Cornstarch & water is one of my personal favorite sensory activities. The texture is so cool–it goes from a liquid in your palm to a solid when you close your fist; I probably enjoy playing with it as much as my son.
The set up is crazy easy. Two ingredients: water and cornstarch. If you want to add food coloring or natural food dyes, you can do that as well. I added a drop of green food coloring to this batch for the sake of contrast on his white high chair tray. This week I’ll be testing out natural food coloring, so I will report back on that!
A little bit of water goes a long way when mixing with cornstarch, so you can mess around with what works. I think I probably ended up doing around a 1/2 cup of cornstarch and just a few drizzles of water from the tap.
Then I put it on Chase’s tray and let him explore. He was mesmerized by the texture and liked swiping his fingers back and forth through it. He also loved watching me drip it from a spoon onto his tray. It’s the little things, people.
This activity didn’t require quite as much cleanup as the oatmeal one, but it does dry as a powder, so be sure to wipe it up off the floor in its liquid state to avoid tracking it all over your house on your shoes.
Overall, another fan favorite that fits my criteria of cheap, easy and fun.
Since my post about tips and tricks for the hospital generated some discussion about hospital packing, I figured I’d do a separate post about what to include in your hospital bag. I, personally, packed SO much for labor and not nearly enough for post-delivery; I ended up having to send my husband home for several things I wished I’d brought.
Here’s what I’ll be bringing next time around:
- Bathrobe (I bought this beautiful maternity robe on Etsy and LOVED it for post-delivery) and then got another cheap one from Target. They are great to wear over sweatpants after delivery since they’re really accessible for nursing.
- Sweatpants/yoga pants: Bring several pairs of your comfiest ones. They will likely get soiled in some way and you’ll want extras on hand.
- Comfortable slippers or flip flops
- Tanktops: Pack a couple good nursing tanks as well as some of your maternity tanks. You will still look pregnant after delivery, so it’s not likely you’ll want to wear a pre-maternity top home during after hospital stay.
- Big(ger) underwear: I bought fuller coverage underwear than I normally wear in the next size up to use after delivery. You might not need the elastic underwear they give you at the hospital by the time you go home (I did, but everyone is so different) and it’s nice to have some of your own with you, in case you need it. And if you don’t use them there, you’ll most likely use them in the weeks that follow.
- Blanket/pillows from home: Both for yourself and your
poorlucky husband who, most likely, will have to sleep on a really uncomfortable couch. If you’re delivering in the summer, the AC can make the hospital very cold at night, so a heavier blanket is nice to have in case you need an extra layer.
- Portable speaker (if you have one): We brought our Bluetooth speaker to use during labor (I had a bunch of soothing songs on my phone that I never played because my labor was very short) but I loved having it for afterward just to have some music playing in the room to make it feel more like home.
- Phone charger
- Good camera: You’ll be glad you have one to capture those early moments that are usually such a blur. If you don’t have one, ask a friend if you can borrow hers. I sincerely regret not taking many photographs after Chase was born or having anyone take pictures of our new family of three.
- Snacks: Bring comfort food that you can use to refuel after labor (or during, if it’s a long one.) I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine the post-labor feeling to be equivalent to having run several back-t0-back. You’ll be hungry and exhausted, so things like trail mix, granola bars, mixed nuts, coconut water, etc. are awesome to have. And some chocolate. Because you just had a baby for crying out loud.
- Personal hygiene products: I brought everything I would normally use to get ready at home and I was really glad I did. I wanted my own shampoo/face wash/cosmetics so at least one thing seemed routine.
- Loofah: Sounds strange, but you’ll likely be tender and sore in various places, so you’ll want something softer than a hospital wash cloth for your first post-delivery shower.
- Candles: We didn’t end up using them (again, because my labor was very short) but we bought a bunch of battery powered candles to use during labor in the room’s jacuzzi tub. The lights in the bathroom were super bright fluorescents, so I knew I’d want something that wasn’t as harsh while I was trying to relax during labor.
