Today is Essley's one month birthday. It's been a few weeks since I last checked in with an update about what's been going on 'behind the scenes' around these parts, so today seemed like the perfect time. Although this little girl is admittedly pretty much my whole life these days (and I'm grateful for that!), I've been mindful about not bombarding you with baby pictures and stories. (Those of you who follow me on Instagram get enough of that as it is!) I do want to share occasional updates though, because having a new baby affects every area of your life and work, and the blog wouldn't be genuine if I completely left this stuff out. Plus I just love her so much that I want to scream it out to the whole world every second of the day. So there's that too.
First, let's get the not-so-amazing stuff out of the way. It's easy to sugar coat the experience of a new parent with adorable baby pictures and tales of unconditional love. And I fully understand why many choose to only share those bits and pieces. But the reality is that it's really freaking hard sometimes. Sleep deprivation is no joke, and when you're faced with it for days or weeks, it can really put a damper on the joy that a new babe brings. Essley cries a lot at night, which is common for newborns, but sometimes nothing but nursing will console her (and trust me, we've tried every trick in the box). I won't get into Baby 101, but you can't spoil a newborn, and you're supposed to quickly respond to their needs - which are expressed through crying. But sometimes you can't figure out what those needs are, and constant attempts to do so without results (with a baby incessantly screaming in your ear) can make you a feel a little insane.
I've always been a night owl and an insomniac, so the late nights and broken sleep didn't bother me that much - until Essley was two and a half weeks old and Robbie left town for work for the first time since before her birth. We had a pretty good system set up for the nights, where I'd nurse and he'd change diapers, and we'd take turns with her during the crying fits. I had no idea what I was in for when he was gone, but let's just say that I now have a profound respect for single moms. In additional to having to do all of the feeding, burping, changing, and consoling during the nights, I also found it very difficult to fully fall asleep. Essley sleeps in a co-sleeper attached to the side of our bed, and with two of us here, there is a subtle reassurance that at least one of us will hear her crying or spitting up or coughing in the night. I felt so much added pressure with Robbie away and was subconsciously terrified that if I fell into a deep sleep, I wouldn't hear her if she really needed me. The most I slept in a night was two hours, and I was delirious and feeling pretty depressed. He was only gone for four days on that run, but by the end of it, I'd hit a wall. I'd also only taken a two week maternity leave (gotta pay the bills!), and I'd started working again that week, so I needed to stay awake and work during the days while Essley was asleep. Even if I hadn't had to stay awake, I am physically unable to sleep during the day, regardless of level of exhaustion (I haven't been able to take a nap since college). So the 'sleep when the baby sleeps' advice wasn't an option for me. I was a train wreck by the end of those four days guys. Truly. Thankfully, the first period of time with daddy away came and went, and we survived. We're into the second one now and my fingers are crossed it's a little easier this time.
There have been other little challenges too that are just par for the course with a newborn. Essley came down with a bad case of Thrush when she was about a week old and went through a short period where she had trouble nursing. At her two week doctor visit, she still hadn't gained any weight since we left the hospital, and was still a full pound under her birth weight. With patience and medication, we were able to win that battle, and now she's at a healthy weight and is a champion nurser. It's also been difficult to get out of the house much (especially when Robbie is gone), thanks to Chicago's hellishly cold winter this year. I am yearning for the days when I can finally take this little bean for a walk in her stroller or be able to run errands with her without having to warm up the car, bundle her up in an excessive amount of layers, cover her car seat, etc. (The post office is a half mile from our house, and dropping off packages has gone from a two minute process to a twenty minute one.) Working is a whole new world too. Aside from getting through the crazy nights, figuring out a schedule to continue to work full time is probably my greatest challenge. I'm learning as I go though and hope that a healthy balance eventually falls into place.
And now that I've rambled on and on about the hard stuff, onto the good! I could honestly fill dozens of posts with stories of the endless joy that this little girl has brought to our lives. It's cliche but it's 100% truth. She's at a point now where she is so much more alert and interested in the world around her. When you have a kid, suddenly everything becomes more interesting to you as well. Essley reminds me to notice tiny things that I normally just skip over: the way the light or a shadow delicately hits the corner of a room, the way a person's eyes look when you're locked into a mutually smitten gaze (hers are so bright and shiny and the deepest shade of blue), and the details, shapes, and patterns of the most mundane objects. I absolutely love breastfeeding too, and the bond that accompanies it. It's the coolest thing you guys. Watching her grow is pretty incredible too. I see her so much that I'm not aware of the changes that are occurring physically, but I've noticed how certain outfits are suddenly too snug, and how the next size up in diapers is starting to fit her better. People tell you that they grow so fast, but I didn't realize how true this was until I saw it for myself. It's beautiful and bittersweet and a little intense.
Despite the crappy subarctic weather we've been having and extra work involved in loading up a baby in zero degree temps, taking Essley places has added a whole new element of fun to everything as well. Simple errands feel more like adventures - even a quick trip to the grocery store. Her doctor visits are even fun. Who knew that finding out your baby's weight each week could be so exciting? We've also taken her out to my mom's house twice so that we could go on quick dates. You receive all kinds of advice when you're a new parent, but one of the best pieces we've gotten was to make time for each other now and then. I can't tell you how much more you appreciate going to see a movie or grabbing a bite to eat with your partner when it doesn't come easy anymore. And when the date is over, you get to come back to your sweet baby, which just makes the whole experience that much more awesome.
I could easily keep going, but I'll stop for now. Thank you for reading (if you're still here) and letting me share some of this journey with you. As I've mentioned before, I'm one of those people who 'waited' to have children after focusing on my career and travels during my twenties and the first half of my thirties, and getting pregnant took some time and patience. I really think that having to work a little harder to make it happen heightened my appreciation of the whole experience, difficult times and all. I've only been a mom for a month, but so far, it's absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me. For real. I am officially little Essley Morgan's biggest fan.