Friday, August 27, 2010

More Power to the Duggars (and other realizations)

Sweet Jesus, Mary and Giuseppe, I have no idea how Michelle Duggar does it. I ought to send her an Edible Arrangement or something equally useless in homage. She's practically the contemporary patron saint of pregnancy - move over St. Gerard!

This realization stems from my lovely postpartum checkup. And, by "lovely," I mean "incredibly uncomfortable on multiple levels." Ostensibly, this visit is a chance for the mother to ask any questions she may have about the healing process and for the doctor to determine that said process is progressing normally. In real life, though, the appointment has two purposes: to evaluate birth control options and to give the new mom a green light to resume having sex. Let's just break this down, shall we?

I've just spent nine months growing a baby, 5 of them hugely pregnant. I've peed myself due to the pressure exerted on my bladder. I've pushed a child out of my womb, tearing the remains of my hymen out with her. I've had stitches in places needles should never go. I've sat on ice packs and taken painkillers. And now, just as I'm feeling better, some gynecologist wants to shove a forearm into me and push on my belly. Then she says that I can resume normal intercourse - as if I'd even want to think about it after all of this!! They really ought to wait and talk about birth control after the exam, since it would at that point be moot. Realization: my doctor has more faith in my recovery than I do, but maybe that's because it wasn't her that got the stitches...

Which brings me back to our Our Lady of Perpetual Nursing: Michelle Duggar. This woman is fully committed to an almost masochistic degree. She has given birth, on average, about every 18 months. If she spends nine of those months pregnant, she conceives 9 months postpartum. Is she some kind of sex machine, or will I also be back to normal by my 9-month mark? My perception is probably just skewed because it's only been 7 weeks. Michelle Duggar is probably just like everyone else. Still, maybe best to send that fruit basket just in case. Can't hurt to cover your bases, right?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Mom Entitlement

I am a consumer, and as such, am entitled to certain perks and privileges from the establishments which I frequent. If I go to a coffee shop, I get napkins for use while I enjoy my caffeinated ambrosia. At a park, there are water fountains available to quench my playground-induced thirst. A mass retailer like Target provides baskets and carts for shoppers' use. So, clearly, these perks and privileges vary from establishment to establishment. One thing that most of them have in common, however, are restroom facilities. People need to pee while they do things like drink coffee, hike and shop for cheap plastic crap. And, by God, pee they shall! Unless, of course, you're a baby.

Realization: it is nearly impossible to find a public changing table when you need one. Seriously, you guys? It's maybe a couple hundred bucks for the hunk of plastic and the install, that's it. Think of all the customers and patrons that you could please with a simple bit of molded plastic bolted to the wall of your already less-than-stellar ladies' or men's room. But, no, I'm left to my own devices which is one of the following two options:

Option 1 - I change my baby's diaper in my car. Not really and option for me, though, since I drive a two-door car with limited trunk space. I can't climb into the backseat to change her diaper there, and the entire trunk is full with a stroller the size of Optimus Prime and other baby accoutrements. So, I can't use that flat surface, either.

Option 2 - I get angry and change her diaper on a table/on the slide/in the middle of frozen foods just to stick it to the cheap and ageist Man. I haven't done this yet, but I can feel it coming on and let me tell you: vengeance feels good.

So what's a new mom to do? I just got into the swing of changing her diaper at home, what on earth am I supposed to do in public with no changing table? Is there some part of the New Mom Handbook that addresses this? I must have skipped over it! Somebody, quick! Link me to the Spark Notes!

Friday, August 20, 2010

It takes a village...

Let me tell you how sick I am of hearing that proverb. As soon as someone finds out I'm not married and Carrie's father is uninvolved, I get the three phases of sympathy.

Phase 1, in which they try to seem genuinely upset for me, since I seem to be ok with the situation: (head tilt) "So you're on your own, then?
--No, I just made up the story of her absentee father for sympathy. Yes, we're on our own, obviously.

Phase 2, in which they test an assumption they believe to be unique to themselves: "But you have a strong support network, right?"
--Ok, this is actually a valid question. Yes, we do have an excellent support network of family and friends.

Phase 3, in which the head tilt returns: (head tilt) "Well, you know what they say. It takes a village to raise a child!"
--Yes, I know what they say. They all say it. This proverb ranks right under "What a beautiful baby!" and "All you did today was take care of Caroline?!" for things I hear most often.

