Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bearing Arms

I never knew that arms could be so complicated. They are if you’re a baby. Arms in the womb are squished in there. They become immovable as the baby grows. That’s why newborns like being swaddled; their arms held tightly against their bodies like the good ol' days. Babies do grow out of this stage. But the big question is what to do with the arms. I’ve queried Google, as have many others. Apparently, it’s a big topic. Parents experiment with one arm in the swaddle and the other out as a transition. Some suggest sewing up the arms of a sleep sack, leaving just enough movement. George and I decided to go cold turkey. And, yes, the arms have been complicated. I put Claire in the co-sleeper on her back asleep. At first, her tiny hands knit together tightly on her chest. I imagine her in the womb in a similar position. As she drifts off, her arms slowly creep down her sides. The more relaxed she becomes the quicker they begin to slide and gain momentum. Bam! They hit the sheet and wake her up! With a bit of coaxing from the pacifier, she's back asleep. Sometimes, we repeat this process a few times, but not a big deal. It gives me time to think about how hard it is to be so little, with so much that is new. Even an appendage to your own body is something to confront. Claire has been up for every challenge, so far. That’s something equally touching about babies. Plus, after a few rounds, I get the great pleasure of seeing her spread out in all her glory, complete with snoring.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baby Lessons...

I had a dream late in my pregnancy that I gave birth to what I called “the Big Buddha Baby”. In the dream, Claire came out fully formed, chubby and smiling.

I found my dream funny because I had read that some women dream of giving birth to babies with green heads or to animals like fish. And that the cause of this psychedelic dreaming is fear of the unknown and anxiety about giving birth. My dream was quite optimistic, not normally like me.

I also thought that the dream couldn’t possibly be prophetic, because babies generally come out scrawny, misshapen and not so happy to greet the world. With the exception of the smiling part, Claire did look a lot like the baby in my dream, weighing 8 pounds 6 ounces and with a full shock of hair. She continues to be at the 85 percentile of weight for her age, and the size of her belly is only matched by the roundness of her cheeks.

But her Buddha-like qualities go beyond the physical. I’ve had several people ask me if Claire is on a schedule yet. I am so perplexed by this question that I don’t know how to answer. She is fully in the moment. Instead of me training her to be on a schedule, she is teaching me to be in the present. There are times when I’m holding her, and she’s just fallen asleep. I quickly start making a list in my head of all the things that I’m going to do while she’s out (most are very exotic, from doing the dishes, to checking my email or going to the bathroom)…

She wakes up. “Wait, I’ve just gotten her to sleep! What about all those things I’d planned?” I think. If I’m not careful, my expectations become more important than being with my baby. Sometimes, I get so ahead of myself, I’m sure I can predict the future.

Claire usually finds a way to surprise me. George will come home late at night and I will say pessimistically, “I’ve tried everything to get her to sleep and I’ve been at it for over two hours”. He’ll reach out for her and say, “Here, let me try”. She’ll be asleep in five minutes. “Wait! I just tried the same thing. It didn’t work!” Would I rather be right or have her asleep at midnight? The latter, for sure.

Of course, there are things that need to get done. But I can get lost in my own head thinking about this problem or that. Suddenly, I look down at Claire in my arms and she is beaming a radiant smile at me. Her bright blue eyes are piercing me, while her nose crinkles. Then, her mouth forms a circle and, wide-eyed, eyebrows raised, she let’s out an “Ooh!” in my direction.

That moment contains a lifetime of fulfillment. I almost missed it.

Connect with: Bloglovin'FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Jowo Sakyamuni, Flickr

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bush Babies and Birthdays

It’s Claire’s birthday today! Today, she turns three-months old. I know it sounds like a milestone that only a mom would find significant. You’re thinking why should I read on? But, wait! There’s reason for Claire’s three-month birthday to be honored across the land. Three months marks the end of the fussy period.

I’ve mentioned before that baby experts don’t find consensus on much. They do agree that fussiness starts at around four weeks, peaks around eight and wanes by 12. The experts also proffer that the non-stop grind of crying impacts parents more than babies. Evidently, babies are like machines, designed to cry with maximum efficiency for the first few months. One theory is that, back in the caveman day, it was a necessity for a baby who’s been abandoned in the bush to cry loud enough to be rescued by a passerby.

