Behind the baby shower
My sister’s baby shower went off without a hitch. I’m officially retiring from the event planning business.
OK — only one of those things is true. But at eight months pregnant, my days of hosting and prepping and cooking and or- ganizing are definitely on hiatus.
I’m just thankful I could be there and, being February, that we had sunny skies on a cold Saturday. When Katie and I started discussing our two show- ers just a month apart (in the dead of winter, no less), I had visions of mass cancellations and snow drifts and trying to reschedule, but finding ourselves stuck without a plan B.
We didn’t really have a plan B this time, either, but we made it work. Mostly because the weather forecast worked with us.
With 50 women present to celebrate my little sister and her baby girl, I’ve never seen such warmth . . . and so many gifts. It took Kate more than two hours to open everything — and that was moving along at a good clip. Her good friend, Michelle, was our host, and she did an outstanding job keeping everything organized.
As a “seasoned mom” (can I call myself a sea- soned mom? Sure), I watched with interest to make sure Kate now has what I would consider the basics. I accompanied she and my brother-in-law as they combed the aisles of a local big-box baby store months ago, offering my tidbits on what has worked with Oliver and what items we still have in the box.
We were there for three hours. And didn’t hit ev- er y aisle.
As I’ve tried to gently point out, what works with one baby might not necessarily work with an- other. All those adorable footie pajamas and sleeper sacks? Ollie hates them, and has hated them from the moment he came home. I bought and re- ceived at least four “heav- enly” sleeper sacks prom- ising to make “our little angel” rest comfortably, and just the opposite has been true. He hates hav- ing his feet covered. If you cover his feet, he will fight until he has achieved freedom. Spencer and I know from 2 a.m. experience.
Now that he’s nearly two, Ollie is closer to ca- pable of telling us when something annoys him — and we’re pretty good at reading those signals. But in the beginning, we knew only that our newborn was thrashing around an- grily in his swaddle, doing just the opposite of what our NICU nurses and others had promised he would do.
We took him out of the swaddle completely. We put him partially in a swaddle. We took his arms out but left his lower half tightly swaddled (and that helped), and eventually reached a point where we knew to swaddle essentially his midsection with both hands and feet free.
That was the magic ticket.
No one can tell you that. There is no way to predict that your fresh, mewling baby will want to have his or her hands and feet clear at all times — in case he needs to make a break for it, I guess? I don’t know. But Ollie is ready for situations we apparently can’t anticipate.
As my own due date for Baby No. 2 gets closer, I’m trying to impart all the sisterly knowledge I can before I’m once again reduced to a foggy-brained pile of new mom goo. Most of what I have to offer boils down to two categories: This is Really Hard, But You Will Get Through It; and Please Accept Help When It’s Cheerfully Offered.
Regarding the former, I’ve tried to stress to my sister and brother-in-law that all my “jokes” about investing in a good dark roast coffee in large quan- tities cannot be overstat- ed. Talking with a friend and fellow toddler mom on Saturday, we both agreed that the sleep deprivation was soul-crushing and easily the hardest part of the past two years.
I mean, is there anyone that wouldn’t agree with that? Maybe those fortunate unicorn parents who have a newborn sleeping through the night at six weeks old. If that’s you, all that coffee you bought is probably going to waste. Just let me know when it’s convenient to pick it up.
In the category of accepting help, this is where I was most uncomfortable — until my husband and I were about a month into life with Oliver. I was preparing to go back to work and only vaguely sure I had my faculties intact. I shudder to think about some of what you likely read from me in 2015; I mean, I could barely form coherent thoughts, let alone sentences. In print. Who gave me my column back?
In fact, I think that’s much of what I wrote: I’m tired. Please forgive me.
Once I accepted that family and friends really did want to come bring us dinner and no, they don’t care if the living room is a wasteland of dirty mugs and dirty blankets and dirty bibs and really just so many, many dirty things, I began to step out from behind my funk and actually . . . function.
And do laundry. Also important.
I’ve never been one to admit when I’m strug- gling. I guess I prefer to maintain the ridiculous illusion that I’m somehow in control of my life when, in fact, the opposite is of- ten true. Becoming a par- ent means conceding that your time, resources and emotional energy are no longer your own. Once I accepted that, something magical happened: I got much happier.
That’s what I tell Katie, too: Anyone who looks like they “have it all” still has bad days, and you can’t compare your life to their smiling Facebook posts. That’s not to say that other folks aren’t actually happy. It’s just that, for each of us, happiness looks different — and of course we mostly share the parenting “wins.”
For us, I’m hoping the adjustment to two kids isn’t too rough. In hindsight, most of my early blues related to Oliver’s premature birth and our sudden shift from team of two to family of three. I was so stuck on how things “should have been” that it took months to accept, instead, just how everything was. I can live in the moment now. It took 30 years and one near-death experience, but it finally happened for me.
I didn’t share any of this at the baby shower, of course. Kind of a downer. We all want to look at pretty baby dresses and cuddly blankets, oohing and awwing over the impossibly small clothing . . . that I know will soon be covered in drool.
But that’s OK. Baby showers are all about anticipation. Happiness. Love.
And there is so, so much of that, too.
I can’t wait for her to find out.
With our mom at Katie’s baby shower on Saturday