My Birthday Insanity – An Honest Retelling

I’m very aware and very wary (say that three times fast) of the internet shenanigans that involve only showing the good stuff and creating this amazing reality that turns out to be nearly impossible to achieve in the real world. I’m very anti – that. Very. Very very very.

So, though the photos posted online of my birthday were sun-shiny and smiley and bathed in yellow and white and cookie cake, the reality of my birthday trip to wine country with baby and husband in tow was… not the bliss-filled family day full of “playing it be ear” that I had imagined.

The truth is it was stressful. And we are still not parent-experts (I’m still waiting for that expertness to kick in… it happens one day, right internet? RIGHT?!), so we keep learning as we go which means we keep mucking up parts of it and saying, “Well… next time we’ll do X,” in our kindest self-talk. Ok, if I’m being real, most of the time it goes like this, “Ahhhh!!!! What are we doing?! We’re killing him, aren’t we? We’re probably giving him some sort of awful stigma and/or emotional issues!!!!” And then I cry and Kamel sweats and yeah…. that was a lot of how my birthday went.

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First realization: Gabe is smaller than I want him to be. I know that everyone tells me to cherish these newborn days because I will miss them. But, I’m not totally digging the newborn-ness. I’m just not. I keep expecting him to act like a baby and not a newborn, but he doesn’t. His newborn window of calmness and flexibility is TINY! Also, the outside world really has an affect on him. While we were enjoying a glass of steel-barrel chardonnay with a light lunch of olives/cheeses/salumi and crackers, and the wind was gusting, Gabe was a ticking time bomb. Before you could snap two beautiful wind-swept hair photos, he was on his way to meltdown city and Kamel and I had to hightail it out of there, olives unfinished, wine hastily gulped, stroller zooming down the wheelchair accessible walkway while snooty women with dogs purposefully avoided eye contact. All the while my child screamed because the wind was like whoa. Yay.

Second realization: We attempted a distance that was way way too far away. Gabe was strapped into the car seat too long and the frustrating thing about being in the car is that even though I am just sitting there, I can’t hold him/nurse him/soothe him as long as we are driving.  Fast forward to Gabe going into the “you all have abandoned me cry” (a horrible cry while he looks off into the distance, clearly giving up on all humanity) as we try to find an exit, tears running down my cheeks, and Kamel going, “It’s ok! It’s all going to be ok! It’s ok! Just old on there, Gabe! We got this!…. oh god…. it’s ok!” because there is absolutely nothing we can do. It took us 4 hours to make a 2 hour drive home because we had to keep pulling over to soothe a completely melting down baby who just wanted to be cuddled by mom and dad. I spent at least 2+ hours sitting in the back seat with my hands inside the car seat, wrapped around Gabe, to give the impression that he was being held. This was the only way he wouldn’t cry.

Third realization: It is really awkward and stressful to breast feed in places you haven’t already scouted out. I don’t cover when I feed Gabe because I find it to be overly difficult to juggle the blanket that keeps falling off and my baby who can’t hold his own head up yet. I also really really hate the giant covers that look like aprons that go around your neck. So my boob is out there for about two seconds before my kid’s head covers it, the world hasn’t exploded yet. Anyway – I digress. This was our first all-day-outing and my first experience feeding Gabe multiple times in a row out in public. The first time was at a winery and it was lovely. The sun was shining, there were olive trees, I was mother earth, etc. The second time was in a public park in Calistoga where well-meaning old ladies kept walking by and wanting to chat, there was a creepy dude drinking his 40 on a park bench semi-across from me, and some douchey bros were smoking in the bushes. There were also some families picnicking and such, but my mom radar was mostly trained on the hoodlums. Not ideal. The third time was in a parking lot, sitting in the car, while trying to snarf down the only dinner we could come up with because Gabe was not at all digging the whole “sit down meal” idea. (Happy Birthday to meeeee.) And the 4th time was on the way home and we had to pull over in a super rough area of Oakland, in a packed strip-mall parking lot. Next time will be better. Next time he will be a little older. Next time I’ll know what’s up.

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Overall, it was a learning experience. The good things were meaningful: I got to blow dry my hair and really feel good about my grown-up-put-together outfit AND leave the house in it. I got the most delicious cookie cake known to man and felt really taken care of by Kamel. The weather was beautiful, and as we drove out of the city, singing to Brandi Carlile, thinking on what it meant to be 28, my son sleeping in the backseat, I realized for the first time I felt like a grown up. Not the kind that is boring, but the kind that puts her child before herself even on her birthday, the kind that cherishes the quiet moments where you sit in the car, singing and holding your husband’s hand, the kind that doesn’t get wrapped up in big parties or events because sunshine and creating your own Saturday adventure sounds even better.

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It wasn’t perfect, it was stressful and exhausting. It was harder than I thought it would be. But as Kamel kept saying, “We did it! We succeeded! We made it all the way to where we wanted to go and with a baby!” All day family outing? Check. Success? Nobody died… so… check? Next time we’ll do better.

