Six Weeks Breathing Oxygen

We got four super cute picture frames at our baby shower, and so far they’re just sitting around with the stock photos still in them because we’ve taken well over 250 pictures of him so far, and not only is there no good way to choose between them, we also just keep taking more, and he just keeps getting cuter. We’re so besotted with him it’s as joyously all-consuming (and probably more than a little nauseating to some outside observers) as teen love.

That’s not to say there aren’t long stretches that are tiring, frustrating, monotonous, and/or LOUD. He’s a baby, after all. Right now I’ve been wrestling with him all day to get him to sleep anywhere but on top of me so I can get ANYTHING done. I’m typing with one hand right now, holding his legs in the other to keep him from kicking and waking himself. I tried letting them go and he woke immediately.

Then there’s the inevitable guilt. I just wrote on Facebook:

I think Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on my Mind” was written by a guilty mom who wished she could do the things she needed to do to function as a human and also cuddle / entertain her baby all day…

Without full-time help, everything is a compromise. If he won’t stop crying pathetically when I really, really need to feed myself, I try to reason with him: “Buddy, if I don’t feed myself, I can’t feed you.”

Then later: “Baby Boy, if I don’t get enough sleep, I won’t be as able to be the kind, patient, healthy mother you deserve.”

But there’s really not much reasoning with a newborn. They want what they want, and the live in an eternal Now in which they’re either getting what they want or they aren’t.

Case in point: Fussy Butt absolutely will not drop off to sleep without me holding his feet, and I kept trying, wanting to be able to type with both hands, and now he won’t fall asleep at all. Sigh. I’ll try this again later.

OK, he’s feeding on a stack of pillows on my lap now. Where was I? Right. How awesome parenthood is πŸ˜›

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But seriously, as much time and work and tiredness and sore muscles as this involves (it is not trivial hoisting a wiggly a 10+ pound chunk all day and contorting your body to breastfeed no matter how hard you try to get comfy and bring the baby to the breast — easier said than done, yo), the joy is greater. Not just in the now but in all the things there are to look forward to as this boy blossoms into his full humanity.

(But I also totally see and respect how parenthood is not for everyone. As for me, I’m excited for… most of it. Enough of it that I certainly don’t regret it and don’t anticipate regretting it. But I do understand kid regret better now. It is quite a hand grenade in your usual life and routines, and most people have no idea if they’re cut out for it until it’s too late — if they intended to get pregnant at all. It’s especially hard in our society since there’s usually no “village” to take some of the burden off and let new moms rest and heal a bit. I’m not someone who gets lonely when I’m with Ali all day, but a lot of people are, and sleep deprivation will drag just about anyone down.)

Just yesterday I put him on his back on his play mat, and while before he’d just kind of lay there inertly until he got too bored, now he can play for long minutes at a time, carefully eyeing the toys hanging above him and then flailing his arms in a way that hit the toys far more than would be the case if he was just flailing randomly… and more and more often as time went on. It’s so thrilling to watch him learn new skills, to watch his little mind and body develop and to see the quiet satisfaction it gives him to master new abilities through his work/play.

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I feel like Ali whizzed through the passive bobblehead newborn phase. He had great head control and was pretty responsive so quickly. It really feels sometimes like he’s just about to start speaking and walking. I feel bad for the guy that his cognitive and physical development are going to be a long time catching up with him!

I remember being very young and my mind being so far ahead of what my verbal skills or my body could say or do. Our little guy (and maybe all babies) seems like a toddler trapped in a baby’s body, and he’s remarkably good-natured given how frustrating that must be.

My mom came last week for a few days to help out, and it was so nice to have that help. She is absolutely crazy about this little guy, and he likes everyone, but he really likes his Grandma. She took some great pics of him, too.

An example of thoughts that went through my mind: “OK, Grandma is holding the baby and he doesn’t need to be fed. Should I make and have breakfast, clean up the cat puke, clean up the baby poo folded into the blanket on the changing table, fold the clothes from last night, move stuff to vacuum, make the bed, or do my rehab exercises?”

Here’s what I did in that case: Food, puke, fold clothes, made the bed, half the exercises, fed the baby while mom vacuumed, then went to Taco Bell because I could and I was starving. Luxury!

Here’s a link to a video my mom posted on Facebook of my busy little guy in the morning. I don’t know if it’s public or not, but at least I can access it πŸ™‚

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I love this photo of him from May 6. It captures his handsome face and his personality so well.

I really just can’t get enough of his face. He’s so expressive and beautiful. He’s also so gorgeous when he sleeps (or stretches in his sleep).

