Insecurities are a funny thing. Over the years, I feel like I’ve been pretty open on this blog about mine. In general, I don’t consider myself an insecure person, but that hasn’t always been the case.
For the most part, I’m a person of very cyclical moods. About once a year, I experience what I consider to be some kind of depression or low point. (I say “consider” because I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything.) It typically lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It’s usually marked by an increase in mood swings, sensitivity, and a marked uptick in my insecurities. (And, you may have noticed, a lack of blog posts. The blog starts to feel incredibly insignificant during these lows, and I can’t imagine anyone caring what I have to say about anything.)
It’s not fun, but I at least feel more in control of these times than I used to because I’m now able to recognize them for what they are. Anyone familiar with depression can tell you what a liar it is — it tells you you’re not good enough, you’re unlovable, you’re just not enough. So, for me, there is power in being able to feel those things but still step back in my mind and remind myself I won’t always feel that way and that they probably aren’t true.
The insecurities I deal with have evolved over the years, but they’re usually a mix of doubts about something superficial (in high school, the size of my thighs; now, my teeth and nose) and something social (in high school, that my friends and family didn’t really like me; now, that my friends and family don’t really like me).
It’s at this point that I feel obligated to remind you that, in my rational mind, I know my friends and family love me. I do. You don’t need to tell me you do; I know it. Depression just makes me not believe it for a while, or wonder when the day will come that they will stop loving me.
I think everyone handles these feelings differently, for better or worse. For me, I workout (the best therapy for me) and I think about it — a lot. I reason on my feelings, what brings them on and what I can do about it. Often the answer to the latter is simply to ride out the storm and keep reminding myself that depression is a liar. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever really discussed these feelings publicly — I’d venture a guess that most of the people in my life don’t even know I deal with them.
I’m kind of a hermit when it comes to my own struggles. But I’m trying to be better about that because bottling it up (surprise!) doesn’t really seem to help anything.
I’m happy to tell you that, while this post was inspired by my latest bout of low-ness, I can already tell I’m coming out of it. Good talks with some close friends and a weekend with my family were huge helps to reaching the other side of this valley. But even though it’s (hopefully) almost over, the most lingering part of my lows are always the insecurities. Kind of like a bad cough.
I think about my insecurities a lot now as a mother of a daughter. Girls seem to be especially plagued by insecurity, almost to the point where it is weird if you’re confident. I don’t know if I can keep Vivian from having her own self doubts, but I never want her to feel crippled by them.
I want her to laugh loudly even if she thinks her laugh is obnoxious. I want her to wear the sleeveless dress she loves even if she doesn’t like her upper arms. I want her to get down on the dance floor even if she worries someone will think she looks ridiculous.
I want her to live her life bravely, even when she doesn’t feel brave.
And the fact is, I’m going to be her best example of how to do that. So I had better start being a good example.
Which brings me to my new project: Eradicating my superficial insecurities. I’ve decided I’m going to stop only taking photos from what I consider to be my “good side” — just because my nose and teeth are straighter from the left. I’m going to grin broadly — even though in the back of my mind I think my teeth are big and slightly bucky. And I’m going to do whatever I can to stop letting myself slip into the old habit of being who I think people want me to be — and just trust that anyone who does stop liking me was never all that great to have to begin with.
Because I want Vivi to do all those things too. Because, to me, she is perfect. And who else could she possibly be to be better?
One of the hardest parts of getting pregnant and becoming a mother for me has been feeling like my brain has literally been poked full of holes. I first noticed the effects of “pregnancy brain” late in my first trimester when I started losing words.
I would go to say something or write something, and I would know the definition of the word I meant — I would even be able to recall another time I had used the word in conversation — but I could not for the life of me tell you what the word was. I started googling the definitions or looking up synonyms (that I could remember) on Thesaurus.com, following my own linguistic treasure map back to my own vocabulary.
For a writer, losing words is a very big deal.