- Laptop stocked with movies: I am not a good relaxer. I took months of Hypnobirthing classes (which were awesome!) but when the time came, I just couldn’t force myself to be totally still and zen. Instead, we ended up watching a couple movies during the early part of my labor before we headed to the hospital. It was nice to have something to focus on besides the contractions. If you end up laboring at the hospital for a long time, I’d highly recommend a distraction!
- Birth ball: This thing saved my life during early labor. Kind of cumbersome to bring to the hospital, so if you want one to use during labor, ask the hospital you’ll be delivering at if they have some there. Lots of them do and it’ll save you (read: your husband) the hassle of having to lug one there and back.
If you’re planning to nurse:
- Nursing bra: These are nice to have, but I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on one before your milk comes in. You won’t know your new size and if it’s too small, it’ll be crazy uncomfortable. I got a nice roomy one from Target that I brought to the hospital and used all throughout my nursing/pumping days. My advice is not to get one with underwire: it’s too much pressure on breasts that are just getting used to being full of milk and it can cause mastitis.
- Nursing cover: You might not use it at all because your breasts will be pretty much on display the whole time you’re there, but it’s nice to have with you so you can try it out before you go home and have tons of guests parading through your house.
- Nursing pillow: Whether you plan to use a Boppy or a different kind of nursing pillow, (I like the My Brest Friend pillow much better than the Boppy, personally) I’d recommend bringing it with you to the hospital to you can get the hang of it there. In the beginning, it’s all about messing around with different positions to get the best latch and the pillow is super helpful to bring the baby up to breast-height.
And one more tip:
Buy a new perfume, lotion or body wash to bring with you to the hospital. Incidentally, I packed a different body wash than I normally use, because I thought the lavender scent would be calming post-delivery. I’m so glad I did because every time I smell it, I think of the days in the hospital after our son was born.
What did you bring with you to the hospital?
To be honest, I was totally prepared for this activity to be a huge flop. I didn’t think Chase would have much interest in playing with oatmeal and I figured, at most, he’d play for a couple minutes and then want to get out of his highchair. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He LOVED this activity and it held his attention for more than 30 minutes, which is forever in baby world. Here’s how we did this very easy sensory activity:
Introduction to Sensory Materials: Oatmeal!
I had two different types of organic oats in my pantry already, so I decided to use both to give him some exposure to the contrasting textures.
The steel cut oats are much grittier than the old fashioned oats, which made for a nice comparison.
I wanted to make sure they were sticky enough so he could get plenty on his hands, but not too sticky as to be glued together and difficult for him to manipulate. At first, he definitely preferred the old fashioned oats.
From there, it took on a life of its own. He banged his hands on the tray and watched the oats fly, he spread them in his hair, he ate a bunch of them and generally had a blast. It was so much fun to watch him looking at his oatmeal-covered hands in total mesmerization.
All in all, this activity was such a blast. I will probably be finding pieces of oatmeal all over my house for weeks to come, but it was 100% worth it. It’s amazing how much a young baby can learn and do with a couple simple materials and some free rein to get messy!
Babies, especially ones under six months, can be hard to really “play” with, in the traditional sense of the word. Back when I wrote this post about mama guilt, I found that several people considered the lack of play with their young babies to be a real source of guilt for them. Since my son falls into the “under 6 month” category (he’ll be six months at the end of August), I’ve been hunting around for activities to do with him outside of his play gym, jumper, etc. I’ve done several variations of this activity with the children I cared for in the schools in which I previously taught, but this was my first time trying it with my son. I’m really happy with how much he liked it and how easy it was to do.
“Fingerpainting” With Infants
All you need for this activity is plain yogurt and some food coloring. If you don’t want to use food coloring, you can use foods that produce strong colors like blueberries, beets, spinach, etc. and mix the color into the yogurt. I didn’t try that this time because I wanted to see how he’d react to it before I went to the trouble, but I’ll definitely give it a shot the next go around.
