05 December 2010

baby steps (mine)

Kate at 9 months pregnant noticed things the unpregnant or not-quite-as-pregnant kate did not notice:

In the parking lot of a mini mall, a well dressed, well put together (clean) woman saunters by with a newborn tied in a mai-tai (baby hawk) carrier, looking totally comfortable together. Kate misses seeing the mom tie the baby carrier on, but the baby is peaceful and asleep, so much so, that the mom shops slowly and deliberately in the second hand store...

In the grocery or target or wherever, it seems millions of parents are there WITH THEIR BABIES-- most in car seats, some (once sitting) in nifty little germ protecting nests of brightly colored cotton... nearly all are peaceful.

Coffee shop-- women with babies, sitting and talking, their babies asleep in carriers or on laps or nursing or in car seats. How is this possible?

All of which I am now considering to be evidence of some serious parenthood MYTHOLOGY on the hoof.

Well, in my real life, I have a baby that does not like to be put down, ever, for longer than a few minutes... I cannot soothe her like Doug does unless it involves one of my (borrowed and enhanced) body parts... In the carrier, I need to be in motion. HOW do people do this?

So, the other day, to celebrate 3 weeks, I took Della out in the car. Just the two of us. I live in a drive-to place, since we live sticks (I envy Sprogblogger's walk-to city life sometimes).... so I bundled Della into the car seat, wrestled the car seat into my sub-compact for the first time with an actual baby in it (I have an old Scion Xa that has 5 doors. 5 doors = forethought no kidding, I really thought about the baby seat issue even way back when, but shallow back seat is NOT amenable to giant Graco seat base or seat, which will only get bigger as she does...)

We drove for about 45 minutes, around the block. There was some crying but none of it was mine.
Then home safely.

Last week, Doug and Della and I took a ride that required that I nurse in the car in parking lots, twice. And I needed to learn to tie on the mai tai myself while sitting in the passenger seat (awkward but not at all awful). Doug did the turbo cold weather back seat diaper change. We did take his bigger car since mine will not allow a passenger any comfort when the baby seat is in the car.
There was some crying, but none of it mine.

Today I am hoping to do this:
I am hoping to have the umph to bundle Della into the car seat, wrestle the car seat into my car, drive downtown (15 minutes) and bring her into a coffee shop with me (in my arms or in a front carrier), order something (tea? I am currently off of soy, and therefore also off of my occasional soy chai lattes to see if I can help Della's stomach be calmer). Back into the car and back here.

Friday, I will do a solo trip that includes nursing in parking lots at least once, and at least one diaper change ... and this is after our Dr appointment where I will do something similar but with Doug as my wingman.

Incremental baby steps, out into the world. Learning learning learning. I am not sure how long (if ever) it will take to feel comfortable or remotely competent or capable. This seemingly simple stuff is really surprisingly hard.

Days pass where I literally do not step out of the house (which for me is nutty).
So today or tomorrow I hope to take a walk alone, even though it is long underwear cold with a biting wind. Start the incremental treks up my hill that I somehow equate with mental stability. I don't have clearance to exercise but I can walk. So I will walk uphill. Slowly. Until I realize I need to stop.

B--although we have walked, I have yet to hike with Della since she does not quite have the stamina (nor do I, I bet). And even in the front mai tai carrier, I am not sure how to dress her to be warm enough but not too warm since our bodies are against one another. Hats and hoods just fall into her eyes (her hair is like teflon), zipped up jackets end up biting her under her chin.
And thank you for the moby offer, but I think we're good. I am open to a cast off Ergo carrier though-- anyone? Pretty much dislike the Bjorn, but love its simplicity.

I am stuck by just how much feels foreign. How do I.....?
But somehow, we do. We all do.
We figure out how to stick needles in our bellies. Over and over and over.
We chart.
We temp.
We learn new languages.
We show up for weird invasive procedures. And then show up and do it again. And again.
We use GPSs to find our way to new clinics.
We get creative with finances and debt.
We somehow do foreign and crazy things each step of the way, don't we?
And we do it. We just do. Because it matters to us so much.
We figure out how.

So, if I can just get Over It, and realize (with my actual non intellectual self) that this not knowing is a life long thing, and expected, and totally ok, and all will be fine....
just try it, figure it out, if the baby cries, you can leave a 2o on the table and walk out.
If the baby cries you can leave a cart full of groceries.
If the baby cries you can turn around and go home, make another choice, change your mind, adapt to the situation.

