Tuesday, February 24, 2015


...then all at once.  That's how I fell in love with my daughter.

I owe that quote to John Green.  In his novel The Fault in Our Stars there was a line from one of the characters about falling in love with someone and she said "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once", which is exactly how I feel.  It sort of happened when I wasn't looking.  I kept stressing out while I was pregnant that I hadn't connected with the whole process.  It kept feeling like it was all happening to someone else, and even after she was born I felt like I should have been hit by a bolt of lightning that just rocked my world and struck me in the heart with this overwhelming feeling of love for her, but it didn't happen like that.

A few weeks after she was born my mom asked me "Did you ever think you could love something so much?" and I said "I don't know.  Maybe I'm weird, but it's not like that for me.  I think she's pretty great, but I'm not obsessed with her or anything" and she said "Yeah, you are weird.  There's something wrong with that".  So, of course, I fell into a spiral of guilt over being a terrible mom, which is starting to feel way too familiar to me, but the truth is that she is pretty great, but I wasn't there yet.  Some of this may have had to do with how traumatic her birth was, and all of the medication I was on, and how utterly exhausted I was even after I came home because I'd gone essentially four days without being able to sleep properly, but for whatever reason, I didn't fall for her immediately.  I beat myself up for it all the time, watching my husband fall easily in love with her, constantly feeling like I had something wrong with me.  The truth is, sometimes love isn't immediate.  It's not always a bolt of lightning.  It's sometimes a journey.  My journey took a while.  I loved her from the beginning, and I cared for her, but there was always this feeling that I was missing something important.  I was missing that sense of obsession, of NEED to be with her.

This past weekend I realized that, when I wasn't paying attention, I fell in love with her all at once.  We went to my nephew's birthday party, and then out to dinner with a couple of friends, and on the way home I suddenly realized that she had me.  Hook, line and sinker, she had me.  I didn't stress out while we were gone.  I didn't worry.  I didn't text constantly to check up on her.  I was out and I was present with the people I was with, but as we got closer to home I found myself anxious to see her.  I wanted to go home and pick her up and press my face up against those chubby cheeks and just hold her.  We made a stop on the way home to pick up a couple of groceries and the whole time I just kept thinking "Let's get out of here and go home.  We're so close to home" and it was so strange.  Strange to be excited to see someone after only a few hours away.  Strange to have a force drawing me home when most days I am perfectly happy to be out and about.  It startled me, and I realized that I'd been working toward this slowly for weeks.  Slowly finding moments where she caught my heart.  Feeling relief when she finally smiled for me after weeks of doing it only for my husband.  Suddenly realizing that maybe she doesn't hate me, and maybe she is happy when she sees me.  As I started feeling more like myself, I also started realizing how great she is in the moments when she's not screaming.

I fell in love with her slowly, and then all at once.  I'm so glad.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Seeing with new eyes

It's amazing how you get to see people in certain situations and it changes how you see them.  Someone recently said something on Facebook about enjoying watching her brother with her daughter, and how it was an unexpected joy for her.  I'd agree there are surprises when you watch someone love your children.  It sort of makes you love them more, or at least in a different way.  Watching my father with my daughter is really nice, because it's so different from how he was with us as children.  He's a much more patient grandfather than he was a father.  My mother is a more cheerful grandmother than she was a mother.  It changes some of how I view them.

This has been the case with a few people I've watched with my daughter, but the one that causes the breath to catch in my throat every time is watching my husband.  My husband, who I thought I loved as much as I could possibly love before my daughter was born has taught me that you should never think you've reached your capacity to love someone, because there's always something that will open a door to more.  I watch him with her, cuddling her as she sleeps, bouncing her when she fusses, pacing the floor with her when she won't sleep, holding her close to his chest when she's cold after a bath, rubbing her fuzzy hair gently as he makes ridiculous faces at her in the hopes of enticing a smile to appear between those chubby cheeks, and oh....oh it hurts to breathe.  My heart bursts in my chest each time, and sometimes I find tears springing to my eyes unexpectedly because it is all too much to take.  In those moments, I love him more than I thought I could, and it feels like there's just too much for me to be able to explain.  It is, quite simply, enchanting.

Before my daughter was born, I talked a lot about being alone on an island, feeling like no one else "got it" when I'd talk about how I was feeling, or with my husband just not being as interested or involved as I might want him to be, and it was hard.  There was a small piece of me that worried those feelings would continue after she was born, but I sort of think the opposite happened.  He loves her so completely, so fiercely that sometimes I wonder if the tables have turned and he's on the island and I'm the one swimming offshore.  When I feel like I'm frustrated and exhausted and have to remind myself how much I love her, he seems to just feel it so effortlessly.  Sometimes the pieces of him that I've come to love so much are also things that break my heart a little bit.  Sometimes it's hard to watch someone do something so easily that you struggle with, and as much as I love watching him be a father, it makes me second guess myself as a mother.  When I lose my temper with her crying, or find myself not wanting to hold her for hours on end, or realize she's spent most of her day in her swing because I had other things to do, I wonder if I'm not a very good mom.  Then there are nights where I am feeding her and I can't stop myself from kissing her tiny forehead and I think that maybe, maybe I'm doing ok.  

