One of my favorite things about being Vivi’s mom is watching her develop a sense of humor. It has always been fairly easy to coax a giggle out of her, but lately she has started to realize that she is funny.
Sometimes I watch her do something just to get a laugh out of me or whatever adoring audience has gathered around, and I have to marvel at that instinct. Sure, making someone laugh always makes me feel good, but what an amazing thing that babies feel that high too.
As a result, Vivi is just so silly. She’s constantly babbling, waving her arms, running around, and putting on a show. She fake sneezes, shrieks with joy, and blows raspberries on my tummy (giggling like a fiend all the way).
Her silliness is a reminder to me, too. My days are so full, and it’s easy to get caught up in my to-do lists. It’s easy to get frustrated or distracted. But when I see that huge grin spread across her face, the one that puts all five of her teeth on display, I can’t help but put down what I’m doing for a tickle fest or another round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
I want to be a good, responsible mom, but I also want Vivi to remember that we had so much fun. We danced and sang and talked in silly voices and laughed and laughed and laughed.
So, I’ve officially begun weaning Vivi.
Side note: Can we please find a new term for this? Weaning sounds like a loose mix of taking a leak and the noise an animal might make as it dies. Not. A. Fan.
But the point is, we’re down to one nursing session a day (right before bed), and it’s leaving me with a lot of mixed feelings.
On one hand, it’s nice to have a bit more freedom in my day. I can wear dresses that don’t button! I can take her anywhere and not worry about having to find somewhere private for meals! I can wear dresses that don’t button! I can leave her with a sitter for more than four hours at a time! I CAN WEAR DRESSES THAT DON’T BUTTON!
But while I do like this new age of freedom and independence for us both, I’d be lying if I said I was completely thrilled by the development.
Sometimes, I miss the closeness. I miss getting to snuggle up four to six times a day (or even more in the beginning) and feel so bonded to this lovely, tiny person.
Of course, that’s the nostalgia talking. I know in my brain that nursing wasn’t always to picturesque. But there is a tiny part of my heart that breaks anytime Vivi asks to nurse and I have to give her a sip of water or milk from a cup and distract her away from me.
I’m trying to focus on the good things. I was able to go to an all-day work conference for my new job (that I absolutely love). Vivi was able to spend the day with her grandparents at a company picnic on Long Island. (Though, not going to lie, sending her off in a car with someone who is not me was much harder than I expected.)
Basically, we’re all growing up. And, for the most part, dealing with it.
Just don’t grow too fast, k, Viv?
I don’t write posts for the comments. Really. I’m incredibly self-centered that way.
This blog is and, in a large way, always will be for me. My personal record that I was and I did.
But every now and then, I write a post that gets a lot of feedback. A post that gets me texts and emails and comments and even phone calls from people I haven’t talked to in years or, sometimes, haven’t talked to ever. And even though I don’t do this for that, there’s something magical about when it happens. Because, as I’ve said, I love those moments of bonding. Of “I thought it was only me.”
Yesterday’s posts was one of those posts. And I can’t tell you how much it makes my heart sing when I read every single comment, text, or email I got from so many of you. Because you don’t have to do that. And you did. And it just…I don’t know. I can’t put it into words except to say it’s why I write. And hopefully you know me well enough to know how much weight those words carry.
The point is, I appreciate the kindness. I appreciate the love. I appreciate you relating to me, and I can’t tell you what a compliment it is to hear that I wrote what so many of you feel.
Next week, the blog will go back to its same fun, (mostly) frivolous fodder, but I couldn’t just go on without acknowledging the niceness. You guys are pretty swell, and I’m happy to have you as readers.
Sometimes I feel like I can barely remember how I felt when Vivi was first born.
I don’t mean the good things. The good things are so indelibly burned into my brain that I don’t think anything short of a lobotomy (or, you know, something like this) could ever get them out. I’m talking about the bad stuff.
I swear, you guys: I know I was stressed out and exhausted and overwhelmed and tense all the time…but I can only barely remember what it felt like.
It must be like giving birth. I know it hurt like WHOA and that I threw up a dozen times and was kind of hating life near the end there, but all I can remember is that I powered through it and felt like Superwoman at the end. Superwoman with the cutest, most amazing baby ever.
