Monday, December 31, 2007
Christmas was wonderful. I had a large number of family here on the 23rd and served my first big holiday meal. It was very nice despite the fact that I "cooked" the ham for 2 hours in an oven that was never turned on. We just got out appetizers and wine. My brother-in-law suggested that it was a tactic—get the folks hungry and give them enough wine and any meal will taste great. It's pretty effective, it turns out.
And Christmas with a kid is a different country. All the excitement comes back. I even had a new take on Christmas lights in front yards—always I've judged these things by aesthetic standards. Meaning, I've never gotten the huge blow up santas, the giant plastic snow globes filled with snowmen, the lit and moving reindeer. It just didn't make any sense to me. But now, seeing the awe on Frances' face, I get it. None of the over-the-top decorating is as comical to me as before—it has taken on a luster I didn't expect.
So...I went out on the 28th and bought a 6-foot silver tinsel tree at half price for next year. Silver! And I got some light blue balls to go on it. Our little shiny green tinsel one is cute and all, but it's not going to do when there are twice as many enchanted kids in the house. M won't agree to a pink tree ever, but somehow I got him to say he could handle silver. I'm so excited about it I almost want to put it up now, but I'll hold off. It will be our new exciting tree in our new house in a new city. (Is it too melodramatic to say it will be a new life?) It's the next phase, anyway: the two kid, gainfully employed, snowy winter, silver tree phase. Have I said lately that I'm no longer panicked? Our futures come to us filled with uncertainty and these days that's exciting to me.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I don't know why I'm so emotional. I mean, of course it's because I'm pregnant and wacky with hormones, but that's not all. Two weeks ago the hormones were just as plentiful and I didn't cry every time someone smiled at me then. The only thing that's different, really, is that I'm not working. School is out. Which means I'm home all the time with Frances. My patience is not as thin as I expected it to be but I wonder if it's more trying for me than I realize. She's in this complete mommy stage where she not only wants me to hold her all the time, but she runs her hands in my hair and kisses and hugs me and puts her fingers in my mouth and ears. Penelope Leach (child expert author) says that for the toddler this stage is like the infatuation of early love; you just can't get enough of the other person. I suppose if I think of it that way I'm somewhat flattered and more sympathetic to her plight than my general reaction which is that I simply can't breathe.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The next day she was very fussy and still feverish. After her 10 minute nap (seriously) she was especially a mess and for a while was completely inconsolable. I felt so helpless; I wanted to be able to comfort her, but she was just so miserable. Some of the time she didn't even want me to hold her, or she couldn't accept my comfort, or something. She wanted me near, and I think she actually wanted to be held, but she wouldn't let me touch her; she would just stand in front of me stamping her feet and crying. When I'd reach for her, she'd push me away. The thought to smack her actually crossed my mind; I haven't had that thought since she was very small and would cry for hours. It startled me, and I just put my hands over my face and cried myself. It wasn't that I was angry—it was more like wanting to shake her out of it. I was just helpless. I sobbed, big racking sobs, and this, interestingly, actually quieted her for a moment. I'm sure it was funny to see Mom cry like this. It felt like an appropriate thing to do with those feelings.
That was 2 days ago. Yesterday her sitter, whom she loves more than anyone else in the whole world, called me in the afternoon to say she was inconsolable again. For her to be fussy with C means something is really wrong. So we took her to Urgent Care last night, where they told us what we suspected: ear infection. What I didn't know was that it was both ears. Last night she had her first dose of antibiotic and today is a much better day.
It doesn't disturb me now that I thought to hit her, but it did then. It's so clear that having a kid puts you right in the middle of it and you're forced to face your stuff. So much of it is an exercise in BEING, in feeling what you're feeling, in sitting through the boredom and frustration and powerlessness and worry and the certainty that we don't have a clue. It's all very spiritual, this experience, and it's not surprising that I sometimes want to escape. I have a hard time being present for my life as it is, even without the difficulty of caring for another human. Certainly doing it well (being a good parent) means accepting that you can't always do it well, that sometimes you'll have thoughts you don't like, that sometimes you'll respond in ways you wish you hadn't. Thankfully all I did yesterday was cry.
Monday, December 3, 2007
And it's hot. Everywhere that's red is hot to the touch. Tylenol helps some, but not entirely. She's got a bit of a fever and is, as you can imagine, quite unhappy about the setup.
Yesterday when I called the after-hours nurse she said it didn't sound like anything serious but that I should keep her away from other folks, especially pregnant people. Well, that's helpful.
M took her to the doctor this morning (while I explained to drowsy 18-year-olds how to prepare for an in-class essay exam) and the doctor said, "I don't know what it is but it will probably go away in a few days. If it doesn't, bring her back." Ah, yes. I suppose I should be relieved it's not rubella or meningitis, and I am of course, but not knowing is troubling. We can't for the life of us think of anything to which it could be a reaction—and it's probably just a virus, like they said, that will pass. I understand that it's common for kids to get rashes when they get colds or regular viruses. Since when? I don't remember anything about that from my childhood. So if it's a regular thing—okay; still, it's so startling to see.
And this is one of those situations (I know there will be many many many) where I feel my heart on the outside of my chest. It's just hanging out there, exposed, raw. And every time I look at those welts my raw exposed tender heart aches.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
At my church, the first 15 minutes the children are in the regular service with their parents, then they leave to go to Sunday school--or the baby room, as it is with me. Most parents come back into the service after delivering their kids to the appropriate place, but I stay in the baby room the rest of the time, as Frances has a complete fit if I leave her there. Today I dashed to the bathroom for just a moment and I told her when I was leaving that I'd be RIGHT BACK, but it was no good. Poor girl cried giant tears until she spotted me coming through the door. When I leave her with Carol or my mom or Mitch's folks or even our neighbor Hannah she just smiles and waves at me, but something about that baby room does not please her. She looks up after happily playing awhile and there's no one there she knows well, and she feels all alone and abandoned and I think she panics. The first time I first brought her she was completely entertained and enjoying herself so I said goodbye and went back to the service. Then someone had to come get me ten minutes later. This happened a couple of times, so these days I just stay with her.