And then, during a conversation with Caroline's godmother, I had a Realization: When you hear the same things over and over again, you can really appreciate a well-spoken friend.

Because, really, I don't live in a village. And, even if I did, I'm sure a significant portion of the citizens of said village would have nothing to do with raising my child. Instead, I will choose to highlight the product-over-process aspect of child rearing en masse. I will no longer make any claims about childhood in villages. I will proudly proclaim to the world my views on group child rearing: Raising a baby is a team sport. Thank God I've got such a good first string.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Sweet Caroline": Soundtrack for an Unrequited Obsession

Everybody know that that's like. I have this one friend, bless his heart, whom I love dearly. He's always been there for me and I consider him a best friend. And he was in love with me for years. It was really hard to balance that, for both of us, and now I know what it must have been like for him. Because, I had a Realization: my baby doesn't love me.

Not to say that she won't, someday, love the stuffing out of me. But, right now, she's as oblivious as Lindsay Lohan. She knows who I am, sure, but she isn't capable of loving me back just yet. I'm not going to lie, it hurts. It sucks to know that she's only smiling because of the totally ridiculous look on my face and the high pitch of my voice. It sucks to know that she's learning that I'll take care of her when she cries, but she has no capacity to appreciate it. I feel a bit exploited. I feel like she's playing me to get what she wants, almost. Like a teenage girl will string along a gamer boy just to reap the benefits of his unchecked regard for her. Is that normal?

Hell, we'll just call it normal to silence my neuroses. Some of them, at least. What if she never loves me the way I love her? And, similarly, what if it's not possible for her to love me the way I love her? What if she eventually treats me the way I treat my mother - like a distant, crazy relative? One day, I'll have to stop marveling at her toes and kissing her tummy and ruffling her hair. Because she won't want me to do those things anymore, one day. One day, she'll hold her friends' opinions in higher regard than she does mine. And, one day, she just might (heaven forbid) tell me she hates me in a fit of anger. My heart is already breaking just thinking about it.

And, just like that wawkward (not a typo: a contraction of "weird" and "awkward") teenage gamer boy, I'm moved to care for her unendingly. I want to write her letters explaining how perfect she is. I want to write poetry about her eyes and her smile. I want to make playlists and mixed CDs and never stop talking about her. And she just wants someone, anyone, to wipe the poo off her butt. Ah, love.

Saving Jane - Come Down to Me
Adele - Make You Feel My Love
U2 - Wild Honey
Hanson - Sure About It
Macy Gray - I'm So Glad You're Here
Angels and Airwaves - The Adventure
Beatles - Two Of Us
Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
Katrina and the Waves - Walking on Sunshine
Beyonce - Halo
Yellowcard - Miles Apart
Brandi Carlile and Elton John - Caroline
Ari Hest - Caught Up In Your Love
Athens Boys Choir - Daffodils and Macrame
Avett Brothers - Ballad of Love and Hate
Billie Holiday - Blue Moon
Bing Crosby - It Had to Be You

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sleep is for the weak (and I'll tell you why)

Let me just begin by saying that I'm quite accustomed to sleep deprivation (not on Gitmo-torture levels, but in the way than any average American joe can be). I worked through five years of college, during which I double majored in theatre and education. I didn't sleep much then. After school, I held five part-time jobs simultaneously. One of these was at a 24-hour coffee shop where I enjoyed working the 10pm to 6am shift, after which I would work two other shifts at two other jobs before noon. I spent the last four months of my pregnancy physically unable to configure my body into any position conducive to sleep and, therefore, survived on only the brief naps I snag while sitting up on the couch during the mid-afternoon hours.

So, really, I'm not any more sleep-deprived now that my bundle of joy has arrived than I have ever been. It is, however, a completely different type of tired that I was unaccustomed to. When friends and family members warned me that I would lose sleep, I falsely assumed that the reason would be frequent feedings. That it simply not the case, although changing diapers and making bottles at 4am doesn't help. The real reason I'm tired is our next Realization: every noise a baby makes in his or her sleep is utterly terrifying.

Even when I know she's fine - I've just changed her diaper and fed and burped her - and she's passed out like Nikki Sixx in 1987, I can't help checking on her when she makes any sort of wonky noise. Or just to make sure she's breathing. Or just to make sure she hasn't spit up and begun to choke to death on it. Or just to make sure her blanket is arranged properly for optimum comfort. Or just to make sure she's not too hot or too cold. (I hope you get my point here, because that whole paragraph is making my inner grammar freak twitch a bit around the eyes.)

