I’m reading a book!!!!!!!!
I downloaded it to my iPhone from the library. I’ll let you know how this experiment turns out.
I’m reading a book!!!!!!!!
I downloaded it to my iPhone from the library. I’ll let you know how this experiment turns out.
S had broken me of my ridiculous need to clean and arrange and organize everything all of the time. It wasn’t a helpful kind of obsession I had with these things. Mostly, it was years of procrastinating grading middle schoolers’ papers that had made me a little too fond of cleaning toilets and sweeping floors. You could always tell by the state of my house when I’d assigned an essay to my students.
Fast-forward to the birth of S. As I’ve mentioned before, once or twice, the first couple of weeks (months) of baby care is tough. There’s blood, pain, sitting on the blood and pain for too long, and lots and lots of NO SLEEP. Sweeping the floors isn’t a priority. S did a fabulous job of readjusting my priorities when it comes to cleaning. I don’t have anxiety attacks when there are piles of clean, unfolded clothes on the couch and it’s time for Baby StoryTime. We just get out of this filth-nest. I still keep this place clean enough so that the roly poly bugs aren’t dragging dust bunnies behind them as they trek across the hallway, and I’m feeling much better now that my OCD seems to be under control. My quality of life is better when I don’t snap at a loved one for leaving their backpack in the wrong place or pooping on freshly-washed blankets.
Fast-forward to the clingy, non-mobile baby phase. S lay on her back or belly, scream-whining or sucking on the carpet/ tile/ yoga mat. She could roll around and reach crumbs and stones and bits of plants that B had dropped on the floor. I could sit there and sit there and sit there with her, or I could grab the junk on the floor, jump up and run to the trash, and deal with her shrieking. So, I adapted, just like a good mother should: I just chucked the junk out of reach. It was not a problem for us behind the TV or down the hallway. Awesome.
I have adapted so well that when S and I were invited over to a friend’s house for a one-year birthday party, I didn’t even think twice. Goldfish crumbs and puffed rice were reproducing and starting colonies on the carpeted play area, and here comes my little choker and a couple of gluten-free kids. Like a ninja, I cleared the path for the crawling slobberers and nearly invisibly tossed the bits behind the furniture. Well, almost invisibly. The living room owner saw me and said, “Yeah, just throw it behind there.” It took me a couple of seconds (days) to realize that that probably wasn’t the best a ninja could do: there was a plant just a couple feet away! I forgot the ABCs of “crumb triage.” A)lways look for a plant to throw shit in. B)efore you do anything, make sure no one is looking. C)huck object. After I was caught, I tried to deflect any judgement by telling a story about how B picks his nose and puts it in the plants, when really, that’s just what we all do in this house. (S will learn.) Happy First Birthday, friend! Here’s a pile of shit behind your furniture! Next time I will not forget crumb triage. Or, maybe I will have a better plan…
Fast-forward to mobile baby. Crap poop poop crap! Now I have to clean again, and my motivation is: Baby Will Not Eat Dusty Hairballs and Dead Millipedes. This is not easy. Babies have radar for all of the Danger and Disgusting in a place and they head right for it with their mouths open. So, it’s kind of a priority again. And all the plants are banished to the hallway until S goes to college. Crap, pooooooop!
S on her second day of crawling:
S had a couple friends over to play. The mommas wanted to take some pictures to photo-document the cuteness storm that forms when you fill a couch with babies.
G: Yes, I’ll smile and be super cute. Anything for you, Mom!
O: It’s never too early to start building your rep. I do the cool look for these photo shoots.
S: How long’s this going to take? I’d really like to put this foot in my mouth.
G: These ladies love me. I got this cute thing down!
O: Cool. You see my cool pose?
S: Alright, I’ll smile, but I’m keeping my hands on this foot.
O: Pssst! S. There’s another way to play these photo shoots. I can get a big giggle. There’s this cannibal bit I do.
S: Yeah, you know, O, I get weary of these smile fests. Do these moms think we want to sit here and smile RIGHT NOW? I’ve got better things to do, like chew on my foot.
G: Did somebody say ‘cannibal’?
O: What? You don’t think I’d do it?
S: Probably not.
G: Moms, you keepin’ an eye on these kids over here?
O: Raaaawr! I eat your shoulder! Nom, nom, nom!
S: Whoa, dude!
G: Okay, that’s my arm. Staying cute…but that’s my arm there, please, my arm…
O: See? I was just faking it, but I got ’em. See that laugh I got?
S: Yeah, I’ll admit that was good. Still just need to chew on my foot.
G: Haha! Good one! You had me there for a minute!
Let’s review how we got here. The events of the last seven months:
1) For some reason B and I thought we could handle a baby, no prob. We gave in to Biology and said, let’s do this thing.
2) Nine months of fatigue and weirdness and hormonal delusion for me. One weekend of mad crazy baby prep (involving moving heavy stuff and using nifty tools) for B. (Okay, to be fair, someone had to talk me down from all of my hormonal narrow ledges. B did an excellent job of that. Many times.)
