Our Noble Pursuits

Living the good life. And writing about it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

8 Months

Here we are again, at another month birthday.  And this month has been a big one for Annie, development-wise.  David has remarked that it seems like she has really learned a lot just in the last couple of weeks.  And I feel like every day she becomes less of a baby and more of a person.  Her personality is really coming out now…and she keeps us laughing all the time.

Here's what we've been up to this month:

Rolling over – Up until this month, Annie has not shown any interest in rolling from her back to her tummy.  She didn’t like being on her tummy and, I suppose, saw no reason to flip there.  All of that changed this month.  She flips over most often in her crib right before sleep.  And I don’t blame her.  Until now, she has been sleeping on her back with her arms over her head.  A precious position, but I never understood how it could be all that comfortable.  Now, she’s sleeping more like the rest of us.  On her tummy with one knee pulled out to the side or sometimes on her side.  And baby girl is still sleeping like a champ, and I say a little thank you to Jesus every day for that little favor.
Hanging out in the hammock with Daddy.
Standing ovation – Little Bit plays great on the floor for quite a while these days, but when she tires of that there is only one place she wants to be – standing on her own two feet.  She scoots over to me and grabs my hands, which is my cue to pull her up to standing.  If I act like I’m not catching on, she crawls all over my legs and lap until she has pulled herself up onto her feet.  She no longer likes being inside her exersaucer, preferring instead to hang out around the outside of it, playing with the toys.  Along with this whole standing business is coming (slowly) an ability to fall down without freaking out.  Each time she lands on her Pampers-padded bottom she takes it a little more in stride.  And it’s a good thing, because I know we have many more falls and bumps in our future as she becomes more mobile.

Chatty Cathy – Annie’s really got that stringing sounds together thing going now.  She can be pretty chatty almost any time, but she is most talkative on her changing table and in her highchair.  Her word of choice?  No, not “mama” (she laughs at me every time I try to get her to say it).  Her favorite word is, as you might expect, “dada.”  She’s “dadadada”ing all over the place.

First trip to the playground...with her muse.

Waving – A few weeks ago, Annie started this habit of putting her hand out to the side with her elbow bent and kind of shrugging her shoulder when you talked to her.  It was the cutest thing ever and made us laugh every single time, so of course, she kept doing it.  Before long, the hand-and-shrug became a wave and now she will frequently wave hello and bye-bye.  It’s so cute that the whole bye-bye wave makes it even harder to leave her…but at least we have the promise of the hello wave to keep us going.

Teeth – No, still no teeth poking through those gums.  But she has been having more periods of inexplicable fussiness and I think I’ve noticed some swelling in her gums.  Most of the time, she still seems pretty okay with this long teething process, so we’ll just keep waiting for those pearly whites to appear in their own time.

I keep waiting for the whole hormonal emotional part of motherhood to ease up.  But here we are 8 months after Annie's birthday and I still tear up like crazy about being a mom.  I saw a couple of women talking over lunch in a restaurant yesterday, both of them pregnant.  One of them had that about to pop look to her, while you wouldn't have known the other was expecting were it not for the ultrasound pictures she was proudly showing off.  I thought as I looked at those women, they have no idea what's coming.  No idea how much they are going to love those children.  While I was pregnant, I loved Annie.  Before I knew her, I was connected to her.  But that was nothing compared to the emotion I felt - and continue to feel - after she made her appearance.  And so as I sat in the restaurant watching the about-to-be-mamas, I felt a little jealous of them.  Jealous of the birth days they will soon share with their children.  Jealous because I wish I could have captured that moment of ours in time and relive it (preferably after the labor part, mind you) again and again.  Because it is foggy to me.  It all happened so fast.  And time has only sped up since then.

So happy 8 months to our sweet baby girl!  She's growing like crazy and changing before our eyes.  And we are loving every minute!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


You know what they say about God closing doors and opening windows?  Well, there’s been a whole lot of door closing and window opening around here.  I know lots of people say this, but I really mean it.  I’m not a fan of change.  Change is scary.  Change causes worry and anxiety.  Change brings me face to face with the unknown.  But change can also be exciting.  It can be meaningful.  It can be necessary.  We are in a season of change in our house.

