Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hang on, here come the emotions

SO much has evolved since my last post in November. The most obvious of all being Austin's age and weight! The babe is now five months old, at at his last doctor's appointment on 12/27, he was pushing 17 pounds! That's a mere couple of ounces less than his 11-month old cousin Justin! Sometimes that thought makes me feel like a bad mom--like I have overfed my baby or something, but we were just following doctor's orders with the high-calorie premie formula. And come on, you know a chubby baby is the cutest thing EVER. It's just so weird to think that my little early bird is now in the 80th percentile on a full-term baby chart. And he's in the 60th for length and head circumference.  Unbelievable. Oh, and he's wearing 9-month sized clothes. That last one really makes me sad!

The good news is that we are finally rid of that high-calorie formula :) and have moved onto the regular infant variety. The week we changed was quite a trip. Austin has never been more fussy or spit up more than he did that week. Of course, us nervous parents went through everything in the book--at different points we thought he had a fever, was just gassy, or possibly teething. Eventually we realized that it was just taking him some time to get used to the new stuff. We're glad that is over. This past weekend we introduced rice cereal. It's still mostly liquidy, and he takes it through a bottle. Will be interesting to see how the spoon-fed version goes. That's when the real fun begins, right?!

My favorite changes by far are those in Austin's expressions, awareness and responses. In the early weeks, we could tell he knew Mom or Dad was nearby because his eyes followed our voices. That itself was so touching. But now, he smiles nearly every time his eyes meet mine! And he talks to me! Well, baby-talk "talks" to me. Usually when he's on the changing table, he'll make faces and noises in response to getting his diaper changed or getting redressed. So I make faces and noises back at him, and then we go back and forth with our own little language. It's quite entertaining. I will admit that I usually have tears in my eyes by the end of each "conversation." I suppose I still can't believe I have a child. Or that the child communicates in his own way! He just melts my heart. I pray that I am not that Mom that tears up at every last achievement (especially those that come at an age when he doesn't want to be embarrassed by me). Last weekend Austin rolled over for the first time, and I screamed instead of crying! Now he is wiggling all over the place. Even rolling in his crib. It's crazy. Here's a video Jim took (this was like roll #3 or 4).

As far as the smiling goes--he's so happy first thing in the morning. I don't know who he got that from, because it wasn't me or Jim! Now we're working on getting him to laugh more regularly, too. He had a few minor giggles around the holidays, then finally on New Year's Day, he laughed for our six-year-old cousin Lauren for about 15 seconds straight. And since then, Jim and I have been trying to impersonate her so Austin would laugh for us again. If you need a good laugh, come watch that. We're borderline ridiculous, but determined to hear it some more. This past week, when I said "I love you." with complete sincerity, he smiled and laughed at me like I was telling jokes. That cracked me up too. There are also really tender moments--like at night when I'm cradling him to get him to fall asleep--where he'll stare into my eyes and coo ever so quietly. That's by far the best part of this gig.

Speaking of gigs, I started my new job the week after Thanksgiving! Man am I lucky. Right now I work Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8-5; that gives me Tuesdays and Thursdays at home with Austin, and keeps me active in the land of marketing and advertising. I can't say enough great things about this company. Aside from the fact that my commute is now shorter than it was just to get to the highway to drive to Ashland, I have a wonderful office, challenging but highly interesting clients, and co-workers who just "get it." I've already gotten to work on three website development projects, and there are four or five more in the pipeline. Web work was one of the big things I wanted to learn more about, and here I am just two months in and already learning (and enjoying) so much.

The days I'm at work, we are so lucky to have family members watching the baby. Kristin, Jim's cousin, and my Mom have been such huge helps (and mentors!). It's neat to see their take on his routine and habits after they've spent a full day with him, and their insight has been helpful.

And now, purposely buried many paragraphs into this entry is the one admission most parents might hate me for: Austin has been sleeping through the night (anywhere from 8 to even 12 hours straight!) for just over two months now. This is not a joke. In fact, I have gotten more sleep with a four-month-old baby across the hall than I EVER have before. Seriously. In high school and college, and even post-marriage/pre-baby, I was always the last to go to bed for some reason. I'm a "sleep when you're dead" kind of thinker, I guess. But this kid is turning me into a more relaxed, and yes even punctual (in most cases!), human being.