So today, after I'd gotten settled on a Boppy on the floor, a woman who was dropping off a kid at Sunday school came over to speak with me. She said she'd so enjoyed watching Frances be her independent self during the service (I spent our 15 minutes trying to corral her and keep her from shouting just to hear the echo—a kind of convincing that didn't work well). She said she enjoyed watching my interaction with her and that it all reminded her of her first child. It turns out her first two kids were 15 months apart, and her third was 20 months after the second. "The third was a blessing," she said and nodded. A blessing?! When I asked what she meant, she said that with the first two she was still trying to hold it all together—keep the house clean, cook dinner, shower. And with the third she just let it all go. She realized what was important because she simply couldn't do more, and counted a day as a success as long as everyone's butts were clean and tummies were full. I can see that. It's funny that we'd call something that forces us to GIVE UP a blessing, but sometimes we need that yank on our chains. Sometimes it's the things that shake us—tragedy included—that bless us in the end. She also said the first two were so close and such good friends that she was able to enjoy the babyhood of the third in a way that she wasn't the others. It all made me think maybe I can handle three, which is how many I've wanted all along. But that wanting, I have to admit, has been in my brain—an idea I've had—and not a yearning in my gut.
Not that I generally feel much in my gut, as I've mentioned before. I'll be telling my therapist about some incident and she'll say, "How do you feel about that?" And I'll think "Feel? How do I feel? I have no idea." But I certainly can tell you what I think about it. In any case, my ideas about this new baby are starting to move from my brain down into some area that approximates my gut and I find when people ask "Are you excited?" I don't automatically think, "Hell no." Now I think, "Maybe," and the thought has a sweet lilt.
Last week my friend A and I were at the mall and there was a woman there wrestling a child into a stroller. Frances toddled over to say hello and when I went to collect her, the woman looked up at me, stricken, and said, "This is so hard! I don't know how you do it. My nieces are visiting for two weeks and it's exhausting. My daughters are six and eight and they're easy—I'd forgotten how hard this is." "It's good to know it gets easier," I said, and she said, "Oh my god yes. So much." It was a good reminder that this will get easier, that I won't be in babyworld forever. Sometimes it really does feel like this is the paradigm for the rest of my entire life. And by six years old! That's no time at all. I believe folks when they tell me it goes fast, faster than you'd like. It's good to remember that there will come a time when I can simply go to the bathroom again by myself.
And while I'm generally not very good at keeping my struggles in perspective, I've got it. For today, anyway, I see things for what they are; I see the tedium as temporary and as lovely, as well as tiresome. I see that it can be enjoyable if I just relax about it all. Isn't that always the answer to my issues?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Yesterday we wouldn't let her eat even though she was starving and asking for food and milk all the time, poor girl. (Well, I did give her milk first thing, thinking it had been several hours since she last threw up, and she drank 1/2 a bottle and immediately threw it up all over the floor and her pjs.) She'd sign for milk and for food and then just cry and cry. The nurse said to only give her little sips of water, so we'd hand her the sippy cup and she'd grab it and chug at it like she was parched, and we'd have to pull it away. It broke my heart a little.
It's funny what it does to you, coming in to see her sitting up in the crib covered in vomit—the instant adrenaline, the worry, the need to make things as right as you can. I can't imagine how in the hell a single parent does this kind of thing. Mitch was stripping her down while I was running for rags; he was rubbing her back and telling her it was all right as she cried in fear while I stuffed laundry into the washer; one of us ran the bath while the other pulled sheets off the bed. It was a team effort.
It's good to have a team.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
There are days when being home with a little kid is just boring. I don't think Frances' sitter C thinks this—she finds it endlessly entertaining, it seems, which is why I love her so much, and why she's such a good sitter. But I . . . I can be pretty bored by reading books and doing puzzles and swinging on the baby swings in the park. And those are the more exciting activities—those are much different from the wrestling matches we have for changing diapers and wiping faces. She has opinions now, you know, and expresses them loudly. M mentioned on the phone that he took her to Barnes and Noble today and what she wanted most to do was not play in the kids section, but look at—and tear the pages out of—the grown-up books. When he wouldn't let her do this, she threw a complete fit, utter angst and drama, big tears in the B&N. And there's not much to be done about that. She wants to play outside; then it's time to come in, but she doesn't think so, and omigoodness the drama when I bring her in anyway.
And these days I work 3 days/week; I have a break from babyworld. I have a lovely commute in which I listen to the radio and have conversations with myself. What on earth is it going to be like when I'm home all the time? When I'm home all the time with TWO of them?? I think the answer is playgroups. Playgroups where the kids entertain each other and I can have conversation with adults at the same time. (other suggestions welcome!!) I'll be home with the girl full time for about 6 weeks before the new baby comes... The problem right now is that most all of my mom friends also work so don't have time to schedule social events. I'll have to find some new friends, I suppose.
It will be good practice for NY anyway.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
After the car shopping we went on a DATE, to dinner at a Turkish place on Franklin Street and then swing dancing in Carrboro. It all made me feel like a real person with a full life; amazing how one day can do that. Being on Franklin St in the freezing cold, walking up the brick sidewalk by students and folks out for nice meals, being where people were out just to be out, not to run an errand or get home quickly or minimize the stress of the task, but just to enjoy—it was great. At dinner the tables were really close together and we sat between two very funny conversations. On one side of us was a couple who seemed to find life more stressful than enjoyable, who spent most of their dinner complaining about how busy the restaurant was and how the waiter had forgotten to bring the napkins, as well as speculating about whether they were short staffed or the service had just gone to the dogs. On the other side were 2 couples who spent most of the time talking about which Colorado ski resort had the raddest skiing, and about the two fella’s recent acquisitions of their pilot’s licenses. The women added their points by waving their hands around and using their large glittering diamonds as punctuation. M and I talked about whether to get leather or cloth seats in the minivan. (Anyone with pluses or minuses post them here.) I’d nearly forgotten there were folks out there living regular non-parent lives. Doesn’t everyone on earth have a small child and spend days upon days inside the house, only venturing out for more bananas and baby cereal at the grocery?
Frances comes home this afternoon. Hopefully by then I’ll have the new storm door installed—one more thing I want to get done before she’s here again, sweet thing.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
We get to start looking at houses.
