Irish Voice reporter APRIL DREW is loving her life as a new mom in her adopted hometown, New York, but as she explains in a new column that she’ll write on her experiences of motherhood, it can be tough being so far away from home without family to share in the joy.
On Monday, November 29, 2010, my husband and I welcomed our son, Colum James Mooney, into the world.
After 30 hours of never-doing-this-again type of labor and an emergency c-section, our little man came out kicking and screaming at 1:08 a.m., weighing in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
Clap on the back for mommy and daddy, job well done we told ourselves. I think we smiled from ear to ear with pride for 24 hours solid until we crashed with exhaustion.
Then came the overwhelming feeling of love that other parents had warned us about, a love they said that would know no bounds. I certainly wasn’t prepared for such intense feelings.
I was shedding more happy tears than pounds in those first few days (hormones hard at work) and snapped more “oh-so-proud-mommy” photos than the paparazzi tracking Charlie Sheen in LA. It was a trip into the unknown, but we’re glad we went there.
Today Colum is 12-weeks-old and growing at a rate too fast for mommy’s liking. He has just begun sleeping through the night and communicates with us through smiles, babble and cries.
He has recently discovered his hands and feet and knows how to use his cuteness to get what he wants! In fact today he chuckled for the first time when I tried to teach him some sign language. John and I are have fallen hard for our little man, and every day we count our blessings.
If someone told me when I arrived in New York seven years ago that I’d be married to a Limerick man, a mother to a baby boy and still living in this country I would have said the following: “As much as I love the buzz of New York I’ll definitely be having my kids back in Ireland.”
The plan when I came here back in 2003 was to stay a year, maybe two, take on board all the opportunities that came my way, enjoy life in the big city and return to Ireland fulfilled, a plan many immigrants reading this today had.
I guess we all know by now that this city and country has a way of sucking us in, captivating our hearts and never letting go. So after seven years of loving every second of our time here, John, and I decided to have our son in New York.
Did we make the right decision? There is no question in our minds. Everything from doctor’s visits to the birth and after care has been fantastic. Doctors, nurses and even their receptionists have shown us nothing but professionalism and respect.
However one thing was missing from the whole experience -- family. Like every big decision in life there are pros and cons, and having a baby away from home comes with one big con -- the lack of grannies, cousins and siblings to share in the joy of our newborn and his diaper changes!
Of course we have been blessed with visits from family since Colum’s birth, but we certainly missed them during those first few weeks back from the hospital.
The upside is the army of both American-born friends and ex-pats who graced my hospital bed and our front door bearing gifts, advice and babysitting offers. But nothing, I can only imagine, beats having granny around 24-7 for the little things.
It would have warmed our hearts to share our bundle of joy and his little personality with our immediate family. To share his first yawn, cry, first bath and all that good stuff with those who matter the most to us in life. But it was just us (and of course our New York friends).
There were definitely days where John and I sadly looked at each other and repeated all too often, “Pity granny isn’t here to see this.”
The night we brought Colum home from hospital was very special, but also tinged with a spot of sadness. It was December 4, the night before our first year wedding anniversary.
Although I was excited to get Colum settled into his first home it also felt unnerving. John assembled the Christmas tree with the help of Colum’s new “aunty” Marion filling the house with holiday cheer, so why I cried when I walked in the door is beyond me.
Hormones I’ve been told, but it felt deeper than that. I suppose I’d always imagined bringing my first baby home to a house full of family waiting with open arms to take turns holding the new addition.
Instead it was just John and I and a six-day-old baby who relied solely on his “responsible” parents.
After I dried away the tears we settled in and began parenting. We’ve survived 12 weeks -- another clap on the back!
It would have certainly been good, though, to have Colum’s grannies around for advice. It’s the little things I certainly needed help with, the common sense stuff that everyone should know, but I didn’t.
For example, I assumed the numerous baby vests I’d been given as gifts were for the summer season so I stored them away. It wasn’t until my friend Katrina once asked (about two weeks after Colum was home) was Colum wearing a vest under his babygro.
“No,” I said. “Should he be?”
“Oh, each to their own,” she responded, not meaning to interfere.
I wasn’t long jumping on the blower to my own mammy back home to ask should her new grandson be wearing a vest?
“Of course he should,” was the response.
Back to the box and out came the vests. I did wonder to myself why we received so many 0-3 months “summer” vests. I know, I know common sense should have prevailed right!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -- it doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 38 having your first child, if you haven’t been around babies much it will always be a learning exercise, and I’m proof of that.
My first job in New York was to babysit two adorable New York boys after school. They were six and eight and definitely taught me a thing or two.
The second day on the job I got lost in the streets of Manhattan. I had forgotten the school’s address (assuming I’d remember my way from the day before) and had no credit in my newly purchased cell phone to call someone.
I was an hour late to pick up the kids and naturally their parents were none too pleased. They graciously granted me a second chance and I was never late again, but that certainly didn’t prevent me from doing other silly things during my time as a nanny.
A number of weeks into the job I was picking up the youngest child from a play date. The play date’s father asked me if it was okay to give the little man I was looking after some goldfish to take home. A strange request I thought and kindly declined, much to the disappointment of my six-year-old.
Slightly disgruntled and pushing his request further, the aforementioned father said, “I’m sure it would be okay with his parents.”
I thought it would be highly inappropriate to arrive back from a playdate with slimy little orange fish swimming around in a zip-lock bag (which I saw lying on the counter ready to be filled). What if the family I worked for didn’t have a fishbowl, I thought. A flash of me sitting on the four train at rush hour trying to hold up a bag full of goldfish all the way to Woodlawn in the Bronx ran through my mind.
I proceeded to ask him how many goldfish he planned on giving me?
He looked at me strangely and said quite abruptly, “I don’t know, 15 or 20.”
I immediately thought this man must be seeing a therapist on a regular basis.
The conversation was going from bad to worse until I finally noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a box of children’s crackers called “Goldfish.” Oops!
He wanted to give the child a snack! He didn’t respond well when I told him I was a recent immigrant from Ireland who had yet to become familiar with all stuff American.
Thankfully since those first few months in New York our friends have shown us the ropes. They have been amazingly supportive to John and I during our first few weeks as parents and we’ll never forget that.
Even before Colum entered the world we were showered with baby toys, equipment, clothes and so much more. Friends loaned us essential items their children had grown out of, and others gave us car seats, strollers and cribs unconditionally.
We even received bouncing chairs and similar items from a wonderful Long Island woman, Virginia Shine, who to this day John and I have yet to meet. We have been blown away by people’s generosity and hope to repay new parents when the time is right.
So that being said we’ll motor on with parenthood, enjoy every second of Colum’s presence in our lives and we will continue to welcome advice and tips on being the best possible parents to our little son! God knows with my track record we’ll need it ?
Watch this space!
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