Archive for June, 2008

The Sound Of Crazy

June 27, 2008

I read somewhere, some time ago, that the sound of an infant crying is one of the most stress-inducing sounds for the human ear to hear; it induces anxiety in the listener, and for good reason – a baby’s survival naturally depends upon its ability to command the resources of its mother or father or any other adult human being that is equipped to care for it. Our natural response, then, to a baby’s cry, is to rush to it and seek to resolve whatever problem is causing said baby to cry. Which is great, for the baby. Not so great for the exhausted mother who really, really wants to sleep, badly, or at least have her arms to herself for a minute or two, but can’t, because her particular baby a) has recurring gastrointestinal challenges that, quite understandably, upset him and cause him to cry, and b) just really likes to be held ALL THE FREAKING TIME and is not afraid to say so.

I’ve also read, everywhere, that when baby’s crying gets to be too much, you should just take a break. Put baby down somewhere safe, they say, and walk away for a few minutes and stretch and breathe and try to calm yourself down. Which, ha. Did ‘they’ not get the memo on the stress-inducing pitch of an infant’s cry? I can no more walk away from my crying baby to stretch and breathe and “calm myself down” (*makes frantic air quotes with fingers*) than I could leave my toddler playing with her crayons in the middle of a busy street while I painted my toenails or some such shit. NOT. POSSIBLE.

Fine, they say. If that doesn’t work: get help. Find someone to hold baby while you take a break, take a bath, listen to some music. Which, yeah, great idea. UNLESS there’s no-one around to help. Unless your husband is working these super-insane long hours making stupid TV commercials that are really only hastening the decline of civilization anyway so even though you know the paycheck is important you’re all like whaddup dude plz come home but anyway he’s just not at home when you could most use the break and he’s not going to be home for the whole goddamned long weekend and you live in a new town and only know, like, one other person and maybe you could call on your neighbors but, um, you’re topless because holy hell the nipple chafing and in any case the ones that are around in the daytime are mostly elderly and your giant freakishly strong baby would probably break their arms and so what are you supposed to do then, huh? HUH? ANSWER ME THIS, BABY EXPERTS. And, then, prescribe me some Zoloft, because, seriously.

He’s sleeping now, merciful heavens, pressed against me, his chest rising and falling against my own, his little fist curled against my neck and this is so, so sweet, but still – my arms hurt and I am tired and I am bracing myself for the long evening ahead and I am wishing that I had, the other day, given in more fully to the happiness that I suspected would be fleeting (as I was exhorted to do by a friend, who lobbed Pindar at me: We are things of a day/What are we? What are we not?/A shadow in a dream in man, no more./But when the brightness comes, and it is given by the gods/Then there is a shining of light on men, and their life is sweet. Which is ancient Greek for chill the fuck out, dude and enjoy it while it lasts. Woe that I did not do this, because my happy reserves are seriously getting depleted.)

I know that the moments of brightness are many, and my heart is nourished by the weight of my sweet, sweet baby against my breast, but still. This shit is hard.

The Language Of Ice Cream

June 26, 2008

Ever have those days when you really, really want to write something – purge your clogged brain, sweep out the dustier corners of your soul, open the windows on your heart and let some fresh air in – but you just can’t? One of those days where your fingers feel like dead weights as you trail them across the keyboard in a vain effort to bring your thoughts – which seem to stick together and cling to the sides of your brain like so much cerebral peanut butter – out into the open where you might unstick them, get them moving again? Ever have one of those days? I’m having one today.

I think that it’s a hangover from weeks (months, depending upon how you look at it) of fretting and fussing over things beyond my control. Now that the sources of most of my more pressing anxieties seem to have been eliminated – Jasper is, if you didn’t see the update to the last post, fine – I’m at a loss. I’m happy, but exhausted, and wary of giving in too fully to happiness (a wariness that is tiring in itself), because, you know, you never know when the gods are going to smack you down again and so I’m kinda caught between happiness and this wariness which is a kind of creeping anxiety and that kind of tug-of-war leaves you feeling stuck, locked in place, legs braced against movement lest you topple over and land face-first in the mud. So even though my brain is clogged with thoughts and my heart crammed with feeling and it would feel so good to throw open the windows and let the air and light in and the dust and shadows out, it just feels impossible right now because I’m locked in a bit of an emotional stalemate with myself.

