So *this* is mother guilt.

I’m panicking. I’m even kind of shaking. I know it’s ridiculous, but then again, I really don’t.

Bebe and I are leaving tonight on a two-week trip to New York and Florida to visit family. I’ve been really looking forward to this trip for weeks. It was an ‘on a whim’ thing, and I think I’ve been more anxious about life here than I admit. I really need the break.

I figured, when I booked it, it would be a quick and easy thing, and so I’d opt out of bringing Koala. He could stay with his abba (they are very close) and have some fun dad-son time while staying mostly on schedule.

Turns out, you can’t ‘opt-out’ of anything having to do with your kids.

Since yesterday (after no less than three mothers who I spoke to looked at me like I’m insane for doing it) I’ve been overcome with what feels like panic and fear. Am I screwing him up? Is he going to have mommy issues? Am I abandoning him in his little eyes? He’s not even three yet. Is this a mistake? Am I horrible, selfish mother?

Then I realize – this is it. This is the guilt. The real maternal kind. Anything I thought was guilt until now was the stuff of playthings. This – this shaking, this nausea, this panic – it’s guilt.

Oh.

And when I pull away the dark curtains of despair, just for a moment, I see this -

  • The three mothers from yesterday are all cut from the same cloth, which is to say, a very different fabric than me. They didn’t make aliyah, they don’t travel as much as I do, and they don’t realize they have a motherhood ahead of them involving traveling to see faraway family with perhaps one affordable kid at a time.
  • Koala is going to be with his abba, who he’s very close to. They’re going to have a great time. And sometimes it will be hard for Koala. And for abba. But on the whole, it’ll be fine day-to-day. As much as an almost three-year-old lives for today.
  • I’ve been prepping him for weeks. I even booked him to come with me when I go again in the summer. He knows he’ll have his turn soon. Even if he’s not totally sure  when that is.
  • And as my travel agent said, when I frantically called her this morning to see what a last-minute child ticket would cost ($1800, by the way!): “They’re all gonna go for help anyway. This way, you save the money on the flight towards the therapist!”
I feel selfish. I feel terrible. And I feel guilty. I’m not gonna rationalize it away. I’m just gonna start focusing on the good I’m giving Bebe – getting to know her family and some time in the spotlight.
And, hello there, Jewish mother self.

 

New baby: One month.

There is nothing like those first few days with your newly born baby. It’s a gray zone; they were just inside you, an extension of your body, but not yet uncurled, open, an entity apart from you.

One of my favorite parts is the smell. Before they’ve been cleaned, had a bath, smell like laundry detergent. That’s a baby smell. It’s not the swooning… it’s just… the smell of fresh, pure chance at life. Life itself. Before it gets interfered with.

It’s been a month, and for the first few weeks there, I have to admit – it was tough to bond with my new girl. I think that’s partly due to all the distractions I had: Pesach, family visiting, unfinished business at work and, well, my other kid. It’s also partly due to the fact that I didn’t experience the first-time overwhelmingly powerful sensation of becoming a mother; of pushing a baby into the world for the first time; the adrenaline rush that comes with it all. I kinda… did what I had to do to meet my baby. And then get back to life. And that life is having two kids, a husband, long distance relationship with extended family, a job in transition, a newly-bought apartment, etc.

Secretly, maybe it runs deeper than that. Maybe it’s that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable around other girls. Maybe because I never had a sister. Maybe I feel awkward about how much love I already have for one kid, and where to start with a second.

But now that she’s a month old, me and baby girl are down to business, getting to know each other. There is a lot of eye-catching, eye contact. Mothering smiles, babylicious nearly-smiles. The mother-baby dance. Nose-to-nose, fingers wrapped around fingers, lips brush forehead.

We’re going to figure this out together.

Thankfulness.

It was technically Koala’s second Thanksgiving, but it was the first he could actually eat at. And eat he did. The toddler with three nationalities has plenty of room in his little belly for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pie. But then, who doesn’t?

And who doesn’t love drumming the 8-kilo turkey before mama starts the marinating?

Excuse the moment, but I also wanted to list a few things I’m thankful for this year. I’ll try not to lay on too much cheese, since we all just had a healthy helping of poultry. But…

It’s been on my mind a lot lately – how much I have. Hopefully I’ll never fully know or understand how much I should be grateful; all I can do is hope the good in my life is as plentiful as I feel it is now.

I’m in love with my son. It’s just such a complete, wholesome, out of bounds kind of love that I can’t fully express it. All I know is that I can never hold him enough, see him enough, feel him around me enough. He’s perfect for me, and I imagine that my husband and I are perfect for him. Like we are puzzle pieces jigsawed from the same board, and now we’ve all found each other.

And then there are the pieces still missing; the little one, the koala-to-be. I feel so lucky to be doing this all over again. Though there are times when I really wonder if I can love two kids like this. Is it possible? Do I have enough space? I honestly don’t know, but somehow humanity has birthed multiple children per family, so I’m about to find out how far the reaches of motherhood truly go.

In general, life is good. I try to appreciate as much as I can, and I know that being human, I’ll never truly get to point B in that respect. But I think about it often – what I have, and what I think I don’t have. And what I have is more than I ever could have wished for to keep me going in my life.

Zumba!

For a few years I kept seeing the word ‘zumba’ in my Facebook feed…

Ahhh! Zumba!

Just came back from zuuumbaaa!!!

I <3 Zumba 4everz!!11!!1

And I’ve had no freakin clue what everyone has been saying.

Last week, I got an email advertising Zumba on Sunday nights right here in cozy little Tzur Hadassah. So I had to break the curiosity and go.

