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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Midpoint (Week 6, Day 3)

Day 3: (The Midpoint):

Today marks the halfway point of my maternity leave. I can't believe the time is going so fast! It seems like just yesterday we brought Maddy home from the hospital. As if to mark the date in black ink, I had my 6 week postpartum appointment to make sure I have fully recovered from the pregnancy. I have been so focused on Maddy and her growth that I'd mostly forgotten that I was still in the healing process as well. It felt good to see the doctor and get a clean bill of health, and the green light to begin working out and doing normal activities again. Beyond breastfeeding and it's implications, I'm back to my pre-pregnancy body.

I feel like the rest of the time is going to go by in a wink of an eye, and before I know it I'll be juggling my work schedule with my mommy schedule. While I know I want to return to work, I also know I want to spend time with my daughter when she's awake - as she'll start to go to bed between five and seven PM most days, that doesn't leave me a lot of time after a long day of work to see her with her eyes opened.

Somehow, I'm going to have to find a balance that works for me. The challenge that I have as I think about the end of maternity leave, starting daycare for Maddy and returning to work, is that I know I could easily enjoy being a stay at home Mom, or being a career woman with kids, and the truth is I want BOTH. I have been part of the workforce since I was fifteen, and the fact is I enjoy working. And I'm good at my job. No, I'm not a CFO or head of some major company, but I work hard, get the job done, and am counted on as a significant contributor within my workplace. And I provide a good component of our families income, something I'm proud of. These are all things I want to continue to do, not only for myself but as a role model for my children. However, I know I could spend every day with my daughter, and know that I would relish the time caring for her, and taking care of our home and family needs.

I haven't figured out yet what balance is going to work for me, and how I'll manage making the balance a reality. But I've got to start figuring it out soon, and I can only hope that when I do begin to balance mommyland and a career, there will be just as many (if not more) laughs than their are tears.


 Maddy and Mommy at the maternity leave midpoint

To co-sleep or not to co- sleep, that is the question (Week 5, Day 7)

It's Friday! I look forward to Fridays as I know we'll have a long weekend with my husband home, which means quality time as a family, and an extra set of hands to get things done for the next two days. Often, we save the new "experiments" with the baby for the weekend- going to a restaurant for the first time, leaving the husband home alone with the baby, etc. This weekend, the experiment will be "Baby sleeps in crib overnight".

Sleeps habits and methodologies are one of the most hotly debated topics I hear about within new moms groups, online and from friends. Every methodology is touted as "the only way to raise a healthy and well balanced child" and almost every one contradicts another. In the first week we had Maddy home, a lactation consultant that came to our home saw a book sitting out on sleeping techniques that had been recommended to me (in fact, I have friends who swear by it and the doctor runs the new mom group I eventually attend weekly), and told me that I should throw the book out as the technique would cause my child to have behavioral issues when she is eighteen. After discussing this, my husband and I decided that there are probably about one thousand other things that we will do that will cause our child to have behavioral issues by the time she is eighteen - pinpointing it to how we try to get her to go to sleep seems like a stretch. I recently read an article from a frustrated mom that best describes how it feels to read and attempt to apply all the sleep methodologies, I think she sums it up the best:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ava-neyer/i-read-all-the-baby-sleep-advice-books_b_3143253.html
So the question of co sleeping (having the baby sleep in a bassinet or playpen in your room, or even in the bed with you and your husband) is A) whether to do it, and B) how long to do it. As with everything else, every person I speak to seems to have taken a different approach: one friend never co slept at all because she was just too light a sleeper, one friend did for a few months until she retuned to work, one friend co-slept for over a year, while another has the baby in her bed with her and her husband to this day. All of their children seem well balanced, well slept, and thus far seem to be headed towards respectable 18 year olds.

