Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On 2011

“Another year older…and what have you done?” That line from the John Lennon Christmas Carol always gets to me, as was surely intended. This year I retorted triumphantly, “I pushed a baby out of my body without meds. Imagine that, John!” I felt unusually satisfied with myself. It was nice for a change.

While I was pregnant, George’s friend Heather told me that giving birth made her feel powerful. I asked her how long she rode that high. I anticipated that a few sleepless nights marked its demise. Instead she said, “well, let’s see…my son’s nine, so I guess nine years.” Wow, way to go Heather!

Most times, I just find motherhood to be humbling. On a daily basis, I confront new things that don’t always have easy solutions. As my husband would say, “there are no tidy truths” in parenting. The act of giving birth has not changed that reality.

There are moments of invincibility, though. Usually, pushing seems to be the part of labor that comes back to me. With pushing, there’s control. Not so with contractions. People compare the pain of contractions to a wave. They come whether you like it or not. You have no choice but to ride them out. You ride some better than others, and that’s just how it goes for many hours. On the other hand, pushing is the active part of labor. It's the time when you really take charge. You can decide how long or how hard to push. Ostensibly, you could decide not to push at all (although probably not advisable). It was the only time during my labor that I said, “I can’t!” It was also the only time the two midwives yelled back at me, “Yes you can!” -- my faith renewed because of their special knowledge of how this was supposed to go; my strength bolstered as I was initiated into a long line of women who had been assisted by them and others like them along this journey.

Still, my tete-a-tete with John Lennon is hardly transcendent. There’s another one about channeling birthing energy to help along an anemic workout, but, really, who cares? When I look at Claire it’s a different story though. I look at her and am in awe of the fact that I made her. I look at her and think, wow, that was a lot of work. I look at her and think it was worth every second. I know the sacrifice I am willing to make for her, because I have already given more than I thought possible. I know the lengths I will go for my daughter, because I have gone beyond my limits before. The power of giving birth has taught me most of all about how to love.

Photo Source: Yuval Y, Wikipedia Commons

Friday, December 16, 2011

Because It's Good for You!

Claire woke up a wreck at 3AM last night gagging on post-nasal drip. The sound coming out of her nose alternated between a whistle and a death rattle. George and I got to work on it with baby saline solution and that weird bulb designed to extract baby snot. Lloyd the cat supervised, as Claire looked at us like “Et tu, Brute?” and started howling.

In a couple of minutes, she settled down and rivers of evidence made it clear that our work was fruitful. However, it was also clear that Claire didn’t feel a bit of gratitude for our efforts.

We have enjoyed many awesome firsts in the recent months – smiling, laughing and babbling. My personal favorite is watching Claire crawl commando style across the living room floor to ambush a sleeping Lloyd.

But last night’s adventure with sinuses, was one of the first firsts that we did not greet with relish. Her first cold was also part of a bigger recent trend; one I will call the “It’s for your own good” phase, also known as “She doesn’t know any better”.

This nascent period finds us at odds with Claire, vainly attempting to explain to her that we have the moral high ground. The encounters like last night seem tailor-made for the phrase “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you”. Of course, like with all children, this truism makes little difference to Claire.

There are other situations where I imagine people like the Godfather or Dr. Phil superseding. I see Claire on Brando’s lap…“Work with me here. You know your parents have to change your diaper”. The Don would be no match for her, however.

Her lack of cooperation in some endeavors is just plain mind-boggling to me…“Why can’t I wipe your nose? Doesn’t it feel better not to have snot running down your face?” She looks at me like “First of all, I don’t need to explain a thing to you and second, why are you assaulting me?”

Try telling her that the computer wires aren’t edible or that no good has ever come from pulling a cat’s tail. No matter, though, because she wants what she wants, and her parents are the ones thwarting her best laid plans.

Right now, distraction works wonders, so there’s no lasting line in the sand. I can usually give her a Kleenex to tear up and she’s right as rain.

I know we are a short trip to “eat your peas” and have a ways to go before “it’s past your curfew”. Those challenges will surely be more complicated. I don’t know which is harder: the battles themselves or the fact that she just doesn’t understand. Of course, there will come a day when she will be 100% sure that, without a doubt, we don’t understand either.

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Photo Source: Nasal Spray, Wikipedia

Monday, December 12, 2011

Image is Everything

I bought a Groupon for a photo book and had the daunting task of whittling down thousands of photos of Claire to fit on 20 pages. When eyestrain and carpal tunnel began settling in, I found myself wondering, “Did we really need to take twenty shots of her sleeping on August 24th?” The answer is, of course, yes, although it was clear that most of these duplicates weren’t going to make the final cut.

