Friday, September 28, 2007

lying to your friends

I just read an article in one of those baby/parent magazines that comes free in the mail. BabyTalk, maybe? There are several of these mags on whose mailing lists you find yourself after you've told any american hospital your full name and address. (Perhaps this is one good reason for a home birth?) Why do I read these? I don't know. Because I was sitting in the tub and didn't want to read any more student papers.

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

on the uphill

I've been thinking more about this analogy of being on the rollercoaster, climbing climbing the first big hill, locked in by those metal bars which perhaps are supposed to make you feel safe but just end up making you feel trapped. The analogy seems constantly more appropriate, even to the way one gets on the ride. It seems like a good idea at the time, seems like it would be fun. But then you're climbing that damn hill, the car and track clicking underneath you, and you wonder, "Who talked me into this?" One thing that was pointed out to me: after you get off, you think, "Whew, that was fun!" I'm not sure you think this in the middle, however. It's possible in the middle you're getting thrashed around so badly you think nothing at all. Perhaps I can look forward to the end, to getting off the ride, to the fun I believe then it will be.

she's 1 today

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

on this ride

Mitch has been in Holland for the last few days and I've been a single mom. I was nervous as hell for him to go--thought it would be awful trying to do everything by myself. But it turns out I quite enjoyed the alone time with Frances. We had a good time pulling every item out of the toy box one by one and then putting them back, at least until I started feeling nauseated again. Thing was, after she was finally in bed, I had no energy for grading. It's a good thing I revised the syllabus.

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

sick and obsessing

I’ve been really sick. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick. It’s possible it’s morphed into pneumonia and I’m supposed to go to the OB tomorrow to have them do a chest x-ray to see. On one hand I feel so crummy this sounds like a good idea. On the other hand, I wonder if I’m being hysterical and dramatic about it all. I’ve felt so bad that I’ve actually WISHED that I do turn out to be that sick. Why on earth would I wish this? I suppose because then I’m 1) not just a wimp for whining about what turns out to be just a virus and 2) justified in missing as much class as I have. I feel really bad about being out of class, I do. I feel it’s a disservice to my students, but then I think—“It’s just one college class. They probably won’t even remember this class 5 years from now.” I mean, how important, really, are these individual classes? It’s hard for me to say. When my perspective is all off and I’m feeling stressed, I feel they are very important, but sometimes I think that’s just self-serving thought.

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

tv is fun when you're sick

I’ve been sick. Mitch had it first and I thought I’d escaped with only a little cough, but then Monday when I got home from school my little cough turned its faucet on and wouldn’t turn off. I coughed until I had no voice, then called the doctor all hoarse and raspy to ask what a pregnant woman could take so I could at least stop coughing and sleep. The fever kicked in that night too, for me and Frances both. The latter meant that she was up every hour or so, crying and generally being miserable, wanting to be held, rocked. She’d sleep a bit longer when the tylenol kicked in. Today I called in sick to school. The fever’s gone but exhaustion has taken over and mostly today I just lay on the floor while Frances looked at her books beside me. At 6pm walked 2 doors down to a neighbor’s to return something, the first time I’d left the house all day.

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.