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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