Beach Trip 2015

For the first time in several days, I am completely alone. We are home from the beach, Jon is at work, his parents on are their way back to STL, and E is at daycare. I am blissfully alone in the house…with a milelong list of to-dos. But first, a blog post.

Fact: Going to the beach with a six-month-old sounds like more fun than it actually is. In reality, it’s just regular life without going to a job and with a better view. I am completely worn out! E was way off of her schedule, unimpressed with being hot and sandy, and missing her rocker and her bed. (OK, I missed the rocker more than she did, but still.)

5am coffee at the beach
5am coffee at the beach

E and I were at PCB from Saturday to Saturday. For the first half of the week, we were joined by Mom, Memaw, Ashley, and Brooklyn. #HarrisGirlsBeachTrip2015 It was so good to spend that much time with them, but with an almost-three-year-old and an 81-year-old, the trip was way more work than I am used to at the beach. Gone are the days of sunning on the beach as long as I want. I am just as pale now as I was before we left for the beach. On Wednesday, Jon and his parents joined E and me for the rest of the week. Things got a little easier for me with my partner there and no toddler around, but it was still not a relaxing time. Truly, the best part of the trip was the pictures I got of E on the beach. This mermaid picture is just my favorite thing in the world right now! Peggy did a fantastic job knitting it!

My Little Mermaid
My Little Mermaid

I’m just glad to be home. And I’m especially glad to have some time to myself (Thanks, daycare!) to continue the never-ending chores that come with parenthood.

A Reflection on Mother’s Day

Today is my first ever Mother’s Day. Exactly five months ago I became a mommy and my whole life changed forever. Every night when I put Elizabeth to bed, I whisper in her ear that I’m so proud to be her mommy. I often feel like my heart will burst with the love I have for her and the awe I feel when I look at her. We made her. She came from me. I grew that gorgeous baby inside me. What a gift. I am so lucky.

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Every Mother’s Day I spend time with my sweet, selfless, loving mother and try to show her how much I appreciate her and admire her. She always has time for me. She always answers the phone with joy in her voice, sounding so happy to hear from me. (I’ll try to call more often, Monya.) And the way she talks about Ashley and me…you would think we were wonder-daughters. But to watch her as Grandma to Brooklyn and Elizabeth is the sweetest role I have ever seen my mother play. Brooklyn is obsessed with Grandma. If given the option to spend time with anyone, Brooklyn chooses Grandma. It’s so wonderful to see your mother become a grandmother. I can’t imagine how that must feel to see your own daughters become mothers.

As happy as I am today, I can’t help but think of my friends who have lost their mothers and the void they must feel today. And my friends who desperately want to become mothers and are betrayed by their bodies. Today is so very hard for them. I am thinking of you and sending sweet, warm, comforting thoughts your way, friends.

Things I Want to Remember at 5 Months

She rolls over to her tummy and then gets mad that she’s on her tummy. She hasn’t yet figured out what to do with her arms to roll back over.

When she takes a bottle, she waves her hands all around the whole time she is eating.

She kicks her legs when she’s really amused or happy. She also does this in the bath, making water go everywhere.

She loves to be held cheek-to-cheek.

Holding blankets and soft books are the only toys she’s shown interest in so far.

When she wakes up in the morning, she wants a bottle immediately. Even before changing her diaper.

IMG_0297The television is fascinating to her, so we have to be careful how much we leave it on when she’s in the room.

She rolls to her side as soon as you lay her down in the crib.

No matter where I lay her down, she ends up laying sideways with her head and feet at the bars of the crib.

She loves to be outside, lay on a blanket on the grass, and feel the wind and look at the sky.

She has started parroting some sounds.

To get her to calm down and fall asleep, I sing Amazing Grace while rocking her and it works every time.

She has only laughed twice. Once when Daddy held her up over the door while Mommy was in the shower and once when my hair fell in her face when I was playing with her on the changing table.

WM Five Weeks Later

I have been back at work for five weeks now, but one of those weeks was Spring Break when I happily slipped right back into maternity leave ways with my little one. Today I am at home sick with a sinus infection, a sore throat, a cough, and pink eye in both eyes. Yesterday when I went to to doctor and told him I have a baby in daycare, he responded, “Oh yeah. You’re going to be sicker than you’ve ever been in your life over the next year.” Elizabeth got a cold and cough in her second week at daycare and it lasted two weeks. She also had pink eye in both eyes. And now two weeks later, here’s Mommy with the same thing. It makes me sad that she is exposed to germs that she wouldn’t be if I was at home with her. But the reality is that I must work for now…we are working on a plan for me to stay home later, but that time is not now. We all have to accept it.