Went to storytime at the library this morning and it was a bust, though I suppose Frances had a good enough time. They were celebrating Sesame Street's birthday, so this woman who seemed able to only communicate in baby talk read a story staring Grover and then we watched an episode of Sesame Street. We can do that at home. We left halfway through. But Frances got a look at the other kiddos and saw something other than the inside of our house, which is always good.
Last night (Halloween!) Frances was so cute as a sheep, though she wouldn't even once say "baa" while in her costume. There was a street blocked off in the neighborhood and folks flocked down there. There were folks on stilts and tap dancers and all sorts of ghouls and then there was a fire dancer. She was seriously awesome. She had a bongo player with her who kept a tribal kind of beat, and she danced with poles lit with fire on either end, spinning them over her head and around her in the dark night. Then she danced with a ring lit in several places around. She hoola hooped with it. Swung it around her bare middle, then down her legs to her knees, then back up to her chest. She turned with it over and over, and leaned over backwards while spinning it (aflame the whole time), and spun it above her head, and jumped in and out of it. It was beautiful and so graceful and truly amazing. Frances watched for awhile, but the miracles of this world are still commonplace to her. I think all she saw was someone dancing. She danced along for a bit, bobbing up and down the way she does, then she wanted to look at the other babies and play with the dog. Her sitter C was there and Frances spent most of her time with C, wanting her more than she wants either her dad or me.
C is wonderful, and I don't know what on earth I'd do without her. She's older, retired, lives down the street, and loves babies. Frances is going to miss her terribly when we go, but that's not for awhile in her world. It doesn't bother me that Frances wants her more. I understand it. C has more energy and patience than I do, gives her more constant attention, partially because she's not trying to get the dishes done and sweep the floor while also watching Frances, but also partially because this is her way. The only way our set up with her could be better is if she were Frances' grandmother. But she's not, and Frances has wonderful grandmothers, and we will leave her one day. Those kinds of endings make me sad, and now they make me sad for Frances too. This is what they talk about when they say having kids makes your heart heavier—just more to carry.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I've been polling people in general (M and I joke that we'll just poll x number of people and go with the highest vote) and it's very helpful to hear what folks have to say for either side. It's pretty funny that the one person who has actually moved overseas recently with a small child said "without question, go to Rochester." Certainly with that money we could travel, and possibly live abroad later during a sabbatical if we wanted. I think it's all about knowing myself and what's important to me. How much do I value money? I'm not sure. Of course, it's not only the money... it's the stress it lifts and the quality of life it provides. Money doesn't make you happy, but it sure makes life easier.
Monday, October 22, 2007
It's still pretty slight movement, little pings in my abdomen. I won't feel them for a while, then it's like a sweet little surprise. Oh, hello there! Little man moving around.
And we're in Rochester, NY right now, in a hotel with down pillows near campus. Mitch got a job offer from them last week. We're here so I can see what this place looks like and so the folks at the Simon school can tell me the winters aren't so bad. We'll have a real estate tour tomorrow and I'll know more then. Today the dean asked Mitch point blank what was affecting his decision and he pointed at me. So I tried to gather my thoughts about what my criteria are for a place, but I couldn't get them all out in the right order. I hit on some of them but maybe I it's just about a feeling. FEELING. Actually, this isn't a bad way to go about it, I don't think. I usually try to figure these things out in my head and that gets me just nowhere. Perhaps if I tried to feel it in my gut instead (where the little pings are happening...)
Friday, October 19, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Yesterday was the ultrasound. I’m not afraid anymore. I had a bit of a breakdown a couple of nights ago, cried until my head hurt again, and I think I got a good bit of the emotional gunk out. Now I’m ready. When we went to the ultrasound I was ready for the baby to become real to me, ready to accept this into my life.
And it’s a BOY. I sort of can’t believe it. In my world, all little people are the girl variety. I thought from the beginning of this pregnancy that it was a boy, but I am still surprised. I imagined Frances with a sister… What to do with a boy? I have a friend who is pregnant with her fourth (fourth!) boy and she told me recently about taking her kids to storytime at the library. She said there were about twenty little girls there, all sitting quietly with their legs crossed, and only one boy other than her three. The boys spent the whole time running laps around the room and trying to climb the piano.
Boy. It seems so strange. Mitch said he hoped we have a boy for my sake, because girls’ relationships with their mothers are contentious, and boys love their mamas. Yes, that does sound sweet.
I know these last two (the 3D shots) are kind of freaky, but they're also pretty cool. Note the hand in the top black and white pic.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I still feel foolish. I still feel embarrassed. I find myself explaining or apologizing or something, when anyone notices or congratulates me. I don’t feel like congratulations. I don’t know what I feel. I feel panicked. I finally started to cry about it last night, but I think I need about 3 more hours of crying to really get to the heart of it. I already feel trapped, and the baby isn’t even here yet. I feel trapped by the baby and by the move, like I’ll be so stuck taking care of them that I’ll never be able to make friends, never be able to come up for air.
And yet Frances is adorable these days. She’s started making animal noises (what does the sheep say, Frances?) and she’s a little clingy around the house, but that also translates to sweetness when I finally give up trying to get dinner started and just sit on the floor while she pushes the music buttons on her firetruck. She periodically comes and hugs me, then goes back to button pushing.
If only I were a different person, the kind of person who gets excited about the adventure of change rather than afraid. Why can't I be this kind of person?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
When Frances and I come home from the grocery, I take her out of her car seat and stand her on the grass while I unload the bags from the trunk. Then I carry all the groceries I can at once, leave the rest by the car, and call to her to follow me. I rush up the walk and up the front steps to put my armload down by the door, then hustle back to her before she falls and hurts herself. In the meantime she’s sort of tottered over the grass to the walk and is trying to climb the first two steps down near the street. She’s got her hands on the cement, her blanket still clutched in one hand while she wills her feet to step up once, twice. The earnestness of her attempt, the seriousness of her face as she tries to follow me absolutely break my heart. I don’t know why I get so emotional over this—it’s probably the hormones from the pregnancy—but it has something to do with her wanting to follow me and not really being able to. She relies on having me come back for her.