3) Labor/ delivery, which for us, luckily luckily luckily, was almost equivalent to a long-distance athletic event. Except at the end we had a baby rather than a big stupid trophy that’s exciting for about a day and then you want to Goodwill it. Babies are different.
4) Baby Boot Camp: Two weeks of more hormonal delusion, humongous chunks of sleep deprivation, several dollops of bloody pain, all sorts of new baby human weirdness, sprinkled with diapers and receiving blankets and reheated frozen meals and breakfast at 3 AM or 1 PM and poop and feeding diaries, all with a stinky umbilical cord stump on top.
5) Next was BEING ALONE with a baby when B went back to work. This meant that I had to find ways to poop, eat, and keep myself bathed and clothed. This is when I a) built up my left biceps to elite status and b) started to really lose my mind. I had to start multi-tasking for real for the first time in my life. Remember Swiss cheese brain? So, multi-tasking also meant taking big leaps over those holes. Take a minute to remember your brain before the child. Wow.
6) I gave myself an imaginary trophy for leaving the house and driving alone with the baby. I went to meet other new members of “The Motherhood.”
7) I start spending time in “The Motherhood.” This means I actively seek out any and all groups, meetings, and activities for moms and people with babies so that I can escape the terror of being alone with a tiny human…
…and maybe learn how to get my nipples to heal and get the tiny human to stop screaming. Also, any time I am in a store or public place, I exchange knowing and sympathetic smiles with other women carting around new babies. I begin to understand the distance and tension between women and men, and women who have children and women who don’t. There’s a reason…hell, there are a million reasons for this. It made me really uncomfortable for a long time (funny, by that I mean 4 or 5 months). But then,
8) My nipples heal, S stops vomiting everything up once or twice a day, I start to get semi-regular sleep and showers. I can go on walks and meet people in public places on time and change diapers, nurse, and play with S while having something like a conversation. S starts to giggle and smile and hug my neck hard. I cry tears of real joy. But I realize that none of this is really ever going to get easier. It’s just going to change. I am different. My body, my brain, and especially my identity are different.
9) I resent my husband and friends and family for not helping enough, when really, they are doing everything they are able to do. This is when I realize two more things: 1) No one is going to be able to be in touch with my feelings or understand my emotional and spiritual needs if I don’t understand them first. Yes, people can listen and help, but it’s my job to care for myself. To be my own “mother.” 2) I need to pay attention and learn how to become the mother I want to be, and then effectively communicate my needs to others, rather than just react my way through the next 50 years.
So, I’m going to do some writing about this process. Actually, there are workshops for this sort of thing, but you have to be able to leave your child with someone else when they are awake and/ or hungry, which is still not in our skill set yet. Plus, I need to spend the $250 on gas to drive my sleep-hating baby around town with the windows down and her favorite song on repeat so that she will nap.
I think I ate fruits and vegetables like 10 times the first day my MIL was staying with S and I. It was soooo good to have someone around to keep us company. But my MIL’s real specialty is nutrition. Her meal planning takes into account micronutrients and vitamins and fiber and iron and sodium and everything there is to account for if you are Dr. Oz and the NIH. I haven’t eaten this healthfully since… last time M cooked for me. Here is what I know now: 1) Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium 2) a vitamin B deficiency causes grey hair 3) I eat too much butter.
The first day M was here I pulled out the lasagna B made for me as a token of his love, regret, and guilt at having to leave us for ten days and I microwaved it and offered it up for lunch as a token of my weary, cheese-lovin’, sleep-deprived hunger. I scarfed the hunk of white flour noodles glued together with whole milk cheese. I suddenly felt dirty. When was the last time I ate something green? Yep, peanut M&Ms don’t count.
I was eating pretty well a couple of months ago. The new task of making milk to feed my precious little nugget had made me crave carrot sticks and brussels sprouts. Back then I was anxious to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. Gradually, though, I’ve been relying more and more on calorie dense foods that have a high energy to chewing ratio. I feel like a deep fried Snickers is a good invention for new moms. You could get a bazillion calories into your body in between propping up the kiddo with a toy on the floor, throwing clothes into the washing machine, and putting seven rolls of toilet paper next to the toilet. Plus, you really deserve an evening in a hot tub under the stars in a mountain resort with a massage, wine, and a book, but what you have time for is a handful of deep fried chocolate-covered peanuts and sugar.
This food desert I currently call my house, was obviously not going to cut it for M’s stay. M and I went grocery shopping. Oh right, there’s another problem with my food situation. I used to find grocery shopping exhausting. Now I have to do it with a 20-pound baby strapped to me, so I don’t do it as often as I should. Anyway, we came home with so many phytonutrients that Michael Pollan would have been wide-eyed in amazement. But I couldn’t just go cold turkey off of my sugar/salt/butter/cheese diet.