21 thoughts on “My Birthday Insanity – An Honest Retelling”

  1. It’s always an adventure to take your kid outside of their comfort zone (or at least that is my personal 1.25 years worth of experience). I never know how it will go, so I plan as best I can and hope for the best. Sometimes it’s awesome (Frances unexpectedly loved her first trip to the airport – so many people!), sometimes it’s not. It’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point I will feel stressed out and be battling against/trying a manage a meltdown (hers, not mine. usually.) But I’m always happy we did (sometimes I’m not happy until days or weeks later, but that’s always where I end up). Because I certainly want to keep having adventures personally, I don’t want to feel like I can never leave the house and it’s often fun to introduce Frances to new experiences. I feel like these sort of things expand our boundaries and that is SO good. Go you three!

    1. 1) I adore the name Frances
      2) This whole thing makes me feel less crazy. And yes, I did have tears in bed that night thinking oh my god this day was overwhelming! But I am proud of us for tackling it and not giving into the impulse to just stay home and hide.

  2. “looks off into the distance, clearly giving up on all humanity.” Oh man. I can picture that so well. (I also sometimes feel like crying like that, damn not being an infant anymore!) I’m with Kamel on this, you guys succeeded. It was rough and not ideal and stressy, but you did it, and you learned. I call this a win. He’ll get better with going places (and older which will help) and you guys will get better at figuring out what can be handled. I think you’re doing great so far, and no way have you given him a complex yet.

  3. You guys are awesome. I know so many parents who kind of go into this hibernating mode and say, “WE CANNOT TRAVEL ANYMORE UNTIL THE CHILD IS FIVE YEARS OLD.” Or whatever age they choose. And by anywhere — I mean *anywhere*. They basically don’t leave the house.

    Which — on the one hand, I get. It can be difficult and more of a hassle than its worth. But it makes me sad that they kind of put adventures on hold. So I guess what I”m TRYING to say is — I totally admire you guys for just DOING it, even if it didn’t turn out perfect.

    Random — love that photo of Gabe with your ram tattoo in the background.

    1. Oh — ALSO RANDOM! But have you read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts”? There’s a couple REALLY interesting chapters in there about babies and extroversion/introversion. The gist of it: baby extroverts don’t react as much to external stimuli, whereas baby introverts FREAK THE EFF OUT when unfamiliar stimuli comes their way.

  4. This is really good to hear. Not because it sounds fun, exactly, because it sounds like LIFE. I love the idea of truly feeling adult while doing something rather mundane (driving/listening to music) because of the circumstances (we created a tiny human and he’s in the backseat! this is my life!). Anyway, thanks! And you can do it! (Says the lady who doesn’t have a kid so doesn’t actually know what she’s saying but believes in you!)

  5. I am printing this and storing it away for a few years from now when I am 28 and in the backseat, soothing my screaming child on my birthday. Thanks for always being your honest self, even online where you could easily only be the bright, cheery, perfect mother and woman. *cough*I’m looking at you, the rest of the internet*cough*

    1. For many, many years of reading blogs and seeing them as windows into what grown up lady-hood looked like, I believed that I could have this perfectly designed apartment/house, lovely herbs and other DIY projects on my windowsill and scattered about the dining room table, made from re-purposed wood (obvi). It’s one of those “you can have it all! and in a beautiful magazine cover package!” myths. But I didn’t know it was a myth, i thought it was just around the corner. If only I could get to X, if only I had more time, if only I knew the right people, if only I wrote about X or went to the right conferences. Or I dunno… if only I could paint my walls X color or other stupid things that actually don’t matter. But I thought it was real!! And the more I thought it was real the more I felt like “what the hell am I doing wrong?!” And then I had the chance to see a teensy glimpse of the behind the scenes of the big successful bloggy world and I realized that… it isn’t all sunshine and roses, but that’s what is being spread around. And that sucks. There has to be frustration and sadness and dark days with the beauty and the happies and the brightness. Sometimes we have to choose 1 thing over another and it sucks, sometimes we can’t have it all but we make the absolute best with what we do have. And I for sure never ever want someone to look at me life and say “Man, that looks so perfect. And SO unattainable…” because it isn’t. Not one bit. <3 <3

  6. Did he do the warbling goat cry, followed by what sounds like hyperventilating? That one is so heartbreaking. I have three tricks for the car that at least sometimes work, one of which you mentioned (the hands wrapped around so it feels like he’s being held). The other biggie is turn on the radio on static really, really loud (and sometimes I will throw a blanket over the seat too) to help the babe shut out some stimulation and calm down. The third trick is to feed. While I know some women who can throw their boob in their kids face while he’s in a seat, I do not have boobs of a sort that could achieve such a feat. I have done bottle, and (now that my baby is older) baby food/yogurt. Also, I personally love my nursing cover (one of those big aprony things) because it makes me feel 100% comfortable nursing absolutely anywhere in front of anyone, except in front of my boss. Also, I am with you on not loving the newborn stage. It gets so much better, really. Newborns are more portable than older babies though, they’re just not nearly as portable as, say, not having a baby with you.