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I am completely incapable of any kind of objectivity when it comes to how gorgeous he is, but he’s so beautiful to me. And I’ve been so much mellower since he was born. Like all the other “little stuff” of life (like what anyone thinks other than him) slides off that much more easily. I still don’t worry about him too much, like in a distracting or counterproductive way. I do my best and trust him to keep being the healthy, smart little guy he’s been since he was born. I do check to make sure he’s breathing occasionally when he’s sleeping, but not in an OCD way, just every now and then. It’s nice to be able to live by this quote:

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People keep saying how much he looks like Ahmed, and I can see it a little. He certainly looks more Turkish than Northern-European-Okie. I don’t yet feel like broadcasting his genetics to the world because I’m not yet sure if that’s my story to tell, or if it’s his. And it’s a bell you can’t unring. I have told many people individually, but I haven’t Facebooked about it, and I haven’t posted this blog on Facebook for a long time.

I’m not trying to hide it or anything — I’d rather talk openly about it, and I’m proud of it and think it’s very cool — I’m just not sure yet if it’s my place to do so. And of course, opening this subject up to random people inevitably invites a lot of ignorant questions and comments I don’t necessarily feel like dealing with right now. Any thoughts on this are welcome. Am I being a coward here, or am I just protecting my son’s privacy and exercising my right as a new mom not to invite unnecessary BS into this lovely time?

I’ll of course be totally honest with him and have been honest with close friends and family. It’s just the rest of the world I’m not so sure about.

It’s so crazy to think that if our first egg donor hadn’t dropped out, we’d have a completely different baby right now. Or no baby at all. We were so very lucky. Sometimes the way our children come to us is impossible to predict or understand. But I couldn’t ask for anything more than this sweet little guy. Even when he’s driving me crazy, he’s so completely and utterly mine, and I’m so completely and utterly his.

And when he smiles when he sees my face? Oh my God. I just… yeah. I’m a writer, supposedly, but I have no words. I don’t know if there are words for this. Maybe it’s something you can only experience.

Right now he’s been asleep on me for a few hours, and it’s killing my tailbone, and I’m hungry, and this blog is the only thing I’ve accomplished all day. But he’s so damn cute and sweet. He’s just so damn cute and sweet.

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Victory Day

It’s Mother’s Day. And I’m a mother. It’s still so hard to comprehend that I’m this amazing little guy’s mom. I take care of him, I talk to him and play with him, I feed him, I love him so much it sometimes makes my heart stop. But to be his mother? To be that important to someone? To step into the archetype of giver and nurturer of life? It’s an overwhelming prospect. I guess it’s only been a month, but my mind still has a hard time grasping it.

I guess it’s like giving birth. I said to my midwife, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

She said, “You are doing it.”

I guess I am doing it. It’s not some abstract archetype after all. It’s what you do every day, every minute, when a child is yours and in your care. And I am doing my best and striving to be better every day. I’ve never had motivation quite like this.

Happy Mother’s Day, too, to all the past and future mothers out there. Sending love to all who’ve lost mothers, who’ve lost children, and who have watched too many Mother’s Days go by as they strive for motherhood. The experience is not something I will ever forget.

As for me, my Mother’s Day could not be any sweeter, and I feel so incredibly grateful.

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Another overwhelming milestone, which we did not document in any way (and we haven’t done it since due to Ahmed’s injury), was taking our son for a walk by the river in his stroller. How many dozens or hundreds of times did I walk on the trail by the Arkansas River and dream of the day I would have a child or two rolling or carried or walking along that trail with me? Asking me questions about the sky and the birds and the moon? Reveling in the beauty of trees with me?

Ali was pretty quiet on the walk, but he was calm and his eyes were big, taking everything in. He seemed to love it. And I was just… kind of like I’ve been ever since he came home with us. Aside from some sleep-deprived, hormone-derived psychological hiccups, I’ve just been thiking, “Is this real life? Is he really ours? Is the hell of our primary infertility journey really over? Are those endless, empty years really in the past?”

We want two kids, but we could live with one. We could not live with none. It just isn’t in our particular natures. So, now we can live. And for the next year or so — barring a happy miracle — we won’t have to think about pregnancy or conception AT ALL. Hallelujah! We have a year of respite from that unrelenting hell, and next time there won’t be so much emptiness or pressure. Plus we know I can carry and we know what can work. It just really feels — knock wood — that the worst is over. At least in this particular (massively fraught) category.

One thing I do wish is that I had enjoyed those “empty” years more, though I know it’s much easier said than done. The years weren’t actually empty. There was so much to celebrate, feel grateful for, and enjoy. And I told myself that all the time. But it was just so hard to feel it. So hard to feel anything but on edge and bereft, all the time. I wish I could have known for sure that it would end one day, and end happily. But not knowing made it feel endless. Made me feel stuck. Gave me tunnel vision similar to what sleep deprivation and post partum hormones gave me sometimes, only it lasted four years.

