Last year I wrote a blogpost to the mothers in my life that I look up to. I loved having the opportunity to express my gratitude and admiration for them, because they are the reasons that I know anything about being a mom. I think I want to make this a tradition, because I could never write enough words to express all of the feelings I have about motherhood and my dear friends and family who raise such beautiful children. This year, with a little more than a year of motherhood under my belt, I have an opportunity to write a letter to my friends who became mothers for the first time over the past few months. I have been blessed to know each of these women as friends, and now I am even more blessed to raise my baby alongside theirs.
Marissa, the moment I met Theo at the hospital for the first time, I burst into tears. You remember, don’t you? I flat out sobbed!! I think that seeing your new little bundle of joy, fresh out of the oven, was so overwhelming for me because it brought me right back to those same feelings and emotions I had in the hospital with Harvey. You have been rocking this motherhood thing, and I want you to know how much I have enjoyed our friendship throughout this process. I look forward to our stroller walks so very much, and truly love how comfortable I am discussing “new mom things” with you. I think you deserve an award for all of the hours you’ve spent listening to me talk about leaky boobs and diaper rash, haha! I love all of the advice and hints you’ve shared with me these past few months, and I can’t wait to see the friendship between our boys grow. Also, just in case you haven’t been told recently, you are a freaking badass for buying a house, giving birth, raising a newborn, and GETTING YOUR DOCTORATE all in the same year!! Theo and Patrick are lucky to have you, lady! ❤
Lindsay, a memory that will stick with me forever is the picture I saw of you smiling right before you went in the O.R. to have Luke. I think I love this image so much because it sums up your personality and mothering skills all in one frame. You make it look easy, girl. Right from the start, things didn’t happen the way you had planned, but it didn’t phase you one bit. You jumped right in to motherhood, head first, and I don’t quite know if Luke will ever understand what your dedication and hard work has done for him in these early months of his life. I love how much you shower my child with affirmations and sweetness, and how much you pour yourself into your work at Duke. It takes a special kind of woman to do the work that you do, and yet, your heart overflows with kindness for your family and friends after a day at the hospital. How do you do it?!! When I walk through the door at Rochelle’s I LOVE seeing your boy’s squishy face, and I think to myself every single time how grateful I feel that Harvey and Luke get to spend their days together. I look up to you so much, and I hope that you have a beautiful first Mother’s Day! ❤
Jenn, the day Annabelle was born, I was too excited to work. In fact, I took the day off to get out my nervous excitement by cleaning your house and organizing your closet (the way I used to when we were in college)! I couldn’t stop crying all day! As I drove to Duke Regional last week, tears streamed down my face the entire way… MY BEST FRIEND JUST HAD A BABY!!! You are in the newest phase of life with your sweet baby girl, and I wish I could bottle these moments up for you because they go so fast. The way she smells now, and noises she makes now, the way her diapers don’t stink yet… it is over in the blink of an eye! I know you are going to soak it up! Also, you deserve a trophy after that incredible labor and delivery…27 hours, and a 9lb4oz baby is nothing to sneeze at! You are a week into it, and you’re already an amazing mama. When I think of the strong women in my life, you are at the top of the list. I think of you now when I hear this quote, “To the strong women in our life: May we know them, May we be them, May we raise them”! Also, the thought of getting to see little AB at Rochelle’s every day brings a smile to my face! The boys can’t wait! ❤
Mamas, this is what we do. We lift each other up and let each other know that we are all in this together. You all deserve the best mother’s day ever, as do all the moms out there! I look up to you all in so many ways, and I am honored to call you my friends! xoxo
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This is the piece that I wrote for my Listen To Your Mother audition, and was honored to have been selected to share it with you all on stage last week! Thank you to all of my family and friends who came to support me! ❤
Most women know that when they have their first child, the relationship they have with their own mother is going to change. Some women complain about the unwanted “advice” their moms give them, and some women are grateful for the time their moms take to help them with a newborn baby. Overall, I think I speak for most ladies when I say that the bond created between a mother and a daughter after childbirth is one unlike any other. To understand what it means to love another human life more than you love your own, and to understand what your mother went through to have you, well… that feeling is indescribable unless you’ve lived it.
For me, things were a little bit different. The day my son was born, I did not only become a mother, I became a daughter. Of course, yes, I’ve always been a daughter, but not in the traditional sense. In fact, I had already been a mother for quite some time if you want to know the honest truth. I was a mother to my brothers long before I was a mother to my own baby. My mother and I had more of a “friend to friend” relationship when I was a teenager and young adult, rather than a mother/daughter one… which is what it can be like to be the child of an alcoholic.
I learned to “mother” my siblings very well when I was in high school. I would take my two younger brothers to soccer practices, I would pack their lunches, and I would sign their parent permission slips. I would schedule their doctors and dentist appointments, make sure they had a ride home from a friend’s house, and keep the grocery lists up-to-date. I even filled out one of my brothers’ college applications! These weren’t really things that bothered me at the time because I truly didn’t know anything different. I knew my parents were loving, and I knew they were proud of me.
The first time my mom said “I am an alcoholic” out loud, I was a sophomore in college. Among some other very drastic life changes that included my parents getting a divorce, she told us that she was going to 12-step meetings. I was so happy with this news. Finally, I was going to get my mom back. I even went over to the local tattoo shop in Chapel Hill and put “One Day” on my wrist as a reminder of that feeling. But, by the time I came home for Thanksgiving break, she had fallen off the wagon for the first time, and my feelings of frustration, resentment, and sadness were growing. My mom was in pain, and I was in pain, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to cure it or to control it.
After going to treatment a few times, and continuing to build her support network in the recovery program, I could slowly see my mom coming back to me. The ways in which her alcoholism affected my life were deeper than I had realized at first, and would continue to be for a long time. When she first started talking to me about working the 12 steps, and who she needed to make amends to, I wasn’t ready for it. The day she asked for my forgiveness, I said all of the right words, but I wasn’t ready to give it. I think I was afraid that she would let me down again, that this time wouldn’t stick. Today, my mom has been sober for 6 years, 9 months, and 20 days, (not that anyone is counting!) and she has been a Mimi for a little more than a year. I am grateful for every single second.
When Harvey was born, my mom came to Chapel Hill for the occasion. I was hesitant to ask her at first, because I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I had never done the whole “pushing a baby out” thing, and I didn’t know what kind of mojo I would need in the room. As it turns out, in the heat of the moment, I wanted my mom there.
I needed her support and nursing skills, and I think that having her with me while my baby entered this world was one of the single most significant events that either one of us has ever experienced. She has been the sweetest Mimi in the world, and Harvey is going to grow up knowing her for who she really is: a warm, loving, smart, and caring woman who has a heart that’s bigger than this room.
Now that I have my own child, and I have officially entered the newest chapter of my life, I feel ready to accept my mom’s amends. I feel like we have had an opportunity to start over, and I know not everybody gets one of those. I feel a renewed strength in our relationship and our ability to bond over my child. There is a new truth to the way we interact with each other. I do not regret my life up to this point, you see, I would not be the teacher, coach, wife, mama, or friend that I am today if it weren’t for my experiences thus far. If it weren’t for my mom and her new sense of self through sobriety, I wouldn’t understand the concept of beauty within our imperfections. I know that in her heart of hearts, my mom has loved me and wanted the best for me my entire life. The “Big Book” describes Step Nine as follows: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,” it says, “we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.” The day I became a mother, I also became a daughter. The day I became a mother, I forgave my own mother. The day I became a mother, I also gained a mother.
What’s New: Harvey brought us lots of new gifts this holiday month. He finally had a tooth pop through! So many times before, during times of mild fussiness or malcontentness, we had said “oh, he must be teething”. Then over a Friday and Saturday he was a real mess. Slightly feverish, very grumpy, fussy, and constantly pulling at his mouth and ear. Surely, this HAD to be his first tooth coming through? Sure enough, during a morning breastfeed, Sarah screamed in pain. “That hurt!” She put her finger in his mouth, and sure enough the long awaited tooth had popped through overnight! Harvey, has also taken to crawling this month and we haven’t found that any amount of baby-proofing can guarantee he doesn’t get into something he shouldn’t. The days of plopping him down in a boppy while taking even a 2-minute crap in peace are gone. Fortunately, I have two hands, one to wipe with and the other to hold onto his foot.
Harvey’s not quite to standing, but he’s working on it. Here’s a fun video of him trying to do just that.