And being emotional about this makes me feel so ridiculous.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I loved being pregnant before—felt better than I ever had, both physically and emotionally. Maybe that will come still, but right now I’m not enjoying this much at all. Lately I’ve been struggling with my headaches, which let up during my pregnancy with F. Have had no such luck this time. And I’m even on this crazy super restricted diet to keep them down, which makes my life quite complicated and sometimes not much fun. After a certain period of time I’m supposed to be able to add back some of the items, and I recently decided to try to add yogurt back. It was, needless to say, an utter failure, and I’m (today) looking at my 8th day of 12 with a headache.
We have an appointment Friday for an ultrasound and to find out the sex of the baby. But I don’t want to know… not because I want to be surprised or anything like that. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it’s because knowing the sex will make this baby more real to me. I’m scared out of my mind to have another kid, keep wondering what the hell we’re doing, and it’s strange to me that this is what I have to deal with: this is my life, what it will be anyway. I’m an only child and it’s so odd for me to think of myself as mothering two little ones so close together. It’s frankly hard for me to imagine having more than one kid at all. I know I want this—know it in my head—but I still don’t know it in my bones. I’m trying to look at it as an adventure. I try most of the time to look at my life in general this way, but it doesn’t come easily for me.
There’s this goofy country song out right now called “Mr. Mom” about a fella who got laid off from work. He comes home and tells his wife, and she says “That’s okay, babe. I’ll go to work and you can stay home with the kids.” The chorus is: “Pampers melt in a Maytag dryer, crayons go up one drawer higher, rewind Barney for the 15th time, breakfast at 6, naps at 9. There’s bubble gum in the baby’s hair, sweet potatoes in my lazy chair, been crazy all day long and it’s only Monday Mr. Mom.” Something about this song makes me relax about it all… That the hardest thing to deal with is food in the couch, crayon marks on the wall. I mean, it’s irritating, but it’s not complicated. Maybe all I really need is a sense of humor. Anyone know where I can find one of those?
Friday, September 28, 2007
The article was about lies moms tell their friends or the pediatrician or their own mothers in order to avoid conflict or judgment. Answers to questions like "Is the baby sleeping through the night?" or "Do you brush your kid's one tooth?" or even "How are you doing?" And, as if this is news, the article reported that moms sometime lie and say, "Oh yes, sleeping through the night!" or "I'm just fine" only two weeks after giving birth, when all of us could use some help. And then the article went on to say that it's okay to lie every once in awhile and not to feel too guilty about it.
It's not that I think we should all tell the truth all the time... My issue is: Who cares? So what if I lie to my neighbor who is just trying to make conversation when she asks if F is sleeping through the night? So what if I lie and tell someone I'm fine when I'm not? It's my business if I don't want to discuss it, and certainly a reasonable choice if you know an honest answer is going to get you an ear-full that you really aren't interested in hearing. I say this, yet I generally don't lie about these things. I say, "Oh my gawd if I could only get a full night of sleep," or, "Actually I'm struggling with some post partum." Some of my friends have even commented my answers to their questions (of how often I bathed my newborn, for instance: once a week) made them feel relieved and less like they were doing something wrong. I don't know--I just don't fear other moms' thinking I'm a bad mom. So what if they do?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I'm at school, thinking about how my girl is having a birthday and she doesn't even know it. We had a party this past weekend--balloons and streamers and cake and guests and presents, and Frances in the cutest dress that ever was. I keep wondering what it was like from her point of view. It was her same house, after all, but there were all these people. While the other babies sat on the living room floor and played with her toys, she tottered around from one grown up to another, asking someone to hold her for a moment then put her back down, or take her hand and come with her while she pointed to the photos on the bookshelf. She was very social but also very independant. She's not like I was as a baby, not afraid or cautious or tentative. She looks the world full in the face, unblinking. I like that about her.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
So Mitch reports from Holland that it's possible (not having gone yet on his other campus visits) that the job in Holland is his best career move. They'd expect us to stay only 3 or 4 years, so it wouldn't be forever, but it makes me awfully nervous to think about moving overseas w/ 2 small babies. On one hand I feel like I should embrace living abroad for awhile--this life is short after all. But on the other hand I'm already petrified to be having this 2nd baby. What were we thinking? I have no idea. I'm afraid I'm going to completely lose my mind, but other people have done it with grace (or at least DONE it, grace or no). We'll see how it goes. I can't get off this ride now...
And, interestingly, this is exactly how I feel--like I'm on a ride, strapped in, unable to change my mind, trying trying to simply look ahead with more than naked nervous anticipation, waiting for my stomach to drop (or grow, as it were...) and the earth to fall away under me. There's that Jem song... "it's just a ride it's just a ride, don't be scared now dry your eyes. It may feel so real inside but don't forget it's just a ride." Maybe it's more than just guilty pop pleasure.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Antibiotics are wonderful things here in the modern world. I’m finally feeling better, finally finally. I was sick so long I started to forget what it felt like to be well. And yesterday when the fever finally lifted like mountain fog, I felt literally like someone different, like a different person. Or I felt like I was returning home after a long time away. I looked at my husband that night and said, “I’ve missed you.” It seemed so long since I’d seen him, looked at him. He laughed at me, of course.
The morning sickness has let up too. This happened sometime during the fever and I didn’t notice because I was too busy being exhausted. It’s funny—I didn’t realize the nausea affected me so much. It took me away from myself. Yesterday, suddenly, I liked sitting on the steps outside while Frances climbed them again and again, and didn’t think of it as tiresome. I liked saying hello to the neighbors as they walked their dogs by the house, and didn’t see them as intrusive. When I put the girl down for her nap, she sat for a long time on my lap and we just rocked, and I wasn’t in a hurry to put her in her crib, to get away. I was present. It almost felt like I was stoned, so lovely was the world.
In Europe, with both her grandmothers with us, I was so relieved not to have to manage her, feed her, change her, put her to sleep, entertain her. My mother or Mitch’s mother would ask, “Do you want me to take her?” and I’d think, “Yes, yes, please take her away, thank goodness.” At some point I actually wondered if maybe I’m just one of those women who doesn’t particularly like mothering young children. This struck me as odd, because I hadn’t thought of myself this way before, but it didn’t worry me much. I just thought, “Well, we’ll have to get a nanny.” But it was the nausea. How funny. And quite suddenly she’s a joy to me again. She had been before, but I’d forgotten.