I will never forget how searingly hard that was, and I feel so much heartache for everyone who’s still in that place. I really hope my story can offer at least a scintilla of hope, as so many success stories (sometimes after hardships much worse than ours) helped me through the darkest days. That life won’t always be like this.

This morning, after Ahmed took the 5:30am “early shift” with our morning child, he brought the little guy in and set him by the bed in his bouncing chair around 8:30. The little guy was whimpering, so I used my hand to increase the bouncing, which sometimes calms him down. I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses, so I was pretty blind, but after a while I noticed some kind of square-shaped smudge that I thought might be a note, like a little Mother’s Day note. I grabbed it and read it. It said:

“Sorry for all the troubles I’ve caused [in the] last month. But I’m really happy that I finally met you. You’re the best mom ever! Your son”

I thought it was a sweet little note for Ahmed to write, as if it was from Ali, and I picked my son up and fed him for half an hour or so. Then I got up and put my glasses on and noticed a small silver box in the bouncy chair. Suddenly I felt awful. Ahmed had prepared this gift for me in such a sweet way, and I’d just been silent for more than half an hour! He didn’t know I was blind as a bat and just hadn’t seen it!

I said loud enough for him to hear, “I just now saw the box!”

“Oh, really?” he said, sounding somewhere between incredulous and relieved. I laughed and brought it into the living room along with our son. I sat down and said to Ali, “I wonder what we got?”

I opened it, and inside was a morganite and rose gold ring I had seen months ago when we were shopping for something else. I had been looking for a long time for a ring to replace the wedding band I had lost in Istanbul when I was delirious with fever during one of our IVF attempts. I very rarely find rings I like, and I loved that one. I looked at for a long time before deciding it just made no sense to spend the money when we had so many more pressing expenses. Frankly it still doesn’t, and I really didn’t expect anything or want anything more than my husband and my son. But he gave me a gift on this wondrous occasion that I’ll treasure forever, a kind of token of everything we’ve overcome and what we finally got out of it.

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What we got was this, the sweetest kind of victory. I wish no less for every mother-to-be out there, and I wish for them as much strength and peace as possible until that day. A better day is coming.

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Turned a Corner

This post will be a bit scattered, like my mashed potato brains…

Ali was one month old yesterday, and he’s 10 lbs 3 oz and 23 inches — 60th percentile for weight and 97th percentile for height. Long and lean like his daddy πŸ™‚

He is definitely smiling now, though I think he already was before. He does this cute little shy laugh, too, and sometimes his lower jaw trembles in an exaggerated way like he’s shivering or about to cry, but it doesn’t correlate with temperature or distress. It’s just adorable. He coos and babbles a bit, and it seems like he’s been able to maintain eye contact and track us when we move from early on. He’s pretty good at tummy time, too, and can happily accept the challenge for five minutes at a time and move his head from side to side and pull his knees under him.

He’s also an extrovert, it seems. He loves people and is usually quite good when he leaves the house or we have visitors. (Then sometimes he can melt down a bit when he gets home to decompress from the overstimulation. I get that.)

He’s already starting to outgrow some of his newborn clothes. It’s funny — we have so many second hand clothes that we just root around in the various semi-organized piles we have until we find something that fits and suits the weather. It’s like going shopping, but free. As of now I think we’re good to go until he’s around 2. At which point I’ll be hitting my brother’s family up for their hand-me-downs. They have 6 boys, the youngest of whom is 2 now, so hand-me-downs galore!

Unless our son turns out to be choosy about his fashion. But most likely he’ll be just as happy to go naked and we’ll just be happy if he’s covered enough for a given situation that he’s not cold and no one stares…

I truly can’t wait to watch him grow up, and at the same time I can’t believe how fast this newborn phase is flying by. It’s hard to believe he’s been in our lives for a month already. I may not be in the mood to say that when he’s waking up at dawn again ready to explore — unlike his parents, our son is definitely a morning person — but 0 to 3 months is an incredibly short season of life, and it is whizzing by.

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He’s been a bit gassy lately, and yesterday he was quite overstimulated with all the trips, so the one month photo shoot wasn’t exactly a raging success. But his daddy is usually able to get a smile out of him, at least for a few seconds!