What’s Working: The biggest development this month was that Harvey started sleeping in his crib through the entire night. This was extremely bittersweet for us, because we really did enjoy our nights with him, and waking up next to him in the morning. Co-sleeping was a hugely defining part of our life as a threesome, and we do miss it. Harvey had been waking up earlier and earlier, excited by our presence, and it was clear to us he was ready, even if we weren’t sure if we were. We decided one day to just “pull the band-aid” so to speak, “Cry it out” understandably has a bit of an negative connotation as a method of sleep training, but that’s basically what we did. When one o’clock came, and Harvey started crying, we just didn’t retrieve him. That first night, he cried several times, from 15 – 30 minutes each. It was rough, but we made it through. After just a few nights, he slept through without crying. We were both rather shocked it wasn’t more difficult. I’ve also been unpleasantly surprised, that with Harvey’s move to the crib, I haven’t been able to go back to my pre-baby restful 8 hour nightly slumbers. I wake often throughout the night, sometimes because I hear Harvey in the next room… and sometimes because I don’t!
What’s Worrying: Now that Harvey is crawling, he’s like our own Roomba. Anything he is able to find be it toys, dustballs, fuzz or crumbs, he tries to eat. Sometimes he’s successful. With any new phase for Harvey, there seems to be a corresponding anxiety for me along with it, and my fear of him choking right now is extreme. The phrase “it’s all a wing and prayer”, one of my mom’s favorites all these years, is really resonating.
Favorite Memory: We took Harvey to see Santa. We did this 100% for our own amusement and entertainment, obviously, as Harvey certainly won’t ever know the difference. We had to wait an hour and it cost $20, but was well worth it. Harvey did not disappoint and hammed it up.
What’s New: It seemed like as soon as Harvey started crawling, next thing we knew he was also pulling up and cruising. Some of his favorite things to practice on are the couch, the coffee table, his crib, his toy shelf, and mommy and daddy’s legs. He loves to crawl all over us and tossing him back and forth is one of our favorite past times. We are now also feeding him two to three actual food meals per day . He is a curious little dude, always on the move. I often think back to the days where we could sit him down and he’d stay, but no longer. It can be quite exhausting having to constantly monitor and watch his every move! Making up for all the exhaustion is that he very affectionate and frequently gives his mama and I kisses. It’s sloppy.
What’s Working: We can’t eat anything these days without Harvey making it clear that he wants in on the fun. So, we’ve just started obliging. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been giving him two to three meals a day, and for the most part we just give him what we eat. It’s a blast watching him try all kinds of foods for the first time, and giving him what we eat, makes the preparation that much easier. Additionally, seeing how well he does with food has really helped me curb the fear of choking I mentioned last month. When he really can’t swallow something (as I learned the hard way when I tried to share some Kale salad with him one time), he gags and spits the food out, and that’s simply the body doing what it was designed to do. Harvey loves pasta, especially spaghetti, which he loves to slurp up. See a video below of him and his mama lady-and-the-tramping it.
What’s Worrying: Donald Trump. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m completely sick over this past election and it has no doubt effected my ability to be the best parent I want to be. As a means of getting through the next 4 years, I made a pledge to myself to focus more on local politics, helping the earth and others through volunteering, and supporting quality journalism. While, I have been doing those things (though not to the extent I’d like just yet), with Trump’s inauguration this month, it’s frankly hard to feel good about anything. Most of you reading this probably know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t, I’ll do my best to explain.
Sarah and I made the choice to try and become pregnant very deliberately (winky face) and we had several reasons. Of course there was plenty of vanity in wanting a little carbon copies of ourselves. But also, because of our own luck and circumstance we have a very comfortable life with the means to provide a safe healthy and happy home for children. We also have a lot of love to give. We thought our child would inhabit an earth capable of sustaining itself. We thought our child would have every opportunity in this world regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. We thought our child would see a world where truth is validated and recognized, and knowledge revered. We thought our child would see a world where people not only look out for themselves, or families, or people who look and think like them, but all of their fellow humans. I no longer have confidence Harvey will know the world his mother and I had pictured for him. But we are more determined than ever to teach him through our own example and community. So thankful for Durham.
Favorite Memory: Sarah got me the perfect gift for Christmas – a backpack for wearing Harvey while we hike. For the first hike, we decided to go to our favorite, the Eno River. Harvey loved it! He spent the first half of the hike staring off into the wooded scenery. The second half he snoozed, laying his face forward. The facial reaction of the fellow hikers was quite amusing, as they ranged from awe, to hilarity, to genuine concern. Looking forward to putting many miles with the pack and our family.
Month Eleven – Harvey the Porcupine
Harvey Nickname: Harvey E-NO! (As in – Is there anything you won’t get into?)
What’s New: Play-time with Harvey is super fun these days. He’s standing on his own now, has four teeth, and is super curious about everything. He loves to play catch, play with all kinds of toys and mimic our words and noises. That’s the good part. The bad is, he seems to require even more attention and focus on our part than ever before to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Even though he’s stopped trying to eat everything quite as much, he just wants to get into everything – cabinets, toilets, drawers, trashcans. Needless to say, there are lots of bumps and bruise these days.
I’ve been realizing that with a lot of “firsts” its actually hard to pinpoint the exact time something happens. Did he just say that word? Does he know what he’s saying? He’s saying enough words now that we realized we had never really knew what his first word was. We retroactively decided it was “dog” , since that was the first word he said on his own and seemed to know what he was saying at least. What has also been interesting to me is that everything isn’t totally linear. He might say something one day, and then have no interest the next. One day he’s standing on his own and looks like he’s about to take a step and the next he has to hold onto something. The one thing that has been totally constant, is his ever growing obsession with his penis since its initial discovery a few months ago. Between his wiggles and desire to grab his jewels, changing him has become quite the task, particularly with just one person.
Harvey saying “neng neng neng”. No idea what it means, but one of our favorites.
What’s Working: Harvey’s play area. Thanks to generous friends and family, we’ve stockpiled quite the toy collection. In the carpeted downstairs, it’s Harvey’s territory. Its the one part of the house that is basically baby-proofed. If we need to fold some clothes or do some computer work, just chromecast some Sesame Street, plop Harvey down there, and he’s got all kinds of activities to chose from and can’t get into any mischief. We’ve also had some of our favorite family memories together playing together in this room – learning how to use his toys, playing catch, and practicing to walk with his toy walker.
What’s Worrying: On the one hand, I am so ready for Harvey to be one – put the bottles, formula and other baby stuff away. On the other, I can’t believe time has slipped away so fast. It sounds and is so cliche, but Harvey isn’t a baby anymore, and it just felt too fast. I am enjoying this time of his life so much, but it is actually quite sad to see pictures of him as a newborn and feel like I legitimately don’t remember what that was like and can’t relate to it anymore. Part of the reason why I try to take so many pictures, videos and write stuff down I suppose!
The other somewhat tough thing this month is that Sarah went back to coaching soccer for the girls season. To be perfectly frank, the start has been a little rough. For the first time, more than half of the parenting responsibilities have fallen to me, and I’m feeling a lot of resentment. At the end of the day, we talked about it plenty before hand, I agreed to it, and the biggest actual issue is my attitude. I’m hopeful I can start to relish the extra opportunity I have with Harvey and be grateful. Otherwise, its going to be a long 2 and half months.
Favorite Memory: Two memories stick out to me. One was when Harvey was playing in the living room while I was getting some things together in the kitchen. I could hear him banging some things, and realized I hadn’t heard anything for fifteen seconds or so. I went and checked on him, and he had been banging a tube of Puffs, managed to get them open and had stuffed his mouth completely full. The other was one evening I had Harvey to myself for the night, and right after I got home, I plopped Harvey in front of some toys, and sat immediately on the couch and starting checking emails on my phone. I was distracted and hadn’t really left “work” mode yet and a little disgruntled I was going to have to do nighttime by myself. A few minutes later, Harvey crawled over to me, pulled up on my legs and laid his head gently in my lap and looked up at me. It was the reminder I needed at that moment of how lucky I was, and what was important.
The below, I wouldn’t really call a “favorite” memory, but is certainly a vivid memory from this time period, so I wanted to share.
As I mentioned, with Harvey approaching his first birthday Sarah and I both have been having intense feelings that he’s growing up too fast. This all came to ahead for me while I was having a crown put on my tooth.
