Olive turns six months old today. I am well aware that it is incredibly cliched for a mother to lament the passage of time and marvel over how quickly the days have flown by, but cliches become cliched for a reason – enough people repeating the same thought, giving it word and weight and flight so that eventually the sentiment seems old and well-worn
But, here it is: I truly can not believe that it has already been half a year. I can not believe that this baby,
is now this baby.
Sitting up, eating real food, smiling, laughing, wearing barrettes! How is this possible? I don’t believe.
One of the things several people mentioned in the survey was wanting to know more about the tougher aspects of motherhood, beyond the chubby cheeks and milestones. One referred to this particular subject as “Mom problems” which made me laugh at loud, because it sounds like some sort of horrible woe-is-mom hashtag.
Is that chocolate or poop?CHOCOLATE OR POOP?! Please god, let it be chocolate. #MomProblems
My boobs go from Pamela Anderson to Kate Hudson in the course of a few hours. Ugh. #MomProblems
I can tell you when my kid last ate, slept, and pooped (to the minute), but can’t remember the last time I finished a real-life grownup book. #MomProblems.
Anyway, I figured that the six month mark would be as good a time as ever to reflect back on this strange new world I have busted into, the good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly.
First of all, I love being somebody’s mother. I adore Olive, would do anything for her, I live for those few moments after she wakes up from her nap, lifts her head to see me and flashes me a huge grin, then buries her face into the sheets. She is an absolute dream come true, and I spend approximately 80% of my day with my nose buried in the top of her head, or smothering her with kisses.
Internets, I love her.
Breastfeeding also ranks high on my “Things That Are Awesome About Motherhood” list. We were lucky that after a somewhat stressful birth, this is one thing that came easily to us. Throughout the past six months, nursing her is something that I have consistently adored.
It’s hard to explain why, but I think it’s because it gives us a handful of pauses throughout the day, and no matter where we are or how many people are around or how exciting or stressful or long that day has been, it’s a little respite from all of that. As Olive has gotten older, she is less and less snuggly. She does love being hugged and kissed and touched, but only for a few seconds and then she would FAR rather be wriggling around thankyouverymuch.
If you try and rock with her she just keeps trying to stand, jabbing her fat little feet into your thighs, and her head is on a non-stop swivel, looking at everything around her. Nursing, although it involves a few more gymnastics than it used to, is a bit of a throwback to the old snuggle time. Just me and her. She takes a bottle well, but doesn’t get one that often because if I’m here, I tend to hog that privilege for myself.
I also love being at home with her, in fact, it’s one of my favorite things ever. I am not what you would call ambitious, in the career-driven sense, anyway. If I never worked again, I don’t think I’d shed a single tear. I’m also somewhat of a hermit, so the adjustment from free-wheeling independent woman to stay-at home mom was fairly seamless – I didn’t mourn going out or partying or drinking, because I hadn’t done any of that for years anyways because of my kidney condition.
So, basically, I was a lame mom for years before I actually became a lame mom.
I also have to acknowledge how incredibly privileged I am to even have the option to stay home. How lucky we are to live in a country that supports new mothers in this way. Because I live in Canada, I am able to stay home with Olive for her entire first year, and not only does my government allow this, it actively encourages it by offering financial support. This is so incredible, I almost don’t have the words. I am so grateful, and so lucky that this is our reality.
It makes me damn proud to be a Canadian.
Naps. NAPS. If there is one thing I have grown to absolutely hate, it’s naptime.
Every so often in our yoga class or one of the other mom/baby classes we go to, I will see a baby asleep on the blanket. As though the baby was just like, “Oh, *yawn* I’m tired. I think I’ll just rest my eyes for a little bit”.
Guys, Olive would NEVER. She is an excellent sleeper when she does get to sleep, and is still sleeping 10+ hours a night (though she has recently been waking up at 5am to nurse…growth spurt? Gremlins? Who knows.) and it’s not unusual to have her napping for 2 hours during the daytime.
GETTING her to that point though, is easily the most unpleasant part of my day. Olive hates to miss anything, and hates that drowsy feeling. There is a sweet spot that, if I time it juuuust right, I can put her in her crib with white noise playing and she will talk herself to sleep (like this:
But if I miss her cues, or we can’t get home in time, or the moon is aligned with Saturn, or I smelled caffeine earlier in the day, or am wearing the colour fuchsia, getting her to sleep looks more like this.
I used to nurse her to sleep, which worked well for both of us. it was a peaceful transition, and, I imagined, a lovely way to fall asleep. But then, just as I got over my guilt for nursing her to sleep (because “they” say you’re not supposed to), just as I found my balls and gave “them” the figurative finger and said “Who cares!” and got over this guilt, it stopped working.
(Talk about #Momproblems!)
Thus, in one of those “How is this my life?!” moments, I found myself googling “How to steal your nipple back from your baby”. Because we would lie down to nurse, and she would fall asleep, but hey! did you know that babies can nurse IN THEIR SLEEP? Like tiny little vampires? And if you try to steal your boob back the vampire awakes and all hell breaks loose and you have to start all over again? DId you know that? Hmm? HMMMMMMM?
I did not know that.