I’m so proud of him for eating and sleeping and growing so well. It’s not always easy, and sometimes I’m literally nauseated because I’m so tired, and this week — in addition to figuring out so many ins and outs of our insurance and the generally opaque, over-priced, and maddening American health care system — I had to take Ahmed to work (with a tired Ali strapped in the car) so I could have the car for my physical therapy on Tuesday (Ali managed to poop on my physical therapist, and she was cool about it, but yeesh, I don’t know how I’m going to manage to keep taking him to my doctor’s appointments) and for his well visitΒ on Wednesday (as well as a quick visit to the chiropractor for me). It was 95 degrees and he was a sweat-soaked rag doll by the time we got there 😦

Anyway, it’s confirmed we don’t have thrush and probably never did. He’s just still working on his latch. I’m afraid I’ve let him fall into the bad habit of a smaller latch than optimal because it doesn’t hurt too much anymore, and when he’s crying or it’s the middle of the night, I don’t want to belabor the point. I just want my baby to get a meal. Sometimes he’s quite good and drains the milk in no time. Other times he has a crappy, pinchy little latch and it seems to take forever. I have no idea how to “train” an infant other than pulling him off and making him try again if it hurts too much. And yes, I know the trick of tickling his upper lip and waiting until his mouth is open wide and then shoving him onto the boob. But sometimes even after his mouth opens really wide, he can pinch it down again before I can shove him on. I don’t know how to break him of that.

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Ali wearing a shirt I wore when I was his size.

In the bigger picture: I don’t mind admitting it took me a little while to really bond with my son. The birth was so overwhelmingly intense and exhausting — and it followed so many years of a whole other kind of intense and exhausting and never-ending — plus I had all that time to imagine and try to bond with other babies that never were… And then once it seemed pretty clear he might actually become a baby, I could still only imagine him in very abstract ways, and nothing really prepares you for childbirth or parenthood. They are both only abstractions until you are living them.

And then the realities of birth, parenthood, and our very own flesh-and-blood baby had to replace the gauzy abstractions we had anticipated for so long, all at once and in a very sudden way.

My husband seemed to have an easy time of it, but that could have been in part because his body went through no trauma and his hormones didn’t crash and swirl around and get dumped on his head. He got to step into parenthood refreshed and well and whole with his mind unclouded and his body neither sagging nor leaking nor weakened or in pain. Don’t get me wrong, becoming a mother is an honor. It’s badass and amazing, and someone has to do it, and it’s certainly worth it. And I suppose I’d rather go through it than watch someone I love go through it, if that makes sense. I said early on that part of what loving Ahmed means to me is that I’d gladly give him half my joy and take half his pain. Heck, I’d generally take all of it. I can’t stand to see him suffering.

But while childbirth and the aftermath is noble and all for a beautiful cause, it most definitely — at least for most women — involves a fair amount of suffering, on a scale that can go from relatively mild to nearly unimaginable.

Anyway, point is, in the first two weeks I was basically living on adrenaline, and while I was in awe of the little guy, and so grateful that he was here and healthy, a part of me felt like I was babysitting a stranger. It was just hard to connect to the reality that this was my son. Perhaps in part because so much time had passed that the whole concept of “having a baby” really was an abstraction to me, and having an actual baby was different from the abstraction, and my brain took a while to bridge the divide.

Plus I was used to our old life, our old routines, and suddenly everything was completely upended. By week three (when the adrenaline had worn off and Ahmed was back at work) I was just kind of in survival mode, stuck in a tunnel vision of sleep deprivation and feeling weak and disoriented and wondering who this tiny stranger was who had taken over our lives. There were very sweet moments, but there were also plenty of moments when he felt like a never-ending chore that — along with my weakened body — was keeping me stuck indoors, feeling feeble and overwhelmed, during the prettiest part of the year, isolated from my “real life.”

Finally I wrote in my journal a bit and cried on Ahmed’s shoulder a bit and felt like the “static electricity” of emotions that had been building up had a chance to discharge, and from that moment on I realized Ali isn’t keeping me from anything — he is my real life. And the things I find overwhelming can be put into better perspective when I take care of my basic needs, even if that involves asking for help.

Slowly I am starting to feel a little more competent, a little less out of control, and like I won’t be anxiously Googling forever. (OK, I probably will be, but not as excessively.) One by one I’m knocking down learning curves (more or less) and feeling less like I’m eating an elephant or staring up at the base of Mt. Everest. And I’m getting a little better about eating and sleeping and generally taking care of myself (though that definitely took a hit when Ahmed got injured and suddenly I was the less feeble one, at least for a while).

I am enjoying my son more and more every day. He is perfect and just getting better as time goes on. (Never mind the current male pattern baldness and baby acne πŸ˜€ ) There’s this feeling like he dropped down to us from heaven. He’s engaging with us more and more, and his personality and intelligence and personhood are coming through more and more, and oh my God, when he’s sleeping, he’s so sweet and trusting and beautiful you just want to die. There’s nothing better.

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The green sleep sack is his Love to Dream, which “swaddles” him with his hands up by his head. He never slept in his bassinet until we got it. The lime green onesie is now hideously stained with baby poo. Any ideas how to get it out?

And soon Ali’s first World Cup will start. The World Cup tends to happen when I have a lot of time on my hands (due to injury, unemployment, etc).