A tooth had been bothering me for months and I guess I had assumed it was the result of a recent filling. I finally got it checked out and turned out the problematic tooth, was one that had had a very deep filling when I was as a teenager and it was now starting to deteriorate. I would need a root canal and a crown.
I scheduled the root canal for just a few days later. I really just wanted to get it over with, as I had a root canal due to trauma in middle school which was one of the more traumatic childhood memories for me (story for another day, but probably not). Several times I had to recall the past experience during my current situation and definitely think that played a role in my fragile emotional state (I’m getting to it) following the crown.
The root canal went great. Much shorter and less painful than I remember. The next day I went to my dentist for the crown. He said some words about what he was doing but I wasn’t really paying attention or just didn’t let my brain process them. As he was putting the drill in my mouth I was kind of thinking to myself “What exactly is he doing? Seems like a lot of drilling…” My tongue grazed passed my tooth at one point. I had a moment of panic. It felt like my tooth was barely there. I convinced myself that I had imagined it. The dentist said the drilling was complete and I copped another feel of my tooth with my tongue. My tooth was in fact a little more than a nub.
I was livid. “They just circumcised my tooth against my will!” I thought to myself. I dug into my brain about my prior knowledge of crowns and to what the dentist had said not long earlier. Of course they have to shave down my tooth to have a place to attach the crown. The procedure was medically necessary and I had consented.
My anger turned to sadness. I’m old and my body is failing me. I’m already having parts replaced. Then I remembered my mom who was incessantly telling me I needed to take better care of my teeth so they don’t fall out when I was older and if I had listened to her I wouldn’t be where I am today. Sadness turned to guilt.
Next came thoughts of Harvey. Our nearly 1-year-old, who is the sweetest creature I could ever imagine. But, he won’t always be, and it feels like it’s slipping away too fast. One day even though I know what’s best for him, he won’t listen. And he might have to get a fake tooth one day and pay $1,500 (even with insurance!). My eyes watered and for the remainder of the procedure I wiped tears from my eyes when the dentist looked away. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to notice.
As the dentist was finishing up he said the hygienist would show me how to floss the tooth in such a way that the (3 week) temporary crown wouldn’t come out. “That won’t be necessary” I said, “I think I’ll just take a few weeks off from flossing”. He let out a genuine belly laugh. “Most people aren’t so honest”, he said.
“That’s just how I was raised”, I thought to myself. Harvey will see me and hear me, even if he doesn’t always listen.
Month Twelve – Harvey the Baboon
Harvey Nickname: – Harv (We think this one will stick!)
What’s New: All month long, we just keep saying that it feels like Harvey is turning into a toddler. He gets upset or frustrated and isn’t afraid to let you know. And then he gets distracted and is totally fine. His cry, which used to sound like nails on a chalkboard to my ears, barely phases me anymore. We’ve definitely learned, based on the sound of the cry, to tell when there is something actually wrong and when he’s just being a booty. He took his first actual steps (that we saw) on March 7, and by his first birthday, he was walking regularly, up to 10 steps at a time. Our favorite is his squatting. Up and down he goes, butt never touching the ground. We’ve been transitioning from formula to milk and from bottle to cup. The formula to milk was no problem at all, but ole Harv does not want to let that bottle go! Especially first thing in the morning or right before bed, he will kick and scream if you try give him milk in a cup. Put some in a bottle and its the tastiest concoction he’s ever seen. One of the neatest developments is his apparent understanding of what we are saying or doing. It’s kind of hard to explain or verbalize, but its kind of like a dog. He responds to his name, expresses emotions, and is testing limits. If we tell him not to do something, like open a drawer, his favorite reaction is to stare at us with a smile and slowly do it again. I grab for a wipe, and he starts shaking his head ferociously, knowing I’m coming for his nose. When I pull out a baggie of veggie straws he lights up, making grabbing motions with his hands, which will shortly devolve into screaming if he doesn’t get any friggin’ veggie straws in his hand right this minute. He’s also big into hugging. When I pick him up at daycare he crawls over to me and gives me a big smile and a hug. Holding him is a two way affair these days as he rests one hand on my chest, and puts the other behind my shoulder. It is truly my favorite thing in the world. Sometimes, when we are apart, I will think about him and have phantom Harvey sensations where I can feel him in my arms. Thankfully, I never have to go that long without seeing him. If he’s anything like I was, the separation anxiety that is starting to rear it’s head is going to be brutal.
What’sWorking: Dermacloud aka “Fanny Cream”. See why this is necessary below. Also, retired grandparents. My dad, or “Pop” these days, retired a couple months ago, and we’ve been able to utilize him several times for childcare. It has been a huge help! Saving us from having to take time off of work, pay a babysitter, and enabled me to continue the bowling league, even during soccer season.
What’s Worrying: For one, Harvey had his first real temperature this month. He was at Rochelle’s and I got a call that he had a temperature of 103.5. Honestly, I knew a day like this would come, and I had been dreading it. I just didn’t know if I had what it took to take care of my sick child. Rochelle and the doctor both helped keep my mind at ease, and thankfully, it was just an ear infection, which cleared up quickly with antibiotics, and Tylenol kept the fever at bay. This is the video of him I took that morning, thinking it was rather funny, and not realizing he was acting so lethargic because sickness was overtaking him.
I had to make another trip to the doctor just a couple weeks later because Harvey developed some really intense, open-wound, diaper rash. I’ll spare you the picture on this one. It was the third time this happened in the past couple of months (though this was by far the worst). Everyone has an opinion on what is causing it and how to prevent. Not sure we will ever know totally for sure, but we do thing acid in his stool from eating fruit has something to do it. Possibly certain diaper brands as well… For now, we are just limiting fruit and keeping to just the one diaper brand that he used before any issues developed.
Things got a little worse before they got better as far as the soccer stuff goes, but Sarah and I are both feeling good with where they are at. Her team is 11-1-1, so they are playing great. Games are only 2 days a week now – before they were 3 – and that really was tough on both of us… Not quite sure how I did it, but I think I had finally had enough of my moody self and had a much needed attitude adjustment about it. Sarah is doing something she loves, and it makes me very proud, knowing what a difference she makes on so many kids’ lives. And if it means I get to spend some extra one-on-one time with Harvey for a couple months of the year, that is hardly something to be aggrieved about. Everyone knows relationships are hard, with or without kids. Adding a kid to the mix, especially when both parents work full-time and have extra-curricular activities, adds a very predictable strain. For us, planning ahead with things like meal preparation and making detailed schedules really helps keep surprises and frustrations at bay. But, the more you run a relationship and family like a well-oiled machine, spontaneity and passion can wither. I obviously don’t have the answer here. I’m not sure there is one. But if there is, pretty sure it lies somewhere near the intersection of attitude, expectations and communication. I do know that Sarah and I’s relationship has reached levels not possible without Harvey, and we are a better team and partners because of him.
Favorite Memory: I had some very special times with Harvey this month, and have definitely felt like a good dad. Feeding him dinner and entertaining him on the soccer sidelines is actually a real treat. Also, I really tried a few times to get him to drink milk out of his cup. He was throwing a bit of a temper-tantrum one evening over the cup. Mostly hoping he would just copy me, I took a few gulps of the milk from the sippy cup. Harvey started giggling. He then grabbed the cup himself and held the cup to my mouth. He then brought it back down and drank some. Smiled. And back to me again. Whether it’s a cup or bottle, “sharing” his milk with me, or any food really, always makes him smile.
Well, there it is. Harvey is a year old. In some ways it feels like this is the milestone we’ve been counting down to since we brought him home from the hospital and it feels really great, though I can’t help but miss his little baby self sometimes. I look back at who I think I was a year ago and see a lot of differences. I used to feel like there weren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things that I want to do. Now, I am jealous of all the free-time I used to have back in those days. I used to be pretty stingy dude, some might say. Between all of the gifts and kindness we’ve been shown in the last year, and experiencing new expenses like diapers, childcare, and formula I have not only found more joy in giving, but can’t really afford (pun intended) to worry about where money goes. When my mom says life brings “peaks and valleys” I thought I had an idea what she meant a year ago, but I hadn’t really a clue. Some of the joys I’ve had this past year, were truly unknowable to me, as were the feelings of anxiousness and worry over another living creature’s life that you would gladly roll over and die for. I’ll never forget the feeling when I first held Harvey. It was just the most amazing, most mysterious, and most NEW thing I had ever experienced. This child in my arms. Today, when I hold Harvey, there is nothing new about it. A world without him is so far out of reach from my soul, he just feels completely eternal and inevitable. It’s like I’m holding a perfectly innocent version of myself. There was never a me, without a him, I just hadn’t gotten there yet.