I did about a tablespoon of yogurt with 1 drop of food coloring and spooned it onto the highchair tray. Then I let him just go to town.
After a little while, I added a spoonful of red yogurt to the tray and let him mix it into purple. And then we brought our dear friend Sophie into the mix. All in all, it was a fun, easy introduction to sensory play that only required a couple basic (and cheap) supplies and a bath afterward. C loved it and I had a great time playing with him and watching him interact with a new material.
What are some of your favorite infant activities?
I step onto the ferry on a flawless Friday morning, ticket in hand, earbuds pumping something upbeat with a lot of bass. For the first time in a long time, I am just another person in a crowd—no protruding belly to remark on, no tiny baby for others to coo over. I’m headed to the beach, but I’m not loaded down with swim diapers or a tiny rash guard or SPF 50 sunscreen for sensitive baby skin. I’m not lugging a diaper bag filled with a thousand necessities and contingencies; I don’t need to scope out the easiest place to stash a stroller. For 24 hours I’m off duty and I’ve packed for the occasion: flip flops, beach towel, blue striped bikini, a pair of cheap sunglasses and several dresses that are a little too short for a mother to wear, but perfect for just another girl in a crowded bar. I’m wearing a giddy smile as I take my seat. But I still can’t shake the feeling I’ve forgotten something.
I wait in line for a Bloody Mary at the ferry bar and the vodka starts to go to my head after a few delicious sips. I feel a rush of contentment as I sip my drink, while the sun warms my shoulders and the island gets closer and closer. But somewhere along the way, I find myself flipping through the thousands of pictures on my phone, my son’s smiling face looking back from most of them.
At the beach, I lay on my towel sipping cold white wine from a solo cup, idly catching up on gossip with my girlfriends. They are not yet mothers, so we talk about work and weddings and nights out and no one mentions diaper rashes or breastfeeding. There are no diapers to change or sun hats to adjust and the only sunscreen to reapply is my own. But when I get to the water and feel how warm it is, I think of how much a certain little boy would love the sensation on his ten tiny toes, how he’d splash at the waves with his little hands.
That night at the bar I’m a nameless, faceless woman in a sea of bodies on a packed, sweaty dance floor. I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of freedom as my girlfriends and I dance the uninhibited way you do after several drinks, not caring how we look or who is watching. The alcohol allows me to loosen up and relax, to feel like I still belong in a beach bar at 1:00 AM on a Friday ordering $10 vodka tonics in plastic cups. It’s a heady feeling after so much time away from this scene, one that I never really got used to anyway. In line in the bathroom, I feel around my purse for my phone and my hand closes over a onesie that was stashed away as a backup earlier this week. I look around at the 20-somethings preening in the mirror, reapplying lip-gloss and discussing who they’ll let take them home tonight and I smile because I’ve got something they don’t. And he’ll be waiting for me tomorrow when my identity is restored to mom.
- The hospital will charge you for EVERYTHING you use while there. And maybe even some you don’t. Do yourself a favor and request an itemized bill after you get home. I’m so glad we did, because we found several large charges for things we never received. Don’t let the hospital reps bully you—they can always negotiate.
- Newborn diapers soaked in water or witch hazel and then frozen are a God-send for sore lady parts post-delivery. Pop a handful of them in the freezer before your due date rolls around. You’ll be very happy you did. The hospital will also likely send you home with witch hazel (Tucks) pads. These things are equally amazing. Pick some up at a drugstore beforehand to have post-delivery.
- Have plenty of maxi pads on hand at home. You’ll only need the mammoth pads they send you home with from the hospital for a couple days and then you’ll want normal pads for as long as you continue bleeding (and it can be several weeks, FYI.) Don’t use tampons until you get the all-clear at your 6 week appointment.
