Motherhood at 7 Months

Early last month, Evan stopped sleeping through the night, classes ended, John and I were bickering frequently, I had mood swings all over the place, and was feeling exhausted while also trying to get back into a running routine. Deep down I was also pretty scared about being home with E all summer, and was facing a lot of resistance from myself in just settling into the role of “stay at home mom” despite that was my choice. Lots of talking, crying and writing later… I am heading into month seven of motherhood in a MUCH better place.

  • I’ve started to be able to recognize my (hormonal) mood swings better and have tried to be very open with John when I’m feeling a “low mood.” It has helped me feel understood and cared for, but it’s taken me being willing to be more vulnerable than I ever wanted to be to make that happen. It’s been worth it for all of us.
  • My confidence as a mama is growing every single day. Being home with him has helped me see how much I actually do for him, and how much he responds to my efforts. He’s going through separation anxiety right now and while that can be frustrating and sad at times, I try my best to never let him see that – I know he’s going through this period because he has a healthy attachment to me, and that makes me feel so good.
  • Focusing on having fun with him is so much easier now as he’s getting older. We read books, we play games, we (I) sing songs, and I try to do as my mom does and “make everything fun.” Mostly, he practices crawling and I cheer him on, catch him, etc. But I sneak everything else in there for some diversity. He is one determined baby!
  • Looking to E as my report card for how I’m doing as a mama and turning off the other noise has been a game changer. I was trying to find feedback and encouragement for a “job well done” all around me, and falling short. After his 6-month checkup it kind of clicked: big picture, I am rocking this mama thing. I mean, I’m making mistakes and am just doing the next right thing all the time, and I never really know if anything I do is “right” or “wrong” (those two words really don’t seem to exist in parenting)…but I’m rocking it. John and I have a healthy, happy, thriving, vibrant little person in our home who is meeting and exceeding milestones. That doesn’t just happen. We didn’t just get lucky. We have done that.
  • I made a summer bucket list with the best of intentions, and I’m so glad to have done it. However, I greatly underestimated how much effort a sleep schedule is and I recognize we’ll likely not get to a lot of things on that list this summer, and we’ve already done plenty I didn’t expect. As such, I’m updating it as we go, so by that end of summer it’s an accurate representation of our summer highlights. It’s a living list instead of a to-do list.
  • John and I are working on our marriage one chapter at a time, every night. We’ve been having quick and light dinners on the patio after E is in bed, chatting about our days, and reading one chapter from this book every night. His dad gave it to us for Christmas in 2012 and after a recent argument, I remembered it, and we started working through it. We’re going on a month of doing this and it has been such a bright spot during this transition period. We both recognize our marriage is the seat of the happy home we both crave and I’m thankful every day to have picked a man who is willing to do the work.

— By next month I imagine we’ll have a crawling baby and life will be so vastly different than it is right now. That “time is flying” cliche is so true in parenthood, and it’s a good reminder for me to enjoy every stage. Even when sleep deprived. 🙂

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Low Days

 

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I’ve come to realize it’s not so much the actual hours in the day, but the mental “always on” of motherhood that makes time seem like a speeding train.

Motherhood is like that project you have that you lose yourself in completely, only to look at the clock and realize “it’s 4pm?!” I’ll take that over boredom any day, but as a person who was never bored before becoming a parent, feeling this day in, day out has been a struggle. I’ve spent months thinking “next week will be different” and while each week is surely different, it’s never better or worse, but just a different version of the same loop.

I’m home with E during the week this summer so I’m adjusting to what it feels like to be a stay at home mom. I thought it would be easier than being a working mom, even compared to being a part-time working mom like I was just a month ago. And in some ways it is easier (mainly, the wardrobe) but in many more ways it is not.

Possibly it’s just an adjustment phase, but I really don’t think I am my best self when I’m “on” around the clock. I’m not sure it’s possible that anyone is. And perhaps therein lies the truest difficulty of motherhood: needing to be your best self for your children despite there being days when you just aren’t.

