Baby C's first ten weeks earned her a spot on Santa's nice list--and on the lists of her very generous grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Kudos to the brilliant and hilarious Eugene, who somehow found her a tea set made in Denmark. Even better: he found New Mommy a nice bottle of Scotch. Which is especially lovely in light of Guitar Hero III.
The unbridled excitement! "Do you think I'll get it?"
The anticipation! "Puh-leeze, can't we open just one gift early?"
Christmas is truly magical when you're a full-grown man with Guitar Hero III on your wish list.
My lack of fashion dexterity aside, anything other than pajamas seems intellectually dishonest - let's face it: sleeping remains Baby C's activity of choice. On a recent trip to the post office, however, she was the only little one not decked out in some sort of outfit. A baby in front of us snoozed in team jersey with little sneakers, and a baby behind us chortled in corduroy overalls. I adjusted Baby C’s blanket so none of the other Mommies could see that my kid sported a fleece sleeper. At what age is it socially unacceptable to wear pajamas all day?
The pediatrician chastised me. He told me that there were no studies that conclusively proved that vaccines caused autism or autoimmune diseases. He told me that I should follow the schedule set forth by the Center for Disease Control and endorsed by the FDA. "You're playing with fire," he stated flatly.
I found his position somewhat weakened by the sign behind his head. It announced that the not-so-infallible FDA had recalled previously-approved children's cold medications containing antihistamines. A few days later, Merck recalled several batches of its Hib vaccine (which Baby C would have received), and Canada suspended the use of several batches of the mumps vaccine, pending further research.
I don't cite the recalls as evidence that I made the right decision; I’m still not sure what the right decision is. The not-knowing. . . that’s probably the hardest thing about parenting thus far. And I suspect there’s a lot more of it in my future.
Baby C has a bouncy chair, over which arches a light display with hanging toys. When the baby hits a hanging toy, lights flash and music plays. Baby C is just starting to pick up on this - or, at least, her flailing arms sometimes hit a toy and she smiles and coos when the lights come on. This is pretty heady stuff to New Mommy--after all, three weeks ago, she'd just lay there unblinking. So, I sit next to the bouncy chair, willing her to hit the dangling parrot or chimpanzee. Sometimes she makes contact with all the force of a feather falling, and the lights don't come on. I roll my eyes, wondering aloud why they (and don't ask me who "they" are) just can't give it to her. "I mean, c'mon. She hit the parrot, anyone can see that."
It's a slippery slope from the side of the bouncy chair to the side of the soccer field, but I hope to get a grip before she toddles through her first game. I suppose those crazed parents on the sidelines started in the same place, though: thrilled by the idea that their child is learning and growing, and wanting somehow to be part of every amazing minute.
Baby C did fine as I wandered aimlessly about the rows of reduced cashmere, but I started to get overwhelmed. It has been months since I set foot in a mall. Even with all my wits about me, I'm a reluctant shopper. Add a stroller, a baby, and a blank Christmas list, and it's pretty ugly.
Baby C eventually wearied of my indecision and demanded food, so we headed to the Nordstrom's Lounge, which I'd heard was an oasis for breastfeeding mothers. I changed her, fed her, and then tried helplessly to console her. Apparently, the realization that her mommy was a crap shopper was pretty upsetting. Other mothers came into the lounge to change their cherub-like babies, took one look at screaming, red-faced Baby C and backed out as quickly as their Bugaboo strollers permitted.
After three full cycles of the Nordstrom's Christmas music track, Baby C relaxed. I headed to the coffee bar to develop a shopping strategy over a decaf latte.
"That'll be $6.16," chirped the barista.
"Really? That's one expensive latte," I said.
"It's for the latte plus the bottle of water you took," she said.
Sure enough, I had absentmindedly taken a bottle of water from the cooler and put it in the stroller's cup holder. Red-faced, I apologized profusely, paid the $6.16, and high-tailed it out of the coffee bar and back into the Nordstrom's.
That's when the security sirens went off. The barista craned over the counter to see. We both wondered what else I'd tried to steal. Turns out that my cell phone set the alarm off, but the barista didn't look convinced. Baby C looked like she wanted to die from embarrassment.