So once again it comes down to what is right for MY baby, MY family, and ME. We make the decision to try out the crib based on a couple of factors:

1) My daughter is a grunter. We are lucky that she isn't colicky, and doesn't really scream her lungs out beyond the "witching" hour that occurs every night around 5. But she grunts and moans and flails, and while this doesn't seem to wake my husband up until she really gets going, I tend to lay awake watching her and reaching out to soothe her, waiting for that first wail when I should pick her up and feed her. My rational is I'm less likely to burst out of bed and run to her if I can see on the baby monitor she is just squirming, allowing her to learn to self soothe a little and for mommy to get a couple more winks of sleep.

2) I know the clock is ticking on my maternity leave, and I want to make sure she is firmly established in her crib before I go back. She's a little over a month old, and I'm reaching the halfway point in my maternity leave (my god, it's gone by too fast!). Being the supreme planner with not even a hint of procrastination in me, I think we should get started on the transition now.

So tonight is the night. Stay tuned!

Partnerships (Week 5, Day 6)

While all the “Baby how to” books and doctors have warned Phil and I that babies are fussy at ages 4-6 weeks, and don’t start having circadian rhythms until after 6 weeks, we both seem to forget this ever night and wonder why Maddy get fussy and cries for no reason. Newsflash: she’s crying because she’s a baby, and sometimes they just cry!

After a battle to get Maddy to sleep last night, she is the image of happy sleeping baby all morning. Which means Mommy gets to eat breakfast, shower and even take a nap herself - all resulting in a very happy household.

It’s another gorgeous Chicago day, and we meet up with one of the ladies from my new mom’s group for lunch. Her baby was born 8 days after Madeline, and it’s refreshing and reassuring to compare notes and realize that there is another mom out there going through the exact same challenges as I am.

Something that struck me today more than ever just how great a partnership I have with my husband. I am a strong believer in the fact that every relationship is different, and every couple’s approach to parenting is different - not good or bad, but what works best for them and their family. I’m of course leaving out the child abusers, neglecters, and all around degenerate caste of people that really shouldn’t be raising children in the first place. I’m taking about you and me, your sisters and brothers, friends, and coworkers - upstanding members of society that have endeavored to raise children and care for them in the best way they can. Those people.

It’s interesting to hear about people’s relationships with their partners, particularly as you begin to raise children, as roles and responsibilities begin to be divided and established based on a mutual understanding. Sometimes this is communicated and agreed upon (We will both work after the baby comes, or one person will continue to work and one will stay home), sometimes this is organic (Since I’m leaving the house, I’ll take the trash out, be in charge of groceries, etc) and range from decisions big and small. I have friends that do ninety percent of the child rearing and household chores, with the understanding that they stay at home and treat the responsibility as their full time job. I have other friends that divy up the responsibilities as best they can between them based on work schedules and kid schedules.  What I find most intriguing is that we all have  different takes on how roles should be divided, and that in the end it really doesn’t matter who does what, as long as both parties are satisfied and comfortable with the arrangement.

But back to my husband. What strikes me as I talk to friends, family, and the women in the new moms group about who changes the diapers, gets up with the baby, cooks dinner, and all the other little things it takes to raise a child and maintain a household, is that while no one can be perfect, my husband is perfectly matched for me. We may not always agree on which TV show to watch at night or arrive at a decision that works best for us at the exact same time, but for all the big stuff - how we approach our marriage, our family, raising children, and generally choosing to live life - we are almost always on the same page. This has proven true as we planned our wedding, settled into our marriage, and now as we work to figure out parenting. I know that things will get harder when I return to work and we are both juggling work and caring for our baby girl, but I do know we will figure it out as we always do - with lots of laughter and as partners. And I couldn’t be more satisfied with that arrangement.


Gummy Grins (Week 5, Day 5)


Late night chats with Maddy
I'm up in the middle of the night to feed Maddy, and amazed at how big and strong she's gotten. She no longer fit in the newborn sleeper last night, and is wearing a 3 month sleeper (albeit too big) for the first time. When she lays on my chest, she takes up more space than before, and her little feet push on my legs with a strength that wasn't there yesterday. Where did my little newborn go? While I crave a big chunk of uninterrupted sleep, our little late night meetings are precious to me - getting to see little Madeline at her most still and peaceful, cuddling up against my chest, her little cherub face looking up at me - it truly is one of the sweetest moments of my (early) day.