I won’t get into all the details, but the Reader’s Digest version of the latest change around here is that I am not only starting a new job in a couple of weeks, but starting a new career.  I had been unhappy and unfulfilled in my legal career for…well, really, since it started.  I thought maybe changing law firms would help, but it didn’t.  And when I had Annie and went back to work it was like a spotlight was shining on all of the things I didn’t like about what I did for a living.  It's hard to admit that you don't like what you do.  And it's particularly hard to admit that - especially to yourself - when you have spent three years and a lot of money training to do the thing you don't like.  But the time came for me to accept the fact that my feelings about practicing law weren't going to change.

Let me be clear here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my old career.  It is a worthy profession.  Lots of good, smart, wonderful people do it and do it very well.  I just realized that it wasn’t for me.  And once I saw that, there was kind of no ignoring it.
This face has a way of putting things in perspective.
Here I am, almost 36 years old, with a house, a full on grown up family with husband and new baby and everything, and law school student loan debt.  Doesn’t seem like the best time to change careers does it?  But for me – for our family – there could not be a better time.  For whatever reason, now, this year, right in the middle of adjusting to parenthood and all that it brings with it, is the time to make a change.  This has been made abundantly clear to me.  I’ve learned that we can’t pick the timing for most things.  We couldn’t choose when Annie was to enter our family (despite our best efforts, which you can read about here)…and yet, her arrival ended up perfectly timed.  I know the same is true for this change in my life.

So I have bid goodbye to the legal profession (I always feel strange saying or writing that – I mean, it’s not like I’m now going into an illegal profession).  And I am saying “hello” to work in the nonprofit sector.  It sounds all Pollyanna and hokey, I know, but for me, there was nothing like having a baby to make me want to do something meaningful with my professional life.  And for me, meaning needs to come from work that directly benefits my community.  The indirect stuff I was doing before just wasn’t enough to justify my dropping my daughter off early every morning at daycare and picking her up late.  It’s one thing to leave your child in someone else’s care so that you can do something that matters to others, matters to you, or, at the very least, is something you like doing.  It’s something else entirely to do that when the work you are doing doesn’t make you happy, generates a disproportionate amount of stress in your life, and leaves you feeling like you’re missing something.  The latter, my friends, was what I was doing.  And I don’t want to do that anymore.
Annie says, "Yay, Mama!"
As has been true of many things in the almost two years since my dad passed away, I have found myself thinking a lot about what he would have had to say about this life change of mine.  My dad never really seemed to mind change - at least that's how it appeared to me.  In fact, it almost seemed as if he welcomed it, so long as it was in the best interest of his family.  He changed careers several times over the course of his adult life and always seemed to use that change as an opportunity to help others.  I know my dad would be proud of what I am doing.  As much as he liked to tell people about his lawyer daughter, I know he would be just as happy to talk about his daughter who works in development for a nonprofit.  He would have handled this change - and the bumps and dips we have experienced to get here - gracefully.  And, with him in mind, so will I.

I am so excited to start this new chapter, and can't wait to see what lies along this road God is taking me - and my family -  down.  And I am so incredibly grateful and thankful for my wonderful, supportive husband who has cheered me on through this whole process, despite the affect it may have on our bank account.

So change, it is a comin'.  It appears the Nobles like to live with the windows open.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guilty Displeasures

I’m reading a book right now that is inspiring me to do some thinking.  I know, I know.  Watch out, right?  And thanks to my lovely sister-in-law, Abi, for sending this book to me…you have no idea what you have started.  The book is The Happiness Project and it chronicles the writer’s year-long quest to be happier (for more on the book and the project, check out her accompanying blog here).  To put it simply, I identify with this concept and can’t stop thinking of ways to apply it to my own life.

Now, make no mistake, I consider myself to be a happy person.  But am I as happy as I could be?  As I should be?  I have a remarkably blessed life.  The kind of blessed life that sometimes brings tears to my eyes at the most random of moments, just because I am overcome with what I have.  It is truly the life I have always wanted.  So why, then, do I find myself spending more time than I should thinking about what annoys me, what frustrates me, or what could be slightly “better”?  Well, because I’m human, of course.  But just because it is common practice to apply the whole grass is always greener approach to life doesn’t make it right. 
Who wouldn't be happy with this face around?
So I have recently started identifying areas in my life where I have formed a bad habit of sabotaging my own happiness.  And since I decided when I started this blog that I would sometimes use it to process some not-so-easy stuff, I decided to share one of those areas (and perhaps more down the road).  Area #1 where I wreak havoc on my own happiness? Guilt.  Sounds like a fun topic, doesn’t it?  (My tongue is firmly planted in my cheek with that question, just so you know.)

