I’ve been doing some work with a photographer friend recently. It’s been fantastic on so many levels, but specifically for my own creativity. It’s not that I haven’t been doing creative things (I consider blogging creative) but that I haven’t really gotten my hands into projects or felt like I truly created anything for a long time. While in my friend’s studio, however, I saw some of the darling handmade prop items she has. Little bonnets, cute baby pants, little toys — they are so precious and at the same time so simple. I kept finding myself thinking that if I just got my sewing machine out I could make things, too. So two weekends ago I found my sewing machine, cleaned it up, took some time to relearn how to operate it, and decided to sew.
My first project was a simple, slightly rustic baby bonnet. Why a bonnet? I have no idea. I have a baby boy who is definitely not the bonnet sort (he’s more into knit hats made by his Auntie Nery.) But I wanted to make a bonnet and so I gathered some random supplies from my thrift and scrap bags — bags that had been set aside for a long, long time — and just started forming and sewing. The result, a beautiful and in my opinion well made bonnet surprised me. It was so cute! It was well made! And all I wanted to do was make more. So I cleaned up the desk space in J.’s room and started thinking about projects that might be fun. A little quilt, perhaps. Some sweet baby headbands. Maybe some pants for J. I ended up being felled by a stomach flu before I could start anything, but now that I’m mostly on the mend the excitement is back.
I also started thinking about old blogs I used to read. Back in the early ’00s I spent every spare moment reading crafting blogs and trying their various tutorials. I taught myself various techniques, made some really cool projects, and even sold a few things on Etsy for awhile. So last night I decided to see if I could find some of those old blogs and, sure enough, I did. Going back over them I got inspired all over again and this time, now that I’m a mama with a little guy to sew for, some of the patterns and projects I’d skipped years before suddenly have interest to me now. So, now that the stomach flu is gone, I’ve lined up some projects. I think I’m going to start by making a faux Aden and Anais Burpy Bib and a minky-backed quilt for J. And of course, more adorable bonnets.
My son, J., is three months old today. When I look back at the photos taken of him during those first minutes and days I am amazed at how much he is different and yet the same. Those big eyes of his are still the biggest things on his face, but they are now closely rivalled by his smile. His thick mop of unruly hair is still a thick mop of unruly hair, but now the curls that used to vanish with a sweep of the comb are holding out a little longer. He still loves bathtime, but he’s kicking out of his tub these days. I am still every bit as besotted with him as I was in the moments after my c-section and am every day grateful that I get to be his mom.
But motherhood isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. My maternity leave flew by and if I am able to swallow down the guilt long enough to admit it, I was glad to go back to work. Not having my full income (I had been working with a combination of savings, vacation time, holiday pay, and a generous gift from my father) was an incredible amount of stress. I’m still not past the anxiety and I find myself going over my budget and accounts literally every single day. I live in fear of the day that I will actually have to put J. in daycare, though right now we are incredibly fortunate that a family friend is able to watch him for the one day each week I need care. I’m also still struggling with the professional sacrifice I made to minimize that daycare need. Switching from what was my “dream job” to go back into the office I left for said dream job has been hard. That isn’t to say my new role isn’t satisfying or that I am unhappy; it’s just that there is something difficult in letting go of something you love.
I had expected that by three months in I’d have some sort of flow. I wasn’t expecting miracles, mind you. I didn’t think I’d have a perfectly clean house and wear a full face of makeup every day, but it has surprised me that more days than not I don’t get out of my pajamas and I have literally gone a full week without a shower. J.’s room is only half decorated and, due largely in part to his reflux issues causing him to sleep in his swing, that room is as much storage as it is a baby’s room. I still haven’t sent out thank you cards for the incredible and generous gifts my son has received. In a couple of instances I haven’t even unpacked them. The baby doesn’t have a routine (we’re letting him sort of drive the bus until he figures out what his sleep/wake looks like) and as a result neither do I. Those first few days out of the hospital I was up bright and early, but these days? Well, last Thursday J. and I were in bed until noon.
