This morning, I took Katie to open office hours at the pediatrician. That’s probably not what you call it. But to be honest, I haven’t had much sleep lately, so I’m too tired to look up the real name for the walk-in hours for sick kids.
I didn’t really think she was sick. I was just at my wit’s end. OK, I thought there was a chance that she had an ear infection. But I was pretty sure her symptoms — chewing her fist, crying, drooling, rubbing her nose and face — were signs of early teething. But I wanted to be sure.
Also, after sleeping through the night for months, she’s been getting up every four hours, ravenously hungry, so I thought maybe they’d let me put some rice cereal in her milk for her last feeding of the day, to keep her full longer.
Well, the good news is that she doesn’t have an ear infection. The bad news is that:
They don’t recommend giving rice cereal anymore, because it apparently has arsenic in it.
They don’t recommend giving any cereal before six months … five weeks from now.
The solution to her being hungry every four hours is to feed her every four hours.
We’ve been giving her Tylenol. We have to stop doing that. It’s okay, but only sparingly. We can use cold teething rings and frozen washcloths instead. Katie licked her teething ring when I offered it and looked at me like, “Come on, cough up the drugs.” It’s possible that I’m projecting.
She also cooed and giggled at the doctor like she didn’t have a care in the world. Fortunately, our lovely pediatrician assured me that this happens all the time — like when you bring your car to the mechanic and it won’t make that weird noise.
The other problem is that I am absolutely shattered with exhaustion. I got a two-hour nap yesterday, but otherwise, I’ve been running on four hours of broken sleep a night for weeks.
Why am I so tired? Well, because the miracle of science has shown that everything parents used to do to make parenting bearable — Tylenol, rice cereal, cosleeping, crying it out, etc. — is potentially dangerous. The only right answer is to get up every four hours and feed your baby and then sit up all night wide awake when she’ll only sleep on you.
Be sure you look your baby lovingly in the eye and engage with them positively once they awake, refreshed, in your weary, tendonitis-raddled arms. They can sense your negativity. And put down your phone, you whore. You’re probably irradiating your precious child.
Yesterday, I informed my husband calmly and coolly that the problem is that babies are giant jerks. Don’t get me wrong: I love ours. She’s amazing and beautiful and so sweet and my favorite person. But also I feel like she could be just a little more mature about all of this.
It’s public-restroom changing tables. There, previewers, I saved you a click.
If you’re still with me, I’ll explain. Public changing tables are predictably loathsome. They’re in a public restroom, obviously, so they’re covering in filth both visible and invisible. Visible: actual feces, more often than seems reasonable or even possible. Invisible: IDK, C.diff? The plague? Hepatitis Q?
I was expecting the filth aspect. Before Katie arrived, while I was still bloated and weary with preeclampsia and lounging around while Adam nested for me, he ordered several pouches of Clorox wipes for disinfecting public changing areas and anything else that was giving me slow feelings of death. This had the dual effect of preparing for our baby and calming some of my zanier fears about being a parent.
Perhaps you are one of those people who goes blithely about her business, walking down city streets without picturing falling air conditioners and getting on ferries without worrying about forgetting not to throw your eyeglasses and your purse and perhaps your shoes over the side. If so, I respect but do not understand you.
I have a lot of fears in general, is my point. Parenting added to the pile.
One of them was using a public restroom to change a baby. In my mind, I would enter the restroom with a pink, healthy infant, and leave with a sickly green ghoul covered in sores. The baby would have acquired a number of festering bandages during its time in the bathroom, and also a snarl punctuated by one slightly yellow broken tooth.
Like most of my parenting fears, it turned out that my worries were wholly justified but just slightly off the mark. Public restrooms are repulsive, but I had all these wipes now. Surely I could mitigate the filth factor with good, old-fashioned bleach substitute, right?
I failed to factor in the baby.
My baby is four months old now, which means that I’m basically parenting an octopus who’s been in a horrible accident. She has four limbs instead of eight, but despite these limitations, she’s still much smarter than me. Plus, each limb seems to have its own brain and once I get one under control, the other brain-limbs slither out and start touching absolutely everything in sight — a stranger’s lunch or breasts, any stray electrical outlet … the feces-covered changing table in the bathroom at the diner.
I’m shuddering as I write this, because the changing table at the diner was covered in literal feces, and I attempted to use it anyway, because I was in denial about what I was seeing.
