I think we need to escape to some mountain hideaway.
Today we ventured out to return a gift I received and then to go to Cos.tco. We thought it would be just fine, since I had planned to wear the baby in a wrap, and because we knew there would be ample locations to feed and change him. The day went really well. I wore the baby in the department store, and when I went to try on the clothes I was getting in exchange for the gift, J held the baby, and then I fed him, and we changed him all there in the fitting room. I have become a big fan of fitting rooms.
We then ventured on to Cos.tco, and we were both nervous. It’s a place that stresses J and I out. The parking lot stresses us out. The countless people making beelines to the sample carts stress us out. The people who are obliviously speaking on their cell phones and nearly running us over with their mammoth shopping carts stress us out. It’s always an exhausting situation for us, but we were determined to go in with zen attitudes, get our necessary items, and get the hell out.
And we did amazingly well with that too. Baby Genius woke up toward the end of our time in the store, and he charmed the socks off of countless employees and patrons with his cuteness as he was nestled in his wrap. When we left, I nursed him again in the car, changed him again, and we were on our way home, patting ourselves on the backs. We had thirty minutes to drive though, and within five minutes, BG started melting down. We kept the screams at bay with a loud Jack Johnson sing-along, but soon I had to pull over, and J had to get in the back seat to help BG calm down. It took a few minutes, but ultimately, it worked well, and by the time we got home, Baby Genius was ready to eat, but he wasn’t miserable. After I fed him, and he fell asleep, I attempted to put him down, and then the crying began in earnest. This was around 3:30. For the next three and a half hours, he fell asleep three more times only to wake up crying when we tried to put him down. The boy was exhausted and overwhelmed. We were exhausted too. It was hard.
I know that to some of you this sounds like a piece of cake. Believe me, I’ve cared for much more fussy babies, so I know that we’ve got a relatively easy-going boy on our hands, but this was out of character for our son. We have had this need lately to get out, to be a part of the world, to have experiences, so we’ve been going out almost every day to do something, whether that’s going for a walk, going to farmer’s market, doing some shopping, etc. It has done us some good, but we both began to realize that it has all been a bit much for our son and that we’ve got to dial it back a bit. Lesson learned. We don’t want to overwhelm our boy just so that we can entertain ourselves. That isn’t fair to him.
The thing is, our son is not the only person in our family who is overwhelmed by outside influences these days. J and I have been struggling lately to stay afloat in our relationship. When we went to visit my family and stayed at my parents’ house, we suffered some trauma. My step-dad pulled some weird shit. The first day and a half we were there, he was great, and he held the baby and doted on him tons, but then when my sixteen-month-old niece spent the night (because my sister selfishly decided this would be a good time for her to have a party night), he decided to ignore the baby (he even said, “He has to learn to be a man somehow,” after refusing to hold him), take cheap shots at us, and then ignore us too. It was a whole lot of bullshit that caused a whole lot of strife, and it led J to never want to be around him again. It’s all so complicated, and there is so much more to this, but for several days we were a disaster. My mom was a mess and was placing the blame not just on her husband but J too. It was such a strain trying to talk to her. And then she came to visit again, all too soon, which was even more of a mess. Because my family refuses to talk about issues, and because my step-dad is often emotionally crippled and unwilling to acknowledge when he’s hurt people’s feelings, we are sort of left to our own devices to sort things like this out. It seems that things with J and my mom are smoothed over, but we’re still struggling with the aftermath in our household. We’re trying to make compromises about our visits to see them, but it’s not been easy, not at all.
Through all of this, though, we realized that even though we have been home, we haven’t taken that opportunity to cocoon ourselves as a new family, to work on strengthening ourselves before facing the world, and that world includes extended family. My family seems to have bled all over us once again, and J and I, the only emotionally mature people in the family, are left to clean it all up. I’m not one to cut family out of my life, but I also don’t want us to endure this sort of pain as a family again. I want to be able to protect us from my step-dad’s moodiness or my mom’s overbearing need to control, control, control. I love my parents–I really do–but they’re wreaking havoc on my wife and I, and on our son by proxy.
This year, we have two more visits planned, both holiday-related. Fortunately, my brother and his wife will be there with us one night, helping to distract and deflect. The next day is a huge family reunion Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s house, so we have lots of people we haven’t seen in a long time to help insulate us too. The following day, we’ll get up extraordinarily early in the morning and drive home to avoid any potential alone time with my step-dad. The visit after that will be for Christmas, but Christmas about twelve days early since the whole family is going on a cruise for the holiday, and we’re staying behind. We will likely stay one night at my brother’s house–which is half-way between here and my parents’ place–and one night at the parents’ place, again in an effort to avoid too much alone time or over-staying our welcome with my step-father. These are the sorts of compromises that we have been working on for two weeks now.
And after that? After that, and all of the days in between, we’re cocooning ourselves. Sure we’ll go on some family outings just the three of us, but we learned this week not to overdo it with those. As far as family visits go, however, we’ll be staying home for a good long time, isolating ourselves from their drama as much as possible, learning to be a family, and so on. J and I need this, or we’re going to fall apart.
Few people ever talk about just how hard having a baby is with regard to relationships–relationships between the new parents, between the new parents and the new grandparents, between the new parents and their old friends–but it’s all fucking hard, and I have so few words to describe the hurricane that is my life right now. I always knew having a baby would change things. I guess I didn’t know it would change things this much.
1285 words, and I still haven’t come close to explaining what this has really been like for me, for us, but I’ll keep trying. You know I will.