My body is another thing I hadn’t expected to still be getting used to. As a plus sized woman I knew going into it that my body would be different at the end. I didn’t have any expectations that I’d have the baby and walk out of the hospital a supermodel. That I have lost over fifty pounds since delivery has been a surprise to me, but so have the other changes. The never-ending period. The random infections. The strange ghost pains in my abdomen, no doubt nerves awakening even now from my c-section. And even though I’m thinner the shape of my body has changed, partly from looser skin and partly simply just from the element of change. I don’t know how to dress this new body on the off chance I actually get to put on real pants. Some days I don’t even care.
Perhaps most surprising of all, though, has been just how raw my emotions are even now when I think about my own mother. Not having her hurts more now than it did before. There is so much she’s missing. There’s so much I’m missing getting to ask her.
But despite all the broken illusions and the unexpectedly uncharted territory there is one thing that I know for sure: despite all the times I’ve lost my patience only to break down crying in the bathroom at 3am and despite all the times I’ve had no clue what I’m doing and wondered why I got into this, I wake up every day to the grins of the world’s cutest little boy and I am humbled that I’m the person who gets to be his mother. Three months in there is one thing I know for sure: I regret nothing.
I’m back at work today. Maternity leave is over. I walked out of my apartment this morning and left my tiny son in the care of a close family friend and while I know he is safe, loved, and cared for I’m all kinds of a mess. Even if I’m doing a good job of not being one. It’s really weird to go from spending every single day being a mommy to devoting hours to being what you were before you were a mommy. I’ve tried to combat some of the weirdness by dressing a little nicer for work, putting on my makeup, and of course flipping through photos on my phone as I count the hours until I can head home (after a Target detour — our microwave decided to bite it yesterday) and snuggle my little guy.
But even though I am having separation anxiety and just want to go see my baby, I don’t exactly feel guilty about leaving him. That sounds really awful, but I promise it’s not. The big reason for that is because of how I’m going back to work. I changed my schedule so that even though I am going back to work I’m not putting him in daycare. I’m also spreading my work week over the weekends so that I’m with him during the week so very little changes for him except for more quality time with his daddy while I’m at work on the weekends. What I hope from this is that not only does my son get the best of me, but also that it shows him that I’m willing to make changes and sacrifices and work hard to make his life good. I hope to teach him about hard work and working to balance.
…I’m still counting down the seconds until I can get home to snuggle my boy.
It’s cliche and overwrought now, the idea of telling 2016 to not let the door hit it on the butt as it disappeared into history. It was a hard year no doubt, with the loss of so many familiar and famous faces, an unsettling presidential election, and so much tension worldwide. 2016 wasn’t an entirely bad year, though. I had a couple of significant personal highs, my brother getting married and the birth of my first child being tops of the list for me. But the year is over now and we are just a few days into 2017. I’m not one for resolutions, but for some reason this year it feels important to set a course. My life is dramatically different as I embark on a new year. 2017 Nicole is a very different lady than 2016 Nicole so I’ve taken a couple of days (most of them spent dealing with a fussy, post-shots baby boy) to figure out what direction I want to steer my new year in.
Guys, I’m planning to have an epic 2017.
On Friday I go back to work, but I am in a sense going to a whole new life. My job is amazing and I’ve been able to take on a different job role which in turn gives me a schedule that pretty much lets me be a stay at home mom while still earning a full-time income. This schedule change means my precious baby J is only going to be in childcare one day each week (and right now we’re lucky enough to have a family friend watching him.) It also means that I will actually have the flexibility to pursue some of my creative passions, like writing. Like makeup. Like everything. In 2017 I’m going to be working on my makeup and stylist side gigs, but also combining them with some other pursuits to create a whole image service. I’m also going to be working a bit with Rebecca Lassiter Photography and I am so excited about it. Rebecca took baby J’s first photos and I am obsessed with her work. I can’t wait to see where my creative pursuits take me.
I’m also focusing on my health and well-being this year. Last year was the year of finding out what was going on with myself emotionally and while mental health is always a work in progress I enter 2017 knowing my diagnosis and having a coping plan. What I need to focus on now is my body. Having a baby is hard! Being a mommy after the difficult physical process of birth is almost as taxing. I’ve already lost weight since having the baby, but I want to get myself to a healthy body weight. I’ve started doing Weight Watchers to help me towards my end goal of being literally half my size. It’s not about looking good (though I feel like I will be happier with my appearance) it’s about having my body in the best shape possible as J gets bigger and gives me a run for my money.
