First Birthday

Today, I woke up the mother of a baby. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up the mother of a toddler.

Munchkin hasn’t acted much like a baby in a while. Sure, much of his speech is still unintelligible, but he’s able to communicate clearly. Hungry. Tired. Sleepy. Want Cheerios, not chicken noodle soup. Want breast milk, not water. Give me the phone, I hear Grandma. He’s walking, if wobbly, and he’s feeding himself (and his hair) with a spoon.

There are just two things left that make him a baby: his age and being in the infant room at daycare. Tomorrow, one will change, and as a result, so will the other. Even though I see him every single day, I have no idea how this happened. I catch glimpses of myself in the mirror as I hold him, and there are times it still catches me off guard. Me, a mother? Responsible for a child? That I grew in my own body? Absurd.

And yet, the proof is in front of me. It’s all happened so fast, and sometimes it seems I can only tell by making comparisons. Photos of baby Munchkin a few months ago compared to the small boy in front of me. How I used to take an hour to fall asleep, and how now I’m so exhausted it takes minutes, if that.

So naturally today, Munchkin’s birthday eve, I’ve been checking in with the clock and making comparisons.

7:45 am

Today, I woke up and went to work.

A year ago today, I woke up and worked from home. I half-jokingly say my managers banished me from the office the week before—rightly so, as I’d reached my due date and a round of false labor, and though there were offers, nobody really wanted to wheel me to the hospital next door in our department’s shopping cart.

4:00 pm

Today, I discussed visuals for an eLearning with a colleague.

A year ago today, I sat in my midwife’s office getting my weekly check-up. I told her I’d just been to my chiropractor, where he’d given me an adjustment that he promised would have baby out within 24 hours. “I want baby to take all the time he needs to grow,” I said by way of explanation, “but I’m getting anxious to meet him.”

9:15 pm

Today, I walked through the grocery store holding a hungry 19-pounder who kept pulling my shirt down to nurse.

A year ago today, I had a feeling that the contractions I’d had for half an hour were different from false labor. Not wanting to get my hopes up, all I told my husband and sister was that I was having contractions again. “Just in case it is real this time, I’m going to bed. If it’s real, I’ll need the rest.” They stayed up and watched TV.

10:15 pm

Today, I read a story to my son as he stood in his crib. When he got tired of the story, he pivoted to face the side of his crib and pushed the button on his mobile for Mozart, his favorite track.

A year ago today, my baby scooted down, down, down in my belly. I slept, not knowing the contractions were getting closer and stronger, or that in just two short hours, they’d be 5 minutes apart and strong enough to wake me up.

A year ago today, I woke up a pregnant woman, wondering when she’d meet her baby.

Today, I woke up a mother of an infant, listening over the monitor for fusses and coughs.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up the mother of a toddler and wonder how it all happened so fast.

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Skills

Life with a newborn requires a whole different set of skills from life without a newborn. Or life without children, for that matter. In the last 7 weeks, I’ve developed many but am still somewhat lacking. For the sake of sanity, this list-maker is taking an assessment. You’re welcome to come along and laugh because let’s be honest. Some of this is ridiculous.

What I Can Do Now:

  • Eat with one hand while the baby nurses.
  • …While dropping a minimum of crumbs on my child’s head. This one took practice. Sorry, Mac.
  • Fall asleep quickly in the middle of the night.
  • Do laundry multiple times a week without complaint. Cloth diapers, here we come!
  • Handle bodily fluid without batting an eye. Cuddle time in the morning turns into spit-up clean-up? No problem.
  • Take a shower in less time than the baby needs for his morning nap. This might be my biggest accomplishment, guys.

What I Haven’t Figured Out How To Do:

  • Brush my teeth with one hand while putting on lotion with the other. (I can do the whole pat-your-leg-with-one-hand-and-rub-it-with-the-other thing, but this? Not happening.) (Is that a real thing or was it just my family?)
  • Write a coherent text free of errors with one hand. Thank goodness my best text buddy knows what I really mean.
  • Send out thank-you notes in any reasonable amount of time.
  • Summon the willpower and energy to brush my teeth at night more than once or twice a week. Guess I’m signing up for dental insurance.
  • Find a daycare whose inspection reports aren’t scary. Parent forgot to sign out their kid? Fine. Not enough food for children? Employees without proof of background check? So not fine.
  • Snapchat something other than the baby or the dog. They’re so damn cute.

Any other parents have similar stories? Suggestions on skills I should be developing or tips for the ones I haven’t managed yet?

37

Photo credit: Tom Magliery

Photo credit: Tom Magliery

37. That’s how many weeks pregnant you have to be to be considered full-term. That’s how many weeks pregnant I am.

HOLY. CRAP. I am a full-term pregnant woman. That means:

  • If I were to go into labor today, it would not be automatic cause for concern. It’s cool, yo.
  • If my baby were born today, chances are very slim he’d need the NICU or any special care. He’d basically be fully cooked.
  • Between now and the day he does show up, all that’s really happening is he’s accumulating more baby chub and his lungs are getting stronger. Break out the earplugs, folks.
  • This is the last milestone before his actual birth.

Whoa.

People keep asking how I’m doing and if I’m ready. Can you ever truly be ready for the birth of a child? There are plenty of items to check off a list – supplements to take, classes to attend, a bazillion items to choose from – but that’s all a bit misleading. You can do everything but I doubt it will prepare me for the pure awesomeness of the moment. How are you supposed to feel ready to see your child for the first time? To give yourself over to a being of your own creation who is utterly dependent on you? To count the fingers and toes and know that your body incredibly, amazingly, created every cell from scratch as you were grocery shopping, checking Facebook, going about the mundane tasks of life?

That’s why my answer is always simply, “As ready as I can be.”

Non-parents typically get a flash of terror in their eyes, like they can’t believe someone would make this choice when they don’t feel ready. Experienced parents usually laugh and say that’s all you can do.

Time is slipping away to finish off the checklists and see friends without arranging for a sitter. Technically, pregnancy is 40 weeks, so I have a few more weeks until my estimated due date. But discovering this morning that baby is now medically full-term (thanks, Zero to Forty) has put things in a whole new perspective.

37. The countdown is on.