Author Archives: Speck

14 Months & 2017

december-57

14 Months

For the most part, I just say she’s one year old. But every month she’s more capable, more aware than the one before. And at 18 months, I’ll say she’s one and a half. Every day builds on the next.

One day, she started pulling up. The next, with a little help, she was pushing one of those stand up toys. Now she’s walking back and forth across the living room, barely using the elephant walker to stabilize.

A sixth tooth broke through last week. From all the drool and whining, it seems a seventh may be on its way.

She chatters and laughs and giggles and whines and throws herself down when she’s upset and clings and rests her head on your shoulder and cackles while trying to shove her fingers up your nose. I love this age so much. I’m trying to appreciate how easy it is right now, because I know it’s about to get much harder. She has such big emotions for such a tiny body and she’s only starting to learn about them.

After a really hard week with copious amounts of vomit & diarrhea, she’s also started sleeping straight through from 10pm to 5am, and I kind of love it. Now I just warm a bottle up when my alarm goes off at 5am. She usually wakes up shortly after, takes a bottle, then goes right back to sleep. I get a solid hour, hour and a half of writing/editing in every morning. Living the life, y’all.

 

2017

This has been a strange year. Politically, it’s been a devastating roller coaster. But personally, it’s been amazing. I wrote a book and then I went through edits and just yesterday my editor accepted it – which means 2018 will be pretty exciting, too. 2018 will also be the year (more) people I don’t know read it (oh god). I met people in my field and made friends and connections. I’ve never been this excited – or hopeful! – about my career. I’ve never had a career.

And this baby – oh, this baby. She has been the joy and the adventure I dreamed of and so much more. She has taught me so much – about myself, about the world, about hope. I love watching and sharing her joy. Her sadness breaks my heart a hundred times over. And it’s only been 14 months!

Life has been so different and yet not at all. I get up and pet the cats and drink coffee and write and make breakfast and go to work – except now I also keep an eye on the baby monitor, bring her milk, open the door when she’s up and sing good morning, baby – the light’s come on and so I smile wide and say –

I was struck the other morning by how quickly this all became normal. I was sitting on the couch at 6am, reading the edit suggestions from my editor, my robe smelling faintly of the baby’s vomit from the day before, the coffee satisfyingly hot, a cat licking her paw by my ear. I have felt so much despair and hopelessness and loneliness this year, but really: I have everything I could wish for. This is the life. This is my life.

And I couldn’t be luckier. ❤

I wasn't really looking forward to 2017, but it was good for me. Now I'm very excited about 2018 – Lady Jr will be walking, talking, and growing into a Real Human Being. My book will be going out to other authors, to reviewers, will get a cover, will be in my hands. My wife will begin searching for her next job, her hopefully for-a-long-time job, and we might begin to have an idea of where we'll be in 2019.

I'm gonna cherish every minute of it.

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Overseas with a Baby

Deutschland 2017

We did the seemingly impossible. We took an 8-hour transatlantic flight and spent a week in Europe with a crawling, active, chatty 13-month-old.

And it was fine!

It was more than fine, it was fun. I spent a lot of time in the weeks and months leading up to the trip worrying about whether or not this was the Worst Idea Ever. I’d heard plenty of horror stories about babies/toddlers who’d spent the entire flight screaming or needing to be walked up and down the aisle of the plane. I’d worried about sickness and jetlag and whether or not it’d all just be too overwhelming.

What I learned is I should trust my baby. And also, everything is more fun with a laughing, giggling, wide-eyed little girl.

There were hard bits. I couldn’t sleep on the flight over, even though we had a whole row to ourselves and got to put the carseat between us. Lady Jr conked for a good 3, 4 hours, but there were other babies who had a harder time and, well, airplane seats just aren’t very comfortable.

Coffee saw me through until we could nap at the Air BnB, but it was touch-and-go. But after that nap, well, life was a lot better.

That first night was hard on us all because of the time change. Lady Jr slept for a few hours and then kept waking and crying every few minutes. Eventually, I just got up with her at 11pm and we watched German-dubbed X-Files until past 1am – which would’ve been 7pm our time, aka her bedtime. She went right to sleep after that. She pulled the same routine a day later and by then we’d figured out it was her Circadian rhythm and just went with it.

Naps were almost all on the go, in the ergo carrier, and that worked just fine.

We stayed in Air BnBs for this trip, which I’d A++ recommend. It was great having a kitchen and lots of room for her to crawl around and play. Also great: both had a place for her to sleep. Not so great: both were outside the cities we were visiting, so we ended up doing a fair amount of driving. Lady Jr is not a fan of cars and sometimes we were out for a while, so this was not ideal. Next time, I’ll try harder to find a place to stay *in* the city, even if it means finding novel places for Lady Jr to sleep.