This last month of being home has been full of lessons, and I think my truth is that adjustment into motherhood seems to have less to do with if I am home or not, or how many hours I spend at work or with Evan…but rather, that there is a tiny human who occupies my brain 24/7. And as that tiny human gets bigger and starts moving around more, and is less like a tiny human and more like a tiny person day by day, he occupies even more of my heart, my time, and my thoughts. Motherhood is consuming. And it’s supposed to be.

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However…

deeply crave time to write. To think. To be “off” for even just an hour or two without interruption or an ear tuned to a sleeping baby. Writing is how I process the world. How I grow, and adapt, and feel alive. And I so need that, especially during transitions.

Getting that time makes me feel excited to dive back into singing songs and reading books and being 100% there with Evan. Not getting that time finds me cranky, distracted, and exhausted in a way that is at once physical and mental. It makes me feel lonely, and sad and in general, just LOW.

For months I’ve felt this way, and I haven’t been able to explain it well.

I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling it. There isn’t.

I thought it made me a bad mom. It doesn’t. 

I thought I would grow out of it. I haven’t. 

If anything, as he gets older I am finding I need this time, and feel the need for it even more acutely. Like water. Or needing to use the bathroom. Food. Sustenance.

Being creative is one of my greatest strengths as a mama, but it is also something I have to truly nurture as a person.

Realizing these things, admitting these things, means I need to be make a point to be intentional about the time I have and how I use it. I have to be stingy with the hours I have help, and I have to figure out how to juggle cultivating a strong marriage, getting back into shape and nurturing my work, while being a mama first and foremost. I have zero answers.

But I’ll figure it out. Because I have to. I owe it to my family to have fewer low days, and I owe it to myself to nurture the very parts of me that make me, well, me. Motherhood hasn’t changed that, and I finally feel confident enough to say that I know that’s okay.

P.S. It took me about seven hours between thinking about this, to getting out of the house, to finding a place to work (at the library, after I couldn’t find a seat at Starbucks). And I have 15 minutes left to hang out before I have to get home. But it was so worth. I needed to open my heart up and type through this stuff. It’s silly to anyone who doesn’t have the same need, but for those of you who do understand, as always, thanks for reading.

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And if anyone has figured it all out, I’m all ears. 😉

Motherhood at Six Months

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There were moments in the early months when thought the people who talk about how much “fun” parenting is must seriously be crazy.

At times, parenthood feels like living in a world where your own thoughts, wants, or needs are controlled by a tiny pause button, namely, your baby. And at times, this does not feel good. For me, it’s been one of the hardest adjustments. However, the “fun” thing?

I get it now.

Evan’s smiles make my day. His giggles are infectious and define pure joy more than anything I’ve ever experienced.

He is curious and skeptical and careful with who gets smiles, yet he is friendly and enjoys meeting new people.

I’m partial, but he is seriously the funniest baby I’ve ever met. He makes me laugh like his daddy does, so we know where he got it…

At six months, I love:

  • reclining in the chair in the nursery with a light blanket, a cup of coffee, iBooks, and Evan dozing in my arms
  • wearing him on our adventures (mostly Target at this point, but looking to change that this summer )
  • his light-up-the-room smile whenever he sees me (it’s mutual)
  • our best days, when there is no agenda (and mommy gets to eat breakfast)
  • Eau de Evan

That last one, there? Seriously…there is no better smell on earth than your baby. I will remember this until the day I die and it is one of those things I just cannot do justice to by description. It’s powerful and biological and raw and pure; it is such a magical part of the connection we have, and  I just never expected it would mean so much to me.

So far, figuring out who I am as a mama seems like a lifelong journey, which I also wasn’t expecting. In the last six months I have had some of the most difficult and wonderful days and weeks of my life. There are many aspects of this new role, this new life, this new identity that feel like un-molded clay, but it also seems some elements are taking shape, and slowly, I am feeling more and more like “myself” with each passing week.

Above all the hormones and mood swings and overwhelming feelings, I know one thing without a doubt: I love this tiny human more than I ever thought possible, and that love grows each and every day, just like he does.

Happy Mother’s Day

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I picked this book up after seeing it pop up on a few Instagram feeds recently.