Putting digital repetition aside, difficult decisions still remained. Of course, we needed to include one of her first bath, and “Wow, do her eyes look blue in this one” preceded inclusion of way too many shots. What to do about the five really cute ones of her eating solid food for the first time? Each was a slight permutation of the other, each distinct and equally valuable. How to choose between them? I didn’t know. What I did know was that Andy Warhol truly was a prophet.

I managed to hone down the number to a streamlined 91 photos with many good ones ending up on the cutting room floor. Claire is the subject of all shots and about half are exclusively of her. I did a rough calculation and realized that George and I had taken approximately seven photos a day of Claire in the short six months since she has blessed us with her presence. That’s a lot, and I started to worry that we were aggrandizing our daughter. We live in a consumer culture desperate to turn my daughter into a false idol. I don’t want to add to the zeitgeist. Anyone remember Warren Beatty’s lacerating comment to Madonna in the “Truth or Dare” documentary? Something to the effect of “If the cameras weren’t on, you wouldn’t exist.” And that line was way before Youtube. Plus, if the focus is on preserving the moment, are we really in it? I want Claire to live her life not pose for it as if every event were a photo op.

Although hard to imagine, there was a time before cameras. For millennia, people probably had no memory of what they looked like as a baby or small child. That would surely change one’s self-concept, and I doubt in a good way.
There were portraits before cameras, but most are creepy – insipid, rosy cheeked Gainsboroughs or morose, oddly proportioned colonial babies. I don’t know which is worse. Yes, we’ve come a long way since Las Meninas, baby. And there’s surely no going back.
When I looked at the finished product, all of my concerns melted away anyway. The book is beautiful; my daughter is beautiful. We have a beautiful family. That’s what a parent is supposed to think, so media culture be damned. Most of all, the photos show Claire to be content and curious. They show a girl who is loved. I’m fine with repeating that over and over again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"When you're a boy..."

Have you heard of the Canadian couple that is raising their child gender-neutral? I’d imagine that if you found yourself in the elevator or the grocery store and innocently asked them, “boy or a girl?” you’d get an earful. It’s an easy story to joke about though. Mostly, it just seems like work to me. Parenting is a full enough experience without adding the extra complication of hiding a child’s identity.

On the other hand, I probably work equally hard to out Claire as a girl. I try to avoid the colors brown or blue altogether. We mainly have pink clothes anyway, but there is an occasional red or yellow mixed in there. If she wears one of these colors, I’m sure to signify her sisterhood with an accent of pink somewhere.

I didn’t expect to be this way. I didn’t expect to care. But there isn’t a day that goes by without someone referring to Claire in the masculine. Even when she’s screaming pink, people still think she’s a boy. Once when donning a dress, she got a “he” from someone! Maybe it’s because I’m privy to her private parts on a daily basis, but she just doesn’t look like a boy to me. It’s frustrating. George doesn’t like it either. When someone asks, “What’s his name?” George replies, “She’s named Claire” – with a distinct emphasis on the she bit.

I like boys just fine, and Claire doesn’t need to be girlie girl either. Toddlers and Tiaras isn’t in her future, and I’m sure Santa will put a toy truck or the like in her stocking this year. It’s just that I don’t want people to call her Bob, because that’s not her name. And I don’t want people to call her a boy, because she isn’t one. Unlike the Canadian couple, I am hoping that her true nature will become more outwardly apparent as she gets older. I’m really not a huge fan of pink anyway.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One half year.

Happy (half) Birthday, Claire! What a difference six months makes! What if you more than doubled your weight and grew a foot or so in a half-year’s time? It might be hard adjusting to your new body. You might just buckle under the weight of it all, literally and metaphorically.

Claire, on the other hand, has done it all with aplomb. Six months ago, she seemed trapped in a body not of her control. Her flailing arms scared her. Her hands clenched in perpetual fists. Her newborn frog legs curled into the fetal position, a muscle memory of the womb.

Now, her new physical form is taking her places it never has before. She grabs her toes and bangs on a piano, even tries to pull my lips off my face and eat computer wires.

I am in awe of my daughter. It’s a joy to see the world open up to her in new ways. What’s more amazing is that babies are in this constant state of change and motion. And they are na├»ve to the challenge of it all. They do not know what they do not know. It’s just what babies do. I find this notion inspiring. I think it’s high time I start acting like a baby.

Photo Source: Stu Baker, Flickr

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Smiles, everyone, smiles!