I feel guilty for lots of things, and when I really look at them I find that they fall into two categories: things I just need to get over and let go of and things I need to do something about.  In the first camp are things like (and these are all stories for another time, really) feeling guilty for taking Annie to daycare (although she loves it, we love it, and from all appearances the people who care for her love it), feeling guilty for switching Annie from breast milk to formula, and feeling guilty about the fact that I pay hundreds of dollars in student loans each month for an education that equipped me for a profession I am now trying to separate myself from.  These are all things I just need to get over.  Decisions that have been made – all of them, I believe, with positive results for my family and for my personal well being.  Topics I just need to stop obsessing over. They are all areas of either personal or societal conflict or controversy, but they are decisions I would make exactly the same way were I to do it all over again.  I am realizing that the mommy guilt, professional guilt, and various other forms of guilt I feel over these topics is accomplishing nothing more than zapping my happiness.  So now is the time to get over it.  Let it go.  Move on, already!  Certainly easier said than done, but a simple enough solution to identify.
Annie says, "Get over it, Mama!"
The second category of guilt-inducing topics is a little harder to deal with because they involve actual action on my part.  These are things like feeling guilty for nagging my husband, guilt that is inspired by my failure to get out of the house each day to run, and guilt that comes from putting another box of Pop Tarts in the shopping cart when I know how very bad they are for me (but those chocolate ones must have crack in them, because I can’t stop eating them).  These sources of guilt are all within my realm of control.  But instead of stopping my bad behaviors, I just continue to practice them and then feel guilty about it later.  Or at the exact moment I’m doing it, as in the case of nagging David and buying Pop Tarts.  So what’s a girl to do?

Well, the first step for me is identifying the problem.  Hello, my name is Sarah and I am a guilt-aholic.  And because I can’t do anything without an excruciating amount of self-examination, I have been searching for the root of the problem.  Here’s what I’ve found: I am a person of high expectations.  I have high expectations for others, yes, but I have even higher expectations for myself.  And every time I fall short of these expectations, a little seed of guilt is planted.

Case in point: When I started exercising again after having Annie, I immediately started training for a half marathon.  I had done them before, pre-baby, so I thought I should just be able to pick up where I left off and train for another one.  It never occurred to me that I might be expecting a little too much from myself, from my body, from my psyche.  And so I feel guilty every day that I don’t run (which, lately, has been a lot of days), because I see that high goal I set for myself becoming less and less likely to be a reality.  Instead, I could have (and I believe, should have) started a “Couch to 5K” program so that I could feel the accomplishment of reaching a worthy goal while easing myself back into a level a fitness that pregnancy and post-partum recovery have made difficult.  See, I’m growing here, people!  Right before your eyes.

I won’t bore you with further examples, but I will say that my mind is made up that this whole guilt party I’ve been throwing for, oh, most of my adult life, is going to stop.  It may not be easy.  It may not feel nice.  But it is necessary.  So here’s to self-forgiveness, blowing up those roadblocks to happy land, and feeling even happier!  Are you a happiness saboteur too?  If so, you are in good company…we can walk down this road to self-improvement together.

One final picture for today...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's Post

Annie rarely needs middle of the night attention anymore.  God blessed us with a truly wonderful sleeper and when she does happen to wake in the wee hours she is usually really good at putting herself back to sleep.  Not last night, though.  And last night she did something really unusual – but wonderful.  Instead of wanting to be fed when she woke at 4:00 a.m., she simply wanted to be held.  And I was the lucky one who got to hold her. 

When the middle of the night jabber I awoke to turned into fussing, which then turned into intermittent little crying, I figured she had fully awoken herself and realized she was hungry.  So into her room I went with a bottle in hand.  As I lifted her from her crib, she gently touched my face with both of her little hands.  I sat down in the glider and cuddled her in my arms, bringing the bottle within her eyesight so she could grab it and guide it and my hand to her mouth as is her usual protocol.  She did that for a minute, drank for just a brief time, and then took the bottle from her own mouth and just relaxed against me. 

