Keeping it short today, because we have a lot of prep for Thanksgiving observed this weekend, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about how grateful I am that Baboo exists.
There were many times when I thought we’d never get the chance to be parents. If you’ve been reading along, you know we had multiple failed fertility treatments and spent years longing for a baby.
When we found out that I was pregnant, Adam was afraid to believe it at first. He waited until the blood test came back before starting to wrap his head around it.
In the hospital, after she was born, I sat groggy with Dilaudid in my hospital bed, holding a swaddled, red-faced Baboo, and told my parents, “I’ve never been this happy. This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
I sounded surprised, even to myself. But I didn’t know how much I’d love her, even though I’d carried her for nine months.
But my surprise was nothing compared to Adam’s. For the longest time, he sat huddled by her bassinet and stared.
“Did you know how much you’d love her?” I asked.
He shook his head. “She’s my little darling,” he said, throat clogged with tears.
She’s our little darling and we are so, so grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you have a lot to be grateful for, as well.
All three Luckwaldts have colds today, which is a problem, because we keep looking for the adult to show up and he or she is VERY LATE.
It started yesterday with Adam saying, “Hmm. I have kind of a scratchy throat.”
“No, you don’t,” I said. “You don’t. You feel fine.”
He loosened his collar and shifted the baby. “No, I’m pretty sure my throat is scratchy. Maybe I should put on a mask so I don’t infect this baby.”
Of course, the problem is that by the time you realize you should wear a mask, it’s too late. Cold germs are the smartest critters in the world that don’t actually have a brain. They’re super good at sneaking up your nose and into your throat while you’re not looking.
So now, all three of us are sick. But Adam is definitely the most miserable, because he let me catch up on sleep last night. Given my options, at this point I’d rather have a cold and nine hours of sleep under my belt than not have a cold and get by on three or four.
But here’s how things get screwed up when you try to do things the way we’re doing them. Today’s a workday for me; tomorrow and Friday are workdays for Adam. To make things work, I’ll take a few hours off this afternoon to give him a nap, and then make up the time later tonight. This wasn’t his suggestion, by the way. He’s insisting that he can get through until nighttime. But I’m looking at him right now and seeing a person who might actually melt into a puddle of snot on the ground. It’s time for some rest.
Meanwhile, the poor baby has no idea what’s going on. She keeps looking at me with her red eyes and boogery nose, like, “I feel BAD. What is HAPPENING to me?”
“You have a cold, poor sweet Baboo,” I tell her. And of course, she doesn’t understand. But she does seem to enjoy the sympathy in my tone.
I’ve only really started meeting moms in real life, but I’m lucky to have a lot of online friends who have kids, and they’ve been unbelievably helpful in figuring out this whole parenthood thing.
The other day, I was talking to Nancy, one of my internet pals, and she said something that really struck me.
“I’m guessing that because Baboo was hard won, so to speak, there’s a lot of that ‘I should be grateful so I shouldn’t complain’ stuff happening,” she said. “Fuck that.”
This was life-changing insight. Before she said it, I didn’t even realize that I was feeling bad about struggling. Because the thing is, I am so unbelievably grateful for Baboo. Not only did I want a baby, but I didn’t even know how much I’d love (and like!) my actual baby. She is hilarious and awesome and I feel like I’d hang out with her anyway, even if I weren’t her mom.
But being a parent is exhausting. We hear that so much that it feels less important than it is. Like, the sky is blue, being a parent is exhausting, that’s just the way it is, so why even talk about it? But there’s a difference between knowing that you’re going to be tired and slogging through a week of nights with a teething baby and then getting up to try to string words together the next day.
The worst part is that it’s crazy boring to listen to complaining, even in your own head. So on the one hand, you’re like, “I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t get some sleep/a minute to myself/figure out how to exercise once in a while.” And then on the other hand, you’re like, “Ugh, shut up, me. This is all you ever talk about anymore. Don’t you have any hobbies?”