The same woman does all of the voice-overs for every musical toy on planet earth. Her voice is cheery and chipper, and probably of much better quality than the tinny toy speakers make it sound. She sings of incessant happiness and eternal sunshine. If by chance it did rain, I’m sure she’d be happy too – especially when she’s with you. Often times, she’s backed up by steel drums, in Caribbean-style arrangements of popular children’s songs. It’s as if life’s a perpetual vacation. If I weren’t breastfeeding or didn’t find the stridency so weary, I’d have the urge to join in with a margarita or two. Not really the vibe I want for my child. Right now, Claire doesn’t understand the words anyway. When she does, we’ll be sure to counter with Grimms’ Fairy Tales and some Billie Holiday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Doctor is In

Claire and I have been enjoying our developmental movement class. Each week, my daughter enjoys hanging out with other babies while listening to the ukulele. I like that Claire is the star of the class on her tummy – thus indulging a baser impulse in me to live through my child for the first time.

This weekly delight was sullied a bit, though, when the group leader asked why we’d all taken his class. Most of the moms talked about spending more time on tummies or rolling over. I launched into my background as a special education teacher. How I’ve seen everything from reading disorders to writing difficulties go hand in hand with delays in gross motor skills. I said I was taking the class because I wanted to make sure that I was supporting Claire’s development in this area.

The other moms were interested in what I had to say. Not Dr. Movement. Perhaps my answer was too intense for him or I took up too much time. Perhaps I stepped on his toes a bit. He started by letting me know that delays in gross motor skills don’t necessarily translate into academic struggles. Then he warned me that my deficit model philosophy as a special educator could cause me to look for problems in my daughter instead of celebrating her strengths.

His lecture rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t like to be lectured. I don’t like to be lectured in front of people. I don’t like to pay someone to lecture me. And, most importantly, he couldn’t have been more off base. I think Claire is just perfect, thank you very much. I am not worried about a deficit in her. I am certain the problem lies within me. Wait, so there’s the skewed philosophy…children are born perfect and their parents mess them up. I will be no different as a parent.

This belief of mine was surely born of the therapist-ridden culture of NYC. Everyone I know is either messed up by their parents, thrives in spite of them or has had years on the couch to get back to status quo. Unbeknownst to him, Dr. Movement helped me realized that I had been either resigning myself to this fate for Claire or working myself into a frenzy trying to fight it. Well, that seemed a humorless perspective to me, and I started thinking it was precisely this vibe that made Dr. Movement give me a good talking to.

In the end, I am thankful to him. My perspective is a problem, just not the one he thought. Claire deserves a mom who feels confident in her ability to parent her. She needs a mom who can just let her be. So, as she works on her mini-pushups in class, I’m going to work on an attitude adjustment.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Weekend brunches with strangers are rife with idle chitchat and searches for commonality. So I wasn’t surprised when a father at a get-together recently asked me if my baby sleeps through the night. This question is the infant equivalent to “what do you do?” It’s too early to compete about who walked or talked first, so sleep is the barometer of parental success. No one agrees about what constitutes “sleeping through the night”, though. So when I say, “she sleeps five hours or so”, I feel pretty good about my answer. Evidently this number was not good enough, because the man launches into advice about upping it.

The story goes that he and his wife slowly reduced the amount of milk they fed their sons at night. Then they substituted water to trick tiny, little bellies into feeling full. And finally… Nighttime feedings eliminated altogether! “Oh really”, I manage to say noncommittally. What I’m really thinking is that this story reminds me of the frog slowly boiled in water that has insidiously risen in temperature. With the conversation ended to his satisfaction, the man walks away with a plate of prosciutto and melon. I turn to George and say, “Well that sounds like a teenage eating disorder in the making”, as I stab a hunk of smoked salmon onto my plate.

I hadn’t thought about this encounter, until everything went to pieces. The Demas family has been going through what’s called “The Four Month Sleep Regression”. When Claire woke up at 12:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30AM to eat and was up for good at 6:30AM, this man’s advice started sounding seductive. Coincidentally, a friend of mine had just sent a link to a website proffering help for sleep deprived families. When I go to click on it, there it is in all its glory -- a two-part series on eliminating nighttime feedings. So, huh, here I thought this guy was a kook. Come to find out that this theory has professional support. I read on and stumble upon words to horrify a desperate mother looking for answers: “If you don’t address nighttime wakings, your child may have SLEEP ISSUES FOREVER” (“ever, ever, ever” reverberates in my head). I perk up and start taking this idea more seriously. But as I read on, I’m looking for some science to back up this dire warning. That cannot be found. So I google “eliminating nighttime feeding” and find kellymom.com. Kelly’s mom flat out says don’t believe the hype. Scare tactics are usually designed to sell product of some kind or another, and the product in this case is sleep advice that is more appropriate for sleep-deprived parents than babies burning the midnight oil. In essence, parents are the ones with deep pockets; babies have no pockets at all.