In 1998 it was the summer after high school. In 2002 I was traveling in Europe, watching games in bars. In 2006 I was gainfully employed in DC, but I watched a lot of game (also in bars). In 2010 I was walking with a cane due to a waitressing-induced stress fracture and living on worker’s comp in New York. In 2014 Ahmed and I had just moved to Tulsa and didn’t have jobs yet (other than Ahmed designing and selling a World Cup bracket poster with stickers that made us a few thousand dollars on Amazon). That about covers it since I started watching World Cups!

This will be the best World Cup yet — by far best reason to be stuck inside watching football for hours.

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Ahmed’s beautiful poster. Obviously the second one is just an example and not how the tournament turned out…

Still Cute

Another week on the books. We are pretty tired but very lucky parents. I’ve started physical therapy for my prolapse, and I LOVE my physical therapist. But just when I was hoping to take it as easy as possible as I start the exercises that will hopefully put everything back where it goes, some jackass dirty fouled my husband during his Wednesday soccer game and very nearly broke his ankle.

Ahmed is definitely done for the season, just when the weather is absolutely perfect, and right now I’m the one who has to take care of everything (including taking the garbage out, which involves lifting heavy things on stairs and other things I should not be doing) because he needs to rest and recover more than I do. Such is life on a planet with far too many jackasses.

Ahmed says the guy knew exactly what he was doing. Ahmed beat him to the ball, and the guy knew Ahmed was going to get there first, and instead of backing off — as any decent person would in an over 30 rec league game like this — he locked his knees and crashed into my husband’s ankle deliberately.

Ahmed’s ankle is grotesquely swollen and blackened, and he can barely walk. That kind of thing makes me feel pretty murdery, but there’s nothing we can do. Everyone signs waivers, and the guy can simply say it was an accident, even though everyone who knows anything knows it was not. In fact, that team had been dirty fouling so much, Ahmed’s team had already been arguing with the ref, saying someone was going to get hurt if he didn’t start calling stuff and throwing dirty players out. The ref did not care (just there to get a paycheck I guess), even after what happened to my husband.

The only nice thing is that since Ahmed had to work from home for the past two days, he could hold the baby sometimes and I could actually get some stuff done. Score.

Before Ahmed got incapacitated, we took Ali out last weekend to IHOP, our first attempt at traveling with the baby to somewhere other than a medical visit. All in all it went well. He seems to enjoy the stimulation, though sometimes he can be a bit cranky when he gets back home with his routine all interrupted, and sometimes he gets cranky in the car when it gets too hot, though in general he likes riding in the car. I don’t know how he’ll survive the summer when it’s like 105 degrees out and 120 inside the car! My chiropractor said she tends to bring the baby in the front seat with her, roll down all the windows, and blast the AC for a little while before putting him in his car seat in the back. I’ll have to try that.

Meanwhile I feel like I spend a huge part of my days playing catch-up trying to figure out a dozen new skills and/or logistical hurdles — from sleep to feeding to baby wearing to insurance to exercises to speed my own recovery, and on and on and on, and of course trying to make sure everything more or less looks “normal.”

I can’t believe they let people do this without requiring a license or a degree or anything.

Sure, some of it comes naturally, but a lot of it is pure skill and requires significant mental investments — which aren’t always easy on so little sleep.

I know, I know, Captain Obvious here… But for real, y’all.

I’m looking forward to the time when I feel just a little bit caught up and competent and I can just trust my instincts and enjoy things as they come.

Does that ever actually happen?

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Our little family. Taken by the grandparents during their visit on May 4

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My sleepy men

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Smiley boy!

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I never leave him asleep alone on a pillow, but
sometimes I do leave him wherever he falls asleep!

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Yawn!

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Dreamy boy (at 3 weeks old, April 30)

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Sultan Ali!
(The hat a booties were made by a very kind friend of a Facebook friend)

 

Rough Edges

Not trying to complain here — I wouldn’t have it any other way — but I do want to be honest about how I’m finding workaday parenting challenges. We have an easier baby than most (from what I understand), and it’s still not super easy. It was much easier when our boy had two full-time caretakers. But now that my husband is back at his full-time job that actually pays the bills (plus he picked up a freelance gig to help a friend this week and also start paying off some of our unexpected medical bills, so it’s kinda like he has two full-time jobs at the moment), suddenly it feels like sh*t got real.

Let’s start with the good news. My little guy had his two week appointment with the midwife, and he’s already up to 8 lbs 10 oz. His overall health was declared “extra spectacular” by a midwife who sees a lot of babies. πŸ™‚

I’m down to 136 pounds — 11 pounds above my baseline weight — but I’m fine with carrying around 11Β extra pounds for a while. My body can use it to make breastmilk when the babe isn’t letting me eat like I should (more on that later).

