Monday, November 30, 2009

Imagining Christmas

I’m excited for Christmas this year. Of course, I look forward to it every year—the chance to travel home to see our families, pulling out the Christmas ornaments I’ve collected from all over the world—but this year it will be particularly fun since Lucia is now part of the family. We’ll be going to Jacksonville for Christmas Day and Connellsville for post-Christmas, and everyone is immensely excited to see the little one.

Right now, of course, Lucia’s too little to understand Christmas, and she’ll likely spend the holiday as she spends other days—eating, sleeping, crying, playing on her back, and gazing around at various things. But I can’t help imagining the years ahead, when she’ll be fully cognizant of what’s happening, when she’ll be as excited as any other kid counting down to Christmas morning.

On the one hand, I dread some of the complications that will come along with this awareness. I’ve been reading reports of this year’s hottest toy—the Zhu Zhu Pet—and how it’s nearly impossible to obtain. Who knows what the elusive toy will be when Lucia’s old enough to want it—but I can see me and Andrew all too clearly scrambling to find it for her, calling every store within a hundred miles, rushing out in the hopes of getting the last one on the shelves. And, of course, there will be all the toys she wants but that we won’t want to get for her, i.e. anything video game-based or related to social networking. Will we stand on principle, or give in? I still remember a “commercial” toy I coveted when I was very little—Dolly Pops. I did not receive it for Christmas. I don’t remember what Dolly Pops were, and I remember very well all the other fabulous things Mom and Dad did get me over the years—in other words, I haven’t been scarred. But it’s worrisome that I still remember this one withheld toy. What will Lucia remember when she’s thirty-three—what one insignificant but memorable thing will she be denied (wisely, but denied nonetheless)?

Now that I think about it, these seem to me like challenges that are not Christmas-specific. There will always be something desired but unavailable, something coveted but inappropriate. I can’t imagine ever denying this little one anything she wants, but I know very well I will. (And should.)

Imagining future Christmases with Lucia also brings to mind how fun it will be to play Santa—and to see her happy little face on Christmas morning, rifling through her stocking and opening the presents we’ve chosen for her. But more than this—to decorate a tree with her, bring out decorations she’ll look forward to from year to year, bake gingerbread and Christmas cutouts, and make snowmen and snow angels throughout the season. (Obviously it goes without saying that my Christmas imaginings take place exclusively in the Northeast.) I can imagine her coming in from the cold, red-cheeked, ready for a warm cup of hot cocoa; I can imagine her excitedly climbing into a car or boarding a plane to visit her grandparents. I look forward to all of this—but it also kind of overwhelms me to realize that it’s me and Andrew who are responsible for making her happy. Again, this is an everyday challenge, not just a Christmas one. But my own holidays were always so memorable; and I want hers to be as well.

It all kind of rushed in at me when I saw this smile. This will be the reward for all the snowy hallways mopped up from snow-caked boots, for all the miles traveled to secure a Zhu Zhu Pet equivalent, for all the frantic airport navigating. This is the face that will make it all worthwhile:


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving


We celebrated our first Thanksgiving with Lucia this year with Beth and Nate in Napa. Beth made an elaborate and delicious Thanksgiving feast, with all the traditional trimmings—including corn casserole, which is a Clark tradition but new to me and Andrew. Because it is NorCal, Andrew and I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for three hours trying to make our way to their house. But also because it is NorCal, the day was so sunny and beautiful that we were able to eat outside in the Clarks’ backyard, where they’d set up a lovely dining table. Lucia handled the long trip and the small crowd at dinner splendidly, with only a little fussing. Lucia will surely not remember her first Thanksgiving, but we will, and we were very glad to get to spend it with the Clarks.

It’s impossible not to feel immensely thankful this year—for Andrew, for our beautiful little baby, for the chance to spend these days at home with her, for the quiet evenings spent with just the three of us. We still wish we were living somewhere else, to make visits with our families easier. But it’s funny to realize that now that Lucia’s here, our life would look pretty much just like this—quiet days, quiet evenings, lots of books and movies and TV and walks—whether we were in Roseville or New York or anywhere else. Last year, we spent Thanksgiving in Japan, having a Zen vegan dinner at a remote lodge in Nikko with rain pouring down outside. That was nice, of course—but this version of November is nice too. It’s our new normal, and I treasure every day of it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Visit from Aunt Molly


This weekend, it was wonderful to anticipate the week ahead and know we’d have a visitor: Aunt Molly. She arrived late Sunday night, and we’ve spent the past couple of days indulging in true baby-time: holding the baby, feeding the baby, changing the baby, calming the baby. Reading on the couch. Taking walks. Taking lots of pictures. Molly is holding Lucia right now as I type this post. She is suitably smitten with her little niece.

