The Mommy Trenches

Babies. The boyfriend and I have discussed babies a lot lately. Let me just clarify, I am not pregnant. And thank God for that. Still, as good a time as any to hash out if/when we are married, how many kid(s) we would like to have. It is one of those things you ought to have figured out before you say “I do,” otherwise there might be trouble later. So I guess you could say we have been talking about marriage too, but that is beside the point today.

The boyfriend has been very clear that he would like at least one more chitlen, maybe two. At the minimum.

And I am leaning much more towards one to two kids. I always said two, two years apart…but that was before I met the hurricane, before I found myself divorced, starting my adult life all over again. So really now, really just one kid, like one and done, as in, I am already so done having babies, I think.. And that answer leaves a lot to be desired in the boyfriend’s opinion.

I do not know what to say to him. The further I get from those early days in the trenches, the more clear they become. So, honey, hindsight is twenty/twenty and I am not sure I could willingly go back there. I cannot even read my posts from around that time, not that I probably wrote a whole lot. I know I wrote those monthly baby updates… but did I mention that one week I got four – literally four, one hour “blocks” of sleep – in an entire week? And he was up at least three times a night 99% of the first year, despite every imaginable trick to get him to sleep better. We tried everything, read.every.book. He always had to be held, and he was always so discontent, and he always cried. Then I cried with the worry and guilt that if SIDS took him one night, he would die having never been happy. So deep in the trenches.

Looking back I am almost certain I was depressed. This all screams depression with a bit of post-traumatic stress. Depressed because my then-husband deployed when I was pregnant and did not return until our child was five months old. Depressed because I did not have my village. Depressed because my dreams of motherhood were crushed by a baby who spent a majority of the first year of life crying. And I am not talking the “nyah-nyah” nasally, baby cry (and I know you know what that sounds like), but a full out scream from day one. I have videos to prove it. It was not colic. At least that would have been predictable, at least that would have ended.

I probably sound horrible. I am not looking forward to proofing this post because I know this is definitely not what moms are supposed to say about motherhood, about their children. But my experience with new motherhood was hard. What to Expect When You’re Expecting (and the first year edition) let me down. I know, and am grateful, that my experience is not typical. That alone gives me hope that if I did decide to dive into the trenches for a second baby that I would earn my escape much faster than sometime around the second birthday. I feel I am just now finding a new normal, just now navigating my life with some sort of grace. Diving back in, any time soon, would be the very definition of insanity.

But then… then I think about who I want around my dinner table in ten years. And even after writing my heart out on this screen, after thinking and talking about this for weeks, I see more than just the hurricane and the hopefully then-husband sitting with me. I see at least one more tiny human… at least one more. So who knows. I am really not sold on the idea, but do not count me out just yet. There could be another year of adorable monthly baby photoshoots to look forward to, some day.

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One Year Old

Elliott,

To say it has been a crazy year would be a vast understatement. You are my sunshine, but you are also every bit my hurricane Elliott. Your personality is the number one thing that caught me off guard about being your mom. You are in no way the typical “easy baby,” and with how quiet you were in my belly, I am still surprised at how much you can be at times. You are a very determined, persistent, intense, and intelligent little guy. The colloquial definition for personalities like yours is “spirited” and it fits you to a t. For these reasons, among many others, I know you will be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to in life. I know, I know… that is exactly what most parents say about their children, but I have had complete strangers tell me as much after meeting you.

You smile and you wave and sometimes play shy. Grocery stores are where you work your magic, charming the cashiers and little old ladies by flirting with them and waving goodbye. You are so curious about the world around you, and I just know one day you are going to let go of the couch and take off running. Has not happened yet, thankfully, but Grandma says she practices walking with you while I am at work.. And we are all thankful that you have taken that transition well. Grandma and Grandpa are like second and third parents, and they like to joke that it really does take a village to raise a child. For the record, I hope you never feel that you came from a broken home. There is nothing broken about us, our story just had an unexpected plot twist and if you ask me, most days I would say we are doing just fine.

Your first word was momma.. Or mom or mum. When we first started hearing it, it was not in context, but now you can identify those words as me. It is then sweetest thing, except when you are screaming your head off at me because you want everything and nothing at all, at the same time (and you want it right now please). And those fits are a bit more common lately as you finally got five teeth in a span of about two weeks this past month! Way to go on that one.. from gummy smiles to our own little fang face like it was nothing at all. You have actually handled teething really well, aside from not wanting to eat because your mouth hurts. No change in weight this month, still hovering around twenty pounds and measured in at 31.5″ tonight. Mostly I’m shocked that your feet are already so big. You would be in a size 5, easily, if you were actually wearing hard soled shoes now. Cannot wait to see how the christmas footprint ornaments turn out this year. I think this will probably be the second and last year for those! We will just stick with handprints for a while..

And now here we are.. I am not ready for you to be one year old, but it is your birthday anyway. Just got you down for the night at 11:30pm, which is sadly not all that uncommon. No matter what I have tried, you have been my night owl from the moment you were born, nine minutes to midnight. I still cannot think of that day and not have tears well up in my eyes. Best.day.of.my.life. It is so hard being a single mom sometimes, especially when it feels like you want to be anything but happy, but I was half the person I am now before I had you. You are my motivation to be a better person, to be a better parent. You are and always will be my little boy.