My mom loves to tell me a story from my own babyhood about our babysitter, Irene. Apparently, Irene had a habit of looking me in my little baby eyes and telling me, “Words are power.” I don’t know if this infant inception was the direct cause of my becoming a writer, but it’s hard to deny the plausibility.
The point is, I’ve always believed the sentiment of the phrase. Even now, I make excuses to tell Vivi the same thing. She doesn’t have to be a writer (unless she wants to be), but I want her to be able to communicate and express herself the best way possible. It’s part of why I spend a few minutes each day reading to her, even though it’s hard to believe she’s really paying attention as she carries on with her regular baby antics.
Anyway, all of that is a long way of getting around to the fact that pregnancy brain was a little scary for this logophile. It’s gotten marginally better since actually pushing out the baby, but now I just find myself suffering the effects of “mom brain.” (Which, spoiler alert, is the same thing. Babies make you dumb, folks.)
I also feel like it has been affecting the quality of my posts on here. Granted, I’m usually just trying to fling a few words together in a somewhat coherent sentence in between naps, freelancing, and keeping a semblance of order in our apartment, but I can’t shake the feeling that the quality is slipping more than I feel comfortable with.
Of course, this little blog is hardly a priority in the grand scheme of things (sorry, blog; the baby wins this round), but I would be sad if I felt like I let my most consistent creative outlet completely lose its shine. Besides, I feel like I have so many stories in my head from this one-of-a-kind experience I’m going through, and I’d hate to lose those just because I can’t make the time to write.
So while I might not be blogging as often, I’m going to try to brush up the quality of my posts. I’m not going to worry about consistency because, frankly, I can’t promise there will be any, but when I do post, I promise to really have something to say or share.
And hopefully I’ll be able to find the words to do that.
Being covered in puke and not flinching.
Thinking you cleaned off the puke and noticing half an hour later there’s still some on your forearm.
Taking every toddler toy commercial personally. (Will my baby never walk if I don’t buy that?!)(Answer: Your baby will still walk, psycho.)
Spending most of the day with your nursing bra unhooked before finally hooking it again. Most likely in public. Because you don’t even care anymore.
Planning your DAY around a stubborn burp bubble.
Being either half an hour early or an hour late to everything.
Truly believing all is lost if we lose this dang binky.
A tiny bit of guilt at what a relief it is when someone else wants to hold the baby. (Yay! Five minutes where no one is touching/clawing at me!)
The rush of love (and secret relief) when she really just wants to come back to you.
Reveling in every nap that lasts longer than twenty minutes. (He-llo, brushed hair and a cup of coffee!)
Wondering at least twenty times a day if you’re doing it right.
Praying for the next stage of development.
Wishing she could stay this way forever.
Writing blog posts in the back of Uber cars because it’s one of the few places your baby sleeps soundly.
I wanted to wait a few weeks until I wrote this post. Partly because I realized pretty early on that there’s not an easy answer to the question I pose in the title (and even if there was, it changes pretty much every hour). But also because, for the first two weeks of Vivi’s life, my mom was staying with us, so I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “real life” with a baby until this past week.
So, you’re wondering, how has it been?
In some ways, it’s a lot how I expected. A newborn is really time-consuming. (SHOCKER.) Mine wants to be held as often as possible. She’s hungry a lot. She doesn’t really do that much besides eat, sleep, and poop. I don’t have any time to myself except for a few moments stolen while she naps or when Joey comes home and can spend some time with Vivian. I’m usually not as well rested as I could be. (Hahahaha understatements!)
In other ways, it’s not at all how I expected. And not always in a good way.
For example, I was really worried about breastfeeding. It was something I felt very strongly about and really wanted to do, but I had heard so many stories of women who had trouble — babies that couldn’t latch, milk that dried up or never came in, intense pain or discomfort that deterred them from sticking it out. It seemed like this supposedly natural process was a minefield of potential parental disappointment.
But I was fortunate. Vivi starting nursing literally moments after she was born, and we never had any issues while in the hospital or the first few days at home.
