Second Time Around

A little essay I wrote a few months ago…

Saul Family

I am sitting in my living room at 6 in the morning, enjoying the few quiet moments before our house comes awake, and making a list.

Eden:

  • The way she comes charging through our bedroom door at 7 o’clock every morning, with four of her stuffed animals in tow, one toy for each member of our family to play with.
  • The songs she makes up, and the sight of her pint-sized frame moving and grooving to the music.
  • Her fascination with dinosaurs, and her uncanny ability to name every single one: ornithomimus, iguanadon, oviraptor.

Arlo:

  • The way his tiny fist opens and closes while he’s nursing.
  • His strong-willed frustration as he tries again and again to roll himself from belly to back, and then the self-satisfied look when he finally does.
  • His thick, chubby feet with 10 tiny little beetle grub toes.

Three years ago I was making a very different type of list. Eden had just been born and I was thrust into the throes of motherhood without knowing at all what to expect. I had just turned 27, but I might as well have been 17 because it felt as if all of my friends were light years away from having children. I was nervous and unsure of myself and suffering from postpartum anxiety. I had no one to turn to—to ask if it was supposed to be this hard. If she would ever sleep. If the tiny, bated breaths and staccato cries were normal newborn respiration or a sign of something serious. I would spend the hours I was up nursing at night scrolling through message boards where other new mothers had posted, searching for some sign that this was all typical, all to be expected. The answer: yes, mostly it was.

So I made a list of all the hard things about having a newborn and recovering from childbirth that the rational part of my brain was still able to recognize wouldn’t last forever. My list went something like this:

It Will Be Easier When…

  • She doesn’t hate the car
  • She is no longer colicky
  • She learns to take a bottle
  • I stop leaking milk profusely
  • She sleeps at least a 4-hour stretch at night
  • She can latch on easily without a nipple shield
  • I stop bleeding
  • My midsection is no longer sore

And so on.

I kept the list on my phone, and I would check off the items one by one, until sure enough, the whole list was completely checked off. Poof. The process of matrescence complete. I looked in the mirror, and I saw a mother.

I’ve shared this completed checklist with a few of my friends when they were in the thick of it, navigating the choppy waters of new motherhood, as proof that they too will come out on the other side. (As it turns out, they were not light years away from having children, but just two or three years away.) This isn’t to say that motherhood is without its challenges for me today. But I now confront these challenges with the prevailing knowledge that this too shall pass. I am able to share this list because I no longer feel compelled to add to it.

So now I am making a different type of list. A list so that I don’t forget all of the tiny, tender bits of the present moment—because these too are fleeting.

For Eden my list goes something like this:

  • Her blissfully uncoordinated hop as she calls to me, “Mommy, watch me skip!”
  • The sound of her voice calling me mommy, since I’m sure I’ll blink one day and it will be “mom.”
  • The sensation of her hand tugging at my clothes from down below to get my attention.
  • The incredibly intelligent, unexpected and hilarious things that come out of her mouth on a daily basis (which of course I keep close record of, with yet another list).

For Arlo my list is this:

  • The way his chubby little wrist creases give the illusion that we’ve forgotten to remove rubber bands from the ends of his arms.
  • The way his face lights up when he looks at his daddy or big sister (or the cat).
  • His high-pitched squeals and lips bubbling with wet, slobbery raspberries.
  • His skin, soft as velvet.
  • His buttermilk smell.

Motherhood is a mist. It is a series of passing ships in the night. It is the memory of rain in the summer or heat in the winter. It is a massive identity shift. It is ephemeral. It is beautiful and yes, it is also still harder than anything else I will ever do in life. It is my favorite thing.

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Eden’s 2nd Birthday Party

kitty cat 2nd birthday party

My favorite tiny person turned two last month. My, what a year it’s been! It amazes me when I think about how at this time last year she was this super cute baby, but now she’s this incredibly cool human who chats with me about her day, asks me questions, knows the names of way more dinosaurs than I do, and loves to make everyone around her laugh.

