Monday, April 25, 2005

you thought it was the diapers…

You knew that creating another human being would to some extent add to the stress on the planet. You thought it had, in part, something to do with disposable diapers. In fact, it has to do with the take out containers that mom and dad go through since they can’t even conceive of having a spare moment, bit of energy, or free hand to cook at home.

You knew that people changed babies’ clothes constantly throughout the day. You thought it had something to do with how the little people spit up, throw up, pee, poop, and otherwise splooge on their outfits. In fact, it’s all about mom and dad spilling their take out dinner on the babies, since they just want to eat in peace and babies apparently scream when put down during dinner.

You’d seen moms walking around town with blankets thrown completely over their babies. You thought it had to do with keeping the sun and wind off of their tiny tykes. In fact, it instead has everything to do with hiding the little critters while walking to get your take out dinner, so not every stranger walking by puts their grubby hands all over your infant.

You figured that baby toys are made in bright colors to attract the baby’s attention and add to his development. In fact, the bright colors are to keep mom and dad awake for week nine of "Experiments in Sleep Deprivation."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

the goddess within

We’ve recently borrowed a book from the library on techniques for calming a crying infant. I haven’t really read it yet. You see, whenever I try, my infant cries. Dilemma.

Although we haven’t read in any detail, we’ve scanned "the list". You know the list, don’t you? The list always consists of something like "The 12 Ps of Making Chili" or "The four Ws of (fill in the blank)." This one is all about Ss. So far, my husband has tried the Swaddling technique with some success, while I’m all about the Shushing, that is, white noise.

The whole idea surrounding these techniques is that you mimic the environment of the womb. The Swaddling – okay you get it. The white noise? Well, yes, according to this approach, the center for the creation of life sounds a bit like AM radio. I guess I never thought about it terribly hard, but if I had, I think I would have liked to imagine that the sound system of my womb might hearken of maybe a symphony, for example. Not the classical music that makes you want to puke (although it would seem that could be what’s on in the first trimester), but the really incredible kind of music that makes you think – "Geeeez, I wanna play the violin." Apparently, that’s not at all what’s going on in there. The uterus bops along to sounds closer to, say, a hair dryer. Who would have thought that the Goddess and Vidal Sassoon would have so much in common? Maybe the Goddess is indeed using a hair dryer. Maybe the Goddess is having a permanent bad hair day, which would explain a hell of a lot about the world.

For the last three days, I have put my baby to sleep to the lullaby of my very own, "pro-style", travel ready, hair dryer. It’s working pretty well. This could change children’s music forever. Titles on bedtime CDs might start to include things like "Daddy’s Electric Razor Goes Whir Whir Whir" and "Chainsaw Serenade." All this time we’ve been singing to kids, when really they just wanted to listen to the ceiling fan motor.

It’s possible the Goddess is just scrambling the signal in there so that the forces of evil can’t find the tiny new lives. Do you think babies hear a message in all that noise? Like, Paul is dead, or the winning Lotto numbers? Do you think it has meaning for them?

Mr. Sassoon, I’m appealing to you directly. – Spill the secrets of the Universe!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And an action fist shot. This is Isaac's "garden gnome" look. Hats are very important. On the tough days, make them look ridiculous, then you can laugh at them instead of catch a flight out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

really, we don't pose him with these power fists--it's all him!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

renegade mom

I’d like to try to explain, or remind as the case may be, about how it feels when you start to venture out of the house solo after giving birth. First, I should mention this - When you are breastfeeding a baby weeks old, it is not as simple as just getting away, even when you have the chance. There is that little factor of the baby having to eat every couple hours. – At least that’s how often my little nursling guzzles. And let me clarify – that’s from start of feeding to start of feeding. In other words, if it takes about half an hour to get the critter fed, you get all of 90 minutes before you need to be back at your post – the boppy prison – exposing yourself to your newborn and any visitors that happen by. And in between snack time, from your new-found Barbie boobs, oozes the miracle of milk. It oozes onto your new blue top, your old silk blouse. It oozes in pretty wet patterns mysterious as crop circles.

But beyond the physical constraint of motherhood, there are the hormones. If you leave the room, much less the house, you feel as if you have betrayed your offspring and the rules of survival for your species. You feel they may die without you, or you without them, and, after only moments in front of the Suzy-Qs at the 7-11, you will be exposed for what you are: a fraud – posing as a woman entitled to five minutes alone – and a disgrace to humankind.

The first time I ever left my house without Isaac was a bizarre experience. It was a quick jaunt to the drugstore (for something for Isaac, of course). When I arrived, about seven minutes after I’d left my house, jittery and distracted, there were no parking spots in the lot. "See," an old inner voice told me, "Proof you shouldn’t be here." (Note to self: do not raise child under religion causing long-term guilt. = any religion?)

The next time I tried to get out it was to the grocery store. We had devised the plan early in the day: I would go shopping and Mike would stay home with the baby. It was simple, yet brilliant. I was excited all day in anticipation of my trip (I know, it’s sick. Just stay with me.).