Today is a gorgeous Chicago spring day - 80 and sunny, with a light breeze. Maddy and I take the opportunity to go to the farmers market for breakfast, and enjoy some fresh bread, hot tea, a chat with a friend and a walk through the park. It's days like this that remind me how good I have it - the ability to take time off and enjoy getting to know my daughter, and living in one of the best locations in the city.
An early smile!

The highlight of the day: Maddy wakes up from a nap, and while I'm changing her for bed she smiles and laughs - a genuine smile, not the 1st month "I have gas and its causing me to smile involuntarily " kind of smile. I tickle her and smile and she does it again. It makes the earlier experience of being spit up on (twice) a distant memory.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Reality Check (Week 5, Day 3)

Ready for our lunch date!
Had a nice walk through the park today, and meeting another mom for lunch. It's a mom "blind date" - another mom in the neighborhood I've met through social networking. I'm proud of myself for getting Maddy fed and dressed (and myself showered and dressed, which is more of a feat) on time. Maddy was in her perfect 2 hour window between feedings where I could comfortably go out and eat and focus on the introductions. Unfortunately, my lunch date is 30 minutes late. I know I should be more understanding, as I'm now more than ever fully aware that kids run on their own schedule, and your life and time is no longer your own. But I can't help it, I'm annoyed. Lateness is a pet peeve if mine, and something I intensely try to avoid. I wouldn't have minded if she had texted, emailed or something to let me know she was going to be late, but after 30 minutes I had heard nothing.


I'm feeling silly sitting in a nice restaurant with a baby that I'm worried will wake up and start howling any minute. When my lunch date does arrive with her 15 month old girl, she is a whirlwind of info on her baby, playtime distractions and half complete sentences. At one point she nurses her child with no nursing cover, which was a bit awkward. One thing she kept repeating was "this will be you in 15 months". While I know she is right in many ways, I'm hoping I'll be able to hide the frazzled and all over the place core with a more composed exterior. After about an hour, Maddy woke up ready to eat (aka howling like a banshee), and rather than feed her at the restaurant (I don't particularly enjoy nursing in public, and as an added bonus, the restaurant was about 100 feet from my apartment), I decided it was time for our mommy date to end, and brought her home. Thank God, as we experienced our first "blow out"- after nursing her I found poop on her little skirt, and soon discovered it was everywhere - on her carseat, her legs, somehow inexplicably on her face. Needless to say, the rest of the day is spent cleaning her up and doing laundry!


That evening I attempted to make a new recipe for Phil and I and somehow managed to royally botch that as well - I consider myself to be a fairly good cook, but I like to experiment, and some of the recipes I've tried have not won the praise of my husband. This recipe I chose however for its simplicity - a Mexican chicken recipe with four ingredients. FOUR. How do you mess that up? Somehow, I did. Our dinner consisted of a somewhat random THREE ingredient Mexican chicken recipe (Black chicken - not BLACKENED, but black - stained from the failed fourth ingredient), and my husband and I laughing at my sour day, and current poor cooking skills.


Just when I thought I was getting a handle on all things domestic, I get a day that slaps me in the face and reminds me I have a lot to learn. Time to go to bed and try again tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First Mother's Day (Week 5, Day 2)

Happy Mother's Day!


Sunday we celebrated our First Mother's Day! My husband does a great job of making it a special moment not just for me as a new mother, but for us as a new family.

Mother's Day obviously takes on a whole new significance  to me this year as I celebrate my first, as well as teaches me the true significance of celebrating my own mother. A good family friend wrote in a card to my husband and I shortly after Madeline was born "Now you truly know how much your Mom and Dad love you". 

