Thursday, October 22, 2015

Intermingled Thoughts


My journal has become passing thoughts scribbled on the backs of grocery lists and clumsily typed iPhone notes that say things like "Avalon likes touching cold cups" and "Now I can hear her heart anytime I want to!" 

was paying an SDG&E bill the other day and found, scribbled on the backside of the envelope, the words: "There is the serene ocean and her dangerous currents and there are the car alarms of the world " written in my second grader handwriting, some mid-sentence letters looking just as uppercase as the first. I think this has to do with a thought I had about how there is magic in life, like a human growing from the size of a seed and sprouting into someone that can hold hands with someone else who was also once the size of a seed in their own mother's stomach; there are big problems, like Maddie's cancer, and then there are the inevitable little annoyances such as sitting down to read a book after your child goes down for a nap and most of your chores are finally completed only to have a car alarm go off for the entirety of that quiet time. 

Yesterday I took Avalon to her last lactation appointment. At least, let's hope. There were a bunch of infants learning how to latch properly and even one who was fresh out of his tongue un-tieing procedure, numb-tongued and crying like a goat who'd been kicked in the neck. In my time visiting the clinic I have dealt with an over-supply problem, fast-letdown, mastitis and then an undersupply problem that resulted from stress. Before we left she said, "Now go and enjoy nursing!". Avalon was the oldest baby there by a few months, but, as our elevator door began to close and I watched the lactation consultant bustling around her office helping the next new mom, I couldn't help feeling like we graduated from something that made us both more grown up. (I write my problems down specifically in case anyone else out there is struggling and needs support--quitting or sticking with breastfeeding because, honestly, both are equally tough and good choices if you ask me). 

I am now making some milk to set aside and save for Maddie in case she has trouble keeping things down while she does chemo. I think it will be best mixed with an In N Out milkshake. Today I nursed Avalon in the hammock chair in our backyard while listening to some bluegrass music and the wind. (I write that down because I want to remember it).

Last year at this time, I had just found out we were going to have a baby. I felt like it was the culmination of years spent dressing plastic dolls, teaching preschoolers how to wait their turn and nannying kids I probably would have adopted if given the chance. I was also freaked out about a life alteration I had only observed as a bystander and, maybe most of all, struggling with the reality that I couldn't celebrate Halloween like a drunken idiot impersonating her current hero or favorite brand of beer (one year my friends and I were a six pack of Coronas. I had a lime drawn on my shoulder in neon permanent pen for six days). 

Now Avalon is here in a way that fills the whole house. She wakes up in the morning and smiles this smile as I approach her crib that her face barely seems to have room for, so consumed by joy that I almost have to look away so I won't cry. Her breath smells like warm fruit yogurt and sour cream. Normally I despise those smells, but I purposefully inhale her breath all day long. I write down other things in my scattered journals about how I always want her to be so accepting of me being in her personal space. I get her busy doing an activity like sitting in her Tiny Love Seat chewing on her Tag Monkey and instead of responding to text messages or sweeping the kitchen I end up staring at her. I feel so overcome by this small human. There has always been a space for her in my life and now she not only fills that space, but seems to overflow it. And yet, I always want more, like those days when it's clear and just the right temperature and you can see for miles.

The other day I drove away from perfect offshore, waist high waves to look at freshwater fish in the air-conditioning at Petsmart. Scott said it could have been a scene in Joe Dirt, but was pleased I saved $14 in not going to the real aquarium. The Petsmart employees were very helpful, asking if I had any questions or needed any help identifying some of the fish species. And a free tour guide! I thought, but it seemed too evil deceiving a good intentioned hourly employee for her knowledge on aquatic animals I was never going to buy. I've been there, owning fish before. They die often and it makes me sad just as frequently. For some reason I became more engaged in the idea of owning a few small finches labeled "beginner" on the pet guide. Had I brought them home, however, and this complimentary tour of Petsmart would no longer have been amusing to Scott. The employee did mention that there was "a great tropical fish shop just down the way". An outing for Thursday!

This week my focus has been on sleep. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it. There are so many different good ways to raise kids that it makes sense there are such a variety of approaches that work. I see teaching Avalon to sleep well as an important lesson I can bestow upon her at this age and so I've been putting her down for bed and nap time in her crib tired but awake, after a story and some snuggling, then allowing her to figure out how to sleep. There have been some tears, hers and mine, of course. The first night we tried it I became overwhelmed, after going in to comfort her with tummy pats and copious kisses, by the fact that her crying eyes looked just like they did when I held her for the first time and now, here I was, teaching her this very grownup thing by not holding her. I wandered around the house morosely for about five minutes after that until she fell asleep, thumb in mouth, all by herself in her very own big girl crib. Then I poured a glass of wine and called my family.

And I think, this is how it's supposed to be: the intermingled pain and joy of life. 

14 comments:

  1. What a lovely post Devon. I've been round lots of pet shop fish departments too, they never fail to entertain. I know what you mean about that baby smell. And is there anything sweeter than a sleeping baby. Oh it's such a wonderful time. CJ xx

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    1. I really enjoy watching fish too. Although cleaning their tank and trying to remedy their numerous ailments is another story. This time as a new mother really is such a wonderful time. I write all of this down hoping I will be able to come back to it in some way someday.

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  2. The days are long but the years are short. Enjoy ever minute guys !

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    1. Thanks Todd! You've always made parenting seem so awesome!

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  3. My son is due in November. Any sleep tips you can provide? I love your stories and what you share here!

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    1. Congrats! What an exciting time for you! The holidays will be a nice time to be snuggling in with your new family member!

      Oy, sleep tips. I don't want to give too specific of advice because everyone and every baby is different (people tell me this over and over too so I kind of hate saying it because sometimes it's just like I know, obviously), but I did read this book Bringing Up Bebe about French parenting approaches back when I was a nanny and the chapter on sleep in that book gave me some of the basic principles we’ve tried to use with Avalon. It talks about waiting to get the baby a little, even from an early age, to see if they will connect sleep cycles on their own. I've never let Avalon fuss for very long, especially in the early days, but I think this waiting allowed her to figure out how to sleep better and find her thumb (or who knows, maybe she would have done it anyways). Lately I’ve just been making more of an effort to allow her to figure out how to go to sleep completely on her own which has caused some crying sometimes, but she seems to be figuring it out and going back to sleep on her own more now. We’ll see though, hopefully I didn’t just jinx it.

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  4. How sweet! You're an awesome mama!

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  5. A book. You should write a book! Or just publish your blog. Because it's amazing!

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    1. Thank you Megan. That is the sweetest encouragement. I really appreciate it!

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  6. Love this so much. Your writing ALWAYS resonates with me.

    The first time Gracie slept in her crib, I sobbed like a baby. I felt so proud and so sad at the same time, and I wasn't even sure why. Also, we taught Gracie to put herself to sleep the same way, and it has worked so well for us.

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    1. I completely know what you mean. If Avalon hadn't actually become entirely too big for her bassinet, I probably would have kept her in it forever. As it was, I had her crib moved nearly next to our bed (her room is right next to ours) and had to inch it further away from me little by little each night until it was at the wall (only like 12 feet away).

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  7. I love the entire paragraph you wrote about your sweet girl filling the whole house. So sweetly written and SO true. Aiden will be ONE this week and I find myself just stopping and starting at him and holding him close. I want him to always be my baby, but I love watching him grow...it's so bittersweet.

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    1. I remember so distinctly how you were overdue with him this time last year and you went to the pumpkin patch. I can't believe it's been a year! I totally know what you mean about sort of mourning the loss of time that's past, but also loving the new phases you enter. Bitter sweet indeed.

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