Why did we visit Europe in late November of all times?? For the Christmas markets, of course! 😀 My mother and I had been talking about visiting Germany and their markets together for years and yeas, and I realized that if we didn’t go now, we’d have to wait a few more years and I was worried about how much older my mother would be. Also because of Thanksgiving, I could actually take a whole week off and not miss much work. Hence the timing.

We visited Darmstadt and Aachen, since their Christmas markets opened early enough. I’d never been to either, so that was fun. Aachen is gorgeous and located on the edge of a rolling, wonderful national park and now I want to live there.

I drank all the Gluhwein and sniffed all the things and ate all the baked goods. Dr Lady got to see her first Weihnachtsmarkt. Lady Jr charmed everyone.

Also: dude they’re not kidding around with baby changing rooms in Germany. When they’re there, they’re fancy and nice and clean. One even had warming lamps for newborns. So good. ;.;

Anyway, have some pictures.

Deutschland 2017
Lady Jr playing peek-a-boo at the first Air BnB.

 

 

Deutschland 2017
Darmstadt countryside.

 

 

Deutschland 2017
Lady Jr learned how to pull up on the trip and is now unstoppable.

 

 

Deutschland 2017
We went for a walk by the Rhein. 

 

Deutschland 2017
HAM

Deutschland 2017
Lady Jr was enamored with a toy in the second air BnB and also kept pushing a step stool around and around and around the house.

Deutschland 2017
The countryside outside of Aachen.

Deutschland 2017
A cute little town we discovered nestled in the hills.

 

 

Deutschland 2017
Mmm, Apfel strudel.

 

 

Deutschland 2017
*Weihnachtsmarkt intensifies*

 

 

Deutschland 2017

Deutschland 2017
And then it snowed as we were leaving.

 

 

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Aachen Weihnachtsmarkt.

 

 

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Everything is Just Fine.

 

 

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Gluhweing – the Reason for the Season.

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13 Months

I feel like ever since she started really crawling and picking things up and making eye contact, I’ve been less… not enthusiastic, maybe more less surprised?… by each new milestone. They kinda smooth one right into another now. One day she’ll be knocking over the towers of blocks, the next she picks them off one by one, the next she’s putting them together one by one.

She crawls on all fours more often than army-crawling now, and she also pushes around a box on her knees more than she crawls. She occasionally does a downward dog maneuver, inching her hands in as if that might help her stand. She doesn’t pull up to stand, but she does crawl up us until she’s got one hand on a knee and is otherwise balancing on her own.

Sometimes she sleeps until 5am before crying, sometimes she wakes up at 11 and 1 and 3. More often these days she’s not ready to get up until 7am, thank the gods. I’ve reclaimed my early morning writing time and it has made me a better human being.

She hates socks. She loves being tickled. She plays peekaboo by herself in her crib. She appears to enjoy daycare. If I roll a ball to her, she’ll half-throw, half-roll it back. She likes to stand on my lap and hold my shoulders. She likes to put her blocks in her box and then cruise around the house tossing them out. We call her Baby Clause.

She likes eggs, but everything else is on a day-to-day basis. Some days she’ll eat chicken and rice and mushrooms. Some days she won’t. We just keep rotating and offering and reminding ourselves that some days, we don’t want to eat chicken and rice and mushrooms either.

She has opinions. She’s started throwing in a few “mamama”s with her “dadada”s. She holds up her hands and opens and closes her fists when she wants something. I’ve joked that figuring out what she wants is a lot like playing hot-and-cold: her whining increases the further you get from what she wants and the excited babbling increases the closer you get.

I can see why people would want more than one now. We’re starting to think about a second. Well, Dr Lady wants a second and I’m getting there.

I wish I could go back to this time last year and show past me how much better it gets, because omgoodness yes. I know we still have many backslides ahead of us in terms of emotional development, but this is the adventure I wanted.

 

Speaking of adventure, we’re going to Germany next week. Oh god.

 

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One Year Old

We have a one-year-old.

It has been an amazing year. Some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life. Yesterday, on her actual birthday, I was thankful for all she has brought us.

Unfettered joy. Bright wonder. Sheer life. Hope.

I looked back on the older pictures of her and realized she’d been herself from the very start. Even in her newborn photos you can trace the shapes that will become her square jaw and expressive eyebrows and cupid’s bow lips. Once she noticed the camera, you can see her inquisitiveness and unabashed delight.