So, no more words today. Just ice cream.

The Power Of Positive Thinking, Being Deployed In Full Force Today

June 24, 2008

In to the doctor today, for Jasper’s test results. All of my energies are directed toward willing the doctor to say ‘it was nothing. He’s fine.’

He WILL be fine. He WILL.

Say it with me.


UPDATE: He is fine. He’s fine he’s fine he’s FINE. His little hips, his little legs, and – most important of all – his little spine: all are fine.

Thank you all so much for virtually holding my hand today. Thank you so much.

In Which I Shamelessly Embrace My Blog As An Alternative To Baby Books…

June 22, 2008

… and, instead of composing a post with actual thoughts and ideas, I simply document a completely insignificant but nonetheless memorable milestone in my daughter’s life: the first real (i.e. not performed by Mommy in the kitchen with a pair of cuticle scissors) haircut.

My beauty, all the more lovely for a cheeky smile, a neatly trimmed bang, and timely mullet removal.

Arms And The Mom

June 19, 2008

I love holding my baby. Holding my baby is one of the sweetest pleasures that I have ever known. Holding my baby fills my heart with an almost unbearable joy. The sweet smell of his tiny head tucked into my neck, the perfect fit of his wee body tucked in tight against my chest, his breath rising and falling with my own – this is bliss.

It also makes my arms hurt.

My first baby – my sweet, fearless tornado of girl – is not and has never been a cuddler. She has striven for independence and freedom from the moment she shot – eyes wide open – out of my womb. We have had our moments of physical bonding, she and I, but not nearly so many as I would like. I have craved her embrace, and I have, more often than not, been denied that embrace. So it was that I wished, with this child, for a cuddler. I wished for a cuddly snuggle-monkey of a baby; I wished for a clingy mama’s boy who would press himself against me and not want to let go. I got what I wished for.

My little man is a perfect marsupial. He clutches, he clings, he cries when he is compelled, under anything but the most agreeable circumstances – another yielding set of arms, a toasty blanket, a full belly and deep sleepiness – to leave the comfort of mommy’s embrace. He curls his little arms over my shoulder and grips me with his little fists of steel; trying to remove him from his perch on my body is like trying to loose a recalcitrant parrot from a branch made entirely of crackers and peanut butter. And I love it, I do – I sometimes stand with him in front of the mirror, turning just enough to see the contented look on his little face and the grip of his fists on my t-shirt and I thrill to our bondedness, our two-ness – but as I said, it hurts my arms. And my neck, and my back and some of the muscles beneath my ribcage and also the boobs, when he pumps his little legs against my chest in order to push himself further up my shoulder.

I love it, but it’s exhausting. Physically exhausting, and more than a little mentally and emotionally tiring. Unless he’s sleeping, I can’t fix myself a sandwich or a drink or go pee or – and this is the most challenging – pick up or hug my tornado, who has all of a sudden decided that she is a cuddler, and why can’t she cuddle Mommy now? I have mastered the art of one-handed typing, but there is no such thing as a one-handed cuddle. And that’s hard.

I want to put him down. I want to settle him down beside me, just for a little while, just for some stretch of time that is not the middle of the night, so that my arms can rest and I can stretch and move freely. So that I can go get a sandwich and some tea and a cookie maybe and also – sweet merciful heavens – go pee and take a shower and let hot hot water run down my neck and ease my aching muscles. So that I can crouch down and wrap my tornado-girl in a totally unrestrained bear hug until she wriggles away and I am left, arms dangling, empty, free.

At which point the emptiness of my arms will become too much to bear, and I will pick him up again and he will glue himself to me and we will stay, locked together in our love, tired and sweaty and sore and happy.

Mostly happy, but a whole, whole lot tired.