We went home before I could get into any more trouble, and I reviewed my paltry purchases. For all that time and effort, all I had to show was a latte and a turtleneck from BabyGap. And a bottle of water, of course.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-- Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Baby C had an eventful day. Her cousin, 7 month old Baby E, came to visit from Boston this week with her parents. The babies played Tag Team Nap and were rarely awake at the same time, which made getting out of the house challenging. Getting out of the house is somewhat overrated anyway, when car seats and nursing schedules and changing toxic diapers away from home are considered. Nonetheless, Greg and I felt like slacker hosts after four days of solid sofa time, so we crammed in a quick visit to the Air and Space Museum before their flight home.
Baby C's first Smithsonian visit consisted of sleeping through one exhibit and nursing for 45 minutes in a food court next to a table of older children who were throwing ketchup. New Mommy gazed down at her sweet baby and reflected that, as exhausting as parenting an infant can be, at least they lack the motor skills to throw condiments. Later, in the gift shop, a crowd of Japanese tourists circled Baby C's stroller and snapped pictures of the cooing American baby (with Greg's permission - I was contemplating the merits of freeze-dried ice cream and was mildly horrified to hear what transpired).
At home, however, Baby C's sweet mood gave way to rebellion. Her tiny fingers are still clenched into fists, but she is quiet at last after hours of swaddling, singing, feeding and bouncing. Our ears are still ringing. I'm beginning to think that flying ketchup might not be so bad.
We arrived at the airport two hours early, fully expecting lines out the door and surly security people. We found... nothing. No lines. Anywhere. I tersely declared the baby wipes, vitamin drops and diaper cream, ready to whip out my copy of the FAA regulations and argue my right to carry them on, but Homeland Security simply congratulated us on our beautiful daughter. The flights before and after ours were both delayed, but ours was scheduled to depart on time. Greg looked at me and whispered "It's almost comical how easy this is." Then we both looked outside and waited for the sky to fall. It didn't.
Pre-boarding meant that we witnessed our fellow passengers' faces fall as they walked by our seats and realized they were sharing the journey with a baby. But she was a champ. Happily oblivious to ear pressure and the gazillions of infectious diseases that cavorted through the recirculated air, Baby C slept the whole way. She slept the whole journey back, too. Greg and I, however, are still recovering.
I am trying to remember that checking luggage and consulting the federal regulations re: transporting breast milk and worrying about air pressure on infant ears are all good things. Because they are the flipside of the tiny toes and gummy smiles (even if they're just from gas) and double chin for which I am thankful beyond words.
Poor kitty. Baby C is here to stay. The upside is that the cat loves playing on the baby’s safari adventure mat. It comes with bird noises, which are big in the cat world. At least someone's enjoying tummy time around here.
Baby C did NOT want to go to the bookstore. Having informed me of that, she went on to tell the cat, the mailman, the neighbors and probably the entire city. Did you hear her? Because, apparently, she wanted to let you know, too. She was NOT going into her car seat and New Mommy couldn't make her.
I contemplated buckling the shrieking, trembling, red-faced vessel of discontent into her car seat anyway, but she gave the distinct impression that she planned to interrupt my browsing to make her feelings known to the entire bookstore as well.
Sigh. Maybe some other time. A new mommy can always dream, right?
These range from diaper-wipe-warming machines all the way to services that collect and store the blood cells from your child's umbilical cord. The cord blood can then, theoretically, be used to treat a host of diseases if, God forbid, treatment becomes necessary.
There are no wipe warmers at Baby C's house, but I did sign up for the cord blood banking. It's insurance I hope we never need. Little did I suspect, signing up for the service also meant signing up to be a member of the cord blood company's sales team. The company called, ostensibly to assure us that the collection and storage went okay, but really to shake us down for names of other potential customers.
"Do you know any other expecting parents who would be interested in providing life-saving measures for their baby?" Ummm.... when you put it that way.
Greg politely but futiley tried to get rid of Mr. Salesman, who was on speaker phone. Luckily, his mother was visiting and heard the conversation. She introduced herself as a science teacher. After ten minutes of questioning about the biology underlying cord blood technology, Mr. Salesman couldn't get off the phone fast enough. I don't think we'll be hearing from him again.
High on the list of my all-time personal achievements was surviving Monday. I left the house alone with Baby C for the first time, figured out her Snap-N-Go carseat and stroller, made it to my post-op doctor's visit, and made it home without forgetting anything that I know of. At least, the baby's still here.
