It Took Me Seven Months to Fall In Love with My Daughter

Y’all – I have a confession. I am totally, crazy, overwhelmingly and intensely in love with my daughter. Isla is nine months old and I love her more every single day. Cliché, yes. But it’s the truth. She brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined. However, I didn’t experience this type of love until Isla was seven months old. Here’s my story.

While I was pregnant I didn’t feel a strong connection to the baby inside of me. I did feel an overwhelming sense that I had to do whatever I could to keep the baby safe. However, I was not one of those people who had conversations with my baby while rubbing my swollen belly. Maybe it was my superstitious nature holding me back from getting too excited, or maybe it was because we didn’t find out the sex of Isla until she was born so I couldn’t fully connect with who I was carrying. I don’t know…

Here I am recreating the

Here I am recreating the “I carried a watermelon” scene from Dirty Dancing – with my pregnant belly. Clearly not singing lullabies or playing classical music to the little one inside of me. Just utilizing her as a party trick and a prop.

When Isla was born and I heard the words “It’s a girl” I had an out of body experience. I knew I was supposed to be more excited than I was, but I was more focused on how exhausted I felt and how anti-climactic the whole experience actually seemed. Maybe it was because I was at the hospital for 37 hours and had 41 weeks (and 37 hours) to think about what the delivery was going to be like. It was nothing like I imagined. I thought when I held my healthy baby in my arms and found out who had been hanging out inside of me for all that time I would be over the moon. I wasn’t.

After Isla was delivered we only had a few minutes before things got a little scary. She wasn’t breathing well and her heart rate dropped. There was five-minutes of sheer terror – for my husband. He kept looking over at the pediatrician working on Isla. I could hear the sounds of her feet being slapped and the pediatrician saying, “Come on. Come on!” Tears filled Neil’s eyes. And all I could do was scream at him to look at me.

“Don’t look at the baby, look at me! Just look at me!”

My fresh, beautiful bundle of joy was almost lifeless on a table a few feet away from me, but all I could do was howl at my husband to keep his eyes on me. I didn’t want him to see what was going on – I wanted to protect him.

I'm pretty exhausted here, y'all.

I’m pretty exhausted here, y’all.

Five minutes later, Isla was fine and she made her way into my arms. I looked at her and said, “Well, you certainly know how to make an entrance and give your father a heart attack.” And then laughed at myself for having my first moment of parental sarcasm.

(Note: As I recount the events that happened in that five-minute scary period, I realize I’m pretty breezy about it. But the bottom line is, I can’t control what my emotions were, and Isla is more than OK now. That’s what matters.)

I stared at her for a while. Her face was flat. She had a crazy overbite. Her nose was smushed. She was furry. Was she cute? I thought she was. But I was acutely aware that other people probably wouldn’t think so.

Check out that fuzz.

Click on this photo and check out that forehead fuzz.

I wasn’t drunk on my baby yet – you might know what I’m talking about. The feelings you have inside of you where you’re 100% confident that your baby is smarter, cuter and better than any other baby out there. And you are sure that other parents say the same thing about their babies – but you know that your baby REALLY IS the smartest and cutest baby of all time. It took me a long time to get to that place, which is pretty friggin’ awesome. I digress…

The overwhelming sense I had to protect Isla while I was pregnant grew into an intense sense that I would kill anyone or anything that tried to fuck with my baby after she arrived. Yes – I loved her. But I wasn’t in love with her. It was a very strange mix of emotions. The first week we had Isla at home I stayed up with her all night, terrified that something would happen if I wasn’t awake every single second. Neil forced me to let go a little – and little by little I became more comfortable. I spent three months on maternity leave. And yes, we bonded. And I thought she was adorable. But I certainly didn’t have “that feeling” that so many parents described. Instead of a sense of bliss I was busy wondering if Neil and I had made the biggest mistake of our lives. I definitely remembered what life was like before having Isla and thought about it often. PS – So many people say the minute you have a baby you forget what life was like before the baby. You guys – I still remember what life was like before having a baby. It was pretty awesome.

Life before Isla didn't suck.

Life before Isla didn’t suck.

The months went on, I went back to work and Isla suddenly started becoming a person. She wasn’t a lifeless lump. She started to laugh. She started to play peek-a-boo. I could interact with her. But I still didn’t have this feeling that I craved – this feeling of all-encompassing love. I didn’t miss her when I was away from her. Sometimes I even forgot about her. I finally gave up and accepted that I wasn’t going to be one of those parents who sat around and thought about my baby all of the time. It wasn’t like I didn’t love her. I just didn’t love her as much as I wanted to. I vowed protect her and do anything I could to give her a great life. And then, I moved on.

