We Survived the First Six Months! (Send Pastries Anyway.)
It’s 7 a.m., and I’m sitting at my desk in my office. Birds are starting to wake up outside my window. A hot cup of fresh coffee lets off steam amid a pile of pacifiers and toys. It’s quiet — too quiet — and I consider checking on my sleeping baby for the millionth time. I resist, not wanting to tempt the fates in charge of keeping my baby asleep for an extra hour. I relish the quiet solitude and take advantage of the silence to write.
The baby monitor crackles as Peter wakes up. He lets out his good morning cry and I retrieve him. Five minutes of snuggles, a diaper change, and it’s now “Take Your Kid to Work Day” at this home office. Not only will I be trying to beat multiple deadlines, but I’ll also be wrangling the most adorably disruptive and distracting officemate known to man. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By the time this article goes to print, Peter will be six months old. In the grand scheme of things, six months is a relatively short amount of time. But looking back that far (heck, even reflecting on last week!) is like looking back into a completely different life. Days and nights are still kind of blurred together, moments go by too quickly, and it seems like Peter hits a new milestone everyday. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of diapers, laundry, feeding, et cetera ad nauseum, but taking a minute to reflect reminds me just how lucky we are to be parents.
Krissy had a relatively easy pregnancy, but Peter stayed on past his due date. When he showed no intention of joining us in the outside world by 41 weeks, our midwife suggested an induction. We had planned for a natural birth with minimal medical interventions, but (as our wise elders told us) birth plans don’t always work out. We checked into the maternity ward on a Friday evening with the naive expectation of having a baby by noon on Saturday. HA.
30 hours went by. We were unable to sleep, and we still didn’t have a baby. Everyone was stressed and tired; there were minor complications, and we wanted to ensure Peter’s safety. So our plan for a natural birth was thrown out the window. Around 4:30 on Sunday morning, we decided that a C-section would be the safest plan for Krissy and Peter.
I knew we were in the best hands possible, but nothing prepared me for the terror I felt when they wheeled Krissy out of the labor and delivery suite. I was alone in this huge room where we were supposed to welcome our son into the world, shaking as I donned my surgical scrubs. We were trading the dimmed lights and comforting decor of the labor suite for the harsh, sterile environment of a surgical room. This was not what we planned.
But, you know what? Everything turned out OK. Peter was born at 5:21 a.m. on December 4th. After a quick examination to make sure he was safe and healthy, we slowly walked him across the surgical floor to place him on Krissy’s chest. We sang his lullaby to him as he nursed for the first time. It was more beautiful than I ever imagined a C-section could be.
Krissy came up with an apt description of the whole labor/childbirth/new mom scenario. Labor and childbirth are like running a marathon. But instead of resting when you’re done, you immediately proceed to do an Ironman competition. With a tiny human clinging to you.
We had a few days of “recovery” in the hospital with Peter. And on the third day, they turned us loose; we were sent out into the big, scary, snowy world with a fragile, perfect little baby boy. The duty of driving home from the hospital fell on my shoulders.
I am a chronically nervous driver; add no sleep and precious cargo to the mix, and I was a bit of a wreck. But this was something only I could do. It was one of the first moments where I felt like my family depended on me to protect them. I took that responsibility seriously.
We made it home safely, and that’s honestly all I remember of the first few weeks. With the help of Krissy’s mother and a village of friends who kept us fed and our house clean, we got through it. I never thought I would be so relieved to have someone come over to just hold Peter so I could shower or (if I was feeling really adventurous) throw in a load of laundry.
And too soon, we were expected to get back to life as usual. Krissy was lucky to have a long maternity leave, but I was back to work within a month. I got to ease back into reality since I work from home three days a week. But the first day away was surreal, and I swear when I came home Peter’s hair was redder. It broke my heart to be missing out on his new adventures every day, but I feel very fortunate that I can be home as much as I am.
Krissy found the anticipation of returning to work worse than actually going back to the office. Nursing Peter had come to rule her day, and the thought of relinquishing that special bonding time was hard to accept. For Krissy, returning to work was like tearing a band-aid off quickly. She’s still coming to terms with being absent most of the day, but being away is much more manageable than she thought it would be. And it makes those homecoming moments all the more special.
One of the coolest things about raising a tiny human is watching their personality develop. Somehow, we were blessed with a baby who loves show-tunes and zucchini. He’s generally a happy kid and never wants to miss out on anything. (Of course, that all may change tomorrow.) Peter’s fear-of-missing-out is great when we are out and about; he’s curious and easily entertained even on the dullest of errands. But when it comes time for bed, that’s a whole different story. He doesn’t want to miss anything, and as much as we try to tell him that we really don’t do anything past 8 p.m. anymore, he’s determined to keep the party going.