While the title sounds overtly religious, the short essays are actually quite focused on Buddhist ideals of compassion, meditation, being present and surrender.

As a celebration for the mothers I know, and the journey I am on as a new mama, I thought I’d share a few quotes I really enjoyed from this book.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditation teacher who writes about mindful parenting, suggests we think of our children as Zen masters housed in small bodies, who come into our lives to push at all our fixed ideas. They are our best teachers, he says, and one way or another they will teach us whatever hard lessons we most need to learn” (87).

“In surrender, I clear a space in which something new can grow. I place my faith in something larger than me. I trust” (92).

“I needed to accept that in order to mother fully, I had to take care of myself, and that I could not meet my children’s demands 100 percent of the time. But I also discovered just what it is that they need more than anything else: me. My full attention. My face in front of their faces, making eye contact” (171-2).

“There will be years and years for baseball, but you can only dig your way to China when you’re five” (199).

“I know now that balance is not an achievement in itself, but a journey – and I am always on my way there, never fully arrived” (201).

“The boy who meets my gaze at the breakfast table is not the same one whose cheek I kissed the night before… To love them is to let them go, bit by bit, day by day” (217).

“Loving them, I grow. Growing, they learn to give love back” (219).

Motherhood at Five Months

Time is flying and I feel like I’ve been caught in some kind of cyclone this past month. This time of year is always busy, especially when I’m on the job market, but adding a baby to the mix this time around has been interesting.  John and Evan both came down with something the same exact week I had an on-campus interview and I felt the weight of my choice to be a working mama in the most acute way I have as of yet.

In my worst moments, I honestly just wanted to sit down on the floor and CRY.

In my best moments, I simulatenously sucked snot (this is a lifesaver), did solo around the clock childcare for a few days, tended to John (who was down-in-bed sick), let our dogs in and out 5,000 times, worked on my interview presentation materials, kept the house liveably-clean, met with 50 students for individual conferences, caught up on grading (for like, one day), ran all of our usual errands as well as some additional ones, and made it to my interview having by some miracle of immunity, not gotten sick. All of that taught me a few things:

  • I seriously, seriously respect and am in awe of single, working mothers. I mean, seriously. Wow.
  • John’s help was definitely missed for those few days, which showed me he really does do so much for me and for Evan. I am good at seeing what’s left to be done, but we’d both benefit if I spend more mental energy appreciating what has already been done. 
  • We made it. It was a rough week, but we made it. And we always will…somehow or another.
  • This is only just the beginning of baby sickness, (and correlating parent sickness). As parents we need to take very good of care of ourselves. Continuing to make small changes in diet and lifestyle will help us warn off as much illness as possible. Bottom line: taking care of ourselves is a family affair now.

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In general, I’ve had an interesting relationship with my new mama role this month. I’m not really sure what to make of all of it yet, but I feel like I’m on the cusp of something both challenging and good. E is more fun and more work than he’s been so far. I am busier than I’ve been since he was born, and know life is only going to get busier. I’m feeling the pull between my personal passions and goals, and the expectations I’ve set for myself as a mom (some of which are probably unrealistic, especially as a working mom). I’m wondering way too often if all the conflicting things I’m feeling are “normal” despite that I know they are. There are days where I think I might just not be cut out for this motherhood thing, and then there are days where, usually when reminded, I realize just how natural/primal so much of my nurturing and caring for Evan truly is.

One of my former bosses told me “motherhood is a mirror” in that it helps us see ourselves more clearly. All the good and all the not so good things are amplified. I think we all have different challenges to face, but that clarity in who we are as people is at once how motherhood makes us infinitely better, as well as helps us realize how precisely flawed we are.

I made the choice to become a mother, and I am thankful for my beautiful, healthy, happy little boy every single day. No ifs, ands or buts about that. However, I am far from having all of this even remotely figured out, and my ability to live with the imperfection, to choose to adjust and learn and adapt, is how I know motherhood has improved me. And it’s also how I know I still have lots of room to grow…right along with our little guy.

