I'm up this morning for a good cause: my new Cuisine at Home has a recipe for monkey bread made with tiny little cinnamon rolls, and we're going to have it for brunch with my parents and two youngest siblings, who are in town. I'm sure it will be transcendentally delicious, but the hour at which I had to pull myself out of bed this morning in order to get things going for it... well, that was not so transcendental.
Currently the caramel sauce is simmering on the stove as per the recipe's instructions, the Billa is still sleeping in our bed, and all is peaceful and beautiful. I've set this to autopost in fifteen minutes, so if it's posted with an abrupt ending, it's because things have gone awry at the other end of the baby monitor and I have had to remove myself from my beloved laptop's
I have about a dozen posts brewing but my mind is blank currently. Since my baby is an owl who usually sleeps until nine, I am nonplussed by this dawn-time sunlight. It is something I vaguely remember from pre-college days. High school days started at some ungodly hour like 4:14am, so I must have been catching some sunrises in there, right? Perhaps I got up this early when I had a job outside the home?
(Lest you mentally brand me the World's Laziest Person, know that I am exaggerating. 7:30 is not really an early-rising time for me, although my baby *does* regularly sleep until 9:00 and I take full advantage of that fact.)
But speaking of jobs outside the home, you all must read this post by the lovely, intelligent, and articulate CJ. Even if it is the only thing you read this week. I am surprised that my head is still attached, frankly, considering how many times I bobbed it up and down in enthusiastic agreement while I was reading CJ's post.
My time is ticking, I hear stirrings from the infant in the bedroom, and the sauce is making suspiciously boiling-over-like noises on the stove. I'm off.
I leave you with this piece of art* I took just now. I call it Bleary Eyes with Baby Shoes.
*Mayn't I call it art? Photography can be art, you know. What's that? Pictures snapped with Photobooth and entirely unedited don't count as art? Sez you. Philistines.
Bryan and Camilla and I are currently whooping it up in another state with some of my delightful relatives. (This is set to autopost.)
I've finally figured out how to upload from the video camera, and gotten myself a YouTube account. All the cool kids have one, and I'll never be a cool kid but I'll do what they do if it means I get to share videos of the world's sweetest Muffin.
Click here to see it.
(You don't expect me to figure out how to upload and embed all in one week, do you? One thing at a time is all I can manage.)
Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
Life goes by so freaking quickly with a baby. I'm admiring all the new sounds she's picked up ("da" and "ba" and an adorable little "hhh-t") and I'm convincing myself that when she says "da-da-da-da" and looks at her daddy it's because she knows the word "Daddy" (hint: yeah, right). I'm talking to her in that big animated voice that almost always gets her to talk back, and I'm meditating upon the fact that my daughter is clearly a genius because she learned all these new sounds in about thirty-six hours.
And somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice says, "Shouldn't you be writing this down?"
I've been blogging for two-and-a-half years now. I started when we'd been trying to conceive for just over a year. I'd discovered infertility blogs online (thanks to some random Googling I did while researching a report on contraception for my Moral Theology course, interestingly enough) and I was feeling tortured about our own fourteen fruitless months of no-baby-on-the-way. The blogs seemed to be a good way for their writers to work through it all, and I thought - hey, maybe that would work for me!
So I started writing it down: the pain, the panic, the peaceful moments. The whole caboodle.
One delightful surprise of a pregnancy, one birth, and six months of motherhood later, here I am. And, honestly, many days I forget all about what that whole caboodle was like. How could I not forget, with this face to look at all day?
I used to ponder the meaning of things but now I focus on the details of life with a baby. How can we get her to take a bottle again so we can go out to dinner without her once in a while? Are we being too frugal if we finish our current box of size two diapers before buying some size threes, even though the size twos are clearly too small? Where is her hairbrush? Has a tooth popped through yet? Are any of her nighttime sleepers clean?
And those details crowd out the little voice that reminds me that this blog is here, clamoring for attention.
Writing about infertility helped me tremendously during a tumultuous time, and when I started getting more readers I was gratified and touched to hear that my writing helped them, too. Even now I occasionally get an email from someone going through infertility who has discovered my archives, and - call me sentimental or egotistical - I'm not going to take my archives down as long as there's still a chance of them helping someone.
The childless part of my life is over, and this blog is still here.
Suffering makes for a more fruitful writing life, and the converse is true as well. Meanwhile, I am busy kissing my baby's cheeks and blowing raspberries on her belly (we called it "blubbering" the belly when I was growing up) in order to make her laugh, so I can hear the absolutely enchanting sound of her surprisingly low-pitched chuckle. I'm busy enjoying the little things with her, like taking a bath, where she smacks the water with her hands and holds lengthy conversations with it. (Yes, with the water. Either that or she's talking to my knees.)
