Archive for September, 2008

Deep Into The Darkness

September 29, 2008

I’ve stopped keeping track of the time at night, even though a clock sits, ticking relentlessly, not three feet from the bed. In the day, I mark the time obsessively – this many minutes before the girl goes to preschool, this many minutes before she comes home, this many minutes until the boy should be ready to try another nap, this many minutes before he’ll probably wake up, the minutes counted like a miser’s pennies, added and subtracted, piling up and disappearing as I settle my accounts with daily chores and this persistent exhaustion. But at night, I avoid the clock, afraid to see the minutes and hours ticking by too quickly or too slowly, afraid to settle my accounts with my body, with the night.

Last night, however, the bill came due, and I was not prepared to settle up.

It was in one of those moments where the boundary between sleep and wakefulness is so blurred that you’re not sure whether you’re awake or dreaming – are you lucid while dreaming, or are you dreaming while awake? – is that a baby that you’re holding, or a kitten, or a bundle of straw? – is that crying you hear, or the wind, or music? – and I was groggy, confused, disoriented as I held my squirming baby in my arms. He fussed, breathing heavily through a stuffy nose, truffling for the breast and then pushing it away. He squirmed and kicked and protested and snuffled and grabbed and pushed and with every kick, every push of his fierce little legs and arms I struggled toward wakefulness, needing to be awake, needing my strength and my composure but wanting oh so badly to just let the darkness overtake me and to slide back into oblivion. But he wouldn’t let me, he was too uncomfortable, poor thing, hungry and snuffly and demanding, he would not let me let me go and he would not let this be easy and in a flash, in one moment, I felt the frustration course through me like a current and there it was, for a split-second – a split-second and an eternity all at once – ANGER – sharp and hot and as I felt the tears prick my eyes and a sob burble in my throat I was overwhelmed by the brief flash of an urge to just drop the baby, just drop him to the mattress and throw myself off the bed and stomp away into the night.

It was over almost as quickly as it had begun; the violence of the emotion woke me, woke me completely, and I froze – there’s no other word for it – with fear and I’m certain that if anyone had been watching at that moment they would have seen my eyes flash open, wide, and I caught myself, mid-breakdown, and stopped. I laid him down and pulled myself into the corner of the bed and took a breath. And was afraid.

It was just one moment, the briefest flash of a moment, but there it was. I had felt anger. I had wanted to shove my baby away from me. How close was I to wanting to shake him? How close? How close was I to becoming a monster, to crossing over from Mama Jekyll to Mother/Monster Hyde? I want to say that I was fine, that I am fine, that it was a completely understandable loss of emotional control that only lasted for a second and that I never, ever, would have actually just dropped him onto the mattress (and even then, such a soft mattress, so innocuous a fall, right? right?) and I hadn’t wanted to actually shake him, I hadn’t been angry at him, I was just tired, too tired, and it could happen to anyone and nothing would have happened and I’m fine.

But the fact is that no matter how brief that flash of uncontrolled emotion, it was uncontrolled; it was sharp and hot and angry and I no more want to risk exposing my baby, my little heart, to that anger than I would want to place his bassinet on a train track. Not even for a second.

So tomorrow we go to the doctor. Tomorrow I get some help. Pills, talk, anything: whatever it takes. I need some help with this, with the sleep, with the emotions running amok. Tomorrow I get some help.

Dear WestJet: Customer Service, UR DOIN IT RONG

September 29, 2008

WestJet – as you know if you saw the addendum to my last post – finally had something to say about the flurry of letters (including one from me) and posts concerning their policies on in-flight nursing after I was asked to cover up on one of their flights a few weeks ago, and damn if they didn’t manage to just make things just a little bit worse.

They did state – in direct contradiction to their first replies to some of you – that their policy is to never interfere with a nursing mother, and to not ask women to cover-up. Which: good. But they insisted upon prefacing that statement with a few pissy remarks concerning the blogosphere’s persistence in bitching about this matter which – according to them – occurred this past July and for which they’ve already apologized. So, hurray! The WestJet Owner Responsible For Placating All Those Stupid Complainers didn’t bother to read any of the letters or the posts or MY LETTER or MY POST addressing the incident involving ME in September – she just glanced at the screen and saw the word BREAST and assumed that it had something to do with something else from some other time – and decided to disregard. Which: awesome.

