February 1, 2012

Looking Back: Long Island, a Great Grandpa and the Road to Fond Memories

After giving birth to Savannah, I was lucky to avoid clinical postpartum depression or extreme postpartum anxiety. That said, my emotions were definitely in a major upheaval for many months as I adjusted to new motherhood and my hormones stabilized. While on the one hand I marveled at how easy breastfeeding, diapering and caring for my newborn was, I nervously crossed every street worrying that we'd both get run over and killed; I clutched the handle of her stroller in public worrying that if I let go someone would snatch her. While I thanked my lucky stars for being blessed with a newborn who slept 6 hour stretches at night from day 1, I sometimes cried in the kitchen during the 5am wake-ups out of jealous rage that my husband slept peacefully through Savannah's cries. While I finally understood how much I myself was loved by my family now that I experienced motherly love for Savannah, instead of reliving happy memories from my youth, my mind would fill with all the moments that caused me pain.

Every family argument, deep dark secret, embarrassment came rushing back. I made a mental catalogue of all the things I would NEVER do or say to Savannah. I had this weird mother hen instinct to shield Savannah from my family even though my overall childhood experience was happy--I wasn't abused or impoverished or left to go hungry.

My family is on Long Island, close enough to New York City for occasional visits. The first few visits were tense, especially when Savvy went through her bouts with stranger anxiety and cried anytime her grandma or great grandparents held her. Her cries made my physical response (elevated heart rate, "flight" response--I just wanted to rush her back home) almost unbearable and left me exhausted. I couldn't leave her for a minute because she would protest my departure as young as 3 months!- it was so much tougher to parent her when staying in my childhood home surrounded by loving family that wanted to help, than alone in my apartment. So I tried to avoid visits even though I also really wanted to show her off.

Eventually my unease disappeared as did all my other symptoms of "baby blues" or whatever you want to call it.

Last September, Savvy and I enjoyed a 4 day visit at my mom and grandparents' house. It was such a fun time and brought me right back to all the happy times I had as a child! Savvy was nearly 13 months old and a true walking, sorta-talking toddler at this point. She was finally warmed up to her grandma and great-grandparents, babbling with them, smiling constantly, giving kisses, etc.

My 88 year old grandfather, the one who inspired my love of travel and adventure by taking me on yearly road trips all across the US, planned daily activities for us to make sure Savannah had a great time. It was just what I needed to release all of my worries and really enjoy this crucial family bonding time.

Thanks to the adventures Gramps planned for us, Savannah rode a Carousel for the first time, threw rocks into a stream, and saw the type of plane he piloted, B-24, during WWII. She also learned to say Apple "aaaah-POOO", still one of her favorite words, thanks to the enthusiastic repetition of her great grandfather at the breakfast table.

I'll write short posts about the places we went in upcoming posts for those of you looking for things to do with children in Nassau County, LI, but for now, here are a few photos of Savvy and her loving family from that trip:

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