She wrapped her fingers around my thumb with one hand and played with the zipper of her sleep sack with the other.  Then she caught sight of my face out of the corner of her eye and reached up to touch my cheek and then play with my hair.  She rubbed her eyes and relaxed even further into me and then her little eyelids closed and her breathing got deeper.  As I stood up with her and placed her in her crib I thought this was the perfect (although early) start to Valentine’s Day.  Because there was a lot of love in that nursery.

The whole experience only lasted 6 or 7 minutes.  And I know it would lose a little (or maybe eventually, a lot) of its charm if it happened often.  But it truly got my day off to a wonderful start.  Happy Valentine’s Day to me, indeed.

David and I aren’t over the top Valentine’s Day celebrators.  We fall more into the camp of “show your love everyday” then the grand gesture once a year deal.  We kind of pride ourselves on our Valentine’s Day tradition of going to Target together, setting a very reasonable price limit, and then separating for 30 minutes or so to find the perfect gift for the other.  It’s one of my favorite times all year.  Because I feel like we are kind of turning the convention on its head, but still celebrating the point behind it.  And also because it is our thing, our way of celebrating, our time together…as valentines.

An oldie but goodie of me and my valentine.
My loves.
 So however it is you choose to celebrate – whether it’s a trip to Target and an early morning baby rocking session like me, or something a little more conventional – enjoy this day for what it is.  A time to think about what and who you love.  I know I am making a mental list all day of what I love about this blessed life.  Feel free to do the same!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love at First Sight (a Birth Story)

With Valentine's Day around the corner and love being in the air, so to speak, now seems like an appropriate time to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, I suppose) and document the story of Annie's birth day.  Talk about love at first sight.  That day, David and I fell hard for our little Annie Cakes.
Valentine fanny.
June 29, 2011 - 

I awoke like I had many many nights during the latter part of my pregnancy…to go to the bathroom.  There was certainly nothing unusual about that.  And after days of thinking, “Could this be the day?” I think I had finally resigned myself to the fact that our baby girl would make her appearance whenever she felt like it.  I was still 8 days from my due date and, despite the fact that I had been told about 36 hours earlier that I was already 3-4 cm dilated and contracting without feeling it, I knew that she could very well take all 8 (or more) of those days to get around to arriving.

Showing off the closet Annie and I were to share...and my enormous belly.
So on that Wednesday morning – 1:00 a.m., on the dot, to be exact – when I got out of bed for my middle of the night bathroom break, I didn’t think anything out of the ordinary was happening.  Very soon, though, all of that would change.

As I finished up in the bathroom and started to head back to bed, I felt something… unusual…something that I would soon learn was my water breaking.  It didn’t happen like it does in the movies – no huge rush of water – but I knew enough from my childbirth education class and the books I had read to know that a big dramatic splash isn’t usually how these things happen.  And after a couple of minutes of figuring out what was going on, I was certain enough that something was happening to wake up David. 

Laugh at me if you will, but David and I had practiced exactly how I should wake him up if this exact scenario presented itself.  The practice came about because I told him I would wake him with the usual, “Baby, it’s time.” But he thought I sounded kind of mad when I said it and didn’t want the blessed birth of our beloved daughter to start out on a harsh note.  So I practiced different inflections and word choice and ended up with something sweet and calm.  And I almost made it work on that Wednesday morning.  Except since my water breaking was more like a faucet leaking, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what was going on.  So I came out with a sort of soft, weak, “Baby, I think my water just broke.”  To which my sleepy husband responded, “What makes you think that?”  You would think he would just go with me on this instead of making me explain myself, wouldn’t you?  (Love you, honey.)

As the minutes passed, I became more convinced that my labor was actually starting.  Along with the frequent trickle of water I was feeling came some minor contractions.  So after taking showers and packing some last minute items, David and I headed to the hospital. 

Baby birthing Lesson #1: They don’t let you eat once you get to the hospital.  And sometimes these things can take a while.  So when leaving your home en route to labor and delivery, make a wiser food choice than a Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie.  It may sound like Heaven to your sugar-deprived gestational diabetes-having self, but it isn’t exactly sustaining through hours of labor.

Nursery was all ready.  Just add baby.
 We arrived and were checked in by about 2:00 a.m. and the labor and delivery nurse reported upon her first examination of me that I was already about 5 cm along.  During this exam is also when my water really broke – like all over the place – so I knew there was no turning back now.  This was really happening. 