But even in my moments of struggle, I never tire of watching my husband become the person I think he was always meant to be.  I think that where I'm not the most natural mother, my husband is the most natural father I've ever seen.  I think that all of this time, he was meant to be a dad, and it's so beautiful to watch.  I can't wait for the years we have ahead of us, to watch him grow with her, play with her, let her paint his fingernails purple when she asks, teach her to ride a bike, hug her when her first boyfriend breaks her heart. and walk her down the aisle at her wedding.  I want to watch him love her, and that will be a beautiful adventure.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Tonight I was sitting around the house, killing time on Facebook while sitting next to my daughter who was snoozing on her lounge pillow on our sofa and someone posted a link to this blog that was published by a father who lost his daughter to cancer today.  I clicked over because I felt curious for some reason, and I started to skim the history of his journey with his daughter's cancer battle.  It was simultaneously real and heart wrenching.  As I read, I realized that this parent lives in my area.  He teaches at a school near where I live.  His daughter was being treated in the hospital my daughter was born in.  I have no idea why, but that realization hit me in the gut like a punch.  It's easy to read these stories when they're happening somewhere else, when there's a way to assign a sense of "otherness" to it.  Seeing names of places I know, places I've been, knowing how truly close to home this hits left the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest.  I suddenly felt myself working to fight tears as my heart felt like it was breaking for this family I have never met, and their children I do not know.

As I skimmed through their two years of blogs that chronicled the journey of fighting brain cancer in a child who was diagnosed at just two years old, I kept glancing over to my daughter and wondering how I would handle the situation.  I read the author's loving and tender words about his wife, who shouldered the brunt of the responsibility for caring for their daughter and managing her treatment and I find myself wondering if I could take on a situation like that without cracking.  Hell, I'm dealing with a newborn and there have been points where I've been on the verge of breaking over something as trivial as an infant crying, so how on earth would I handle a two year old fighting the side effects of chemotherapy?  The vomiting and weakness, the pain.  I don't know that I'm the sort of person who could do jump into the fray and take up a sword aside my sick child and shoulder the fight with her.  I know that you never know what you can do until you're in a situation, but it makes you wonder.  It makes you realize that even when you feel super human, you're not nearly as super human as someone else who has been tested in hotter fires than you.

It also made me feel like such a jerk for being worn down by the struggles I've faced with my daughter.  In the big scheme of things, these are so trivial.  I sit here, blogging about how unconditional love can be hard when your child is screaming for no reason, but how hard must it be when you have a child fighting a battle like cancer and you're cleaning up vomit for the tenth time in a day, or changing soiled bed linens every few hours?  It has to be so much harder, and yet there are people who manage it with a grace and dignity that I feel like I haven't been able to muster, and that makes me feel pathetic.  For each thing I might complain about in this parental journey I'm on, I imagine these parents would kill to have their daughter around doing the exact things I complain about.

It puts so many things in perspective, and while I know I'll still falter and I'll still have my moments of weakness, and they will probably be plentiful, I also know that I don't have it so bad.  Right now, I'm looking at my daughter as she sleeps.  She's peaceful, she's beautiful, and right now she's a perfectly healthy little baby.  I am so very lucky.  Imagining her going through something as difficult as a serious illness, or worse, losing her to one is among the worst things I can think of.  The idea is crushing, and it brings tears to my eyes.  So, when I start to get too much in my own head, I need to remember how easy I have it, and how lucky I am.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Today I loved my daughter

I know that sounds weird, because you are supposed to love your children all the time, but today I really loved her.  What they don't tell you about this parenting thing is that sometimes unconditional love is hard.  Maybe I'm the only one who feels that, and maybe I'm a bad parent for saying that out loud, but when your days are filled with non-stop screaming, and sleepless nights, you still love your kid but it's not easy.  It's a struggle, and you find that you remind yourself a lot that this is temporary, and that something will be better at some point.  You find yourself frustrated, and you remind yourself that you love your kid.  You force yourself out of bed when she cries in the middle of the night because you don't want to get up and handle things.  You grit your teeth when you put her in the swing and she immediately starts to scream.  You sometimes force yourself through the responsibilities of the day because you don't want to do them all the time.  You don't always want to walk and bounce for another hour.  You want to love her, but it doesn't come easy.  You hold her close as you walk and bounce and try to soothe her, you hug her, but at the back of your mind you think "I don't want to do this".  The love is still there, but you have to reach for it.

