Like Taking Your Car to the Mechanic

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.

Advertisements

A Rough Week

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.

The Baby and I Have a Cold, So Today Is Cancelled

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.

Babies Are Funny

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.”

“Oh yeah?”

“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.

 

 

8 Things I Didn’t Know About Babies Before I Had a Baby Myself

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

 

 

 

This Is My Version of a Gender Reveal Party

The bad news is, there’s no cake. The good news is that you don’t have to leave your house in order to attend.

Did you know that they have a blood test now that can tell you whether you’re having a girl or a boy (or at least, a baby with two X chromosomes or one X and one Y)? Well, they do. You take it at about 12 weeks, and it measures fetal DNA in the mother’s blood.

The test also tells you, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not your baby has Down Syndrome or Trisomy 18 or 13. Needless to say, I was more concerned with these results than the other one. Regarding the boy/girl question, we have a niece and a nephew, and they’re awesome, and nothing that’s awesome about them is because of their gender.

But I am roughly one-thousand years old in mom years, which adds to the risk of chromosomal abnormalities.

Delivery Notification

The results came in through the automated system at LabCorp, which was a very good sign. Doctors tend not to release your results when they’re bad. They call you on the phone, like our ancestors did, or worse yet, ask you to come in to the office. If a doctor ever asks me to come into the office, I’m moving to Costa Rica, ASAP, to live out the rest of my life in the sloth sanctuary. I don’t need more information than that phone call asking me to come in. I can guess the rest.

Anyway, there was no need to move to Costa Rica just yet, because the results were good: negative for all trisomies.

Also negative: the test for the presence of a Y chromosome. “Consistent with a female fetus,” the report read, which slayed me for some reason. Medical lingo is so cautious: “We’re not saying it’s a girl, but we are saying that it doesn’t have a Y chromosome and probably won’t have a penis. What you do with this information is up to you. We’re not into the whole labeling thing.”

Which is for the best, really. Before we got the results, Adam mentioned that you can only learn so much from a test.

“I mean, by the time this kid grows up, we’ll have about 800 different gender identities,” he said. “So it probably doesn’t really matter what their underpants situation is today.”

Consistent With a Female Fetus

I will confess that I wanted a girl, for one reason and one reason only: I did not want to have to deal with the whole circumcision issue.

Many of you will read that and start tsking, regardless of where you stand on the issue. People tend to be very passionate about their stance. I’d guess conservatively that 80 percent of the parents reading this have very strong feelings about circumcision one way or the other, and to those parents I say, hey, you’re probably right.

There are certainly good arguments for both sides. On the one hand, if we had a vaccine that prevented HIV and HPV infection as well as circumcision does, we’d give it to everyone, probably at Costco while they were trying cheese samples. On the other hand, well, doesn’t it seem odd to lop off parts of people’s bodies before they get a say?

Bottom line, whatever you decided to do with your son, I’m on your side and will vigorously defend your choices. But, oh my sweet baby Jesus, am I glad we won’t have to decide.

Beyond that, I feel like I have a better handle on the precise flavor of bullshit that a girl is likely to deal with in life, although that’s a good news/bad news situation. I’m not looking forward to teaching her how to deal with street harassment and the gender pay gap and unconscious bias. But I am definitely looking forward to telling her about all the excellent women who paved the way for her to build the life she wants.

Because she will have that, no matter what some of the men in charge right now would have us believe. Their time is coming to an end, but Baby Girl Luckwaldt’s is just beginning. And yes, it’s a big scary world out there, full of people who would limit her potential based on nothing, a report containing news so inessential, it could be sent via email with an automatic notification.

But it’s also a world with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton. Maxine Waters and Elizabeth Warren and Malala Yousafzai. Fannie Lou Hamer and Mary Harris Jones and Margaret Sanger and Shirley Chisholm and Mary Wollstonecraft and Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Emmeline Pankhurst. Simone de Beauvoir and Bell Hooks and Maya Angelou. So many more.

My secret is that I’m an optimist. Beyond that, I’m determined. I’ll be the first to make fun of a male celebrity when he claims that he cares about industry-accepted sexual harassment because he has a daughter, but it does make a difference, having a girl. Already, I’m thinking to myself, “But she’ll be brand-new. How can anyone try to limit her potential when she doesn’t even know who she is yet?”

Soon, we’ll have a daughter. Forget the nursery. It’s the world we have to get ready for her.

Image: Karen Eliot/Flickr

I’m Not Going to Breastfeed, Because I Don’t Feel Like It

Don’t get excited: I’m not pregnant, and it’s not on the schedule for a bit yet. But although I’m up in the air about a few parenting things, there’s one thing I’m 100 percent sure of: I’m not going to breastfeed the little bebe when he makes his debut.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I need to practice being firm about this before the entire populace of Park Slope descends upon me and my choices, let’s start with this: I’m not going to breastfeed, because I don’t want to.