Those words really hit home as to how days like Mothers Day will forever be changed for me. I think about our decision to have children, the nine long months of carrying a child and the love that grows for them each day, and the process of delivering a baby and seeing your child for the first time. I think of my mom, and all the incredible, heart breaking, extraordinary and scary milestones she's witnessed as she raised me and my sisters. I'm overwhelmed by the precious moments a mere 5 weeks have given - I can't even imagine the impact of all the moments she has stored up over our combined lives. I'm now thirty plus years into my life and finally able to understand the true significance of my mother's love.

I'm not sure I'll ever truly be able to put into words how much I care for and adore my daughter, but I know now that someday, a long time from now, when she starts a family of her own, she will understand how much her mother loves her.

Teenage Drama Prequel (Week 4)


Day 1 -7: 

Week four is similar to week three - I’m feeling more confident in my mothering abilites every day, and getting out of the house as much as possible in between feedings. The daily walks are doing my brain, and my post delivery body good, and the utter exhaustion that comes with a baby that wakes up every two hours round the clock settles into a more normal tired state.

I am grateful that at the two week pediatrician appointment, the doctor highlights two key things that will come into play this week:

1) Many babies will become much more fussy at 4-6 weeks of age, until they begin to have circadian sleep rhythms, and

2) Many babies will experience ‘baby acne’ at 4 - 8 weeks of age

It's important that we are aware of this information, because on the first day of her 4th week, both arrive like clockwork. All moms talk of a "witching hour" - a time of the day where their children transform from contented mini people to inconsolable balls of tears. This is mainly because their body's nervous system is developing, and is in the process of correctly "wiring" the baby to have the urge to sleep at night. Maddy seems fine all day, and at five o'clock, without fail, will begin to wail, and no amount of soothing, diaper changing or nursing will console her. As the doctors say this will last until she is six weeks, we begin counting down the days. The good news - supposedly after 6 weeks, babies will begin to have the urge to go to bed at night, and begin sleeping longer intervals at a time. Another important reason to begin counting down the days.

As far the acne, it too arrives like clockwork. One morning the smooth, perfect baby complexion is replaced with that of a teenager with a serious acne issue. This shouldn't seem like a big deal, however my worried mom brain goes into overdrive, and in my head I'm diving back in my teenage years, when I WAS that teenager with the serious acne issue. I didn't have the normal teenage acne - a few pimples here and there, embarrassing but manageable. I had the full fledged face encompassing acne that could not be controlled or hidden under any layer of makeup. The kind that caused cruel kids to have just the angle they needed for torment. I distinctly remember one such peer persuading a foreign exchange student to ask me if I had chicken pox as a prank. While the ridicule and torment I suffered helped me to develop a thick skin and taught me a valuable lesson in compassion, it wasn't a joy to endure at the time.

Seeing this baby acne on my beautiful little girl, I'm reminded (and worried) that like it or not, she may inherit some of my more undesirable genes, and have to suffer through some awkward teenage years. While I know it will build character, and she will stumble through it like all teenagers inevitably do, I pray the peers she has will be less cruel about whatever awkwardness befalls her.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Zone, Sort Of (Week 3)

Maddy's first trip to Lincoln Park!

Day 1 - 7:  


By week three I feel like I’ve somewhat gotten the hang of things - I’ve left the house several times by myself without any major disasters, have mastered the fold up stroller, and the baby is still alive, and seems to be thriving. All good signs. As an added bonus, the finnicky Chicago weather has finally started to turn favorable, and switched from mid April rain and snow (SNOW!) to eighty degrees and sunny. I take Maddy to the zoo for the first time, and am blissfully happy with the prospect of many more sun-filled days in the park with my daughter as we take advantage of every moment on my maternity leave.