Then one day, something changed. I came home from work and my keys jangled in the door. I could hear my daughter start to squeal with joy. My stomach flipped as I struggled to unlock the door. Finally as the key caught the latch, I swung the door open, and there was my beautiful daughter staring at me. Her smile was so wide that her nose crinkled. She chirped with delight as I put down my bag and went to wash my hands. I walked towards her and she bounced up and down with excitement. I scooped her up in my arms, smelled her hair, kissed her plump cheeks and wanted to inhale her. My eyes filled with tears. Our nanny Suzette (slash third parent) asked if I was OK. I looked at her and said, “I’m absolutely, positively, head-over-heels in love with my daughter.”

I tell this story because I want people to know it can take a long time to feel the type of love so many parents talk about – a love you have never experienced before. And you know what – that’s OK. Being a parent is really hard and the trials and tribulations that come with this new role are overwhelming. A small part of me is terrified that one day Isla will read this and be upset with me. The larger part of me wants her to know that it’s OK if it takes her time to fall madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with her babies. And if she falls insanely in love at first site, she’s pretty damn lucky to feel the most incredible love she will ever experience so early on.

Sometimes You Hate Your Partner – And That’s OK

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Back in 2013 I wrote this post about my two-year wedding anniversary. Ben Affleck had recently won his Oscar and thanked his wife with a “marriage is work” speech. Some people thought it was insulting; others, like me, thought it was one of the most heartfelt, honest, loving and spot-on, partner-thank-you speeches of all time.

Guys, let’s face it. Marriage is hard work. And here is a cliché for you – when you add children into the mix it gets EVEN HARDER. Who would have thought?

Our first family photo.

Our first family photo.

Father’s Day is around the corner, and this post is an honest tribute to the best father I know – who just so happens to be my husband. But guess what – sometimes I really want to kill him. Because I’m human. And he’s not perfect. And neither am I.

We may not be perfect as parents or partners. But there are moments of perfection sprinkled around our life. Like this.

We may not be perfect as parents or partners. But there are moments of perfection sprinkled around our life. Like this.

The first night we had Isla at home we were on our own – no grandparents. No night nurse. No nothing. Just me, Neil, and this tiny human who I was convinced we were going to somehow ruin. As I held Isla in my arms at 3am, tears streaming down my face, I cried to Neil about how we definitely didn’t spend enough time together before Isla was born and that I was certain we had just ruined our PERFECT marriage. Somehow, bringing a child into the world made me completely black out and forget that I ever got frustrated, annoyed, irritated or sometimes-hated Neil. Y’all, relax. I only sometimes hated him. You know what they say – you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. I had paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. I LOVED NEIL SO MUCH. And this tiny baby parking lot was going to fuck it all up.

Me at 3am on our fist night home with Isla, crying and asking Neil to document this moment. Because I wanted to remind myself how much I loved him when I forgot. Hormones will make you do really sweet things...and really CRAZY things.

Me at 3am on our fist night home, crying and asking Neil to document this moment. Because I wanted to remind myself how much I loved him when I forgot. Hormones will make you do really sweet things…and really CRAZY things.

Someone's in love.

Someone’s in love.

Don’t worry – this super-love fest I was experiencing lasted about four days. I got over it in a hurry. And then instead of feeling like I loved Neil like I never loved him before, I felt a protective instinct inside of me that I had never experienced. I had to keep this creature who I had brought into the word alive. That was my sole responsibility in life. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about her in general. But lord help me, I was here to make sure she survived. I was going on seven days of no sleep and Neil finally told me it was time for me to cool my jets and take the night off.

“ARE YOU SERIOUS? I CAN’T LET YOU TAKE CARE OF HER ALL NIGHT!” I howled as Neil held Isla and looked at me like I was a wild animal. Because let’s face it. I was. I hadn’t brushed my teeth or my hair for seven days. And by all night, what I meant was a three hour stretch. Because I was breast feeding and hadn’t figured out the pump yet (which I would eventually master). And Isla was going to need to eat.

“Baby, calm down, it will…”

“DON’T YOU TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!!” Neil’s brow furrowed, which really pissed me off. “DON’T YOU MAKE THAT FACE AT ME!”

“Shhhhh. It’s OK. Relaaaa….” As the word relax started to come out of his mouth he looked like he wanted to take it back. As he should. Never tell a woman to relax. And NEVER NEVER NEVER tell a woman who just birthed a baby who hasn’t slept for a week to relax.