They suck. Am going to try to get an hour’s sleep or two before I decide whether or not I have sufficient energy to stay angry about this. You can find relevant links in the addendum to this post (just scroll to the bottom. I don’t even have the energy to put the extra links in here. AM SO DONE.)

Milk, It Does A Body Good

September 25, 2008

Dear PETA,

We here at the Society for the Control, Containment and Commodification of Women (CCCOW) were delighted to see your most recent press release proposing the replacement of cow’s milk with human breast milk in commercial dairy products such as ice cream. We have long argued that women best serve society in their natural capacity as nurturers, and what better way to nurture America than as providers of dairy and other commercially viable foodstuffs?

You state in your press release that human breast milk is nutritionally superior to cow’s milk for humans, and we suspect that this may be true. This corresponds to the scientific findings of our Research Team, which has also found that human babies prefer human mothers, and also that human women are sexually attractive to many human males. This has led us to support the idea that human beings organize themselves into Family Units, wherein the woman remains within the home, caring for babies and servicing the males. Your proposal, however, that women provide breastmilk for use in commercial dairy products leads us to consider the possibility that the “family” might be reconfigured to better reflect the needs of a changing market society, and women put to better use. Specifically, why not establish Woman Farms, wherein women are kept and used for breeding purposes and for the purposes of supplying dairy for America’s food supply?

We have not yet worked out the logistics of such a program, but we imagine that it would be possible to remove human babies from their herded mothers and feed the babies with formula (which Science has proven to be comparable in nutritional value to breastmilk, and far more economically viable as a foodstuff for babies, if breastmilk is to be diverted into the marketplace), so that lactating mothers can be milked for the greater good of the American Economy, and cows released back into the wild (we propose that they be released in Alaska, where they will no doubt restore themselves to the ecosystem by becoming foodstuffs for polar bears and additional hunting quarry for Alaska’s political elite, which will itself be a more balanced system once voided of women.) Dairy farmers of America need not suffer – a simple transfer program of cows for women (exact ratio to be determined, based upon productivity of lactating women as compared to cows and potential market value of human breastmilk over cows milk) and a government-funded transition program to educate farmers on the care and feeding of women, as well as some funding for equipment adaptation (we understand that breast pumps are less technically sophisticated than milking equipment, but very probably less durable), and so we believe that farmers will weather the transition easily.

We believe that our proposal is more ethical and better suited to the wellbeing of both human and cowkind than the current, inefficient and immoral system of using cows as sources of dairy for human consumption: women are natural producers of milk for human consumption, and – if contemporary popular culture is to be believed, as we think it is – are happy in the state of pregnancy and lactation so long as they are kept supplied with Frappuccinos (blended with soy or formula, of course, the better to avoid Maternal Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Mom Disease) and given regular pedicures and steady exposure to Entertainment Tonight and People Magazine. They will be happy to be contribute to the economy in this way, and will no doubt be glad to have played some small part in liberation of cowkind.

We hope that you will support CCCOW in this endeavor, as we believe that the CCCOW vision for a prosperous and ethical America corresponds with your own.*

We expect to hear from you soon!

Yours Sincerely,

William “Bull” Crapperton, Jr.
Media Relations, CCCOW

*Ben & Jerry’s is refusing to support our initiative, but we do currently enjoy the support of the Bovine Liberation Front and the NRA. Please consider lending your support!

*******

Where we stand on sleep chez HBM: there is none. The problem, at the moment, is this – I am single-parenting at the moment. The husband is working very long hours, such that he is only home for a few hours at night and can’t spell me off. I gave Behemoth Baby some rice cereal last night, which seemed to help – he slept for about five hours, from 8pm to 1am, but I was so buzzed from lack of sleep and a day spent knocking back espressos that I couldn’t settle during those hours. I fell asleep close to midnight, only to be awoken an hour later, and then every hour on the hour thereafter.

WHAT DO I DO?

I need to survive until end of day tomorrow, when the husband is back. How do I make it until then?

******

Also, Gwyneth Paltrow can just zip it, please and thank you.