It sounds good, but I’d imagine that the baby would have been abandoned because of the loud crying in the first place. Also, it doesn’t explain why the crying continues after the passerby has rescued the baby. And then wouldn’t that continually crying baby lead to a second trip to the bush and so on and so on? That leaves us with the bush baby on his third set of parents, crying non-stop. The experts have many explanations for the endlessness of fussiness too -- from gas, to an immature nervous system, to inability to put themselves to sleep, to parents just not quite having the hang of what to do with a fussy baby. They don’t quite know why. Next, parent number five of the bush baby wants to know how to fix the fussiness. The most consistent piece of advice leads us back to the original idea. It lasts for 12 weeks; wait for it to be over.

So Claire's birthday is today, not 20,000 B.C, and her one and only parents have waited it out! Of course, Claire still cries. But now it’s measured in minutes, rather than hours. And it’s for four or five discrete reasons that I can usually remedy. So “Happy Birthday, Claire”! Your parents have reason to celebrate. Just not too loud.

Photo Source: Brazzouk, Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Buyer's Remorse

children's store

It must have been a riot watching George and I shop for stuff for Claire before she was born. As first time parents, we found ourselves with none of what we needed to purchase. If I see a skirt I like, chances are I have a top to match at home. That new couch will probably need to match our Oriental rug. With a new baby, you start from scratch. You walk down the aisles of Babys R Us pitching items into your cart left and right. And if you aren’t careful, you get that momentum going and end up with a baby food maker by Remco and 50 pairs of baby socks. Or you get sidetracked by the cuteness factor and buy a wool jacket that will fit her in August.

Another challenge is buying stuff for an unknown entity. I heard the following question from my husband over and over again, “Are we going to need that?” My repeated response was “I don’t know. I’ve never had a baby”. There are many head-scratchers that begin with the words “how many” or “what size”. How many receiving blankets? What size diapers? How long will she be in newborn clothes? Like the proverbial trying to read the instructions outside of the box you’re in, it’s all a big mystery.

A good piece of advice is to keep receipts. I doubt there is a more prolific return aisle than the one at Babys R Us. If you don’t, you will end up with what George calls “The Land of Forgotten Toys”. He was good about keeping the receipts, but then returning stuff turned into a job. And there is no need for another job when you have a newborn. We had piles of things that needed to be packed in their boxes, boxes cluttering the hallway, lists made of replacement items. The result of conversations that started or ended with something like this: That’s the second swing that’s made her cry. Why did we buy so many sheets? Who conned us into thinking we needed a (fill in the blank)?

As she gets older and we get wiser, we have become much more strategic. We still play the “how many diapers will she use before she grows out of that size” game. But we’ve gotten pretty good at it, and we know where to buy the cheapest ones (Amazon). The basics are checked off our list. I have the next size clothes folded and ready to go. I’m pleased to report that we spend less time as consumers and more as parents to a happy, beautiful and growing girl.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Anniversary

“Our anniversary’s coming up,” George says. “First was paper. What’s second?”

“Poop,” I say cheekily.

George laughs.

“It’s cotton…Seriously, can we skip the gifts this year?” I say, daunted by the thought of coming up with a decent gift made of cotton.

George jokes, “Get me a pack of tube socks from Apu.” (Apu is the nice man who sells socks outside the corner deli.)

“I’ll take a few more nursing bras,” I laugh.

“Ah, the bloom is off the rose,” George says with a flourish.

“Really, Claire is our gift this year,” I say wistfully.

“She’s not made of cotton,” George says.

“She makes a lot of poop. Let’s stick with poop,” I say.

“The bloom is truly off the rose…”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Did I just say that?

1) I was burping her and she pooped on me.

2) Is it ok if I take a shower?

3) Stop chewing your gum so loud. You’ll wake her up.

4) I’ll need seven minutes to get ready.

5) Was that a fart or poop?

6) The hairdryer put her to sleep.

7) I need to start pumping for Wednesday.

8) If I wear her, maybe she’ll go to sleep.

9) What are the words to Humpty Dumpty?

