Monday, January 31, 2011

three months

Tomorrow, I go back to work.

Part of me is panicking about this, even though we have wonderful childcare arrangements, for which I am deeply thankful.  And another part of me is super excited to leave the house for FOUR WHOLE HOURS every day and get dressed in real, adult-people clothes which will not be any of the following for the same four hours: spit up on, peed on, pooped on, drooled on, or snotted on.

I alternate between wondering where these three months have gone, amazed at the little person this baby is becoming - and knowing exactly where those months went: in a sleepy, sore-nipple, breast-feeding, pajama-wearing, glass-of-wine-every-once-in-awhile-and-damn-it-tastes-good haze.  The other day, I started putting away some of Baby Girl's smallest clothes.  How has she grown out of things already?  But then I think about all the things she is starting to do - the smiling, laughing, the foot-grabbing, the toy-holding (sort of), the interaction, the squeals - and I can hardly wait for the next stage.

I have a friend going through her first IVF this month.  We had lunch yesterday.  And I remember being her: alternating between hope and despair, between joy and fear, between craving baby-holding and wishing all pregnant women and babies would disappear off the face of the earth.  I have so much hope for her.

It has been nearly a year since our Beta Day, and then the Next Beta Day which was, for me, a much scarier experience post-ectopic-pregnancy.  Most of the time, I can still hardly believe this is my life.  That I am someone's mom.  I still think I will wake up from a dream one day.

It's not all bliss and perfection, of course.  If my husband complains one more time that he is tired after having gone to bed significantly before me and then sleeping through the bout of fussies it takes to get Baby Girl to sleep, I will kick him someplace sensitive.  (He is a great dad, by the way.  But anyone who complains to me about being tired does not get a lot of love.  And I say this even though I have a baby who sleeps pretty damn well.  Here's to those of you still waking up multiple times per night: you're my heroes.) We still have a ways to go in terms of Establishing A Napping Schedule, but I'm not terribly worried about it.  Yet.  The nipples are still sore much of the time.  I have accepted this.  Mostly.

I'm still not in too many pre-pregnancy pants.  The Belly (have you read Kate's post on this?  you should) is flabby.  To be kind.  But my arms are getting stronger, thanks to the 12-pound weight I carry around with me most of the time.

Sex?  Well.  I'm sure we'll have it again regularly.  Eventually.  I assume.

So, here we go - off into the rest of our lives, post-maternity-leave.  Into the everyday, working parent world.  But, as a friend of mine wrote to me the other day, "I came to understand gratitude in a whole new way once I had my kids."  She struggled for years to have her second.  And I think she's right: even though people mostly say, "I never knew what love could be until I had a child," it's gratitude I feel most deeply these days.  For this messy, sometimes exhausting, drooly, spit-up-on, waking-up-just-to-make-sure-she's-still-breathing life.

Wow, that is a huge spot of spit-up I just noticed on the hardwood floor.

Oh well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

everybody hurts, sometimes

In addition to Baby Girl, my family has two other small kids: my niece, 2 years old, and nephew, six months.  There are a lot of great things about having cousins close in age: sharing parenting challenges, hoping they'll be good friends as they grow up, hand-me-down clothes.

And there are some not-so-great things.

My nephew is the son of my youngest brother and his wife.  They live about 15 miles away - not a long distance, but traffic makes it a longer trip than you'd think.  So we don't see them as often as my niece.  That's part of the problem, I suspect.

Another part of the problem is my sister-in-law, who is a fiercely intelligent, creative, and thoughtful person, but who is also, to be frank, a little arrogant.  Sometimes a lot arrogant.  I always knew she was this way, and I always suspected that parenting would sharpen that edge - much as it brings out the best and worst in all of us, at times.  My own tendency to be impatient increases exponentially at 1:00 in the morning when Baby Girl is awake and fussy and I know she's tired whydoesn'tshejustsleepfortheloveofitall.  I know, too, that my own dislike of unsolicited advice has not completely stopped me from sharing some of my own.  And that, to my deep horror (even as the words were coming out of my mouth), I have already uttered the phrase, "people without kids just don't understand."  (Oh, how I hated myself afterward for saying that.)

So, when we get together and I hear a lot of how much more my sister-in-law knows - "oh, wait until she's teething," "we've never had that problem," "you shouldn't even expect her to have a schedule and it will change anyway," "oh, you're supplementing with formula?" - I try very hard to swallow the harsh responses that pop up in my head.  They won't do anybody any good.  And I suspect that, a lot of the time, she doesn't realize what she sounds like.  Because she's a very good mother.  And she loves my brother, and he loves her, and they both adore their son.