Phil and I continue to get bolder in our new parent zone, and take Maddy out to brunch (In public! At a restaurant! And there was no screaming!) meet up with friends, and have family pictures taken with relative ease.  Maddy and I go for daily walks and coffee breaks, and I find that these moments out of the house, doing something normal that I would have done pre-baby, are therapeutic for me. I find that they help me clear my head, and connect with the outside world. While I’m focused every day on my adorable baby's not so adorable bowel movements, the world is continuing to spin, and these outings remind me and connect me back to society. I can easily see how a new mom could struggle with their emotions if they never left the house or made social connections during the first few weeks of motherhood - there are times where you lose track of the last time you showered, and don’t talk to anyone all day besides a 3 week old that really can’t understand a word of it and doesn't have much to contribute to the conversation. It can make you feel a bit batty.

Several people had mentioned I should consider joining a “New Mom Support Group” while I'm on maternity leave. I’m a bit skeptical at first - I’m a very social person already, and have lots of friends with kids, and am doing quite well getting out of the house and meeting up with people, and overall feeling great about me, my baby, and my maternity leave, thank you very much. But after the 4th person in 3 days mentioned how great they were, I felt I should do some research to see what they were all about.

New Mom Support Groups are in place for both moms planning to stay at home, and moms that are returning to work. Some are structured, paid programs that will bring new moms together (with their babies) and discuss specific topics. Some are run by pediatricians or lactation consults and focus on nursing or sleep habits. Others are set up through social media like Meet up, and can vary in networks from geographical location to age of child. When I thought about joining a new mom group, I really needed to sit down and think what I wanted to get out of a support group. One friend that has a 8 month old had mentioned she’d done a group and found that having a set appointment every week was helpful - it was something to do every Tuesday. Going from jam-packed meeting filled days in my career to 3 weeks at home with my babe and no set plans or appointments, and found the idea of a weekly event appealing. The other thing I wanted to get out of a mom group was meeting moms that had babies my age - I have LOTS of friends that have kids, but most of them are a year or older, and they don’t necessarily remember what their baby was doing on week 3. It would be great to be able to compare notes with other moms, and see how they are handling the nuances of motherhood at that particularly time period. The last thing I wanted to was to meet moms in that lived somewhere close by - I had seen a lot of interesting events or meet up opportunities, but didn’t realistically think that I would want to be schlepping myself or my baby across town to meet with other moms.

Taking all this into account, I decided to try out a new mom group that was close to the hospital where Madeline was delivered, and run by a pediatrician that is a leading expert on children’s sleep. A friend of mine had gone to it during her maternity leave and loved it, and I figured if I’m going to do a support group, I wanted to do one that I could learn something from. So on Tuesday of the 3rd week, I bundled up my baby girl and headed off into the unknown of new mom support groups. I was the first to arrive (still overplanning for operation “Get Baby Out The Door”), and sat and attempted to look busy on my phone until other moms arrived. When the doctor arrived, he had us all introduce ourselves and our babies, and launched into a mini lecture on sleep habits, specifically addressing the week each of our babies was currently in. After, he allowed us to ask questions, and then opened it up for mom’s to talk to each other. I came away from the meeting with answers to questions I’d had about sleeping and eating habits, as well as some insight into what the other moms were doing/trying to get their babies to sleep. Further still, it was a chance to engage with moms going through the same things I am, and reassure each other that we are all doing the best we can. I have to admit, I walked aware a believer, and have been going every week since.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Settling In (Week 2)

Maddy at 1 week!


Day 1: 

We have now kept our little girl alive for one week! I know to the average reader it doesn’t seem like a superhuman skill, but to every new parent, it’s an important milestone. One that proclaims “I may not know what I’m doing, but that baby is still breathing, so I haven’t royally screwed up - yet!”. The day is filled with grandparent visits, which allows Phil and I to use our hands to do other things like clean up, make food, or generally rest.

Day 3: 

Monday morning arrives, and it’s time for Phil to return to work, and for me to go it alone. I’m nervous about this, but it’s time to rip the band aid off. I have internally vowed to watch as little television as possible, so that I can focus on bonding with Maddy and not the daytime soaps. The first day goes relatively well and is a consistent cycle of diapers, feeds, and nap times - most of which are done on me (Maddy's preferred nap time location), which means nothing else is really getting done. I am successful in not watching TV, until I receive an alert on my phone that bombs have exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line, which happens to be a few short blocks from where my sister lives with her husband and son. I turn on the TV to see the devastation that has occurred, hold my baby and cry at the senselessness of it, and wait to hear from my sister on their safety. Luckily, my sister and her family are not harmed, although severely affected by the close call.