I can’t imagine how people live their lives with chronic sickness or pain. They must be outside of themselves much of the time. Or maybe it’s that one goes deeply inside the self to try to manage the discomfort, and misses the outside world.
In any case, it’s good to be here. It turns out I like my life quite a bit. I feel warm toward my students this semester and I haven’t even learned their names well yet. Maybe it’s all the crazy estrogen, or maybe I just feel warm toward them. One thing—when I started to feel slightly better I revamped the syllabus and, perhaps in my fevered delirium, I cut several writing assignments and generally made their semester (and therefore mine) much easier. I didn’t see any reason for their workload to be particularly heavy. Why not go gently? I know I’m viewed as a hard, demanding instructor, and I’ve always thought of this approach as necessary for the learning process, but so what if they don’t learn quite as much? It just didn’t seem as important to me. I just want to offer them the things I know, the tools to help them be better writers, and some opportunity to practice, and let them choose how to receive it all. I want to see them more generously as people and not just students. I’m trying to remember they are children. It’s hard, because they don’t look like children. But they’re young, and they’re feeling their way. Why not be gentle?
It’s probably the estrogen.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Anyway. Tonight I’m feeling the smallest smidgen better, like the Tylenol is actually doing its work, which has been questionable in the past few days. And feeling even a teeny bit better makes me wonder if I should be going to school tomorrow. I’ve already talked to my chair and she’s planning on covering my classes… And if I DON’T go to school, does this require me to go to the doctor as I’d planned? Is it just a waste to go if I’m getting better? Maybe it’s a virus after all and has (finally!) run its course. Am I just obsessing way to much about it either way? Maybe that’s a side effect of the illness…
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Part of what this means is that I feel like I have no ideas to discuss here on my blog. I think one has to leave the house, interact in the world, to have ideas and discussions. Instead, I watch TV. Oprah, Ellen, syndicated drivel that passes as entertaining if you’re tired enough. Actually, I will bring up one issue here: the current trend in sitcom families. We all know that in the 50s and 60s family life on TV was portrayed as two parents, Dad going to work, Mom staying home. Dad generally was fair but stern and Mom was nurturing. But check out what’s out there now! Raymond, King of Queens, According to Jim, several others—they all portray the father as a child, someone who screws up constantly and evades responsibility, who tries to “get away” with things, worried that his wife will catch him and disapprove as a mother would. And the wife succumbs to this role…! She in fact treats him like the child he is. She is the one that runs the house, who is responsible, who cleans up the messes and talks to him about doing the right thing and holds everything together. Why is this the going stereotype? What woman wants to play mother to not only her kids but her husband too? Why don’t any of these women demand that their husbands behave like adults??? I don’t get it—what I wanted most out of marriage is a partner, a partner to help me with decisions, with the hard stuff, with holding it all together. This is why I got rid of many many of the guys I dated before my husband, for this reason exactly. Perhaps there aren’t many adult guys out there anymore. But why would that be? One reason, I’d offer, is that examples of the current sitcom kind are what are being presented to the young male population. These are the examples we’re presenting of how to be a man. What else would we expect? This is where the discussion begins, I suppose, of whether media molds society or simply mirrors it. The answer, of course, is both. But just because the media sees something out there to mirror, doesn’t mean it should. Through presenting this stereotype, network TV is not only mirroring what it already sees in society, but is encouraging this stereotype to flourish.
There was a time when I didn’t watch TV for these reasons. I didn’t want to be susceptible to the damaging messages the media sends out. Now I feel that I’m an intelligent person and can discern the messages I want to take on personally. And Everybody Loves Raymond really is funny.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I know I need to write about the Europe trip… School started for me as soon as we got back, AND we all got sick, so I’m a little behind on several things including mowing the lawn, which is beginning to look jungleish.
Frances is walking. Walking! She started in Paris, which is a nice thing to be able to tell her later. It’s fun to watch, and she hasn’t taken off to such a degree that I’m running after her. She takes a few steps and stops to balance, then continues on. She can go clear across the room now, and is very pleased with herself.
Traveling with a baby. Well, it wasn’t as hard as I’d expected, I suppose. You just entertain her when she’s fussy, and keep bottles constantly on hand. She got many more bottles than she should have—meaning she didn’t eat much solid food, I have to say. We’re back in our food routine now that we’re home. And both my mother and Mitch’s mother were with us, which meant I got to sit the entire first leg of the flight without holding her at all, listening quietly to my shuffle. It was rather heavenly. We rented a car in France for getting around, and the car seat was in the middle back (of course) so Frances had a grandmother on either side of her all the time. She had a hard time being in the back seat by herself when we got home.
The first night we were in Lacoste, in Provence, and we’d not really slept the night before because of the flight, and Frances completely fell to pieces at bedtime. Completely. She sobbed hysterically for 2 hours, would periodically fall asleep in our arms, and when we tried to put her down, would wake up and sob some more. After that first night, though, she was fine. Took most of her naps in the stroller because we were out touring towns and other things, and when she’d get squirrelly we’d just take her out of the stroller and either put her on our backs or walk with her holding onto our hands, which she LOVES to do. Having four adults at meals was good too, because we could take turns walking around with her while other folks ate. They apparently do not believe in highchairs in France. Besides, in Provence, every family in Europe with babies was there on vacation. It was like they were having some sort of population explosion. In Paris I think I saw one baby other than Frances. Not a child in sight there. City folks don’t propagate, apparently. Or they’d all left town for Provence.
So here’s what we saw, in case you’re interested in that—In Provence we stayed in Lacoste and visited Avignon, Arles, Roussillion, Bonnieux, Goult, L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Cavillion, Gordes, St. Remy, and we also went to the Mediterranean and saw Cassis. Then up to Paris where our friend Tim, who now lives in Denmark, met us with his girlfriend. The two of them stayed with us there, which was great, and then we went up to Holland—Groningen—for 3 days while Mitch presented in a conference there. On the drive back down to Paris we drove by Rotterdam and the surrounding villages because Mitch has an interview with a University there in a couple of weeks. The position would be for next fall… Rotterdam wasn’t so great—just a big city, but the villages around were beautiful.