Let me explain. It’s Sunday, but I had to work today, because I’m a freelancer who’s attempting to do without childcare and that’s how that goes. Adam and I were both feeling bummed out about that, so I offered to take an hour or three off in the morning to get some brunch.
After a few reversals — two bottles, a diaper change, and finding out our local place was closed for August vacation — we wound up at a diner about 15 minutes away from home. We’d never been to this diner. That’s important, as you’ll see in a minute.
Shortly after we settled in and placed our orders, Katie started crying.
“Ah wuh wuh wuh,” she said.
“Why is this baby crying?” I asked, as Adam unbuckled her from her car seat.
He took a big whiff of her pants region. “Whew,” he said. “I think we have poopy.” And then, because he’s a 21st century kind of dad, he grabbed the diaper bag and headed for the restroom.
A few minutes later, he returned.
“No changing table in the men’s,” he said apologetically. “But I can take her to the car.”
“Let me check the ladies’,” I said, and went off to do that. No dice.
Finally, a nice waitress pointed us at another bathroom that had a changing table — women’s room only. After Adam spent a few frustrating minutes waiting in vain for it to clear out, I took over.
And there encountered the poopy changing table.
It looked fine at first. It was that light brown rugged plastic that they loved in the ’80s, so it was hard to see whether it was clean. I got out my wipes, dodging a small child and her mother who were trying to wash their hands nearby, and somehow balanced the baby and my pack while I swabbed off the table. Then, I laid out my changing mat and plopped the baby — now complaining at being held around the waist for so long — on the mat and got to work.
“Guh guh guh,” Katie said.
All four chubby baby limbs immediately squirted out and started exploring their environment. And that’s when I saw it: poop smears on the very top of the table, where it would fold up when not in use … and Katie’s little ravioli hand inching toward it.
With a shriek, I scooped up my baby, the mat, my pack, the wipes, and the tattered shreds of my sanity and stomped back into the restaurant to get my car keys.
“Was it OK?” the nice waitress asked.
“NO. THERE WAS POOP ON IT,” I said, verging on hysteria.
“Oh, yikes,” she said, looking nervous. As anyone would, when confronted with a crazy lady holding a wiggling infant and the disjected contents of her diaper bag.
Adam was at the table, where our food had arrived. “How was it?”
“THERE WAS POOP ON IT,” I yelled.
Later, he told me that the cheese on his Monte Cristo smelled a little like poop, and when I said poop, for a minute he thought his sandwich was contaminated. He ate it anyway. Parents are typically ravenous and it’s always a treat not to eat over the sink, even if brunch smells like poop.
“Let me take her to the car and change her,” he said.
“No, I got this,” I said, snatching the keys off the table.
“Eeeeeeh,” Katie said, swinging her legs as I stomped back through the diner, down the ramp, and into the hundred-degree parking lot, sweat already running into my eyes.
I’ll spare you the blow by blow of changing a baby in a diner parking lot, but here are the important parts:
The poop was contained in the diaper. It hadn’t reached the belly button or the pants. This is A Good Poop, in parenting parlance.
The baby was giving me very frightened and very grown-up side eye the whole time. It might have been because I was red-faced and sweating and it might have been because I was muttering, “Poop! Who leaves POOP everywhere? These are the people who pee on toilet seats. POOP.”
After I was done changing her and was tying off the plastic bag with the diaper in it, I took my eye off the baby for one second and when I looked up, she was chewing on the changing mat. The changing mat that was just on the poopy changing table. Whereupon I had a heart attack and died and now I’m typing to you from the afterlife.
“How did it go?” Adam asked, once we were settled and eating french toast and Monte Cristo sandwiches. We took turns holding our little octopus, who felt so good now that her butt was clean, she had to spend maximum energy charming the older couple seated next to us.
“The baby has staph all over her body and also hepatitis and probably TB,” I said.
“Oh, if that’s all,” he said, and took a bite of his poopy-smelling sandwich.
“I just have to tell you, your little boy is beautiful,” said the woman seated next to us.
I’m typing this on my phone with one thumb as a baby sleeps on my shoulder. So, it will either be nonsense or a model of economy a la Hemingway. Place your bets.
It’s been a rough week. Katie decided a few days ago that she was done breastfeeding. I can fool her into it first thing in the morning but otherwise, no dice. She screams at the sight of my boob. It’s like my nipple is menacing her.