I think she’s right. It’s easy to be swayed by slick websites and offers of professional help when you are near insanity, with a child glued to your boob and have come close to dissolving your marriage in the middle of the night on several occasions. You are willing to consider depriving your child of food. And the business of baby sleep is counting on this fact. Kelly’s mom didn’t have a solution to offer, but she provided evidenced-based information that explained the developmental reasons for this grueling sleep schedule. I still felt insane with a child glued to my boob, but I breathed a sigh of relief that our new not so normal nighttime routine was normal. (My marriage never really was in jeopardy, in case you were worried.)

But I’m no perfect parent, so who am I to judge this parenting technique? I must admit, though, that I wish eliminating feedings would go the way of leeches and thalidomide. So if you’re a parent reading this post and have successfully undertaken eliminating feedings or are consider doing so, I do apologize. Quite possibly, you are judgmental of me for not finding an answer to my baby’s sleep “problem”. Quite possibly, you will have the last laugh. If I write a post a few years down the road about my child’s continued sleep issues, please feel free to comment, “I told you so”.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Adventures in Retail

“Well, that was just great!” George says with a spring in his step. He’s not talking about mind-blowing sex or dinner at a five-star restaurant. The bags he’s carrying are not filled with loot from the Apple store or Bergdorf’s. What he then describes as “like a trip to Europe” is a Demas family outing to the grocery store.

We stroll the aisles of D’Agastino’s like grand avenues. We compare the fat and sugar content of novelty ice cream bars, while Claire enjoys the repeating patterns of tubs and boxes. If we are feeling racy, we venture into the chocolate aisle or buy bubble gum. There’s never a serious purchase. We save the more industrious trips for Trader Joe’s.

If you’re thinking, “wow, they don’t get out much”, it’s not entirely true. We take Claire all kinds of places. Unlike the grocery store, though, these trips require an action plan of varying complexity. A simple trip to the park means packing and lugging the diaper bag, loading her into the car, finding parking. Then there are the intangibles. What if hunger strikes in the middle of a traffic jam? Will the clouds let loose while we roam the ramble in Central Park? What if she starts screaming in the middle of the Cloisters with no quick getaway? How do we handle an explosive poop on the duvet cover of a prestigious Broadway producer? (Yes, that happened.) Then the rare trip without Claire requires pumping and babysitter coordination. Plus, I just miss her when we’re out. I miss things she does too, like her very first laugh. I’ll never get that back.

So now it may seem I’m complaining about a complicated yet boring life. Actually, I’m in George’s camp. I couldn’t dream of a better time with my two favorite people. Well, one thing would make it better -- D’Agastino’s with my two favorite people on a full night’s sleep.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On Repeat

It’s 3:30AM, post-nighttime feeding. My weary head hits the pillow. Instead of sleep comes a melody similar to “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”:

Ella is the girl with red pajamas, red pajamas, red pajamas
Ella is the girl with red pajamas
She wears them all day long!

Claire is tickled by this CD. This particular song is on perpetual repeat in my head. George sings a variation that substitutes Uber-hip names like “Brooklyn” or “Anvil” for “Ella”. Then there’s the mobile she loves that plays Classical music. Even Mozart and Bach are now on George's shit list.

I couldn’t be happier that Claire likes music. It’s one of the great joys about being little. I remember spending the summer with a friend in Colorado as a kid. We played the soundtrack from “Annie” over and over again. “Tomorrow” could not have come sooner for her family. I’d like to replay that scenario one day with Claire -- with one difference. I hope I join in and sing along with her for the thousandth time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

31 Flavors

I bought baby carrots today. A team of Danish scientists found a connection between a child’s palate and what their mom eats while breastfeeding. I don’t like carrots that much. Maybe Claire will. As uncanny as these findings seem, I'm not that surprised. There’s that old wives’ tale about mom craving something during pregnancy and the child loving that particular food. It’s not such a stretch to see how breastfeeding would have a similar impact.

I have to admit I was disappointed. I was told I’d made a great choice to breastfeed. Evidently, I’m not doing it right. I find it hard to be health conscious with a new baby. It’s not as if I have loads of time on my hands to prepare four daily servings of whatever I don’t like. Hence, the baby carrots that don’t need to be cooked. Before reading about this study, I relied on multi-vitamins and power bars as a quick fix. I was only worrying about breast milk being nutritious. Now, I have to think about how it tastes too. Next, those Danish scientists are going to give my breast milk a Zagat’s rating. There’s one thing that’s for sure, if this study is right. Claire’s sure going to like chocolate.