- Three things to stock up on before delivery: 1) Vitamin D drops for your baby (Vitamin D is the only nutrient not found in breastmilk, so you’ll need to supplement. If you’re formula feeding, it’s already in there.) 2) Stool softeners. Pooping after you have a baby is scary. Stool softeners make it not so scary. 3) Motrin or Advil to help with the soreness.
- Newborn clothes don’t always fit newborns. Bring a variety of clothing to the hospital for your baby, including some of those one-size sleep sacks. Also, bring enough clothes for several changes in one day. I didn’t anticipate that we’d go through three or four outfits in the span of a few hours (my first introduction to blowouts) and had to send my husband home to get more clothes for the baby.
- If you’re breastfeeding, add a decent nursing bra (or a nursing tanktop with a built in bra) to your hospital bag. While you may prefer to wear nothing while you’re getting the hang of breastfeeding for the first time, you may also want something to cover up with in case you have visitors and don’t want to be on full display.
- Oftentimes, the hospital food isn’t all that great. Bring some snacks that you’ll find comforting after giving birth. I put some mixed nuts and a few granola bars in my hospital bag (which I ate directly after giving birth) but I wish I’d had more snacks on hand. If you’re a coconut water person, bring some of that too. Honey sticks (found at most natural food stores) are also great for long labors when you don’t want to eat, but need a little pick-me-up.
- Bring your own pillows from home (for you and whomever is staying in your room overnight with you.) Hospital pillows are kind of terrible.
Recap on things to buy or bring:
Witch hazel pads
Vitamin D drops
Stool softeners (not laxatives!)
Motrin or Advil
5-7 baby outfits in various sizes
Snacks (granola bars, nuts, crackers, honey sticks, coconut water, etc.)
It’s a fact: all the opinionated, judgmental, handsy naysayers come out of the woodwork when you get pregnant. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of the pie. Some of the bold (read: obnoxious) ones will tell you exactly how you should cook the pie; the bolder still will try to get their grubby little paws right on that pie before it’s even come out of the oven. (You get that this is a metaphor for your baby and your uterus, right? OK, just making sure.)
But these five people take the cake. Or the pie. Or the uterus. Whatever.
1. The Naysayer
This person is EVERYWHERE. She is the tired mom of four children that she seemingly can’t stand. He is the dad screaming at his kid in the grocery store to stop climbing the shelves and throwing food down like a wild animal. They are the older couple who think children should be seen and not heard. They will stage-whisper things like, “Enjoy pregnancy while it lasts, they’re much harder when they come out,” or “You will never sleep again. EVER. So get some while you still can.” (Like you can somehow bank sleep for when you need it. This is the most utterly moronic statement in the history of pregnancy.) They have every horror story in the book committed to memory and their goal is to scare you off parenthood and get you to join the ranks of the Miserable and Oppressed Who Answer to Tiny Humans group. Don’t take the membership card.
Best Response: “Thank you, we’re very excited for our baby.” Or, if you’re my husband: “Thanks, I’m sure our baby will be much better than yours.”
This person generally means well. They will tell you in graphic detail about their gory birth story, the 20 pounds they can’t lose from baby #2, the way their cankles looked during month 9. They are the overeager ones who took a mirror to their post-birth vagina and lived to share those details with you. They are the same women who will massage your protruding belly and ask if you want to borrow their nipple cream. (Note: this is way different if they’re your friends. I’m talking about complete strangers here.) They mean well, but when you already have one needy human sharing your space, another is one too many, thank you.
Best Response: “I’m really enjoying this pregnancy and I’m looking forward to labor and delivery.” Or “I’d love it if you shared your birth story after I’ve had my baby.” Or “DO YOU SEE ME TOUCHING YOUR BELLY?” It’s not rude, it’s self-preservation.
