a bottle of Kefir on the master bedroom floor.  There have been moments of exhaustion so poignant, with both children, that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to wake up again.

The hardest part isn’t any of those things, though admittedly, they do suck. No one likes the smell of fermented dairy products in their brand new carpet.

The most difficult thing about being a mom is something I still struggle with, two kids and two years later.

It’s that I’ll never truly feel free again.

I’ll never get lost in the night like I did before my kids were born. Never again will I float from place to place on a whim, dashing from one exciting oyster pearl of a party to another, via smoky cabs and forgotten conversations with the people who drive them (way back then 3 years ago Uber wasn’t a thing) with nothing on my mind but the moment. I won’t be able to let go like that, to lose track of time. Not on a dance floor, or, even, on a long run. My kids will always be clouding my judgment, shaping my decisions, deciding my night.

Realizing I’ll never be able to set out into the world without my babies and not constantly feel the pull back to them, as if a magnetic umbilical cord is still attached, fills me with both joy and a strange a sense of loss.

Sure, I’ll hire a babysitter like everyone else does. Have dinner. Drinks even. See a movie. Mingle at a party. And dance, I’ll probably even dance. But a part of me, almost all of me, if I’m honest, will have one foot already out the door, in a rush to get back home to peak in to see if the humans I helped create are still breathing.

I’m wistful for my emotional independence, I really am. Because I can’t even run to Target alone without missing them. Worrying for them. Hoping with every pang in my heart that they’re okay.

That’s when it hits me, how close my wings have been clipped. It’s exhausting loving little people this much. And while my kids are the best thing that has ever happened to me, the lack of freedom a love like this entails is the hardest part of parenting, hands down.

 

 

3 Months of Leif Love

Whether a combination of the Whole30 diet I started when Leif was 2 months old, or digestive and brain maturity (his not mine haha), being mama to my baby boy is blissful. He’s no longer colicky. He spits up only sometimes. He’s sweet and smiley. He sleeps for wonderful, long 6 hour stretches. I absolutely, positively adore him! Imagine that.

My little hunk of baby meat LOVES attention. Where his sister was content to sit under a play mat for a good 30 minutes, he’s begging for you to talk to him after five.

The little guy will try to strike up a conversation with anyone who will listen. It’s adorable. I’m not kidding, hold him in your lap and whisper sweet nothings to him and he lights up – smiling, sticking out his tongue, cooing – it’s the cutest thing I have ever seen. The. CUTEST.

His chunky baby thighs. His big blue eyes. His sweet personality. I want to bottle his cuteness and sell it, he’s that delicious.

It’s amazing how things can go from being EXTREMELY difficult, to relatively easy, practically overnight. I can do this parenting 2 children thing. Yes. I. Can. And you know what’s c to the razy? I’ve actually been thinking that maybe, just maybe, there might be room in our home for a third child if biology and finances cooperate. Probably not. But maybe.

Earlier today I joked on Facebook that since Leif rolled over today for the first time that we’d be ditching the swaddle and that, as a result, we’d no longer sleep. Well ugh. Little guy napped for a total of an hour today, split up in 20 minute chunks. This was even with a little swaddle action. I paced around so much holding him like a football that I think I may have burned a hole in the rug.

What do I think caused his refusal to sleep for more than a few minutes today?

His recent discovery that he can control his hands. They’re just that cool.

HANDS, people.

When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate, I mean REALLY appreciate, the power of your hands?

Mine have begun to look older. Weathered. Used. I have the first few sun freckles of an older person. 

But my babies keep me young and age me exponentially at the same time.

Last night, when I looked down at Leif in the crook of my arm, and he looked up with eyes that I think will stay blue, a beautiful storm swept color, I wondered…

Baby boy, what kind of man will you be?

Will you be strong?

Will you be kind?

A fair judge?

A wise king?

Will you be an adventurer?

Will you climb mountains?

Or get lost in libraries?

Or both. You can do both.

You can do anything.

I’m so lucky I get to watch you decide, I told him.

That I get to be your guide, I told him.

I am your mama, and you are my boy, and everything is right in the world when we’re together.

And then finally, I whispered the thing I’ve said every day since he was born, I love you little guy, thank you for choosing me.

 

 

Moving With Children

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We’ve been in our new old house now for about 2 weeks.

The week of the move things were crazy. I mean bat poop insane.