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Our little Hercules is already outgrowing his first outfit!

Also, I swear my little guy smiles back pretty reliably when I smile at him, even though he’s less than three weeks old. (He did get two bonus weeks in the womb, and developmentally I’m always wondering if I should add two weeks to his age-since-birth.) And he coos sometimes, a little “Aaaooohhh,” and it’s the cutest thing ever. When he cries he says, “Mmmmaaaaah!” and I joke that he already calls me Ma.

But yeah… now that Ahmed is otherwise engaged most of the day, I can’t hand the babe off to him to have my tea and morning bowel movement. I can’t play with the baby while he makes lunch. Even peeing can be a challenge if the baby is hungry or fussy, and often my hair doesn’t get combed or the bed made for hours. (Forget about the dishes.)

If the baby’s crying and I can’t figure out what his problem is, I can’t turn to my husband for a second opinion or just hand him over and say, “Here, you try.” (Sometimes that actually works. My husband has a different calming style than I do, and sometimes it seems to be just what Ali needs.)

We have a swing, a bouncer, and a vibrating seat that we got as gifts or second hand, but most of the time when I set him down in any of them (or in the bassinet or pack ‘n play), he’s crying within moments. He wants to be on me as close to 24/7 as possible. And I get that. It’s the fourth trimester. He’s new to this big, airy, scary world. For the first nine months, I was all he knew. And I want to be there for him as much as humanly possible. These first three months are all about giving him a secure foundation in this new world.

But 80% of the time, the only reliable way I can get him to nap during the day is to nurse him to sleep, and then of course he’s on me, and if I try to move him to the bassinet (or anywhere else), he immediately wakes up and starts crying. So I’m just stuck under him until he decides to wake up again or I decide I need to pee or eat (or whatever) more than my baby needs to sleep. It can be a recipe for getting absolutely nothing done all day, just sitting here starving until relief arrives. (If I get too hungry or thirsty, sometimes I just let the baby cry for a little while and feed myself, but that doesn’t feel awesome.)

At least nursing is going quite well other than one hitch: My right nip gets a shooting pain through it every time he latches. I can’t tell if it’s thrush or just a mismatch in size between the nipple and his mouth that’s causing some blistering. (My right nip is larger than the left one.) I also can’t tell if the white on Ali’s tongue sometimes is evidence of thrush or just milk residue.

The pain does subside after a few seconds, replaced by very slight irritation as he continues to suck. I’m not sure how to figure out if it’s thrush or not. Google Images was no help and even my midwife couldn’t tell. I’ll try to treat it with coconut oil and see what happens. But it really puts a damper on what’s otherwise a sweet and satisfying activity.

He also tends to fall asleep while nursing before he gets a full meal, so he’s hungry again quickly. I try to nudge him awake or squeeze the breast, but his sucking slows down anyway, and then once he’s good and asleep I don’t want to wake him and have him start fighting sleep again and crying, starting the whole cycle over.

I just feel so helpless and useless when I’ve gone through the entire checklist of things he could be crying about and he’s still crying — most likely just fighting sleep — and I don’t always know how to calm this tiny being screaming in my face other than giving him the nipple yet again. Everything I’ve read says the first three months, the baby is just lord and master of the house, and you just improvise and survive and do whatever it takes to make him happy. Crying is perfectly normal, you can’t spoil a newborn, and all that. And I’m OK with it. Three months isn’t that super long of a season of life, and then…

Well, actually I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen at three months. Supposedly things start to change a bit, but I’m not really sure how. I assume the babe will be more interactive and maybe better at sleeping longer stretches at night and soothing himself to sleep after you put him down awake? Maybe? Sometimes? Maybe he’ll be more amenable to “sleep training” — whatever that means? Everyone seems to have a different definition, and I haven’t delved too deeply into it. I’ve been neck-deep in trying to figure out 0-3 months.

Any insights will be appreciated.

Some people on Facebook have suggested I use a baby carrier to get things done, and I do have a sling, a wrap, and three carriers (most of which were given to us as gifts or second hand). But watching Youtube tutorials is very different from trying to wrestle a squirmy, impatient, and sometimes cranky baby into these contraptions. I’ve tried the sling, the wrap, and one carrier so far, and I couldn’t quite get the sling to work at all before we both became too impatient. The wrap sort of worked but then he started slipping out of the bottom of it after a while (and it wasn’t quite tight enough to keep his head from flopping backwards). And the first carrier I tried works fine but is a bit cumbersome and ill-fitting.

There’s a learning curve for all of these, and needless to say, it’s not a great time to experiment while I’m on my own during the day or when my husband is overwhelmed when he comes home at night. We’ll have to wait for the weekend to try again. So that’s still a work in progress, but potentially promising as far as getting things done during the days.