I love you to the moon and to the sun, to forever and back,

Mom

Nine Months

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Baby Bee,

This month has been a fast one. Going, gone in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to remember that you’re only nine months old when you can play independently and wander the house (supervised) when the baby gates are open. You’re so small and so big at the same time. Your favorite two places are the hallway and the under the kitchen table. You also love the vacuum when it is turned off, but turn it on and you’re pulling on the nearest person’s legs to pick you up.

You still crawl like a broken frog 80% of the time. And even though cruising the living room is so easy for you, I’m hoping walking is still a few months away. That’s not to say that I have encouraged you to take steps towards me. Haha! You haven’t and I’m thankful for that. You’re only going to be this little once. Up to 19lbs 5oz and 29 inches tall! You didn’t grow in height this month, but we all notice that your diapers have been fitted on looser snaps, so you’re chunking up! Sweet baby rolls.

Foods are still a lot of fun for you. Your new favorites are any variety of winter squash and green beans. Grandma feeds you all sorts of new foods though, like homemade “refried beans” without the oil or cheese and even little cream of wheat balls for breakfast. She even sneaks you some sorbet every once in a while when she thinks I’m not looking! And of course, you love it. We always make sure to have some food for you when we go out for dinner, because you expect to sit with us and enjoy your meal too. Although, yesterday at Chipotle you were more interested in talking to everyone than the food we had for you. It was really great because your version of talking is a yell right now. Grandma and I got a kick out of it, making up what you must be saying to everyone. “Save me! She’s not my mom!” while Grandma was holding you, for example.

Your big personality is starting to shine through. For a while there, it was hard to see beyond that wanting what you want, right now attitude you still have. You’re becoming a bit more sweet, and maybe even the tiniest bit shy as you head into this month. It’s right around the time a lot of babies develop separation anxiety and you’ve definitely got it. Screaming and throwing a fit at the baby gate because I walked down the hallway without you? Yeah, that happens now.

Overall though, you are ready to go anywhere, anytime as long as it doesn’t mean getting in and out of your car seat all day. I had a blast trying to get your monthly photo shoot pictures done this afternoon And to think there was once a time when I looked forward to you being able to sit up for your pictures! Wasn’t very long after you could sit that you were crawling all over the place, like today. Three months to one year, need to start planning your first birthday party.

I love you to the moon and to the sun and to forever and back.

Love,

Mom

Attachment Parenting

The little has been asleep for about a half hour now. I can hear him dreaming in his pack ‘n play next to the bed. It has been a chaotic day. Nothing seemed to make him happy for very long. Every few minutes went like this… “Mom, I’m bored. Pick me up. Where’s the cat? Put me down. Feed me! Never mind, I’m full. Don’t ignore me! Find me a better toy.” >> Just guessing what he was thinking based on his actions. A bit of an exhausting day, to say the least.

And then I checked Facebook, as I’ve come accustomed to doing, while nursing him to sleep. My newsfeed was all cute baby pictures and random group posts until I stumbled across an article shared in my AP, attachment parenting, mom group. A former AP mom, not linked to our group, ranted about how that lifestyle ruined her life for almost a decade. She described how babywearing was literally throwing her back out, safe co-sleeping/co-rooming made it so she never slept or had time alone with her husband, and responding to her first child’s crying made it so that he never learned to self-soothe and refused to nap. The second half of the post detailed how crying it out, limited nursing and a more strict sleep schedule with their second child, worked like baby magic to create a much happier family unit. (I won’t link to the post because I would hate to have anyone scared away from the great intentions of this gentle parenting style due to the author’s bias.)

What annoyed me most about the author’s rant, was that she made it sound as if parenting was an all or nothing game. If I have learned anything in the past six months, it’s that parenting is not black or white. There are many, many parenting styles and techniques out there. Not everything that works for one baby or family will work for another. I will go as extreme as saying that not everything that works one day for us will work the next. She also completely missed the boat on what AP is all about.

Just thinking of the attachment parenting principles… The little was exclusively breastfed, up until this past week when he tried bananas for the first and second times. (Post on that soon!) Struggling with my supply, and not knowing the root cause, has given me an appreciation for why many moms resort to using formula. It is almost always a failure of the system, not of the individual. There are definitely moments when he cries and I don’t immediately tend to his needs; like when he’s strapped in his car seat and screaming his head off one red light from home. Or when his spirited nature (see first paragraph) is wearing on me. I didn’t “wear” Elliott until he was five or six weeks old. He felt so tiny and fragile before then, and the fear of accidentally suffocating him scared me. And then there are definitely days he wants nothing to do with a baby carrier, and that’s okay. I still consider us an AP family, because of the way in which we instinctively respond to his needs.

I guess all I’m meaning to say, is that this parenting style fits me. I’m not perfect at it, but parenting isn’t about perfection. It’s certainly not all black or white, and that’s coming from someone who admittedly struggles with seeing the world as such.

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