“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THIS. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.” I sobbed. The exhaustion had gotten to me. I cracked. Neil rocked Isla in his arms and I realized I had to let go. I couldn’t stay awake forever to make sure she was alive, every second of the night. So for one three-hour stretch Neil could stay awake to protect the little monster who I wanted to keep safe more than anything. I took a deep breath, wiped the snot from my upper lip and said, “OK. I’ll sleep. But you have to swear not to sleep. And to make sure she’s breathing.” I shuffled off to bed – and turned around to add, “If anything happens – just remember – it’s still my fault because I trusted you to take care of her – and I’m sure you don’t want to live with that.”

Neil did indeed keep our daughter alive for that three-hour stretch. And soon enough we mastered the night-time. And the day-time.

Neil documenting what he did on his first stretch of baby duty - just in case you needed to prove to me that he stayed awake. Smart man.

Neil documenting what he did on his first stretch of baby duty – just in case he needed to prove to me that he stayed awake. Smart man.

I look back on that first night now and smile. It was Neil’s first moment taking care of not only his daughter – but his daughter’s mother. I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to protect my daughter. And Neil had an overwhelming feeling that he needed to protect his daughter – and his wife. He saw me crack, and he picked up my pieces. It wasn’t in some grand gesture of a push-present. It was in my darkest hour. He put up with my irrational state. He forced me to let go a little. He got me to bed. Most importantly – he knew what I needed when I was completely lost.

Neil dove in head first into fatherhood- wanting to be a part of everything – and he still does. Which is sometimes REALLY annoying. He’s got an opinion on almost EVERYTHING. He questions me. A lot. But the bottom line is – he’s the best friggin’ dad out there. And while he might drive me crazy, he’s always there to pick me up when I don’t really know that I need it. We fight. We yell. I scream. He huffs. But he’s my rock. And as Ben Affleck said about all of this, “…it’s work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Headed to Central Park.

Headed to Central Park.

Park dad.

Park dad.

Just bein' a dad on a Saturday.

Just bein’ a dad on a Saturday.

Neil's besties jumping in on the baby fun. And nailing Three Men and a Baby.

Neil’s besties jumping in on the baby fun. And nailing Three Men and a Baby.

Top 10 Things I didn’t Fully Understand (or understand at all) Until I Brought My Baby Home

Hello Simply in the Flavor followers! It’s been quite some time. Since we were last together I got pregnant, birthed a baby, took three months maternity leave, got a new job and have been trying my hand at parenting. I’ve been a little busy! I’m back (until my next hiatus) and thought I’d share something with you I wrote when Isla Jaye was a little over three weeks old. As you know, sometimes I stray from the food writing, and this is one of those times. We can call this some what of a recipe of things I learned very quickly after bringing Isla home. Isla is now seven months old. A sense of normalcy has settled into our house and I can tell all of you first time parents out there who are in the beginning days, weeks and months of your babies lives that it will get better, you will sleep again and it really is all worth it.

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Babies are so emo.

This was taken in a 60 second span. Babies are so emo.

As prepared as I thought I was for the arrival of my daughter Isla, I wasn’t prepared at all. Yea, after 37 hours of labor and a very difficult delivery, I thought I was a warrior. Little did I know it was all fun and games before I left the hospital. Parents tried to tell me what it would be like to have a baby and I thought I got it. But I now know nothing prepares you for being a parent like being sent home with a baby. Now that I am an expert on these matters, having had my beautiful daughter at home for just over three weeks, let me at least help you expectant parents out there by telling you the following 10 things, already learned in such a brief period of time (not that it feels brief), are really really true.

1. You can’t get anything done – and people aren’t just saying that
Babies have a sixth sense. They know the exact moment you are becoming productive and they will somehow fuck it up. For example, after I wrote the third sentence of this piece and thought to myself, “Hey! I’m back in my writing groove! This feels great!” my daughter decided to start wailing over absolutely nothing except for the fact that my undivided attention was not on her. I thought during my maternity leave I’d catch up on a whole bunch of stuff that I had put on the back burner – you know, working on getting my novel published, starting my next book, organizing closets. Because I would have SO MUCH time on my hands! Well, let me tell you how a typical day goes: I start a project. My daughter cries. I feed her. Change her. Soothe her. Forget I started said project. I begin another project. Rinse and repeat until I have 14 different things going on and my husband comes home to a disheveled mess that I thought would be a sparkling clean and orderly house. My intentions are always good – and every day is going to be THE day I get shit done. So far, no day has been that day.