And then the real milk came in. And (apparently) with gusto. Suddenly, I had a baby that was getting too much milk and who would promptly spit up everything she had just eaten after every feeding. There were days I literally changed both of our outfits upwards of three times, and I regularly found myself near tears that this one thing I thought I had down was suddenly (and literally) backfiring on me.
Thanks to some advice from our pediatrician, though, we got through it. Sure, I still get doused in vomit occasionally (the creed of new parents everywhere), but it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore. (Remember this post? It’s so much worse after you actually have the baby.)
My voracious little eater aside, though, most of the surprises of motherhood have been positive for me.
For one thing, I was always kind of worried I wouldn’t be that into the newborn phase. They really can’t do that much yet, and a lot of their (extremely limited) awake time is spent fussing because they’re hungry or tired. We usually get 20-45 minutes of happy, fully alert baby at a time. I was worried I would be bored or, even worse, mildly irritated most of the first three months. But I’m really happy to say that I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It helps that I just love this little girl so much, even just staring at her while she sleeps feels like a fun activity for the day. But I also just really appreciate getting to be with her every day and watching her change nearly every hour. She’s extremely curious, and I love watching her slowly discover the world around her. She’s also so strong, and it kills me seeing this tiny person hold her head up for the first time or scoot her body around on her play mat.
You know you’re a new parent when: watching a veritable slug of a person kick on their tummy for five minutes thrills you.
Basically, the whole experience has been even more fulfilling than I ever imagined. And now that she recognizes me on sight and can make prolonged eye contact? Well, I’d be lying if I said the first few times she looked at me — really looked at me — didn’t draw a few tears from this new momma. (Though we can probably blame some of the weepies on the hormones and sleep deprivation, right?)
Speaking of sleep-deprivation (because I know you really just want the gory details, not any of this “gosh I love my baby” mush), I’m happy to report that Vivi sleeps decently well. She usually sleeps from 6:30-8ish out in the living room with us (either in someone’s arms or in her swing chair), but I try to have both of us in bed (me in my actual bed, her in her bassinet) by 10/10:30. After that, she typically wakes up about three, sometimes four times, but we usually get two 3- to 4-hour stretches of sleep between the wake-ups. Vivian also takes a short morning nap (about an hour) around 10/11 a.m., and a longer nap (2ish hours) around 2:30 p.m (I try to join her for that one). The rest of the evening is a mix of wakefulness and sleep until the process starts all over again.
If it sounds like not at all a real schedule, it’s because it isn’t. It’s just the life of a newborn — they sleep a lot, but rarely for all that long. In fact, there is typically at least one night a week that she throws the whole thing out the window and just wakes up every hour and a half the whole night through.
Fun fact: That’s also how they torture prisoners of war.
True Life: My baby could be an evil dictator.
But you know what’s kind of funny? Even though I feel like I should be a zombie, I don’t really feel more tired than I usually did pre-baby. These crazy bodies of ours are capable of adapting to just about anything, apparently.
So, yes, I’m tired a lot. And regularly covered in someone else’s bodily fluids. And sometimes (often?) smell. As in, I literally stink. (Post-pregnancy hormones make you sweat a lot.)(GLAMOUR!)
But I really wouldn’t trade a second of it. Because while I’m sure I’m making a million “mistakes” along the way, I feel like I’m good at this. Or, rather, that I can be. I feel like, slowly, I’m figuring this little girl out. And, maybe in spite of everything, having a lot of fun along the way. Because just when I think I’ve hit my limit and might be the worst mom ever, she does this:
And suddenly everything feels like it’s going to be all right again.
So what’s it like to have a baby? It’s overwhelming and incredibly trying. And it’s also completely wonderful.
I haven’t felt like I’ve had that much to blog about lately. It’s not like nothing is going on in my life. (Psst…baby’s due in two weeks. Kind of a big deal? I guess?) It’s just that we’re sort of in a holding pattern at this point.