10) Do I have breastmilk on this shirt? (said by my husband)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Not surprisingly, childbirth was painful. Surprisingly, I have found something that's a close second to having a child. I hate Relaxin. No, not relaxing with a g or even relaxin’ -- I’m talkin' 'bout the hormone produced during pregnancy called Relaxin. It’s what lets the square peg called a baby fit through the round hole. Basically, it softens inflexible parts, like the pelvis. Unfortunately, Relaxin isn’t smart enough to know your pelvis from your elbow. The result of its long arm is that my feet throb. I have a perpetual crick in my neck. The other day, I was closing a window and felt a strange pull on the side of my knee – yes, of all places, my knee. What’s more, Relaxin shifts parts around to make space for the baby in your belly. The aftermath of which is that I now have a rib spread thing that reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting, Figure With Meat. Talk about a strange battle scar. I feel old, creaky and misshapen. Worst of all, Relaxin has been a constant companion since eight months of pregnancy and is said to remain true until six months after delivery. It hangs around to undo the damage it’s done. I guess I should be happy that the ribs might have a second chance, but it’s just strange to stick around to clean up the battlefield. Labor lasted a mere seven and a half hours. It did go from 0 to 60 very quickly, but it was also over very quickly. Relaxin doesn’t rank high for intensity of pain, but it does win the prize for endurance. The other thing about labor is that you get a very big (or very small depending how you look at it) pay off at the end of it. At the end of Relaxin… well, I hope for some relief. But I don’t know yet. Check back with me in three months…

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Claire and Lloyd the Cat

When we brought Claire home, we didn’t know what to expect from our two cats, Lloyd and Sofia. Remember those two scary Siamese cats from The Lady and the Tramp? They had me pretty paranoid. Maybe our cats would covet her things. Or worse, attack her. Perhaps both.

We readied ourselves by doing all of the things that the experts advise. Some of the recommendations border on weird, like putting contact paper in the Moses basket and co-sleeper because cats don't like sticky feet. Who knew?

After all that preparation, their reaction to her was actually pretty hilarious. Lloyd and Sofia immediately and utterly feared our infant daughter. This little thing, under 9 pounds, they were afraid of her. Lloyd was twice her size. They were instantly wary of her limbs flailing with no predictability. Her cries would send them racing to the other side of the room to huddle in a corner.

We began referring to her as “the creature” in an ominous tone, whenever the cats cowered from her sight.

Now, Sofia has warmed up to indifference. But Lloyd, the friendlier feline companion, has become cautiously curious. Claire, for her part, doesn’t seem to know the cats are here. I find it funny that she can spend hours looking at an inanimate object like the living room curtains, but doesn’t notice that Lloyd, aka Mr. Sniff, is checking her out.

Recently, George and I have been taking it upon ourselves to let Claire and Lloyd know that they have a lot in common. They really should be fast friends, because they both:

1) Enjoy a homogeneous diet.

2) Must have access to their homogeneous diet at all times.

3) Have big bellies from ready access to their homogeneous diet.

4) Spend a lot of time sleeping.

5) Spend a lot of time waking people up in the middle of the night.

6) Sleep during the day as it’s tiring keeping people up in the middle of the night.

7) Enjoy sleeping in the Moses basket.

8) Like chew toys and noisemakers.

9) Appreciate mother-ese.

10) Don’t understand English.

11) Think they are speaking perfect English.

12) Are loved by their mama and papa.

13) Know their mama and papa love them, even though they don’t understand English.

Still Smokin'

Unlike Bill Clinton, my baby has inhaled. Before you go calling Child Services on me, let me explain. Any walk through a New York City park will mean contending with illicit activities. Most of them are done within a cloak of darkness or behind a bush or tree. No one is the wiser. Pot smoke, though, refuses to hide itself. Its vapor seeks out friends – the ultimate social drug.

For one obvious (bundle of joy) reason, it pisses me off. I find it ironic that on the heels of the cigarette smoking ban in NYC public parks, marijuana smoking continues. According to a NY1 story, there are 1700 parks and a meager 175 park enforcement officers. That means depending on people to self-police, which is laughable in NYC.

I’m actually for the legalization of marijuana--with the qualifier that it’s done behind closed doors, not behind a bush or tree. I’m angry that public air space that should be shared equally is usurped for behavior that could potentially harm innocent bystanders. Don’t get me started on the exhaust from idling motors.

Sometimes NYC and motherhood are completely incompatible. Good thing that NYC and complaints about NYC have always gone hand in hand.