I do have hobbies, but they’re all baby related. I enjoy working … to pay for the baby, and writing … about the baby and to pay for the baby, and performing basic maintenance activities … to stay alive for the baby. Sometimes I fit in a little obsessing over the news … because of the world we’re leaving to the baby.
Once we get a sitter, I’m going to go to the gym and/or have like three glasses of wine with a friend who doesn’t care at all about children. And thanks to the conversation I had with one of my mom friends, I won’t feel guilty about it.
I’ve been writing a lot about how tired we are, and if you’re reading this, you’re either not sick of it yet or you’re getting ready to fire off a killer comment telling us to count our blessings. Either way, thanks, I guess. We do have a lot of blessings and I worry that we’re forgetting them, because we’re so tired.
And when I say “we,” I mostly mean “me,” to be honest. Adam is plenty tired and puts in lots of baby-related work. But he’s a better sleeper than I am, generally, and also, his job requires him to be awake and alert, so we make an effort to carve out time for him to sleep before his shifts. (You don’t really want your nurse to be administering your medication with two hours of sleep under his belt.)
This means that he’s averaging about five or six hours of sleep a night, and I’m averaging three or four. One night, I got 45 minutes. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES, people. How long can a person do that, before they disintegrate? We’re about to find out.
Our problem is that we don’t have much help. Our family lives at least four hours away in every direction, most of our friends are childless, and we don’t have a ton of money for childcare. I took a pay cut to spend more time with Baboo. My brain is too tired for math, but I can’t figure out how to work enough to pay for help without winding up working all the time just to pay for said help.
We have had offers. My wonderful landlady has offered to watch Baboo for a few hours, and I keep trying to take her up on it … but then there’s a crisis. If it’s an all-day-screaming day, I feel weird about showing up on a friend’s doorstep and being like, “Hey, can you take this screaming baby for two hours? I gotta catch some Zzz’s. Love you, bye!”
I’ve found myself painted into psychological and logistical corners like this before, and I know that the secret is to stop whenever it feels hopeless and keep looking for opportunities to change things. Right now, our first step is to try to line up a sitter for a few hours a week. I feel like if I could not work at midnight most nights, I could get enough sleep to function. And being able to function would allow me to find other new solutions.
If you know me in real life, you know that I’m a hypochondriac. One of my fears about becoming a parent was that I’d transfer this lunacy onto my child and become one of those moms who never lets her kid do anything, because germs-sharp things-dangerous machinery-heights-scary news stories.
Instead, it turns out that I’m weirdly chill. When Baboo loses control of her giant dome and bonks it on the rug, I ask her if she broke the floor. When it’s raining, I put the raincover on her stroller and go out anyway.
But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up worrying as a hobby or that I can shake off actual emergencies.
For example: on Friday, we had our first real health scare.
Baboo’s been trying out people food. So far, it’s going well. Half the time she spits it out and the other half she makes enthusiastic motor noises while mashing food into her face, neck, ears, and hair.
If you’ve never had a baby, you might not know that there’s a protocol for introducing food. You give them one, single-ingredient food — bananas, say — for a few days and watch for a reaction. Then you move on to something else.
Baboo’s tried bananas and oatmeal so far, and we’ve given her a frozen bagel to gnaw on for her teething pain. We were planning to move on to sweet potatoes soon. But then we had a setback.
Friday morning, when I woke up, Baboo was sort of pulling at the collar of her sleep suit. I didn’t think much of it, because this baby is a nudist, and would roll around naked if allowed. If forced, she’ll wear a diaper and a cotton onesie and pants. But she’ll fight you on socks, mittens, hats, and anything that isn’t soft.
We went through our usual routine when Mommy is on baby duty and Daddy is at work. We took a walk and played on the floor a lot and drank a thousand bottles and ate some mashed bananas. Every so often, the teething pain got really bad and I’d give her a frozen bagel.
It’s November, so the days are short. I gave her an evening meal of bananas and formula around 5 pm, but she wasn’t really hungry. She was also really digging at her neck by this point. I thought it was the bib, because see previous re: nudist. Then I took a look at her neck.