Day 5: 

Wednesday is a big day for Mommy and Maddy. It’s our first pediatrician appointment I need get Maddy to alone - Phil is going to meet me there, but I need to figure out how to get her there on my own. There is something about the first few weeks with a baby that makes you feel like you are relearning major life skills, like going outside (How do I get the baby down the stairs? What about the stroller?) entering buildings (What if there are stairs? What do you do about revolving doors?) and coping with the weather (Is it too hot? Too cold? What if it rains?). For me, the pediatrician visit, a whopping 6 blocks away from our apartment, seems like a major obstacle that needs to be tackled. On top of that, it’s supposed to thunderstorm right around the appointment time. On top of THAT, Maddy is having a growth spurt, and nursing every hour. EVERY HOUR. Which means by the time I’m done feeding her, rocking her and possibly changing her, it’s time to feed her again. I’m starting to feel like an all you can eat buffet.

The only solution I can see to making it to our appointment alive and not soaked in rain or hit by lightning is to leave insanely early for our appointment. That way I can figure out how to get outside, get the baby to the car, drive the vast 6 blocks to the pediatrician, and do all of this before the storm hits and I lose my ability to cope. If she is still needing to eat every hour, at least then I can nurse her at the pediatricians office, where I’m sure they've seen it before (This is something I’m still getting used to, and don’t know if I’ll ever fully enjoy nursing in public). I think this is a genius idea, and after 30 or so panicked minutes of executing on this plan, I ARRIVE at the doctor’s office exactly 1 hour prior to my appointment. I’m pretty sure the look on the receptionist's face confirmed that I had “New Mom” written all over me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Adventures in Mommyland - My journey from career focused woman to motherhood and back





Today I was thinking about starting a blog to document my maternity leave and give me something to do beyond take care of my daughter. After 5 weeks of not working, I was feeling like I needed to do something that could contribute to society and provide an outlet for me - not that learning to take care of and bond with my daughter was not contributing or important. I consider raising and providing for your family, and leaving a legacy in the world with the people they become to be life's most important contribution, My thought was more about filling the time during naps with something besides laundry, cleaning and keeping up with Facebook statuses. I like doing laundry even less than I like reading Facebook statuses from people I haven’t seen in over 10 years...


Now, I realize that I should have started this 5 weeks ago (or perhaps even come up with the idea BEFORE I popped out a child), but like any first time mom, the first weeks are spent mostly figuring out what the hell you are doing. You are barely coming up for air the first few weeks, and by the time your husband gets home from work each night you are so excited to eat/pee/pump/shower/sleep in the evening that you spend most of the afternoon trying to figure out which to do first (and secretly trying to figure out how many of them you can do at the same time).


So as I dive head first into my experimental project, here's a recap of the first few weeks with a few particular highlights:


Week 1(When it all changed):

Day 1: 
Baby Madeline!

After almost exactly nine months of waiting, and twelve hours of labor, our beautiful baby girl Madeline arrived with much excitement and a little bit of drama. I won’t bore you with the full delivery details and birth story - the big highlight was my movie like kick-off to the delivery with my water breaking at the end of a beautiful and decadent steak dinner in a fine Chicago establishment. Luckily it was not a “Clean up at Table 7” affair, however the full stomach of amazing shrimp, steak, creamed spinach and bread pudding was not what the doctor ordered for delivering a child - let’s just say I will not be able to eat creamed spinach for a very, very long time.

Due to my fever during delivery, Madeline needed to be monitored after birth, and was eventually taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for multiple tests to ensure there were no issues with her development at birth. For new parents, the entire experience was overwhelming and scary, although our doctors and nurses did a fantastic job of answering questions, being supportive and allowing us to be with our baby and try to do all the 'normal' things you would do if she was in the hospital room with us - feed her, change her, etc. Unfortunately, the one thing they couldn't  do was answer the really hard questions we had - "When will we know what's wrong? How long does she have to stay?" All of these answers don't come for several days.