No, I have not figured out how to use a sling. I have been trying. I have been failing. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get him in and get him comfortable. I am desperate. I need to figure out how to keep him close and free my arms, all at once. Short of sewing up Velcro jumpsuits for the two of us, I don’t know what to do. Suggestions?

What New Motherhood Looks Like: The Good, The Bad, And The Boobly

June 18, 2008

I’m telling you, it ain’t pretty:

It does, however, have its moments of beauty. Read more about it here.

(All of my creative and emotional energies of yesterday and today – those not spent on son, daughter and miscellaneous anxieties concerning things largely out of my control – went into writing this post for my dear Sweetney, who badly needed a break this week, so all that remains for this space is the above dirty picture and a few links.)

(No, still no news, other than we will see the doctor on Tuesday and likely get results of tests then. Will be hanging on, hanging in, ’til then.)

In Good Hands

June 16, 2008

What I should have posted yesterday, but was too sleep-deprived/lazy/stressed/distracted:

Thank you, My Bad Husband, for being the very, very best father imaginable. Your awesome is unparalleled. Your awesome makes all the difference. I love you – we love you – for your awesome.

Thank you.

The Closer You Are To Fine

June 14, 2008

We spent most of the afternoon, yesterday, at the hospital. It is not a happy experience, taking your baby to the hospital. Even when you’ve mentally psyched yourself and have told yourself that it’s nothing it’s nothing it’s nothing it’s just tests they’re just being cautious it’s just tests there’s nothing wrong, it’s rough. When they tell you that you need to bring your baby to the hospital for tests, that they need to check his spine, that he has some markers for spinal problems, for serious things but maybe nothing but still maybe serious, that it might not be anything but maybe it’s something so it must be checked, it must, your heart constricts and you hold your breath.

And you can manage the constricted heart and the withholding of breath until you get there, to the hospital, but once your baby – your tiny, tiny baby – has been stripped of his tiny clothes and is laying naked on the hospital bed – a vast expanse of cold sheet beneath his tiny frame – the machines looming, menacing, around him, you struggle. You crouch beside him, cradling his head and nuzzling his cheek, babbling whispers of love into his ear, willing him to not cry, to not squirm, to let this be over, fast.

And when he does begin to cry and squirm it feels as though your heart has retracted into the furthest recesses of your chest to cower and hide.

You say to the ultrasound technician, can I lay down beneath him, put him on my belly, my chest? Can we do it that way? He’ll be calmer. And you think, I’ll be calmer.

So you remove your shirt and lay yourself down and ease your naked, struggling baby onto your own naked belly and you cradle his head between your breasts and you breath. And you breath. And you breath. And he settles into you, letting his little body relax from the arch and flex of discomfort and fear and settle, softly, into the curves of your belly and breast and lay there, eyes fluttering, cries turning to gurgles and squawks, and he rests. Happy now, safe now.

And it occurs to you, as you lay in the dark, on the hospital bed, an ultrasound wand hovering above your body, the light from the screen of the sonograph flickering just out of sight, that this is just as it was some weeks ago, before he arrived, when he was still in your belly, tucked away safe in your belly, and you were wishing with all your heart that he’d come out soon so that you could hold him your arms and nuzzle his little head and keep him safe here, in the outside, out in the big wide world but always, always pressed close to your heart.

And he did, and you do. And you tell him, in the softest of whispers – and you tell yourself, in the loudest of internal cries – that he is safe, that you will keep him safe, and that it will all be fine, no matter what.

And he is, and you do, and it will be. It will be.

(We don’t know the results of the ultrasound. We probably won’t know for another week. I’m choosing to not dwell on it. I’m choosing to simply believe that it will all be fine.)

Joy, And Pain

June 10, 2008

I wrote a post last week that I now regret writing. Sort of. I suppose that it’s more accurate to say that I now have reservations about having written it: regret is the wrong word, seeing as the writing of it (and the responses to it) proved immeasurably valuable to me. Writing about how painful and difficult breastfeeding has been in the first weeks of my baby’s life was a necessary rant, a venting of my frustration with the seemingly infinite degrees of pain involved and with the near-total lack of resources for dealing with that pain, and the responses I received were invaluable in helping me overcome some of that frustration (advice on changing holds and being diligent about nipple creams was especially life-saving. I’m now at the stage where nursing feels less like having my bare nipples dragged over rough pavement and more like having them lightly sanded. Still painful, but tolerable.)

