Sunday, August 25, 2013

5 months (and 4 days)

At just over 5 months, Augie is:

:: Eating rice cereal. We were going to skip it, but then he started eying our plates like a starving orphan and we decided to go for it. It seems to be a rousing success. He eats. He smiles. His poop now smells.

:: Rolling over. Finally. In fact, it just happened today. Twice, in fact.

:: Consolidating his napping, but only at home and only on the weekends. Thank god for the 2+ hour afternoon nap when we need to prep for classes.

:: Going to daycare. This has been a tough transition. He still hasn't taken a good nap there, but I'm hoping that changes this week. His teachers seem kind and caring. He doesn't fuss, but he just won't sleep.

:: Playing contentedly by himself on the floor. This seems legacy of the first two weeks of daycare. We'll take it.

:: Sleeping without his beloved swaddle. I was terrified of weaning him from the wrap, but it was time (I found him banging his head against the crib rails with no way to move away from them) and the first two nights have so far been pretty smooth. He's growing up so fast that the next thing I know, he's going to want a waterbed and a disco ball in a den bedroom a la Greg Brady.

:: Slow down my babe. Slow down.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On the cusp

Augie starts "school" on Monday.

I'm not ready. I don't think I'd be ready in another five months and maybe not even in another five years. I accept, of course, that he has to go. I also accept that I have a certain responsibility to myself, to Josh, and even to Augie to go back to work. But there's really not one part of me that's looking forward to dropping him off on Monday morning.

This is even after I read this at 3 am, when I was up for the second time the other night.

No one is more surprised by this hesitation than I am. Before he was born, I told friends that I wasn't looking forward to the baby phase. I thought I'd muscle through until he could talk. I had no idea that I'd lose all my defenses in his infancy. I had no idea that I’d feel so completely fulfilled by caring for his little pre-verbal self. Now I cry when I look at pictures from his first days and weeks. I already miss that little baby. He and I talk a lot about the days "when he was young."

And so as Monday approaches I've been thinking: I find motherhood the most deeply, magically liberating thing I've ever done. So much of the last twenty years has revolved around my managing my anxiety, my ambivalence, and my depression. And while a baby isn't, of course, a remedy, he has been the closest thing I've ever found to a cure.

Everyone always told me that a baby doesn't fix anything. I think everyone might be wrong in my case. 

There were hints of this in my decade with a hound named Arlo, a mutt so attached to me that he went on hunger-strikes when I left him for the weekend. He forced me outside and onto the wooded trails every day. We logged more miles in those years than I’ll accumulate in the rest of my days. Caring for him made me feel alive; it relaxed my nerves.


Caring for Augie feels a little like that, but also so much richer and so much more satisfying. He lends a shape to my days that feels both new and completely familiar. And the care that he requires, so simple and so immediately satisfying, feels the perfect counterweight to work I do and am supposed to be doing more of, namely writing and thinking about American literature.

That work has always come with ambivalence. I enjoy it in moments of clarity, but I dread it for long stretches of fuzzy thinking and scholarly malaise. Working with students feels vital, but the rest remains a painful struggle.

It’s this ambivalence that Augie has begun to wear away. When I’m with him, I’m liberated from the static in my head. Instead, I think about showing him new colors or changing his dipe, or talking to him about the cake that we’re baking. I’m not plagued by the frenzy of feeling like I need to keep up with the critical conversation. I’m happy to have a reason to “opt out,” if only for an afternoon.

I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m using my baby to spell myself from my career struggles. Instead, it feels like what he’s doing is both concentrating my energies (I work much more efficiently when I know that I only have an hour before I need to take back over) and making my downtime really downtime.