All was well at the doctor's, except for the distressing news that the bulge around my middle was not going to miraculously disappear without diet and exercise. Right now, none of my pre-pregnancy pants fit and my maternity clothes are too summery. I'm in denial that I need to buy new, bigger pants and have been living in two pairs of jeans that my dear friend Marina let me borrow. (No one should attempt pregnancy or parenthood without a friend like her).
So, we're surviving, Baby C and me. We're watching lots of bad t.v. and flirting with fantasies of a trip to Starbucks in the stroller. All optional activities (housework, laundry, holiday planning, the occasional shower, and - oh yeah - this blog) have been curtailed, but now that the shock of our first days alone are wearing off, I hope to get back to them more frequently. Especially showering. I miss that.
Me, pre-baby: "I'm not going to be one of Those Parents who talks incessantly about their darling infant's bodily functions, and I'm certainly not going to blog about baby poo."
My mom: "Children will make liars out of you every time."
Today, Jenny came over to meet Baby C.
Me, post-baby: "Hey, Jenny! C'mon in - can't meet you the door because I'm changing a diaper right now. You wouldn't believe it! It was projectile poop! She almost got both of us. It's an all hands on deck situation back here. Ya wanna see?!"
And thus began a two-hour visit during which Baby C's bodily functions were witnessed and discussed. I will spare you the gory details, but let's just say Jenny was impressed by their sheer number and velocity. As I'm sure you would be. If I were one of Those Parents who discussed and/or blogged about poo.
Moral: Grandma knows best.
*Good thing, too, since that nesting cleaning urge never did kick in.
Baby C's arrival in time for Halloween meant that Greg and I could prop her next to us on the sofa and shamelessly watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." When I was little, I used to watch it every year with bated breath, hoping against all hope that Linus would finally wise up and go trick or treating. But, unfailingly, he chose to spend the night in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and he always duped stupid Sally into staying with him. Nearly thirty years later, I found myself just as exasperated with the two of them as my six-year-old self used to be.
Baby C's arrival in time for Halloween also meant that we could, without irony, carve a pumpkin and decorate the front porch. Greg thought it also meant he could be Baby C's proxy and trick or treat on her behalf, but either his good sense or his complete lack of costume eventually changed his mind. Good grief!
My husband is smitten with our daughter. He tries to spend as much time with her as his crazy job allows. Earlier today, Greg diapered and dressed Baby C before leaving for work. "Look - pretty in pink," said he, formerly adverse to pink and formerly frightened of small girl children. He closed the last snap with a flourish, not realizing that he put her jumper on backwards.
Tonight, he came home from work and disappeared with the baby. When they resurfaced, the child was decked out in a Boston College Eagles tee shirt that was at least three sizes too big, and a Boston Red Sox stocking cap. My husband wore a matching tee shirt. I left them watching two games at once on the split-screen TV. One side showed college football, where the BC Eagles were battling Virginia Tech. The other side displayed the World Series, where the BoSox were leading the Colorado Rockies. Baby C managed to look every inch the dedicated fan, even with her eyes closed, even with her hat on backwards.
Before I gave birth, all of my Mommy Friends said that breastfeeding "does take some getting used to." That's actually code for "breastfeeding is the most excruciatingly painful thing you will ever experience." It hurts like hell - and that's the G-rated version of what I was saying last week. It can involve blisters on places that have never seen the light of day. It can involve scabs on those same places. And blood. And you know the pain awaits you every two to three hours, and you have been scared by the LaLeche league not to even let your baby look at a bottle for fear of causing them "nipple confusion."
Add in some sleep deprivation and post-partum hormones and you have quite the recipe for fun. Just ask my husband, who made the grave mistake of trying to give me helpful breastfeeding pointers he remembered from the parenting class we took. Not helpful, husband.
Experts say that breastfeeding only hurts if you are doing something wrong, which means that on top of mind-numbing, white-knuckle pain, you feel like a failure as a new mother. Not helpful, experts.
Although I had no reason to trust my Mommy Friends, when I called them in agony, their new story was that the pain would go away after a couple of hard days. Greg, figuring I might not unleash my hormonal wrath on a complete stranger, called in a lactation consultant. She had a few good tips, but it was mostly a matter of time. We survived the initiation period. Baby C is gaining weight. Best of all, New Mommy has stopped crying. But don't say she didn't warn you.
