Tonight, Chris and I went to a wedding of a former colleague friend of mine. When I originally got the invitation late last year, I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to go. This colleague was a good friend of mine while I was at my former company. But ever since I had left this company, we really hadn’t spoken much at all other than a few texts here and there. I saw her just once last October. So I was actually surprised to have gotten an invitation. But Chris just said that we should go for the food and drink. We hadn’t been to a wedding since before the pandemic, so why not go? After ensuring that a friend that I actually still keep in contact with from this company was going as well, I reluctantly decided to RSVP yes. That friend ended up bailing out last minute because she tested positive for COVID the day before. Ugh, just great.
Well, we went to the wedding tonight, and it reminded me of all of the things that I hated about my last company. Don’t get me wrong: the wedding was beautiful. It was really well done. I enjoyed the fact that both the bride and groom wrote their own vows. I thought that the best man speech was really heartfelt and sweet. The food was amazing, particularly at cocktail hour when there were multiple food stations and endless hors d’oeuvres being served. There was an open bar, which of course made Chris happy. But I was reminded of things like… The bro culture with a number of white guys in the New York office. And some of the prissy, gossipy, dramatic women who used to be in that office who unfortunately were also in attendance. And some of the HR bullshit that I had to deal with while I was there… Like the one person who tried to report me to HR because I told her that she needed to lower her voice while on a call in the middle of the floor because the rest of us were on our own calls, and her voice was carrying. She actually was invited to this wedding to my disgust. Back then, she apparently got really upset and told HR that my tone of voice was very rude and unprofessional. And if you can believe it or not, HR told my manager and asked my manager to talk to me about it. Yes, that’s the kind of ridiculous bullshit that is a high school like that I had to deal with at my last company. And you can bet that I absolutely did not speak with this person at the wedding or even make eye contact with her. This is definitely the last time I ever go to a wedding where I know that there’s going to be a lot of ex-colleagues who are going to be there.
And what made this even worse is that the babysitter that we hired was a complete moron. And I think that our baby got the sense that she was terrible because she was crying and screaming nonstop when we left. I should’ve taken that to mean something. This babysitter put our baby to sleep in her bassinet without her swaddled as I requested, and she even left a bib on her. You never, ever leave a bib on a baby when she goes to sleep. That is considered unsafe sleep because the baby could potentially get strangled! Plus, the swaddle blanket was just hanging on the bassinet above her! The babysitter apparently told us that pretty much all of the time when she was not eating and awake, she was crying. My baby hated this person. And this person left a bunch of her trash on my kitchen counter and a bunch of her food bits all over my sink. She also left food stains on our dining table. When we got home, our baby was in her bassinet sleeping, and the babysitter was on her phone on our couch. She didn’t even bother cleaning her trash before she left.
This is why people prefer to have trusted family and friends babysit. Because you wouldn’t have to deal with shit like this. Or, they just don’t go out at all once they have a baby.
I grew up having the utmost respect for working moms, as in, moms who not only take care of the house and kids but also have a paid job outside the home. My mom instilled in me from a really young age that I needed to stand on my own two feet and not depend on a man for money, that it didn’t matter how much money my future husband would make because if he left me, or God forbid, died, I’d be left with nothing or little and would need to rebuild whatever career I would have left. And there’s actually data to prove this: women who leave the workforce to care for their children and return a few years later re-enter at a lower position, lower salary, and have to work *that* much harder to get back to where they left off, if they are even lucky enough to get back there. I also heard a lot of negative comments from other kids or moms against “working moms” — working moms supposedly don’t care or aren’t as invested in their children as stay-at-home moms; working moms only think about their own careers and not raising their children. There are certainly flipped arguments here that you could use against stay-at-home moms, but either way, I heard more disparaging comments about working moms growing up. And what is not even in any of these debates is… what about “working dads” or the rare stay-at-home dad? Why don’t dads ever pit themselves against each other in these regards? Moms of all types have to argue with each other and prove who is the best. It’s so tiring.