I'm not sure how daycare will affect this rhythm we have going. I worry that it will both make our time together feel much more urgent and that it will tarnish my work time with guilt. I hope that I'm wrong about both of these things, but I want to remember this struggle in any case.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

for armistead

My friend Armistead is expecting a little boy in December and she’s been asking about the things that she really needs. When I was pregnant a few friends sent lists, all of which totally overwhelmed me, and so this is my attempt to massively streamline the list to the bare essentials, knowing that there are dozens of other things that are nice to have, but they’re also totally unnecessary. Needless to say, these are the things that worked for us, but I'm sure that every baby has his own preferences.

1. Swaddle blankets, or better yet, the miracle blanket. We started with the aden + anais ones and totally love those for other things, but they were a bit unwieldy for nightly swaddling, even after watching this video. So we switched to the miracle blanket and really loved that, at least until Augie got too big. Now we're on to these, but he's already straining at the seams. If only his arms spasms would calm down. I fear we may have to try these next.

2. A bath sponge. We found that it was too difficult to bathe Augie in a baby tub when he was super little. In fact, we just started using one at four months. Until recently, I'd get in the bath first, soak for 10 minutes (a blessed ten minutes alone), and then Josh would bring Augie in and I'd sit cross-legged and hold him on the sponge. We'd then both be able to wash him. Thankfully we have no photo of the sponge set-up, but here's the big boy arrangement (with the bath sponge now as a pillow).

3. A nursing pillow. We were gifted a Brest Friend, which I wanted to hate because of the name, and we borrowed a boppy. There was really no competition. The former is way better. With the boppy, Augie would sort of fall between it and me. But with the brest friend, god is that the worst name, he could lie on the flat surface and feel pretty secure. I never used the waist band. That thing freaked me out.

4. A bouncy seat. Strictly speaking, this isn't a necessity, but if you ever want to be able to take a shower or fix a bowl of oatmeal, you need a place to stash the little guy. We borrowed this from friends and we've loved it, used it every day, and return it when he can sit up on his own. But I'm getting that thing back if we ever have another baby. This is the one we had. It's pricey, but I have no complaints. He now loves this spinning thing. (Oh and the blue soft blanket seen below was his absolute favorite. I'll try to remember who makes it.)

5. Wraps. Back to that bowl of oatmeal. When you're ready to eat it and he's had enough of the bouncer, you need to be able to strap him to your body and chow down. We have the k'tan, which was perfect for the newborn stage and still super easy to use. Here it is in action.

Don't mind the head scarf. We also have and use an Ergo and I sewed a ring sling out of linen yardage. These days, I use the ring sling most often, but I still grab the k'tan for grocery runs. The ergo is good for hiking and more adventurous baby outings. If I had to get just one for the first six months, it would be the k'tan.

6. I've been saving the most essential for last: diapers. For the first two weeks, we used paper diapers. We figured that we'd sort out having a baby at home before we tried to keep up with diaper laundry. I'm not sure this was totally necessary, but it wasn't a big deal to buy one case of newborn dipes.

I spent about six months reading hundreds of reviews of diapers. I also talked to a bunch of friends who had tried all sorts of brands. I ended up buying all of ours on Black Friday, which seems to be the only day of the year when they're seriously discounted. We bought these, these, and these. Altogether, I think we have 32 diapers. That's enough to do laundry every other or every third day. They should last for several more children, mine or someone else's (the resale value is excellent). We end up using the 4.0s double stuffed at night and the flips during the day. I also bought a few dozen prefolds that we use as both spit-cloths, and trifolded, as inserts in the flips. I have absolutely no complaints about them. Oh, and we bought mostly snaps, but a few with velcro and we like them all. We also use cloth wipes because it's just as easy to throw them in the bag with the dipes and they work so much better than disposable ones. We keep them warm in here with water and a drop of tea-tree oil. We also use this miracle stick to prevent any sign of diaper rash. Oh and we wash with Charlie's (Maura's brilliant suggestion), which we use for everything now.

I think that about does it. Everything else is a bonus. I'll try to do another post on newborn and infant toys that Augie has loved. And you know the good books.