******

Westjet has finally responded – in a comment to my original post (scroll waaaay down to here). Note that they get the incident wrong – they think that I’ve written about something that happened to another woman back in July. They assert that they’ve ‘already apologized’ for the incident. Which, no you did not, twits. I had no response to my original e-mail to them, and they clearly didn’t read any of your letters, nor did they read either of the posts, because THEY THINK WE’RE WRITING ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE THAT HAPPENED TO SOMEONE ELSE. It actually made me freaking cry because, are you serious? Am too tired to shout at them to pay (expletive) attention.

I just want an apology, even just some evidence that they pay a little (expletive) attention when a customer gets (expletive) upset. But am too (expletive) tired to deal with this right now. I hate everything right now. BAH.


Endymion’s Sleep

September 23, 2008

I have lost count of the numbers of days and nights it’s been since I last had more than one hour of sleep at a stretch. Day and night have lost the crisp edges of their distinction: day blurs into night which blurs into day which blurs into night again and so on and so on and so on, without sleep. Day is brighter, night quieter, but it is otherwise difficult to tell them apart. Because at all hours of both day and night, there is this child, ravenous and growing, clinging to me, squirming against me or alongside me, always hungry, always growing, nursing longer than he sleeps.

I am long past delerium. I’m caught somewhere between wakefulness and sleepiness, in some strange purgatory that holds me with my eyes open, my heart open, my mind closed and dark. I can see and feel but I cannot think; my head feels covered in thick gauze, a shroud.

My heart remains open, awake. His gurgles and coos still make me smile. Even in a state of utter exhaustion, I feel love. I feel love. But I feel anxiety, too, when I try to leave the room, the better to attempt a longer, uninterrupted stretch of sleep. I feel anxiety when I hear him begin to stir and grumble and fuss. Anxiety for him, anxiety for me. I pad back into the bedroom and curl up next to him, pulling him to my breast and resigning myself to wear this heavy cloak of exhaustion, resigning myself to its pull and drag and yet still managing to smile, weakly, in the dark, when my boy sighs contentedly and grips my finger with his tiny fist.

I love him so, I love caring for him so, but still. I am so, so tired.

Sometime this morning, in the very early morning, when the light had yet to break over the horizon but its promise was there in the chattering of birds and the faint sounds of an occasional car pulling out into the quiet streets, the cloak engulfed me while I sat nursing. It covered me in its flat, heavy darkness and everything disappeared for a while, I don’t know how long, until I startled awake to find the boy next to me, wrapped in his blankets, sleeping soundly, away from my breast and I shook, afraid, having no memory of having pulled him away from my breast, of having swaddled him and laid him down, of having drifted off. I was afraid, because the distinctions between day and night and light and dark and asleep and awake were no longer just blurry, but entirely obscured. When had I stopped nursing, when had he fallen back asleep, when had I laid him down? What if I had fallen, dropped him?

Is it a miracle that I can mother in my sleep, or is it a terrible thing that I sleep while mothering? Endymion slept an eternity with his eyes open, ever-watchful, never losing sight of his beloved; I am not Endymion.

It is daytime now, and the boy sleeps – for half of an hour, maybe, or three-quarters, if I’m lucky – and I fight sleep, knowing that I must be awake when he wakes, knowing that I can’t bear the feeling of being dragged back from the point of unconsciousness just when it has begun to overtake me. Knowing that I can’t bear the idea of not being dragged back from that point when he wakes. Knowing that I can’t be, I mustn’t be asleep on the job.

So I sit here, awake, praying for sleep, praying against sleep, knowing that this cannot last.

Duodecade

September 22, 2008


Twelve years ago, today, we married. Twelve years ago today, we were only two, but we held our future in our hearts and we knew that it was bigger, so much bigger, than we two.

Twelve years later, we hold our future in our arms; we clutch our two to our chests and marvel at how we have grown, how our hearts have grown, how our life has grown, how it continues to grow.


Our future is so much bigger, so much bigger than we can know.

(This is the only photo in existence of the four of us together. Which, I know, is shameful. We need, I think, to get our asses to Sears Portrait Studio. Otherwise we may need to resort to this again.)