A few updates: Lucia has started to smile. She’ll give little grins now and then when she’s in the right mood, usually when she’s sitting in her blue bouncy chair with one of us hovering over her. It’s incredibly cute. She also set a new record last night—she slept for five straight hours. She’s been doing really well for a few nights now, with stretches of three and a half to four hours, but this was a new level. She's been such a little angel this week that I think she's convinced Molly that having a baby is pretty easy. I'm tempted to eat a grapefruit to show her otherwise.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Refusing To Do My Bidding

Why won’t Lucia just do what I want her to do? That’s what I thought this afternoon when Lucia refused the fabulous nap plans I had for us. Two nights ago, I convinced Andrew it was finally cold enough to put on our microplush bed sheets—the softest sheets I’ve ever felt. Mom and Dad bought them for us last winter, and they’ve been unopened in our closet ever since. Andrew had been dreading the day when I wanted to put them on, believing he’d roast, but he acquiesced.

Anyway, today was damp and windy and cold, and I thought napping together in the cozy sheets would be a perfect way for Lucia and me to spend an hour or two this afternoon. Unfortunately, when I settled Lucia onto the bed and cozied her up with a microplush sheet, then cozied myself up beside her, she began screaming unhappily. She seemed to prefer the cold, regular sheet of her bassinet to the luxurious toastiness of the microplush. I would have suspected that Andrew had been turning her against the microplush, but he admitted this morning that he like the sheets. Perhaps Lucia needs to just give them a chance as well.

Here's a little montage of pictures post-nap:







Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Key Changes

Lucia seems to love listening to us sing. However, in the past few days I’ve realized that she does not like key changes. A few days ago, I was walking around the house with her in my arms, singing various songs to her as she gazed up at me raptly. Emboldened by such a captive—and receptive!—audience, I began singing “Memory” from Cats, gaining gusto with the big key change (there may be more than one; I need to brush up on my repertoire). Lucia instantly began crying. Not long after this, I was singing “Climb Every Mountain,” and, again, didn’t hold back with the key change. Again, Lucia began crying. So many things to learn about this little baby.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Day Ahead

Today is my first day—my first whole day—alone with Lucia. Andrew left for a business trip this morning at 5am and won’t be back until around 10pm tonight. So it’s just me and the baby, all day. I was alone with her on Friday for most of the day—but Andrew came home for lunch and was home for good at 5:30pm, so this is an entirely new experience.

I wouldn’t be so stressed about it had yesterday not been so horrendous. For some reason—likely a perfect storm of tomatoes and grapefruit in my diet on Sunday—Lucia cried the entire day. Not just whimpers or plaintive wails; this was full-throated, best-birth-control-ever crying, the kind that seems to be best delivered directly into mama’s ear. If I put her down, she cried. If I picked her up, she cried. If we moved and danced, she cried. If we gently rocked, she cried. By the time Andrew came home at 3:30pm so I could go to a doctor’s appointment, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

The appointment itself was upsetting in a way I hadn’t expected. It was the first time I’d seen my midwife since before the baby was born (she wasn’t the one who was with me for the delivery), and we talked about the birth and what had happened. I hadn’t really talked about it for a while, and doing so in an examination room, while wearing a hospital gown, kind of brought it all back. Then she examined me and said I’m healing fine, then hugged me and said it was great to have been a part of our pregnancy—and maybe she’d see me again in a couple of years. It was so strange to know I won’t be seeing her anymore, and stranger still to know I won’t have any more appointments. I’m healing, nearly healed, and have been released into the world as a mother, ready to get on with things. I felt, as irrational as this seems, abandoned and alone.

When I got back from my appointment, Andrew had to go back to work, and Lucia picked up where she left off, still inconsolable. This time, both mama and baby cried and cried together. By the time Andrew got home I’d crossed over into some kind of mother-zombie state. She finally, finally went to sleep around 8pm, and we had a decent night.

This morning, when I peeked into the bassinet, met her wide-awake eyes, and whispered, “Good morning, little one,” I felt a kind of overwhelming anxiety that I can compare—and bear with me here—only to when I stepped off the plane in Iceland during my first experience traveling alone. I remember walking down the jetway at Keflavik airport, gazing out the windows and seeing nothing but snow and black lava rock for miles, and wondering just why on earth I’d decided to spend a week alone in what felt like a city at the edge of the world. Three things crossed my mind: Why did I think this was a good idea? Am I really going to be able to do this? And finally, since I came all this way…I’d better get out there, explore, and make the most of it. (I had an amazing trip.)