In 8 short days, Harvey will turn 1. It has been a whirlwind of a year. Wow, that’s an understatement! I distinctly remember a soccer mom telling me this time last spring that I would blink my eyes and Harvey would be graduating from high school. I knew she was right, and I smiled and nodded when she said these words… but, holy crap!!! We are 1/18 of the way there and I swear to the Goddess I don’t know how the time has flown. There are so many sweet, sweet memories that I feel I cannot soak up enough, and I don’t know why I’ve been so focused on this recently… but Harvey doesn’t smell like a baby anymore, but rather, a little boy, and I can’t keep myself from reminiscing and crying over that lost scent!!! However, I wanted to commemorate his first year with my top five favorite things/memories from the past 12 months. Here goes nothing…
Co-Sleeping. We technically did what they call “bed-sharing” for the first five months of Harvey’s life… and a little beyond (we still sneak a few mornings here and there). This means he slept in the bed with us! Yes, right in between us. We never planned to do this, it just sort of happened that way, and as a result, the memories we have of sleeping in the bed together will stick with me for a lifetime. Once we realized that we liked co-sleeping, we obviously researched it extensively, and found out that while it is a “heated” topic and one that is heavily debated, it can be done safely and effectively (meaning, Nick and I haven’t had one sleep-deprived night). Yes, I am serious. We are lucky, Harvey is a good sleeper and that part helps, it also helps that he loved/loves the boob… and that’s basically what co-sleeping is (or breast-sleeping as we came to call it). Sometimes I am so happy that he now sleeps through the night in his own crib, and sometimes I miss waking up next to him and his toothless grin. Every now and then, when he wakes up on Saturday/Sunday mornings, I will go get him and bring him into bed with us, so that he can nurse and fall back to sleep. I lay there watching him snore next to me and count my many blessings.
Breastfeeding. So, I just have to say that I will be forever grateful that we made this happen. I tried not to get my hopes up before he was born, because I know this is really, really… really hard for some mamas. But, I knew it was something I wanted to try, and would be fortunate enough to have some time to devote to it because I didn’t have to go back to work until he was five months old. If it weren’t for the incredible lactation consultants at the Birth Center, as well as the amazing LC’s who work at UNC, we wouldn’t have made it through those first few weeks. Breastfeeding takes practice, and although we picked it up really quickly, it can be difficult to keep it up. When I went back to work, maintaining my milk supply was a struggle. I cried over it… more than once. I also know that we had it better than most, and I’m thankful for that. Being able to breastfeed him made our bond that much stronger. It also made life extremely convenient for our family, who likes to be on the move. We have traveled extensively with Harvey (flying to Philly, Seattle, Arkansas… driving to Ohio, Virginia, Georgia) and it would have been more difficult to do if I couldn’t just plop my boob in his mouth when he was hungry. The fact that Nick was so supportive and helpful with both eating and sleeping stuff was crucial. Now that Harvey hardly ever nurses anymore, and is actually drinking whole milk, I truly hope that I will be able to breastfeed (and breast-sleep) with my next baby because I’ve loved every single minute!
Family dinners at the table. This is something we will keep doing, because Nick and I feel very strongly about having dinner as a family every single night. We both grew up in houses that allowed us to do this whenever possible (extra-curricular activities can occasionally get in the way) and we knew we wanted the same for our kids. Watching Harvey learn how to eat is the best homemade entertainment I can think of. I mean… he’s obsessed with food. His eyes light up when he knows he’s about to eat something, and the BLW (baby-led weaning) process is one that I HIGHLY recommend to parents. BLW teaches them how to pick things up, what different textures feel like, how to process new tastes and smells at their own pace… and the most important part, how to eat at the table with the rest of the family. I have carved a special place in my brain for all of the “first” foods we gave him, and how he looked and acted when he ate them. Some of the dinner table conversations we have had as a family of 3 during his first year are ones that will stick with me for a lifetime.
The first “real” kiss. When Harvey was around seven/eight months our bedtime routine was becoming more and more sweet each night. And then, one night out of the blue, he leaned in and kissed me when I squeezed him and said “I love you.” I swear, I could have died happy right then and there. It made my heart MELT, and now when he kisses me, I try to make it last longer and longer, haha!
Harvey pooping on the floor when he was almost eleven months old. This one is a more recent memory, and one that made me laugh so hard I peed a little bit in my pants! First of all, our mornings in general are so funny to me. I wake up around 5:15 AM and hop right in the shower. When I get out, Harvey is usually still sleeping, so I start to dry my hair and drink coffee. When I’m done with this he’s typically awake, so I get him from his room, bring him in bed and nurse him. When he’s done eating, I get him dressed for the day. Nick **tries** to read the paper during all of this and the older he’s gotten, the harder this part has become. He is wiggly. He likes to squirm around, so most mornings, I just let him roam around our room naked while I finish getting ready for school. A little more than a month ago, I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom while Harv was trying to open some cabinets and drawers, and I heard him making his “poop sounds.” So, I look over, and sure enough, he was holding on to the drawer handle, straining, and a big ole’ poop was on the ground. I immediately cracked up and called Nick over to see, and as he tried to get his phone out to take a picture of the hilarity, Harvey stepped in it!!!!
I also wanted to give y’all an update on me. Having a baby is not all roses and rainbows, and although it is the single most amazing thing I will ever accomplish, my mind and body have paid some tolls. As a woman who recovers daily from an eating disorder, the body image stuff is tough. I will never look the same. Yes, I’ve lost the weight, but women who’ve been here know it is not all about that. It has been one year since Harvey was born, and I still have dozens of stretch-mark scars. They are silver now, not purple, but I don’t think I’ll ever wear a bikini again. Not a real big deal, but definitely something we don’t always talk about, you know? The other part is that my body feels different, too. It’s not a “bad” different… just a “new” kind of different. Also… nursing a baby for 12 months can do a number on your ta-tas… woo wee! These are all things I just wanted to throw out there, for the other mamas who think it is just them… I am here to tell you it is not! You will develop your own new sense of “normal” and you might have to work at “falling in love” with that new body, that new person, that new life.
What’s new in the world of being a working mom you might ask? Well…let me start by saying this: If I were given the choice to do it differently, I wouldn’t. Yes, even if I had a million dollars and the ability to stay home, without money worries, I wouldn’t. I was a teacher before I was a mother, and that does not mean that being a mother has to come “second.” Some really good advice I got from my Aunt Molly was that we can “be both” and that’s okay! I love teaching, and I love coaching, and I love Harvey and I love my family. Now, with all of that being said, each day is different and can bring its own struggles and hurdles. There are DEFINITELY days when I go to bed feeling like I let somebody down. Sometimes, it’s my husband, sometimes its my child, sometimes its my students or my players. Some days, I feel like I did a good job at everything, and some days I feel like I did a mediocre job with everything. Those days are the hardest. However, I continue to live my life with a huge sense of fulfillment and joy, and the fact that Harvey comes with me to soccer games, and we can spend time together that way, is super fun, and my soccer girls love him dearly. Professional update: I will be halfway done with my National Board Certification at the end of the school year! Woo hoo!
There are a few people I would like to give a quick shout out to, because during Harvey’s first year, he has gotten sick at daycare a few times. His daycare is also closed occasionally, and they are not always teacher workdays for me. If it weren’t for my amazing husband (and his incredible job), I would be in the negative for sick days. Yes, I’ve been able to take a few, but Nick has really been the one who leaves work and gets Harvey when he needs to come home early. In addition to our amazing village of friends, grandparents, soccer player babysitters, etc., Nick’s parents (Lolli and Pop) have been our go-to this soccer season. Pop is now retired, and when Harvey’s daycare is unavailable, he spends the day with nug. I truly don’t know how people do it when they don’t have family help. If it weren’t for Pop and the time he gets to spend with Harv, we wouldn’t be able to swing it most days. Watching the two of them interact is priceless.
