Monday, November 24, 2008

Watch Out! She's a Mama at the Movies

Before Dory, I laughed (gently, but... still) at stories of moms out on the town, childless. O vey! they made such a big deal of it. Seriously? You call a grandparent or pay a stand-in, put on some clothes and you GO. Easy. What's the hold-up? I even laughed over the wife of a friend who had to be dragged to the door, but then acted like she was on a work-release program from prison. Sure, she was going back, but she was out now.

Yep. Just a few more of my pre-mama words I have officially chopped up, sauteed, put on a plate and eaten.

Matthew and I went out, Friday night, to see a movie with some friends. Can I just say, it is the strangest push-pull experience ever? I wanted SO MUCH to be with her and I wanted SO MUCH to be at this movie without her. Literally like being split in two. For anyone who hasn't had the experience, picture this: you want SO MUCH to vote for John McCain and yet you want SO MUCH to vote for Barack Obama. Can't do it, can you? Better yet, I know exactly how all those superheroes feel with their yeah, I want to save the world, but I'd also like to finish a meal. Hello Motherhood! How can you have such opposing desires simultaneously?

My mom gently insisted. Matthew gently guided me towards the door. The movie tickets in my pocket (to Twilight which I so wanted to see) helped pull me to the car. I went out, for several hours, without my baby.

And realized I had completely forgotten how to be around grown-ups. Anyone who greeted me, anyone who even looked at me funny, got a ninety-miles-an-hour "hello!" that went something like "hi! We-have-a-four-month-old-baby-who's-with-my-mom-and-this-is-my-first-time-away-from-her. Howareyou?"

Everyone heard this story. The guy standing at the soda fountain at Five Guys and A Burger. The guy at the bar at Calhouns who asked if I wanted a seat. The girl behind the bar. The woman in the movie theater bathroom who I almost knocked down coming out of the stall (it helped that I started the conversation by saying, as we both steadied ourselves, "Good thing we weren't driving!" followed by hysterical laughter). The teenager selling candy at the concession stand. No one was safe.

But I went. And I had a great time. It helped the movie was completely enthralling. The whole time I wiggled in my seat like a puppy on Christmas, while I kept my hand over the cell phone in my pocket, poised for flight should Mom call. I was ecstatic to have been out, seen a movie, visited with friends. AND I jumped out of the car and dashed into mom's house before the vehicle even came to a complete stop when we came back. I would have given a schizophrenic a headache.

But when I saw this face...

ah. That face. Worth every second of the push-pull, go-stay, babbling, blundering difficulty. Yes, Before Dory, this question was simple, not even a question. But how worth it. How weird to discover I'd rather be pulled in two, with her here, then one uncomplicated me, without her.

All of this to say, I owe yet another great-big, super-duper apology to all the moms out there who I've ever (gently or not) snickered at when I've heard of their dilemma in leaving their children for the first time. Also to all the moms I've (gently or not) laughed at for their twitchy, compulsive, semi-hysterical behavior. To you all, my deepest and sincerest apologies. The next time we're out together I'm buying the first round.

Though first I'll have to tell you that this-is-my-second-time-leaving-my-baby-with-my-mom-and-I'm-a-little-freaked-out-but howareyou?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Did I Put It...?

What are all these thingies? Elephant? Monkey? Seriously, who do these Big People think they're kidding?

Oh, well. Time to post! Hmm, where did I put my laptop...

Huh. Where did I put it?

Here? No...

I think the Big Ones have hidden it!

Oh, fine. I'll play with this silly thing.

Huh. This is kind of fun actually.

A little bit later...

Lalala. Gosh, this is one good thumb.

Hey, wait a second! There's my laptop! Hahahaha. Time to blog! Right after I finish this thumb...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One at a Time Please

Tonight I finished a pair of socks for Matthew that I started knitting- oh let's see- two weeks before Dory arrived... so that would be... three and a half months ago. Give or take a few days. The color is "Superbowl Shuffle" in honor of the Chicago Bears and I originally intended to give them to him at the start of the NFL season as a Congratulations Big Daddy! gift.

Tomorrow will be the Bears ninth game of the year. And finally, finally, a pair of hand-knit men's socks are finished.

Of course, being a new mama means a whole new set of priorities. Starting and finishing a meal without an interruption is rare. Finding time to knit might be considered the equivalent of reaching into the refrigerator for a glass of $8.99 Chardonnay only to discover a perfectly chilled bottle of Dom Perignon.

This is not to say there hasn't been time. In fact, there are plenty of times a day I might snatch a few minutes and whip out a few rounds. Except...

There's this going on..

And this...

And this...

And instead of picking up my knitting needles or a book or my notebook and pencil, I sit and watch. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a voice says, "but you could ALSO be..." I understand this voice. This little part of my brain hasn't yet reconciled to the fact something so special is going on, that I can't find a way to do something else too. Of course, when I do find time to write out a post or knit a few rounds, I'm delighted and I think "Ooo, why don't I do this more often? When Matthew has her or she's playing on her playmat, I could..." Except the next time Dory's grinning at her daddy or chatting in that fascinating language that makes me think of E.T. speaking Pig Latin, I just. Can't. Do. It.