It would make life easier if she liked lima beans, though. I should try and think about broadening my palate as an opportunity, not a responsibility. If I have trouble on some days, I need to remember that even bland breast milk is a good thing. And that there really aren’t too many people who don’t like chocolate anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Forgotten Sense

I’ve been reading about the development of the Proprioceptive system in babies. If you haven’t heard of this sensory system, you're not alone. Like the Vestibular system that I talked about in “Vestibular Shmibular”, the Proprioceptive system doesn’t get much respect. Yet, if you walk without stubbing your toe or kiss your baby without colliding, the Proprioceptive system is working. Its job is to create body awareness. Animals use Proprioception too. Anyone who’s seen a cat jump from the floor to the top of a bookshelf knows what I’m talking about.

Think about your back. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. The Proprioceptive system is what gives us an image of our self in our minds. Some experts go so far as to say Proprioception marks the beginning of the recognition of the self. Proprioception actually means “awareness or feeling of one’s own self” in Latin. So the knowledge of “I” comes first from the body. The abstract notion of self evolves out of a concrete movement of muscle. That should stir up some controversy with the Cartesian "I think, therefore, I am" camp.

Proprioception is also developed through feeling the body work against a resistance. A baby will stamp its foot on the floor in order to get what’s called “Proprioceptive input”. Thus, the sense of self comes from differentiating ourselves from others and things. We gain awareness of ourselves from the boundary that exists between others and ourselves. It’s wild to think that the sense of self begins in relationship. In order for there to be an “I”, there must first be a “We”.

Proprioception certainly is a subtle sense, not a direct experience like sniffing hot apple pie or listening to Metallica. In fact, the “Proprioceptive receptors” are located deep in the joints and respond to stretching and compression. Someone will probably tell Claire that she has beautiful eyes someday. It would sound plain crazy to tell her she has a great Proprioceptive response.

I have a new respect for Proprioception now though. When my daughter splashes in the tub, it means something different to me. The doingness of it means that Claire is becoming more Claire. And watching Claire become Claire is a beautiful thing to me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Loud and Clear

After Claire was born, I apologized to the woman in the hospital room with me because Claire was so loud. Her baby cried in this soft whimper, while Claire rocked the house. Not much sleep was happening anyway with two breastfeeding newborns, but Claire made sure that we were all having an impromptu slumber party. The woman was kind enough to say that my baby had good lungs. She went so far as to say she was jealous. I don’t think I would have been so generous if the situation had been reversed.

At our baby class last week, another baby Claire’s age started crying in a similar whisper of a voice. Like the other baby’s cry, I found it to be such a sweet sound that I was almost lulled by it. Her mother, on the other hand, became instantly distressed. It was hard to imagine that sound being such a call to action, but all moms respond to their own baby’s cry, right?

I talked about whether there’s an evolutionary advantage to loud crying in Bush Babies and Birthdays. I started thinking about it again after this baby class. It’s true that when Claire really gets going, George and I act with efficiency to stop her crying. There’s no time to admire our little darling or work at a leisurely pace. Getting her to stop has an urgency about it that I can’t imagine any soft whining would elicit. On the other hand, although a loud cry and a soft cry probably mean the same thing in baby language, I can’t help but take Claire’s personally sometimes. I’m sure she’s raging mad at me for something I’ve done or haven’t done, instead of expressing a need to be met. There are times when I definitely have to do my best Zen breathing not to enter the fray with her. And times that I just want to put her down and walk away. At these moments, a sweet, soft sound would serve us all better.

But so would a more patient mother. Certainly, moms contribute to evolutionary advantage (or disadvantage) too. It all seems too complex to figure out anyway. At the end of the day, Claire will continue to work on her Opera skills. And I will continue to work on my patience.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things..."

At our baby class yesterday, Claire was transfixed by a ukulele. A second earlier, she was having none of the merry-making, showing her unwillingness to participate with kicking and screaming. Then the ukulele strummed. She froze, went silent and stared, as if it were under a spotlight surrounded by darkness. Yesterday, it was the fish in a fish tank. The day before her toes were up for consideration. She is perpetually intrigued by the sprinkler on the ceiling in the living room – something we adults have been conditioned to tune out. They say the world is so vivid to babies precisely because everything is equal to them. And that babies sleep to get a break from all of the stimuli they encounter. Claire finds the sprinkler as important as the cat. Things must be only sensation. She can’t name the ukulele. She can’t categorize it in a group with other musical instruments. Adults chase this type of pure sensation. An alcoholic drink or a rollercoaster ride shakes loose the context of things. Of course, I think Claire finds her mommy and daddy important, as well as the two food sources that I carry around with me. Eventually, her attention should shift, as she learns to discriminate based on need and her knowledge of the function of things. I imagine that Lloyd the cat will become very important to her. And then he will teach her how need becomes love.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Run Silent, Run Deep