Since she’s besties with our cat, Tobias, we threw her a kitty cat-themed bash in our backyard. We decorated with plenty of fresh blooms, balls of yarn, cute cat food dishes, and more. I hope you don’t mind looking at 5 trillion photos, because I had trouble narrowing them down! Credit goes to the talented Emma Feil for those…

kitty cat 2nd birthday party

kitty cat 2nd birthday party

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Eden’s 1st Birthday Party

My baby turned into a bonafide big kid toddler last month, and I wanted to share a few photos from her birthday party. Since it was way too hot this time of year to host the party in our backyard, our friends who own this super hip house paint store, Portola Paints, offered to let us use their space. It was a pretty rad backdrop for a 1st birthday party, I’ve gotta say! We decorated with big, gold balloons I ordered on Etsy and bud vases full of blooms from the L.A. Flower Mart, which is where all the florists in L.A. get their flowers at wholesale. Here are a few of my favorite pics (all taken by the talented Stephanie Todaro)…

Gold Letter Balloons

Eden's birthday hashtag

See more photos after the jump…

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On Weaning

On Weaning

I think we are weaning, and I am kind of sick about it. If I had it my way we’d have at least a few more months left, but three days ago Eden started refusing to nurse every time I’ve offered. I know there are such things as “nursing strikes,” and I could keep trying to force it while pumping up a storm to maintain my milk supply (breastfeeding is a supply and demand phenomenon), but I might just have to let nature take its course.

We had the roughest time learning to breastfeed at the beginning (like seriously rough—it took weeks and many visits to the lactation consultant and other specialists before it felt anywhere near natural). And if you had told me back then that I would eventually miss it, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. To be honest, I only kept going those first few weeks because I have a majorly Type-A, perfectionist personality, and I don’t like not succeeding at something I set out to do. But once we got past that initial hump, it became something really, really special.

I had trouble adjusting to motherhood. I don’t think anyone ever finds it easy, but I didn’t have many friends with babies yet, so I was especially unprepared. Looking back, I really had no idea what to expect or what was normal. Eden cried a lot, and I felt very lost during those first few sleepless weeks. But nursing Eden grounded me. It connected us in a very tactical sense.

Breastfeeding tethers you to your baby. During those first six months before an infant starts on solid food, a breastfed baby usually wants to nurse every two or three hours—sometimes around the clock. In some ways this is extremely challenging, and there were days when it used to drive me up a wall. The couple of times when Mark insisted I get out of the house and do something for myself during my maternity leave, I hardly had time to go to a yoga class or go get my nails done before I had to rush back to nurse again. And then there were all the middle of the night feedings…

But for this exact same reason—that we were tethered to each other—nursing was also so beautiful. It allowed me to devote myself fully to motherhood in a way I might have had trouble doing otherwise. Even once I went back to work—when I would sometimes catch a glimpse of my former childless self, surrounded by my friends and colleagues who aren’t parents yet—I was connected to Eden, pumping milk every three hours that I was away from her. I liked having that near constant reminder that I was a mama now, because adjustment period aside, there is nothing else I’d rather be.

By learning to breastfeed, Eden and I had made a very tactical, physical commitment to not stray too far from each other during her infancy. I knew that she would always need me and always ask for, even if not by name yet. I also knew that I wouldn’t be taking any big trips without her or working too many late nights for that first year. It was a difficult balance, sure. But I was also so glad to have that time where we were tethered to each other. Because I knew that it would be so fleeting.

I know that weaning is only the first of many steps she’ll make toward her independence. And that’s the goal, right? To raise a happy, well adjusted, independent human being? But it’s still so hard to let go of that little baby of mine. Luckily, I can already see that she’s turning into a happy, curious, active little toddler. And I always have that next phase to look forward to.

P.S. I know it’s been a little while, but I want to get back into this little blog! I’ve been bad about the baby book, and I figure recording our life here will be an even better way to remember it.

Photo: Stephanie Todaro Photography

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The Story of Eden’s Birth

Eden Saul

On August 29th, a Friday night, Mark came home from work with a sweet little bouquet from my favorite flower shop and announced that we were going out to dinner at a surprise location. We still had almost four weeks to go until Eden’s September due date, but I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable in the final weeks of pregnancy (plus, my doctor had told us that there was a chance she might arrive a little early), so it seemed like a good time to get in a last special dinner date together before bébé. Mark took me to Pace, an absolutely delicious and cozy spot in Laurel Canyon that we had never been to before. We dined on house-made pasta with seasonal, farmers market produce, and chocolate soufflé cake for dessert. Little did we know at the time that it would literally be our last meal together before baby!

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