The truth is that I have never been happier in my life than I am right now. I used to get so worked up just thinking about how I could make it all work--baby, career, romance, me time ... stressing about how my work stress and ridiculous commute might affect Austin's development ... worrying about which doctor would be on call the day Austin decided to make his grand entrance ... dwelling on the fact that my baby was stuck in the NICU. But now I think back in shock and awe at how everything has fallen into place.

Naturally, nothing happened the way I expected--it turned out better. I had no morning sickness whatsoever. I didn't experience caffeine withdraw one bit (if you know me well, you should be surprised by this too!). Of course I didn't expect Austin to show up so early. And although I have wondered if the constant commute influenced his early arrival, I truly believe everything happened for a reason. Then, when it came to finding a job more suited to my new family, you can only imagine the relief I felt to find something so close to home AND so fulfilling.

Yes--I now think of even the NICU experience as some sort of hidden blessing that helped us ready ourselves for this life-changing experience. Not that I didn't have faith in us becoming new parents, I'm just very thankful for that time with those nurses, getting to watch and learn while Austin too "learned" how to eat.

All things considered, no one should be this lucky.

I know many of my close friends and family members have heard me say these things on more than one occasion, but I seriously think about them all the time. Still shaking my head in disbelief. So much in disbelief in fact, that I started this post almost two weeks ago, sitting in my living room, past my bedtime, just sinking these thoughts into the keyboard when I was overcome with emotions. I still wanted to talk about how much fun it was to have Austin around for the holidays, but I couldn't get over the unbelievable, simple joy described above. I went to bed with the intention of finishing the post the next day, but every time I sat down to type, I still found tears in my eyes.

A couple of people have already said, "enjoy it now, because your second kid will be awful." Meaning, he/she will fuss constantly, not sleep through the night until age 2, etc., etc. And to them I say, the odds would agree with you. But, the experiences with Austin have taught me what I think I'd need to get through the "2nd kid shenanigans." Besides, we have plenty of time before we even begin to think about another baby. Plenty. Did you hear me Grandmas? I said Plenty.

Ok, I think it's time to lighten this up. Let's talk Christmas! I have never been so excited about the holidays as I was this year. Usually Jim is singing carols by November 1. The combo of that and black Friday hype just annoys the crap out of me. So much so that he usually calls me Scrooge when we get in the car and I don't let him listen to certain stations. Whatever. This year was different. Of course I was excited to give and receive gifts with all of our families, but just carting the kiddo around to family gatherings with us, and opening presents for him was really cool. Some toys, like the really neat toy drum and other instruments my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Jim bought him, won't be able to be played with for some time, but it was a great feeling to get excited for him. And, to know that by Christmas next year, he'll likely be running around and ripping open his own presents!


We also squeezed in an impromptu 3-month/holiday photo shoot with Uncle Benn and Aunt Emily. Benn was snapping the shots behind a really nice still camera (usually he's the videographer), and Emily was our art director! It was great fun, and wouldn't have been complete without a few wardrobe changes. Austin was pretty worn out with all the excitement, so we didn't get any overly-excited facial expressions, but I know that won't be the case come 6-month time. Thank you to the Aunt and Uncle team for great fun, and many great shots--including the one below and the two "Santa's helper" shots above.

It's hard to believe that tomorrow Austin will be 5 months old already! Other big milestones this week include 1/31 - the day we found out we were pregnant last year, and 2/1, my Godson/Nephew Justin's first birthday!! This is the Justin that Austin has already outgrown. HAHA. He's taller than Austin but still lighter.

In other baby news, I want to say a big "Congrats!" to one of my oldest friends, Erin and her husband Kevin who welcomed their son, Max, on 12/26. I couldn't believe how light Max was when I first held him! And he was still heavier than Austin was at birth. He is beyond precious, and I couldn't be happier for the three of them.

And finally, I want to share what should be the end of our nursery decorating story. One hefty post-holiday nursery-cleaning spree gave us the time we needed to tidy up Austin's room and decorate the rest of the walls. Thanks again to my Dad for making the adorable wooden AJD letters and giraffe, and to cousins Bob & Regan for the festive animal/safari rug. We love this room, and Austin even loves staring at everything to take in the colors and see what's all there. I know we will enjoy it for years to come.

That's about all for now. I'm hoping that Austin isn't crawling by the time I write again. YIKES!