The day wore on and I wore down until it was 8:30pm – 30 minutes before the store closed. I dashed away, leaving my baby tanked up on boob juice and sleeping soundly. I was feeling odd, but okay as I maneuvered through the aisles placing out of season fruits from South America in my cart.

I checked out right as the store was closing, having collected $60 worth of snacks. I chatted amiably with the checker as I swiped my credit card. …Declined. Re-swiped. Declined. My clerk buddy began to frown, all memory of the happy chit chat we had just shared now gone. Swiped again. Declined. Declined. Declined. Oh, fuck-a-roo-skis. The inner voice cackled into my ear, "Didn’t learn your lesson with the parking spots, huh? Well, screw with biological dependence and evolutionary schema and see where it gets you, Be-otch!" At least I had brought the cell phone leash and now I frantically called home to ask Mike if he had $60 in cash. The final nail in my coffin: I could hear my baby crying in the background. (RIP, you terrible mother, you) "$58.25…$58.50," my husband spoke into the phone as my son wailed on and on. "$59... $59.10…" (If there’s a god, you will kill me now! Kill me now!) The people behind me in line (oh, yes, there were people behind me in line) were expressing their annoyance freely and creatively by now.

Okay, we got it. Mike would be back with the money. I raced to the car, sans groceries, and started home. A couple blocks from the store I passed a cop. I’ll tell you all now, since I didn’t get to tell him, I don’t know how fast I was driving. In my rearview mirror, I saw him make a U-turn and my heart about crumbled. We’re talking my tiny little piddly town. My dull, quiet, whitebread town where your doggies are welcome in the bank. In other words – these cops are BORED and that means DANGEROUS! I have seen them give out tickets for stopping past the white line at the corner. These are the same people that as little kids, hit squirrels out of trees with homemade slingshots just to watch them fall. Shit!!!

I turned left. I turned left again. I turned right. I was lost in a neighborhood of skinny streets and lots of those holiday flags. Renegade mom. They would not bring me DOWN!

And so, yeah, as it turned out, copper didn’t catch up with me. Honestly, I have no idea if he was after me to begin with. But if he’d have caught me, I can tell you one thing for sure. It wouldn’t have been a speeding ticket I went home with. It would have been a citation for being a new mom away from her baby. Here’s an excerpt from the scene that would surely have ensued.

Cop peers in through the driver’s side window and, spotting the empty car seat in the back:
Do you know why I pulled you over?
I’m sorry, officer, I never speed, you see my credit card…
Ma’am, where’s the baby?
Yes, the baby, ma’am. Didn’t you just have a baby?
Yes, I…
Where’s the baby, ma’am?
Ma’am, where – is - your - baby?
He’s, uh, at home.
I’m going to have to cite you for negligence.
Pardon? But, the baby is with his father and I just fed him.
Uh huh. (still writing ticket) Are you or are you not out without your baby?
Well, I thought…
No, ma’am you didn’t think. That’s the problem. It’s plain to anyone looking at you that you just had a baby and you have left that baby at home while you gallivant about town.
But I was just buying…
Save it for the judge, Lady. And by the way, you’re leaking.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

the sound of mom

Ah, the good ole days. I remember when Isaac was just a baby – a few days old - and I could quickly quiet him with a whisper or a nonsense song. Now, he’s all of six weeks and good luck to me. Sometimes if he fidgets in his sleep I can still manage to lull him by letting him know I’m close by. A quick hello can do it. Most times, however, it’s to no avail.

It seems to me that these days, his reaction to my voice is one of increased distress. Like when he wakes from a nap fretting or when he’s wailing through a bath his dad is in charge of. I talk, he cries louder. He seems to be saying, "You were right there and not doing anything to soothe me?!?" and "You knew this was going on and did nothing to stop it?!?" respectively.

But mostly, I imagine he’s confused by my voice here on the outside. Home birth or not, maybe he’s concerned that he’s been switched. - Where’s the sarcastic lady with the sailor mouth? he’s probably thinking. She’s there; she’s just reeeeeally tired. What I could really use is someone to whisper to me, or sing me a nonsense song. I promise to go right to sleep.

"now we are six" (weeks), or, how to exploit your child

My child is a prodigy. He is six weeks old and already learning to count. Why else would Isaac have had me up at 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 last night? Between this development and the Isaac bobble head dolls I’m planning on marketing, he’s going to be big, I tell you, big, big! (Sleep and neck muscles are overrated.)

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Besides, obviously being strapped for time and energy, I’ve frankly avoided writing this entry, but, alas, it must be written. It is the entry about the Evil Nurse Practitioner (ENP).

We were told that we should take our baby for a medical check (having birthed him at home) before he was ten days old. A nurse practitioner was recommended to us and we made an appointment. Right about the time of our appointment, after the initial magic of the first few days – cloistered in my bedroom with my mostly-sleeping infant and my husband – and while my body’s recovery was still preliminary at best, I got my first hint of emotional upset – "the weepies" we’ll call them, experienced by most brand new moms. And so, physically limited and emotionally strained, I set out for the ill-fated appointment with our ENP.