I’ve gotten some good advice from La Leche pals and we’re trying everything, but I suspect the bottom line will be a lot less breastfeeding.
I wasn’t really ready. After swearing I’d never breastfeed at all, I’ve really come to enjoy it. I’m sad to think it might be coming to an end at just four months.
Plus, to be honest, I could really use the oxytocin. The sudden halt kind of dropped me on my ass hormonally. There’s a lot of crying (mine).
To make matters worse, I’m not getting much sleep. Katie still doesn’t really nap and she’s been waking up at night again. Last night, she woke up at 3 am and didn’t drop off again until 6. During that time, she wiggled in my arms, filling her sleep sack with farts while I pleaded with her to sleep.
Adam had to work today, so when he woke up at 5 am, he was greeted with the sight of his crazed wife, rocking the baby and whispering, “I can’t. I can’t. Oh God, please just sleep for an hour.”
That’s a fun way to wake up, right?
I know it’s just a phase and she’s so lovely and sweet and dear. But good gravy, this is hard in the meantime.
And I feel like it’s important to talk about, because we tend to see such carefully curated versions of early parenthood — fat babies blowing bubbles and grinning adorable, gummy smiles.
Just know that the lady behind the camera is probably thisclose to dropping her phone in the toilet or tripping over absolutely nothing … and then, since she’s down there, having a nice nap on the rug.
Are you sitting on your couch with your shirt off and tissues up your nose? If not, you’re really missing out. It’s what all the cool kids are doing today, and by the “cool kids,” I mean “me and my daughter.”
When I first had Katie, multiple people advised me to sleep when she slept, which proved difficult. In the first place, babies sleep unpredictably. A nap might last 15 minutes or four hours and there’s never any way to tell which kind of nap it is until it’s over.
Secondly, there’s lots to do around the house when you have a newborn. If we weren’t washing bottles, we were doing laundry.
But, as time goes on, I’m growing to like the spirit of that advice, which is: real life is cancelled for a while. Put on comfy clothes and find a spot on the couch.
Yesterday, I had a moment of ambition and decided to tidy up a bit. I got as far as removing three blankets, two spitup-stained shirts, and a pile of rank burp cloths from the couch. Once they were gone, I could see an exact outline of my butt in my favorite corner. The remotes were on the cushion beside my butt imprint. The sofa table behind my spot held three coasters, ringed with coffee, water, and seltzer respectively. It was very clear that I’ve been spending a lot of time here.
“Ugh, it’s like a nest,” I said to Adam, waving at the grimy blankets and butt imprint.
“Aw, it’s exactly a nest,” he said, looking teary, and then I looked again and saw it with different eyes.
It’s a nest and we’re in it. Outside, the woods are particularly dark and deep right now, but we’re as safe as it’s possible to be, and we have each other.
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to have a cold. Excuse me while I add another layer of blankets to our nest.
I’m sitting here on the couch with a baby in my lap, one tit out, and all of the mango slices we just bought. I’m going to sit here, feeding my lovely lamprey, eating expensive fruit right out of the container, and call everyone I know, starting with my senators.
I feel helpless, and it seems like all is lost. This would be a great time for reinforcements to ride over the ridge and rescue us at the last minute.
But I fear they’re not coming. We’ll have to be our own reinforcements.
This is a hard day, you guys. I hope you can get your hands on a snuggly baby … or at least some mango slices.
At our last pediatrician appointment, the nurse asked me to fill out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which measures the risk of postpartum depression. Fortunately, it wasn’t timed: even with Adam there, it took 20 minutes to fill out a single page in between diaper changes, baby soothing, diaper bag rearrangement, and so on.
The very first question stumped me:
I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things:
As much as I always could
Not quite so much now
Definitely not so much now
Not at all
“This is a problem,” I told Adam, showing him the sheet as he fiddled with the stroller. “We need another option.”
“Yeah. We need an option for, ‘This baby is fucking hilarious and I never stop laughing.'”
Babies are funny, you guys. I didn’t really know until I had one. It helps that I love fart jokes, and Baboo spends about half her time passing gas or pooping.
This afternoon, she shit all over her car seat. That might not strike you as hilarious, but you have to envision the full picture: she was asleep in her car seat in a puddle of shit, and she didn’t even open her eyes. She didn’t even move.
The day before, she screamed at me for five minutes because I put her in a swaddle and she couldn’t access her hands. Keep in mind that I tied her hands down to start because she kept smacking herself in the face while she was drifting off to sleep.