Anywho, back to this little boy of mine! Harvey has developed his own little personality. He has 4 teeth (that we brush at bedtime), is around 30 inches long, and weighs 23 lbs. He is a really funny baby! He waves and says “bye” along with signing “more” and “all done.” He can say “up”, “dada”, “mama”, “more”, “stop”, “ball”, and “dog.” He is also, officially, walking a few steps here and there!!! He now has a baby cousin, too! My brother and his girlfriend welcomed Knox Ripley Cade on the 8th, and we’ve been down to visit them a few times! Our good friend, Martha Gibson, took some photos of Harvey last weekend to commemorate his birthday… and if y’all are looking for a portrait photographer, her work is amazing!! ❤
I will write a separate post about Harvey’s 1st Birthday Party soon because I want to include mostly pictures of that awesome day! We can’t wait to celebrate with our family and friends!
Well… it’s been a while since I’ve written a post! Two reasons for that – one being that teaching and working and coaching and mama-ing have been keeping me really busy this winter, and the other being my lack of motivation to write anything down after the election and its repercussions in my life and in this country. However, time heals most wounds and I have found my sense of self, my sense of courage, and my sense of responsibility and duty to my community and to my family again – hence I am in the writing mood today! My mom is coming up this weekend to attend the Women’s March in Raleigh with me, and I cannot wait to get out there and start mobilizing NC!
Anyway… back to Harvey. He is almost 10 months old, and I’ve started thinking about his first birthday party already. This is so crazy to say, but he has officially been outside of my body for as long as he was inside of it!!! WHAT??!!! I don’t understand where the time has gone, and honestly I’ve been a bit sad thinking about him growing up too fast recently. He has really started to change at a fast pace, and I have days where I don’t want him to grow up anymore. I think that part of it has to do with the fact that he has pretty much lost all interest in nursing. He will nurse in the morning as soon as he wakes up, and sometimes before bed, but its more for comfort than anything. I have already cried my tears over it, and the day that he officially stops will be hard for me. My mother-in-law has told me about the last time she nursed her last baby, and how she took a moment to close her eyes and savor the memory… and I have a feeling that day is coming up on me quickly. I have loved every single moment of our breastfeeding journey together, and truly hope that my next baby nurses as well as he did.
Aside from all of that – Harvey continues to be the light of my life. He laughs and smiles all the time, pulls up on every single piece of furniture and/or person in the house, eats everything he can get his hands on, and is drinking from a sippy cup/straw. He has been working on standing a bit on his own, and the speed of his crawl has picked up, a LOT. Now that he is mobile, we have to keep an eye on him for sure. He has had some bumps and bruises along the way, and I’m sure we are in for a lot more of those while he officially learns to walk. Watching him play with his toys and listen to books is some of my favorite entertainment. My absolute favorite thing is his bedtime routine. After dinner, I give him a bath, and then take him to his room so that I can play him his nighttime song (Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings singing “Sweet Tooth”) and do his “grooming”. He LOVES to be groomed. He lays there, still and sweet, while I clip his nails, brush his hair, and rub lotion into his perfect skin. I do a little massage with it, and he stares at me with the deepest, most loving eyes in the whole entire world, and I swear I get teary-eyed most nights because I just don’t understand how I got so lucky. Right before I lay him in his crib, I give him a kiss and he has started to kiss back sometimes. He then lays his head on my shoulder to give me a hug, and I can promise you that my last moment on this earth will someday involve the memory I have carved of this event in my heart and in my mind. Woowee, I really need time to slow down!
The other really cool thing about Harvey these days is that he sleeps through the night, in his own bed. Although I was sad to move him out of our bed, having our evenings back has really given Nick and I the chance to bond again – in a way we hadn’t realized we were missing! We can actually sit on the couch and enjoy some TV or reading time. I look forward to our family time as a tripod, but I also really look forward to that time on the couch with just the two of us. We recently watched a movie called, “The Lobster” and I will spare you the strange details about its synopsis (although I do recommend the movie to people), but there were two take-aways from it that I thought were funny: 1. Children are given to couples to help strengthen their relationships (in the movie) and for us, that has been 100% true. I love who we are as parents and partners. 2. If Nick were to go blind in a world where people are required to have partners who are exactly like them… I would go blind too so that we could be together forever ❤
Upcoming News: I am currently writing/editing a piece that I am submitting for the Raleigh “Listen To Your Mother” performance this May. I went last year for the first time, and was blown away by the stories of motherhood that brave women can tell, and I decided to give it a go! My audition is in a few weeks, and I will keep y’all posted on whether or not I’m selected! I will post my essay either way for you all to read.
Well, I had intended to write one of these things every month, but its been a much busier time for the Cainades than originally thought. Things have wound down a bit, and I am finally getting to this. I hate that some of this stuff is such old news at this point, but I will be happy I wrote it down someday. I made some notes along the way, so some of these thoughts do originate during the time period about which I’m writing, though all filtered through my current state. As I mentioned the last time, this is just a sharing of our parenting story for our own purposes, not meant to be advice, nor a source of judgement (of us, or by us on others).
Month Four – Harvey the Meerkat
Nickname: Isama (As in – It’s A My Harvey)
What’s New: We are officially out of the “fourth trimester” and it feels great. I can honestly say up until this point, every month felt a little tougher as the newness wore off and the difficulties increased, but somehow this month seems easier than the last. I liken it first to a heightening in our confidence as parents. I think this is a result of understanding more and more what makes Harvey most content and happy. Secondly, we’ve reached even further levels of joy as we watch Harvey take notice in the world around and interact with it as well as seeming to recognize us as his parents. When we hold him, rather than hold his head into our chest, he has started to jut his head upward to take in the world around him (hence the Meerkat). He as also taken a notice to TV screens (more on this later), to the point where we can put him in front of the TV and he will be entertained for 10 or 15 minutes.
Thinking about appropriate “screen time” isn’t something I have even begun to consider, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to come up this early in Harvey’s life. It is a small reminder of the countless decisions we have to make and think about everyday… For now, sometimes you just need 10 minutes so you can use the bathroom or fix a plate of food, so hopefully a little Sesame Street at 4 months old won’t cause too much damage.
What’s Working: We started getting serious about some infant massage this month, thanks to my mom who has taught infant massage classes the past couple of decades. We found this to be a great age to do the massage, while Harvey isn’t too wiggly yet, and it is an activity we enjoy as parents, and Harvey seems to as well. Plus, Harvey’s skin is so soft and plump, its like massaging a stress ball. It is as much a massage for our hands as it his for his body. Harvey inspired my mom to create some YouTube videos of her doing the different massage strokes with him as a dummy. The clip below is my favorite outtake.
What’s Worrying: Well, for one, we decided to buy a new house and sell our old one. The stresses of this I think are pretty self-evident, not to mention, while trying to care for an infant. Perhaps the biggest fear, isn’t so much the move itself, but that we are losing time with Harvey as a result of all the time and attention the move is taking. The only way I know to calm this anxiety is just to remind myself that, at the end of the day, we are doing all of this for him, and we’re doing our best. We ultimately felt like doing the move now, while Sarah isn’t working and Harvey isn’t mobile, would be easier than if we waited. As much as I wish we could be the kind of people that are good at just relaxing, we aren’t. Taking care of a newborn is extremely time consuming, but can also be quite boring. Having the move to focus on has had the upside of keeping the boredom at bay (particularly for Sarah) and also been a distraction from the huge cloud looming in the near future of Harvey starting daycare. We feel great about the choice we’ve made for Harvey’s care, but are both just unsure how he and we will handle the huge adjustment of Sarah going back to work. If Harvey’s history of being such an easy going, adaptable baby, are any indication (we count our lucky stars every day), the transition shouldn’t be too bad. On Harvey at least.
One follow up – Harvey is still not enjoying the car – he either cries or sleeps, nothing in between. This was particularly difficult this month which saw a trip to Ohio. I would say this has been the most difficult part of parenthood so far for us, and really tested our mental fortitude. As a parent you are hardwired to know your child’s cry and do whatever it takes to curb it. It’s not so much the sound of the cry during these road trips that is difficult, but the fact that Harvey is malcontent, and our only means of pacifying him (getting out of the car) is not an option. With the stress-o-meter pulsating past 10, needless to say, pointless bickering is often a by product of Harvey’s car crying. Sarah and I find some peace by turning up the tunes and singing away.
Favorite Memory: On our trip to Ohio Harvey got to meet his great grandmother. Though the traveling was tough, it brought us great joy that Harvey was able to see all of his grandparents in his first few months of life. During our time in Ohio, we stopped by a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. As I mentioned before, Harvey has become really into screens. He was asleep when we got into BWW, but upon awakening his eyes immediately widened and he got a huge grin on his face looking all around the restaurant. There were screens everywhere! He was in heaven. Frankly, so were we.
