You’re Here Why?

Coming on to 2 years old, I took a look back to see what people have been reading most.  Hands down it was the the post on what to call pacifiers, complete with pictures of the more interesting ones.  I’m pretty sure from search results that people want to know what they can give their kids that won’t look like a pacifier.  I’m also pretty sure that these parents don’t have kids yet.  Because seriously, once your kid finds one she likes, are you still looking around for that adorable one straight out of Deliverance?  Also, that post includes the name “Britney Spears” so it’s obviously my best post ever.

We call ours “pacifier” and we went with a basic, buy at Target style.  She still uses them at night and uses the name “ba-too-wa.”  Go figure.  I don’t think that was on my original list of options, but far be it from me to argue with an expert.  Although we decided that, in the grand scheme of things, the pacifier battle (i.e. removing it) was not one we were going to wage yet, this week brought with us a smattering of thumb sucking.  I don’t even know what to do with that.  Maybe it tastes good.

People still really want that picture of a basilisk.

Folks also like to read about the things we thought we wanted and didn’t want.  Let me tell you, three months old looks a lot different than almost two.  I’m pretty sure it’s not even comparable anymore since some of the things she didn’t like then (books) are the things we can’t live without now.  To recap:

Bedding: those Pottery Barn sheets with the beach theme are getting a serious workout.  I still love them.  LOVE them.
Carseats: We used the racing stripe car seat into the ground and stayed brand loyal with the new one.  Yay Graco for at least offering a style that didn’t scream boy or girl.
Playpen: We are still using the playpen every time we travel or a child comes to visit.  I can’t believe I ever thought, eh, we probably won’t use that.
Rocker: The recliner?  Priceless.
Pajamas: She has long since grown out of my favorite sleeper but she’s so adorable in ones we can find in regular shops that we haven’t been back to Hello Earth.  Still though, I loved that sleeper.  More important is the ability to rotate through several sets without having to constantly wash laundry.
Hand-me-downs: Still love them.  I need a family IV drip of adorable hand-me-downs.  Most notable of late is the robe.
Diaper bag: we never did use that camo bag and no one from CraigsList will buy it.  If you want one, we will send it to you – no charge!
Gifts: She obsesses over the books she got from friends and the ones we bought for her.  I was going to use the word cherishes but then I decided that did not sound like my child wolverine at all.
Bath gear: everything is beyond useful (those washcloths still smell – weird.)
Baby hangers: so perfect and contrary to the advice we got early on (not from you, you’re beautiful and charming), “Oh don’t bother with a dresser or hangers, you’ll just end up dressing her from a pile in a laundry basket,” we do end up using them.  We also occasionally take from the laundry basket.  We also occasionally forget to fold them first.
Dinnerware: We never use that metal cup or plate.  NEVER.  Why didn’t we return that thing?!
Toys: She did end up with some toys, though not without a little bit of moaning on my part.  She prefers to chase us around, brandishing books at our calves like a little, scholarly, Atilla the Hun.

As for carrying the baby around, she would mostly prefer to run everywhere.  She used the Moby wrap as a baby and moved into an front carrier after that.  She is now in my most favorite backpack ever, the Kokopax.  It’s super light, has a stand to rest on the ground and hasn’t got any fancy contraptions like an umbrella or mesh cover for me or a tiny tornado to destroy.  We use it constantly and will probably only stop when she gets too heavy for me to haul.  She’s at 25ish pounds now, so I’m more like Wonder Woman than I thought.  We don’t have an umbrella stroller.  It seems unnecessary for a child who pretends she’s in an Olympic sprint at every opportunity, but we’ll see if even Wonder Woman can stand up to my wife’s persuasive abilities.

I’m pretty sure that’s going to permanently wrap up the assessment of things we got, things we loved and things we thought we’d love but didn’t.

Finally, folks love to land on the Supreme.  That my friends, has a happy ending.  Our beloved ugly duckling was spotted languishing in the basement by a handyman who wanted to take it home to his daughter.  We gave it to him.  And so it cycles back to the beginning.  Bought for a daughter, used for a baby, taken home to another little girl for her dolls.  The Supreme has lived up to its name.  Bravo.

Loins

We’ve had RR for 130 days.

Lots of things can happen in 130 days according to the internet.  You can get totally built, if you believe what Andy Jeziorski says (and dude, we don’t need to see your package in your pictures).  It’s how long it will take before the dollar falls (well, as of June 09, for what that’s worth).  It’s the rental period for college textbooks (without the add-on 30 day early bird bonus).  It’s above and beyond what reservists should serve but often do.  It’s the number of games Virginia Tech has played in 130 days and they have video to prove it.  And, it’s how long an Italian interior decorator lived in a sealed cave in 1989.