It’s also just mind-blowing to witness human development so closely. I’m amazed at what that tiny baby brain does, and we actually see him making progress. Brag alert: in one week, he learned to flip from his tummy to his back, splash in his bath water, put his pacifier back in his mouth, and sit unassisted for a brief time. Can you imagine an adult developing four new skills within such a short amount of time?! It’s nothing short of amazing.
He’s also much more expressive and aware, and he’s determined to engage with everyone and everything he comes into contact with (OMG A COFFEE BAG OMG A MAXIPAD). He also reacts to Krissy and me differently. I can make him squeal and laugh with just a glance, but Krissy can comfort him instantly. And together, the three of us, are complete.
As wonderful as it is, I’m not going to pretend everything is all sunshine and rainbows over here. I came down with a pretty intense bout of cabin fever around Peter’s five-month mark. I felt trapped in the house and overwhelmed by all the tasks I couldn’t get done. I felt like I was failing at my job and failing at being a good mother to Peter. It was stewing inside me and spoiling every day I was at home. I was resentful that I was working, I was resentful that I was staying at home, I was downright resentful of everything.
The solution turned out to be simpler than I thought. I just had to be honest with Krissy about how I was feeling. It royally sucked having to admit that I felt overwhelmed and that I couldn’t do everything I needed to do. I was scared to admit that I felt like a bad mom, but just getting that off my chest alleviated the burden of feeling like a failure. I realize that, as parents, we can never do everything we need to do, but we are capable of much more than we think we are. We are stronger than we think we are. And together, everything is manageable.
I feel pretty spoiled rotten that I have such an amazing partner. We tag-team the diaper changes that require four hands, we share particularly traumatizing poopy diapers on Snapchat, and we try to keep up with normal human things like groceries, laundry, and cooking. Our priorities have drastically changed; hobbies are still non-existent, but we know this is only temporary. Trading my gym time and Krissy’s pottery time for hours with Peter is so worth it.
We are also blessed to have such a strong group of mothers and friends who help us out at the drop of a hat. Our mothers are thrilled to participate in Peter’s life, and they visit as much as possible. Peter has too many “aunties” to count, and we have so many people we can lean on when we need support.
We also live in a neighborhood with fantastic mothers around every corner. One particularly rough morning, I was relieved to find a neighborhood mom on my bus to work. I hadn’t slept, I can’t remember if I showered, and my coffee was sitting on the counter at home. But Becky was there on the bus, offering words of encouragement and telling me that I was strong enough to get through the rough early months. It’s comforting knowing that we have some awesome mom-friends nearby who are always willing to encourage us on this journey of parenthood.
As one mom in a two-mom household, I’ve been ready to pull my claws out to defend our family. But surprisingly, we haven’t heard anything negative about our family at all. If someone asks a question about Peter’s birth, I usually feel comfortable sharing our story. This willingness to share is surprising to me because I am normally defensive about my privacy. But I also believe in the importance of celebrating all types of families, so I try to share our experience if people seem genuinely interested. It’s important for everyone to remember that there are so many ways to make a family.
And speaking of family, Minnesota is great in that I was able to sign Peter’s birth certificate as a parent. But given our current political climate, we decided that we wanted to make sure all of our bases were covered. Our family lawyer is helping me go through the process of fully adopting Peter. It’s incredibly strange to think about someone evaluating whether or not I’m a fit parent to a child I’ve cared for every single day of his life, but the adoption process is necessary for us to feel completely safe and protected as a family.
Everything we do now takes at least twice the amount of time that it used to. Gone are the days where I can focus 100 percent on my work or even get things done in a timely fashion. (Case in point: as I was typing this paragraph, Peter demanded a story. Ten minutes later, back to the writing grind.)
But as much as I love being productive, I love being involved with Peter more. I love seeing his face light up as I sing or do my best Julie Andrews impression. When he squeals with delight and screeches, it makes my mediocre job performance worth it.
As parents, we can’t do it all. There will always be some piece of clothing covered in last night’s dinner that needs laundering. There will always be dog hair on the floor. There will always be sacrifices made in order to meet the minimum requirements of survival. But I resent anyone who says we can’t have it all, because that comes down to what you define as all. My all is my family, our health, and hope for our future. And by my definition of all, I have it.
This is a follow-up to a piece Kathleen wrote in our 2016 Pride Issue about experiences she and Krissy were having with pregnancy: “Things No One Tells You About Lesbian Pregnancy: A Non-Bio Mom-To-Be’s Experience with the Miracle of Life.” Find it on lavendermagazine.com.