All of it was great. It was a fantastic trip. I could have felt better during it, but nothing much to be done about that. I’m hoping that when I remember the trip further from now I am able to edit out the nausea. Also, I have to admit here that while I’ve fantasized about having enough money to afford a nanny, even part time, I haven’t ever really gotten how that would work… I mean, do folks with nannies ever spend time w/ their kids? Do they want to? How much hands on stuff do they participate in? But with both grandmas with us on the trip, I get it now. Seriously. Because of the nausea, and because I had two nannies with me, I didn’t change a diaper for over 2 weeks. I know that’s nuts, but it was also really great. (What does this say about me as a parent? Anything?) It was amazing how much more patience I had when I could hand her off as soon as my fuse got low, and my fuse is shorter than usual these days—hormones, tiredness, nausea and all. So I’m fantasizing again… Maybe that’s what will save me from being institutionalized after baby #2 comes.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Mitch has been out of town for 5 days and I am not a fan of being a single parent. Especially being as sick as I am, constantly. Today I was desperate and called several of my neighbors until I found someone who would come over for an hour and play with my daughter while I hung out around the toilet. Such joy. When she said she would, I cried.
AND we’re going to France on Friday for 2 weeks. Mitch and I had talked about this trip before, had talked about not getting pregnant until afterwards so I wouldn’t be sick while we are there. At the time I thought, “Oh, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if I were sick…” I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m rather sad about it all, because I won’t enjoy it nearly as much, I’m sure, as I would if I were feeling better. I don’t enjoy much of anything right now.
My girl is climbing. It happened rather quickly—she’s had quite a leap in abilities in the last 2 weeks. She now walks while only holding onto one of my hands, and the climbing thing. We have this armchair with an ottoman and both of them are lower than other furniture. Yesterday she was standing at the ottoman and I turned to do something, and when I looked back she was SITTING in the chair. I said, “How did you get up there?” but she didn’t tell me. It’s pretty neat to watch her learn these things, to SEE her make the connections. Oh my she’s turning into a big person. While it requires a different set of skills from me to keep her out of things now that she’s mobile, I find it’s easier on me overall. She can entertain herself; can follow me around the house rather than my having to carry her with me. Clearly we need to childproof some areas in which she before showed no interest, but she’s also learning the word no. (As well as learning to say it—she shakes her head no now, mostly when I’m trying to get her to eat a little more of her dinner.)
She’s still extremely social and likes seeing new things and people. She’s afraid of almost nothing—just curious about the world. This also makes things much easier on me. When I was traveling with her, for example, she went to other people very easily, helpful people who volunteered to hold her while I collapsed the stroller or put our bags in the overhead bin. This weekend at a baby shower she let nearly everyone there hold her who wanted to. When she goes to someone new she studies their face with this completely earnest expression. If I’m holding her, she smiles at everyone with this little blink, a flirtatious squeeze of her eyes that is quite charming. Yet she’s also becoming attached to me—but it’s not showing up in fear of strangers or anxiety when I leave her with a sitter (a friend or my mom usually. In fact, when I leave her and say goodbye at the door, she smiles big and waves.) It shows up in the house in that she doesn’t want me to put her down. She’ll play on her own nicely, but if I pick her up for whatever reason, she doesn’t want to get back on the floor and will often cry and hold up her arms when I put her down anyway.
I read about this stage recently—this attachment stage that is similar to the possessive infatuation of a lover. It makes sense. She uses my body like she wants to OWN it—climbs on me, puts her fingers up my nose, in my mouth to check my teeth, pulls my hair. The hair pulling is funny: she grabs big handfuls and is so pleased about it that she squeals and laughs and jumps up and down. I have to control myself not to laugh back at her but rather keep a straight face while I tell her, “No, Frances. Be gentle.” She also tries to bite me. This one took me awhile to figure out. I know it’s partially about wanting to use her teeth, which she loves, but there’s also something more. She’ll bite me on the leg, or the shoulder, or the stomach. She broke skin not long ago. When I hold her away from me to keep her from doing it, she completely falls apart. It’s this reaction that makes me think it’s part of this possessiveness; that, and the fact that she doesn’t do it to her dad or anyone else but me.
When we get back from France I go back to work almost immediately so it will be interesting to see how this developmental stage plays out when I’m not around as much. I have to say that I’m rather looking forward to the quiet of my commute, time to listen to music or NPR or talk on the phone, or just to watch the clouds above the interstate and think about what my girl is doing.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
When Frances was first born several things became quite clear to me, one of which is that there is no “right” way to do things with a baby. Sleep schedules, feeding routines, whether or not to co-sleep or baby-wear or offer a pacifier. It differs for each baby, for each family, for each combination of personalities and situations into which this individual baby is born. I believed this strongly. I didn’t judge any other mother for her decisions, including ones I was sure I wouldn’t have made for my baby.
But in the last nine months I’d forgotten some of that.
Which is why, I believe, I felt so guilty about the breastfeeding thing. I’d come to believe that there’s one way, and that way is to breastfeed, at least for me. While I may have remembered that things differ for other mothers, I’d forgotten that I too needed to be flexible and adjust to this baby’s personality. Now I need to remember again.
What brought this thought on just now is a book my friend Anna gave me to read: Momfidence. It’s a fun read, and insists that these days we moms are way too wrapped up in being superheroes that we forget to enjoy being a mom all together. I’d argue that it is the Boomer Generation that created this view of moming, the generation that in the 80s first suctioned ‘Baby on Board’ signs to the inside of their minivan windows. It’s the generation that instituted laws for car seats, created an industry of childproofing, and coined the term SoccerMom. It’s the generation that created the Just Say No campaign and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, that censored rock lyrics and insisted on school testing. So how does my generation respond to this when it’s our turn to be parents? The standards have been set… This is what it looks like to be a good mom.
And this generation is still in control to a large degree, due to the opportunities of fertility treatments. The Boom Generation now has children in their 30s, but it also has John and Elizabeth Edwards and their preschoolers.