SO, all of a sudden nursing was very much NOT working for us. Which brings us to today. Where sometimes I am able to find that sweet spot and put her down awake and she babbles herself to sleep. Sometimes I nurse her to sleep, can’t escape and find myself held prisoner by a tiny suckling demon for an hour or more. Sometimes I manage to extricate myself and army crawl out of the room and then I do my crazy-lady touchdown dance, aaaand sometimes Adam takes her and does some secret Daddy voodoo and she falls asleep in his arms, which she never does for me anymore because I swear she can smell the milk and it enrages her that she’s not nursing.
I’m pretty sure that this hit-or miss, zero consistency approach comes highly recommended by the experts.
I know that at this point many parents turn to sleep training methods like crying it out, (which, for the baby-free among you, is where you let the baby cry themselves to sleep, sometimes going in and soothing them at regular intervals), and if parenting thus far has taught me one thing, it’s taught me to never say never, but I think I am a horrible candidate for CIO methods. I know that I can’t stick to them, when Olive cries it makes me so agitated that I can’t wait long enough for her to settle down before going in to rescue her, and so basically I’m just letting her cry for a few minutes for no reason before going back to my old methods, which really isn’t fair to her.
I’ve also peeked into the rabbit hole of CIO research, and can’t shake the results of one study which showed that although babies’ crying did eventually stop, their stress levels remained high. So the babies weren’t learning to self-soothe, they were just not communicating their distress anymore. Right now, crying is the only way that Olive can communicate, and deliberately ignoring her attempts to communicate that she is scared or lonely or in distress makes me heart break, and I just can’t do it.
(That said, another study caught up with sleep trained infants six years later, and found no difference in bonds with parents, or emotional health. And I swear I’m not judging you if you sleep trained. I am just admitting that I don’t have the balls to follow through with it, at this point anyway.)
So basically naps=horrible and I might be the only mom ever to be counting down the days until she only has 2. Or 1. or NONE! Then we can hang out all day without this hell.
The ugly part of parenting for me, is hands down the decision making. For someone as indecisive as I am, having to make a million decisions that affect another human being is one of the hardest aspects of this whole gig.
It doesn’t help that parenting has become so much of a spectator sport. I guarantee that half of you reading about my sleep struggles above were nodding along in sympathetic agreement, and half were shaking your heads thinking that I’m doing it wrong, and Olive will never be able to fall asleep on her own if I don’t get my shit together and get a schedule and stick to it.
I see this all of the time when I meet other moms, the careful parsing out of beliefs and the tentative stepping around those innumerable lines in the sand. They tend to band together in rival camps, the cloth-diaperers vs. the disposables, the sleep trainers versus the not. The puree-ers vs the baby led weaners.
It all sounds so ridiculous from the outside, childfree folks are probably laughing at me and six months ago, I would have totally joined you, but now, charged with the health and well-being of this little girl. every decision (with its accompanying passel of experts and frenetic supporters) seems so huge. I’m doing my best to use common sense and remind myself that in five years no one will know, or care, whether Olive was nursed to sleep or not. Whether she ate purees or used her pincer-grasp to feed herself. Not one person will be interested in what method I used to dispose of her poop.
I know this.
Nonetheless, the decisions, and the pressure to do the best I can for this little munchkin, it is hard. Every day I am reminded of how completely and totally dependent Olive is on me, on us. Adam tosses her up in the air and she smiles ans laughs and and there is not one ounce of her being that thinks that he won’t catch her.
No one else trusts you completely like this. No one will ever rely on you this much, and this is overwhelming and gratifying, and it results in ugly thoughts sometimes. Thoughts where I wonder if I’m doing it “right”, where I feel like everyone else has it all figured out, and where I wonder if I will be kicking myself in a year, for doing something “wrong” now.
I don’t want to end this little retrospective on a worried, anxious note, because that definitely hasn’t been the tone of the past half a year.
So instead I will say this:
Before I had a baby I used to worry about what I would lose in the process. I was worried about losing time, sleep, independence, and my sense of self. I was worried about losing the opportunity to travel on a whim or walk out the door without a second thought. I worried about losing my identity within the all-consuming role of “Mom”.
And this could be where I write a pithy little summation, neatly squaring everything away with a list of the things I have gained, the things I have received in place of those small sacrifices. It would be easy – oh, the smiles and gurgly laughs, fat feet like buns and hands clasped around my neck – but I have realized that this isn’t a zero-sum game. This whole thing, this whole baby experience is not constructed like a scale where losses on one side are tempered by gains on the other. I don’t have to sit here and draft a list of pros and cons, talk myself into how worth it it has been to give up those things because of everything I have in their stead.
What I didn’t realize – before, before – what I didn’t realize was that losing those thing would be something I wanted. That their loss wouldn’t feel like a loss at all. That I wouldn’t miss the sleep, the time, the independence or my old self. That I would choose this life again and again and again, and willingly give more if I had to.
I didn’t realize how tightly I would hold onto this new identity that I had once imagined wrestling with. I didn’t realize how proud I would be to be someone’s mom.
It has only been six months. There have been challenges and tears and late nights and yes, #MomProblems. And I, like every parent I think, I struggle to explain why is it worth it, to those who ask.
But I think that the difficulty in explaining, justifying, comes precisely because the question is never asked. It doesn’t occur to me, no not even in those murky nighttime depths with a crying baby in my arms and exhaustion on my heels, that question – “Is this really worth it?”- it never surfaces. The tabulating doesn’t happen. The scales aren’t checked.
It just is.
It is and it is and it is and it was and it will be, for the next six months and the next and the next and the next.
Happy Half A Year Miss Olive Grace. You are simply divine.