So, to sum up: sitting in her own shit? No problem. Temporary inability to poke herself in her own eye? UNACCEPTABLE.
Babies are funny. Get yourself a baby, and you can totally give up cable. When they’re sweet and giggly, you’ll be too entranced to need any other form of entertainment. And when they’re ridiculous, you’ll be laughing too hard. Also, you’ll be busy, probably cleaning up poop.
The Great Baboo is eight weeks old today, and for the entirety of that eight weeks, I’ve been meaning to write a few words about how stupid I was about babies before I had one.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still stupid. Stupider, in fact, by virtue of not having slept for more than a few hours at a stretch since April. But now I’m also too tired to worry about my own stupidity, so I’m counting that as progress.
I will say that I had set the bar low for myself. I bought a bunch of baby books, but they weren’t about *my* baby, so they were pretty boring. I knew I couldn’t struggle through them all, so I just concentrated on the parts having to do with survival — ours and the baby’s.
In this regard, Adam’s dad-books were better than my mom-books: the baby care industrial complex doesn’t expect men to obsess over developmental stages or childrearing philosophies, so they keep it light: lots of pictures and practical advice, next to no guilt or complicated theory. Adam’s books told me how to pack a diaper bag and soothe a crying baby, and they never once told me that I was a shiftless whore for wanting to feed my baby formula or take some time to myself to read a book now and then.
Anyway. I’ve learned a lot since those pre-baby days. I almost always remember to put new diapers in the diaper bag and both Baboo and I have managed to escape these early months with only minor injuries. (My nipples look like they’ve been pulled through a keyhole; Baboo has a cut on her thumb from overzealous nail-clipping. I’ve nearly recovered from both.)
Here are a few things about babies (or the process of having a baby) that I didn’t know a few months ago:
Babies’ heads are weirdly shaped. Before I had a kid, I thought Edward Gorey was just having a little fun when he drew infants with squashy, oblong heads. But no: they’re really shaped like that. My first thought when I saw my baby was, “Where’s the top of her head?” I fully expected the doctors to tell me that she was missing something crucially important in the cranium area.
Sleep deprivation makes you forget things. Here’s how I now describe movies I’ve seen: “It was a superhero dealie — you know, not with Batman, the other one — and that guy is in it, the one who looks hotter with a beard.” (BTW, this might mean that I’m describing either a Superman movie — not Batman, but Superman — or an Avengers movie — not DC, but Marvel. IMHO, both the new Superman and Captain America look better with beards.)
Dilaudid is amazing. They gave me some in a pump after my C-section, and I spent a blissful 24 hours pushing the button every eight minutes or so. I also remembered every dream I ever had, and had a lovely conversation with my grandparents, who are deceased. When the hospital staff came to take the pump away, I made what I thought was a compelling argument for keeping it. It was: “Noooo. Dooon’t. Just dooon’t.” It didn’t work.
Nothing else is really important when you have a kid, except for things that affect that kid. I was sort of afraid that might be the case, but what I didn’t understand was that this means many things are crucially important, because your child lives in the world. You still care about your job and your community and your health, because your baby needs you to make money and be a whole person and maintain a support network and not keel over in the supermarket while buying diapers.
Wisdom is really exhaustion. Who gives a shit about people being wrong on the internet when you’ve only had an hour and 45 minutes of sleep?
I have opinions about child rearing. Before I had Baboo, I was aware that there were many schools of thought about how to raise a kid, but other than thinking it was silly to create more isms, I didn’t have much of an opinion about them. Or so I thought. Now I realize that I have a lot of deeply held beliefs about baby feeding and baby sleeping, etc. (I still don’t care what anyone else does, as long as they don’t abuse or neglect their kids.)
Things can go south in a hurry when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. After an uneventful pregnancy, I developed gestational hypertension and needed a C-section. Afterward, my incision opened up and I broke out in hives all over my body, probably in reaction to breastfeeding, which I initially swore I wouldn’t do, but wound up doing anyway. (More on that in a future post.) Basically, everything went from awesome to unbelievably shitty in the space of a few weeks.
Babies grow *fast*. Three days ago, our baby had two modes when awake: crying and blinking. Now she peeps and coos and smiles and laughs. Adam said, “It’s like she went to sleep one night and woke up with the ability to communicate.” It’s hard to take our eyes off her. Also, we don’t want to.