The question all of this raises is: what kind of mom do I want to be? I’m not sure I fully know the answer yet, but I currently see that as a good thing, something I’ll feel my way through as I go along. My friend Erynn will buy books but not video games, which is interesting because one of her kids loves to read and the other loves electronics. She says maybe it’s unreasonable but that’s the way it is. I don’t see it as unreasonable at all… Seems to me it embodies the ideal of putting your values into action.
When I was in Seattle we had to drop by the Target to get some pacifiers because I’d managed to lose the ones I’d brought. I had Frances in her sling, and in the pacifier/bottle/bib/booster seat aisle there were a pregnant woman and her mom, the two of them picking out things for the baby registry. When I had chosen my pacifier color, the mom asked me how I liked my sling. (Did you know, by the way, that they are now selling Hotslings at Target?? I’ve been wondering when one of the baby carrier companies was going to get on that wagon—seems to me someone needs to get Mei Tais in mainstream stores as well.) So I chatted for a while about slings and carriers in general (I can go on for a good bit about that subject) and then she said, “I see you have pacifiers in your hand. How do you feel about those?” To which I said, “I am a big fan of the pacifier.” Later it occurred to me that in their eyes, it was possibly confusing, or at least contradictory, that I was baby-wearing but pacifier-using. This seems funny to me now—it probably wouldn’t have before Frances was born. But these norms, these ideas of what kind of parent you are (that if you baby wear you won’t like pacifiers, or if you use the infant carseat as a carrier you don’t sleep with your baby, etc.) are clearly for those who don’t actually have kids. I suppose there are some folks who have very stringent ideas about how to parent and really stick to one “style” or another, but my guess is these are few. When it comes down to actually being a parent, you do all kinds of things you thought before you had kids you’d never do. And it’s not a compromise, or a forfeit, but an acknowledgement of reality. Yes, kids do get flat heads from spending too much time in the carseat, and I do believe that the invention of this convenience has created a problem for the children of some unknowledgeable folks. But a child carried in a carseat might also spend time in a sling—it's had to judge. Just because you have your kid in the carseat on top of the shopping cart, this doesn’t mean your kid spends 80% of her time there. It’s okay.
I also believe it’s my job as a parent to prepare my child for the actual world. Not for constant success in the world, because that’s not the real world—that’s some fantasy. There’s something to be said for the experiences of fear and failure as blessings. We need to teach them that it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to fail; these don’t mean they are failures as people. The kids I teach at Elon University are so unused to failing at anything, even when they aren’t particularly good at it. They at least “gave it their best shot” or “had a good attitude.” How on earth are these kids going to fare as adults? We’re setting them up… Sometimes trying doesn’t help one succeed, and what we need to teach our children is that this is okay. What we are inadvertently teaching them instead is that if they don’t succeed, or aren’t the best, they are failures in full—which just isn’t true. The reality is that they don’t have to be good at everything; they don’t have to always win. They are still of value. What I want Frances to know most is that not only is she of value when she fails or when she wins, but that her essential value doesn’t depend on these things at all; her essential value is constant. It is her experience of the world that fluctuates, and this depends not on her success, but on believing in who she is, on acting in ways that she believes to be right, on walking in the light and telling the truth.
Second: Frances and I got in last night from 5 days in Seattle. I was scared to death to go… I actually bought earplugs for everyone around me on the airplane because I had no idea how Frances would do. It turns out she’s quite a traveler. It was fully and completely exhausting for me, but she was great.
Third: Frances got stung by a yellowjacket today, right in the middle of her forehead. We had a fella come to cut back a tree that was hanging over our roof and my mom was here. My mom brought Frances out onto the porch to see what was going on while I was talking to the guy about what we wanted done. And there’s a yellowjacket nest somewhere near the porch… maybe under the porch itself; we can’t tell. Suddenly my mom is screaming “They got us! They got us!” and running toward the door, Frances’s face contorted in a huge silent cry, the kind that is followed by en excruciating wail. Turns out my mom was stung on the finger and when I asked where they got Frances she said she didn’t know. It was pretty clear—the big red spot on her forehead was very angry. She cried and cried, this odd shrieking cry I’d never heard before. I’m sure it hurt like mad, and kept on hurting for a good while. Right away I made a baking soda paste with water and put that on it but I don’t know how much it helped. I had to walk with her and hold her hands down to keep her from rubbing it while Mom called the pediatrician, who didn’t really tell us anything except to put soda on it and watch for a reaction. Surprisingly Frances didn’t really react to the sting—by the time she was up from her nap it wasn’t even swollen. She did, however, still have a glop of baking soda paste on her forehead with a spot of blood right in the middle. Mitch asked on the phone if she looked like a Hindu. Now we've got to figure out where the hell the yellowjacket nest is...
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
We aren’t telling yet that we’re pregnant. Yet here I am posting for the whole world to see. What to do? I also haven’t announced this blog yet so perhaps I can continue to write away until we’re ready and then send out invitations for the blog. But that could be 6 weeks away! ~ since I don’t know how far along I am…. (I had to send in all sorts of information by email to the nurses at my OB and one of them called later to say, “I’m entering in your info and I just wanted to see if this was an error—It says the date of your last period is 2005.” “No error,” I said. “That’s the right date.” “The computer won’t even let me enter it…” she said. And then, “So you don’t know how far along you are?” “Nope.”) My best guess is that I’m 6 weeks—I’ll find out on Monday. I don’t think I want to write to just strangers until we find out. So this leaves a dilimma.
Nearly 3 years ago we got pregnant for the first time and were so excited. It was only the 2nd month of trying and I could barely contain myself. I knew the common wisdom to wait to tell folks but I didn’t understand it. Why would you wait? Even if you miscarried, wouldn’t you want these same folks to know? (These folks being family, of course, and not the random woman you work with… ) A week later I miscarried and I discovered rather quickly why it is that you’re not supposed to tell. It was awful. I went to a ballet with my mom and kept running into teachers she taught with whom she had told and when they would hug and congratulate me I’d have to say, “well, nothing to congratulate now…” It was bad enough having to talk about it when I felt so blue, but it was horrible having to convince them that I was fine when I absolutely was not. That, and people say the most ridiculous insensitive things. Things like, “That’s the risk you take when you get pregnant,” or “At least you already have a kid,” or “You’re young; it’ll happen,” Well-meaning, I know, but really really stupid. You’d never say anything like this to someone whose spouse had died… “that’s the risk you take when you get married,” “you’re young, you can marry again.” Seriously. Grief is grief and it’s amazing that our society is so ignorant about this particular form of grief. Okay. Done with that rant.