Especially right after a bottle, she gets this kind of glottal mucus-y sound in the back of her throat when she breathes. It's totally ok and normal, except that it terrifies me. Last week she had a bit of a cold and I would lay in bed at night, afraid to fall asleep. Just listening for her breathing to make sure she was still alive. Every change in her breathing pattern had me sitting up, staring into her bassinet to make sure she was ok. And, oh Lord, when she wheezed. I would think to myself "was that a stuffy nose wheeze, or a SIDS death rattle?!" and, no matter how much I told myself she was fine, I'd had to get up and check on her just to be sure.

Now, I don't want you to think I live in fear. I don't. I'm certain that Caroline will be ok, I really am. But I'm not stupid. I was also certain that my period was just late. It never hurts to double check.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Losing It

Your body, that is. I had this great conversation with the friend last week about the unexpected hardships of having a baby. I knew that I'd be tired, and frustrated at times. I knew I'd be acquiring new skill sets rather quickly via the sink-or-swim method. I even knew that my body would change, I just didn't know how I would feel about those changes.

I've always been very into creating and living a persona. I like to plan outfits around a specific look, then act the part. I can almost guarantee that I'd hold my pinky out while drinking if I'm wearing a dress and heels. However, all of my experience in this arena was by choice. Even more so than pregnancy, birth changes your self-perception. During pregnancy, your body changes gradually over a 9- or 10-month period, giving you plenty of time to adjust to said changes and integrate them into your perception of yourself and into the perceptions those around you have. Birth essentially undoes all of that work in a matter of hours or even minutes, without your conscious consent. It's a challenge, to say the least.

Maybe this viewpoint grows out of a discontent with my birth experience. I had wanted to go med-free but caved after two days of back labor and got the epidural as soon as they would let me. After the spinal block, I promptly fell asleep since I'd been sleepless for both of the nights I'd been laboring at home; therefore, I wasn't as involved in the decision-making progress as I would have liked to be. I distinctly remember the doctor breaking my water; not because I felt anything - I didn't - but because he took my baby belly from me. I'd gained all my baby weight in my belly and nowhere else, my belly was beautiful. It was perfectly round and high. I thought about it as a big egg, sometimes, inside my belly. And after he broke my water, my belly collapsed around my baby, leaving something I didn't recognize. My beautiful, swollen belly had been turned into a flaccid sack with the tiny, writhing figure of my baby inside. I wasn't ready for that, and I didn't have time to process that change at all.

And this is only the beginning. Actually having the baby is a whole other story. In 6 hours, my body had completely morphed from pregnant to post-pregnant. It's not like it reverted to pre-pregnancy status, something I would have recognized as mine. It became something else, something completely new, that I'd never seen before and didn't identify with. It's only now, weeks later, that I'm finding the ability to figure out what this change means for me. I'd never really been happy with my body until I was pregnant, and it's a bit of a rude awakening to crash back to a state of dissatisfaction after riding such a high of self-esteem for so long.

I can understand, now, why a woman would want to have more than 1 child. It's intoxicating, being pregnant is.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When I was 9 months pregnant, in the middle of the hottest summer on record for years, I can't remember feeling as gross and in need of a shower as I do now. Even if I've showered the day before, I still feel super yucky the next day. Probably my subconscious telling me to take a break from the baby and do something for myself... This brings me to Realization #11: Washing your hair and shaving your legs in the same day is a luxury, enjoy it.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't make myself really enjoy the nice, long shower. It bothers me that Caroline is asleep and I'm indisposed to save her life, if that need should arise. Even with the baby monitor right next to the shower, I'm afraid I won't hear her if she cries. I check the baby monitory every few minutes (shampoo, check monitor, rinse hair, check monitor, apply conditioner, check monitor...) This behavior is not only obsessive, but also counter-productive, since it causes me to take even longer in the shower and thus, away from my baby. It's similar to the way a socially anxious person checks their cell phone religiously to make sure they haven't missed any calls or texts. Really, there was never a call to begin with, put the phone down, Captain Awkward. (It's not mean, I'm really referring to myself here, anyways.)

Maybe one day I'll be ok with this. In the meantime, I'll continue to take shorter (?) showers and switch off days of hair washing and leg shaving to trim that time down and get back to being a Mama.