My Favorite Baby Stuff (Months 3-4)

In no particular order…

1. Playtex Nurser Bottles

My mom swore by Playtex, but our pediatrician suggested Tommee Tippee. I enjoyed that the Tommee Tippee bottles had very “natural” nipples and were small enough for him to hold on to, even in the very early feedings. E has always been what I’d call “gassy” and while I know that’s common for babies, around 3 months it seemed he was really gassy. My mom suggested trying a different bottle and wouldn’t you know it… mothers are always right!

2. Renting a Sakura Bloom Ring Sling

In some weird way, baby wearing has helped me make peace with breastfeeding. I don’t consider myself a lifestyle baby wearer, but wearing E in any way, shape or form is just a wonderful experience. I rented a ring sling from QuirkyBaby.com and would highly recommend this to any new mom who wants to “try on” some different carriers.

3. Bright Starts Gym

Until a few weeks ago, E loathed traditional tummy time, and he didn’t want to be on his back in this thing for more than 5-10 minutes at most. He was happy using this gym on his back around two months, and then around 3 months, one day he played so enthusiastically that he fell asleep! Since then, this mat has been a go-to. Multiple times a day he practices turning around, rolling over, grabbing things, and now, finally, tummy time too!

4. Hyland’s Teething Gel

E started teething around 2 1/2 months and we tried Hyland’s and Orajel teething tabs. They worked wonders, but he started to get constipated so we scaled back on the tabs and started just using this teething gel. I am sure every baby is different, but this stuff works so well for E. On rough teething days this is such a lifesaver.

5. Carter’s Teething Bibs

I figured since E wouldn’t be eating anything substantial until 6 months+ that we’d just get bibs at that time. But then the drool started. And then it got worse. And now we’ve gotten through some days where I am literally just in awe of the amount of liquid this tiny little person can emit from his tiny little toothless mouth. During rough teething patches we’ve gone through 2-3 bibs a day, on average, and these are my absolute favorite. Also, now I finally understand why people asked me about bibs when I was pregnant!

6. Fisher-Price Jumperoo

My niece just turned one and still goes in her Jumperoo, and I’d heard from most moms this was the thing their babies loved around 4-5 months. That has absolutely held true for E, too. I found a gently used one from a mom on a local “swap and shop” Facebook group I’m part of, but it’s pretty close to the version linked above. My favorite features: it has three height settings, the seat is easy to remove and machine washable (great because E drools ALL over it), and so far it’s been a place he’s incredibly happy for anywhere from 15 minutes to almost 45 minutes. It’s also light enough to drag around the house, which has proven extremely useful for those days when he decides he doesn’t want me out of his sight. A mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do!

Evan at Four Months

When we first found out I was pregnant John setup an email address for “Baby Calkins” and next month marks a year since those emails started! As I created this blog to help me live with more intention and appreciation, I think it’s a good time and place to move into sharing monthly “milestone” posts about Evan and parenthood.

Evan @ 4 Months 

  • Loves his play gym. Takes multiple naps a day in his play gym. Would probably sleep overnight in his play gym if we let him.
  • Probably as a result of the above: is freakishly strong! Grabs on to all kinds of things now (my glasses, my hair, my clothes, his bibs, his bottle, the play mat) with sheer force and determination.
  • Discovering his voice. Screams and squeaks and squeals all the time now, especially when he’s excited. It is the coolest thing, and we will have entire “conversations” multiple times a day.
  • Is super, super excited about “standing” on our laps. We get the biggest smiles and the loudest squeals when he’s on his feet.
  • Speaking of feet…has discovered his! Not sure he’s entirely aware they’re attached to his body yet, but we’re getting there.
  • Is the best at cuddling. I mean, oh my gosh. Hours pass like minutes with the two of us tucked into the chair in the nursery and John falls asleep with him during feedings at least a few times a week.
  • Smiles on cue at John, and his grandparents. I have to work for it a bit more sometimes, but that’s because he’s usually too busy doing his soul-deep stare into my eyes. That’s been our thing from pretty much the moment we met. For as long as I live, I will cherish what a privilege it is to have that kind of connection with another human.

The early months were hard in ways I never imagined, and I am enjoying him at this age so, so much. I’m a proud mama – each day brings something new, challenging, interesting, and wonderful.