The nursery is done. The rest of the apartment pretty much is too, minus a few details (like needing bedside lamps, etc.) that I am officially putting on hold for the next few months while I figure out the whole aforementioned “baby” thing. The only things I can conceivably see myself doing in the next week or two are nesting-related. For example, I spent 45 minutes this weekend scouring the grout between the tiles on the floor of my bathroom. (It is GLORIOUSLY white now, for your information.) Apparently it’s normal to get fits and bursts of energy at the tail end of pregnancy where you do things like scour grout or clean out closets or hand-trim your carpet. Apparently.
I’m also spending the last couple of weeks checking off a few to-dos. Going to the dentist. Getting my hair done. Finishing the book I’m reading. Seeing friends and planning at least one more “date night” with Joey. I have no idea what to expect from the next few weeks/months, so I’m essentially trying to soak up the normalcy I’ve grown accustomed to before everything changes.
But other than that…we wait. So bear with me during the downtime. I can’t imagine it will last too long.
I want to talk to you about the father of my child for a minute.
He’s pretty handsome, right? Not to sound totally shallow, but it’s pretty fun waking up to a handsome face every day.
His handsomeness is not what I’m here to talk about. I just think it’s fun.
What I really want to talk about? How excited I am to have a baby with this person.
On some level, I always knew Joey would make a great dad. I don’t think you marry someone without at least considering whether or not they would be a good parent unless you are dead-set against having kids yourself. I was pretty sure I did want kids, so I thought about it. And yup, I thought, he would be good at it.
Which isn’t to say we both didn’t have some growing up to do first. When you get married in your early 20s like we did, you probably have more growing up to do than most. And when you get married in your early 20s like we did, it’s not always a smooth, simple process.
I’m incredibly grateful, though, that we grew up and together. In fact, I think Joey and I have never been a better match than we are today.
I’m also incredibly grateful that we both grew into people that, I’m pretty sure, will be pretty good parents. At least, I know Joey will.
Joey is the kind of guy who remembers my friends’ various diet restrictions, just in case they want to come over for dinner, so he can cook them something they’ll like.
Joey is the kind of guy that, when he figures out something that makes you laugh until you almost pee your pants, will find as many excuses to do that thing as possible because he just likes seeing you crack up.
Joey is the kind of guy that babies notice from across a room and instantly grin at, as if simply seeing his face is the best part of their day.
Joey is the kind of guy who, when you’ve spent all day carrying your pregnant belly around to just limp home and collapse on the couch and lazily ask for a glass of water even though you’re two feet away from the kitchen, he’ll immediately get it for you without any fuss even though he was probably already making you dinner. No heavy sighs or dramatics. He just wants to take care of you.
Joey is the kind of guy who, in birth prep class, will make you try every practice labor position on the birthing ball and test every massage apparatus so we can be sure we’ve found the ones I like best. Then he’ll commit to memory what I liked so he can help as much as possible when we do this labor thing for real.
Joey is the kind of guy who, when I’m exhausted and finally starting to get tired of this growing-a-human thing and let myself complain a bit, tells me what an amazing job I’m doing and how brave, strong, and great he thinks I am.
Joey is the kind of guy who wants to read to the baby every night, but first he wants to wait until I feel her moving so he knows she’s awake and “paying attention.”
Joey is the kind of guy who never, ever loses that look of amazement and wonder in his eyes when he feels the baby kick or move in my belly.
Joey is the kind of guy who whispers to my belly before we go to sleep, sharing a private moment with his daughter that always ends with him telling her how much he loves her and can’t wait to meet her.
I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to think of a guy better suited to being a dad.
I’m so glad I married this man. I’m so glad we stuck it out through the not-so-smooth-or-simple parts of growing up together. And I’m so glad I get to have a baby with him.
And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
You’re the best, Joey. You’re going to be so great at this — you already are. I love you from the left to the right.
All photos by Figment Art & Photo Co.