Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How I Learned To Love More

I've always believed myself to be a person with an open heart, a person who knows how to love.  I know that this early confidence in my capacity to love came from my parents.  In particular, my mother, who is the most empathetic and caring person I've ever met.  She encouraged me to have patience with strangers who were frustrating, to imagine what kind of situation they might be going through and to cut people slack.  In general, she is a major proponent of patience with one another.  Patience and forgiveness.

As I've grown, I have seen that other people have added to my mother's lessons on loving.  I don't know that I could learn lessons from others without the foundation my parents gave to me.

My wife has added so much love into my life.  She is an incredible source of joy for me.  She taught me that not everyone was raised the same way or thinks similarly to me.  T has opened new places in my heart that I didn't even know existed.  My love for T flickered into being one day, and each day the fire has grown stronger and more stable.

But... nobody could have really prepared me for the love that was headed my way when our daughter made her way into this world.  Every day, I feel more amazed and more thankful for having E in our lives.  The feeling of her cheek on mine, her peach-soft little baby cheek, is infinite.  The scent of her hair, the feel of her fuzzy brown blanket under my fingertips, the feeling as her toes grip my fingertips - these are all points of wonder in my life.  I miss her when I'm gone; I imagine what she and T are up to; I think about her smiling and cooing and windmilling her arms and kicking her chubby baby legs.

After the birth of our daughter, some things happened that have... further opened my eyes, I guess.

A couple that I know (okay, I don't *know* them, I've never met them or talked to them but I read their blog and my heart knows them) in Canada just lost their three and a half year old daughter to a fatal brain tumor, which wrapped itself around her brainstem and slowly robbed her of all her faculties.  Stella passed away yesterday, after living many months longer than any doctor guessed she possibly could.  Stella has impacted me.  Like E, Stella also had two moms.  Stella left behind her two moms and two baby brothers, and a legion of people who followed her story and will miss her shining spirit.  My wife never has really understood why I insisted on following along with Stella's life and death - and to a large extent, I can't explain it either, except that I HAD TO.  It hurt; I cried often while reading their blogs.  I thought about what it would be to lose E, after only knowing her for such a short time.  I thought about what they were feeling, what they were going through.  My heart was in my throat each time I checked with their website the past week, both dreading and hoping that Stella was finally gone and free of the constraints this world laid upon her tiny body.

Stella taught me that there is magic in the world.  I knew there was... but there just isn't anything that illustrates magic better than a three year old discovering something for the very first time.  Every drop of rain, each rainbow that stretches over the sky, every time you feel the warmth of the sun on your face - it's all a gift.  Nothing is a given.

Stella represents innocence and hope and love and family and frailty.  As painful as it was to follow, as heart-wrenching as it was to bear witness to, Stella's family and their journey together taught me how to really love myself.  How to love my family.  My wife.  My daughter.  My friends.

Love wholly.  Love selflessly.  Love without abandon.  Love immediately.

This is how I want to live.  Like Stella lived.

Already, E is seven and a half weeks old.  The beginning of her life is flashing by, and I hate the idea of losing a single day.  Even a day where she screams and is miserable and life seems terrible... even that day, I wouldn't want to lose.  It feels like in a few weeks I'm going to be teaching her to drive and we're going to go shopping for prom dresses and then she's going to move out of state to go to college.  I cannot fathom losing her, not now, not in three years, not ever.  I hope that if some horrific tragedy were ever to strike our family, that we could handle it with half the grace and bravery that Stella's moms did - but I hope that nothing like that will happen.

Don't you think the world would be a better place if we all just loved one another a little easier?  A little more?  Forgave a little quicker?

I do.  Stella would have.

Back in Black

Well, today was my third day back at work. I decided to go back two weeks earlier than planned for 10 hours a week.  After that I will try to stay at 30 hours a week for two weeks, before I'm back full time.

So far I think I made the right choice, even if I'm back sooner than I wanted. I'm finding it really hard to get back in the swing of things, so I'm glad to be going back gradually.  I feel like there are so many little things I have to catch up on to be able to get things done, but every time I get to work about 5 more things are added to my To-Do list (and they all have to be done THAT day so they move to the top of my list!).

E has been coming with me, which is interesting.  The biggest problem is that she has an easier time napping in the morning if I take her for a walk and the walk from the car to my office isn't long enough.  So she just wants to nurse and nurse and nurse because she can't sleep. And then she throws it all up on me. So, that's fun. Today she wouldn't sleep for more than 20 minutes (and that was the drive to the Mom & Baby group at the Birth Center). She finally had a meltdown and fell asleep around 3pm (you know, 5 hours after she normally takes her first nap).