What’s New: Harvey has really started to discover his own voice. Lots of chirps and gurgles, as well as some laughter. For some reason, I seem to be the one that can make him laugh the most. I have to admit it feels pretty good! So much of fatherhood thus far as been in the background (as compared to motherhood), but bonding with Harvey on such a human level really makes me feel so proud, perhaps even a little arrogant!
This month was quite a busy one. We went to Georgia so Harvey could meet Sarah’s camp friends. We took a trip out west to visit some friends in Salem, Oregon and Seattle. We sold our house (and chickens). Bought a new house. Lived with my parents for a couple weeks in between. Sarah started back at work. Harvey started daycare. Harvey got over his car woes (yay!). And lastly, moved into our new house. We are so grateful for all of the hospitality we were shown during our travels and while we were in between homes. While I’m tempted to feel guilty about some of the time that could have been spent relaxing, staring at Harvey, I’m not. Sharing Harvey with our friends and family has been one of the greatest things about having a child, and our travels and busyness during this time enabled us to do just that. We are so lucky that Harvey has been such a good baby and for the most part goes with the flow on all that we are doing.
What’s Working: Baby led weaning. I’m really fortunate to have a partner who already knows so much about little humans. There are so many aspects of taking care of Harvey, choices to be made, that I really don’t even think about, I just follow Sarah’s lead. I hadn’t given any thought to when we would start feeding Harvey real food, but one day Sarah decided today was the day. Even though at 5 months, Harvey is really too young to need anything other than milk, but apparently just the act of eating is good practice for both his hand eye coordination and learning how to eat. To do baby led weaning, we don’t so much feed Harvey, but rather put food in front of him and let him play with and eat it, how he sees fit. We haven’t given him anything that he hasn’t taken to, but the biggest hits have been bananas, sweet potatoes and avocados. I can’t recommend this enough as it is highly entertaining for both us and Harvey!
What’s Worrying: On his first day at daycare, Harvey’s daycare provider, Miss Rochelle, asked us to write down his daily schedule. I knew we were in trouble. The boy literally has no schedule. When he cries, we feed him. If he’s not hungry, we rock him to sleep. Otherwise, we either actively play with him or wear him. That’s pretty much been what we’ve done for 5 months. I certainly don’t regret the way we’ve done things so far, but we now realize things will have to change a bit in order for him to be happy with us and at daycare. We’ve only had a few days of daycare so far, but it’s clear there is a lot of adjusting to do. Most frustratingly, Harvey all of a sudden decided he doesn’t want to eat out of a bottle. We hadn’t used bottles too often, but hadn’t had any issues when we had, so never gave it a thought as something he’d need to practice. We got a few different bottle types to try out and are hoping one of these will work out – will report back. Also, by just the second day of daycare, Harvey came down with a cold, and it quickly spread to the rest of us. People had told us this would happen, but we just didn’t want to believe it. I know Sarah is happy to be back in the classroom, but being away from Harvey is hard, and all the more so knowing he isn’t transitioning great. It’s weighing on us heavily. See Harvey’s bottle woes below.
Favorite Memory: I have two favorite Harvey memories from this month. The first was when we were in the Pacific Northwest, eating at an amazing small Pizza restaurant (EVVIVA) in the coastal town of Edmonds, Washington. We were taking turns holding Harvey on our lap while we struggled to enjoy our beers, salad, and pizza. I caught eye contact with a man in the restaurant and he smiled at me, then poked his wife to look our way. “She’ll hold him for you” he said. She stood up and held arms out and said “can I!?” We gladly handed Harvey over while we finished the rest of our meal and they played with him. We were both happy! I didn’t even vet them to see if they were planning on voting for Trump or not.
The other favorite memory is something that started this month (it has continued many months later). It’s simply Harvey waking up in the morning, always in the best moods, with a huge smile on his face. I have a distinct memory of him waking up next to me smiling and when I looked over at him he just gently touched all parts of my face. The cruelty of the world and people in it can often really get me frustrated, angry and sad. The simple curiosity of a new human discovering himself, the world, his dad, serves as a reminder of all the beauty and wonder right in front of us.
Month Six – Harvey the Teddy Bear
Harvey Nickname: Harb (As in – short for Harvey, and because the “v” in “Harv” can sound a little too harsh for such a sweet baby)
What’s New: Harvey had a complete 180 at daycare this month. Most importantly, he remembered how to eat out of a bottle, which obviously came as a huge relief to Sarah and I. He also (thanks to much patience from Miss Rochelle) started falling asleep on his own at nap time, rather than being rocked to sleep as he had been used to for 5 months. We helped with this to by putting Harvey down in his crib both for naps and at night, both new things for us. We definitely had to endure a couple of agonizing cry sessions for 30 minutes or so, but within a week he was falling asleep within 5 minutes every time. Being with all the other boys at daycare has definitely opened Harvey up as well. He’s starting to say some things – namely “da” on repeat, and loves to hold onto to toys. Since he’s sitting up so great, I can actually set him down, walk away for a couple minutes and know he will be just fine and (for now) right where I left him. This is huge!
Classes officially started for Sarah, which means she’s out the door at 6:15AM every morning, and Harvey is all mine until I drop him off at daycare around 8. Having this alone time with Harvey is both quite special and also quite difficult at times! Harvey loves to go on runs with me in the morning – he either sits in complete tranquility, or falls asleep. He also loves to spend time playing with toys in the carpeted downstairs where he is free to roll around as he pleases. When its time for me to shower though, that’s where things get dicey. Sometimes he loves sitting in his bathroom chair, sometimes not so much. Up until this month, I probably hadn’t spent a total of 5 hours with Harvey by myself where Sarah wasn’t with me, or at least in the next room. It has been humbling. We have so many fun times, but when I’m trying to get ready, pack a lunch, get him dressed and he’s fussy – AND there isn’t anyone else around to pass him off too – woo, its tough. There is just no escape and you just have to deal. It has given me new appreciation for all that Sarah did during his first 5 months, being his sole child care provider while I was at work. Of all that’s happened since Harveys been born, nothing has made me feel more like a parent than this morning time, and specifically dropping him off at daycare. The odd combination of feelings I get when I drop him off in the morning – relief, sadness, pride, yearning – I know I have never felt anything like this before, and I know so many others know exactly what I’m talking about. When I go to work I no longer see myself as Nick, the accountant, I’m Harvey’s dad, the accountant.
What’s Working: Now that we are settled into our new house, aren’t traveling constantly, we have found some consistency in our life and have developed a nightly routine of sorts.How nice this has been! Since I have my Harvey time in the morning, in the evenings, usually Sarah plays with Harvey while I cook. We then eat as a family, bathe, massage, read and feed Harvey all before his bedtime at 7. The best part about all of the routine, and getting Harvey down in his own bed, is that Sarah and I have some time to ourselves at night. I forgot what it was like to actually be able to put our feet up, watch some TV, and relax!
We also have our trusty baby monitor to make sure Harvey is doing ok. It has a feature where you can watch through your phone and even snap a picture. I caught this beauty one time in the early days of trying to get Harvey to sleep in his crib. Whatever it takes!
What’s Worrying: So yes, Harvey is starting the night in his crib now. Once he started daycare and we realized we needed to change some things up with his sleep, we were prepared to do a whole big sleep training thing – get him on regular naps and make him sleep in his crib permanently. We never quite got all the way there. The thing is, he still wants to eat at least a couple of times at night and we’ve been letting him. We just bring him back to the bed with us once he inevitable wakes up around 11PM and let him eat and sleep with us. I only say this is worrying because some day we will inevitably have to peel the band aid off, suffer through some tough nights, and get him to sleep through the night without eating so he can make it all night in his crib.
Favorite Memory: As I mentioned, Harvey has started to say “da” this month. For the first couple of weeks when he started to say “da” it would come out of nowhere and he’d stop as suddenly as he started. We could never seem to capture it on video. One Saturday morning while entertaining Harvey, he started saying “da” on repeat and wouldn’t stop for several minutes. Plenty of time to capture it on video (below). Though I don’t believe he had association with the sound “da” and anything it all, my heart melted nonetheless.
Month Seven – Harvey the Caterpillar
He’ll eat anything in sight!
He loves his feet!
He’ll roll around everywhere!
Pretend this is what caterpillars look like eating.