3. Creepy Pregnancy Fetish Guy
I came across my fair share of this type during my pregnancy. Granted, I worked in a customer service job where my belly was on display for public consumption throughout my entire pregnancy, but I’m fairly sure these guys are lurking everywhere. Some dudes are just really into pregnant chicks and that couldn’t be weirder to me. This type asks overly-interested questions about your due date and your birth plan and whether you’re opting to eat your placenta (maybe they don’t, but that whole thing is really weird, right?) Some of them will compliment your glowing skin and say how fabulous you look in your saggy maternity jeggings and it’s OK if you kinda sorta feel flattered because, let’s face it, at what other time in your life is someone going to hit on you because you gained 30 pounds?
Best Response: Smile. Nod. Flash your wedding ring if you have one.
4. The Know-it-All Veteran
You know who I’m talking about. The mom of three who follows the advice of What to Expect When You’re Expecting like a religion and can recite it at will like some sort of holier-than-thou Encyclopedia Brown. The overly-involved dad who truly knows the best way to get breastfeeding babies to latch. These are the battle-hardened veterans who have forged a path through the jungle and will tell you til your ears bleed that it’s the only possible route to take. They cite statistics and experts and use words like “Ferberizing” and “Baby Wearing.” They speak in absolutes: “never do that,” “only use this,” “do not read that.” Yes, they may be a wealth of useful information, but their delivery is condescending, judgmental and pushy. They prey on first timers who are terrified that they might get it wrong. Don’t let them push you around; they were once first-timers and they had to learn by trial and error, too.
Best Response: “Thanks, we’re taking everything into consideration. There’s a lot to learn.”
5. The Rock Star
This is one person that is essential to navigating pregnancy without losing your mind. This person is someone who has been there before and can sympathize with your struggles. They offer solid, non-judgmental advice about morning sickness remedies and the best places for maternity clothes and they don’t care if you ate three brownies for lunch. They won’t pass judgment if you decide that you’d like to try natural birthing or if you want to be nearly comatose during labor and delivery. They check in on you and ask what you need, but they don’t ping you on Facebook every 5 minutes after your due date demanding to know if they missed the birth of your child. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of these people pave the way for me and I found their advice and sympathy and sage wisdom to be absolutely invaluable.
Best Response: Give them a big sloppy pregnancy hug and thank them for being the only normal person in your life.
Who’s on your list?
Having worked in childcare for many years before getting pregnant with my son, I thought I had it all figured out when it came to expectations. I knew about the endless diapers full of mustardy poop and the grate-on-your-nerves cry of a colicky baby. I’d had any number of bodily fluids leaked and wiped and exploded on me. I was fluent in developmental milestones and passable in baby sign language. I’d felt a distinctly maternal surge caring for other people’s children; I knew I was ready for the overwhelming, bring-you-to-your-knees kind of love I would feel for my own. I was sure I knew exactly what I was in for.
I was wrong.
It is really true what they say about nothing being able to truly prepare you for motherhood. Not even being a mother seems to be able to prepare you for the second or third time around; every baby is different and I believe you are different for each baby. There were so many things I didn’t expect about new motherhood, but here are my top 5:
1. Babies (even your own) are sometimes really boring
I have certainly experienced boredom watching other people’s babies. Adorable as they were, sometimes they just weren’t that interesting. But I thought it would be vastly different with my own child, that I would be so endlessly fascinated by his every smile and sneeze and poop that it would quell any potential boredom. But 9 or 10 hours/day, 5 days/week of anything can get boring, especially when set to Baby Einstein music. Being with my son is my job now and I have to remind myself that every job is boring at times. Also, most of them don’t require you to pretend to be fascinated by the same thing 20 times in a row or scrub puke out of the carpet. (I said most of them.) That said, sometimes my son’s mundaneness is so interesting to me, it blows my mind. And that makes it all worth it.