An example: We went to buy boxes/run errands as a family of 4, and decided to bring the poor lonely dog along. When we got home the baby, who hates the car, was screaming his head off, while D had just taken a giant dump. I manned her, while Merp manned the baby. An hour and a half later, D asked, “Where’s Henry?”

We had left him in the hot car, baking in the afternoon sun.

Thank GOD he’s okay, but wow. Not a good moment in our life as dog parents. We were so consumed with our human babies we completely forgot our fur one…😦

That incident about sums up the last few months in which I’ve been silent in this space.

BUT UGH… I had an entire post typed up, with more juicy details, that literally DISAPPEARED when I pushed publish. Maybe multi-taking has something to do with it?

Right now, a high needs fussy baby is writhing around on me in the carrier, a toddler is trying to climb the pantry to get to the treats, and my house looks like Box City barfed all over it. AND I have an Au pair (who is the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. Hands down. LOVE HER). Thank God for her, as she prepares our Blue Apron dinner, because without her help I’d have checked in to the psychiatric unit weeks ago. No joke.

God help the woman who spends her day alone with toddlers and babies with no assistance at all. This multiple kids thing is INTENSE. My husband and I agree that he is LUCKY to go to work. The job of the stay at home parent, with or without two extra hands, is by far the most challenging thing I have EVER done.

Two for the Show

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Last week, the light of my life turned two years old. Two!

If I wasn’t well acquainted with the tremendous mental, physical, and emotional growth of the last two years for her AND me, I am now.

Cradling her baby brother in my arms, while I watch her jump, twirl, attempt ballet poses, sing, and dance demonstrates the miracle of the human form quite beautifully. In just two years she’s transformed from a completely dependent infant into a little girl – a frustrating, brilliant, silly, sassy, active one at that.

Here’s a little bit more about D right now…

  • She still LOVES Thomas the Train and trains in general. She spent 15 minutes this morning watching real locomotives chugging through mountain scenery while I nursed her brother.
  • She is equal parts big girl and baby, wanting to put on her own shoes one minute, but to be rocked the next.
  • She is quite the singer. D dazzles us with various renditions of “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” monkeys has been replaced with everything from babies to turtles and then back to monkeys again. “Mama finger, mama finger where are you…” is another one and it gets stuck in all of our heads frequently so that we have to ban humming it and other children’s songs at the dinner table. “Twinkle Twinkle” had a good run, during which she’d have her father and I stand outside at dusk and sing it again and again, followed by her singing it again and again. The mischievous monkeys, however, have been the favorite for the last two weeks now . She carries a phone, remote, or other similar shaped object around pretending to call the doctor, FOR HOURS.
  • She still fights sleep, especially naps. She ends up in our bed some nights, especially in the few weeks her brother has been home, which makes for an interesting evening of  avoiding kid kicks, and/or moving her so I don’t fall off, while also comforting/feeding her gassy brother. My husband  insists that her brother won’t be like this, that we won’t create this kind of “sleep monster,” but I’m pretty happy with the fact that she goes down in her big girl bed and stays there most of the time and has for many months.
  • She’s obsessed, I mean obsessed with her “binkies.” If we let her she’ll carry several around at once and talk to them, yes TALK to them. We’ve had full on meltdowns because we can’t find “blue” binkie, or any of the other various colors we have floating around the house. Binkie will be going bye bye at age 3. In fact, D was so stressed out about it before her birthday that she made me reassure her, over and over, that the binkies would stick around when she turned 2.
  • She’s a talker, that’s for sure. 8 times out of 10 we can understand her. Here are a few favorite phrases:
    • “Mama I want to go upstairs downstairs, beach, pool, playground, MyGym etc.” This kid always wants to GO somewhere.
    • “Treat mama, I want chocolate treat.” She’d eat candy all day long if I let her.
    • “I love it.” (When she’s eating something particularly delicious)
    • “I’m sick.” “Owl is sick.” “Mama is sick.” (She’s also obsessed with stories about the hospital, doctors, and playing doctor).
    • “No no no no NO.” She was singing this today while she was eating lunch. For real.
    • “That’s a black one.” She loves to identify things by color. Black, red, pink, yellow, green, blue, white…
    • “See guys working.” She likes to walk to the construction sites near our home to see the workers and their equipment. Hey, if she’s the next home improvement wiz I would be thrilled!
    • “This is mama’s, dada’s, mine, Pat’s, baby Leif’s, Henry’s.” She’s been quite concerned for months now about who belongs to what.