As a recruit to parental boot camp, I'm finding my drill sergeant to be a little harsh. She doesn't care about trite distinctions such as "daytime" or "nighttime". In fact, the hours between 1:00 and 4:30 a.m. are our most intense.
Hmmm. Perhaps I DO need to rename this blog.
She plays mind games with me – here’s what last night's scene looked like.
Setting: A darkened house with one light on in the front bedroom. Baby Barracuda is red-faced, and screaming at New Mommy.
Baby Barracuda: Guess why I’m crying?
New Mommy: You’re hungry?
Baby Barracuda: WRONG!
New Mommy: You’re wet?
Baby Barracuda (after New Mommy navigates the obstacle course of the snaps on her sleepers): WRONG!
New Mommy: You’re sleepy?
Baby Barracuda: WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! I am hungry, you clueless grunt.
New Mommy: But… but you said you weren’t hungry before. Plus, you just ate an hour ago. Are you sure you’re hungry?
Baby Barracuda: FEED ME NOW!!
So far, I’ve been assigned to diaper duty and mess hall. Luckily, fellow recruits include my husband and parents. We make a great team, although they seem to have avoided mess hall. My parents ship out for R&R in another week and a half, so I’m enjoying the camaraderie while it lasts.
Gotta run – she’s calling again.
So, she's gorgeous. Me, biased? A perfect little heart shaped face with dark blue eyes that might turn brown. And she's sporting an amazing cap of black, spiky hair that contrasts beautifully with her little pink bow mouth. As we left the hospital, she gazed around with a very pensive look on her face, as if to say to whomever could intervene, "Are you really going to let me go with two such clueless people?"
And the adventure begins...
When I started showing, though, my freefall off the male radar was swift and complete. The occasional male gaze was replaced by women who would register my swollen middle, catch my eye, and smile gently. It was nice, seeing as I had no use for the cute boys anyway. I appreciated the womens' tacit acknowledgement of what I was going through and headed towards.
On the eve of birth, I am as wide as I am tall. I have gained over a fifth of my original body weight, and it is protruding from my middle, where it occasionally hits innocent passers-by. (Depth perception was never my strong point). Gone are the gazes and the motherly smiles. Now, people wince when they see me coming.
It is time to have this kid.
I thought of this as a letter to my baby, but I know you won’t be a baby forever, so I’m reverting to what your dad and I called you in the womb. “The Kid.” A generic name, but for a very good reason. We didn’t find out whether you were a boy or girl ahead of time, partly because it’s more fun. . . . but mostly to avoid stereotyping you. . . . I honestly can’t imagine how mine and your father’s genes, plus a good dose of environment and your own unique soul will combine.
I suspect that you’ll have great eyes but a troublesome nose (sorry about that). I’m hoping you get your dad’s analytical, inquisitive intelligence and my appreciation of the beauty and irony and mystery in life. I pray that you’re blessed with the gift of knowing who you are and what you want, and that you have the grace and grit to recover from unexpected detours and inevitable roadblocks.
Sweetie, I don’t know what kind of world you’re being born into, but I suppose that’s been the lament of every mother since Eve. I’m not sure what kind of mother you drew, either. I procrastinate and I’m hyper-critical of everything, and I’m pretty lazy about keeping up with housework, although messes make me crazy. I yell when I get angry. I’m impatient. I will try to minimize my known shortcomings’ effects on your life, but I can really only hope I don’t mess you up too badly.
I hope you get to know my dad. . . . He knows kids, because he still is one: interested and curious about each day and every person. . . . He taught himself how to ski and play tennis, and.... he's won every race in greater Chicagoland for his age group. He says things like “Egads", but he swears a lot, too. He whistles the tune of “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy..." He’s hopeless at the computer and with technical things but he embraces them nonetheless. And he’s so excited to have a grandchild!
I hope you get to know my mom, too. . . . She set the motherhood bar very, very high and I’m not sure I’ll be able to reach it. She makes everything better, bringing order to chaos seemingly without effort. She is thoughtful and creative and determined. She seems all business, but don't be fooled. She keeps a little clay plaque that says “Damn everything but the circus” . . . . At the Fourth of July parade in my conservative home town, she yelled at our congressman as he drove by in a convertible about his refusal to support the Equal Rights Amendment. When Aunt Janet came over, they played jacks on the kitchen floor for over an hour and laughed so hard we all came to watch. Her love manifested itself in all she did. She created such a cozy nest that it is still hard to be away from it sometimes. . . . And she can’t wait to hold you in her arms.