So what does this mean about posting on this blog? Perhaps I’ll delete this post before it ever becomes public. Maybe this is just an exercise for my brain to empty out and see how it feels. Or perhaps I can make it all public and then if anything goes wrong folks can read about it here. I could even give specific instructions as to appropriate responses. Well, for the time I’ll go ahead and put this up. My family won’t yet read it…
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Did I mention that conceiving Frances took two full years and four attempts at intra-uterine insemination fertility treatments? I'd already made an appointment for next week with the fertility doctor, which I now need to call and cancel. Well, it saves us some money and energy!
There was a cute woman in a snappy wrap dress today at the grocery. We were standing at the deli together waiting to be waited on, and she asked how old Frances is. When I told her, she said she had a 3-week old at home. Wow—she looked amazing in her stylish little wrap dress! I was lucky to be standing upright 3 weeks after Frances was born… Had a twinge of something akin to jealousy, or fear about the next one, or something. Yesterday I was all excited thinking there will be another, another little babe to hold, another little person with little person smiles, but today I’m nervous. I drove to Winston this morning to my mother’s house, over an hour away, to have lunch at my mother’s with an old friend of mine and her children. The friend has a 17-year old (this child was born when she was in high school—the scandal of the year!) and now she has an 18 month old and a 3 year old. Note: 18 months apart. Which is about what I’m looking at here. So I asked questions, and she admits that she doesn’t leave the house with them much because it’s so difficult. And my gawd—she even has a teenager/ 2nd mother to help out! What in the hell am I going to do with 2 babies so close together??? My friend Erynn’s younger sister had two pregnancies very close together and the second turned out to be twins. So now she’s got 3 children under two. How how how? How does one not lose one’s mind? Or perhaps I will indeed lose my mind. Perhaps this is just the thing I need… Perhaps then I could let go of attempts to “hold it together” because, really, we all know that’s an illusion anyway. There’s no “together” to hold. We’re all floating in space, completely out of control of nearly anything that happens in our lives. We like to build up these images of ourselves as somehow responsible, but it’s all a farce. Ah, to be able to see that clearly~ It only comes in glimpses for me.
Monday, July 9, 2007
Well, I’m done now—done with the pumping, pump washing, pump sterilizing, bottle storing, milk freezing. We’re on to formula, plus bits of food she tries to stick in her mouth with the flat of her palm. When I googled (in many different word combos) the hormonal effects of weaning, all I got was results for the effects on the baby. But—hello?—what about the mother? Frances is fine, let me tell you. Since she is the one that initiated this thing, I don’t have to worry too much about the emotional repercussions of taking my boob from her. But the emotional rollercoaster that it has set off in me is not pleasant. Crying, general grumpiness, depression that makes me wish I had the freedom to lie all day on the couch looking at the television set. Needless to day, I don’t, and I suppose hanging out with the girl probably helps the blues overall. So does my morning walk, it turns out, which I didn’t take this morning and which I regretted not much later but could do nothing about since it was 98 degrees by noon. I feared I would die if I tried it then. Tomorrow is always another day, albeit a hot one.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
And there’s the emotional stuff—the fact that it’s hurt my feelings just a tiny bit. We had a good thing going; she would cry, I would pick her up, lie us down on the double bed in her room, which is also the guest bed, and when I lifted my shirt she would curl toward me. I was able to soothe her. It was a nice trick, this soothing ability, and a sweet snuggle during which she used her free hand to absently finger my shirt or my hair or the back of her head. Who says these things should be rational? Now when I lift my shirt she screams like the thing I’ve suggested is painful. Sigh.
A couple of weeks ago she was drinking her bottle of pre-pumped breast milk and started banging her head into my chest. I thought perhaps she wanted to nurse so I lifted my shirt. And she looked at my boob like she’d never seen it before. Just looked at it. She put her lips on it just for a second, pulled back, looked up at me, and giggled. Then she did it again—put her lips on it, pulled back and giggled. Hilarious. She really cracked herself up. She did this three or four times and while she was quite cute doing this, I did not find it funny. I’ve been replaying it in my darker moments.
I’ll get past it. She’s enormously healthy and there are other things I will eventually focus on, I’m sure. If she were adopted she would have been on formula from the beginning and I never would have worried about what she isn’t getting. Besides, the next thing we’ve got to work on convincing her to eat vegetables.
My baby is already 9 months old. In some ways I wish I had begun this blog much earlier in my mama days, but I was lucky to get through those first weeks with any shred of dignity, much less with writing to show. Besides, Anne Lamott caught that time pretty accurately in Operating Instructions (a great book).
Her name is Frances Eleanor. She is a bit of a drama queen, her responses often so completely out of proportion to the situation. She has only a patch of hair on the very top of her head; thinks she should be able to always feed herself; squints her eyes shut in the cutest flirt; is unabashed about staring; throws a fit if I won't let her pull my hair; loves the dog more than anything. Does every parent think their baby is the cutest baby ever to exist on earth? I suspect so. Frances is seriously cute, has seriously won my heart, seriously tests my patience and makes me confront, over and over, who it is I want to be. So far I'm doing all right. I have a lot of support from other wonderful mamas with babes near her age. This helps enormously, to not feel you're swimming all alone in the cold dark waters. And they can be cold, let me tell you.
I teach English at a small university and am currently off for the summer. Initially going back to work (when she was 3 months) was a good thing, as my patience didn't wear all that well when she was tiny. Now I'm loving being home with her and wish I didn't have to go back. But, as my husband is finishing up graduate school, we need my full time income. It's possible that I'll be able to stay home when he's more gainfully employed.
I was 35 when she was born--a solidly GenX mom. This means some pretty specific things about my mothering identity, but we'll have to get to that in another post. This is just an introduction. I've always wanted to be a mom--was one of those little girls who dreamed of being a bride and named my future kids. And here I am. Here we are. We'll see if we can explore it some in print.