When I was at home with her on Spring Break after being back at work for two weeks, I looked at Jon and said, “Fact. Keeping her all day by myself is way way way more exhausting than doing my job all day and coming home to her.” And I have a pretty demanding job. Being a SAHM is so much harder than I thought it was before I had my baby. I have made it abundantly clear that i want to do it, but I feel the need to go on record about how much harder it is than working every day and paying someone to keep your child.

Now let’s talk about my baby. She’s four-and-a-half months old now and last weekend, she laughed for the first time ever! Hands down, it was the greatest moment of parenthood thus far for me and Jon. It was a true giggle, and she did it twice, but she hasn’t done it since then. (I guess we need to work on being funnier.) Everything the gets in her hands goes straight to her mouth. She loves sucking on her fingers and refuses to take a pacifier, much to my chagrin. She sleeps through the night and wakes up pleasantly in the morning, often rolling around and cooing until I come get her. She’s also rolling over from her tummy to her back, and no longer really cares about the witching hour (Thank goodness!). I view the evenings and weekends very differently now as they are the only time I get to spend with her. I miss her so much throughout the day, but I am working on transferring that sad feeling to being thankful and happy for the time I do get with her.

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I have to return to work after 14 weeks at home with my baby girl, and I don’t want to go. It’s not that I hate my job, although there are so many things about it that are incredibly hard. Rather, it’s that I want to be with her. I am not ready to leave her in someone else’s care for ten hours every day. I am not ready to think about things other than her care and our home. I am not ready to pour energy into other people’s children while some sweet girl at daycare pours her energy into my child. I’m not ready. I need more time.

In January, when I was home with my one-month-old, there were a couple of news stories about how the US has one of the worst maternity leave policies in the world. In many other countries, mothers are supported to stay at home for the first five or six months. In some countries, it’s up to a year! At my job, I had to cash in sick leave that I had saved up since I started working in 2003. BUT…I could only cash in eight weeks of leave (it would have only been six weeks if I hadn’t had a C-section!), and the rest of my leave I had to take unpaid, even though I had more days saved up that I could have used. For the last six weeks I’ve been at home, I have not received a paycheck. When I return tomorrow, my checks will be prorated for the duration of my contract, which ends in July. If I had been new to the profession or new to working for the state of Georgia, I would not have had hardly any sick days saved up and therefore would not have had any paid leave. I know several women in that position right now. When Elizabeth was born, my husband Jon was able to take two weeks paid paternity leave and then another two weeks of PTO, so he was home with us for a month and was paid for the entire time. I think that is a great perk that The Weather Channel offers. Of course it could be better, but plenty of companies have no provisions for paternity leave.

I’ve been reading Bringing Up Bebe, a book about French parenting styles compared to American parenting. In France, daycare is subsidized by the government, making it much more affordable for families. Almost every French mother works outside the home and leaves her child in fabulous, state-run childcare facilities that do not create a significant financial burden for the family. French mothers also stay home for five or six months before going back to work.

I think I would feel so much better if I didn’t have to return to work yet. I’m just not ready. She is still so tiny. And she just started smiling and cooing and squealing in the last few weeks. She locks in eye contact and gives these huge smiles that make her eyes squint, just like her mommy. She’s discovering toys and blankets that she can grasp and bring to her mouth. She is spending much more time just being pleasantly awake, compared to the 18-20 hours/day she slept in the first month or so. In the mornings, after I feed her around 6:45, we lay on the bed or on the rocker and she just kicks around and raises her arms in the air, smiling at everything she sees. She takes great naps in the morning after her first two bottles, and then most of the afternoon is spent awake, either cuddling, playing, or going for walks. She takes a shorter nap in the middle of the afternoon, usually when she’s in the stroller on a walk. The weather has been absolutely beautiful lately, so we have been spending much of the afternoon and evening outside. Her senses are on high alert outside, taking in the new sounds, smells, and sensations. Somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30, Jon and I give her a bath, a bottle, and put her to bed. After 8:15ish, we are on our own for the rest of the evening, which has been a dear and sweet time for us. Now that I have to return to work, my time with her won’t start until 5 or 5:30, which only leaves a couple of hours in the evening to spend time with her. And I can hardly speak about the evening demands of my high school assistant principal job, which come about at least once per week during the spring sports season. On those days, I will be at work until 9pm or 10pm watching other people’s kids play sports or sing in a chorus concert and only see my own daughter for a few minutes before I leave for work in the morning. I can hardly bear the thought. Tears spring from my eyes every time I think about it.