This is a great exercise is slowing down, in doing. One. Activity. At a time. So many times a day, I take multi-tasking to the next level. How many of us do? On the phone, while on the internet, while cooking dinner, and writing out a to-do list for tomorrow, Dory along for the ride in the baby back-pack on my chest. And that's when I'm at home, relaxing!

I realize the ability to do two things at one time (or three or four) can be a great help. Chatting while folding laundry. Driving while working out a plan with someone on my cell. Writing out the grocery list, while taking out the dogs (oh, yeah, I've done it). Combining a mundane task with something a little more interesting or simply necessary.

But how often, do I find myself doing this mindlessly? Yes, I'm carrying on a conversation, but I'm searching the internet too because... it's there. Or I'm making that phone call in my car because otherwise the car would be... silent. My mind has become so accustomed to being busy, I don't always remember how to slow down.

So now I'm learning the art of single-tasking. Focusing on one thing, at a time, for a little while. Dory makes it easy. When I let myself pay attention just to her, she's captivating. But I'm hoping to carry this to other parts of my life. Cooking dinner without checking my email. Chatting with my husband without mentally planning what I have to do tomorrow. Just watching and enjoying. From what I hear from other parents, there isn't much longer that I'll be able to entertain her completely by blowing big raspberries on her tummy. And how much would I kick myself later when I realized I let that opportunity go by?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be Still My Heart

In our family, we've treated Dory, essentially, as though she's the first baby in the whole entire world. Rightly so, I think. Every baby, be it the first or the tenth in a family, is a miracle. How could you not stop life and fall into worship when a miracle arrives in your arms? However many have come before this is your miracle.

While many, many, many, many babies have come before her, she is her own unique, perfectly individual little person. And she is still a baby, with lots of typical baby behavior. Fussiness that can't be immediately soothed isn't something we've escaped- what Dr. Sears might call "inconsolable crying." While occasionally this will happen in the middle of the day, on days it happens, it usually starts in the late evening. I think she hits some tiny baby wall, done with the day, exhausted beyond exhaustion, hungry to the point of ravenous and it comes out in the form of this red-faced, wide-mouthed, eyes scrunched, doleful, wailing baby.

In Perfect Mommyland, I would gently soothe her back to her typical state of cheerful, sweet-faced, smiling baby. Unfortunately, as soon as they saw how much spit-up I'm comfortable wearing on one or both shoulders, my Perfect Mommyland card got revoked.

Sometimes I get frantic along with her, hitting my own mama-wall of tired and worn out, wanting nothing more than to put my feet up, pour a large glass of wine, and laugh at something totally inane on television. At that point, my face starts to redden, my voice rises a few notches, panic creeping in, as I try to sway, rock, jiggle and shush back to some state of calm, just settled enough for her to nurse and fall asleep. And when this happens, at this point in the evening, a pair of hands appear in front of me, and a deep, kind voice says, "Let me take her."

Burp cloth over his shoulder, baby blanket in hand, Daddy has come to the rescue.

Into his arms she goes, and he begins his own soothing daddy-dance, his own rocking, swaying, jiggling, and shushing. The first few times I watched, still a little desperate, convinced this would fail as magnificently as my own efforts have. Instead, this wailing child settled almost immediately. Her mouth closed, her breath evened, her face returned to its normal, lovely fairness, and her bright little eyes opened and revealed the bright little eyes they are.

How this broke my new mama heart! What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I soothe my own baby girl? A few days into her little life and I'd already failed miserably. Forget Perfect Mommyland; they were going to revoke my whole mama card.

Once, that initial panic passed (I thank my hormones for returning to some level of normalcy) I recognized this time for what it was. This was Matthew and Dory's time to fall in love with each other. Of course they do this all the time, when she's smiling and cheerful, when he's changing her diaper, when he's changing her clothes, when he puts her in the carseat, when she falls asleep on his chest. They have the same experience she and I have, all day long, every day, of becoming even crazier about each other.

Yet I have this experience of feeding her. I cuddle her to my chest, she nuzzles against me, latches to my breast and we are in the most natural, perfect world. She has a deep, innate need and I easily fulfill it for her. This is exactly what Nature intended and, at its most primitive, skin-to-skin contact, is strictly available to Mama and Baby. Nature at its finest. How could I ever doubt, Nature had the same plans for Daddy and Baby?

So Matthew takes her in his arms and, as she cuddles close to him, his touch says, "I am safe, I am strong, I am solid; you can lean on me." And Dory, with the very same instincts that tell her I will feed her whenever she is hungry, knows her father will hold her whenever she is hurting, lonely, frightened, or simply needs to be held.

Dory does not always settle instantly. Sometimes it takes patience on his side, trying new moves, new sounds, new steps in their dance. But every time he stays with her, he keeps rocking, keeps cuddling, keeps talking gently to her, he assures her, no matter how upset, how cranky, how inconsolable, he will never stop holding her. He will never stop comforting her. His love is completely trustworthy. His love is unconditional.

And finally, he returns a calm, peaceful baby to me, who easily nuzzles up to me, nurses, and falls asleep. When I watch them together, I remember, again, Nature created a perfect system. And when we trust it, life flows beautifully and perfectly for us. There are no mistakes. A fussy, unhappy baby is not wrong. She is only one more step in the perfect dance all parents learn the steps to.

I think Matthew is a remarkable dancer.