Be­hind the baby shower

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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

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