Where some kids are tidy, D is not. She’s a mess and mischief maker, going from one room to the next sprinkling a trail of chaos as she goes. I treasure her curiosity, but I’m trying to teach her to clean up after herself too (it’s not easy).  Together we read all the books, and now count all the chocolate covered raisins. I’m amazed at how well she’s adjusted to life with a little brother. I’m amazed by her beauty and strength and light every single day. I feel so very blessed to call this special two year old my kid. How did I get so lucky?

Little Leif’s Birth Story

A week ago yesterday, I sat in a pre-operation room at Providence Holy Cross hospital in West Hills, California awaiting a C-section to bring forth my second born child, but first born son.

The month, and days, and moments leading up to that morning were anything but joy filled.

There was my fear that he wouldn’t turn.

There was more fear when after trying EVERYTHING he didn’t get any closer to the cephalic position, fear that he’d be the 1 in 10 breech baby with a major or minor birth defect.

Then there was even more fear still about leaving my baby girl behind for 3 to 5 nights.

And finally, there was something beyond fear – humor murdering terror, I’ll call it – at the thought of the surgery itself, my body to be sliced open like a cadaver in anatomy class, my baby to be pulled from my bloody insides, a strange species delivered into a strange land, the cold, hard planet of the operating room. I had weird thoughts like that, I really did, visions of a mutated creature who had chosen me as its host. I realize now that where some are prone to postpartum depression, I teeter on the edge of gestational insanity the entire time I’m pregnant.

When a wiry nurse had finished setting up my IV fluids, I started to cry.

“I’m just so scared,” I sobbed, the mascara I had put on for post op pictures, a surprise benefit to being able to plan my child’s birthday (that’s what I told myself at least), streaked down my face like war paint in the rain.

And then when a new baby was rolled in front of her mama’s “room” next to me, calling out for warmth and love, I cried even harder. This was really happening. I was going to have another baby. I was also going to have major abdominal surgery in minutes. I then expected to see a miserable mother wheeled in next and even murmured under my breath, “I should so not be seeing this right now.”

But what I heard and what I saw, through a crack in the curtain in front of me, was beautiful.

I saw a big burly dad cradling a swaddled infant in his arms, as a bubbly blond baby nurse explained eye ointment and vitamin K shots.

And when I heard the baby’s mother get wheeled into the curtain divided recovery room next to me, I couldn’t help but keep listening. Their soft, calm voices. The mother’s response to her recovery nurse that she had no pain. The sweet muffled grunts of a baby latching for the first time.

I wish I could thank this little family, whose baby’s birthday is shared with my son’s. Their post op moments filled me with so much strength.

After that, I wiped away my tears, took a deep breath, and prepared to drag my IV bag with me down the hallway.

As I was walking in my sheet of a hospital gown toward the double doors of the operating room, I started to shake. It was freezing cold. And despite the gift of perspective from my neighbor family in c-section fun, I was still so very afraid.

I shook through the insertion of the spinal, which after numbing medicine was no more painful than a bee sting.

I continued to shake as they laid me down, fitted me with an oxygen mask, and pulled up a blue sheet to shield me from the gory reality that is this kind of a birth experience.

When I realized I could no longer feel my legs, I started to panic. The cumbersome oxygen mask and blue sheet in my face made me feel like I was about to be buried by the ultimate surgery complication – death.

So I spoke up. The sheet was adjusted. The mask replaced with two buds in my nose. My arms left unrestrained with a promise to keep my hands behind the curtain.

And then my amazing, gracious, beautiful, talented doctor, who described that awkward sheet as “blue sky,” started her work. She had called me the night before, joking that she was a Gynochiatrist when I bawled my eyes out that this wasn’t how Leif’s birth was supposed to go. Up until the moment they cut me, I still had a hard time accepting it.

After some extremely quick sensations of tugging and pulling,  Leif began to wail. Unlike his sister’s birth, where silence marked her first seconds of life, Leif came forth into the world a blazing trumpet of sound.

“He’s perfect,” Dr. Long exclaimed, “Stephanie, he’s absolutely perfect!”