That being said, today I loved my daughter.  I loved her without effort.  For the first day in a while, I loved her without reaching for it.  We had a day of coos and smiles, a day of snuggling close together, of feedings that happened without struggle.  There were no screams.  There were no meltdowns.  Today I loved my daughter, and it was easy.  It felt like relief.  It felt like recapturing that first day when she was born, where I looked at her and thought about how beautiful she was.  I didn't have to remind myself that there was love behind the frustration.  I was able to just stare at her and think about how sweet she could be, and how nice she is to hold and cuddle up to.  I didn't watch her start to wake up after a nap with trepidation, wondering how long it would be before she started to melt down.  I got to watch her wake up and smile into her face and see her stretch out and make silly faces and in those moments I just.....loved her.  I enjoyed my moments with her.  I sat and talked to her, I read her a book, and I was able to just love her the way I wish I'd been able to do all along.

Some days it's easier to love your children.  Some days all of the pieces fall into place and everything works out and you go through your day feeling like this is how you would love for every day to be.  Sure, not every day will be like this.  We'll go back to the days when I have to remind myself that I love her because loving her will be hard, but I'd love to have more days like these, where everything comes easy.  I'm hoping we're coming up on more of those days, because I really enjoy just being able to love her.

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's a fine line between bouncing and shaking

My daughter is 5 weeks old now, and time seems to have flown by.  There's a piece of me that can't believe that if she hadn't been a c-section delivery I'd be going back to work next week.  I'm not ready.  I'm glad I have a little more time.  I don't think I'll be ready even after my 9 weeks are up.  It's such a huge transition to make, and it seems like there should be a lot more time given to people to figure out life in this situation.  I think European countries have the right idea.

What we've experienced in the past 5 weeks has been a roller coaster.  Life swings back and forth between "Wow, she is so beautiful and awesome" and "I don't think I can possibly do this".  She's not always an easy baby.  There are days when she does nothing but cry when she's awake and there seems to be no reason for it.  She shrieks non stop unless there's a bottle in her mouth, or she nods off, and she hates her pacifier so that's no help at all.  Then, on occasion there are days when she's mostly fine.  A bit fussy on occasion but not the same shrieking as other days, and those days are great.  It's just that they're more rare than the ones with the shrieking.  We're trying to figure it out and resolve why she's so prone to shrieking, but it seems like there's not always a reason for it.  We've switched her formula and started giving her drops for excess gas and that has definitely helped, but there are still days that are just hard.

Last week we had a day where she screamed all day.  Literally, all day.  Then we were trying to go to sleep and she wouldn't stop shrieking.  Since my husband is back at work, I handle all overnight feedings and also get tasked with settling her down when she doesn't want to go to sleep.  I spent over 3 hours trying to calm her while she screamed non-stop.  Around 1:00 a.m. I found myself reaching my breaking point.  I had gotten her sort of settled and the second I shifted her position in my arms she started screaming all over again.  I started bouncing her, which seems to be the only thing that settles her down, and I realized that I could easily start bouncing her harder and I was frustrated enough to cross a line from vigorous to violent.  I choked out a "God dammit!" through my gritted teeth and tears and laid her on my bed and backed away from her, afraid that I could cross a line I wasn't prepared to cross.  My husband heard me and woke up, took a look at me standing there, horror stricken and tears streaming down my face and picked her up to resume bouncing and comforting her.  All said, it took another hour to get her to finally calm down and go to sleep, and when she finally did she only gave me an hour before she woke up again to be fed.  I spent the night on the sofa with her to prevent her from waking my husband up again, and when I finally got her to settle down after he bottle I got another few hours of sleep, but the night was spent feeling like the worst person alive for getting so frustrated with her.  There was literally a point where I looked at her and said "SHUT UP!" and I felt so bad.  She's a baby, she can't help the crying, she probably didn't feel well, and I was telling her to shut up.  I felt terrible for getting so frustrated, and wondered if I'm the worst mom ever for breaking like that.

The good news is that we're slowly turning some corners.  She has a cold, so her nose is stuffy and congested which is making her cranky, but things are changing a bit.  The gas drops are helping with some of her fussiness, and the past two nights she's been sleeping through the night.  She's given us at least 6 hours per night, and when she wakes up she's mostly all smiles and good moods, which has been lovely.  Today has been rough, because she doesn't feel well so she's cranky, but I'm hopeful that things will get better when she's feeling better.  I hope that this is the start of a new routine for us, and that she is starting to settle into a good pattern.  We still combat pre-bedtime screaming and a lot of fighting going to sleep, but I'm hopeful that we'll soon turn a corner on that too.

I guess that despite the struggle, the good thing is that when she's in a good mood, she's my favorite little person ever.  She's learning to smile, and her eyesight is sharpening so she's starting to notice things around her and take interest in them.  She is beautiful when she's sleeping.  She's starting to look for us more when she hears our voices.  When she's settled, she's snuggly and sweet.  She's learning to not hate baths as much, and we're learning that car rides equal instant sleep for her.  This weekend she discovered her tongue and has started blowing spit bubbles, and sticking her tongue out, which seems to amuse her.  There have been a few times where she's found her thumb and started sucking it.  These are little things that I just love about her, and even though there are moments where I'm crying at 1:00 a.m. because I don't know how to help her or get her to stop crying, there are moments when I look at her and all I can think is "Man, she is so awesome".  I guess you take the good with the bad.