Tomorrow is going to be such a difficult day. I hope there is a fresh box of tissues in my office. I’ve already bought waterproof mascara so that I don’t look like a raccoon after crying throughout the day.  I really need to focus on some positive things, like seeing friends and coworkers I’ve missed in the last 14 weeks, and interacting with the teenagers that I love. I know I’ll enjoy visiting classrooms and seeing the incredible teachers at my job inspire their students. Perhaps it will feel good to be in real clothes, although I haven’t worn pants with a waistband since July when I started wearing maternity clothes! And once that school day is over, I know that I will have joy in my heart as I drive toward my baby girl who I’ve missed the whole day long.

12 Weeks with Elizabeth

This week marks my twelfth week with my baby girl. She is growing and developing right on target, which is truly a surprising blessing considering her premature birth. She smiles all the livelong day. (Well…except from 6pm-7pm when she’s screaming her head off for no godforsaken reason. Damn you, witching hour!) She loves bath time, which is the antidote to the poisonous 6pm hour. All of a sudden the screams and fussiness come to a screeching halt and she lays back in the warm water and doesn’t move a muscle. Pure baby bath bliss! She is locking in eye contact, which has been such a fun development. For weeks she just sort of looked right past us when we were talking to her. Her toys are now fascinating to her and she coos at them whenever she’s playing. She also fully understands and appreciates her schedule. Baby Girl loves to sleep and godhelpusall if she can’t get in a proper nap. We are using Moms On Call, an Atlanta-based company and book that supports new moms with how-to tips and an easy-to-follow schedule. It has been a godsend!

I am absolutely loving being at home with her. We have such sweet days together, and the very thought of going back to work is making me cringe with anxiety and sadness. Several people joked that I would be so ready to go back to work after being home for three months, but you guys are soooooooooo wrong. If we could afford for me to be a SAHM, I would stay home with her in a heartbeat. I have always been very good at entertaining myself, and I rarely feel bored. Maternity leave has been no exception to that rule. I have been building relationships with some other SAHMs, which has given me the adult interaction that all of us need. After twelve weeks at home, I know what the different pitches and sounds of her cries mean. I really really love taking care of her, meeting her every need, soothing her, feeding her, playing with her, dancing around the house to Taylor Swift with her.

Now in the spirit of truth, I freely admit that I have tremendously enjoyed the couple of nights out I’ve had with girlfriends and the night away that Jon and I had this weekend, thanks to my mom who kept the baby overnight. Being a mommy doesn’t mean you stop being a woman, a wife, friend, a sister, an aunt, a daughter. We just have to make sure that we create that balance in our lives, which will ultimately make everyone in our lives happier right along with us.

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Just to see you smile…

…I’d do anything! There is a sweet Tim McGraw song with those lyrics: “Just to see you smile, I’d do anything that you wanted me to. When all is said and done, I’d never count the cost; it’s worth all that’s lost, just to see you smile.” Every morning I play this game with my baby girl, doing whatever I can to see her smile after her 9am bottle. That’s her happiest, sweetest time every day. She lays back on my legs after cuddle-burping, and almost instantly a smile spreads across her face, like the most content feeling she could possibly have. For the next half hour, her smile comes and goes, and every now and then, I’m lucky enough to lock eye contact with her and see the biggest toothless smile that instantly springs tears from my eyes. For seven weeks, I have been her primary caretaker, and I have truly loved every minute of it. Even those middle-of-the-night feedings are a sweet time when it feels like she and I are the only people awake in the world. Those smiles let me see inklings of her budding personality, which I wonder about all the time. Will she be courageous? Will she be insecure? Will she be personable? Charming? Shy? Funny? Those smiles aren’t telling anything yet, but I love watching her grow and dreaming about what she will become.