When asked if I wanted to do skin to skin then and there, I declined. Something didn’t feel right to me about holding my baby boy for the first time with my innards exposed, blood weeping from me onto the floor. But I did want to see him. To kiss him. And so they held him up for me, all 21 inches, 8 pounds and 10 ounces. And when he was swaddled they brought him to my lips and I kissed his round little face, that back then looked so much like his sister when she was born. But his hair! Dark and thick and almost curly.

Oddly, I had a dream a week or so before Leif was born that in hindsight I should have considrered more seriously.

In it, Levi held up a perfect baby boy, presumably Leif. This stunning child had dark hair and blue eyes, just like the one I was blessed with a week ago. It’s like Leif was trying to tell me through that dream, to “calm the f down mama. I’m going to be okay. And so are you.”

The next phase of surgery didn’t pass as quickly as the first. Levi went with his baby boy into recovery, while I stayed behind to be put back together again. While doing so, I smelled smoke and heard the teaching doctor who I agreed to let attend with his student, explain that they had just found endometriosis on my left ovary and cotarized it away. I was not expecting to get a mini-lap out of the deal! But hey, I’m thrilled they could do some damage control while in there.

It felt like a lifetime before I was reunited with my loves, Levi and Leif. And when I finally had my baby boy in my arms, peace and love and light ran through me stronger than the morphine they’d given me to help numb the pain. Even if he hadn’t been “perfect” in the 5-fingers and 5-toes sense of the word, he Is perfect to me.  His latch. His cries. His round face and dark hair. Perfect. The beginning of Leif’s life story was a lesson in letting go of plans and learning to be brave. Leif’s birth may not have been my ideal, but it was exactly what it needed to be.

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Making Peace with The Pitts

With the countdown on to my scheduled c-section, I’ve been thinking, Googling, and crying WAY too much.

Until today.

I think I’m finally at peace with the status of this pregnancy.

I think I’m finally through the darkness, and reaching for the light.

I’ve had moments of anger and resentment toward my innocent baby boy that have astounded me – as if it’s HIS fault I won’t get the perfect birth experience I’ve dreamed of. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s true, it’s honest, and that’s what this space is for. I’ve failed to enjoy anything this last week and have instead been consumed by self-pity. I’ve been a gross version of myself, a version I don’t like. Yet at the same time, I know it’s an important part of the process – this moving through the shit to get to the salvation.

As far as I know (after almost a dozen ultrasounds, including an additional level 2 day before yesterday, and copious amounts of blood work), other than being breech, Leif is perfectly healthy.

This pregnancy is perfectly healthy.

AND I’m perfectly healthy.

Things could come up. There might be issues. There might not. But so what?

As one lovely blogger reminded me, love will win if I let it. The magic will come if I reach for it. And as a friend said via text, it’s time to STOP, we’ve only a few days left as a family of 3. WOW.

This is really happening.

I’m about to have another CHILD.

And since I’m already prone to so much mom guilt, why am I torturing myself? The bad wolf has been so darn hungry lately, but it’s time to kennel him for awhile because the good wolf is skin and bones.

My gorgeous, stubborn, ridiculously intelligent toddler has certainly picked up on the energy of me and all of this change. There was a week of no naps and all of the over-tiredness whining that entails. There’s been some major clinging. Some kick filled tantrums.

But there’s been a lot of talk about babies and the hospital, coupled with swaddling of creatures big and small (the dog is NOT a fan) too. And the most hilarious, but kind of sad, thing of all: my little girl, who’s been sleeping in a big girl bed on the floor since 14 months, is now taking naps in her crib! She insists!

I worry so much about leaving her for 3 to 5 days during recovery. As much as she adores her Dada and grandma, I still handle bedtime all of the nights. I’m still the one who brings her the lost pacifier at 4 AM. Who she comes to, arms stretched out for snuggles and early morning kisses. It breaks my heart to think about how she’ll cry out for me when I’m not here. But I have faith in her Daddy, for whom she squeals with joy when he walks in the door after a long day.

I’m hoping she’ll surprise us.

That she’ll be stronger than we think.

We’ve been talking about the baby, hospital and my absence for weeks. Every time the doorbell rings she thinks it’s grandma coming to take care of her. Grandma brings presents and treats and lots of silliness.

And finally, I put a call into a specialist, Dr. Wu, who delivers breech babies vaginally. I want to make sure I’ve explored every option. Apparently, I’m an excellent candidate and baby L is too.

I doubt I’ll go that route, but it’s nice to know that there ARE options just in case.