She is stubborn and she is persistent. She is observant and she is hesitant. She is engaging and she is curious. She is attentive and she is (just a little) mischievous. She is compassionate and she is gentle. She is strong.

She loves beets and egg yolks and bread. She’ll squawk indignantly if you don’t share what you’re eating. She loves the kitties and she loves her stacking cups. She’ll drag her elephant lovey across the room as she army-crawls. She’ll pull out all the books on the shelf and then sit and turn the pages of her favorites. She’ll spend an hour taking blocks out of a box and putting them back and then she’ll suddenly crawl over to mama and demand to be held, then just as suddenly demand to go back to playing.

She smiles with her whole body and she cries just as fully.

She likes the book on quarks. She likes to play on her xylophone. She figured out how to stack her rings and she can pull up to her knees.

Her laugh melts my heart and her smile brightens my day and her cry makes me wish I could move the heavens to make everything better.

I’m so excited to see how she’ll grow, how she’ll expand into a toddler, a child, a human being. How she’ll change. And how she’ll stay the same.

Happy birthday, Lady Jr.

 

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A Year in Reflection: Photos

Oops I got excited and made a bunch of collages.

 

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One Year Postpartum: When it Got Better

This time last year I thought I’d be pregnant for another week at least. Little did I know…

I’m finding as we close in on one year, I’m feeling less inclined to rehash the beginnings. I’ve talked before about how hard it was and how little I want to do it again. I firmly believe labor and birth and the fourth trimester are one of the hardest things anyone can go through, at least in the modern world, where we have plumbing and sanitation and individual houses on individual streets in individual cities far from our closest connections.

But I want to touch on the isolation and sleep deprivation and anxiety one more time because I feel like past me could’ve used some sense of how much better it would get.

People will tell you about the long nights and the lack of sleep and the inability to function and the severe spikes in anxiety and the intrusive thoughts, but it’s one thing to be told and another to experience. I thought I was ready, but you just can’t be ready for it – and that’s okay. Unfortunately, I beat myself up a lot instead of just accepting and celebrating that we had all made it another day. I saw pictures of other women online who seemed to be about at the same point PP, but they were smiling and happy and put-together and out doing things in the world, whereas I saw more of netflix than I did my wife.

In the first few months, a typical night was spent on the couch bouncing a baby to sleep for 30, 40min, then caaaarefully putting her in the bouncer and trying to sleep myself or – more typically – giving up on sleep and watching netflix instead. Around 2am even I started to get tired, but by then the baby would be waking up soon so I would wait and watch. Then another hour of nursing and bouncing and finally finally she’s asleep and I feel like I can just close my eyes – except the cats have decided it’s time to whine for food or jump on me or scratch the carpet and the baby stirs and it’s 5am and I’m not sure I can make it until 7am, when I can trade with Dr Lady – but I force myself too out of some twisted sense of martyrdom and I watch each minute inch by until it’s 6.30am and the baby wakes and I feed her and bounce her and by now I’m weak and dizzy with exhaustion and I crawl into bed crying and asking Dr Lady to take over and then I lie in bed for another 30min staring at the ceiling and wondering if what I’m hearing is the baby crying or just my ears ringing and –

It got better the first time at 2 weeks. That’s when Lady Jr started to have a sense of day versus night.

It got better again at 4 weeks. Lady Jr started sleeping in longer, more predictable chunks.

It got better again around 10 weeks. That’s when we moved Lady Jr into our bedroom and even though her sleep didn’t improve, simply not having the cats around all the time actually meant I would sometimes sleep.

It got better again at 11 weeks, when I cut dairy out of my diet and the near-constant crying finally stopped.

It got better again at 12 weeks, when we discovered Lady Jr would stop fighting sleep if we just put her down and let her roll it out.

It got better again at 12 weeks, when Lady Jr became more than just a lump and would smile and babble and grab at things and actually play on the floor so we didn’t have to hold her all the time.

It got better again when she started daycare, when Lady Jr stopped fighting going to bed at night all together. The constant wake-ups were still another thing, but over the following weeks it became a little easier for her to go back to sleep.

There was a bit (see: a big) regression with sleep between 3-6 months what with the 4 month regression and a near constant string of colds and ear infections.

But it got better again at 6 months, when we moved her out of our room and into her own. Almost overnight she went from waking up 4-6 times a night to only three.

It got better again when her 3 naps consolidated down to 2 and suddenly I felt like I wasn’t fighting her during the day anymore.

It got better again when she started crawling, because she could get to her toys and play more by herself.

It got better again at 8 months, when the three wake-ups went down to two went down to one.

