Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thoughts on the First Year

Greetings from the epicenter of snowacalypse 2014!  We have received quite the dump of snow here in Charlotte today and I have no idea when I'll be leaving my house again.  Good thing I have 8 years worth of food in my pantry for occasions like this.  It kind of worked out good for me to be home today, because I got to spend the last day of my baby's first year with her.  I pretty much savored all her smiles, cuddles, and snuggles today.

No need to change out of pajamas!  SNOW DAY!
And yes, she's wearing boys pajamas because they have planes on them!

Allie will be a YEAR OLD tomorrow!  Unbelievable...  I've done little but catalog the first year of my baby's life on the blog for almost the last year.  It makes sense since she's basically become my whole world and almost nothing in my life is the same as it used to be before she arrived.  Still, this used to be a blog about me, so I thought I should maybe catch up on some of what's gone on for me this year.  The lack of posts are pretty pathetic and I've thought more than once about stopping blogging altogether.  I still read other blogs a lot (pretty much all I do when pumping), but when I try to wrap my head around writing a post, editing pictures, and using precious time to blog, something else usually wins out.  Still, I like having the outlet here if and when I want it.

My first year as a mother has been so crazy.  I have never loved another human being like I love Allie.  It reminds me of the symbiotic relationship between E.T. and Elliot.  I feel like I hurt when she hurts.  If she is happy, I am happy.  Her smile makes me instantly smile.  As probably any mother will attest to, it's hard to describe this love.  It's actually scary, because it's the kind of love you really fear losing and you know that you would suffer extreme pain if anything were to happen to this creature you are completely absorbed with.  It makes me feel like I can't breathe to even think about it.

Changing your identity to a mother means it's not about you anymore.  I always knew that and I thought I was prepared for it, but it has still been a huge change.  Before I had Allie, I had so much free time to watch trashy TV, to go to trendy restaurants, to tie up my running shoes and hit the pavement, to clean my house, to snuggle my dog, to go to Target without a second thought, to blog...  Now all of those things are difficult to do, and require thought and planning.  They are all "big events" to me now and after thirty some odd years of doing whatever I want whenever I feel like it, it's been weird to give up all that freedom.  Still, I know my life has so much more meaning now and part of me thrives on life being so busy.

At some point I did get the hang of planning better around Allie's sleep, which helps me to feel like I have a better handle on everything else in my life (except the blog- ha!).  I guess when she became slightly more predictable sleeping at night and during naps I was able to snap out of it and tackle my long long list of things to do, which includes stuff like reading and watching TV, but also a lot of cleaning, laundry, and washing bottles.  It's really taken me all year to get a good balance though and I still wouldn't say I've completely figured it out.  In an ideal world I would have a lot more time to run, blog, watch Parenthood, organize my closet, and go out more.  I do some of these things sometimes, but most of them I do with no regularity at all.   I haven't run since Thanksgiving, which is ridiculous, I know.  It's just THAT hard for me to find the time to do it and it's so much less of a priority now.  I fit things in when I have an hour to spare, if it happens to be what I feel like doing in the hour that I have, or they fall by the wayside and I use the hour to fold Allie's laundry and shower (more often than not).  It's just reality.

Another thing I haven't talked about, but I do want to share for the sake of others that might be experiencing it, is that having a baby has been hard on my marriage.  A lot of people talk about how seeing their husband become a father makes their heart explode with love for him, and I do agree, it's an awesome thing and pretty overwhelming to feel your love grow when you add a person the two of you made.  Still, after that initial swell of pride and fuzzy feelings of love, came a lot of stress for us.  I've always said that any person you choose to marry has flaws and you are deciding whether you can live with those flaws or not.  I successfully lived with my husband's flaws for eleven years before we had Allie.  We went through furlough, miscarriages, and many other stressful events, and I thought having a baby would be the least of our troubles, more like a dream come true, but babies bring a lot of stress.  You lack sleep, your life is totally different, you are responsible for another human being, and you feel like there are so many decisions to be made.  We were not always on the same page, and maybe my husband being a pilot exacerbated that because we weren't able to commiserate daily on how to handle things, a lot of it gets differed to me, which makes things weird when he is home and is trying to jump in and be involved.  His aforementioned flaws that used to be cute and quirky (I married the slowest person alive), became serious annoyances when things were stressful.  It's not just him either, I'm no picnic either.  I have a short temper, and when I'm stressed out, I'm basically just cranky.  We are kind of polar opposites and while I like to think we usually complement each other, it can be hard when taking care of a baby and things need to be agreed upon.  I like things scheduled and he likes to fly by the seat of his pants and throw schedules out the window.  That drives me nuts when it comes to Allie because I feel like babies NEED to keep on a schedule, but Greg doesn't, and doesn't get why I'm so rigid about naps, feedings, and bedtime.  I was also really consumed by motherhood and still am.  At times I really have to force myself to think about being a wife and put effort into cultivating that relationship.  It's been a huge adjustment.  Around six months in, we decided to do some marriage counseling and I don't know if it was the counseling or just both of us committing to working on things, but things did improve and I think we both have a better handle on it now.  Still, this has easily been the hardest year for our marriage.  I love my husband and our little family though.  I think we're going to survive being parents, but it's taken a lot of getting used to!

