Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What a difference...

...a year makes

The year 2007 slunk into the room with a decidedly hostile look on its face, only to catch me in the act of kicking 2006 in the ass and shoving it out the door. On December 30th, I had realized that our first IVF cycle seemed to be a big flop, a conclusion confirmed by a negative beta on January 2nd. Mystery and I, recent arrivals in Korea, spent the holidays feeling rather alone and blue. Not the most auspicious start to a new year.

We greeted 2008 in the USA, at my parents’ house, as the parents of a new baby daughter. While we didn’t plan any particular festivities, an impromptu party developed when two of my father’s siblings made an unexpected visit from the east coast (warning us only the night before of their imminent arrival in the morning), and my best friend, her finance, and their two-year-old son dropped by. It was an odd mix of people, but it just worked, and everybody had a fantastic time. We didn’t manage to stay up until anywhere near midnight, but it was still the best New Year’s Eve of my life.

...a month makes

A month ago, Eggbert was approaching her 4th week of life. She was the light of my life, and yet I must admit that charming as she was, she didn’t actually DO very much. Eating and sleeping were pretty much her only activities, and her only signs of recognition of Mystery’s and my presence were the shrieks that she emitted when our service as general comfort-providers wasn’t up to standard. Now, only a short month later, she spends much of her day smiling, flirting with her daddy, and generally delighting us with all of her new skills. She can hold up her head. She can even “stand up” if her upper body is supported. She’s a whole new person, even though she’s still our beloved little girl. It’s just amazing to watch her grow.

...a day makes

The day we returned to Korea after spending the holidays in the US, I put the Egg down in her crib for a little while to attend to something else. After a few minutes, I heard cooing coming from the crib. I went over to investigate, and found Eggbert staring at a toy that I had hung from the bars of the crib a few minutes earlier. At first I wasn’t sure that she was really looking at the toy, rather than just in its general direction, but then she started to bat happily at it, cooing louder when she made it swing. And just like that, my baby showed me that after seven weeks of complete disinterest, she had finally discovered objects. Every day seems to have a new surprise in store for us both.

...a generation makes

Spending time with my parents, my parents’ friends, and my friends’ parents as a new mother was absolutely fascinating. Not only was it moving to introduce my child to her grandparents for the first time, it was also really interesting to hear the comments that were made (many obviously inadvertently) about my parenting. For example, I couldn’t count the number of times I heard various forms of the sentence “it won’t hurt her to cry”. Generally this occurred when the senior citizen in question was holding the baby and the baby started screaming. While I had in most cases already explained that Eggbert is a really predictable child, and pretty much only cries when either 1) she’s hungry, 2) she has a poopy diaper, or 3) she wants to be held. As my visit to the US coincided with her six-week growth spurt, the vast majority of crying episodes involved option 1. So, when I heard her crying, my natural instinct was to take her and feed her. However, the instinct of everyone else in the room seemed to be to discuss her crying, and then to jiggle her ineffectively for several minutes while talking about how crying wouldn’t hurt her. At first, I was bewildered by their apparent callousness, until I realized that when THEY were parents of babies, they were actually told not to “spoil” their newborns by reacting to their cries by promptly meeting their needs. It was pretty amazing to see that even though they realize that parenting styles (and the advice of parenting experts) have changed radically over time, they still reacted instinctively by (implicitly) criticizing me for attempting to feed Eggbert on her own schedule, rather than mine. Well, either that or they just didn’t want to give her up. In a few cases, it took quite a bit of doing for me to get the baby back to feed her. I have similar problems in Korea, where middle-aged and older women routinely stop me on the street to scold me for taking the baby out of the house while she's so small, in an inappropriate fashion (a baby sling), and inadequately bundled up (I would think that four layers is enough, but apparently not here in Seoul). I don't understand everything that they're saying, but the subtitles in my mind read: "WORST MOTHER EVER!!!" However, Eggbert's smiles and giggles, the new layer of chub on her little thighs, and the additional chins that developed over the last few weeks reassure me we're doing just fine, regardless of what the village elders may think.

...a baby makes

Now that I’m a mother, I can no longer do many of the things that I used to take for granted. Most of them I don’t miss. During the first six weeks of Eggbert’s life, we mostly stayed at home. We don’t have a car in Korea, so I hadn’t had to deal with the joys of car travel with an infant. After two weeks of frantic activity in the US, I can now safely say “Wow. What a hassle!” She’s a pretty good traveler, mostly sleeping in the car, but once you get her out at your destination, anything can happen. Shopping trips took twice as long as she invariably realized (and announced to the world) that she was STARVING right after we got her into the car seat, or produced an enormous eye-watering poop the second we reached our destination, forcing me to immediately become very familiar with the nearest bathroom. The real shocker, though, was realizing that while being there for a friend in need has always been a priority for me, having a baby makes even that impossible in some cases. One of my very dearest friends suffered a horrible tragedy a few days after we arrived in the US, and my first instinct was to rush to be by her side. As fortune would have it, I was only a five-hour drive away, rather than half-way around the world, yet I realized that I might as well have been on Mars for all that. Previously I had only considered the way becoming a parent expands your ability to love exponentially, I had never even thought about the possibility that it might also force me to become a bit more selfish, or at least self-centered, as I focus on caring for the one individual who needs me most.

...a family makes

Throughout my first two months of being a mother, I have repeatedly thought about how incredibly hard it must be to parent alone. Spending time with my parents, sister, and extended family while Eggbert is still so small was such a joy, and while there have been some moments when I could strangle Mystery (e.g., when he slept in until 11 am on days that I was up at 5), he’s a fantastic dad. While our road to parenthood wasn’t easy, having arrived makes me realize how incredibly lucky we are not only to have finally reached this moment, but also to be able to share it with all of our closest loved ones.

Happy New Year! I hope that 2008 brings good health and happiness to all of us.


Rachel Inbar said...

Wow! Definitely major changes :-)

Eggbert is already batting at objects - that's really early! I can imagine the flights with her weren't too easy either.

My inlaws used to criticize my SIL for feeding too often, but I took the I'm the mom stand and made it clear that this was my decision... (I did demand-feeding, for the most part)

Sounds like you're doing great and really enjoying being a mom :-)

JENN said...

Beautifully written. Brings back memories of Little Bean's first few months.
BTW - My dh sometime (usually on weekends) sleeps until 11 am, about the time Little Bean is finishing her lunch and ready for a nap. I understand the feeling of frustration.

Sarah said...

oh no, i hope your friend's tragedy is at least, well, mending.

i love the way you put this post together. so wonderful to hear about all the joys she brings you.

Marie-Baguette said...

so glad you had a nice trip in the US. Me and Hubby were checkout your blog daily, hoping for an update! Very happy to hear Eggbert is doing well, growing, batting at objects and being a cutie. Please post some new pictures! And I loved the story about Korean women trying to give you parenting advice!

Samantha said...

Happy New Year! That's a beautiful summary of a year and a lifetime of changes.

Anonymous said...

loved your post! yes, there is nothing like a new mother in the room to bring on all the advice and criticism! but you sound like you handled it with aplomb.

i hope the tragedy wasn't the loss of the high risk twin pregnancy you have written about once or twice.