That sense of taking a deep breath and plunging into an unfamiliar, vaguely scary, fully uncharted experience is how I felt this morning as the baby and I began our day together. Here I am, the day ahead, without the option of hopping back on the plane and heading back to more solid ground. We might cry, we might sleep, but we’ll get through it; and, hopefully, I’ll get better at all this one day at a time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Outing & Swine Flu Fears

On Saturday, at the encouragement of Beth and Nate, Lucia, Andrew, and I had our first official outing. Let me clarify: we have left the house before, on walks around our neighborhood. And I have been in two public places since she was born, Safeway and Trader Joe’s, when my parents were here. And we’ve had two appointments with the pediatrician. Otherwise, however, I’ve left the public-place errands to Andrew while Lucia and I have stayed snug and swine-flu-safe at home.

When the Clarks came to visit this weekend, however, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we all went to lunch at a local burger place we like. We’d been there together before, and, besides having great food, it’s a good place for kids—and there’s a large outdoor area where we could sit far apart from the swine-flu masses. We got an outdoor table in a corner, and Lucia did splendidly for almost the entire meal, napping and then sitting peacefully in her stroller. Only at the end of the meal did she begin crying—it was feeding time—and I had my first experience trying to a) nurse her in public (not an easy feat; I have some practicing to do) and b) nurse her in the car. We all returned home happy and, I believe, swine-flu free.

I’m ordinarily not so fearful of the flu—but I’ve never had a baby before, a baby who is too young to get a seasonal flu or H1N1 vaccine. Andrew and I have both gotten the seasonal flu vaccine, but I have no idea what would happen if either Andrew or I got sick with swine flu. Would we have to stay in a hotel? Quarantine ourselves apart from the baby? Since I am the food source, I think it’s more important for me to stay swine-flu-free, which is why Andrew has been doing the grocery shopping and other errands. This will, hopefully, change tomorrow, when—fingers crossed—we’ll both get the H1N1 vaccine. Andrew has a business trip Tuesday so it’s more imperative that he gets it, and we think his doctor got it all lined up (the vaccine is scarce around here, and the usual clinics are completely out). While I miss going out in public, I’m perfectly willing to just stay home for now, spending my days washing my hands and slathering on the hand sanitizer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letter to Lucia: One Month


Little Lucia,

You’re four weeks old today. It’s hard to believe we’ve had you for such a short amount of time—it feels like you’ve been with us forever. I’m still amazed that it was you in my belly for all those months, that it was your precious little feet I felt kicking me in the side. In the first ultrasound picture we had of you, you were waving—a gesture you still make quite regularly. It’s hard to fully grasp that the nine months I spent pregnant this year were all leading up to you.

You’ve changed a lot in just one month. You’ve gained a pound and a half—maybe more by now—and your cheeks, legs, and arms are all getting a little chubbier, a little sturdier. I can see the difference in your feet and hands. You don’t look quite so new and fragile anymore. You had a personality from the moment you were born, but it’s becoming stronger now. You set your lips firmly together when you don’t like something; your whole face crumples heart-breakingly when you’re upset. When you’re relaxed and happy, looking up at our faces, you have an adorable way of pursing your lips and making them into a startled “O,” as though you’re making the call of a ghost or an owl. You prefer to sleep in our arms, or in the well of the Boppy on our laps, than anywhere else, though we’ve set up a variety of “sleep stations” throughout the house so you’re never far from us while you’re napping.

We love you all the time. But you frustrate us sometimes, too, when you wake up at ungodly hours and stare up at us with bright, wide-open little bird eyes, sleep the furthest thing from your mind. You have your fussy times, when your cry suggests that nothing in the world has ever been more horrible than whatever you’re currently going through, and that no people have ever been more useless in making things better than your daddy and I.

I get teary when I wonder if you’re homesick for the womb. It seems like you are, sometimes. You love the white noise of the “wind” sound on my alarm clock; you love the sound of the washer and the drier and the endless shushing we do to calm you down. You love to be jiggled and rocked and swayed. You like being swaddled (though you always manage to get an arm free, like a little Houdini). These things comfort you. It must be so shocking, sometimes, to be out here in the world, away from the dark, safe home you were so used to. And it breaks my heart to know you can never go back there. I hope we can make you feel as happy and safe here with us as you felt then.

I don’t want this infant time to go by too fast. But at the same time, I’m relieved that the first couple of weeks have passed, those weeks when we were still reeling from the birth and the fear that went along with it. It’s nice to be past all that and on to the regular day-to-day of feeding, changing, soothing, getting to know you, now that we’re one month in.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Baby-Time Days


It’s been wonderful having Andrew home on paternity leave for the past week, and he’ll be home most of this week too. We are truly on baby time here, and, when Lucia has not descended into fits of screaming—which, fortunately, are rare—we are able to quite enjoy these odd days. On the one hand, we have nothing to do; but on the other, our hands have never been fuller. It’s a strange balance. We’ve been reading a lot; on Friday we watched a movie in the middle of the day; Andrew is watching a lot of college football; Saturday night we watched the votes come in for the House vote on the healthcare bill. We nap and eat and go to bed at 9pm.