What else?  Well I'm definitely a helicopter mom.  It's funny because with a lot of things in life I am a fairly laid back person, but with my fragile baby, I am like a roll of bubble wrap, constantly hovering around her scared she will fall.  And she does fall, a lot, which sort of negates the whole mission of being a helicopter mom!  As I said before, I also found out that I like things very scheduled when it comes to Allie.  As soon as I pick her up from daycare I read her full report on when she napped, ate, pooped, etc...  I want to know it all.  I'm quite the control freak!

If you had to ask me what one of my favorite things about the first year has been, I would say breastfeeding.  We've made it to year and I have LOVED it.  The thought of stopping makes me cry, and honestly, I thought when we got to a year, I'd be well on my way to weaning, but I can't even bring myself to stop pumping this week because I also just like knowing she's having my milk when she is away from me.  I feel like it connects us.  I just can't even describe the overwhelming love I feel for my daughter when I am feeding her and she is snuggled up against me.  I love sniffing her hair, stroking her cheek, and squeezing her foot.  It's beyond special to me and I am not sure when I will wean her, but basically I have no plan to just yet, which isn't something I would have expected.  I know I am very, very lucky to have had such a good experience, but just so you know, breastfeeding hasn't always been easy for me.  I have had many days and weeks when I thought my supply was dipping and I was sweating over whether I could pump enough to keep up with demand.  It's hard when you have a certain number of ounces you have to have for daycare and you realize you might come up short.  I ate lactation cookies, took fenugreek, drank mother's milk tea, doubled my water intake, have eaten too many bowls of oatmeal to count, and ate like a pig to keep up with the demand.  I had nights when I couldn't get my boobs to let down and had to feed Allie a bottle of pumped milk.  I've dipped into my freezer stash so much that many times I was down to only 2-3 bags of frozen milk and I thought that would be it.  I've also declined to do things that I knew would be too difficult because of breastfeeding or pumping.  If I had to do it over, I think I would, but part of me wonders if I should have introduced formula at some point and had it there as an option.  It would probably have been a lot less stressful.  After a while, I had gone so long without introducing formula, that it seemed like it would be more stressful to try to get her to take it than to just keep on feeding her breast milk, whatever I had to do to keep making it. Also, when we found out Allie had the milk allergy that confirmed it for me that I would breastfeed as long as I could since she could only have certain formula without milk proteins anyway.  I am glad for that reason we didn't give her formula, because she would have been allergic to most kinds.  Anyway, we've gotten through it and it's been totally worth it.  That's just been my experience, I totally respect a mother's choice and ability to do what they have to do to feed her child.

I still am happy with my choice to go back to work, most days.  I miss Allie all the time, but I like having work in my life as well.  I feel like Allie is doing well at daycare.  I like that she has that social interaction and that they keep her on a schedule, and I feel like she enjoys it.  I don't know if any mother is ever 100% sure of the decision to work or stay home, but I feel pretty good about where we are.  It is definitely a lot to work and be a mom though.

Us outside earlier today.

I've enjoyed watching Allie grow and it's amazing how far she's come in a year, from the tiny baby that could barely move on her own, to one that is almost walking on her own now (10 steps is probably her record!).  I can't wait to see how this next year goes!  Hopefully I'll be posting more of a formal one year update on Allie next!
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