Who, as you might remember from a previous post, is deaf.  He is in all other respects a perfectly normal, delightful, funny, chatty, slightly fussy, strong, and mostly happy little boy.  Because there is no family history of hearing loss on either side, his diagnosis came as a deep shock.  And it has remained so these past six months.

My sister-in-law's "know-it-all" attitude has sharply increased in those months.  Partly because, at least in comparison to the rest of us in the family, she does, in fact, know it all about infant hearing loss.  She's practically earned a doctorate in research, and I admire her tenacity.  They are completely committed to doing all they can for him as they wait for the final decision about his eligibility for a cochlear implant.   They're working with specialists and early intervention programs.  No baby could have better advocates.

But the other night, when we were all together celebrating my birthday, something occurred to me.  We walked into the house and began talking to our nephew, trying to use the "hello" signs they've taught us, looking right into his eyes and speaking clearly, as they've requested.  We smiled and talked to him and he looked at us with his trademark skepticism, as he (much like his father at that age) is not very sure about strangers these days.  My brother asked to hold Baby Girl, so we handed her over.

And my sister-in-law did the same thing I realized she's done since Baby Girl was born: she showed no interest in her whatsoever.

I began to realize this over the next few hours.  She has never asked to hold her.  While we rushed over to the birthing center the night our nephew was born, they didn't come to meet Baby Girl until she had been home for several days.  And since then, she has never asked about her.  Except to give advice.  No interest in how she's doing, and she hasn't even looked much at her when we've been together.  I don't think she's ever said her name out loud.

I started to simmer with rage.  She knew how long we had tried for this child.  She knew how hard it was to try (or claimed she did, when they told us they had been trying for a year and understood how hard infertility was, and then got pregnant the next month while we started year four).  And now - nothing.  All the efforts we've made to learn about their child's diagnosis, to read the research they send, to respect the decisions they make - topped off by their Christmas gift to everyone of "resources about deafness" which they expect us to read and watch and share with each other - because, you know, I have nothing but time on my hands these days - and we smiled and said, "what a good idea," because it partly was, even if it was also a gift that said, "your Christmas present is all about us."

Oh, it was hard not to tell her off.  IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, the voices in my head wanted to say out loud.  Why can't you show interest in someone else, for a change?  Why can't you ask how my child is, instead of it always being the other way around?  I want to tell you about my child, just like you want to tell me about yours.  I want to talk about how she smiles and laughs when I talk to her...

...and then it hit me like a ton of bricks, that in spite of how sensitive I claim to be, I've been missing it all along.  Most likely, every stage my child goes through is a reminder to her of how it wasn't for her child. The only question she's every asked about Baby Girl came late in the evening, when I was making spitting noises at her to make her laugh: "does she try to imitate you?"  "Yes," I said, and just as I was going to add, "whenever we talk to her she gets a huge smile," I realized that my arrogant, pain-in-the-ass sister-in-law is probably grieving the fact that her son cannot hear her voice.  He hears something these days, with his hearing aids, but no one knows yet how much.  And, at any rate, he certainly doesn't hear his parents the way our daughter hears hers.

So here we were, two hurting moms: one who is stung by her sister-in-law's total lack of interest in her daughter, one who is watching that daughter and wondering what it would have been like if her son could hear like her.  Two moms who have been a little snippy with each other, much like many parents can be, one-upping each other with "how much harder it is for me" stories.  Two moms who are perfectly right to feel the way they do, even as those feelings are carving out a chasm between them.

I'm still not over it, really.  I still think she could show a little more interest.  I will still have to work on swallowing my instantly-irritated responses when she goes on lecturing rants about how no one can understand why parenting her child is so much harder than anyone else's has ever been.  (I am exaggerating.  Slightly.)  A big part of this is just her personality, the darker side of which has been brought out by her son's deafness.

But when I am tempted to judge her for this, I am going to try to remember that I am not so different.  That I don't know what it's like to walk in her shoes.  That I do not have to get sucked in by her rants and arrogance and defensiveness, although it's pretty damn hard to resist.

That everybody hurts, sometimes.  And striking out at her will not make me feel any better.

Or maybe I should try an easier New Year's resolution.  Like world peace.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Days of Grace: 1-15-11

I've always loved how Sprogblogger writes about days of grace - giving thanks each day, even for things that seem small.  I preached a sermon once about the Jewish tradition of naming 100 Barakot - 100 'thank-you's' each day.  Getting to 100 is pretty all-consuming, which is pretty much the point.