Almost ten months after that day (good LORD, time, will you stop breaking my heart already!), I can honestly say that I rarely feel like the mess I know I was at the beginning anymore. It’s not that I’m the perfect mom — I’m not. It’s not that I have it all figured out — I do not. I just…don’t beat myself up the way I used to.
I don’t expect perfection from myself because I know Vivi doesn’t either. We’re both fed and clean(ish) and happy, and that really is good enough for both of us.
When I first had Vivi, I was also just beginning this crazy world of freelance, part-time work, and that was scary and overwhelming too. (Remember this panic-induced all-nighter? Yeah, not fun.) I remember one day feeling like I was just being bad at everything and wondering if I had spread myself too thin. Maybe I couldn’t do it all. Maybe I couldn’t do anything.
I’m glad I was able to shake those feelings off eventually. Or, rather, glad I gave myself time to adjust before deciding I was just a miserable failure.
And now? Now, I actually feel confident in my abilities as a mother. My friend Madison once said that she felt like she was truly the best person to be her child’s mother, and I completely get that now. Now, being a mother just makes me so, so happy. I still feel all the feels from this post. Now, I feel like Vivi and I have a routine that works for us and makes everything seem so much more manageable.
In short, I feel like I’m hitting my stride. In so many ways, whether that be motherhood or my new career or my relationships or even things like my health and fitness. Things just seem to feel even and peaceful.
And I know that even putting that thought into print is a guarantee that everything is about to change and I’m about to face a whole new bunch of challenges, but, you know what? I actually feel confident in our ability to face those, too. (Though I wouldn’t mind if they took their time getting here.)
Side note: If you haven’t had your fill of mush yet, I highly recommend going back and re-reading this post for the photos alone. That spiky hair and tiny baby smile? I die.
I know everyone says this, but I cannot believe I have a baby who is this close to being a year old. I mean, she was just born yesterday.
So, besides ripping my heart out, how is the little stinker doing? She’s amazing. And, also, sometimes a beast.
Let me explain.
Up until fairly recently, in a lot of ways raising Vivi was not totally different from having a Tamagotchi. (I’m kidding; it could not be more different. But bear with my hyperbole for the sake of the story.) She had the same three basic needs, and as long as I was able to care for them, she was happy. She felt hungry? I fed her. She was tired? I rocked her to sleep. She pooped? I clicked the toilet button and cleaned it up.
You get the point.
But in the last month, something shifted. In short, Vivi became a person.
And you know what? People are nothing like Tamagotchis. People get annoyed and take their frustrations out in unhealthy ways. People sometimes just wake up grumpy for no reason. People get bored. People actively choose not to satisfy their needs because they’re feeling ornery.
Vivi is people now.
Which, as you can imagine, can be frustrating. But it’s also really interesting. Having a baby is never boring. The second you think you’ve got this all figured out, you wake up to a new day and a brand new baby complete with new emotions, feelings, and needs. So I’m always figuring Vivi out, whether I like it or not.
Fortunately, most of the time, I like it. It’s amazing watching a baby become a person. Vivi has apparently decided that crawling is not really her bag and has moved straight on to trying to stand up and walk. My heart leaps and my stomach drops every time she pulls herself up on her chubby little legs, always turning to grin at me like, “Did you SEE what I just DID?!”
I see you, baby girl. And yes, you are amazing.
She’s also “talking” more and more, repeating more words and sounds and getting more communicative with gestures and facial expressions. She has so much personality packed into that tiny little body, and she makes me laugh out loud every single day.
The thing I love most about my little eight-month-old baby, though, is her zest for life. Vivi embodies joie de vivre, and she tackles every day with so much spunk and bravery and happiness. Everywhere we go, she grins her widest smile for anyone who will make eye contact with her, and she’s constantly taking in her surroundings and trying to absorb every detail.
Vivi Bean, I hope your tenacity and curiosity never leave you.
So, yes, sometimes she is frustrated because she can’t do everything she wants to do. Sometimes she is grumpy because she is tired but doesn’t want to nap. Sometimes she is whiny and needy and this momma doesn’t know what to do with her.
But, most of the time? She continues to be my greatest adventure.
I think, like most people, I had an idea of what motherhood would be like before I became a mother. (I initially wrote “a very specific idea,” but, if I’m honest, I think I knew on most levels that I probably had no idea what I was getting myself into.)