So I wonder why it is so hard to remember it?
It is because I have images of competent women mothering in the world and figured you either are or aren't and I fear I know what category I am in?
Thanks culture, I appreciate that.
Sort of a marthastewarting of the parenting process.
no poop just gold dust and (well arranged) flowers.
(It is not culture's fault really, it is mine for buying into it even a little, subconsciously, unconsciously, in spite of my advanced age and all that I know to be true- just enough to feel like I must be doing it wrong)

Isn't it interesting what mythologies we create for ourselves? What impossibilities we set out for ourselves to never be able to live up to? (dangling participles notwithstanding?)

So yes, finding my way. And yes, this is oddly about me. Della will be Della, she is not tied up in oughts and shoulds. Hope I can allow myself to move more and more toward her way of being, which is so blissfully unfettered and weighted down by expectations and assumptions. Her way of being is just that: BEING.

She may be my littlest teacher, but her voice is mighty.


sprogblogger said...

It sounds like you're doing more than I am, outside the house, already. I'm fine, totally competent with H as long as we're at home where I can whip out a boob whenever necessary. But out in the world? Hah. I only just figured out that the car seat will sit atop a grocery cart, allowing me to take Henry to a store without waking him up (as long as I can wrench the car seat out of my 2 door Toyota Echo!)

But yeah, the women who make it look so effortless, being out & about? I don't know how they do it.

Sounds to me like you're doing great.

Aisha said...

I might have said this already but it bears repeating, purchase Momma Zen- by Miller- and read it, and then read it again- her writing is very much like yours, beautiful and poetic- but even more importantly she helps you realize your'e not alone on this crooked path of motherhood!

Circus Princess said...

I've often wondered about these super moms and how they do it. They've probably all started where you are right now :)

Hoping to find out first hand this spring!

Becky Trowbridge said...

...chances are the well put together mom with the sleeping infant in the mei tai is a second (or third! or fourth!) time mom. New moms never have it all together. With the hormones, body changes and newness of it all how could they be expected to? As a mom of two acid reflux kids I can safely say - be as gentle with yourself as you would be with your beautiful little one. Perfection is not a myth but it is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe perfect for you is getting showered, a little makeup and baby in the car.

It is what it is said...

There is a fragility that comes with new motherhood...a sort of self consciousness as if the necessary wires haven't been connected in ones brain, yet, even when instinct is there.

THE single best thing that happened to me was having a friend who just so happened to be a mother to 6 (older) children come over, help me pack the diaper bag for the first time, and go with me to Babies R Us. During that one trip I learned what not to leave home without, how to nurse in the car, how to affix the carrier to two types of store carts, that many stores that cater to mothers have nursing rooms (like BRU), and that being out in the world with my son was intoxicating. It was THE thing I'd been chasing and wanting in being a mother...living life with my child.

Let us know how you do!

Anonymous said...

One tip for dressing for cold and babywearing... Keep Della in indoor clothes, and zip up an oversized (maternity?) sweater, jacket or fleece over her. I did that with a moby and found that I could zip right over my son's head, and there'd still be an ample gap above his face so I could see him but he was fully sheltered from the storm. I assume it'd work with a mai tai as well.

By sharing the same outdoor gear, you know that if you're warm enough, she's warm enough.

Rachael said...

I love your last line about Della being a mighty little teacher!

You're so right that motherhood is far from effortless in those early days/months. And because babies change so dramatically from week to week, it's also true that we have to learn new things all the time to keep up. I, too, spent tons of time in BRU and wandering the mall, both of which I found to be friendly places where people are forgiving about a crying baby. I rarely bought anything, but just being in big warm places was good for me in those early weeks and months. I also went to a new moms group once a week--is there one in your area? I learned so much in the fellowship of other new moms. None of us knew what we were doing, but it was helpful to say that out loud to each other every week. If there isn't a group near you, I'm sure that we, your readers, will be happy to keep listening and learning from your experience. New parenthood is so freakin' hard and it sounds like you both are doing a lovely job.

As for babywearing, I vote for the Ergo. I liked slings at home, but out in the world, he slept well in the Ergo and it was easy to use, even out in public.

Sarah said...

