Mini is now four months old! We are out of newborn territory: she interacts more, sleeps less, and makes my life happier than I thought possible. (Also, see some of my thoughts on her at three months here.) In reflecting on this, I thought I might share some of the chief surprises I encountered as a #FTM (first time mom)…
(And, for those interested, in the pic above, mini is wearing a La Coqueta Kids playset very similar to this one ($88) — but don’t miss their sale! I picked up a bunch of new discounted goodies recently. She’s wearing a Poppy Bows bow.)
Surprise No. 1: Babies Are Loud.
Prior to mini’s birth, I had a vision of a newborn as a silent, peaceful little cherub floating on a cloud of Aden + Anais. I mean, I knew babies cried, but I had no idea that they also emitted various and sundry squeaks, snorts, grunts, yawns, wheezes, swallows, whirs, and a litany of other undecipherable noises pretty much all the live long day–and, perhaps more shockingly, all the live long night. Mini has been a noise machine since day one, and she’s now introducing new percussive and soprano sounds on what feels like a daily basis — gurgles, squawks, “guh” and “muh” sounds. Truth be told, the constant noise has been usefully mollifying: when I wake with the irrational thought that she may have suffocated herself under her swaddle, I lay there for a few beats and hear the inevitable grunt / snort / whizzle and know all is well. But I now understand why so many moms (including several of my dearest friends and family members!) moved their babes into their own nurseries within a few weeks of birth. To hell with the alarmist messaging that tells us to keep them in our rooms FOR THE FIRST YEAR…! (As an aside, there’s been new research that suggests that the whole prevent-SIDS-by-keeping-them-in-your-room line of thinking is actually unfounded. So basically no one knows. You do you, girl.) To this end, I have actually found mini’s sound machine (we use the Sleep Sheep) just as handy in rocking me to sleep and tuning out some of her sounds as it may be for her…
Surprise No. 2: Breastfeeding, Man.
I had heard so much about poop before mini was born — “oh my God, your life will be dominated by poop!” “I never knew I could think about poop so much!” “Poop poop poop AHHHHH!” — that I was steeling myself for something akin to a two-year-long stint cohabitating in a municipal waste center. I know it’s different for everyone — and maybe I was so thoroughly forewarned that I numbed myself to it — but I have been by and large unphased by this aspect of motherhood. Yes, there have been unpleasant situations, but if there were a richter scale for the vicissitudes of new mom-hood, this would register as a 1. Breastfeeding, on the other hand? An 8.9. I barely give poop a fleeting thought, but breastfeeding has consumed entire days of my intellect’s full function. It always calls to mind a bit of dialogue from my favorite movie of all time, When Harry Met Sally, but I replace the topic at hand with “breastfeeding”:
Harry: You’re too busy being happy. Do you ever think about [breastfeeding]?
Harry: Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days…
Sally: – and you think this makes you a better person?
In other words, my friends, I spend hours, I spend DAYS, thinking about breastfeeding. There’s all this mental math, and stress, and uncertainty, and scarcely a day goes by where I’m not consulting with my mom or Mr. Magpie about some new change or some new frustration or just the awe-inspiring fact that I’m still feeding her eight times a day, like clockwork. Eight times! I feel a mix of accomplishment–I’ve made it to four months and change, when I initially thought I’d not be able to feed her much at all–and exhaustion. I’m so proud that I’ve been able to feed mini and that she has those decadent little wrist rolls to prove it, and there are days where I look down at her and feel the most intense sense of connection and love and bigger-than-myself-Beyonce-esque-I-am-woman-hear-me-roar sentiment.
But some days I feel like a barn animal. A little pig with her piglet at the teat. And I sit there, bleary-eyed and sore and think about my goal about making it to six months and tell myself to keep my eye on the prize.
In short: I had no idea what I was in for and have been…surprised? bewildered? astonished? at how big a deal feeding mini has been. What a joy but also a disruption. A gift but also a challenge.
FWIW, a handful of things have made my breastfeeding life a little easier:
+This nursing bra is the best. The softest/most comfortable — you could sleep in it! — and best constructed.
+I can’t believe I never mentioned it before, but I have used this MammaBaby app to track mini’s feedings since she the day she was born. I don’t use any of the other functions — you can track diapers, weight, naps, etc. — but continue to track her feedings here because the day blurs together and suddenly I have no idea when I last fed her and it can be VERY handy to have a sense for when she might be hungry again. It’s not a perfect app (I have several gripes with its design), but it gets the job done and once I’d started using it, I was not about to abandon all that data.