Harvey Nickname: Tinky Winky Pinky Minky Stinky (As in – no real explanation, its really just as many iterations of “inky” we can think of strung together. Perhaps there is some Teletubbies nostalgia going on as well)
What’s New: Post 6-months, it seems like all the changes with Harvey are finally slowing down a bit. For the first time, I can look at a picture from a month earlier, and not really notice a difference. Harvey is officially on the move, though. Not crawling or anything like that, just lots of rolling. He has opened up even more and has started laughing at people other than me (see clip below.) He’s started making lots more “talking” sounds like “ma” and “ga”.
Harvey in Target
What’s Working: Wild Wednesdays at Whole Foods. $2 *quality* pints. $2 Slices of Pizza. It’s a deal that can’t really be beat. We’ve officially made it a Wednesday tradition at this point and its a great mid-week treat that the whole family enjoys. It’s been a fun way to keep up some of our dear friends during their late pregnancy and early parenthood, and for Harvey to meet his future best friends – hey Theo & Luke!
What’s Worrying: Sarah’s original goal was to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and reevaluate. We were very lucky to achieve that goal, and the new goal became 12 months. This is Sarah’s story to share not mine, so I won’t dive into a lot of detail, but this month it has become a concern that that goal might not be feasible and it has been difficult to accept. For now, we are weighing our options, and have started to try out some formula with Harvey to make sure he tolerates its ok – which thankfully, he did.
Favorite Memory: There was not one special moment that I can point to this month as my favorite memory. I just adore this little man more than I ever thought would be possible. It sounds so cliche, but I don’t know how else to describe it. What really hit me this month, is that the best “memories” I have of Harvey are in fact, not one single moment at all. It is something much more esoteric, a collection of experiences. The beauty in children doesn’t come from one “cute” or special experience or moment, but its watching, experiencing them grow and change everyday. When Harvey was born, the love I felt was more of a wondering love, a love based in awe. As we have more memories together, as I see Harvey grow, watch myself change, the love shifts to one based on the relationship itself. A relationship that grows each day. I say this, and I only have 6 months under my belt as a parent – 1/36th of Harvey’s childhood. I look at anyone with kids, especially grown kids and just can’t imagine how they can even concentrate on anything, after so many years, the love for their kids must be so big. Maybe that’s why teenagers are such a horror – natures way of keeping their parents’ love from becoming debilitating.
Month Eight – Harvey the Monkey
Harvey? Is that you?
Oh, there you are!
Harvey Nickname: Panky (As in, Panky Bottom)
What’s New: Harvey is not one to sit still these days. Not only is he rolling all around, but he’s starting to lift his butt in the air and even take a crawl or two before flopping over. See the video below of some of Harvey’s first crawls during our trip visiting Sarah’s dad in Arkansas, which prompted the phrase, “Learning to crawl in Arkansas”. He still often loves to be held, but rather than relax in our arms, he finds it to be more of a game – lunging around, and trying to crawl up myself by putting his feet on my chest and lifting up. And when he wants to be most difficult, he’s discovered the advantages of arching his back, usually while screaming and also kicking his feet. Getting dressed and changing diapers, which used to be rather tame affairs have turned circus events. Just when you almost have one pant leg on, Harvey turns his body entirely completely covering the other side, often while humming “da da da da da da”. I can’t tell if he just doesn’t want to sit still, or gets a thrill out of being difficult.
What’s Working: Do you need a high chair? We said no to that question many times. For meals out, we pretty much had to take turns shoveling food into our mouths, while the other held onto Harvey. We finally recently realized Harvey was big and coordinated enough to sit in a high chair at restaurants. Now, he still expects attention and to be fed along with everyone else, so its not a totally relaxing experience, but its a big step up from before!
What’s Worrying: When Harvey started rolling around, I joked to several people it was only a matter of time before he rolled himself off of the bed or couch. Well, it happened and it was the bed. Sarah and I were both in the bedroom at the time, hanging some stuff on the walls. We both simultaneously assumed the other had a closer eye on him than they actually did. At the last second, I saw him nearing the edge, but it was mostly too late. I did manage to get a foot under him to break the fall a bit, but he landed on his back nonetheless, and we both felt completely disgusted with ourselves and worried about Harvey’s well being as he cried for the next minute or so. We did monitor him for any concussion symptoms throughout the day and fortunately, he was totally fine. Also fortunately, our bed is quite low to the ground as it is. I was proud of both of us for letting the feelings of guilt wash away from us rather quickly, and instead be thankful nothing worse happened, and learn from the mistakes. Needless to say, with Harvey on the move, the baby proofing is in full swing. The fireplaces have pads on the corners, all the electrical outlets have covers, and we have a baby gate to install shortly.
The only other prominent worries are sleeping and teeth. His sleep patterns seem to have gotten a little worse if anything… he used to sleep in occasionally, but not anymore. He’s awake by 5 or 5:30 (sometimes earlier) every morning, regardless of when he went to bed. He also seems to be even hungrier at night than he has been, which keeps us both up, but especially his mom. Not so bad that we’ve done any major steps to try and improve his sleeping… one of these days. His teeth are worrying because, well, he doesn’t have any yet! For about 6 months it seems whenever he’s fussy we assume he must be teething, but those teeth are no where in sight.
Favorite Memory: Harvey can’t talk or sign yet, but he can communicate. When he was born, crying was about his only form of communication (obviously pretty common among newborns), but as he grows, his repertoire of means of conveyance grow as well – smiling, kicking, laughing, cooing, outstretching his arms, etc. I set all this up because each time some new thing happens, as a parent it just blows you away. Where does it even come from? An example from this month was Harvey, after having his stomach blown on, returned the favor and began blowing raspberries on his mom’s stomach. What’s more, he appears to be quite pleased with himself and found the whole thing quite humorous. Fortunately I caught most of the exchange on video.
One of my favorite feelings is the feeling I get when I finish a project. Since moving in to Shawnee Street, Nick and I have completed a few, but there are 3 in particular I thought I would share. Our home was built in 1955, and has a very unique mid-century modern, split-level design… so I naturally began to run with that theme when decorating. When we bought our new house, I knew that the large amount of exposed brick was something I would want to “remedy” as quickly as possible. Although brick can be a very classic look, I felt that it was a bit outdated for our taste, and I had a strong desire to soften the color, as well as bring out the natural texture. So, the perfect solution for us was to “white-wash” the walls and fireplaces!
Before moving in, we had several rooms professionally painted, and we had the hardwoods re-finished as well. The previous home owners had already painted a few of the brick walls within the house. They are completely covered in a white, semi-gloss finish, and I like the way they look. However, I did not want to mimic that exact look on the rest of the brick in the house, so I went with a few different options. In the kitchen and living room, I used a very special type of paint called “milk paint” which is just a powder that you mix with water. It is designed to let the brick “breathe” and preserve the integrity of the clay. It took me about 5 hours to paint this mixture on both fireplaces, and I am pretty obsessed with the final product. Eventually, we will add a floating mantel to the fireplace in the kitchen. I’m thinking a big, thick piece of re-claimed wood will do the trick! Here are the before and afters:
Downstairs, there were two very large brick walls that gave the room a “dungeon” feel to me. I HATED them. Luckily, Nick has patience with me when I get the “itch” to fix something, and he let me complete this project over the weekend, and even hung the curtains for me (which required drilling into brick… not easy). Initially, I thought I would paint these walls a solid white, but once I began the priming process, I actually really enjoyed the basic washed look on them as well. So, it turns out, they just have 1 coat of water-based white primer on them. Here is the before and after:
Overall, these projects were not too difficult to complete, and I am happy to answer any questions about how we did them! I am definitely feeling pretty accomplished right now 🙂
In 2 short weeks, Harvey will be 6 months old. What?! Halfway through his first year?! I don’t understand how this could possibly be the case… but alas, it most certainly is.
I recently told Nick that I thought I couldn’t love Harvey any more than I did the day he was born… and that sometimes I simply cry to myself when I really sit and try to measure the love in my heart. It feels as if, at any point, it could physically burst. That is a big love to carry around… a big weight on my body. But, it’s the best possible feeling in the whole entire world. Yesterday was a magical moment for me because I got to recognize that feeling in the faces of my dear friends, who just had their first baby. As soon as I saw him in their arms, and the way they looked at him, I realized that this is only something you can understand when you’ve been on the other side of it. It is other-worldly. I burst into tears of joy for them and their sweet, fuzzy little one. I knew the way they were smelling him, feeling him, loving him for the first time, and it brought me back to the early days with Harvey. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to freeze time in its tracks.