I mentioned earlier that I had been told a couple of days before that I was already starting to dilate.  The glory of this statement is not lost on me.  Apparently, I am what the doctor referred to as a “silent dilater.”  I have many qualities – some of them good and some of them not so great – but perhaps the best of these qualities is the fact that my body can apparently prepare itself for baby delivery without me really feeling it.  Thank you, Jesus, for small favors.

Baby birthing Lesson #2: Don’t feel like you need to be modest and change into your hospital gown in the bathroom at the hospital.  I apparently didn’t understand what was going to be happening and got kind of shy about changing in front of my labor and delivery nurse.  Changing, mind you, into a gown with no back to it.  And right before I was about to, um, have a baby.  This is not a time for modesty, friends.

After about an hour and a half at the hospital, with only minor contractions, things changed kind of quickly and suddenly I really started to feel the pain, mostly in my thighs.  So since the nurse had contacted the doctor on call from my OB’s office and received the okay for me to get an epidural whenever I needed it, I decided I needed it at about 4:00 a.m.  I had always sort of planned on receiving pain meds.  I completely respect women who go au natural, but I just didn’t think I would handle the pain very well.  So I made the epidural choice relatively early on – and I am oh so glad that I did.  All went smoothly with the epidural (aside from having an anesthesiologist who smelled like he had been working all night…which I recognize he had, but would a little deodorant reapplication be too much to ask?).  I could still feel pressure with each contraction but no pain – and that’s the way things stayed for several hours.  David and I called our parents when a reasonable hour arrived – I think I called my mom at about 6:00 a.m. – and we passed the time watching Home Improvement reruns (there really isn’t much on at that time of day).

Post-epidural (obviously).  Let's do this thing!
 My mom arrived at the hospital around 7:00 a.m., with breakfast for David.  And the three of us sat waiting for things to progress so that I could start the next phase of labor.  I really don’t know how that time passed, as I have no real memory of it – but it passed quickly.  I wasn’t drugged up or anything, so I don’t know where my mind went, but I honestly can’t remember much about the details of that waiting game.  Maybe I dosed off or maybe I just laid there, but I was uncharacteristically patient during the whole process.  That was most likely helped by the fact that my epidural had taken away any pain.  I do remember that at one point David and I discussed that he should maybe go to the gift shop and buy a pack of playing cards so we could do something to pass the time.  You know, no time for a game of gin rummy like during labor.  The nurse advised against that, though, telling us instead that it was almost time to start pushing.

My nurse anticipated that I would be ready to start pushing around noon.  She also indicated after one of her “checks” that she was afraid my pelvis might be too narrow to deliver this baby.  That was a little disconcerting – I was really hoping to avoid a c-section and my doctor had never mentioned this possibility during any of my prenatal visits.  Aside from that little tidbit and a fetal monitor that occasionally stopped reading the baby’s heartbeat properly, my labor was really pretty uneventful.

Just as anticipated, they checked me again at noon and determined that I was fully dilated and ready to push.  Even though my doctor wasn’t there yet, my mom retired to the waiting room and we started the whole pushing process with just the labor and delivery nurse on hand.  They had told us that this process frequently takes 2 hours with a first baby, so we knew we might be at it for awhile. 

Baby birthing Lesson #3:  If they offer you a mirror so you can see what’s going on during the pushing phase, don’t take them up on it.  I’m not going to say anything else about this, as this is a family blog.  Just take my word for it. 

True to averages, I pushed and pushed for over an hour – and started to feel very discouraged by what I believed to be a lack of progress.  My doctor arrived and we kept going with the pushing.  In the back of my mind, I was remembering what the nurse said about my pelvis being narrow and I worried a little that the longer we went with this with no baby to show for it, the greater my chances were of a c-section.  But my doctor never said a word about that prospect and just kept encouraging me with each contraction…as did David.  He would say, “She’s coming, she’s coming!”  And finally, at 1:39 p.m. – one hour and 39 minutes after we started working at it – I pushed one more time and David said, “She’s here!” and Annie Kate Noble made her entrance into our world.