Nobody, Not Even The Rain, Has Such Small Hands

September 19, 2008


The best part, the most beautiful part, of the earliest days and weeks with baby is this: the hands. The tiniest hands, the little seashell fingers, curled into fists, shoved into wet pink mouths. If I remember nothing else of my babies as they grow, I want to remember their hands. Their tiny, perfect little hands, clutching at my soul, squeezing my heart. Nothing compares to this, nothing.

I will hold these hands for an eternity. I will hold these hands for an eternity, and never forget how tiny they once were, how delicate, how small.

I love these hands.

******

For Kristen and Rebecca, who will be holding tiny hands again, soon. Take part in their virtual baby shower HERE. (I wish now that I’d saved this post for today, to dedicate to my friends, but then again, it was maybe a bit too melancholy. Still. Maybe I should just say that tout le HBM is dedicated to these fine mothers/writers/friends today…)

(And these… Amy – who will be holding new baby hands soon – and for Alice and Tania – who are already holding those hands. More babies, more hands, more love.)

Forever Young

September 17, 2008

I’ve lost count of how many times in the last two and three-quarter years I’ve heard these words: they grow up so fast. I’ve heard it a lot. As of today, I’ve heard it a lot plus one. Today, I heard it again. A neighbor leaned over Jasper as I pushed him along in his stroller and uttered the familiar refrain. My, they grow up so fast.

Jasper is not quite four months old. There are foodstuffs forgotten at the back of our freezer that are older than he is. To look at him and think, my, how fast they grow! is extraordinary. But it’s true. He’s almost doubled in size since he was born. He bears no more resemblance to the squawling newborn that he was four months ago than he does to his any of his sister’s toy dolls. He’s a completely different child. That thrills and terrifies me.

It thrills me, obviously, because it’s exciting to watch them grow, to see them unfurl from their fetal huddle and open, like fat little flowers unfolding toward the sun. It’s thrilling to watch as their fingers begin to grab and clutch, to listen as their gurgles turn into giggles and coos. It’s amazing to watch them turn into little people. But it’s terrifying, too. It’s terrifying because with every passing moment of growth and transformation, with every step taken toward the person who will be, I lose the baby that was.

I look at baby Jasper and thrill at his adorable baby-ness; the curve of his cheek, the soft pout of his smile, the way that his eyes crinkle when he’s snuggled in at the breast and tries to grin with a mouthful of boob. I look at baby Jasper and I wonder, what ever became of that other baby, that first baby, the baby that I snuggled and rocked and nursed two years ago? Whatever became of the baby Emilia, my Wonderbaby? Why can I not remember her perfectly, when I tried so hard to commit every curve and roll and fold of her baby self to memory, so that I wouldn’t forget? Why is the memory of that baby so utterly obliterated by the force of her two-and-three-quarter year old self?

I look at Jasper and I miss Emilia. I look at him and miss her, even though she sits not two feet away from me, nursing her own baby, telling her own stories. I look at him and even though I can see something of her there, even though I can remember something of what it felt like to hold her just this way, to stroke her cheek just like that, those memories remain just out of reach and that child, the baby-child that she once was, remains lost.

The force of that loss feels all the stronger, having recently visited my sixteen-year-old nephew on his sickbed and been confronted by both the fact of his undeniable teenageness and the fact of the diminishment of that teenageness through illness: there he was, all six-feet-something of him swaddled in hospital blankets like a baby and all I could think was, where has he gone? The teenager replaced the baby boy in him and the sick child replaced the teenage boy and I was left there, just holding his hand, missing him, willing him to open his big green eyes so that I could see his heart, the thing that is constant in him, the thing that is constant in all these children that we love, these beings who will grow and change and leave their littler selves behind. The heart, after all, remains the same, even as they grow and change or – gods forbid – become ill and diminished in illness. And so we mouth platitudes about clinging to their hearts.

It is their hearts – Emilia’s heart, Jasper’s heart – that hold me, that bind me to them, that keep me rooted to their sides, loving them and watching them grow. But the little bodies that contain those hearts… aaaah, those I love, and have loved, too. And I miss them as they pass into memory. Their tiny hands, their tiny feet, their wee proud bellies cresting above bloated diapers as they lay giggling on the floor, squirming away from me as I blow wet raspberry kisses and make silly faces and clutch at their fat, ticklish legs. That was Emilia then, that is Jasper now, that will all soon be memory, fragile memory, the kind that lingers just out of reach, like smoke or mist, dissipating in the very moment that you reach out to touch it. Dissipating, disappearing.