And, before I get into the subject of this post, I want to confirm that I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love being a mother. We’re on clear on that, right? I feel obligated to reinforce that I do before I say what I’m about to say next.
Because sometimes being a mother makes me sad.
Whoa, whoa, WHOA, you say. Motherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to a woman, right? How can you possibly not love every second?
Well, I’m really sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, besides that statement being entirely untrue for some people, it’s also impossible for it to be true for every single woman every second of the time.
And I’m not even talking about postpartum depression, which, I’m told, is a whole other bear. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I haven’t really dealt with that, at least not in full force. My sadness is rather run-of-the-mill, I’m afraid. So sorry.
But whether or not it requires a diagnosis, my sadness is just as real. Because, even though I love being a mother, it is not always easy.
Being a mother means giving up a lot of yourself. It always makes me think of this line from The Bridges of Madison County:
“You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops.”
Because, you guys? That is IT. And even though it’s not always a bad thing, there is always a level of mourning when it comes to letting a part of yourself go.
And besides the existential struggle, there are parts of being a mom that just kind of suck. Your time is not your own. Your body does weird things. You can’t do everything you want to do. You often have to go into hiding to breastfeed. You can’t eat whatever you want to eat. You are almost always tired. You are more often than not covered in some kind of bodily fluid. You get screamed at (a lot) by a tiny, irrational dictator despite your every attempt to please them.
The good part is that your baby usually finds a way to make it up to you (those smiles and sweet coos are life-affirming at times), but the fact remains that often those sucky moments still just suck.
But wait, you say, isn’t this a blog post about joy?
YES. But more than that, it’s about the choice of happiness.
Remember almost four (!!) years ago when I decided to stop being unhappy? That sounds silly, I know. I even acknowledged the silliness when I said it. The Happiness Project was less about truly never feeling unhappiness and more about make a concerted effort whenever possible to choose joy. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found the more you practice mental discipline, the easier it can become over time.
I’ve found this practice helpful in a lot of areas of my life, from friendships to marriage, from running a marathon to having a baby. I’m not sure I would have been able to enjoy pregnancy as much as I did if not for my previous practice in seeking the good.
And now I find myself putting it into practice again as a new mother.
Before Vivi arrived, I would spend a lot of time thinking about when she was finally here. And I made a promise to myself: I promised to enjoy everything, from the lack of sleep to the discomfort to the frustration.
Because this was my parental rite of passage.
These were the things that bonded millions of parents across time and space. These were the moments that plenty of people who wish to have a baby would give anything to have. So who was I to take my baby’s 3 a.m. shrieks for granted? Who was I to bristle at irrational tantrums when she hasn’t mastered a new skill? Who was I to throw up my hands in frustration after the sixth spit-up and subsequent outfit change of the day?
And besides, who would I be helping if I did any of those things anyway?
So, instead, I shifted my focus. I learned to live in the moment when things were good and to look at the progress when things weren’t. I learned to appreciate the fact that even the worst moments will make for a good story some day and to tell my war stories with a laugh and an eye roll — my baby might be trying to kill me…but at least my tiny tyrant is adorable!
I also think it helped that I was mentally prepared for struggles. I expected frustration and exhaustion and tears (hers and mine). I expected to feel at some point that I had made a terrible mistake or, at the very least, to mourn my less-tethered childless life. What I’m saying is, I deliberately kept my expectations low. But I’m very grateful that I can honestly say I’ve loved every stage of getting to know Vivi. I expected to grit my teeth through her newborn-ness and to tolerate her fussy infant months, but the fact is that I daily find myself in awe of something about this wonderful little person I get to raise.
Maybe she really is just that wonderful (I mean, I know I think she is). But maybe I’ve just gotten better at focusing on what’s wonderful about her.
Because, most of the time, being a mother is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.
I get to watch her tackle new challenges and develop an ever-sunnier personality. I get to revel in first smiles, giggles, babbles, and kisses. I get to celebrate her new milestones and soothe her pint-sized frustrations. I get to discover the world again through her big blue eyes. I get to wake up every day and be Vivi’s favorite person. I get to be Vivi’s mama.
And, for me, there are few greater joys than that.