Okay everyone, listen for the bell (ding!) signaling key phrases to send the new, emotionally fragile, and hormonally ridiculous mom over the edge.

We arrive at the beautiful home of our ENP and take a seat while she finishes with another client -a dark-haired boy crawls out of a room to our left and is hauled back by his dad. After they’ve gone, ENP approaches us and we make introductory small talk which includes me telling her it’s our first time out with the little guy. "Are you sure you have the car seat installed correctly?" she quips (ding!) How I reacted: I stumbled apologetically telling her hurriedly, "Actually, we have an appointment with the highway patrol to have it checked, but they couldn’t get us in until Thursday, and…" She leaves the room to file something. How I should have reacted: "What car seat? He’s a little jaundiced so we stuck him on the dashboard in the sun."

We are ushered into the room where the pastel colors and teddy bear rockers clash strongly with our scowling ENP. She stares down at the forms on her desk and asks us questions so as to better fill in the boxes. Eventually, we find ourselves at this point: "He didn’t nurse at all in the first 24 hours?!?" (ding!) How I reacted: "Well, um, no, I mean, yes, I mean, he tried, I mean, I’m not sure…" How I should have reacted: "No." (My advice to new moms besides not to listen to any advice would be to write everything down. You will have liquid brain. You will not remember anything and people will ask you many details about how much, how often, when and if.)

Then she weighs him. His birth weight was 6 lbs. 7 oz. ENP put him on her scale and announces: "He’s 5 lbs. 2 oz." (ding!) "That’s not possible." I told her. "I think the scale is wrong." She didn’t even look in my direction. She wrote furiously on her forms. Finally, this: "I know my scale is accurate." (ding!) How I reacted: (Crying). How I should have reacted: "You numbskull. It’s about the two different scales not being calibrated to each other. He has not possibly lost over a pound."

More form scribbling. "He’s now in the fifth percentile for weight." (ding!) "And if you aren’t feeding him…" (ding! ding! ding!) From there, the conversation spiraled continually out of control, including talk of electric breast pumps and videos to loan and return visits for future weigh-ins. I will have the image long-burned into my brain of this large, rough gruff woman clutching a stuffed monkey to her generous bosom in order to illustrate to me various breastfeeding positions.

While I continued to weep, she proceeded to move ahead with talk of vitamin K shots and heel pricks/blood testing as well as discussions of dire consequences should we decline them. I never really imagined someone could fit the phrase "brain damage" into a conversation with such regularity. This woman was good.

I don’t know exactly what "bonding" involves. I’m told it’s a process. And from what I can tell, I’m not finished with that process yet. However, I can say that if it involves uncontrollable sobbing and the desire to jump out of your skin when a stranger sticks your child with needles and squeezes blood from his heel, then on that day, the fifth day of my son’s life, in the office of the ENP, our "bonding" took a huge step forward – My husband would comment later on my uttering of the phrase "Give me my baby!"

Then there is discussion of nutrition. Our ENP, at least 80 pounds overweight, raises both eyebrows at my disclosure of a vegetarian diet. "Your diet," she lets me know, "will help determine the neurological growth and brain development of your baby." (ding!)

You know the old joke about adding "in bed" to the end of any Chinese fortune cookie fortune? Well, just add "because you’re a terrible mother" to the end of anything anyone says to you about your baby in the first month. "You have to stay hydrated when you’re breastfeeding. You haven’t been drinking enough!…(because you’re a terrible mother!)" "I’d love to come over and help out!…(because you’re a terrible mother!)" Anything at all can be twisted into a baton with which the new mother batters herself about the face and head.

Really, I should have learned something from this birth. The one overriding feeling I had during labor – the only intuitive piece I could muster in all nine months and how I knew I was going to be just fine – was the idea that this baby knew what he was doing. I trusted my baby. And here I was throwing all that away to buy into the ways of an ENP SOB.

That afternoon, I call all three midwives and leave desperate messages. They are all in a meeting … with each other … and I can’t reach them. They must hurry before my baby starves to death. Penny comes by and brings us dinner, saint that she is, but can do nothing for my baby who is minute by minute wasting away. She is still there when Maggie calls to tell me she’s out of her meeting and on her way to my apartment with her scale (the scale that originally weighed Isaac – the one that counts). She arrives. She weighs him. The world begins again to turn. I exhale. "You are radiant!" Penny tells me on her way out. She kisses my cheek and vanishes. I stumble to the bathroom, pass the full-length mirror. My eyes are nearly swollen shut from crying for seven hours. Keep those lies coming!

The next day I call the ENP. I calmly inform her we will not be coming back – that day or ever. I calmly restate these things when she began the litany of "It’s your choice, but…" I must have seemed a different person all together than the blubbering fool who’d slunk away from her almost-mansion with my waif of a child less than 24 hours before. She seemed genuinely taken back and (dare I say) humbled when reality set in for her. How I reacted: "Thank you. Goodbye." How I should have reacted: "Oh, sweetheart, you have no idea. On a good night’s sleep, I can take you out."

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