There are times I tiptoe into his room, on my way to bed or in the early morning hours, just to make sure he’s breathing. I watch his chest rise and fall and sometimes put my face up to the rails of his crib so I can see the flushed rosiness of his cheeks and the pout of his mouth in the darkness.
He almost always cries for a bottle sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. and some nights I stumble out of bed, grumpy and groggy about it and some nights I spring up with a sense of wonder that I am a mother who gets to cuddle and rock her son. Other nights, Joe gets up and I listen to the routine from my pillow.
I think perhaps being raised in the Midwest, where the saying is “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute; it’ll change” prepares one a tiny bit for parenthood. As soon as we get a handle on a phase, something shifts and we’re back to exchanging looks of “What should we do?” over a bald little head.
As far as those parenting styles people talk about, I wouldn’t say we’ve pitched a tent in any particular camp. We cloth diaper at home most of the time, but not fanatically. We’ve done breastmilk and formula. We sometimes let him into our big bed for a family snooze, but typically put him down in his crib first. We read to him, and let him watch football. We babywear and put him in the stroller. Different days and situations call for different approaches.
I’ve alternated between telling myself My child is not my life and My child is a life, to justify time spent away working on side projects and to encourage a shift in my priorities. This is what they talk about when they talk about balance. Coming off two weeks of being gone nearly every evening until after he’s been in bed doesn’t feel good. Cooping myself up for days on end doesn’t feel good. I’m incredibly grateful for an active partner in all of this, and I know it’s not just a 50/50 balance of business and babies, but a whole mix of things that include maintaining friendships and nurturing my relationship with my spouse. (At five and a half months, E had his first overnight with my mom and aunt while we went downtown for my high school reunion and stayed in a hotel in the city. It was glorious.)
Now that his emergency surgery is a distant memory, our current struggles are with Emmett’s bad case of eczema. It’s heartbreaking to see how miserable the itchy rashes make him. He wears socks on his hands to keep him from scratching himself bloody. When he flares up, it’s like a raw, oozy rash and then a drawn-out case of chicken pox.
Every other night, we give him a bath and then on the off nights we do a damp pajama wrap which he of course loves. (Ha!) There’s a twice daily steroid cream application and then layers and layers of lotion as often as we can. He’s finally clearing up after this flareup that started the week before Thanksgiving.
One of the current joys is seeing him do his husky little giggle. He saves some of his biggest smiles for my mom, who’s currently going as “Google Grandma” since we normally see her via the Hangouts video chat app. I’m in love with how he’s been grabbing the spoon from me to try to feed himself, and how studiously he plays with/tries to eat the toys on his exersaucer. It gives me the fuzzies to see how excitedly he greets his cousins, who he hangs out with four days a week for daycare. Lately he’s been spitting out his pacifier just so he can show off how he is able to put it back in his own mouth. He’s still not sitting up well on his own or really getting on all fours, but his legs are super strong and he always wants to stand up.
We’re taking each milestone and challenge as it comes, settling into the unsettled life as a family of three.
Here’s a look at how he’s grown in our six “monthly manatee” photos: