Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Missed Moments: Halloween

You can tell when Eleanor started picking her own Halloween costumes. Her first two Halloweens she was a pirate and a sushi chef. Then last year she was a (pink) ballerina and this year she was a (pink) fairy princess. She had told me she was just going to pick out something from her regular dress-up clothes to wear, which was fine with me.

But then we were shopping at a discount store and I found a pink fairy costume for only $5. It looked like $5 was a fair price for the flimsy dress, plastic wings, and bent crown. But it also only had to last one night, right? We bought it, I let her try it on once at home, and then we put it away to heighten the anticipation (and keep it intact) until Halloween.

What struck me most about Halloween, and about the first few weeks following Declan's birth, was that life continued on pretty normally. After Eleanor was born our world was turned upside-down, inside-out, and any other phrase indicating a complete and total break from life before baby. I know it was partly because she was our first born, and going from married couple to parents is a big change. Even if you have pets; sorry, it just doesn't compare.

But another reason life with Eleanor had been so challenging is that we had a lot of problems with feeding her. She didn't want to eat and she wasn't reliably gaining weight. (Sometimes she would do fine, and then sometimes she plateaued, which little babies are not supposed to do.) All she really wanted to do was sleep, which her doctors told us was not allowed. So we would spend hours trying to wake her up and night and get her to eat, with very little success. On top of that, I was also pumping to try and increase my milk supply, and her feedings could easily take an hour at least. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that, for the first few weeks, I was spending nearly 20 hours a day trying to feed her or in feeding-related activities. It was awful.

After a while we calmed down and things got better. We started letting her sleep through the night (rather than go against medical advice, we just assumed she was old enough and stopped asking the doctors if it was okay) and that improved everyone's disposition a LOT. We figured out a feeding system that worked for us, and I stopped relying on the scale to tell me if I was succeeding or failing as a parent. Eleanor was old enough that she could tell us how things were going, and she was a very happy, smiley baby.

This time around, I've done a much better job of ignoring the scale from day one. We went in for a few lactation consultations, and I specifically requested they NOT weigh him, so I couldn't obsess over the numbers (nor could they). I'm not perfect, and I nearly had a breakdown at his two-month appointment a few days ago because I thought he hadn't gained enough weight. The 15 minutes between getting him weighed and hearing the doctor say he was fine were self-imposed torture. But I NEVER voluntarily weigh him, and I'm doing a much better job of letting Declan tell me if he's hungry.

So anyway, this relates to Halloween because it was a mere two weeks after Declan was born and instead of being lost in some weird baby vortex, separated physically and mentally from the normal world, we were just getting on with things. Making and eating dinner at a reasonable hour, getting Eleanor to preschool, and enjoying her first Halloween where she trick-or-treated with friends.

Of course, her friends live down the block, and we still didn't even make it off the block before she called it quits. But we got to walk around with the other parents and watch the kids run eagerly up to every house. I felt like part of the regular world, even if I was getting up two times a night to feed the baby. At least this baby wakes up and cries, eats, and goes back to sleep. How amazing!

Said baby stayed at home during trick-or-treating, cuddled in Grandma Karen's arms while she handed out candy. But next year! Next year he will be a sushi chef or race car driver ... just preferably something not pink.

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