Then there are the moments when Lucia is inconsolable and we’re both hovering over her frantically, trying to determine the source of her unhappiness. Andrew’s legs are sore from doing so much bouncing and swaying. By the end of the day I generally have milk and/or spit-up on most articles of my clothing. On one recent night, I had to change pj’s twice.

So baby time goes both ways. I am really trying to just be in it, to just enjoy or note every moment. Lucia will be a month old this week—already it’s going so fast.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Snippets of Life with Lucia: Last Night/Today


Midnight: A semi-fussy Lucia refuses the pacifier by dramatically gagging herself.

2:00am: A steely-eyed Lucia refuses the pacifier by pressing her lips stubbornly together and giving us a resolute glare.

3:30am: Andrew and I hum “Edelweiss” to a fussy baby, followed by hummed selections of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

4:00am: I try to lull Lucia to sleep with a hypnotic mantra: “Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired. Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired. Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired.” Some readers of this blog will understand what I mean when I say I use the “Garden Surprise” voice for this chant.

4:45am: Andrew and Lucia lay down on the bedroom floor for some ungodly-hour Tummy Time.

7:00am-8:00am: Lucia and I both fall into a desperate, restless sleep with her on my chest.

9:00am-9:30am: Crying and feeding.

9:30am-11:30am: An overtired Lucia continues to cry hysterically, inconsolable. She finally takes the pacifier and falls into a suspicious, slit-eyed sleep on my lap.

11:30am-Present, 7:45pm: Alternate bouts of screaming, brief napping, feeding, and more screaming.

It has been a long, a very long, day. Our precious baby is still precious…but today we’ve been calling her Lucia-fer, Luc-evil, and Devi-infant. The fact that we found these nicknames hilarious suggests the state of our sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fall

Lucia seems to have brought lovely fall weather with her, and the past couple of weeks have been beautiful. Here are a few pictures from the amazing trees we have in our backyard. We get more fall foliage here than you’d expect.





Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Anniversary

Two years ago today, Andrew and I got married at the Summit Inn in Farmington, PA. It seems like we’ve been married for so much longer than two years! We celebrated quietly today by taking Lucia on her first walk in the stroller, to Dairy Queen for Blizzards. She screamed for most of the trip, working herself up into a true froth, little arms waving angrily.

It’s 6:40pm here right now, but it may as well be midnight. Andrew and I are exhausted, and it’s pitch-black outside—it feels much, much later than it is. We just took a nap and easily could have stayed in bed for the rest of the night. Lucia has been sleeping well today—during the day she can stay asleep for several hours at a time—and yet I have no doubt that tonight will be another night of being up every two hours. Ah, newborns. Good thing she’s pretty cute:



Monday, November 02, 2009

On Our Own

7 lbs. 8 oz.!

Our baby has grown! We had a doctor’s appointment this morning and were shocked to learn Lucia has gained a pound and a half in the last two weeks. Such good news—it’s great to know that breastfeeding is giving her what she needs. It’s so hard to know sometimes if I’m giving her enough. Looks like she’s doing just fine.

The other good news is that the scary swelling on Lucia’s head is finally gone. About a week and a half ago, Andrew and I noticed a puffiness around the area where the vacuum suction had been—it hadn’t been there in the hospital. We made a late-night phone call to the advice nurse, who consulted with the doctor on call, and our pediatrician contacted us in the morning—the consensus was that it was a hematoma, and nothing to be alarmed about. A word like “hematoma” is pretty terrifying, though, and it was hard to be reassured. I swore off Google searches during my pregnancy, but Andrew bravely Googled it, and even the Google results said it was nothing serious. We were extremely relieved when it finally disappeared a few days ago, and the doctor today said all is well. So, end of story. Thank goodness. I know there will always be things to worry about, but I’m ready to put all the birth-related worries behind us for good.

We’re on our own now. My parents left yesterday, bringing an end to our first wave of visitors; now, for the first time, we’re by ourselves with Lucia. It’s time to start establishing our own routines and getting used to having only two people around to hold her. Andrew’s home all this week, which is great; we’ll ease into my being here with her alone. Our routine so far appear to be a minimum of napping, unlike her luxurious, hours-long sleeping spells with Mom and Dad. Hopefully tomorrow she’ll be back to her quiet infant ways.