Even though we live on the East coast, I hope your childhood resembles in some way my Midwestern upbringing. We had breathing space. We used to drive up to Wisconsin or Michigan to visit our relatives and the fields and sky went on forever. . . . We’d come home from school and call up a friend to come over and play. We ran wild throughout the neighborhood without fear.
Oh, kiddo. How do we give you a stable home but also the skills and hunger to leave it? How do we support you yet challenge you? How do we know when to let you cry it out and when to try to make it all better? How does anyone know these things? All I can tell you is that I will try. Baby, I will try so hard. And I will hope and believe that love will fill in the gaps.
Your dad is getting very excited about your arrival. He is running around trying to take care of everything, and I think he’s a little nervous. You got lucky with your father. He will move heaven and earth to make things okay for the people he loves. He’s a lot of fun and he believes people are generally good, which means that he’ll probably let you get away with more than your cynical mom. His hopes for you–they are high! But really, all he wants is for you to be well and happy. And that’s all I want, too.
We can’t wait to meet you, kiddo. Just two more days now!
Love, your mother.
All was well as Greg strolled and I waddled back home. Congratulating ourselves on staying out past midnight, we got into bed. Turns out that the problem with eating healthily throughout pregnancy is that, by the ninth month, the body loses its ability to process mustard cheese dip. The problem was compounded by the fact that the symptoms of not-processing-mustard-cheese-dip are remarkably similar to those that indicate that labor may be imminent. Which is further complicated by the fact that I’m not supposed to go into labor at all—I to have a c-section for medical reasons.
After thoroughly scouring Web MD and other conclusive sources provided by Google, we decided that a trip to the ER at 2:00 AM on a holiday weekend could be avoided. Nearly 24 hours later, we seem to have made the right decision—the kid hasn’t made an appearance and the symptoms have cleared. But my party days are definitely over.
I have never been more horrified.
Now, it's worth noting that I graduated from a wonderful land-grant university situated in the bucolic loveliness that is Central Illinois. Which is to say: I spent four years surrounded by cows. I witnessed milk's journey from bovine to table and never gave it much thought. But the breast pump brought on some graphic flashbacks, and now I'm sure I remember the resignation on those gentle Holstein faces. I'm switching to soy in solidarity.
I listened eagerly as others attributed nesting to alphabetized DVD collections and organized hall closets. Finally! A positive side effect of pregnancy. I couldn't wait. As a pawn of the mighty forces of Nature herself, I would whip our new home into shape. Pictures would be hung! Papers would be filed!
Unfortunately, I seem to have fallen victim to an equally strong but lesser-reported instinct. It’s called sleeping on the sofa. Nesting may be present to the extent I feel guilty about my to-do list, but it’s powerless to get me off the couch. Looks like my deli drawer is going to have to wait.
Greg came home from his business trip on Sunday determined to nail things down. "We've got to settle on our final names now - before the hospital."
Our previous plan had been to meet the kid and see if one of the possibilities seemed right - so Greg's new-found urgency raised my suspicions. He finally confessed that numerous colleagues had told him that he would lose all leverage over name selection once we entered the hospital doors. That made me laugh.
In my opinion, he lost any leverage with my first stretch mark. But it's cute that he still thinks he has some, right?
Greg was out of town last week, and as I woke up every day I thought, "This is one of the last mornings I'll ever have to myself." Okay - maybe forever is stretching it. But how unfathomable that my life - and I say MINE with the fervor of a two-year-old clutching her favorite toy - is about to become all about... not me.
On the cusp of parenthood, it's far easier to envision the loss of things known than to imagine the addition of the great unknown. Maybe Confessions of a Selfish Mommy would be a better name for this blog.
Truthfully, I'm very excited about Baby C's impending arrival. We've waited for years to say "Nine days left!" When conception wasn't quite as forthcoming as all those health class videos would have one believe, I grew wary of celebrating too early. So, nine days out, saying I'm downright thrilled seems like tempting the gods. Better to throw them off-scent with lamentations about broken sleep and sticky upholstery. And Diaper Genies. And nasal aspirators. That should do it.