But on the other hand, I want to write about it. I love the community of the blogging world (thus the 80 subscriptions in my Google Reader) and I wouldn't want to give that up, but the number one reason that I keep writing is that five years from now, I know I'll be glad I did. Time with a baby is precious and fast-moving, and there are so many things I'm not going to remember unless I record them. So many things I'm not going to remember anyway, but I'm really going to be in trouble if I don't record anything. And this is the way I'm best motivated to do it. (Did I mention we don't yet have a baby book for Milla? I do want to get one... but I haven't gotten around to it yet.)
I'm caught up in the ways she's changing and sometimes I'm surprised to realize that I've forgotten things which were a part of my daily reality just weeks ago. I've forgotten that I used to have to spend several hours a day on my feet with Milla because she was so fussy. I've forgotten that a night where I could get Milla back to sleep by nursing her instead of having to get out of bed with her used to be considered a fantastic night. I've forgotten that she didn't used to laugh, didn't always love to look at herself in a mirror. I've forgotten that she couldn't always hold a toy and chew on it, or sit in her exersaucer without slumping over. I've forgotten that she used to hate tummy time.
And she's only six months old! Imagine what I will have forgotten by the time she's three.
The friends I made on the Internet - all of you - were a huge solace to me during the years we waited for Milla. Now that she's here, I feel like you have a share in her. You rejoiced with me when we discovered she was on the way, you commiserated with me when her tiny presence was making me feel like death warmed over, you helped me prepare for her arrival, you got excited about her arrival, and you said millions of wonderful things about her the whole way through. When she's older I'll tell her what a lucky baby she was, how she had so many people waiting for her and praying for her and wishing her well, and what a blessing that was and is.
I want to write because I want to share her.
The details of life keep rushing at us, and always will. I used to sit down and write a post in an hour or two, but now it takes me days. Because of this I write less, and sometimes there is more than a week between posts. I've got things to do, you know. Those delicious baby cheeks won't kiss themselves.
But I'll always be back, never fear. WE will always be back.
I believe that suffering has meaning. But it's one thing to believe something, and quite another to integrate that belief into your understanding and practice of your faith in your daily life.
During the thirty cycles we waited for Camilla's conception, I was forced to confront the truth about suffering in a way I'd never done before. I hashed it out with God on a near-daily basis, and I was blessed in the hashing: He gave me, over and over again, the peace for which I was searching. And while in the waiting I never gained a concrete understanding of the purpose for the wait, I somehow received the assurance that - whether I ever became a mother in this lifetime - there was a purpose for what I was going through, and I would understand it some day. It was quite a blessing, that assurance.
Then came a new blessing. The "Why me, God?" filled with bewilderment and tears of pain became a "Why me?" filled with wonder and tears of joy. I'd been bringing my whys to the altar on a regular basis, but with the advent of Camilla's existence I had nothing to mourn, nothing to wrestle with, for the first time in a long time. My near-constant meditation on the meaning of suffering all but ceased.
But this is Holy Week. What better time to revisit the theme of suffering?
For a couple years now Bryan and I have had a practice of reading the account of the Passion from a different Gospel each night during Holy Week. It's a good way for us to meditate on the sorrowful mysteries (we begin at the agony in the garden and read until Jesus is laid in the tomb), and a good way to mentally prepare for the Triduum. Last year during Holy Week the joy of my pregnancy was too new for me to be able to find much sorrow in the readings, but this year the sorrow is sinking in again. Every night we read, it hits me a little more strongly.
During our wait the agony in the garden was a powerful meditation for me. "Not my will but thine be done" - I felt called to make those words my own. It was a call to unite myself to Christ weeping in the garden, to realize that surrendering my will to my Father's was not just virtuous, but absolutely crucial.
I worked to achieve that surrender in regard to our wait for a child, and failed more often than I succeeded. God granted my prayer anyway. Jesus in his human will worked to achieve surrender to the divine will, and succeeded perfectly because he was the Son of God. The next day he was crucified and died as punishment for sins past, present, and future, none of which he had committed.
By our ideas of justice this is ludicrous. But it happened, and in the light of Easter we know that the incredible tragedy of Christ's violent death is the greatest blessing ever given to mankind. And it challenges every common assumption about what it means to live, to live well, to live gloriously.
He said, "Take up your CROSS and follow me." So I put on my necklace with the tiny gold cross, I hang a crucifix on my wall, and I make the sign of the cross before praying. His cross was huge and back-breaking; mine are unobtrusive and never painful, but the difference is incidental, right? I've got the cross; I've marked myself as a Christian; I'm doing what he asked.
Or maybe I'm reading that sentence with the wrong emphasis. Perhaps it should be "Take up YOUR cross and follow me." My cross isn't a couple of heavy, splintery beams, neither is it anything in the shape of two intersecting lines. It's daily opportunities to swallow my pride, work on my patience, and serve those around me. It's a baby fussing at 4am, a sink full of dirty dishes, a pile of laundry on the basement floor. And for two-and-a-half years it was discovering once again, month by month, that things hoped-for had not come to fruition.