2. Motherhood can be incredibly lonely
I’ve always held jobs where I could be surrounded by people and activities all day long. I like chaos and energy and movement. I enjoy being on-the-go for most of my waking hours and the feeling of total fulfillment at the end of a packed day. Then I had a baby and it felt like someone abruptly stopped the record. Suddenly, I didn’t have a built-in social outlet at work and I needed to find completely new ways to fill my days while my husband punched the proverbial clock. Easier said than done with a newborn in tow. In the beginning, I relished errands because they gave me a reason to be out in the world. The realization that we needed laundry detergent inspired excitement in me (a trip to Target!) and grocery shopping was downright thrilling. Then I started going to moms’ groups and playdates and our social calendar began to fill up as we met other new moms and babies who were just as bored as we were during the day. But, honestly, some days, it’s as lonely as ever. I don’t think that ever really goes away.
3. You really don’t get anything done with a newborn
I specifically remember being around 6 months pregnant and scoffing to my husband about women who were always complaining about never getting anything done with a new baby. “Babies sleep like, all the time,” I told him. “How could you not get a load of laundry done in the 20 hours they sleep every day?” Hey, snobby pregnant-self, payback’s a bitch, ain’t it? Yes, newborns sleep, but sometimes it’s for 10 minutes at a time. And sometimes that’s only in your arms or passed out on your chest. And mostly, laundry and dishes seem like way less of a priority when you’ve gotten 3 hours of sleep in the past two days and you can’t remember if you ate breakfast or lunch (oh yeah, that cheese stick in the back of the fridge was brunch.) And if you’re a working mom, forget it. The whole baby/domestic obligations paradox really does get better as they get older. But, some days, it feels the same as the very first week alone with a newborn. Case in point: it was supposed to be five things I didn’t expect when I was expecting, but there wasn’t enough time to get it done. So here’s three.
What tops your list?
“Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a heartbeat.”
The technician gives me her best sympathetic face and my hands ball in my paper gown, willing her to leave before my fist lands between her perfectly plucked eyebrows. The feeling of anger surprises me as it wells up in me quick and strong, but there’s no denying the emotion, despite how inappropriate it seems for the situation.
I wait until she shuts the door with a quiet click and then fold at the waste choking out sobs that can surely be heard through the thin walls. I picture the women on the other side of those walls clutching their swollen bellies and shifting uncomfortably on the examination table, politely ignoring the wounded sounds emanating from the next room. My husband buries his head in his hands and I can’t look because his pain guts me, so I pretend I’m alone in the room.
Though I haven’t seen myself, I know I’m an ugly crier and I avoid the receptionist’s eyes as she processes the last of my paperwork. I look young–much younger than my almost 26 years–and I absently wonder if she thinks I’ve just received news of an unplanned pregnancy. I hate her for no logical reason and rip the receipt from her hand when she offers it across the desk.
In the car, I am alone and it is 11:30 AM. I begin to mentally calculate how much booze we have and where it is located in the house. It’s been ages since I’ve really drank–4 months? 5?–and the wine rack is nothing but 12 cavernous slots, filled with dust and stray cat hair. There’s maybe a half a cocktail’s worth of cherry vodka in the freezer and a bottle of warm champagne that we forgot to open at Easter when we announced the good news to our parents and siblings.
I make an executive decision to procure more appealing booze and make a hard right into the liquor store parking lot. Consulting the rearview mirror, I wince, swiping a Dunkin Donuts napkin under my eyes where the mascara has pooled, dusting powder over my blotchy skin. I say a silent prayer of thanks that I know barely anyone in our town of residence and make quick work of the liquor store inventory. A bottle of sweet, cheap wine that goes down like juice and 750 mL of decent vodka that I’ll combine with OJ since there’s been no reason for keeping good mixers in the house.
I feel almost happy as I pull into the driveway and heft my packages inside, the bottles clanking against each other in a satisfactory way. I uncork the wine, a sound I have almost, but not quite forgotten, and pour myself a half, no three quarters of a wine glass I only use on special occasions, feeling like I should be toasting someone or something.