I look at him and I miss her; I look at him and I miss him, because I know that he’ll be gone soon, the little him who I clutch in my arms, nuzzle and nurse, to be replaced by a bigger, faster, sturdier him who will race away from me, faster, further. Just like her.

I miss them, my children. I miss them even though I hold them close.

Is this why a parent’s love always dances on the razor’s edge of heartbreak?

*******

Still no word from WestJet. No word at all. So much for customer service.

The CBC video of my interview is now online and posted over at BlogHers Act Canada. Also check out Defining Someday’s Breastfeeding Without Blankets Blog Carnival – she’s rounded up a bunch of posts on this topic (let her know if you have one to add). And if you have a look at the trackbacks on both of my breastfeeding posts, you’ll see links to more really awesome posts on the subject. Do check them out – and let me know if you write your own.

Good News Is Like Sunshine And Candy, Without The Sunburn And Tummy Ache

September 15, 2008

Zachary has been released from the hospital. He’s still very seriously limited in his mobility – he still needs to learn to walk again, to teach himself some things that his nervous system used to manage automatically – and there are some concerns about permanent damage that are a little distressing, but end of the day, this is really good news. He’s officially out of the darkest part of the woods. He’s home.

And my heart is beating a little easier. A lot easier.

Thank you, all. Thank you thank you thank you. Your good wishes and prayers made all the difference.

Bare Your Boobs In The Air! Like You Just Don’t Care!

September 12, 2008

Yes, I am still going on about my boobies. Such are the risks of reading a blog written by a lactating mother: I can and will subject you to my reflections on the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. And this WestJet debacle? Falls into the category of trial.

WestJet has begun responding to the letters that so many of you have written on my behalf – no, they have not responded to me nor been in touch with me directly – and the gist* of their response is this:

Dear Unhappy Person,

Please to accept this form letter that we have cut and pasted from the form letter that we sent out when the last unhappy person complained about our ‘cover up your icky nursing boobies plz’ policy on in-flight nursing. Note that we have not even bothered to change names in these letters, such that they refer only to the last incident and not to the one about which you complain. We are paying no attention to this most recent incident, as we believe that we adequately explained ourselves the last time – we know that some people find boobies dirty and offensive and we are concerned to ensure that those people are kept comfortable, which is why we urge nursing mothers to cover their nasty boobies while they nurse on our planes – and have not bothered to pretend otherwise.

Thank you for flying WestJet! Where federal and provincial human rights codes do not apply!

Yours,

Random WestJet Owner Who Is Assigned To Deal With Annoying Customers Who Are Probably Communists And Also Maybe Perverts, Wanting To Show Their Boobies Like That.

Which, you know, makes me angry.

So now I want you to send them letters. Angry letters. Contact information is at the bottom of the original post here. And/or blog about it/write about it/pass the story along. This just sucks – again, pun only loosely intended – so much, for all of the reasons that I’ve outlined in the past.

I’m just so sick and tired of this. I just want to be able to nurse my baby without being confronted by society’s stupid issues about boobs. I want society to get over those issues, at least when it comes to nursing boobs. I want to feel empowered when I nurse, not shamed. And I want my daughter and my son – all our daughters and sons – to see that that’s how it should be.


F*ck the blanket.

* The above is my translation of their letter, which is the exact same letter sent to people who complained about an incident that occurred last month – right down to the name of the person involved.

The Not So Friendly Skies

September 12, 2008

Even though there has been, from the evidence in my in-box, a planeload of e-mails sent to WestJet asking for explanation of their policies on in-flight nursing, I haven’t received a response. There’s been absolutely no word from WestJet.

I’ll just keep waiting, I guess. In the meantime, if you’re inclined to join the chorus, here’s the contact info for their media representative: Gillian Bentley, Media Relations, e-mail: gbentley@westjet.com. (If you do send a mail, let me know if you get a response.)

Me, I need to spend a few days getting back to happy, which means running off to the woods with my husband and children, a stack of books, some chocolate and more than a little vodka. You know, the usual.

As always (and it is, indeed, always), thank you, all, for having my back. It makes all the difference in the world.