It got better again at 9 months, when she started waking up at 3 or 4 or even 5am and I started sleeping 3, 4, 5 hours in a row.

It got better and better and better after that, as Lady Jr’s personality began to show through, and she would laugh and clap and dance. She watches everything that we do and displays skills suddenly, without seeming to have practiced at all.

It got better when I realized I finally loved her. Some moms say they bonded and loved their kid immediately, but for me it took months. I loved the idea of her more than the infant in my arms, but she grew and grew and now I miss being away from her and look at the pictures I’ve taken while I’m at work like I used to sneak glances of a crush. I feel a surge of joy when Dr Lady brings her home in the evening and when I go into her room to get her after a nap or a night.

Lady Jr is amazing and I love her. Yes, those first sixish months might have been the hardest, both physically and mentally, of my life, but I would go through them again and again for this baby and her wide smile and delightful laugh.

So: new moms, it gets better. It gets so much better. For some it’s earlier, for some much later, but it does get better. ❤

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One Year Post-Partum: What I Wish I’d Known

Our Lady Jr will be turning one next week(!!). So of course I’m thinking a lot about the last year. I have a lot to say and I’ll try to spread it out over several coherent posts.

This time last year I was 100% done being pregnant and convinced I’d be pregnant forever. I knew I’d be a week late, but thankfully I’d been prepared for labor to start since about 36 weeks. So when I actually went into labor on my due date, I was prepared.

…well, ish. Can anyone really be prepared for labor? For kids? That’s at least one thing I did right in those final weeks: to have no expectations. But even attempting to avoid expectations, you have expectations.

I realize now that I’d expected to have a long, late labor, that I’d have a difficult baby (in one way or another), that I’d be exhausted all the time, that I’d go for short walks, that I’d just sit around most of the time in the first few weeks, that I’d also be able to do things like go grocery shopping right away, that I’d have PPD, that I’d be back to my regular lifting/running by six weeks, that I’d be able to keep life-ing like usual, just minus the dayjob.

Oof. Yeah, not so much. So let’s just go with what I wish I’d known:

1) There’s a reason why a lot of ladies fear fast labors, and it’s not just because of the distance to the hospital. While I appreciated the shortened window of pain, the speed of it terrified me and gave me no time to absorb the fact that I was legit having a baby before the baby was had. I’m still grappling with some what-ifs from that time, TBH.

2) Putting any pressure on your bits post labor, including (especially) sitting, is painful AF. Leaning forward, getting up from sitting, basically any sort of movement was a lesson in pain and physics for about 2 weeks. I should’ve started using witch hazel and frozen pads sooner, but for some reason I just didn’t think about it.

3) PP recovery is no joke & just because I had a short labor, I wasn’t magically spared. I went to the grocery store 4 days post labor and nearly fainted. When they say take it easy, they legit mean stay in bed as long as possible. Do not do the dishes. Do not do the laundry. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

4) Colic =/ difficult baby. I wish I had known this sooner so that I would’ve sought more solutions instead of just accepting It Is What It Is. Beause…

5) Dairy intolerance does not necessarily mean lactose intolerance. It can mean casein, which means that even yogurt and hard cheese can be problematic. I didn’t realize this, so I avoided lactose, but still ate hard cheeses etc. It wasn’t until I cut out dairy 100% that Lady Jr stopped screaming and started sleeping longer, quite literally over the span of 24 hours.

6) Bouncers/rock n plays are lifesavers for colicky babies.

7) Sleep begets sleep and that’s true for mommy, too. I had a very hard time sleeping those first few months, even when given the time to sleep.

8) I’m running and lifting again now, but it took a good six, seven months before I was able to do anything like I used to. This is normal.

9) Honestly, I should’ve just expected to chill and try to sleep whenever I could for the first six months. After that, life began to get a bit easier.

10) It gets better. Don’t listen to those blog posts from moms with teens who’re telling new moms it doesn’t get easier. They’re assholes. You will sleep again. You won’t always cry from exhaustion when your baby smiles at you. They either had charming little sleeping newborns or they don’t remember what it’s like to have a 102 degree fever and be dragging yourself from room to room so you can pump for your 3 month old in daycare who was up all last night (and will be up all that night) only to have to stop and puke for the third time because you can’t keep liquids down and then have to spend all weekend caring for that 3 month old who is not happy because they can sense you’re not happy and you haven’t eaten or slept in 3 days… yeah.

11) Sleep is so incredibly important. I wish I’d been kinder to myself when I was so sleep-deprived.

12) The lows are really fucking low but the HIGHS are incredibly high.

13) It is 100% worth it.

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