The alcohol goes to my head immediately and I smile, but feel guilty so I stop. My Macbook is open to a handful of pregnancy websites, which I close out of and begin to type a story about a woman who burns down her obstetrician’s office and winds up in a mental institution. I abandon it after paragraph six because I’m suddenly angry again and a little bit buzzed and the words are starting to get away from me. But I’m not just angry now, I’m furious.
I refill my glass and stalk through the house, stuffing every baby-related item I can find into the complimentary tote bag I was given at my first doctor’s appointment. Tiny canvas shoes from the Gap–my first purchase after the positive result. The only two baby books I let myself buy–one for each of us–remembering how I gushed to the Barnes and Noble cashier after she asked if they were for me. The yellow polka dotted outfit my sister gave us, with a matching hat and a fuzzy blue blanket with the letters b-a-b-y imprinted on it. The pastel colored plastic eggs with the miniature socks and pacifiers inside that we used to surprise our families at Easter brunch just one week ago.
I think of all the things that I wanted to scream at the doctor’s office, things that decent, respectable people don’t shout in public places. Like why do crackheads and teenagers and women on birth control and people who don’t even want kids get pregnant and get to keep their babies? How come it doesn’t matter that I gave up drinking and eating spicy tuna rolls and taking Advil for headaches swapping them for green smoothies at breakfast and organic chicken at dinner and pregnancy-safe Tylenol? Why doesn’t it factor that I ran to stay in shape and lifted no more than the recommended 25 lbs and didn’t eat sleeves of Oreos even when it sounded kind of appealing and no one would blame me? Why did I let myself believe I’d actually get to keep this baby even as I knew, deep down, that something was wrong?
I think of all the signs I tried to force down, to mask with excitement and preparation and thoughts of my husband holding our tiny baby and smiling the way he does when he’s really, really happy. But still. There they were, tangible and obvious and taunting, questioning why there was no morning sickness or cravings for pickles or mad dashes to the bathroom, just a slightly bigger cup size, mid-afternoon naps and a very routine craving for peanut butter cup ice cream. Just the tiny red dots on the toilet paper that became not so tiny after awhile and the 4 AM sweat-drenched wake ups every night since the positive test.
I’m angry and worked up now and I decide I want to smash things, anything I can get my hands on. I start with the wine glass–finishing the contents first, of course–and hurl it at our bedroom door, which nicks the wood and fans a blanket of tiny shards across the beige carpet. Then I round up a handful of picture frames and hurl them against the back deck, watching the glass and wood splinter into a million tiny pieces, which I will have to clean up later, but not now. Into the woods go two potted plants from my mother in law and two dozen painted Easter eggs in quick succession, though one wobbly throw has an egg hitting the doorframe above my head and landing at my feet. My arm hurts from throwing so hard and the urge to destroy has abandoned me as quickly as it came, leaving me feeling hollow and tired and flimsy.
I take two Tylenol PMs and drift to sleep in front of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, waking up to a black screen and no concept of how long I’ve been out. I finish off the night with a bottle of wine, three margaritas, two screwdrivers and one glass of champagne under my belt. The next day’s hangover is enough to ensure I won’t drink so recklessly and self-destructively again any time soon.
Everyone has a different statistic to comfort me. 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage my obstetrician tells me. 50% says my primary care doctor. A friend cites 80%. Zero percent of me cares about those other women because my pain is real and immediate and so very fresh and I can’t wrap my brain around theirs just yet. Is it too much to ask to just lick my wounds without everyone telling me about others who have been through it too? Can’t I even be afforded the luxury of feeling horribly, unapologetically wrecked?
Friends from church and my mother in law send me cards and emails and texts with Bible verses and psalms and urges to find the meaning in God’s plan. I politely tell them thank you for their kindness, but leave out the part about how pissed I am at God for pulling the rug out from under me, how I think His plan royally sucks and that He is an Indian giver of the highest order. After several weeks, I stop acting like a sullen teenager and end my standoff with God, apologizing for acting horribly un-Christian and skipping church for three weeks. I know He forgives me, but I still feel like an asshole.