She's here!
First family photo.
And she was perfect.  As soon as she was out, I started giggling.  I was overcome with emotion and just so glad to have her out in the world with us.  They placed her on my chest and David cut the umbilical cord, then they whisked her over to the scale to clean her off quickly and get her measurements.  David got out the camera and followed along.  (He and I had implemented a strict no camera during delivery policy.  I saw no reason for there to be photographic evidence of her actual entrance into the world.  I mean, who do you show those pictures to, anyway?) 

She was beautiful and perfect and healthy.  And we couldn’t be happier.  Or more smitten.  David’s parents had arrived from Indiana and were in the waiting room by that time, and once we had some time just the three of us, he went out to tell the grandparents how precious Annie was.  Soon after, my mom and David’s parents came into the room to meet their granddaughter and the camera flashes really started going.

And I was already in love.  So in love with my little girl.  She was everything I had imagined she would be and so much more.  True love at first sight, that's what it was.   Mama and Daddy love you, Annie Kate.  So very much. 

Our girl these days.  Photo courtesy of Alison Salyer.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Every morning when I go in to pick Annie up out of her crib and she squeals and wiggles with what seems like true joy I think, “This is my favorite time of day.”  But then each night when I am feeding her her final bottle and she is all squishy against me and playing absent-mindedly with my fingers and hands, I think, “This is my favorite time of day.”  And then, truth be told, shortly after baby girl is asleep, when David and I are lying in bed watching (a lot of) television and just enjoying being together again, I think, “This is my favorite time of day.”  Is it possible to have three favorites?  I realize the whole nature of a superlative like “favorite” is that it only describes one thing, but seriously, I have three favorites.  I think I’m allowed that.

Babies really do a number on you, you know?  I mean, I don’t know that I ever once thought about my favorite time of day before Annie came along.  Babies just have a way of opening your eyes to things you didn’t see before.  I know every single one of my blog posts these days ends up being about the marvelousness of mommydom, but as I relax more and more into this role (read more about that here), I notice more the side effects of being a parent.  And they are really pretty cool.
Photo courtesy of Alison Salyer.

I have always heard that motherhood changes you, but until I experienced it for myself I never really knew how true that was.  It changes you because it brings your focus outside of yourself.  And becoming practiced at looking at more than just how something affects you (which I was so guilty of before) sort of allows for all this time for reflection.

I kind of erred on the side of too much self-reflection anyway, before baby came on board.  So now I’m almost insufferable with it.  So thank you for bearing with me as I open my eyes to this stuff.
Photo courtesy of Alison Salyer.
Returning once more to the theme of the opening lines of this post, I have some current favorite things to report.

  1. The way Annie puts her arms around my neck now and squeezes like she really means it.  Every once in a while she will also press her open mouth against my cheek.  For a mama, that’s the best kind of kiss there is…even if it is a total accident.
  1. Watching Annie’s face break into this crazy big smile when David comes in the room and makes over her.  And when he kisses her?  Forget about it!  Little Bit loves her Daddy, that’s for sure.
  1. The tone of Annie’s voice when she babbles.  She’s been a bit of a squealer for a while and her voice for her shouts and yells is just that – a shout and a yell.  Now that she’s babbling, her “ma”s and “ba”s and “da”s are in a much softer voice.  It’s precious.
  1. Mixing and matching baby clothes.  Annie is outgrowing clothes length-wise long before she outgrows them in all other areas.  This has left me with lots of shirts that fit while the matchy-matchy pants are too short (or make her legs look like sausages).  So I’ve been playing fashion plates with Annie’s outfits – mixing her Carter’s shirts with her Gap pants and her tunic-ish tops with her baby leg warmers.  Totally makes me feel like she’s a doll.  Hey, don’t judge.  It’s the little things, really.  
Chunky Monkey photo courtesy of Alison Salyer. :-)

But on a serious note for a second, the ways in which this parenting thing are changing me are surprising even me.  I knew it was going to be a whole new world, but I thought that just meant I wouldn’t go out to dinner as often and would get uninterrupted sleep less often.  The ways this baby have changed the way I think, the way I prioritize, and the way I view, well, everything, are astounding.  Funny how that works…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Breathing Again

So I went to the library the other day to pick up a copy of my book club’s next selection (which I had already gotten a free version of for my Kindle, but being new to the whole Kindle experience and suspicious of a free anything I wanted to see a copy of the actual book and compare it with the Kindle version I “bought” to make sure I hadn’t been the victim of some elaborate literary ruse).  Turns out the library didn’t have a copy of the book I was looking for in supply, so I found myself wandering through the parenting section.  Having a little time to kill (i.e., not having the baby with me), I selected a few of those “Your Baby’s First Year” type books that I lived and breathed in the first weeks of Annie’s life and took a seat to peruse what they had to say about 7 month olds.

