Thursday, May 16, 2013

Scratch and Sniff

Don't you love that newborn smell?

No, not the smell of spit up or dirty diapers.  Just that fresh from the womb smell.  I love it.  I can't get enough. I can remember when Whit was first born Kirk said "He smells so good! He's like the perfect combination of you and me!"  I think I may have spent the majority of Eilidh's first days or even weeks in this world smelling her.

When my aunt and uncle were visiting and Aunt Pam was holding a fussy Eilidh, she said "I think she just wants to smell you." Sure enough, when she snuggled her head in my armpit, those eyes closed and she went right to sleep. 

So that got me thinking... is there a scientific reason for that?

Higher estrogen levels during pregnancy lead to an increased sensitivity to scents.  Although estrogen levels fall after birth, that sensitivity to pheromones sticks around. But why?  Perhaps during pregnancy it protects a woman by steering her clear of spoiled food, smoke and chemicals (this is the average baby website answer).

More likely it's much deeper.  Pheromones are produced by both mother and fetus during pregnancy.  After the birth, the baby (who has been smelling Mom's amniotic fluid for months) recognizes her mother by scent first.  As their relationship outside the womb continues, the baby begins to recognize the scent of her mother's milk and sweat, especially from under the arms (not as gross as it sounds!) the closest sweat glands to her face while nursing. Since babies are genetic combinations and variations of their parents, the pheromones given off by each are similar meaning that baby can recognize Dad (and Dad can recognize baby) by scent also.  These pheromone bonds, especially the strong ones, can last a lifetime.  They have been shown to influence the person a son or daughter chooses to start a family of their own with.

Since I love the way a new baby smells, the first thing I did when I picked up my nephew was lean down and smell him. Whit was pretty fresh himself (just over six months old)so even though E smelled good, my body reacted and my brain immediately sent the message "This is NOT your baby." 

Sure, smelling your kid may be a bit animalistic.  But in all reality, we are animals...albeit intelligent ones.  Newborn puppies would die if they couldn't smell their way to their mother's milk.  Luckily we don't have that problem.  But allowing baby to smell you, wearing your baby so that you can smell each other and leaning down to smell the top of their head while they are nursing, reinforces that pheromone bond that you spent nine months creating.  There's even research that shows encouraging your older children to smell the baby's head (where most pheromones are given off for the first few months) can increase sibling bonding. 

Forget perfumes and strong smelling soaps - that natural smell is what baby wants.

So the next time you see a baby, let that inner animal out.  Go ahead and smell it.  I'll even let you sniff mine if you want. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Young at heart

A question I find myself asking people after their birthday is "So, how does it feel to be ___?"

A young child will probably say "great" not knowing what it's like to be anything other than a child but excited that they are "growing up."

A teenager will say "well, at least I can do (x,y,z)" also not knowing the responsibility that comes with age.

An older person might say "I still feel 25!" 

On Kirk's 30th birthday he replied "Not much different than 29."

That got me thinking.  What is age?  Some say just a number, some say it's everything.  As I'm faced this year with Whit's 3rd birthday and approach my own leap into my 30's I venture both into the past and the future to answer the question. 

I can distinctly remember my mother's surprise 30th birthday party.  Kristin was about to turn 10, a month later I would be 8 and Josh hadn't even been born yet.  I remember being overly excited and thinking how cool a surprise party was, and I can still recall the tension in the room when my mother let us know just how unhappy she was about the situation.  When I'm 30, Whit will just be starting to form long-term memories.  If we don't make a big to-do, he might not remember it at all.  When he's 8 and able to remember my birthday, I'll be turning 35.  Those five years doesn't seem like a big deal, but I know that they are.

When I got married at 23 and had Whit at 26, I was fully an adult. But I didn't really feel like it.  And some (even those who did both at a younger age) said I was too young.   Maybe I was.  But maybe those big life events are what make you older, not just the number on your birthday cake.  I have friends who are well into their 30's who still behave younger than I do and friends who are younger who have weathered far more of life than I have.

Do I feel different than I did last year,  5 years ago, 10 years ago?  Sort of.  I'm more tired, for one. I think my knees were getting sore yesterday when Whit commanded I "scott!" to be the catcher for the hundredth time.  I have a husband instead of a boyfriend (although it's the same guy....) and I have two little people who I'm fully responsible for.  But even that isn't enough to make me feel...well.... 30.

Will I feel different 10 years from now as we approach our 40th birthdays? I don't know.  Whit will be 13, Eilidh 10 and only God knows if there will be any other members of our family.  But I think I'll feel sort of the same.  I'll still enjoy being at home, gardening and knitting just like I did when I was 20 (although the hobbies will be more suited to my 40-something self) I'll still be cuddling my babies (no matter how big they are) and I'll still feel like "me."

The biggest change in my life will be my little people.  It sounds cliche, but it's hard to watch your kids grow up. It's as if they change every single day and if you don't watch closely, you'll miss it.  But, it's like I told Kirk when we realized Whit wasn't a baby anymore: we didn't lose him we lost the baby him.  Whit will still be around, and he will still be himself.  Even when he's 13, or 30! And perhaps one day we will get to relive the magic as I know our parents are reliving our childhoods through Whit and Eilidh (it's tough not to when they are mini versions of us!)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Updates from April

I'll be honest, I'm finding being a Mommy to two wonderful children to be slightly overwhelming.  I can hardly believe that my new baby is nearly two months old and that not only has April sped by me but May is well on it's way and school is out in just two short weeks.  Between doctor's appointments for me and Eilidh, keeping up with Whitfield and getting out to as many baseball games as possible I'm having trouble catching my breath.

Still, I'm being rewarded every day.

Eilidh, when she isn't upset, is the most charming baby I've ever met.  I can't get enough cuddling with her and she is very free with smiles and coos (especially to the ceiling fan) but is likely to spit up all over you if you aren't careful.  One of our almost weekly doctor's appointments was the ENT today. We had her treated for a lip tie and posterior tongue tie which I'm praying will help to resolve some of the reflux and colic issues (more on this later) and give us more of the sweet and a little less of the sour.

Whit amazes me a little more every day.  At nearly three he is reaching "child" proportions and is less like the baby I remember holding not so long ago each time I snuggle close to Eilidh. He understands this big world more and more and continues to grasp the nuances of language.  On our way to school today Whit said "Mommy... Mommy... Hey! Mom!" When I said "Yes, Whit, what is it?" he said "I promise I love you." What more do you need than that?

Sure, the floors need to be swept and I have a sink full of dishes.  I think we have groceries, but I'm not sure and I don't really care because I know I'm not cooking dinner tonight.  There's more laundry in baskets than in drawers, I haven't showered today and there's dried spit up in my hair. But.... Whit promises that he loves me... so that makes it a great day.