A blotchy red rash had started in her neck folds and spread down her chest. I swallowed my heart back down into my chest cavity and took off her onesie. Sure enough, more rash on her arms.
Airway, I thought immediately, thinking about the CPR tips Adam gave me when I remembered at nine months pregnant that I should have taken a baby first aid class.
I checked put my head to her chest and listened to her breathing. I pried her mouth open, as she protested loudly, and checked her tongue and lips. Everything looked all right.
“OK, baby,” I said, as she looked at me quizzically. “Let’s get in the tub and rinse off real fast, in case it’s contact dermatitis.”
That seemed to satisfy her. Or maybe she was just happy to see her little bathtub appear in the sink. Nudist babies love baths.
After a quick wash, I put her in pajamas and called the pediatrician. It was after hours, so the answering service picked up.
“Hi,” I said. “My name is Jennifer Luckwaldt and my daughter is a patient. She’s almost seven months old. She has a rash all over her chest and I’m a crazy new(ish) mom and so I’m worried that she’s having an allergic reaction. Also, I just called you last week, so I assume you have my picture up on your wall of crazy ladies.”
The admin who picked up laughed, and assured me that I was right to call, and promised to have the doctor call right back. Which he did in about one minute.
Have I mentioned that I love our pediatricians? Because I do.
Anyway, long story short, he said it might be an allergic reaction, but if so, it seemed mild, and to give her a tiny bit of children’s Benadryl. I won’t tell you how much, because if you’re ever in the same situation, I’m really hoping you’ll call your doctor and not go by what we did or what any other internet loonies tell you to do.
By this time, it was pitch black out, but still only 5:30 or so. I put Baboo in the stroller and raced around the corner to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist sold us some children’s Benadryl and checked the dosage for us.
Then I went home and loaded her up. With a baby, this means putting your beloved child in a headlock, like you’re competing in the WWE, and trying to squirt medicine into her cheek while she spits at you and screams.
Five minutes after she choked the last bit down, her rash disappeared and she passed out, in that order.
We’re kind of short on sleep around here these days, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t now understand people who drug their babies with Benadryl to get some sleep. (But again, don’t do that. Is bad.)
I still have no idea what caused the problem in the first place, although our pediatrician suggested there might be some strange ingredient in the bagel that set her off. Apparently, babies sometimes have trouble with citrus or tomatoes and have a reaction, he said. So it’s possible that someone in the bagel shop handled a tomato and some juice got on the bagel, etc. We’ll probably never know.
For now, I’m sticking with those single-ingredient foods and keeping the Benadryl on hand.
The strangest part of all of this was that I was scared, but I felt weirdly calm, too.
“That’s how it works,” Adam said when I told him about our afternoon. “You do the scary thing and you get the courage after.”
It helps, of course, that it wasn’t a real emergency. But the other upside is that before this incident, I’d been having some issues with confidence. I felt sort of generally incompetent around parenting things. And now I feel better.
A scary thing happened, but I didn’t make it worse by freaking out. And now we’re fine. So all in all, it was a good day.
Since I started this whole “write every day for a month” thing, I haven’t really had a day where I felt super foot-draggy over writing. So I guess I was due.
In general, I think I could use a rest, and that’s why today is so hard, motivation-wise. I’ve been working a lot and Baboo is teething and not sleeping much … which means I’m not sleeping much either. It’s hard to feel super excited about writing when you’re exhausted.
All this to say: this is 100 percent a placeholder post, to keep up my blogging streak, and I accept all of your scorn. More substantial blogging to commence tomorrow.
I know, I know. Everyone claims to be uncoordinated. But here’s how bad it is with me: not only was in remedial gym class as a kid, but as an adult, I regularly injure myself by tripping up the stairs.
It doesn’t help that I wear glasses and have flat feet and hip dysplasia (yes, like a Golden Retriever). But the real problem is that I’m just not a person who feels terribly at home in the physical world. If I could make myself into a brain in a jar, I probably would. For one thing, I’m guessing my back pain would disappear.