Having a baby means a new orientation to sound. To guarantee a sleeping baby, silence is golden. Like anything new, learning to be quiet takes time. This adjustment is hard for George, who has a naturally large voice and projects like the actor he is. I have my share of missteps too. I consistently forget to turn off the phone. It only seems to ring when she’s sleeping. And there’s the uncanny noise that happens just when she’s nodded off. George sneezing. The button on the side of my skirt brushing up against the dresser drawer I forgot to close. Tiny missteps end in tragic results. Sometimes I just sit frozen, daring not to make a move and threaten the peace. But then there are sounds you have no control over. It’s hard to get away from police sirens in New York City. Hand gestures are a poor method of communication, but George and I have gotten better at pantomime. Maybe it will come in handy for charades someday. We’ve begun sending emails to each other from different laptops in the same room. I am not of the generation who sits in class and texts one another, but I imagine it’s similar. The most ironic part is that Claire has had a loud piercing scream since taking her first breath. Essentially we keep quiet so she won’t be loud. It’s doubtful that this tactic will work when she’s a teenager.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Missing it...

Claire laughed for the first time yesterday. I missed it. I had just handed her off to a babysitter and walked away. George was a few beats behind me and so he shared in Claire’s moment. His good fortune gave me the opportunity to spend the first part of a rare trip without her asking him to relive the event for me.

He countered with reassurance that she will laugh again. I wasn’t having any of that small consolation. In fact, I was being punished for leaving a tiny, innocent creature in the arms of a stranger. An exaggeration, for sure -- It’s more likely that I will miss something she does than she will miss me.

According to the babysitter’s report, Claire laughed more after we left. All of the sudden, George flipped into my camp. He spent the rest of the night trying to stir an utterance of amusement from her. It didn’t work. I didn’t bother reassuring him that she would laugh again.

Oh, and the babysitter said she had a hard time getting Claire to sleep. She thought Claire probably wanted mama. Evidently, she does miss me. We need each other.

I also need a babysitter to remind me of this truth every now and then

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Friday, September 2, 2011


I don’t have much to say in this post, really. I just wanted to share this picture. I’ve been dying to snap a photo of Claire smiling. She’s been smiling for about a month now and we haven’t been able to catch it. It’s elusive. Babies don’t mug for the camera like we do. There’s no “say cheese”. That’s what makes catching her smile so worth it. The smile on Claire’s face is sheer happiness. Her face refuses to mask like ours do. She’s just as likely to smile, cry or ignore us at any given moment. There’s no artifice. It is a joy to be around such a pure soul. Plus, she’s smiling at her mother in this picture. That’s the part that I wanted to say in this post!

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.

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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!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birth Record

I watched our birth video today for the first time. I had to get up the courage beforehand. I had a pretty crunchy birth – midwife, birthing center, no drugs whatsoever -- but I was never one to want a record of the whole scene.

I was pretty sure that I didn’t want the clinical perspective - a blow by blow, so to speak. I figured her birth would be better left seen filtered through the gauze of time and the haze of memory. Then, while we were in the final stages of labor, George asked me and I changed my mind. At the time, I wasn’t really sure why. I guess you could say that I was a tad preoccupied, so it just didn’t seem to matter.

Actually, I think that’s the point. The only thing that mattered was getting her into the world safely. I didn’t care if someone was videotaping. The President could have walked in the room, and I wouldn’t have been bothered (but George would have.)

As I was watching the video today, I seemed to have this same focus. The gory details (and there were some) and the bits of my anatomy revealed seemed secondary to watching her come into the world for the first time.

I’ve often kind of rolled my eyes at people who describe the birth of a child as beautiful. Well, I found it stunningly beautiful. I stand corrected. I swore I wouldn't give advice on this blog but, if you are having a child, videotape the birth. If you decide you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to. You can always just delete it.

Or you may surprise yourself. I didn’t think I wanted to watch it either. I’m really glad I did.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ode to Moby (not the singer)

Claire loves her baby wrap. The many pictures on this blog will attest. I feel I could be a walking (literally) advertisement for Moby. In so many ways, it has been a godsend.

When she is bored and wants to explore her world, the Moby is much less bone-crushing than pacing around the apartment with her in my arms. She can’t walk, so I do the walking for her. When she is tired, the rhythmic motion lulls her better than any rocker. She nuzzles closely to my chest and listens to my heartbeat. It's hard to imagine a better bonding experience than that.

However, there are times when I’ve had enough and she hasn’t. Last night, I walked her around the park in the wrap for two hours! The Moby was the only thing that soothed her. She would look like she had finally fallen asleep…

Then, I would I try to stop. I felt tortured by her, driven like a Russian death march. I imagined myself her beast of burden. Her cries were like a master's whip that lashed me to keep going and move faster. My back hurt. My feet were throbbing.