And speaking of money…I’m definitely trying to be more financially responsible this year. Expect to see more of my Target exploits, still unsupervised but perhaps a little more savvy. I have killer Target Style. Now I just want to do it on even more of a budget, which of course makes it even more awesome.
2017’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be epic.
What are your plans for 2017?
I would never profess to be a parenting expert and I also have never expected any of the parents in my life to know it all. They know a lot thanks to experience and have given me some great advice (in fact, I was just given an interesting tidbit about rice water today,) but there have definitely been things about having a child that no one told me. Every day I come across a little something new and unexpected. One of the things that has caught me out of nowhere lately is that babies are social currency.
Going out in public I’m not an unfriendly person, but I’m also not the person who will just start up conversations with strangers. Unless I’m on vacation. Especially in Las Vegas. And then I end up in a lot of random Instagram selfies with strangers. #truestory No, I’m friendly but I keep to myself. My mother was the chatty person and I didn’t inherit that trait. However, since having J I have had countless conversations in public. At first I thought that my baby was just a great conversation starter. People see cute kid, they comment, I comment back, life is good. It’s more than that, though. We are far, far beyond passing comment. I’m having full-on conversations with strangers now.
It starts simply enough. Someone sees the car seat or me fumbling with something in the diaper bag, they come over and comment about how cute my baby is. It’s true, J is cute. He also has a full head of jet black hair that is striking and adorable on a seven-week-old. The hair almost always leads to questions about said hair and how much heartburn I had to have endured while pregnant. Before I know it, I’m talking to some random woman in Target about parenting and being a new mom and usually walk away with advice, a hug, and in a couple of instances a new Facebook friend.
Fourteen years in this city and I’ve made more social contacts in the last two months than in the entirety of those previous fourteen years. It’s amazing. Forget Linkedin and Facebook. Babies are the new network. Or, rather, have always been the big social network. I’m just finally getting my special invite code and honestly? It’s kind of awesome. Thanks for improving my social life, J.
No one told me it would be this easy and no one told me it would be this hard. My son, JC, is officially one month old. His one month should have been his birthday, but my precious first born has never played by my rules and thus came into this world early, my little turkey turned pumpkin spice. If I really take a clear-eyed look at this whole adventure to now I could have seen all of this coming, the simplicity and the challenge, the nothing going to plan but everything sort of working out in the process. I probably could have predicted this, but that’s the problem with clear-eyed anything at this point: I’m tired. I actually got to the point of tiredness where I was slurring my words more than even that one time in college where I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything from the nose down (true story for another day). Clear-eyed isn’t my thing right now.
What is my thing is noticing, with a mix of surprise and dismay, that all of the stories I’ve been told about how difficult pregnancy, motherhood, etc. is haven’t been completely accurate and the anecdotes about how somethings are easy and joyful are also faulty. I’m figuring out, one off kilter day at a time, just how unique this adventure is for each woman who undertakes it and just how similar the trail at the same time. I think it’s Johnson and Johnson that has the slogan of “a baby changes everything.” While I was pregnant those commercials made me cry, sometimes just a little bit of tears running down my face and others the full on ugly cry. Now, I’m not sure how accurate it is even if the commercials still make me cry. A lot has changed, but at the same time I still feel very much the same. Just…more.
Becoming pregnant with JC was not on my agenda for 2016. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, but with how 2015 ended for me all that I really wanted was to try to find balance again. Losing your mother, no matter how somewhat expected it is, will really knock you off center. Turns out so will an unplanned (but very welcome!) pregnancy. Right now, with JC sleeping peacefully in his baby glider after being very fussy all day I’m starting to take stock of things. My house has been turned upside down and I am still trying to sort through the gifts we received for his baby shower (which happened when he was one week old) and the various other things people have passed forward to us (like that amazing glider that is saving my life at this moment.) Everything is the same, but nothing is the same. What I do know is that I’m learning a lot and while I’m a very new mom, I want to share some of what I’m learning and what this crazy adventure is turning into for me.
Holy crap. I’m a mom now. Hold on to your hats, folks.