While M was here, I had to go underground and be all ninja with my feeding strategies. She’s not a judgmental person, but I couldn’t bring myself to be real about my food choices in front of her because she cannot help but tell you something horrible that the item you just put in your mouth is going to do to your body and life. We ate a quinoa vegetable soup one night and when M left the room briefly, I ran to the salt shaker and loaded up my bowl before she got back. For a visual, I’ll add that I had a baby in my left arm as I ground the salt over the soup. When M took a trip outside to dump the compost, I stuffed a bunch of chocolate chips into a bag of pecans and cranberries (and some in my face) so that she would be inclined to think I was eating a healthy snack, instead of the camouflaged chocolate I was picking out of the mix. At one point I finished off a tub of Kozy Shack tapioca pudding, squatting on the floor next to the fridge, while she wasn’t looking. Just a few minutes before she had laughed at the fact that it was even in my fridge (which reminded me that I wanted to eat it always).
Listen, I’m hungry these days with all the milk making and baby bouncing. I also want ice cream and chocolate chip cookies to make me happy. I’ve been declaring it a dietary triumph when I eat a peanut butter sandwich. But I must admit that my energy level has gotten a little low and I generally just don’t feel well, so I’m glad M reminded me that there are things like avocados and broccoli in the world. I’ve gotta eat more vegetables. And since she’s visited, I’m happy to report that we have had an excellent week of well-balanced, colorful meals. I started meal planning (using the note application on my SMART phone… This thing is earning it’s keep!) so we can have a stocked fridge and a whole lot less stress around dinner time when B used to ask, “So what should we have for dinner?” And I would scream at the top of my lungs (in my head), “Look in the fridge for gods sake!” Now I say, “Oh, why just check the meal plan I sent to your email, my dearest.” (Smile. Flutter eyelashes.) It’s been a humongous improvement. Humongous.
But there will always be Ben and Jerry’s in the plan.
We are surviving here. Unfortunately (?) I ate chocolate chips for lunch yesterday. But no one forced them into my face. I chose the chips. So, I can’t complain.
However, the Boo and I have had really good things to eat for dinner the last two nights. Friends (with children!) invited us over or “out” for dinner where veggies and protein were abundant. It was mostly fantastic not to be alone during that scary hour of the day when the sun light turns from happy-sunny-this day-doesn’t-have-to-end slant to spooky-cue-the-werewolves-and-vampires slant. Evenings are the hardest time of day when you’re alone with a baby. So, I was just giddy that people were willing to love us during this time.
But dinner with friends is a little bit of a disappointment when you don’t have the second string to come into the game so that you can eat food and savor a couple crumbs of conversation. When S was just a kid, she used to just scream from 4:30 until 9:00 in the evening. Now at night she gets really hyper, with fussiness on top (if you’re lucky). This is when she gets her spaz on. It’s entertaining to watch her give herself raspberries on the back of her hand and hum while flipping her lips with her fist to make silly noises or scream-grunt while smiling at you. But not when there are glistening grilled red peppers and portabella mushrooms winking at you from the table. This whole enterprise of eating with a spaz baby in your arms is reminiscent of the game Hungry Hungry Hippo, but instead of reaching out to grab as many marbles as you can, it’s the food bits you’re hoping to score. Why not put her down, you ask? Hmmm… why didn’t I think of that? HAHAHA! No. She tends to flail-arch and scream. You might be able to distract her with a weird, semi-dangerous game, like waving a plastic bag at the dog, or flipping the Bumbo seat onto her head, and thus, get some calories in.
One of the nights were were outside where there were mosquitoes and dogs in addition to a hyper baby. Think of it as a video game. The object was to eat enough good food to make it to the next level (Peaceful nighttime sleep on a full stomach). One of the maneuvers is swatting mosquitoes and putting the bowl of food down in a place that a baby and a dog cannot get to, but you can. Like under a very large red mushroom or behind the trap door. Anyway. Everything I ate was a shade of orange. Pumpkin pie, winter squash, vegan no-bake cookies, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. I was able to reach the next level of the video game, but I think it took a little longer because of all of the sugar in my bloodstream. (Again, really, I had a choice. I didn’t need to make 50% of my dinner out of cookies and pie. The tabouleh is just harder to eat with fingers. But I digress.)
So, while we were nourished by food (that really didn’t need to be chewed anyway, right?) and in the company of good people, I realized that I need B here to enjoy situations like this. You have to be able to hand off the babe when she’s a spaz like this so that you can eat dinner, but also so that you can take a breath and enjoy the company.
Last night we were driving home at 7:30 and S was tired and hungry and ready for her bed, but I had stuck her in the car seat instead and she wasn’t happy.
She began screaming almost immediately and I was sure that the ride home was going to be a disaster. I started planning places to stop and stick my boob in her face. Then it finally occurred to me to turn on the magic. I started playing this song and not only did she stop crying, she was asleep after three minutes. I don’t understand it, but it works. Just last week it had worked instantaneously in a similar situation. It is nothing short of baby hypnotism. Her favorite song has been “Foux Du Fafa” by Flight of the Conchords for about as long as she’s had ears, but lately I’ve been noticing that there seems to be more to it. Like maybe there is something fishy about this song, as in if you play it backwards it becomes Death Metal and initiates the Apocalypse. I’ll let you decide:
I don’t know, it could be her French heritage.