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.
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.
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.
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.