Today is Ava's 8th birthday. She's been a little under the weather lately, but rallied nicely today to enjoy pancakes and presents for breakfast, cupcakes with her class, and then dinner out with us. She is such a dear heart. I mean don't get me wrong, she can drive one nuts just like any child can, but there is a real sweetness and sensitivity to this little girl. I hope and pray that as her parents, we can help bring out the best in her. She's a good sort.
I remember so vividly the first year of her life. She was a very fussy baby, who would nap in 20 minute intervals in the day for the first several months, and many nights wake every 45 minutes. I mean, 45 minutes on the nose. You could put a cake in the oven and time it based on her wakeups. As a result, I now have a graduate degree in Baby Sleep Science and Strategy. Okay, I don't really, but I should. I studied, read and obsessed over it long enough to earn some type of qualifications! She was just busy--wanted to be up at our eye level all the time, wanted to see what we were seeing, instead of being in the stroller. As a result, I learned how to do everything with her strapped into the Baby Bjorn. Even trying on jeans at The Gap--it can be done!
I realize now, looking back, that I really dealt with some Post Partum Depression issues during those first 5-6 months of her life. (Or Post Natal Depression, as it's known here.) I didn't have any professional/medical intervention, but that was only because I couldn't see that I needed it at the time.
I so loved that sweet, high-need little one. I knew that she was meant for us. And I loved watching Jason come into his own as a father. I wanted to care for her and nurture her. But I was so anxious all the time; I couldn't relax. I was always waiting for her to wake up and cry--well, because usually she was about to! When someone else was holding her, I was bracing myself for when she would start to fuss. My heart would race as I would try to let others help with her. That kind of anxiety for that amount of time takes a toll. It feels like clenching a muscle and never relaxing it. I remember wondering in the first weeks and months when things would feel normal again. When I would be able to read a book and actually concentrate on the storyline, or--and this must sound odd if you haven't been there--do something non-baby and not feel like I'm neglecting her in some way. When I could have a conversation with Jase that didn't involve sleep schedules. To be honest, I was a bit of a mess. I think I hid it well from most people, but it was a struggle for me; accepting and relishing this new season of my life.
I remember when she was about 5 months old, going to meet some friends for dinner one evening. Jason stayed home with Ava. And it struck me as I drove to the restaurant, This is how I used to feel. Normal. Not because I wasn't with her--I had been out on my own prior to this. But it was like a switch flipped in my brain. It's hard to describe, but it was like I realized that I had leveled out again, maybe? Like, oh yeah--I remember this sort of okay-ness. And the remembrance of it made me realize that I hadn't felt that way in awhile. It was like a huge sigh of relief. I know now that it didn't just "happen"--although I didn't get the professional help I probably needed, I had huge support from Jason, my family, and a few close friends.
Heh. You know? This isn't the post I sat down to write. I have some pictures of Grace being goofy at the restaurant tonight that I was also gonna show y'all. But I think I'm going to leave those for later. All this came out instead. Obviously, I don't know who all might run across this post, but maybe someone's in the same shape I was in this time 8 years ago. I hope you'll be encouraged to know that while right now you may feel completely in over your head, the baby grows and so do you. People used to tell me that, and I'd think, "Well your baby outgrew it, but what if mine doesn't?" But she did--of course she did. And now, I can hardly believe that same little baby who was pretty much Bjorn-ed to me 24/7 is now a lanky, sassy-mouthed, sweet 8 year old girl. That indeed happens.
I will say this, though. Whenever one thing gets easier, another thing gets harder! And gosh, I know I've barely scratched the surface of that one--or so my friends with older kids tell me! But in the meantime, here are my rules for surviving with a newborn: 1. Love them; hold them and talk to them even if that doesn't come naturally at first. (It didn't for me--I haven't really told anyone that before. Yikes! But I remember trying to "do" bonding.) 2. Feed them and feed yourself. 3. Get some sleep.
Take that from someone with an honorary degree (self-awarded) in Baby Sleep Science and Strategy. (MA, BSSS)
P.S. For real though, if you'd like to read how a friend of mine coped with and overcame Post Partum (Post Natal) Depression, Deb's story is here. I read it the other day, and man, I think it's gonna help a lot of families.