Photo courtesy of Alison Salyer
As I was skimming the pages of the chapters pertinent to this apparently “mobile” stage of development (Heaven help us), I realized something.  It’s kind of a long, involved something, so bear with me if this takes a minute to get out.  Back in the early weeks of Annie’s life, I spent countless hours (when I should have been sleeping) reading library books, books I had been given, books I had purchased, and any piece of information I found online, trying to figure out how to be a good parent.  I read about sleep training and feeding schedules and newborn development like it was my job.  And each chapter I read, each blog I reviewed, each development chart I looked at filled me with just the tiniest bit more anxiety. 

Okay, I’m going to confess something here.  It’s a confession that shouldn’t really have to be a confession because I suspect lots (perhaps even most) new moms feel this in those early weeks, but I don’t remember hearing anyone actually say it until after I had Annie.  The confession?  Being a new mom is hard.  At least for me, it was.  Parenting a newborn is overwhelming.  Yes, there is the overwhelming love and emotion I felt for Annie from the very moment I saw her sweet, round face for the first time.  Yes, there is the overwhelming desire to protect her from this crazy world around her and make sure only good things happen to her ever.   

But, at least for me, there was also this overwhelming magnitude of the task of raising a baby.  Of figuring out what to do when she cried.  How best to get her to sleep.  How to make sure she ate enough and played enough and did all the things she is “supposed” to do as a brand new member of society.  And I was overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to do things the right way.  Overwhelmed and scared that I was doing it wrong.  That I was messing her up.  Overwhelmed in a way that sometimes made me feel like I couldn’t breathe.  Overwhelmed and afraid that I was the only one on the planet who had ever felt this way and that I must be doing something wrong, must be a bad mom, must not be maternal enough.  And I read those books like crazy, looking for answers, looking for validation, looking for the key to being Annie’s mama, looking for something that would tell me when it was going to get easier already.

And as I sat in the library the other day, scanning these same books I looked to like they were some sort of parenting Bible in July and August, I realized something.  I realized that I was breathing again.  I realized that it had been months since I had picked up a parenting book.  I realized that the best thing I had ever done as a parent was return those library books, put the parenting books I owned back on the shelf, and delete the Word document I had created of my most frequently viewed parenting websites.  I realized that the answer to how to best be Annie’s mom didn’t lie in any of those places.  Instead, it was right inside me the whole time.  When I stopped looking to other places for answers on what my child needed and how I could fulfill that need and instead paid attention to her cues and signals and focused on getting to know her, things actually got easier.

I don’t mean to suggest that David and I have it all figured out…because we certainly don’t.  And I don’t intend to leave you with the impression that parenting isn’t hard anymore…because it is.  Some days more than others.  And I am not completely poo-pooing the benefits of parenting books and helpful online resources.  I do still google random things all the time.  I’m just saying that in the early days I didn’t know how to use that information in a way that was actually beneficial to me.  I’m saying that the good moments, when it's easy to see the rewards of being a parent to this beautiful baby girl we have, far overshadow the hard parts now.  I’m saying that I don’t worry so much anymore about whether or not I’m screwing this parenting thing up.  Because I see this face, and I know we must be doing something right.

Photo courtesy of Alison Salyer
 So if you are reading this right now as a new mom, please know if you feel overwhelmed you are not alone.  And if you are not in this parenting place yet but think some day you might be, please store this information in your memory bank so that some day when you are standing at 2:00 a.m. in your stained yoga pants, rocking a crying infant back and forth, holding a pacifier in one hand and a burp cloth in the other and trying to remember all of the words to “Rockabye Baby,” you can know that you aren’t the only one who has struggled.  And if you are reading this and you are years beyond these days of early child-rearing, feel free to shake your head and smile at my words, because you knew the secret before I did.  You knew what my realization was going to be before I even said it.  You already knew how good it feels to just breathe again.  Because when you catch your breath, and look around, this is the kind of reward you receive.