And then my husband comes home from work, and he’s stuck dealing with dinner and dishes and then working on his freelance work until late into the night, which means I’m still on my own for baby duty through most of the night. (My husband doesn’t insist on this, but I take it upon myself, since I’m “just” taking care of the baby all day and can, theoretically at least, take a nap while the baby naps while my husband has no such luxury at work.) Whatever time he does spend relieving me of baby duty (and often it’s substantial), I feel bad because it means less sleep and energy for him for his work. I get paranoid he’ll be so tired he’ll have a car accident on the way to work.

Another thing I feel slightly bad about is that I’m still using disposable diapers and wipes because I’m trying to space out the learning curves a little. There are so many new skills to master, and I’m trying to knock out the most crucial ones first. (Feeding, sleep, baby carrier, pumping and storage, etc.) For such small beings, babies have one hell of a carbon footprint, and I was hoping to minimize it as much as possible.

But the prefolds I stocked up on turned out to be both too bulky and a bit too small for Ali (well, they fit, but barely), and I’m not sure how they’ll do overnight, and I just can’t face yet another step or two or three in keeping the baby happy right now (you also have to change cloth diapers more often as they don’t wick the moisture away like disposables), and I cringe every time I toss another plasticky thing into the garbage that will stick around in the environment long after we’re gone. I do try to use cloth wipes and rags for everything but cleaning poo off his bum, and I’ll try to phase in cloth wipes for that as well pretty soon. I still need to make a diluted castile soap solution and put it in a spray bottle.

But I think the most stressful thing is that ideally I’d still be resting and recovering, and it’s just not possible. Being active at all makes the lochia ramp up a bit and also causes gravity to pull on things that shouldn’t be pulled down any more than they are. I’ll start physical therapy for my cervical prolapse next week, but in the meantime I feel like everything I do is making it worse. That first week of bed rest was crucial, but it’s gotten just a little bit worse since the day I came off bed rest.

Of course, I hated bed rest and would hate to keep doing it, even if I had full-time help, but it’s just kind of sad and stressful that that probably would be the best thing for my health and it’s just not happening. (I’d love to go back to doing yoga and taking long evening walks by the river, but that’s not happening, either.)

What else? I’ve been asked to be a presenter at an awards ceremony for outstanding Oklahoma high school students, and it’ll take place near Oklahoma City (two hours away) when the baby will be six weeks old. It’ll be a full day of rehearsals, meet-and-greets, and then the banquet and ceremony itself, and I’m not sure how Ali will cope or how easy it will be to slip away and feed him. (I could pump, but keeping breast milk at the proper temperature while traveling will be its own learning curve.) So that’s kind of overwhelming.

Maybe I should have turned them down, but it’s nice to remember I’m a grown-up and I matter to someone other than Mr. Titty Tyrant every now and then. πŸ˜› Of course, neither my parents nor my brother will be super thrilled that our first out-of-town trip was not to visit family! We’ll have to make time to get to Stigler and visit my grandmother before too much longer. She doesn’t leave Stigler anymore except for doctor’s appointments.

I’m sure it all sounds like not much to veteran parents. I guess nearly three weeks of interrupted sleep is just starting to catch up with me. But like I said, there’s a learning curve, and hopefully things will settle down soon — just in time for the next growth spurt or sleep regression or teething or separation anxiety or whatever else this crazy ride has in store for us!

But it is an awesome ride, and he is an absolute gem, and we’re here for all of it and so very grateful. It already feels like it’s going by fast, and I’m still hoping we’ll have another one about two years from now!

P.S. If you’re wondering how I’m writing this, computering is one thing I can do while feeding or holding him.

First Two Weeks

It continues to be mostly fun, though I admit I’m a little tired of watching the world go by out the window and not being able to participate, mainly because I’m still giving my body some time to recover before lugging a baby (and gear) around, up and down stairs, etc. I thought about going out for sushi on Sunday night, but the thought of the baby crying or needing to be fed made us both not want to bother with it too much. I guess a “lazy month” (or so) isn’t the worst thing to happen, though it’s a shame to miss all the gorgeous weather!

Needless to say, we’d rather have a baby boy than a sushi dinner (or a walk in the park) any day of the week. And, God willing, there will come a time when we can have it all πŸ™‚

It’s also pretty nuts to think about being an actual mother this Mother’s Day. It honestly didn’t occur to me until someone else was talking about it on Facebook. I already have a card for my mom and a note on my calendar to try to figure out a gift, but it didn’t cross my mind that I’ll suddenly qualify for a card and a gift, too. Obviously I don’t expect Ali to get me anything (haha), and don’t really care about getting anything in general (my husband and I are both happy to skip most “card and gift” holidays and spend our money on things we enjoy more than mandated cultural artifacts, except when members of our family expect and appreciate said artifacts). But just the fact that I qualify… it’s a mind-frack. Mother’s Day is now my day, too.