Photo Source: Tomasz Steifer, Gdansk, Wikipedia Commons

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vestibular Shmibular

Developmental movement specialists would call Claire a “pre-crawler” -- no longer just a baby…a “pre-crawler”.

I have learned this term because we are taking her to a pre-crawler class next week. As an elementary special educator, I know the importance of crawling. It supports development of something called “crossing the midline”, which is valuable for all kinds of skills from writing to throwing a ball (Google the term for loads of information.)

My work as a teacher has taught me many things about encouraging a child’s development – to the point of paralysis. Claire spends a lot of time sleeping. I spend a lot of time getting her to sleep. I have a general lack of sleep. There's no time to do all of the things recommended to promote her development.

For example, the pre-crawler guy just told me that Claire should be spending most of her time on her tummy. Similarly, other developmental movement specialists warn against excessive car seat use and what’s termed “assisted sitting”. I don’t know how to reconcile these opinions with the recommendation that she sit face to face with us to encourage speech development and social skills. Or the advice of babywearing advocates that we carry her to stimulate the vestibular system -- a somatic, sensory system that helps us balance and move through space (another term you could look up).

Our parents like to point out that they had none of this information and we turned out just fine, thank you very much. I’m not exactly sure how we came out, but I’m beginning to agree that the information age may be more appropriately called the age of anxiety. What about just plain having fun with your baby? That’s what I plan on doing with Claire at the pre-crawler class.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Code Name: One-Handed Mama.

[Underscore: Theme from Mission: Impossible.]

NYC - 1:30AM

A stirring, a whimper…infiltrates my sleep. I shake myself awake. Quick, grab a binky; there’s little time before it becomes full wail. I fumble through the night for her mouth and listen for the sucking sound. Done; time to adjust to the darkness and assess current conditions. Situation uncovered – Claire has broken out of her swaddle. Suddenly, her right arm juts straight out of the swaddle over her head. Previous recon suggests that this stretch is a wake up move. Split second decision: let go of the binky and risk its release to the mattress or readjust the swaddle? No time to think. One hand holds the bink, while the other works to stop the stretch. I lower her arm to her side. The swaddle is readjusted around her. She settles in to binking. Mission accomplished. Night waking averted. The swaddle, though... It’s a makeshift job with one hand. “Will it hold ‘til morning?” I wonder, as we both drift off to sleep.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ode to Tim Gunn

She is asleep on my chest. I turn on the TV; volume is low. She stirs. “Please, just this once. Be still. The season premiere of Project Runway is on”, I whisper. She settles down again. Claire is out. Evidently, Raphael is out too. Auf Wiedersehen, Raphael.

George wants me to give up trash TV. Trash TV is his term, not mine. I don’t consider Project Runway to be trash TV…any more than TV is trashy in general. It’s not like I’m watching the Kardashians or something. Although, I do confess an enjoyment of Celebrity Rehab. I tell George that I will end my addiction to reality shows when he quits the Internet and soda. He says that’s fine with him and calls my bluff. I really don’t mean it. I recently wrote a blog called “Genetic Dice”, in which I worried about how poor genes could play out in Claire. Now comes the anxiety about how our bad habits will influence her. I have read that the experts say children should not watch television before the age of two, at the earliest. We plan on following these recommendations. Studies have shown that the flashing lights and quick cuts can over stimulate the brain, among other things. The tube is an enticing medium, for sure. Lately, we have caught Claire watching shows in the reflection on the glass of pictures. I find myself wondering what other parents do. Get rid of the TV? Only watch when the baby is asleep? Stick with Channel 13? Just give in? Right now, though, she is too young to notice the TV. Or we turn her away from it. I guess I better get my love affair with Tim Gunn over while I can.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stay at home, Mom

When Claire turned two months, I stopped and did some inventory. I realized that I had not been out of the house without her. There was the occasional trip to the doctor’s office or the grocery store, but that doesn’t count. Something had to change or I was going to go insane. I told George, and we picked a date for me to be off-duty. I was flooded with all the possibilities of things to do. Just imagine what you do in your free time and times that number by two months. So the day arrives…I decide to take a nap! A four hour, delicious nap – my dream-life restored! The experts say to sleep when your baby sleeps. That day, I definitely slept like a baby!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...