I finally called George to come home from a meeting with a colleague. I feel lucky he was available. I feel lucky to have him. But sometimes, it’s only me. Then what? What do you do when you can’t do it anymore?

I’ve heard opinions from experts and family alike that this situation is our own making. We have created a baby who expects to be held. The remedy should be training her to self-soothe, while she is lying down on her back. I don’t agree. I am happy that she wants to be upright, engaging with the world and the people she loves at eye level.

It isn’t her fault that her mother is falling apart. Nor is it Moby's. I haven’t found an answer. I’m just glad I'm sitting down and writing this blog entry right now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Genetic Dice

Thumb sucker or blanket chewer? Which one will Claire become? That’s the wager of the week at our house. The third bet is neither. However, given the fact that I sucked my thumb until age five and my husband had his blanket companion until he was six, odds are that Claire will be equally orally-fixated and carry on one of these two traditions. I can’t say that these habits are the traits that I would like to pass on to Claire if I had a choice. And therein lies the rub. I wish that I could pick and choose what Claire inherits from me and what she gets from her dad. It's hard to think we may be saddling her with any of our bad genetic lot in life. There’s George’s bad back, my short temper… geez, my family’s predisposition towards cancer. I don’t like that phrase “It’s genetic." It is rarely preceded or followed by anything good. I’m displaying my pessimistic nature in this blog. My husband’s equivalent is worry. But George is also kind and sweet. I'll bet money that Claire will be too.

Growing Pains

Claire graduated to three-month old clothes today. It’s a moment to celebrate. Oh my, how she’s grown! She is so strong, thriving. It’s simple; that’s what babies do. But when I go to the dresser to clear space for the newest round of clothes, I realize it’s not so simple. Instead of a practical chore, I find a mix of emotion. As I pull the polka-dotted, hot-pink Onesie out of the drawer, I uncover regret that she never wore it. The white one with the sweet flowers that Veronica gave us goes in the bag for donation. I am sad she will never wear it again. Another…"Oh, she wore this when we took her to Aunt Molly’s pool for the first time! Should I keep it?” An early momento. I discover that her growth contains a letting go within it. That quickly! She’s only two months old and we are learning to let go! Oh my, how she’s grown...

Monday, July 25, 2011

What Not To Wear.

The single life taught me a thing or two about getting ready to go out. So, I am no stranger to the following conversation:

“She can’t wear that. She’s worn that dress, like, four times already.”
“It’s the only thing that fits."

What’s new about this interchange is that it was about my daughter. And it wasn’t between two girlfriends getting ready for a party; it was between my husband and me. You may assume the first line to be mine, but, indeed, it was the masculine point of view. And believe me, my husband never cared whether I wore a dress four times or not.

I now spend much more time picking out clothes for Claire than I do for myself. There are reasons for this recent development. The circumstances are such that outfits look much cuter on her than me. That will probably always be the case, but is particularly true right now. Post-pregnancy, there’s this waistline bulge and rib spread thing, which makes me feel like invertebrate slinking along the sidewalk. Plus nothing fits, so I actually have about four outfits to be worn repeatedly. But, I digress. Beyond exigencies, it is clear that we are indulging our own vanity by dressing Claire to the nines. In fact, the nine dresses we had on her during the time of that conversation were clearly for our delight and her dismay. She is just as happy in a diaper or in flagrante, much to my dismay. So when do you cross the line between having a little fun and living through your child? When does my tummy spread and anemic wardrobe become a little matter called transference -- leading to a life on the psychiatrist’s couch for Claire? I’m not worried about crossing the border into the land of Toddlers and Tiaras, but it’s always a good thing to remember to keep oneself in check. My mom tells a story of me driving her mad and insisting on wearing the same orange dress over and over again. Hopefully, Claire will do the same thing and I will be able to keep any commentary to myself. Right now, Claire’s too little to really care one way or another, so I should just try to get it all out of my system while I can. When she’s a teenager, I’m sure she will wage her revenge anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kitchen Enlightenment

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” -Wu Li

Growing up, my mom seemed the patron saint of household chores. My dad never pitched in to help. I never volunteered. I thought about it. But weighing the angel on my shoulder against how boring the tasks seemed to me, the devil always won. As an adult, my devotion to housework continued to falter. I was sure that my mom possessed some will power that skipped a generation. How’d she do it, I wondered? The proverbial skies parted when I joined the sisterhood called motherhood. You can have faith that the dishes will do exactly what they did the last time you washed them. Stick your hand in warm, sudsy water, swish a rag around a few times, and out comes a sparkling plate, absolved of all grease and dirt. The only thing for sure about a baby is that what worked yesterday might not work today. The most doubt you face when making the bed is whether you can get all four corners of the fitted sheet to stay put. When fresh laundry is properly placed in dresser drawers, order and balance seem restored. There is nothing predictable about a child. Soothe a sleep-deprived soul with each rhythmic chop, chop of garlic or an onion. Simply put, the mundane becomes meditative. Claire is full of wonderful, constant, mercurial energy. She engages with the world full force. Housework is a sometimes necessary yin to that yang.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio..."