I think it’s important to say, right off the bat, that I don’t care if you decide to breastfeed your baby. In fact, I don’t care if you feed your baby breast milk, formula, Yoo-hoo, Kombucha, or Miller High Life. I will also rigorously defend your right to feed your baby wherever you like, or, in fact, just to take off your shirt for no reason at the Wal-Mart, if you want to. They’re your boobs, and you can do with them as you please. However, I’m not going to be using mine in this fashion, and I’ll thank everyone to judge me behind my back, as God intended.

Do I sound defensive? I am, and for good reason. In the past couple of years, there’s been entirely too much talk about who gets to decide what women do with their bodies. Much of it has been from conservative, white, male politicians, but a disturbing amount has come from women themselves, policing each other’s choices. Maybe it’s another way to compete, when we’re temporarily away from the office, or maybe it’s displaced anxiety about our own decisions. But for whatever reason, there’s a lot of judgment around how women choose to feed their children, and I think we should all cut it out, breastfeeders and formula feeders alike.

A lot of childrearing decisions are, dare I say, influenced by trends. When my mom was raising us, the fad was to sleep train and formula feed. Now, it’s cosleeping and boob milk. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll make mistakes. It’s pretty clear that no one has developed the perfect system of childrearing. If they had, there would be at least a few totally fault-free children out there. Since there aren’t any, it seems like it’s probably a bit of a crapshoot.

“But science!” you say. “We know more now than we ever did! In the 1970s, they gave children cigarettes to keep them slim and let them ride motorcycles to nursery school!”

Don’t worry: I’m not going to feed you a stack of anecdata and pretend we’re dealing in facts. I understand that a few stories about kids who thrived on formula doesn’t mean that formula is the best choice, just as I know that a couple of old geezers who smoked three packs a day and died running a marathon on their 90th birthdays doesn’t mean that cigarettes are secretly kale.

But here’s what I will say: Everything doesn’t have to be the best all the time, even in parenting. Even if something is clearly the best choice in a vacuum, doesn’t meant that it’s the best choice for actual people, who live in the world and have to make compromises.

I believe that breastfeeding my child would be slightly better for the child. It seems pretty conclusive that breastfeeding decreases, at least slightly, the incidence of ear infections and gastrointestinal problems. I’m less convinced, by the way, that it makes any real difference in terms of allergies or IQ points. But for me, it would mean either not taking medication for a pretty serious autoimmune disorder, or gambling that taking it won’t hurt my kid. Which makes it not the best choice for me, and my family.

There are other reasons, of course: I’m squicked out by the idea of it, which doesn’t mean that I think you’re gross for doing it, breastfeeding moms of the internet, or at least not any more than I’d think you were gross if you liked tapioca pudding, which has just never done it for me. Everyone’s got her own idea of a good time, you know?

“You should get some therapy!”

I’ve had lots. More than Woody Allen at the time of the filming of “Annie Hall.” Breastfeeding still weirds me out. Also, it seems like it hurts, and I’m not into torturing myself.

“But it doesn’t hurt if you have a proper latch!”

Bullshit. It might stop hurting eventually, but in the beginning, everyone I know who’s done it has said it makes you sore. Even women who have an easy time admit that it was “uncomfortable” at first. I’ve been to the doctor. I know what uncomfortable means.

“You know what else hurts? Giving birth!”

It sure does — which is why I’ll get every drug they’re willing to give me, including that gas they gave Daisy Buchanan, if it’s still available. Also, imaginary lactivist with whom I’m apparently arguing, the fact that one thing hurts is not a persuasive argument to do another thing that hurts. Let’s have as few things that hurt as humanly possible, say I.

Most of the time, when I have this discussion with real people and not the people in my head, they eventually suggest either that my attitude will change when I have a child, or that a person as selfish as I am has no right to have a kid. I disagree with both statements. I’m already aware of the fact that having a child means making sacrifices, which is why I’ll go off my meds for my pregnancy, even though the medical literature is divided on whether or not there’s a real risk to the fetus. In the end, it’s just a matter of which sacrifices are the best ones for our family, which includes me, the lady who will (fingers crossed) be carrying the little guy.

And as for being selfish, I’d argue that a little healthy self-interest is an essential ingredient in a good mother. The best mothers, it seems to me, aren’t the ones who give up absolutely everything for their kids, because giving up absolutely everything means you’re dead and you can’t take care of anyone. As they tell you on the plane, put on your oxygen mask first, before you help others.

What my kid potentially lacks in immunological advantages, I hope he’ll gain in having a mother who doesn’t martyr herself to someone else’s idea of what’s the correct thing to do. If there’s one thing I want to give my child, no matter what, it’s the knowledge that unless you are militantly on your own side, no one else will be.

But in the end, all these arguments are just a fun way to pass time. I get to choose, and I made a choice. If we start questioning women’s right to do that, we’ve got bigger problems than what to feed the baby. And in the meantime, if anyone questions your right to breastfeed when and where and for as long as you want, I’ll be by directly to whip a canister of Enfamil at their pointed head.

poison
Image: Ceskapozice.cz