But when I wrote about that frustration – and the pain causing that frustration – the last thing that I wanted to do was discourage anyone from nursing their own babies. So when I read this comment – “Wow… I’m only 9 weeks preggers and a friend asked the other day if I’m planning to breastfeed… my answer was that I was planning to try… but holy shit – I think I’m now terrified by all the comments and your post itself…” – my heart broke a little bit. I don’t want to cause anyone to not breastfeed. Not just because breast is best blah blah blah, but because – once you get past the pain – and you do get past the pain, you really do – nursing provides some of that post-partum bliss that everyone promised but that in reality seems in such short supply.

I haven’t persevered with breastfeeding because it’s the healthiest option for my baby – that’s a bonus, of course, but having been a bottle-fed baby myself I know that formula-fed babies turn out just fine. Nor do I persevere because of some vague hope that breastmilk will magically confer extra IQ points or artistic genius or a scholarship to Harvard upon my child – I’d sacrifice one or two of my kid’s IQ points and risk condemning him to community college or trade school in order to avoid having my nipples torn off, no question. I’m selfish like that. So, no, I haven’t stuck with the nursing through all of the pain and frustration just because the medical establishment and La Leche League tell me that it’s what good mothers do. I’ve tried being a conventionally good mother, and have found that it’s much easier and nonetheless effective to just be a loving and devoted slacker mom, which is to say, I have no opposition in principle to formula and bottles.

I persevere in nursing, simply, because there is no sweeter joy than looking down upon my baby’s tiny, perfect head as he bends over the nipple and nestles there, his wee arm curling ’round the outer curve of my breast, grazing my skin with his impossibly tiny, impossibly soft fingers. Even as the pain pierces my chest and my tears splash upon his brow, the joy is there, the love is there, keeping my hand pressed upon his back and under his cheek, pulling him to me, ever closer, his gurgles and sighs and the sweet smell of his skin a balm for the pain. The knowledge that I can do this for him, that I can nourish him, that I can comfort him, that I can be all the warmth and comfort of the womb and then some, is balm for the pain and sunlight against any encroaching dark. This is why I nurse.

I know that it will get easier. I know that we will reach a point, he and I, when the force of his suckle will be met by the toughened strength of my breast and we will nourish each other in comfort. And I know that when it ends, inevitably, I will look past the weeks of past and frustration and fix my heart upon the sweetness and joy and mourn the passing of this precious, precious time.

This is why I nurse. This is why I hope that every mother makes the effort to nurse, that every mother has the chance to hold her baby to her breast at least once and know how sweet that effort.

But it would be a lie to say that that effort is anything other than what it is – an effort, one that is often painful beyond imagining.* I wish that I’d understood that before I undertook that effort the first time. This time, I know, and that knowledge is carrying me through the pain. It’s nonetheless painful, but it is a lot less emotionally draining this time around (the emotional drain comes from withstanding the boob pain while also struggling through the pain of shredded nethers and trying to wrangle a manic toddler on little food and even less sleep. That, nothing prepares you for.)

Painful beyond imagining, but oh so rewarding. That’s not just breastfeeding; that’s motherhood. It’s so worth the effort. It really is.

*Often, not always. As a number of commenters have reminded me, it’s not tough for everybody – some women cruise through breastfeeding with ease (the same is true of pregnancy, labor and childbirth – not everybody gets morning sickness, not everybody labors for hours and hours – or, as in my case, weeks – and not everybody delivers under extraordinary circumstances and sustains physical damage like I did). No two experiences of any aspect of motherhood are the same. Embrace your own, and do what you need to do to make the best of it, whatever it looks like. xo

21 Days

June 9, 2008
Nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing…

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.