Reading during my pregnancy helped me feel prepared and in control. I became hooked on learning all I could about the Attachment Parenting model for caring for a baby. According to the philosophy, babies who are worn close to the body in a sling instead of being put down in cribs are less likely to cry.

The phrase “Fourth Trimester” is used to explain how “babywearing” helps replicate conditions in the womb and makes a baby feel more secure in her new world. It seemed easy enough. I was optimistic that I could commit to wearing my baby. And for the first three weeks, Claire was content. After that, we were at a loss about what to do on the occasions when she no longer wanted to be worn. Particularly at bedtime, holding her was not enough to soothe our fussy baby. We turned to another guru of Attachment Parenting who offered steps to make our baby the “Happiest Baby on the Block”.

With a promise like that one, who wouldn't? But...Claire struggled against the swaddling recommended to soothe her. She did not want to be rocked on her side, as was advised works for a crying baby. These failures did not lead to our abandonment of the Attachment Parenting model, however. What we learned was that following a philosophy 100% of the time can cause much unnecessary heartache. When things aren’t working, you feel inadequate and your baby is unhappy.

Actually, I think that we are following the overarching principle of Attachment Parenting more than we did before, while being sure to calibrate its practical advice. One of its main tenets is to respect your child’s needs. We have learned to follow our baby’s lead, not the experts’. Now, my husband and I hold her only when she wants to be held. We know she likes to be swaddled at night. Most of the time, she takes to babywearing.  At other times, though, our baby likes to lie on her back alone in her co-sleeper, watching her mobile spin round and round. It’s old school, for sure.

The true difference is that I have learned as much about Claire as I have about Attachment Parenting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Games to Play While Trying to Put Your Baby to Sleep

1)    Count the number of times she wakes up while trying to put her down.

2)    Count the number of times she wakes up for seemingly no reason at all.

3)    Count the number of times she wakes up because your husband or pet makes unexpected, loud, jarring noises.

4)    Make a list of the strange positions you assume to get your baby to sleep.

5)    Make up adult lyrics to Rock-A-Bye Baby.

6)    Make up child-friendly lyrics to songs from the Eighties.

7)    Count the number of times you have to sing You Are My Sunshine before she goes to sleep.

8)    Make a list of things you’ve learned to do with one hand.

9)    Make a list of things you’ve learned to do with your teeth, feet and/or toes.

10) Make a list of things that you wish you could do with one hand and/or with your teeth and/or feet and/or toes.

11) Imagine what the creature would look like that is capable of holding all of the things needed to get your baby to sleep.

12) Imagine yourself alone on a Caribbean Island.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Not a Rock Band!

My husband, George, laughed when I told him the breastfeeding problem that I was having was called “Forceful Letdown”. He said it would be a good name for a rock band. I said how about a blog?

Eventually, I settled on a different name, but not before I thought about the meaning of Forceful Letdown to me. For those of you who do not know about the breastfeeding condition called Forceful Letdown, it’s when a mother produces more milk than her baby can handle.

The result for Claire and me was that she would eagerly come to the breast and would face a flood of milk spraying in her mouth. She would pull off the breast, first sputtering and choking, then screaming.

No number of helpful tips from google made a bit of difference. Many websites say that the baby can go on a “nursing strike” after continually being thwarted at the breast. The whole experience was gut wrenching and I was terrified that breastfeeding was out for my baby and me.

But, time after time, Claire still tried. I found her to be brave, heroic and resilient. She came to each feeding eternally optimistic, so powerful was her need and desire.

Motherhood is similar -- hard, exhausting but you wake up everyday determined to give your baby everything she needs. Even if you don’t always succeed, given your best efforts.

I want this blog to represent the hardships, doubts and, even, humiliations that are faced on a daily basis. You will never find me saying that the worst problem I face is getting a good Christmas picture of my child. Motherhood is much more significant and challenging than that.

These posts will represent the sometimes silly, sometimes crazy, thoughts that go through my head as I try to make my way through the daily struggles with, hopefully, a modicum of humor and grace.

Oh, and, in case you were wondering about the conclusion of our Forceful Letdown condition…after a week of doing "block feeding" (I won’t go into the details of that term), we were finally through it. 

Two months of breastfeeding and counting.

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