Yesterday, I went to my weekly moms’ group — a sanity saver that I’d recommend to anyone who’s becoming a parent for the first time. When the subject of baby-wearing came up, I confessed that I’d never been able to figure out my baby carrier. Adam used it, before Baboo was old enough to fit into his carrier, but I tried it twice and quit when I couldn’t figure out the straps.
The good news is that I definitely made the brand-new mom who was having trouble with baby-wearing feel better. The bad news is that then I felt worse.
But here’s another reason why these groups are so valuable: I got home and immediately started working on figuring out how to use my baby carrier. It took a YouTube video, Adam’s help, and about 20 minutes of practice. But we did it.
Let’s talk about Tylenol, and how it’s the only thing that helps Baboo when her teeth really hurt, and how we’re supposed to use it “sparingly.”
Tylenol is a serious drug. Used carelessly, it can cause liver damage … and that’s in adults, who weigh more than a Thanksgiving turkey and have presumably given their livers some training over the years. (Note: I understand that this is not how livers work.)
Our pediatricians stressed early on that Tylenol was only for emergencies. The problem is, we’re pretty much in a constant, rolling emergency over here with the teething.
You guys, I had no idea how bad teething could get. Baboo is agony. She pulls at her gums and looks at us beseechingly. The worst part is, she doesn’t even know why she feels as bad as she does.
We’ve tried everything else — cold things, frozen things, gum massage, warm baths, going for a walk, looking at something new (birds, fish, new toys, new people). But the only thing that helps is to give her the drugs.
However, we don’t want to overdo it, so we reserve it for extreme pain and when we’re all about to collapse from lack of sleep. This means, realistically, about once every other day.
I tell you, I long for the days of giving babies paregoric and whiskey. I can’t believe we have to struggle through this with frozen washcloths and emergency Tylenol for three years.
“This is her idea of a great morning,” Adam said, holding the squirming baby on his lap when I came up from my basement office to say hi. “Smiling at Mommy … while literally stepping on Dad’s dick. Which is what she’s doing right now. I think she’s trying to make sausage wine. It’s possible that she thinks she’s in a log-rolling contest. Anyway, ow.”
One thing they don’t tell you when you have a baby is that they beat you up all the time. Baboo gets super excited whenever I come into the room, and she expresses this by grabbing my face and pulling whatever she has in her hand. Sometimes, it’s my nose. Sometimes, it’s my cheek. Once, I swear she nearly got my eye out. Nearly. But there’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.
She’s the cutest and most vicious person I know. Of course, none of this is malicious. Also, it would help if I kept her nails trimmed, but that’s harder than it sounds. You put your sweet, innocent baby to bed with normal baby nails, and she wakes up with sloth claws. I’m guessing that this is a sign of good health. I’d tell you how grateful I am about that in person, but it’s hard for me to speak as this morning she reached right out and ripped my lips off my face.
And it involves getting very comfortable with light yelling.
When we first had Baboo, Adam and I realized very quickly that we weren’t comfortable letting her cry it out. However, what we didn’t know was that there’s a wide gulf between “crying it out” and “vocalizing in a complainy manner.”
Before I was able to make that distinction, I essentially got nothing done while I was watching Baboo. None work and none cleaning and none cooking and none personal hygiene. I was a smelly, hungry, cranky mess and my house looked like a time capsule from the year six months ago.
I could picture a team of intrepid explorers jimmying the front door and standing in awe of the perfectly preserved tableau before them.
“What do you see?” one pith-helmeted digger would ask the other.
“Wonderful things!” the other would say. “… Actually, wait. It looks like a bunch of toys that no one has put away in a week and a laundry pile that’s grown into the furniture.”
I’m getting better, because I’m getting used to Baboo and learning her code. Sometimes, she wails and that means, “Pick me up right away. It’s a baby emergency!” Other times, she fusses a little and it means, “I would prefer to be cuddled right now, but I can actually wait.”
This morning, I made some chili in the Crock-Pot and she gritched from her chair the whole time.
“This baby is okay,” I told her, stirring the pan. “This baby is just fine.”
She gave me a dirty look, which is how I know she’s starting to understand me, too.