Well, it’s been ten months, and we’re still here. We’ve survived this long! I am so happy to get back to this space but before we get into the sustainable living stuff, some formalities… Let me introduce our latest and greatest adventure, Freya Victoria Mandel!
If I had to sum up her birth and parenthood in one word, it would be this: WILD. Many days I still feel like I’m barely holding on for dear life. I have struggled a lot with going back to work full time. Ideally I’d like to be working part-time but it’s something I’m working towards. I’ve found that while it is really hard to take care of a baby, it’s “manageable” much of the time. It’s the then having to still be a full-fledged adult that is really hard for me, juggling work and bills and all of our other responsibilities. I am a little surprised, but of course very grateful that I even still have a job – I have been late or had to call out sick so many days since returning to work last August either because I was a bit of a basket case from being sick or sleep deprived, or because Freya herself was sick.
But she is incredible. I know we are lucky in many regards but I feel we also lucked out getting to be the parents of this beautiful, happy, feisty, funny and mischievous little lady. Make no mistake, she is not happy all the time. It’s not all kittens and rainbows at our house, not by a long shot. But her default mode does seem to be happy and calm, with a little adorable mischievous grin on her face. So far I have found that having a baby is as wonderful as I hoped. But of course in my fantasies, I did not anticipate the thick layer of constant worry, stress, and exhaustion that goes with it. Much of that may be me and my personality, but I am doing my best to try to not become overwhelmed by it and enjoy this amazing gift we have been given.
I have also found that so many of the cliches I’ve heard people say about being a parent is true. The days are long, but the years are short (check). You start to see everyone as someone else’s baby (check). It goes by so fast (check). I have tried to be present in the moment even when I’m not exactly thrilled in the moment. As I’ve heard others say, this whole experience has made me much more invested in our country’s maternal and infant care. I had all of the support I could ever ask for during my labor and Freya’s life so far. I have health insurance and an amazing group of family and friends nearby. And yet, many days I still feel like a total mess. This whole experience has been so BIG. I have no idea how single mothers or people without a job or a support system do this without losing their minds. It has made me realize how quickly and easily these struggles can have lifelong impacts on a person from the moment they are born. It’s hard to be a good parent even when you don’t have to worry about access to a safe place to live, suitable transportation, having enough to eat, healthcare, or maternity leave. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, but I can still see that the overall state of maternal and infant care and workplace support for new parents in this country is bullshit.
Of course, lots of things have surprised me about being a parent. I’ve learned that it doesn’t always have to be all or nothing. From the very beginning, I wasn’t able to breastfeed without supplementing with formula. I was devastated for awhile, because I had been hearing about the benefits of breastfeeding for months and months on end. But I eventually learned to be OK with it. And after being so psyched about using cloth diapers (I think we all knew where that was going to be honest), I’ve accepted that I just can’t use them all the time and we still go through alot of disposable diapers each week. I’ve also found that little old men are just as enamored with babies as everyone else.
I have been amazed at how quickly babies learn new skills, the things she could do at just a few days old astounded me. One of my favorite things to do is to have “conversations” with Freya. Even at just a few weeks old I could sit across from her and she would coo and wiggle and you could tell she was trying to say something. I would say something like “Oh really?!” and she would respond with more noises and wiggles. It was pretty adorable and pretty fascinating.
And how is our beloved fur child Falkor doing? He has been pretty good around Freya. He could be calmer and gentler – especially now that she’s moving we have to watch them like a hawk because he gets too rambunctious. He is constantly trying to lick her face which can get annoying and Jeff and I disagree about whether he would eat her face off if he could (I say yes, Jeff says not). But for the most part he has accepted her as part of the family since the day she came home. I don’t think the way I feel about him has changed at all, I just think there are so many other pressing concerns and stresses that I can’t focus as much attention on him as I used to, and I do miss that a little. But I think when she gets a little older he will be grateful to have someone who will never tire of throwing him a ball and giving him hugs.