But it goes without saying that in this generation, it’s a privilege to even *think* about being a stay-at-home parent. For most of us who live in major metropolitan areas with a high cost of living, it’s pretty much untenable to NOT have both parents working. Childcare is expensive regardless of whether it’s a daycare center or a nanny. Unless you have nearby grandparents or a very loving and selfless relative nearby who wants to help for free, there’s no getting around high childcare expenses. And being a mom now, I have thought a lot more about what life would be like from a stay-at-home mom’s standpoint, and I’ve actually learned to really admire them. For those moms who had a budding or happy career or job, they chose the selfless path to play the primary role in child-rearing and gave up their careers for their children. They felt they could be the best caregiver there was for their child, and so they pushed money and “status” aside to do that. They wanted to be there for their children’s “firsts” and be there for all the moments their babies needed encouragement and love immediately. They made that decision believing it was the best choice for their child and family, and so they became a different type of “working mom” — the working mom who works full time and gets paid zero dollars to help their child grow and flourish.
Our world we live in has little to no respect for caregivers, whether they are for the very young or the very old. We devalue childcare and elderly care. But why do we do this when our babies will eventually become the people running the world in the next couple decades, or when the elderly have given their all to society when they were in their prime?
My baby has slowly but surely been improving on her motor skills. She has been trying to grab and hold things for quite a while, but she has still not quite mastered it yet. She is certainly making progress each day, though. This week, I was using her grape teether which has a stem on it to put into her mouth to soothe her gums, which I knew were bothering her from pre-teething. She actually held the stem with a strong grip and started moving the grape teether around. She held the grape teether out quite far from her and just stared at it for a while, as though marveling at the fact that she had finally learned to hold and grasp something strongly. And then, as though to see if she was capable of doing this, she slowly moved the teether from one hand to the next hand. And then with the second hand, she held the grape up and just stared at it for a while with wide eyes. It was the cutest and sweetest thing to witness.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to teach her how to hold things. I open her palm and rub the base of it with my finger to get her to keep it open. Then, I wrap her fingers around an object, and then move her hand around so that she can get used to what it feels like to open her hand, close her hand, and then wrap her fingers around something with a firm grip. I was reading about baby development, and these types of activities help to strengthen their muscle memory. Even if they are not doing it themselves, just the mere feeling of their hands opening and closing, even if you are doing it for them, teaches them what it feels like if they were to do it themselves. I have also been doing the same with trying to teach her to roll over fully. She is almost there, but not quite. I think she needs to do more tummy time to get a stronger core in order to fully complete the roll.
I never thought that I would be so fascinated with baby development. But here I am, completely absorbed in each of the skills that my baby is learning to do. If you think about it, it’s really just about learning to appreciate the little things in life. Every day, we hold things, we touch things, and we’re all completely jaded and don’t think anything about it. It’s like breathing. What is there to think about for us as adults? But for a baby, to hold something for the very first time, just to feel a new texture on her fingertips or hands, is like a revelation. It’s literally learning what the rest of the world is like… At her fingertips.
I only have three more business days before I have to return to work. Granted, “returning to work“ just means getting on my computer in the second bedroom and being stuck in front of a screen all day, but it still means that I will have to work and not be in front of my daughter all day the way I’ve been used to. The last 20 weeks have flown by so quickly. It makes me sad that I have to go back to work and not spend every minute with her anymore, but I actually don’t feel as bad about it as I did a few weeks ago. I have come to accept it, especially since we just hired a nanny. My friend was right: she told me that I would get more comfortable with going back to work once we secured childcare. And that’s kind of what happened.
We have had a lot of visitors in the last week before I return to work. I had friends come over on Monday. A friend/former colleague came to visit us after work on Tuesday. I went out to lunch with a friend today and took the baby. On Friday, we also have a friend visiting who will meet the baby for the first time. I have also been very intentional about getting out of the apartment at least once a day with the baby, particularly when the weather is good. It’s what I originally wanted to do when it started warming up, but it’s just that there have been a lot of cold days, and I don’t really want her outside when it’s too cold. I want her to have some fresh air, even if it’s “fresh air” by city standards. She clearly hates the wind. Every time we have been on the roof and it has been windy, she makes this shuddering breathing sound that doesn’t sounds good.
