Goodbye Babyhood: Meditations on Moving On

In less than month, Celia Catherine turns two. And while I know she will always be my baby, I have been coming to the very real realization that the part of my life where I take care of babies, little sweet wrapped up in a blanket bundles is, well, over.

And before you say, “well, just have more then,” I must tell you: I have realized two big things summer. I am not cut out for stay at home motherhood and I am not ready for more than two. Or at least more than two of kids like mine.

It seems like just yesterday I was waddling around chasing Parker with a belly full of baby, ready to take on sleepless nights and swaddling and worries of weight gain (hers) and weight loss (mine).

And it seems like I was just a ball full of nerves and excitement the day when my two children got to have their first sniff of each other.

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The second child’s milestones blur in comparison to the first. You remember exactly how many months old the first child is, read up about their latest growing pains and can assess how far ahead or behind they are. With the second, keeping them clothed and fed is the priority and every once in a while you say, “Oh, I guess that phase is over. Wow, that was quick.”

When Celia was 5 months, I didn’t want to start her on solids. I had a lot of trouble and just wasn’t ready for it. I felt like the departure from the bottle was so ceremonious and meant the rest of her infancy would fly by. She gave up her bottle without a fight, slept in a big girl bed with little fanfare and eats everything and anything with a spoon, knife and fork. She’s a big girl more and more each day. And I feel a complicated mix of emotions about it. She’s growing up and I’m realizing a part of my life I thought I was just trying so hard to survive is almost–done.

It’s no wonder that the idea of potty training her makes me sad. I was all set to make it happen this summer, but felt like there are some things I am not just not ready for yet. It’s the last piece of her that is baby. Her sweet, little, puffy, diapered butt.

So in bidding farewell to babyhood, I have a laundry list of things I’ll miss. And I’ll try not to do the hiccuping ugly cry as I recite them for you here.

1. The noises. The little sighs and coos and snorts. Words are nice but nothing beats a good little baby sigh.

2. Baby nuzzle-cuddles. Parker used to rub his nose in my chest until he found just the right spot to sleep. He would do this in the middle of a work party, in the middle of a room full of kids, whatever. I miss it so much.

3. I loved the period of time before they could pull themselves up when you could just peek over the side of their crib and they would look at you all excited and surprised.

4. Baby talking like here.

5. Baby tricks like here and here.

6. The smell of baby laundry soap. And the smell of Burt’s Bees baby wash. And the smell of their little heads after a bath.

7. A baby falling asleep on you before you realize it’s bedtime.

8. The outfits. And the poses you could make them do.

9. Baby giggles and the discovery of their laughter with each other.

10. Middle of the night- just me and baby time. It may have been exhausting and hard. But nothing beats that type of cuddle time.

I am excited to be a mother of an almost two and almost four year old. But I will remember, so dearly, the blur of three years where I had two of the sweetest blabbering, cooing, crawling, toddling babies a Mommy could ever ask for.

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Be Gentle With Yourself: My Story of Post Partum

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Little man Parker, only 3 months old.

This post starts a week long posting binge where I celebrate my upcoming Blog-aversary! Shortcut Girl is almost one year old and I can barely believe it. Please share my posts with anyone you think would like to read them, I’m always looking to get more readers on Shortcut Girl!

If you have recently had a baby or have ever struggled with the “Baby Blues,” then today’s post might hit home. One of the reasons Shortcut Girl came about was due to the nervous energy that was produced from months of post partum depression and anxiety. The good news is two fold: the blog has been an amazing source of therapy for me in EVERY facet of my life and, also, I have been able to share stories of my struggles and successes with others. I really hope you enjoy it!

 

Be Gentle With Yourself: My Story of Post Partum

When you are pregnant, people are full of helpful advice. You, with a burgeoning belly, are hopeful and optimistic about the new person you are about to welcome to the world. You hear lots of words of wisdom, terrifying labor stories and of course the infamous, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” By the time the baby actually arrives, you have an array of advice and cautionary tales to work with.