He has changed so much in the past few weeks. He can sit up, roll over (both ways), and is really trying hard to move! He spins himself around in circles when he is in his crib… yes, I said crib!! We have successfully sleep-trained him for naps – and we owe a special thank you to Ms. Rochelle, his childcare provider, for help with that. We still co-sleep at night, but are moving away from that in the next few weeks, since he has mastered nap time now.
Harvey eats baby oatmeal, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, avocado, and well… anything really. We are taking the “baby-led weening” approach (BTW) and so far, so good! He really loves sitting at the dinner table and eating with us, it’s so freaking adorable.
My school year is off to an amazing start. I have some pretty incredible kids this year, and they are all so curious and sweet when asking about Harvey! I love sharing stories and pictures with them. Pumping at work is … annoying, but obviously worth it. It has become a chore that I consider a part of my work duties, like grading papers… and trying to stay ahead of/on top of Harvey’s demand is intimidating, but something that I have been able to manage thus far. He can hold his own bottle of mama’s milk now – which makes him seem so grown up!!
I have lots of favorite “parts of my day” but there are three in particular I wanted to share with y’all. The first is when the three of us wake up together, and have a big family kiss and hug. Harvey is a bright, shining ball of sunshine in the mornings, and I try and soak in as much of it as I can before I head in to work. The second is when Nick shares their morning activities with me. He has about 1-2 hours with Harvey each day before taking him to Ms. Rochelle’s house, and the bonding that they’ve experienced as a result truly melts my heart. Nick sends me pictures of Harvey hanging out in his bouncy seat while Nick showers, the outfits he picks out for him each day, and the playtime they have in Harvey’s new “playroom” downstairs. I watch the videos over and over, and stare at the pictures during my planning period. How did I get so lucky? Nick earns his title as “the world’s best dad” every single day, over and over, and I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about my fortunate life. The third best part of my day is when I walk through the door at Ms. Rochelle’s, and Harvey gives me that big, toothless, smile as I pick him up and squeeze him. It will never get old.
It has almost been one year since the day you were born, and I have spent time over the past twelve months searching for the words with which to share my feelings and love for you. This entry is just one small attempt to make that happen, and I hope your parents will welcome my thoughts.
Two weeks before you were born, I found out that I was pregnant. Having known your mama in high school and college, and knowing that she was pregnant with you, I took a special interest in your story and her journey. I loved that you were a surprise to the outside world. I loved that your mother shared pictures of her growing belly so fearlessly. I loved that you were going to be born at any minute, and I was one of the people checking social media to make sure I didn’t miss your arrival. All of these things were helping me with my transition into motherhood, as my own nugget was still very tiny, new, and a secret to the rest of the world.
And then, I woke up on that day last September, and read your mama’s post about your birth with a smile on my face. You were a girl, your name was Emma Lynne Maclaga, and on the day you were born, you had also died. My smile turned into tears, and I couldn’t help but sob. My reaction and feelings will never come anywhere near what your parents must have felt, and still feel to this day. However, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “how could this happen?” I was devastated, and angry. How did God allow such a sweet innocent life to slip away? It wasn’t fair. I couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around your passing, and I felt as if I didn’t deserve to have my baby still growing inside my womb while your mother only held you in her arms for a short while.
After asking all of those questions, it slowly became clear to me that God had a plan for you, and for your parents. Your mother, with such courage and honesty, began writing about you. She shared, what I can only imagine to be a fraction of her deepest feelings and heartbreak. She wrote about you and your beauty. It is through her words that I found a connection with you, and it is through her words that you’ve had such a profound impact on my life. With more grace and strength than I could have ever managed, your mother gave your life a purpose, and began the process of healing herself and other women who’ve also lost their babies.
The first time I saw your picture, I was blown away. You are gorgeous. Your soft, dark hair and perfect button nose made me wonder what my little one was going to look like. The day my sweet baby was born, I thought of you. When he first opened his eyes and looked at me, I began to cry, and I felt your presence with me. He was with me, and you were in heaven.
Five weeks later, I went to see your mama tell your story. Oh sweet Emma, she brought you to life with her voice. I have never been so moved. My heart felt as if it would burst right out of my chest. The room full of people could feel you with her, there is absolutely no mistake about that.
I believe that someday, you and your parents will meet again. Perhaps, you will have younger siblings, and I hope that you know you will always be their big sister. My wish for you is that you continue to watch over your family here on earth, as they will long for you the rest of their days. My wish is that your story continues to touch and heal lives. My wish is that your mother and father continue to find hope and strength, and that they feel you with them as they do.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl. You are loved from near and from afar. ❤
I am going to start this post with a disclaimer: if at any point, my words or ideas seem discombobulated and sporadic, it is because my brain is currently in that state. I sit here and write this as Harvey is spending his first day in daycare. I am floating back and forth between confidence and tears. I knew it would be hard to leave him for the first time, and I knew that I wanted to write while I did so. I have to capture these feelings in their rawest form, so please hang with me as I try to make sense of this new time in my life.
This August, the first day of school has a whole new meaning in my life. For the past 22 years, the thought of school starting has made me excited, a bit anxious, hopeful, reflective, nervous, but overall happy for another year of learning and friends. As a teacher, I feel all of those things still, and I would argue even more so than I did when I was a student. This year is no different. I feel all of those things the same way I used to, but… there is a new spin on it. For the first time, I am walking into my building as a mother. A mother who is leaving her child in a day care facility. A mother who would give anything to live two lives. You see, while I wish I could stay at home and raise my child, I also wish I could go to work and teach. Honestly, what I wish I could do, is bring Harvey to Leesville with me, haha! Let me do my best to articulate my feelings about this… because I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few months, and I know there are a lot of moms who have to make a lot of different decisions about their own children and their own jobs. It is hard, and there is no right or wrong answer. However, I do think that we are all filled with different questions/doubts/fears/etc… that part is for certain.
I love my job. It is the only job I have ever wanted to do. I also love my baby, and knew that someday I would become a mother, and it would be one of the best things that ever happened to me. What I never really thought about was the day I would become a teacher AND a mother. For the first time, when my classes start filing in the room on the first day of school, I will know that every single one of them is loved by their parents the same way that Nick and I love Harvey. Wow… what a wave of emotion! To every parent who has ever trusted me with your children on a daily basis, thank you! I can now tell you that I have a renewed sense of purpose in my task as their educator and role model. Honestly, when I think of some of the best teachers I had growing up, and when I think about some of my coworkers who I look up to everyday, I think of a very important detail they all have in common… parenthood.
I can tell you right now that I have always wanted my children to see me work. It is important to me. When I was growing up, my mom worked. She helped provide for my family, both monetarily and physically. However, I can’t help but think sometimes that I am working so that my money can help pay for childcare. Obviously, other moms who work think about the same thing… but that expense is not my entire paycheck. You should also know that I am not a teacher because of the money! I find fulfillment in my job, and in being a mother. It is also important to provide for my kids in as many ways as I can. There are a lot of things that Nick and I would not be able to do if I stayed at home… like buy a new house, travel as much as we do, and expose our kids to new experiences that sometimes cost money. It is a double-edged sword, but not one that we have to fall on, you know?
I am not trying to rationalize any of this (although I knew this entire post would be a back and forth with myself over my decision to return to work). I am a teacher. I am a mother. I am a coach. I do not have to pick one. And do you know what? Mamas who stay home with their babies, are also teachers and coaches and mothers. Having spent the last 5 months at home with my nugget, I now know this. I know so many stay-at-home moms who’ve raised beautiful kids. I also know so many working mamas who’ve raised beautiful kids. I don’t view this as having to “pick one.” I truly believe we can be both! I also know that the grass is always greener. There will be days where I wish I was home with Harvey. There will be days when I can stay home with him (because teaching schedules are pretty dang awesome when you consider all of our breaks) and I will wish I was at school.
I will check back in once the school year is underway, but just know for now that I am torn. I can’t wait to start school, and I can’t wait to see Harvey at the end of the day. I am in love with my job(s). I am a mom and I am a teacher. I would love to hear from some of the women and men in my life who have to do both. How do you cope? What are your thoughts? Any advice moving forward? Send me some positive thoughts and vibes throughout the next month… I am definitely traveling uncharted waters!
PS – Harvey has started eating a few solids and rolling over! I included a picture and a video for your viewing pleasure 🙂