Anyway. The theme of the past couple of days has been warm water. He had his first bath, and his pees have become mighty streams that take some doing to constrain! Three times now he’s unloaded during a diaper change, ending up with his shirt soaked and his satisfied little face covered in urine. It’s too cute.

The first bath was just because it was time — his stump had fallen off and belly button mostly healed — and the second was to rinse off the urine. Ahmed has a handy thermometer that reads temperatures without having to touch anything, and he runs 100 degree water in our little plastic tub with the mesh cloth hammock in it (a hand-me-down gift from a coworker), and the moment we sat Ali down in it, he just kind of looked around and happily accepted the new sensations. He’s such a good-natured little dude.

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Do I feel like a mom? A part of me still feels like I’m playing the part of a mom. Like how weird it was to be called a “wife” and to call my boyfriend my “husband” for some time after the wedding. Like we were playing grown-up, even though we were in our 30s. Slowly it became the new normal. But it took some time to feel like our rings (that we bought ourselves, which oddly felt like cheating) weren’t just props in a play we were putting on, and referring to “my husband” wasn’t some pose.

So yeah, we have a kid in our house, we take care of him, change his diapers, feed him, soothe him, adore him. We have all the gear. But are we parents? I guess by definition we are. But it may take a little while to grow used to the new identity / role. There’s still a little part of me that wonders, “But really, we get to keep him? Like for years and years?” It’s hard to comprehend.

I also spend way too much time every day on the internet or with my head buried in books trying to figure out if I have any idea what the heck I’m doing. Feeding (and output) seems to be going perfect, thank goodness, but Ali has developed a bad habit of fighting sleep until he becomes over-tired, at which point he’s too hopped up on adrenaline to sleep and ends up alternately screaming and nursing until he finally exhausts himself, at which point he drops off for 3 or 4 hours.

My understanding is that newborns shouldn’t stay awake more than about an hour at a time and should then get a couple hours of sleep to integrate and process everything they’ve learned, with somewhat longer sleep stretches at night. Ali was like that until recently. As he’s become more aware, I guess he’s come to enjoy his awake times more and doesn’t want them to end. One more cuddle or one more snack sounds better than being left alone in a bassinet or a Pack n Play. Can’t say I blame him.

Any tips or tricks for regulating his sleep will be appreciated, not least so I can quit reading internet articles about it, many of which seem to contradict each other!

From everything I’ve read, though, babies are just king until at least six weeks. Your job is to improvise and survive, keeping the king as happy as possible, knowing there’s no way to “spoil” them that young. I’m not sure what will change at six weeks, but I’m giving myself until six weeks as a kind of arbitrary cut-off, because I feel like I can do anything for six weeks. Not sure what the next six-week plan will be, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. He’s already changing so fast.

I did try to put Ali in the ring sling yesterday, but he was a little cranky and it ended up being an exercise in frustration. I never did quite figure out how to do it, even with Youtube tutorials. Today I’ll try another carrier, and the next day I’ll try another, then maybe I’ll circle back around to the ring sling. (There’s only so much stimulation you can subject a newborn to per day.) Being able to carry him hands-free might well be a game-changer now that I’m starting to feel like I can handle wearing 8+ pounds of baby (and growing).

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Our doula gifted us this little onesie, and we took a pic of him in it for her.

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My mom got us this little blanket, which comes with little placards for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, and so on. There was nothing for 2 weeks, but here’s his “official” 2 week portrait nonetheless.

Welp, the king is once again awake and sending his song throughout his kingdom, so I guess that’s it for today πŸ˜‰

UPDATE: Two milestones today. He blew a little raspberry while I was changing him, and during tummy time he could actually pick his head up and turn his head from one side to the other, which he couldn’t do a couple of days ago. My gosh he’s changing so fast!

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We got him down in the crib last night for a couple of three-hour stretches. I was up an hour and a half in between, feeding, changing, soothing, and feeding him again. But all in all (including, for me, after the second three-hour stretch, when Ahmed woke up and took over), we both got plenty of sleep last night. It was… kind of amazing.

Of course, it may have been a one-off, and it’s all going to get harder when Ahmed has to get up early and go to work every day starting on Monday. I won’t be as able to pick a night and hand off responsibility for the babe. And I’ll have to learn to get him down in the bassinet in daylight so I can sleep while he safely sleeps.

Thankfully I am starting to feel more human and put together. I even made my own breakfast this morning, and things are shrinking back toward normal. It feels soooo good to start feeling like my old self again.

Meanwhile, a couple of cute photos:

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“One MILLION dollars!”

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That nasty dried crusty dead snail thing finally
fell off his cute little belly button. Woo hoo!