Ok, here’s the thing: Lately, I’ve been feeling really… old. Sure, I’m chillin’ in my late 20s, but it’s a state of mind. I don’t exercise, gravity is pointing it’s forefinger at me and I find myself saying things like, “Wait till your father gets home…”

So if you’re feeling old, what better way to youthen up than to dance-aerobics to spicy Latin hip hop?

In an open school yard?

While 11-year-old boys watch you?

Israeli Zumba: It’s you, gloriously uncoordinated you, and a bunch of 40/50 year olds, sweating your hearts out at the local school, loud Spanish speakers blasting while a Russian hottie makes you move your hips in naughty ways, an audience of a dozen grade school boys on the verge of puberty watching (possibly filming, who can be sure?) – and a few actually join in behind you.

Zumba!!1!1!! I’m going back next week.

Koala update: Twelve months.

The year is here. Some kind of ultimate milestone. Profundity escapes me. I’m just impressed I’m still around, sane enough to tell the tale…

Starting with today – the first birthday. Since the birth-day. Vaccines aside, I’m fairly certain by the evidence that Koala enjoyed what I call a ‘naked cake grab’ at dinner time.

There’s nothing like an uninhibited naked cake grab. Gotta remember that when my next birthday rolls around.

As far as everything ‘meta’… I can’t cough up cliches. I’ll start with the last month.

Third time’s a charm… or it’s at least an impressive number: This past month made the third time Koala has traveled with me outside Israel in his little life. A well-traveled one-year-old – but one who does not travel well. We’re going to lay off the air travel for a little while.

But the trip was heart-warming and fun and adventurous. Nothing like the curiosity of a near-toddler in a big airport…

…or the satisfaction of a sleeping baby on a long flight.

In other news, the boy knows what he wants. He knows what he doesn’t want. And he knows how to get those points across. Since the day he was born, on this date last year.

Let’s hope he is not a world leader someday. My little kingpin is… well… spoiled. An only child. An indulged child. And trust me, I’m not a spoiler. But there’s nothing else that can hold my attention quite like Koala can.

There’s work to do before he gets the shock of his life when he has a sibling one day.

On the non-skills front, the first faux art project happened this month, with his American-Israeli metapelet while I worked at a company offsite.

That’s actually a very exciting prospect for me: The fridge covered in art projects. It’ll be even more exciting when I can tell he truly did it himself (when there’s a single, honest Crayola marking across a broad, white sheet).

Otherwise, between the standing on his own, the new scrunched up faces of disgust, the new words he’s picked up… It’s been a fun month watching Koala top off the past year.

And it’s been a wonderful, short, long, educational, hilarious, sleepless, mystical, challenging year, Koala. More and more and more to come.

Koala update: Eleven months.

We’re nearing a year and look at that, I have time to update (barely). I also have a lot of flashbacks about what this time last year was like. Childless, calm and well-rested. Ah, memories.

Informal poll: Is my sabra the only one to have ‘todah’ (thank you) be his first functional word? Just wondering if we’re doing it wrong.

Koala has always been a bit sensitive when it comes to strangers and loud noises (and especially when you combine the two) but the separation anxiety has spiked in the last month. To an uncomfortable degree. But people have been very understanding, which helps.

Koala got his first appreciable package from overseas; a mishloach manot from his Australian side. Unlike our forced present opening at Chanukah, he was actually able to scrounge and scavenge properly. We are so proud.

Having spent the last part of his eleventh month in the States, it is only fitting that he experienced his first fast food (nuggets and fries) with his temporary daycare nanny here. I was shocked at first, and then remembered that there is a good chance in a couple years he will definitely be eating Tivol more than once in a while.

And besides, he’s been getting his fill of Sesame Street while here, and to me Sesame Street is the entertainment equivalent of peas and carrots.

Remember what I said about having time to update? I have to cut this one short; it’s always less time than you think with a borderline toddler in tow.

Motherhood inferiority complex.

More than once I’ve been told I’m a pretty laid-back first-time mom. I think when I got pregnant, I became so overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of what I was about to do and I kinda just let go of trying to even attempt to control the situation. I’ve just been able to take one day at a time, knowing that I’m in a powerful yet powerless position here.

And for the past ten months, I’ve been pretty much proven right. Being laid-back has been a great tool for dealing with new-mommy life.

I think, however, my metapelet may disagree. It could be all my own internalizing, but I can’t help but get the feeling she wonders where my head is at… Why am I not taking all of her advice? Why am I not rushing to the doctor every time he has a string of sleepless nights (every week, then?!)? Why am I not more upset that when I drop him off, he’s ecstatic to jump into her arms from mine?

On that last point… It really didn’t bother me until she started mentioning it every time. I’ve been happy with the way she is with him, pleased with the fact that I landed a  great daycare situation – a loving woman who genuinely cares for my kid. So what’s wrong with the fact that when we get to her house in the morning, he practically jumps out of my arms into hers?

But she’s mentioned it almost every day and somewhere it started grating on my nerves. How many times can you hear, That’s not nice, don’t you love your mama? before you start to shed your laid-backness and begin to get annoyed?

This week was different. I don’t know if Koala is just getting older, more aware, more contextual, or if Purim turned things upside down for real… But when I brought him in on Tuesday, he freaked out. He grasped on to me and the nail-digging in my skin was oozing with please don’t leave me. I laughed and tried again to pass him along to his metapelet and he burst out in tears. Finally, I kissed his head and just left.

It happened again the next day. When I came to pick him up in the afternoon, my metapelet said, “Well, finally, I was worried that he was leaving you too easily. This is a good thing,” with just the slightest hint of defensiveness. In my head, I rolled my mind’s eyes. Who’s this really about, anyway?

But I’m happy with myself. Another version of me would have been angry, jealous, emotional, put off, defensive about the whole thing.

Laid-back mommy me is just taking it one day at a time.