Looking to unload baby items and emotional baggage

I’ve been cleaning the basement this week, the main part of which is getting rid of baby stuff. I’ve spent hours sorting, tossing and packing things up to give away.

Not surprisingly, I’ve got mixed emotions about giving away SP’s baby stuff. Of course there’s a little bit of sadness. By getting rid of this stuff, we’re making concrete our decision not to have another baby. It’s the right choice for us, but I can’t help but feel a little melancholy that SP’s hypothetical sibling will never become a reality.

And of course I feel nostalgic. Even grown men get a little mushy when they hold up a 0-3 month onesie with tiny ducks on it, so of course I completely melt. It’s hard to believe SP was ever that small, despite the many pictures and memories that prove she was. Of course then I think about the bazillion awesome things she can do now that she couldn’t when she was a baby (speak, feed herself and make complicated drawings involving pom poms, feathers and sequins, to name a few) and I’m glad she doesn’t fit in those tiny outfits anymore.

As I sorted through the multitude of boxes and bins, I also had to laugh at myself. We had so much stuff—a lot of which we barely used. I’m a bit of a control freak, and one of the ways I tried to maintain my sense of control when SP was a newborn—and completely impossible to control for—was to buy every single product for newborns. Every. Single. One. Did I need all of it? Heck no. That’s why I have so much stuff to get rid of now. But it truly did set my mind more at ease to know that I was prepared for almost any situation that could possibly arise.

And finally, as I loaded up the last odds and ends into my car to take to Goodwill, I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment. Partly because we raised our daughter to be strong, healthy and basically well-adjusted. But mostly because my basement is so clean now!

– RBVH

Mommy Greenest

I’d emit one-ton of carbon dioxide for an hours rest.

I wanted to be a green mom. I really do care about the environment; I compost and garden, turn off lights and use CFLs. I even unplug appliances when not in use. But being a new mom to a sleepless babe quickly changed many of my actions.

It started when I was eight months pregnant and my old car broke down. And the thought that my car might stall in the winter with an infant inside was too much. A week before O’s birth I purchased a used Subaru outback. Much more car than I need but heated seats and 4 wheel drive suddenly felt like needed safety features. And my carbon footprint grew…

I was sure I would use cloth diapers until the second day home from the hospital when I had already used 2 dozen cloth diapers and hadn’t done laundry yet. I poop once day, twice if I am lucky, yet no one told me my daughter might poop 10 times a day! The morning of day three I sent my husband to Target to buy disposable diapers with pictures of commercialized characters all over them. And my carbon footprint grew…

Just a few days later on yet another trip to Target to buy more things I never realized I needed, O fell asleep during the short car ride. Desperate for some sleep of my own, I suggested that the two of us nap in the car while dad did the shopping. When I cut the engine O let out a grunt and then a cry. I quickly turned the car back on, but she continued to stir. I put the car in drive and made a slow circle around the lot and she lulled back to sleep. I pulled into a spot and the fussing and crying resumed. I drove in slow circles for half an hour so I could have quiet and she would take a nap. A month before I wouldn’t have left my car running for anything longer than a red light and now I was aimlessly driving nowhere for 30 minutes of peace. And my carbon footprint grew…

And while I thought that maybe this growth was only temporary, I have run my furnace through the night, turned on my air conditioner more frequently and burned through a lot of D batteries all to keep my babe comfortable. I have purchased toys with flashing lights, mechanical songs and bright plastic pieces all made in China. And my daughter likes them better than the hand-whittled wood rattle made by local artists. I have tried hemp salve and organic jojoba oil for O’s dry skin but the petroleum by-products just work better. I am a little cheap and a little lazy but mostly I just want a happy, safe child. And my carbon footprint grows…

I am not the mother I planned to be.

– ACK

It’s Not Just Hormones!

I’ve never been a fan of the use of “hormones” as an excuse for… well, anything. It always seems like a cop-out—blaming nature for behavior that was surely controllable. And yet I was tempted to blame hormones when I realized that I had become what I’d never wanted to be: emotional.

Growing up, I didn’t cry much. Sure, if I skinned my knee pretty bad a few tears might appear, and if it was an emotional pain, I might have to blink back some moisture. But if it wasn’t happening to me, chances are my eyes were completely dry. Heck, I watched E.T. without crying a bit!

But something changed after I had SP. Suddenly EVERYTHING made me cry, whether it was something happy or sad. And it didn’t have to be an extreme emotion either. Every time I saw the Johnson and Johnson commercial “Boys Night Out” (Short black and white ad that’s just a scene of a dad and his two boys playing with a little frog… sniff!) my eyes instantly well up.

Now admittedly, hormones probably were a legitimate factor the first year or so after I gave birth. But I still have the same reaction to that commercial to this day, and I must have seen it 50 times by now.

I realized things had truly changed, and got a clue as to why, one day when I was reading Time magazine’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I knew Katrina was a huge disaster that had impacted a lot of people in very serious ways, but it didn’t seem real to me yet. And then I looked at a picture of a young woman holding her 9-month old baby and boarding a helicopter to be evacuated, and I just lost it. My eyes didn’t just well up; tears started actually rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t even read the whole caption before my vision got too blurry.

It was as if the full impact of the whole disaster hit me at once. And I knew then that it wasn’t just hormones. It was actually having a child. All I could think about, when I looked at that picture, was ‘what if that was me and SP’? I could imagine facing such hardships on my own, and was confident I’d survive just fine. But when I imagined SP having to go through such horrible things, that confidence disappeared. She wasn’t old enough or big enough to keep herself safe, physically or emotionally. She was counting on me to do that for her. And suddenly, I had so much more to lose.

SP is 5 now, and I’m still fairly weepy. When I see something sad—fictional or non—deep down I’m sure I’m thinking about what it would be like for SP to go through that, to face such pain or fear. But it’s the same when I see something happy: how wonderful it will be for SP to experience such love and joy. It’s like I have twice the emotions now: some for myself, and a whole extra batch for her.

I’ve come to terms with being one of the weepy women. And don’t worry. I won’t ever blame hormones.

– RBVH

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