I took her to a bakery on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we ate outdoors with my friend. Even the baby ate outdoors as I gave her a bottle while sitting outside. I am planning to take her to Central Park tomorrow, perhaps to Sheep’s Meadow for some fun time on the grass and among the cherry blossoms. A nanny that I interviewed told me that babies just need to take in every little thing, but that requires us to expose them to all of those little things. All of the things that we as adults take for granted, like staring up at a blue cloudless sky, hearing the rustling of the trees, birds chirping, and the sight of full blooms are all things that are brand new experiences to babies. It is up to us to expose them to all of these beautiful things. It was a good reminder to me. I am looking forward to seeing the baby’s reaction when I put her feet on grass for the first time. I want to be there to witness as many of her “firsts” as possible.
My mom called this afternoon to tell me that I needed to be careful with the nanny that we selected. Apparently, my dad has been fueling her fear of a non-family member taking care of our baby during the day by sharing stupid and ridiculous YouTube videos of babies getting kidnapped. The one that my dad showed her was of a mom who was unloading her car of groceries. She was running in between the car and the house and left her front door open. At some point, a stranger snuck into her house and grabbed her baby and left. Of course, this completely freaked out my mother and made her even more paranoid. My dad has an amazing talent of further instilling paranoia into my mother when she is already naturally paranoid and untrusting. It’s almost like he gets some sick thrill of scaring my mother even more than she already is. And when I have previously pointed this out to him, he pulls out his bullshit “what aboutisms,” which futilely attempts to divert the attention from him and immaturely tries to imply that whatever I do is worse. What-about-isms are one of the most immature responses because it refuses to accept the possibility of wrongdoing on one’s part. My dad has been doing this pretty much since I was a young child, so it’s nothing new to me.
Then, she suggests that my aunt had a suggestion. What she really means to say is, she has a suggestion but she wants to say that my aunt or my dad or my uncle or someone else she has spoken with suggested it so that it would come off as lighter to me. She says that my aunt suggested that Chris’s mother fly over and live with us until the baby was at least one so that a family member who actually genuinely cares could take care of the baby. Family is best, my mom said. “You can trust family to take care of your child. You cannot trust outside people to take care of your child.” She said that she would do it, but her arms and back are not strong enough; she could drop the baby, and that’s it!! So, she concluded, Chris’s mother would be good for this because she is able bodied.
While in some families, this would be normal, this is not going to happen here. Chris’s mother has never offered to do anything like that. They live all the way in Australia; that’s a 21-hour flight away!!! Does my mother ever use any real logic ever?? They are coming to visit in the summer, but it is exactly what it sounds like: it is a visit. They are not coming for the purpose of child rearing. I don’t even think that something that she is interested in. She is probably more interested in using our baby as a trophy to be able to tell everyone that she finally has a grandchild! She’s never given any indication of wanting to help with rearing her grandchildren, and that’s completely fine. Plus, she works. Not everyone has the luxurious life my mother does where she has all of these paychecks coming in and she doesn’t have to work. And my mother also ignores the fact that people from other countries cannot just fly over and stay here for unlimited amounts of time legally. She does not understand anything about this.
I tried to explain this to her, and of course, she just gets really defensive and angry and says that I am causing conflict. She says I am overreacting and raising my voice when she didn’t mean any harm. And her favorite thing to say of all time is: “you may have more education than me, but I have more wisdom.” Because that is so relevant in a stupid conversation like this.
If she really had more wisdom, she would not be getting paranoid and frantic over stupid ass YouTube videos that my dad shows her to freak her out and hate the world more.
This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post in the one IVF support groups that I stayed in. The person posting said that she had gone through a couple of egg retrievals and just one embryo transfer. That embryo transfer resulted in her getting pregnant and giving birth at 38 weeks. But… the baby was stillborn. There was no explanation for it. She had a smooth and straightforward pregnancy. There were zero signs of any dangers. Even during labor, everything looked normal, or so they said. She said that she was currently in therapy to process all of this, but she wanted to start thinking about next steps after her body healed.
She was debating whether she should move forward with the second frozen embryo or do another retrieval to bank more eggs. My heart ached when I read this post. It almost felt like she was someone I knew personally when I read this story. I felt so horrible and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. Just the mere thought of having to go through multiple IVF cycles and then being nearly at the finish line… with no baby to bring home just hurt so much. I kept on looking at my own baby. And all day today, I cuddled a little bit more with her, I kissed her a little more, and I held her a little bit tighter. I tell her every single day before bed how grateful I am to have her. She is my most incredible gift in life. There is not a moment when I don’t remember this. I always remember these sad stories and think…. That easily could have been me. But it wasn’t. I was blessed with a successful IVF experience and a healthy baby girl. Not everyone is so lucky and fortunate.
Each year in this country, about 24,000 babies are stillborn. This number has been consistent every year for over 20 years now, yet little additional research and study is being done to solve for this. Yet somehow, SIDS deaths get far more research money and attention even though the number of deaths resulting from SIDS is about 2,000 per year — that’s one TWELFTH of the babies affected by still birth. I don’t understand why not more is being done to prevent stillbirths. I just can’t even begin to fathom the pain of that loss… of taking an empty car seat home from the hospital.
Many weeks ago, I stopped nursing the baby before her bottle. Chris suggested it since it would make the feedings more efficient. And while it made me sad to stop, I knew that it was for the best. It would make the day smoother. She would get her main food faster. And I would nurse her only when she got fussy perhaps due to pre-teething or when she needed a little extra after a bottle feed. I was still technically breast-feeding her because I was still pumping as much milk as I could, but I just wasn’t having as much direct breast to mouth contact anymore. The main time that I would nurse her would be before bedtime for the night after her last feed, when she needed an “aperitif” as Chris calls it. I would put her on my boob until she was satisfied, whether that was from the extra milk or just being soothed from being on the breast. I look forward to this time every night when it’s just the two of us in the bedroom together, and she is on my boob and I am caressing her hair and her face and relishing these quiet moments of just the two of us together in the darkness and peace.
Although I will always be sad that I was never able to successfully nurse her exclusively, it will always make me smile when I think about how much she loves my boobs. In the morning when I get up and say good morning to her while she is in the bassinet for her morning nap after her first feed, I usually have the straps on my nursing top undone, so my breasts are exposed to get ready for my first morning pump. And it is the cutest and most hilarious thing when I poke my head into her bassinet to say good morning, and she immediately makes eye contact with me and smiles. And predictably, her eyes move down from my face directly to my breasts, and it’s like her eyes almost bulge out with excitement. Her mouth opens wide and she is just nearly jumping out of her skin. She starts kicking her legs and flailing her arms as though she is trying to say, get me on those boobies right now! She just loves the boobs. If she had it her way, she would be on my boob all day and all night. And this thought always makes me smile and feel happy. My baby loves me. My baby needs me. And even if she isn’t able to get her nourishment directly from my breast, she still loves spending time on my breast. She loves being with me. She is soothed from being on my boobs. And at this point in time, I have made peace with it. I am still her mother. I am still able to soothe and take care of her. I am still able to provide her food from my breasts, pumped into a bottle. And these are all amazing things. These are all things that I am constantly grateful for.
When I was chatting with another mom who was a night nurse reference, I told her that I was used to the house being spotless. I had a regular schedule when I would clean the bathroom, I would sweep the kitchen every week, I would clean the kitchen countertops at regular intervals. I liked everything exactly the way it was, which was super clean. I was very averse to dust and felt like I was constantly dusting. She laughed and told me that I was obviously a first time mother. “You need to learn to let go of all of those things,” she said. “When you are able to rest, you rest! Who cares if the shower has not been scrubbed in two weeks. You need to prioritize rest and sleep, otherwise you will never rest or sleep!”
Well, since the baby has arrived, this apartment has not been vacuumed even a single time. I have gathered dust bunnies and put them in the garbage. I have swept and dusted a number of times, but I have cleaned far, far less than I normally would. I still insist that our bathroom is cleaned every two weeks. I clean most of the bathroom, and Chris will clean the shower and the bathtub. I will be honest and say that his standard for cleaning the bathtub is much lower than mine, but hey, you can’t have everything perfect, otherwise you will end up doing everything your damn self. So I had to let go of this.