  7. This is my favorite post you’ve ever written, as silly as that sounds. Why? Because you told the truth (as you always do!), and it wasn’t the Best Day Ever, but it was Okay! You made it through…and you’re a mom! I love Kamel’s freaking out in the driver’s seat. Eric would totally do the same thing to calm a baby down.

    BTW, I’m following in your boy-ish ways! 😉 xx Olivia

  8. When I saw your pictures on Facebook of your birthday adventures I was like “Damn! Y’all are brave!” Traveling with a baby is hard work! It’s a balance between planning everything out and letting things happen because whatever baby Gabe wants, he is determined to get it no matter what I bet 🙂
    It gets easier because you, as parents, get used to it and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s not the baby that makes it easier by any means. I hope that makes sense!
    I am so glad you enjoyed your birthday, well mostly anyways 😉 and that everyone survived! Hurray!

  9. Yeah. Sucks sometimes. You never know what’s going to set them off, really, until you give it a shot, and I think it’s awesome that you tried. It does get better. (Though it doesn’t go away. My normally mellow three-year-old had a major meltdown in front of his school because…I didn’t know what Tarzan’s mom’s name is. Clearly I should have made one up, but I had no. idea. that he cared THAT MUCH.)

    And, if I may? One thing that I found helpful when nursing in public places (I could never get the damn blanket to stay on either) was layering a low cut top to pull down with a loose top to pull up, thus not having to heave the entire swollen boob out into the light of day, or expose my entire post-baby abdomen to the world either. .

  10. Sounds to me like you did good. The fact that you got in the car and arrived at your destination is a victory. So many new parents never even leave the house. Keep practicing – not only will you all get better at being out and about, but you’ll start feeling a bit more relaxed about the meltdown moments too. There’s always that panicky ‘we must flee NOW’ feeling in the beginning but it mellows. You start seeing the people who must be other parents smiling at you, giving you the small wave/head nod of solidarity and it just becomes okay if your kid is bawling. You’ll jiggle and dance with him in the supermarket aisle, you’ll get Kamel to cut up your restaurant food so you can eat one-handed while you breastfeed, you’ll start carrying an enormous bag of things that you know work to help calm the bub – whether that’s a longish beanie to cover his ears so the wind doesn’t just rattle straight into his head, or a snuggle blankie, or something that rattles just the right rattle. As they get older new challenges crop up but you get better at rolling with the punches. You do. I promise.

  11. Hello There! (i’m an acquaintance of Kamel’s and I occasionally read your blog but haven’t commented until today). I have a 4 month old girl and let me tell you about the experience my husband and I had with her this past Sunday. We held a ‘Baby Debut’ party for her where the women from my baby shower came to see her. We moved out of SF hastily and none of my girlfriends had the chance to visit plus we were super sensitive about visitors since she was born in the height of flu/cold season. Anyhoo…our precious calm zen like baby became a crazy monster crying nonstop. It was like we had someone else’s baby for 3 1/2 hours.

    We ventured to have this event (which we considered a small gathering) because of the very fact that Arianna is so calm and quiet at home. I REALLY thought things would go smoothly. But she freaked out. Whether it was the new location (cats live there so cat dander may have been a contributing factor), the new people, the noise level, etc. All of it overwhelmed her and resulted in utter chaos.

    What other people recommended to me (which could be helpful) is to take her ‘out’ more…which I generally don’t do. I used to scoff at the mom’s that took their babies to the mall every other day…but i’m starting to wonder if the noise level/being ‘out’ is actually a great conditioning technique for the baby. I tend to leave her with my husband/mom if I need to run errands b/c it goes quicker without the baby being with me. I’m rethinking this after the Sunday meltdown.

    Looking forward to commenting more often. I enjoy reading your thoughts and insights.

    1. Hi Maria!!!

      Your story is amazing. And ahhh I can feel the overwhelming stress of that situation! I am having my best friends, who are Gabe’s Aunties, come up this weekend and next weekend and part of me is soooo nervous that Gabe will be a total fucking mess and they will leave shaking their head saying, “Holy shit that baby is crazy.” They are little extensions of ourselves and when they are puddles of disaster it feels so so reflective (even if it isn’t and is only in our minds).

  12. It will be better next time 🙂 And you are awesome for taking the baby on road trips, and for enjoying time with each other no matter what. I wish I had wisdom for you or baby knowledge, all I have is confidence that you are very close to the best / more fun parents ever!

  13. Hey, I just found your blog and could really relate to your story. I have a one year old and I remember the newborn days! You really do have to manage your expectations when it comes to outings like this — your feeling that you wish Gabe were older is really common. The newborn stage is tough, especially if you have a baby who doesn’t love being in the car. I also found it easier to schedule shorter trips so I didn’t have to try to manage the babe out of the house for the ENTIRE day.

    BUT I would say your day sounds like it was moderately successful, especially because you didn’t let the what-ifs deter you. You went out, he cried, it was stressful, but YOU MANAGED. That is incredibly important. Now you have a better idea of what you might want to do differently next time — because there will be a next time. I think attitude is everything in situations like this, so you are doing great already. Hang in there, the newborn stage does not last forever. 🙂

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