So, I've been lagging on the posts lately, because...life with a newborn and toddler. Weekends, especially, are a circus; Monday feels like a break. In my pre-child life, a "busy" weekend might have consisted of catching up with friends over a three-hour brunch, seeing a movie, and reorganizing a couple dresser drawers. Now, each weekend day feels like a decathlon of toddler-centric activities, most of which get erased from my memory as soon as my head hits the bed. Weekdays, even with a newborn, are relatively calm...but unless I spend the entire day at home, naps end up happening on the go, and I can't get much done beyond one-finger texting and maybe listening to a couple podcasts. I have to remind myself that this time isn't meant to be productive, and that having a dirty house and unwashed hair and being forever behind on laundry and emails and planning the rest of my life is just the nature of the gig.
At six weeks in with bébé Auguste, it feels like we've finally settled in to our new family of four (with the caveat that when it comes to babies/kids, everything is always in flux). The adjustment to parenthood -- even the second time around -- reminds me of that culture shock curve they show students headed off to study abroad.
There's the honeymoon phase, where you're high on hormones and lovestruck with your new mini-you...followed by the crash, when sleep deprivation kicks in and you see the comforts of your old life receding in the rearview mirror...and then, eventually, things stabilize, hopefully somewhere in the realm of contentment.
Things feel good right now. The two-child armageddon I'd braced myself for hasn't happened, at least not yet; my toddler is a bit jealous, but hasn't tried to throw the baby out the window. And even though sleep is still a disaster, I guess my body has just resigned itself to shitty sleep for now, and fortunately, taking a very long maternity leave (I'm not planning to work at all this year) means I don't feel pressure to make myself presentable or speak in coherent sentences. My husband and I have scarcely any time to connect, but when we catch each other's eye over the rumpus of daily life, it's usually with a glance that says: We can handle this. Life is good.
Here are my Latest Loves: a few things that have made parenting life a little sweeter lately.
1. Baby's First Smiles
Newborns spend a lot of time either snoozing, or gazing off into some fuzzy middle distance. For me, the moment they start to make eye contact and break into a smile is the moment they become little people. It's like they've made peace with departing the womb, and are ready to participate in the social world. "Baby happy!" my toddler cries when his little brother smiles, and in that instant, my heart is full.
2. The Pacifier
Okay, this is probably not news to anyone but me, but HOLY CRAP - pacifiers work exactly as their name implies! I feel like I've been in a race and only just found out that my competitors have been doping like a bunch of Russian Olympians this whole time. (Not that parenting is a competitive sport. Or is it??) Using a pacifier toootally changes the playing field. It's not as if my baby never cries anymore, but when he's getting tired and fussy, or we're in the car (not a happy place right now), it works wonders to soothe him.
Mom tip: Don't assume your baby hates the pacifier you offer just because he rejects it the first time. Try it when baby is in different moods - calm, sleepy, fussy - and see how he reacts. You might also need to gently hold it in place before he gets the idea and latches on. With practice, my little guy has taken 3 different kinds of pacifiers -- which is nice, because I know if I lose one, I don't have to panic about getting an identical replacement.
With my first kid, I opted not to use a pacifier because 1) I didn't want to create an unnecessary dependency, especially one that might easily get swallowed up by a grate/toilet/bottomless diaper bag and result in a meltdown, 2) Vanity -- I didn't want my kid to have a hunk of plastic in his mouth for the first couple years' worth of family photos, and 3) I couldn't think of a natural equivalent (other than thumb-sucking, or 24/7 nursing), and if all our pre-plastic ancestors got by without a pacifier, couldn't I??
Now that we're on baby #2 and life is chaos, every potential parenting aid is back on the table. Which brings me to my next new bff...
3. The DockATot
I reaaaally resisted this one, mostly on the principle that paying $200+ for a fancy pillow with a stupid name is friggen ridiculous. So I didn't; I borrowed one from a friend. The mixed messages re. the DockATot are a little disconcerting: parents speak with reverence of its magical baby-lulling properties, but it's not the flat surface prescribed by the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe sleep. The consensus I hear from most parents, though, is that if you can afford it (or, like me, beg one off a fellow parent), the DockATot is awesome both as a "baby lounger" -- the raised sides keep them tucked in, so you can set it on a couch or bed until they're old enough to roll over -- or a co-sleeper.
More on co-sleeping safety here.
4. Michelle Obama Opens Up about IVF
Everyone loves Mama 'Bama, and she takes her role as a public figure and influencer seriously. That's why it's so great that she's opened up about experiencing miscarriage and going through in-vitro fertilization in order to become pregnant with her two daughters. It normalizes these female-specific experiences that are common, difficult, and prone to social stigma.
5. Céline Dion's "gender neutral" clothing line
I could go on FOR HOURS about how much I loathe the insanely gendered baby-clothing industry (and probably will some other day). Suffice it to say that having "boy" and "girl" clothes for kids too young to know their own names is a whole lot of bullshit. I actually don't particularly like Célinununu's styles, nor the idea that "gender neutral" means eradicating pink and blue, but I feel her angst towards the children's fashion industry and appreciate the dialogue that her celebrity line is (hopefully) stoking.
6. Modern Love: The Podcast
Modern Love is probably my favorite podcast to listen to while on a late-night baby shift. The twinkly intro music is so soothing, and they get celebrities with great voices to read personal narratives of "love, loss, and redemption." In this episode, Mira Sorvino narrates one woman's story of making peace with her miscarriages, and in doing so, making room for new life.
7. School Portraits
School pictures should have gone extinct in an era when the average smartphone takes remarkably flattering photos with countless editing options. Yet it seems that modern parents - me included - just can't let go of the nostalgic charm of the old posed, Sears-portrait-style school photo. Marcel's first school photos turned out much better than I'd expected! Even with the cheesy, unnatural poses, these are pretty darn cute. (Biased? Me??)