The anticipation is sometimes painful as you inch your way towards motherhood. Will I be able to handle it? How will I do it? Is this the last time I will ever _________? The mixture of terror and excitement is a little unsettling. You worry, you what-if, you analyze. Your already vivid dreams become short horror films starring you as the negligent Mom.

I had always pictured post-partum depression as being a rejection of my baby, a need to lock myself in my room and an alienation of my husband and friends. I thought I would turn into Kirstie Alley’s character from Look Who’s Talking and cry all day in my bathrobe. But, after having my son, none of these what-ifs were reality. I felt like I dodged a big bullet. Therefore, with my daughter two years later, I thought it would all go exactly the same way. I was already wise in the ways of C section recovery and breast feeding remediation. I knew the sleepless nights and pure and utter exhaustion were ahead. But, I also knew the happy, happy, happy that comes along with a new addition to the family would trump all of that.

So, after Celia arrived, I juggled the demands of a toddler and new infant like a pro. I loved the long fall days I spent putting Parker down for a nap while I cuddled my new daughter. In essence, I thought (ever so smugly) that really, I had this having-kids-thing in the bag.

I was in a gas station bathroom the first time I thought something might be wrong. My husband and I had just packed up the kids for a trip to Vermont (I thought getting away would help me shake the funk I had been in) and we stopped quick to use the bathroom. Since I was avoiding mirrors at this point, I was shocked to catch my own reflection. I had a white down jacket on- the only one that fit- and had been wearing it for days. It was filthy. The front had coffee drips, smudges of dirt and small grimy handprints. I was unkempt and ugly, disheveled and gross. And anyone who saw me must have seen the same thing. I erupted into sobs that would not stop. Tears came that I could not control. A wellspring opened and I was slowly sinking.

Around this time, getting up every day felt something like being underwater. It took everything I had just to get myself through my daily routine. I felt kind of numb, a little lonely and of course, beyond tired. The tired part, everyone expects—you’re up with the baby, you never get to nap, you are a non-stop Mom. But, I was also starting to not sleep because I was anxious. For me, the depression was coupled with heightened anxiety. I had a couple of what I could only describe as panic attacks. Like the underwater feeling but you can’t really see the top of the water.

If you had asked me what was wrong at this point, I couldn’t put my finger on it. You can’t explain a cloud of anxiety, self-doubt and a dirty jacket to someone else. This only intensified the feeling of guilt I had for not being happy. I had two small children who were sweet and wonderful and healthy. I had a great husband, great friends, great co-workers. I felt like something had changed and no one brought me up to speed. I felt like I had been left out of my own life.

The riveting moment for me in this journey was a connection I made with a friend. I had heard she had some trouble with post-partum depression and asked her about it. That very week, she had also been struggling and thought it coincidental that I reached out. We exchanged our feelings of sadness, inferiority and angst. It was the most validating moment for me. To know someone felt the same thing! It was like the light came back to the world. Color came back into my outlook. I was no longer so alone.

Going through this taught me something that I was really surprised to learn. Sometimes: I can’t do it all. Sometimes: I truly cannot handle all I think I can. Sometimes: I need my husband (Thank you, Michael) my kids or even my friends to help me navigate the muddy waters of insecurity and uncertainty. Sometimes: I need to be a little gentler with myself and give myself a break. We all do.

So, as you pass on your advice to the young Mom with a cooing infant in line at Target, be gentle with her too. We all manage the throes of pre-natal and post-partum in our own manner. Sometimes we reach out and ask for help along the way (“Can you please come over for a playdate before I go crazy?”) and sometimes we really foul things up (“He got the scissors and cut his OWN HAIR!”) and learn from it later. But, as women, we keep moving forward, ready for the next stage of motherhood, of toddlerhood, of teenage-hood. And we retell the stories-the good and the bad. Our badges of motherhood- the heartaches, the hard lessons, the victories, all of it.