+THE KINDLE THE KINDLE THE KINDLE. Oh Lord, the Kindle. Her name is Kiki and she has changed my life. (I wrote more about my love of this device here, under the #turbothot.)
Surprise No. 3: Baby Nails Grow Really Fast.
And, a twin surprise: baby nails are inconveniently difficult to trim. When mini’s awake, she’s always moving and has become very curious about these little yellow scissors I’m using to groom her. Trying to trim a millimiter-wide nail ending while a baby is squirming and opening and closing her fists is hard. Like really hard. I feel a bit like a brain surgeon: “I’m going in. Scalpel, please.”
And if you miss…meeeep! Just don’t miss.
One would think: “Oh well, just do it while she’s sleeping.” One would be wrong: I still swaddle mini for her naps, and I’m not about to unswaddle her to trim nails when she’s been lovingly, patiently rocked to sleep or (miracle of miracles!) has fallen asleep on her own.
So this means I must try to trim her nails when she’s awake and her nails grow really quickly. I’ll be patting myself on the back for taking care of her nails, filing them with these Rhoost baby emory boards after her trim, and then I’ll look down and dun-dun-DUNNNHHHH, there’s a jagged little edge and she’s just scratched her whole cheek with it. Poor sweet thing. I always feel like a negligent mama when I look down and see a new scratch. Those damn nails!
Surprise No. 4: What Worked Yesterday May Not Work Today.
My mom has often responded to my observations about minimagpie with: “it’s probably just a phase.” This rejoinder is as comforting as it is soul-crushing. Because just when I feel I’ve gotten into a rhythm with something — oh, she slept for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT the last two nights in a row! oh, I can get her to fall asleep on her own in her crib! oh, that cry means she’s hungry! — she’ll approach the pitcher’s mound and throw me a wicked curve ball. Mini has loved and then hated and the loved again her swing. She has delighted in and then seemed bored by her activity mat. There was a month where her Wubbanub was her best friend. Now we deposit it in her mouth and she looks at us with disgust and spits it out, as if to say: “How dare you betray me in this way!” She’s been soothed by the ceiling fan one week, then bored of it the next. All of the sudden, she decided she hates being changed in the middle of the night: whereas she used to look at me placidly, in a way that seemed to communicate gratitude for the diaper change, she now screams at the top of her lungs. And one day, she decided she hated being put in the bassinet attachment of our stroller. Just like that. On Monday, she was peacefully lounging in it. On Tuesday, she was screeching like a wild banshee any time we’d put her in it and then happily gurgling the minute she was out. (We actually had to start putting her in the “big kid”/upright stroller attachment before we thought we’d have to, and she loves it.)
In summary: she keeps us on our toes. She teaches me to be patient, observant, and flexible. She reminds me to listen, observe, and experiment. And, above all, she reminds me that she is a little human being, with her own preferences and fickle moods and she’s just trying it all on for size for the first time.
Surprise No. 5: She Is Joy.
A couple weeks ago, my aunt and cousin stopped by my parents’ house while I was in D.C. After cooing over mini, my aunt asked: “What’s been the biggest surprise for you?” I thought for a minute about some of the above observations, and then said, “You know, everyone told me that the first few weeks would be a blur of exhaustion and sleeplessness. But when I think about the last few weeks, I’d describe them as joyful.”
And it’s true.
Setting aside all the semi-facetious observations above, the predominant emotion I’ve felt since the day she was born has been joy. Not happiness or pride — though those are often attendant — but a gleeful, light-filled sense of joy. There’s something free and light and close-to-the-wick about life right now.
In closing, a few new baby discoveries for your consideration:
+This little fair isle cardigan is on ridic sale for $36!!! I wish it hadn’t sold out in mini’s size for fall. Check out the whole Petit Bateau sale section — so many FAB deals — like these camisole onesies ($13 for 2), which I layer under mini’s summer wardrobe, and this little French striped situation ($30). Also, OMG THESE RAINBOOTS.
+This teddy sweater ($62, plus extra 40% off!!!)
+Love these whale jammies for older kids ($34).
+Speaking of jammies, Tuckernuck has some Roberta Roller Rabbit PJs on sale, and I managed to pick up a set of Christmas-y jams for mini in the appropriate size for $26!
+Mini magpie will be starting her first bites of solid food in the next few weeks, and I ordered these Olababy silicone training spoons ($15 for 2) after reading rave reviews.
+Toddler shades ($19). THE CUTEST.
P.S. — I was revisiting some of my maternity/birth posts, and I realized I’d forgotten something important in this post on how to recover from a c-section: you need a step stool. I don’t know how I would have gotten into or out of my bed without it! I used it for the first few weeks.