Kate, what an amazing post. I totally get the myth thing. The other day I saw a picture of a woman who does trail running. She meets her husband and baby part way, and nurses(!), and still finishes the race. All I could say was Wow! That is so not like what I experienced! Some days just eating and achieving basic cleanliness were triumphs. It will all get easier and of course Della is really in charge of a lot of this.

karen alonge said...

omigoshyes, most if not all of those capable moms you see out in the world started out confused and overwhelmed just like the rest of us.

For at least six weeks after each baby was born I stayed home and wore shirts with holes cut over my nipples so I could catch the milk that sprayed out of my breasts every few minutes with big cloth diapers.

By the time I ventured out, I'm sure I looked like a pro. That's only because I had the luxury of not venturing out UNTIL I looked like a pro! You are seeing a very small sample size out there in the world - many of those mamas are out there by choice. There are as many or more of us hiding out at home or nursing in the car until we get our sh-t together. Don't be fooled!

and btw, a friend once told me that after I became a mom I would never be able to shop for greeting cards without crying again. I just picked out a birthday card for my baby girl, who turned 17 last week, and I could hardly read through the tears. Your heart will never be quite the same again, and that's a beautiful thing. Always carry kleenex ...

Anonymous said...

You may want to contact Ergo to see if they will give you an Ergo for free if you review it on this blog. It is a wonderful carrier and if you look on their website you will see they also have special jackets/coats to be used with the carrier in cold weather. And I love my "Hooter Hider" nursing cover, it gives me to nurse wherever, whenever and feel really comfortable. Also, motherwear.com has great nursing shirts. Good luck mama, you are doing great!

Rebecca said...

The moms like you and I who have babies like your Della and my Julian are not the ones you see out in the coffee shop and book store, humming along in tranquility with their littles wrapped up in their chest. They are the moms with easy babies. Sleepy babies. Textbook babies.

My oldest child was like yours (as is my youngest, the third) and I didn't leave the house with him for much, unless absolutely necessary. Even now, my third who is a toddler makes a grocery run near impossible: screaming like he was being quartered. And everyone looks at me as if I'm torturing him ("What's wrong with him? Why is he screaming?") and I just nod and say, "Yes, yes, he's a baby/toddler. That's what they DO." And some really just do. And it will make you insane and then they stop one day and it's magical peace. It. Will. Get. Better. TRULY.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

The ease you see is either hard-earned (e.g., first diaper change takes 8 minutes; 5000th takes 15 seconds) or a total fraud. When people see me effortlessly carrying two toddlers, they don't see the times I bumped one's head into the wall as I rounded a corner.

I'm not brave enough to walk outside with my twins in the winter (and Tamale gets very cold), but I've seen something that might fit your outdoor needs, the Peekaru. There's a more reasonable fleece one, and a rather pricey coat one that would enable you to hike with her down to temps of 0 F.

B. said...

Like Anonymous, I recommend motherwear's nursing tops. I haven't used them "in public" yet, but nurse in my daughter's daycare classroom every day that she's there and am never have to worry that I'm overexposed. Even if you're out and there's no "nursing lounge (BRU, BabyGap... all I've personally seen, but supposedly Macy's has one too), a dressing room can be all you need. In the worst heat of the summer, we escaped to the mall for a few days and I had to find places to nurse, change diapers, etc. I also learned what my baby likes/dislikes. As you get to know Della more, and she starts to tell you what makes her happy or distressed, you'll approach that perfection you saw... which I'm sure wasn't as "perfect" as it appeared.

Searching for Serenity said...

Baby steps.

Setting a goal to venture out is huge. You can do it. And if it's a challenge, you'll learn other ways to tackle it the next time.

I was a prisoner to my home the first few months. And Nugget was a summer baby. If he'd been born in the cold months, I never would have left. I was a prisoner to the couch. A braless new mother, a prisoner to breastfeeding. And then a prisoner to the pump. The time that pumping, feeding, cleaning stole from me can never be replaced. I SO wished my family and friends would have encouraged me to get out of the house more. It is one of my few regets of maternity leave.

To this day I'm still in awe at the calm and ease of my husband when he takes Nugget out alone. They eat and shop together seamlessly. Me and Nugget on the other hand, it's usually a sweat filled crabfest. I'm learning.

So I send you hope and stregnth to tackle getting out of the house, calming an unhappy baby and doing it with confidence. Because once you tackle this hurdle, another will present itself. And that is what motherhood is all about.

But, it's so worth it.