Thursday will be the first big chunk of time we are apart. Last week A picked her up at 3pm and I got home at 5:30pm.  That wasn't too bad, but I kept worrying that I had left her somewhere (I had a dream I left her in the car and then my car was stolen). This time it will be from 3pm-8pm.  I'm mostly worried about what will happen if she decides she doesn't want to take the bottle. Poor A. Then next Friday and Saturday will be long days at work because it will be my first show back.  I think A will bring her to campus so I can feed her at least once during the day and I'll just pump a lot the rest of the day.

Speaking of that, I'm currently finding breastfeeding to be annoying. I believe that it is the right choice and am going to do everything in my power to keep doing it for at least her first year and probably more, but I definitely think the whole cheaper and more convenient thing only applies if you are a stay at home mom. I am so hungry all the time! The extra food I eat probably costs as much as formula! Plus the cost of the pump and maternity clothes. Now that I'm going back to work we will have to deal with washing bottles again, too. Where I appreciate that she gets comfort from nursing, I worry about how she will handle it when that isn't an option. She definitely doesn't get comfort from the bottle, if she'll even take it.  I know that everyone goes through this to some extent, I can't be with her 24/7, but it is still stressful. Even with my minor annoyance, breastfeeding is going well.

I guess I'll reward you for reading my rambly, whiny blog with some pictures! I know that is the real reason you read along =)
Eating at our Centering reunion

Smiles for Mama

On a date with her new boyfriend!

Just chillin'

Bashful smiles

I feel like we should expect to see this look often in her teenage years

Unfortunately, this is the best photo from our trip to the pumpkin patch

Sleepy little owl

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

The days keep pounding by, in spite of my attempts to pin them down and make them last a bit longer.

E is six weeks old this week and I can barely believe it.  Some mornings I wake up with her snuggled into bed between us and it still is shocking that she's here.  Other times, I find myself wondering what life really was before she came to us, because it feels like she has been around forever.

Despite my working WAY TOO MUCH the past two weeks, I am in love with my life.  All the things I've dreamed of since I was a kid are becoming a reality for me.  I have an incredible, loving, patient, joyful partner in life who gave me a daughter.  A daughter who is more than I could have ever hoped for.  My new little family is just fantastic.  I am in awe every day.  Our future together shines brightly, and I'm basking in the glow of deep happiness.

E continues to grow and change, and we're loving watching her become something new every day.  There are plenty of challenges parenting her, but I would never trade the difficulties.  For every challenge, there is at least double that amount of joy.  It is a continuation of the extremely odd way time passed during T's pregnancy - each day that passes, I am thrilled for what's coming next, but I also mourn the loss of another day gone by.  I knew there was a chance that T may never be pregnant again and I wanted to cherish every day of hers with E.  I hated the idea of wishing time away, but my desire to meet our daughter grew stronger every day.  Then E was born.  Now, I know every day brings us closer to her being a toddler, and then a kid, and then a teen, and then an adult.  I look forward to every stage, but I do not wish time to go faster because then I'll lose my little baby even quicker than I already am.

E knows our voices.  She watches us intently, following us with her eyes and her head.  She has alarmingly great head and neck control for a six week old, and spends a lot of time keeping track of the world around her.  She has begun smiling at us - small grins, cheeky smirks, big gummy smiles of amazement.  Her face is so expressive, I swear I can tell what she's thinking sometimes.  She sleeps a lot less now and spends more time demanding to be entertained.  E loves going outside and feeling the sun and the breeze on her skin.  She enjoys being held by many different people, since we all look new to her!  She loves getting out of the house and socializing, especially with other babies.  It seems like she's thinking about maybe trying to roll over.  We'll see.  I know it's going to be sooner rather than later!  I swear, this kid must have a driver's license hidden in her diaper somewhere, she's growing up too fast!

Before E arrived, I wondered what she would think of me.  I wondered if I'd be able to love her as much as my mom loves me and my brother.  I wondered if she would think of me as an impostor.

I don't wonder about those things anymore.  I don't really believe they're relevant after all.  I do know that I love this child more than I thought could be possible or true.  I feel connected to her in a way that doesn't matter if it's based in genetics or not.  It's based in love and comfort and commitment to one another.  I believe she and I love one another.  I believe she knows that I'm her mama, and she knows I'm half of her parenting team.  She'll tell me more as she grows up, I'm sure!

For now, for today, contentment is the name of the game.  I'm thrilled to see E grow.  I'm so glad to have the people in my life that I do.  I'm thankful for our families and the level of support they have provided us as we start this new journey.

I really could not ask for anything more or better.  I'm living my life one sunset, one sunrise at a time - and loving it.

P.S. I promise that going forward, we'll try to be MUCH better about posting more regularly!  Things are about to settle into a more regular routine.  We love you all; thank you for following along with us.

Happy 1 month birthday! 

One of E's first smiles!

Playing with Mom

Hiking in Sabino Canyon

Dozing in the carrier

Hiking with Mama 

With Pops and Gran

Giving out some smiles!