So, I may not get to 100.  But today is my birthday (38! yikes) and it feels like a good day to say thanks.  For:

1. Baby girl has been consistently sleeping from 11:30pm or so until 7:00am or so for the past three weeks. There is a God.  And yes, I realize that this might change at any time.  So I'm enjoying while it lasts.

2. My husband is going to make a carrot cake for me today.  This should be 1.) tasty and 2.) entertaining.

3. I made an appointment for a massage today.  Hallelujah.

4. Got to see the Harry Potter exhibition last week.  AWESOME.  And, in honor of the fun, I have embarked on a HP-watching marathon during which I can exclaim routinely, "I saw that costume at the exhibition!" without being embarrassed because, you know, this is a nice thing about 11-week old babies: they are not very judgmental.

5. I am still delighted every morning when I take a shower and don't throw up afterward.  Nine months of throwing up is hard to get over.

6. Tonight my parents are taking Baby Girl overnight.  Excellent birthday present.  I am a little nervous and suspect that I might actually get less sleep without her, but they are SO EXCITED about this that I feel like I'm doing them a favor.  Very "O. Henry-Gift of the Magi" over here.

7. Found a really good consignment store yesterday.  Four outfits for Baby Girl = $20.  Sweet.

8. My nipples are no longer sore-as-hell.  Sometimes they are sore-as-purgatory, but this is a vast improvement.

9. Have I mentioned the Baby Girl smiles?  Oh, the smiles.  I would do anything for one of those.  Luckily, they happen pretty frequently.

10. Since I can hear her waking up from the morning nap, I'll just mention one more: cute boots as a birthday present.  Loves me some boots.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

an update from the trenches

First off, let me just report that I have, at long last, had a Major Success today:

I have gotten my child in that damn Moby wrap.

I know they make it look all crunchy-granola easy on the instructions website, but that thing is nearly impossible.  I've tried it twenty times since she was born, and all I got was a screaming baby strapped to my chest for twenty seconds, and a mother who was convinced that she was cutting off all circulation in said baby's legs.  So we switched to a different kind of wrap style, and it may be working.  For the moment.  She's sleeping in it, which gives me TWO WHOLE HANDS to do stuff!  Like write on the blog!  (Not laundry, or dishwasher-emptying, or bed-making.  No.  Nothing like that.  More important stuff.)

My next goal is to master the art of eating cupcakes while baby sleeps in the Moby wrap, but that is doctoral Moby work.  I suspect my child's first solid foods may be the crumbs she inhales while in this thing.  C'est la vie.

Apart from the Mobytrauma, life is good in this house.  I hesitate to write this out loud lest 1.) many readers hate me and 2.) my child then decides to change her mind altogether, but (I'll whisper it to you) she is sleeping through the night.  At eight weeks.  Holy shit, people.  That is all I could ever have asked for as a Christmas gift, and more.  By "sleeping through the night," I mean, "from 11:30pm or so until 5 or 6am," but that is pure gold.  Daytime naps are a bit more hit-and-miss.

On the breastfeeding front, things are improving.  Slowly.  She's gained weight and has been almost entirely off the formula for awhile.  The nipples are still remarkably red, but not nearly as sore.  However, we seem to have begun the Era of Boob Wrestling, in which baby latches onto boob as if it will save her life, and then moves her head around like a freaking bobblehead doll while eating.  Not so great.  Weight gain tells us she's getting enough milk, so I don't think it's that, but dude: that hurts.  If you have tips on this one, I'd love to hear them.

We survived the No Good Very Bad Baby's First Vaccination Day on Monday (although I did learn that I will definitely need to take those days off work, as it leads to Epic Fussiness).  No fun for mama or baby.  But the nurse was as quick as possible, I nursed her right afterward, and we made it.

Christmas with baby?  Great.  Traveling a should-have-been-four-hours-but-reckless-stupid-trucker-who-can't-drive-in-snow-induced-six-hour-drive?  Not so great.  You know how you have these visions of How Things Will Be When I Have a Baby?  Visions which are usually intensified by years of infertility?  My Christmas vision: sitting in church with my child, singing "Silent Night" by candlelight, giving thanks for the Best Gift Ever.   My Christmas reality: running out of church with screaming child who needs to nurse, breastfeeding through most of the hymns I love, and then child being held by Grandma while I sang "Silent Night," thinking, "huh.  This is not quite what I pictured."  But it was good nonetheless.

I have some more posts running through my head, but I may be pushing our Mobytime a bit.  Excuse me while I go pick cupcake crumbs off my kid's head.  Hopefully I'll be back sooner next time.