I am like a child of divorce, irrationally blaming myself and acknowledging the irrationality, but feeling the finger pointing at me, all the same. I loathe the term “miscarry,” as if I carried our baby wrong and caused this to happen. My mother in law says God doesn’t work like that. My husband says I’m being pessimistic–good things and bad things aren’t inherently intertwined–but I reserve my right to be skeptical. Blame is the only thing that makes sense, so I grasp it tightly with both hands. I am being punished and, instead of deepening the pain, it somehow soothes me.
The world streams around me, continuing with its ebb and flow. My pregnant friends stay pregnant, carrying healthy babies that I will eventually fawn over and buy tiny outfits for, heralding their entrance into the world. In Target, I intentionally avoid the baby section, keeping a wide berth so as not to lose it in a public place. Pregnant women sit across from me in my office at the daycare center, making small talk about due dates and possible names and their growing bellies. As more time passes, I start to notice that their due dates are later than mine would have been and it feels like a thousand internal paper cuts. That butcher knife feeling has subsided, but this is almost worse because it is unexpected and constant and I don’t know how to make it stop.
Weeks pass and I throw myself into a new job that demands every ounce of my attention. We move into a blank slate home, needing badly to be made into something that is ours. I am busy and frenzied and without a moment in my day to pause, happily distracted. But still. There are those moments in the car, when I am alone with nothing but the radio to distract me from my thoughts of the baby that was almost mine, but slipped through my fingertips. The life we would have all had together, which seems so absurd and impossible now.
And I know I will never be the same again.
A few weeks after our son was born, my husband and I were sitting next to each other on the couch for a rare moment alone together. Chase hadn’t slept without one of us holding him for 3 long weeks and we couldn’t see the end in sight. We slept in shifts, one of us manning the baby while the other got a couple hours of fitful, inadequate sleep; it was that beautiful, horrible time at the beginning that makes you wonder what you’ve gotten yourselves into. My husband looked at me with weary eyes and said simply, “I really miss you.” I looked away so he couldn’t see me crying. I missed him too.
My husband is my best friend and, miracle of miracles, after 11 years together, we still really enjoy each other’s company. We’ve been through more than a few trying times and come out on the other side, more in love than we were as pimply-faced, hormonal teenagers. But it had always been just us. And now we had to share each other with another tiny, demanding (albeit adorable) person and it was just so hard. I felt like I was losing my husband to my son. It scared the hell out of me.
Our son is almost 5 months old and I still feel that way sometimes. Now that he’s a little older and so much more fun, we can really enjoy family time where he is actively involved and not just a little blob who’s asleep 90% of the day. We go for walks, we bring him to the beach and dip his toes in the water, we lay in bed on Saturday mornings and make funny faces at him until he laughs. We spend hours staring at him, comparing his features and abilities to the day before (did he have that third neck roll yesterday? Since when did he learn to make the music start on that annoying toy?) Our son really does make everything better. But it’s still the end of a long era of coupledom and in my own way, I mourn that loss.
On the flip side, I love my husband more now than ever; seeing him as a father is the most incredible thing I can imagine as a wife. There is truly nothing sexier to me than a man who is willing to carry the diaper bag and rock his son to sleep. I’m over the era of flowers and jewelry; romance to me now is my husband folding the last load of tiny, poop-stained clothes and ordering takeout so I don’t have to cook for a night. It’s seeing my husband come home from a long day at work and immediately switch into dad-mode, playing on the floor with Chase in his khakis and collared shirt.
I can see already that this era is becoming our new normal; the years before our children will quickly be replaced by life as a family, instead of a couple. Sure, we’ll reminisce about those years on occasion and probably tell our son about them when he’s old enough to understand that his parents were once people other than “mom” and “dad.” And maybe that’s OK; a natural progression, as they say. But, I’ll still miss those days from time to time and look back on them as the beginning of yet another beautiful love story.