I have also been cleaning the mirrors less. I used to spray and wipe them down every month. Now, I have probably sprayed and wiped them down maybe three times in the last 19 weeks. And I only sprayed and wiped down the parts that I could reach. I did not do my usual thing before baby and actually get on top of the sink and toilet to get the top parts of the mirrors. Again, this is something that I learned to let go. And though I have done this, you know that I have not been as anal because there are streaks all over the mirrors. I absolutely hate streaks on mirrors. I used to proud myself on having streak-less mirrors, though I never shared that with anyone. What is the secret to having streak-less mirrors after cleaning? Well, the main secret is to use very very hot water while wiping them down after spraying and scrubbing. The hot water is very key. This allows all of the excess grime to be removed from the mirrors, and any streaks will just evaporate. Some people will use a half-and-half mixture of water and vinegar, but I never really found this necessary. Now, I care less about the streaks. All of our bathroom mirrors have streaks now. I hate it when I see it, but I have to learn to let go of some things clearly… so this is one of those things.
So yes, I am a first time mom. And I am gradually, gradually learning to let some of the cleanliness obsession go.
I went to visit my neighbor yesterday to drop off a few baby related things that were either brand new that I never got to use, as well as a few lightly used baby items. She is 37 weeks pregnant, also from IVF, and she is expecting her first, which is a girl. She is 40 years old, and her husband is 51. She told me that she is very well aware that even though she has two more embryos that are frozen, that those may not ever make it. So this could be her one and only child. She told me that even though she was excited to meet her baby soon, she was really sad that her pregnancy was ending. It wasn’t that she wanted her pregnancy to last forever, but time just passed way too quickly. She wanted to relish the little moments more and more. Similar to me, she had a very smooth and straightforward pregnancy after IVF. She has loved every moment of being pregnant and has been incredibly grateful that IVF worked out and that she was pregnant, though at a much later age than she had hoped. She and her husband had been trying for over eight years to conceive naturally, and it just never worked. It wasn’t until last year that they finally tried IVF.
I relate a lot to her sadness about her pregnancy ending. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I also felt a little bit sad, though obviously I was at the same time very excited. I also have a similar sentiment as she does when it comes to that thought that this could be her only child. It seems that only other moms can relate to this feeling of sadness. Many parts of pregnancy as well as new motherhood and motherhood in general are difficult, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t love it and enjoy it. As far as I know, there has been no deeper meaning in life to me than raising my baby and growing her in my womb. As much as I have tried to relish every moment of pregnancy as well as new motherhood, it all just felt like it’s going too fast. Even today, it is going far too quickly for me. Our baby is growing well, but I just can’t believe that she is already four months old. I told my neighbor my feelings around this, and I told her that those complicated emotions of happiness and sadness at your baby progressing and growing are just going to continue. Because obviously as mothers, while we want our babies to grow, we all wish that we could just freeze time so that they didn’t grow too fast. I tried to explain this to Chris, and his response was, she’s not growing too fast! She’s right on the curve! …Well, that is not what I mean. I do not literally mean that she is growing too fast. What I mean is that these moments are all passing me by too quickly, and before I know it, she is not going to need me to feed her or to get her from place to place. She’s going to be an independent woman before we even know it. And that is just crazy to me.
At our baby’s last doctor’s appointment when she reached 4 months of age, they sent us home with an infant feeding guide for solids. Given that our baby still needs assistance sitting up and hasn’t shown much interest in food at all, I don’t think she is ready just yet for solids, but it certainly made us think about that next stage a bit more. Chris got excited by this and wanted to start putting the high chair together, so our friend/handyman came over today to build it for us (he just likes doing these things, so no, this is not in scope).
Well, we placed the baby into the high chair just to see how she’d look in it… and she immediately started leaning to one side, indicating there was no way she would sit in this thing unassisted. Granted, the high chair comes with a harness that you can strap the baby into, but she still didn’t seem stable enough. None of this was surprising to me, as I already knew she wasn’t ready. But it was hilarious to see her hunching over to the side a bit, wondering what the heck we were trying to make her do.