2. You will get excited over a bowel movement, a pee, a burp and basically any bodily function
I never in a million years thought I would be the parent who would praise my child for a poop diaper. I was wrong. After Isla’s first poop, I said in an all out baby voice, “Way to go! You’re such a good girl! Mommy is so proud of you!” And every time after she burps I sing-song that she is a genius. Because she is, isn’t she? Oh – and FYI for all you future moms out there – you’ll be excited about your own bowel movements, too. No one seems to talk about how your own bowel movements after delivering a baby are a triumph. So, now you know.

3. People say “sleep while you can” for a reason
This drove me insane at the end of my pregnancy. I was so ready to meet the little one inside of me and was so over being pregnant. I was annoyed with people who told me to enjoy the last few weeks before our baby’s arrival. I wanted to say, “I’m fucking swollen and uncomfortable and over being pregnant. Stop telling me to sleep and lounge around and do nothing!” And now, a little less than a month into this gig, I’m telling any pregnant and non-pregnant person who will listen to sleep while they can. You won’t believe how quickly your previous dreams of some luxurious vacation turn into dreams of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

4. Don’t get pissed at people who tell you “As prepared as you are, you can never be fully prepared”
I was prepared for how hard this would be – and I understood I would be sleep deprived – but I was COMPLETELY unprepared for how out of control my hormones would be and what an emotional roller coaster this gig is. The bottom line is, no matter how prepared you think you are, nothing prepares you for this role except diving right into it…which leads me to…

5. The first night you will ask yourself “Did I make the biggest mistake of my life?” and if you’re like me, you’ll ask yourself that a few times…or maybe more than a few times
And hey, it’s OK. Because babies can be major assholes. They can’t help it, of course. They are helpless beings and suck every ounce of what you have to give out of you. Just know that at some point you will wonder if you can do this. And trust me – you can. You might have to cry your way through it multiple times, or lock yourself in a closet and hide from the sounds of your baby crying for a little while. But YOU CAN DO THIS!

6. It’s important to find friends who are parents
Don’t get me wrong, my friends without children are amazing – I can tell you right now that I wouldn’t be able to do this mom thing without them. But there is something about looking into the eyes of another parent while telling a story of how you haven’t slept for days and have that parent look right back at you and say, “ME EITHER. THIS SUCKS”. Misery loves company, and all that jazz.

7. Eating a meal over the kitchen sink is a perfectly acceptable way to eat a meal
I never understood why people eat standing over the kitchen sink instead of plating a meal and sitting down. Until Isla was born. You have to shovel the food in as fast as you can while the baby is still asleep – because who knows how much time you have before she wakes up – and when she will sleep again. Kitchen sink meal, I love you.

8. You will receive unsolicited advice from anyone who has children – and some people who have never had children
When it comes to babies, people have opinions. People will tell you the “miracle worker” that magically put their baby to sleep (does that even really exist? I feel like these offerings are unicorns that I will chase forever and never find). People will tell you what bottles you MUST use or that breast feeding is the ONLY way. Also, people who don’t have children will decide they some sort of advice that is helpful – and it will annoy the shit out of you because you will suddenly feel like until they have babies, they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. I was this person. Before I had a baby I loved to give little tidbits of things I had picked up from friends who had children. I now hate myself a little and want to apologize to everyone out there I ever advised before I had my baby. Sorry!

9. Something as simple as the very first smile will make it all worth it
The cliches are true – all of them. Recently my daughter cried for what felt like the entire day. Or an entire three days. But who’s counting? When my husband came home from work I threw her into his arms, forced him into the bedroom, made him turn on the sound machine, and closed the door while I hid in our hallway closet because it was the only place in our one bedroom apartment (yes, that’s right. one bedroom) that I couldn’t hear the painful cries of our daughter. I hid in the closet and sobbed, wondering if I made the biggest mistake of my life (see point number five). The next morning while filming Isla mastering the art of the pacifier (yes, something like that becomes an incredible achievement) she smiled at me for the first time, and I caught it on video. Suddenly every horrible and awful moment we had been through together was worth it. And I could watch the video 1000 times (note – Isla is now seven months and I have watched the video almost on a daily basis. it never gets old).

10. You will, at some point, become the person you swore you would never be when you became a parent
Whether you’re suddenly telling people to sleep while they can before they have children, or find yourself talking about the color of your baby’s poop at an adult dinner party, though you swore you would never do stuff like that before you had children, you will indeed become the person you swore you would never be before becoming a parent. Because hey, you had no fucking clue what you were in for before you baby arrived. Welcome to the club.

-November 19, 2014