First Family Photo
The next 48 hours are a blur of trips between my room and the NICU to see Maddy, learning to breastfeed and pump, trying to recover from delivery, and Phil helping the revolving door of family members see Maddy in the NICU.  








Bonding in the NICU
Day 3:

Three days after our daughter was born, I'm discharged and able to leave. I never thought a time would come when I would want to STAY in a hospital, but the thought of leaving our brand new daughter behind while we went home was heart wrenching. What's worse, we still didn't know what (if anything) was wrong, or when she'd come home. That night, I got up every few hours to pump so that my milk will come in and I can feed my daughter when we return to the hospital. Sitting in my dark kitchen in the middle of the night, while my husband sleeps in the other room, and Madeline sleeps hooked up to monitors at the hospital, I sat and thought about how different this homecoming was to what I had expected, and wonder when our baby will be home so that I can be up all night with her. 


Day 4: 

I don't have to wonder long. We arrive back at the hospital just a few short hours after we left the day before - I couldn't stand being away and didn't want to miss many feedings. During the doctors rounds, Maddy's doctor explains that she's had no more issues for concern, and all tests have come back normal, and she can come home with us today. He graciously ignores my involuntary tears of joy.

Maddy is coming home!
Ready to go!
A few short hours later, we bring our baby girl home. Phil and I are both so relieved to bring her home that we forget about all the new parent fears - until we walk through the front door. When we walk in, it sinks in what a mess our place is - bags from the hospital everywhere, laundry to do, groceries to buy, family to call back and update on Maddy's health, etc, etc. We are running on no sleep, and the minute we step in the door, Maddy starts to cry. Nothing I do seems to calm her, so I pass her to Phil, and she immediately settles down. With hormones and emotions already on overdrive, this causes my first and only major meltdown in which I question my ability to be a good mother. Mind you, I will have multiple, if not daily, mini meltdowns in which I will question my mothering abilities. I don't expect these to go away. Ever. For as long as Maddy lives. But this is the big one. The first one. The one that worries my husband and does quite a good job of freaking me out as well.

Once I've gotten my good cry out of the way and take a nap as prescribed by my concerned husband, I'm feeling worlds better, and ready to handle our first night home with a 4 day old daughter. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't easy. The nurses make it seem easy in the hospital - that's all a hoax. It's now my husband's turn to be freaked out. He later described that first night like being dropped in the middle of the forest with a wet book of matches and a swiss army knife and told you have to survive the night - we had a vague understanding of what we were supposed to do from the pre-baby classes we took, but this was the real deal.

Somehow, we make it through the night (so does baby Maddy, luckily).  Phil is able to take the week off, and for the next few days we have time to ourselves to slowly build a semblance of a routine - bags get unpacked, laundry gets done, groceries bought, calls returned. All the while we figure out diapers, feedings, and each day try something new to help the baby sleep, eat, or figure out her needs in general. None of these things overshadow our complete awe of her perfection, and amazement that together we've created a little person that we love more than we ever knew possible. While all the mundane every day tasks are still important and prioritized, the world seems to have jarred itself slightly, and our perspective has forever been changed.

Parenting Superheroes - so far
By the time the weekend comes and all the grandparents descend upon us to visit the baby, Phil and I are feeling much more confidant in our parenting abilities. We by no means have it figured out, but we're a far cry from the complete mayhem of the first night home with her. We liken it to the first time you travel to a non English speaking country - a traveler finds the ordinary extraordinary by getting from the airport to the hotel and out to dinner without understanding the native tongue. While we feel like parenting superheroes for keeping a small child alive, fed and content for a week, we recognize that people of been achieving this small miracle for thousands of years, with great success. But we feel like superheroes in the country of Babyland none the less.