During those two-and-a-half years I prayed more often for relief than for understanding, but I knew that someday I would understand. I imagined this day would be far in the future, probably after my life on earth was over. Yet during this Holy Week, when I confront once again the awful glory of what happened to that Jewish carpenter all those years ago - and what it meant for the rest of us - I see the value of every one of those monthly disappointments. And, wonder of wonders, I thank God for them. While they were going on I was barely able to imagine ever doing so, and the weaker parts of me know that this thankfulness comes much more easily because the answer to my disappointments is currently chewing her fists in my lap. Fortunately, the unworthiness of a recipient of grace does not make the grace itself any less stunning; in fact, I think the opposite is true. (Neither do the flaws of a meditation make its subject any less worthy, although sadly I don't think the opposite is true there.)
Whether your own current crosses are heavy or light, I wish you all a blessed and fruitful Triduum.
Joking aside, I do think I gave a little bit of a mistaken impression of how much we hold Camilla. Yes, we hold her the large majority of the time, but we also put her down. We would not currently be in possession of one bouncy seat, one rocking seat, one portable swing, one cradle swing, and one exersaucer (disclaimer: two were gifts, two are on loan) if we did not believe in putting her down.
And she doesn't cry every time we put her down. To the contrary, she's actually getting better at being put down. I give her ample tummy time every day, and she'll happily spend short periods in a chair or the exersaucer watching me cook or type or whatever. It's not being put down that upsets her - it's having me (or Bryan) leave her sight that upsets her the most. Last night Bryan was changing her diaper and I walked from the changing table to the other side of the room - staying within her sight the entire time, even - and she started crying like it was the end of the world. If this was permanent, it would be insane, but since it's temporary, it's totally manageable.
I find it interesting that many people seem to have the idea that holding a baby too much, responding to her needs too quickly, is a bad thing. And when I say I find it interesting I'm not being passive-aggressive and meaning that I find it crazy; I really do find it interesting - and completely understandable, considering I used to have that idea myself.
But now I've been a mother of a fairly high-needs baby for almost six months, and the more I see the more I am convinced that people think we have way more control over how our babies act than we actually do. Discipline is certainly possible with toddlers and older children who have powers of reasoning and the ability to act willfully. But with babies - who, as far as I can see, respond to stimuli rather than acting willfully - it just doesn't seem to me that we have that much control over their wants and needs, or over the way that they express them.
For example, when Camilla was in the three- to four-month-old range, the only way we could consistently get her to go to sleep was by putting her in the sling and bouncing her. I had a conversation with my sister at about that time where she (who hasn't used a sling with Daniel) expressed dubiousness about the sling. She could see how it was a boon to us to have such a dependable way to calm Milla down, but she wasn't sure she'd ever want to use a sling herself if it meant her baby would "learn" to go to sleep only in the sling. And while I myself was grateful to have the sling as a surefire baby-calming method - before we had it, there was no surefire way to make Milla stop crying - I accepted my sister's premise because it did seem like we'd taught Milla to need the sling, and it seemed like she'd continue to need it for a long time.
But a month later Milla started needing the sling less and less, and another month later I've got a whole bag of tricks that will get her to sleep more often than not. I can put her in her swing and sit by her and sing, I can hold her in my arms and bounce her, I can put her in a sling or the Ergo, I can nurse her, or I can take her for a walk in her stroller. All of these things will work more often than not. Her need for the sling has gone.
We didn't make any effort to wean her from the sling; it just happened. And we'll never know whether she's easier to calm now because we had such a dependable way to do it when she was younger or, conversely, whether all the methods we use now would have started working earlier if we hadn't been using the sling all the time. Frankly, I don't care. But the point is that I thought we'd taught Milla, by treating her a certain way, to always need that treatment - and it turned out to be completely untrue.
Because of this, I'm resistant to the idea that by holding Camilla a lot and responding to her needs "too" quickly, we've "trained" her to expect us to hold her and respond to her immediately. I'm also resistant to it because the evidence suggests otherwise: a while ago, after months of constant attention, she started needing less attention, so we started giving her (a little) less. Then she started wanting more attention again. If it's true that more attention makes a needier child, it should have happened the other way around.
But regardless of why Milla is clingy, the fact remains that she is, and we have to deal with it. I'm okay with dealing with it by letting her fuss a little when I need a few moments to finish a task, if she's clearly annoyed rather than scared and I'm within sight. I'm also continuing to try putting her down and leaving her sight momentarily - while using my voice to maintain contact - so that she'll maybe get used to the idea that I always come back. I'm not okay, however, with letting her cry if she sounds at all scared to me, or with letting her cry if she can't see me, for longer than the moment it takes me to wash my hands or whatever I have to do.
I do understand that it's necessary to let her gain some independence, but as long as her motor development and social development are on target, I don't see a problem with having her in my arms the large majority of the time. Granted, I'm not an attachment expert, but I want my baby to be happy and secure in her environment, and my instincts tell me that holding her is a good way to advance that cause.
I'd love to hear thoughts on this.