It’s pretty amazing then that in 130 days I haven’t managed to make mom friends.  Given the vast number of new moms we know of (and, in one case, live next door to), you’d think I’d have managed one play date.  I try to tell myself that she’s too little for play dates and that the time will come, but the reality is that I’m probably going to be odd one out for a while.

I’m not home with RR during the day.  I get emails from parenting listservs in town about fun sounding play groups, music or story time groups, new moms groups, and so forth.  I get so excited!  Hurrah!  And then I see the time.  11am on a Tuesday.  3:30 on Fridays.  Every Monday and Wednesday from 9-10am.  No baby yoga for us then.  But before I can get too down on the situation, I remind myself that even if there were offerings on the weekend or in the evenings, I probably wouldn’t go.  Things interfere – bedtime mostly (mine not hers).  I’m glad there are daytime events to enrich kids and parents and I wish I could be a part of them but we’re getting enriched via daycare (I hope) and through passingly rushed conversations with our child’s classmates’ parents (Mr.and Mrs. Liam, Mr. and Mrs. Ava, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson and mostly Mrs. Augustine)

And then there are my personal hang-ups.  I’m already socially terrified, the last thing I want to do is walk into a room of moms and not only negotiate the hurdle of being one of two mothers, but also of not being the birth mother.  It’s not that I think I’ll be stoned in the marketplace, it’s more that I feel like a bit like a land mine: everything looks just like you’d expect and then, wow, it’s really not anything you can cope with.  I’m probably both projecting and maligning the gentle parents in this relatively open-minded place, but I can’t help but die imagining that they will immediately dislike me and, more importantly, my daughter, because I’m not straight and because I didn’t spring her from my loins.  Loins.  Say it with me.  It’s the only thing not angsty about this post.

What I need is a queer parenting group.  Of under one-year-olds.  And while we’re making wishes, I’d also like it to be an established group that meets on weekend mornings filled with super nice folks.  While you’re cooking that up, I’m going to be working with what I have: cultivating our relationship with our neighbors, focusing on RR and D, smiling at the misters and missuses as we pass like ships each day and slowly warming RR up to friends with grown kids who like us as much as we like them, no judgement included.

Now that you’ve put up with all that, let’s get back to where we really like to be, shall we?  Loins.

Three Months Later…

Back in June, I made a note of all the baby things we’d bought or received that made a particular impact – stuff we loved, needed, didn’t need, didn’t want, etc.  Re-reading, I think my tune has definitely changed in some cases – ah, the difference 3 months makes.

I said I was most happy to have bought a sun hat.  Everything considered, three months in, that sun hat was a very important acquisition.  Had she been born in another season, it would have been a bust.  Overall though, the thing I’m most happy that we bought was also our most indulgent purchase: the full price Pottery Barn sheets.  Since RR isn’t sleeping on them yet, I get to look at them everyday and they’re like a work of art.  They simply light up my day.  I also said I shouldn’t have bought the lot of bottles from CraigsList and I was right, they were useful for only one thing: knowing which bottles we DIDN’T want.

We spent the most time agonizing over the car seat.  Let me tell you, that Graco 35 is HEAVY but we love the racing stripe, so it’s totally worth it.  It works really well with the thing we agonized over but could have decided in 3 seconds, the Graco Snugrider (snap and go).  I love that little rolling cart for its tiny footprint and easy maneuverability.  We did end up buying a second stroller, but not anything that would constitute a travel system.  I honestly thought we’d wear our baby more and the stroller wouldn’t matter, but it was a long hot summer and the Moby wrap wasn’t cutting it.  Also, RR hates carriers with a white-hot passion.

I was only 25% right about the things I was most concerned we’d never use (playpen, cradle) and the things I was concerned we’d wish we had (glider, jump swing).  We have used the heck out of that playpen and I’d be lost without it.  The others aren’t even missed/noticed though we’ve relied heavily on the rocker/recliner we already had.

As far as gifts go, I was thrilled to receive calendula cream that we never use.  We are all over Bordeaux’s Butt Paste.  At least it’s the natural kind?  Who am I kidding…  And although we received the most towels, camo diaper bags and books, the baby hates books (except for the one we bought, Little Mr. Funny) and we returned all but one camo bag, which we never use.  We have a hand-me-down bag from my sister that is so perfect, we haven’t needed the other.  The towels get used all the time and I’m glad we have a pair, but the washcloths have taken on a perpetual smell.  We are instead using tiny thin cloths from a discount store and I love them.  And I was right about the gifts I wished we’d returned.  They are all in the cup/plate arena although I’m holding out hope that those become more useful.

While I suspected that the cutest thing was the closet full of baby hangers, it is, in fact, the Hello World sleeper that I want to leave my wife for, marry and have a thousand sleep-clad children with.  I can’t convey my love for that snug fitting suit and the baby just slides right into it.  She also sleeps better with it.  It’s like a second skin.  It is hands-down the best gift we got.  I intend to buy several more in bigger sizes.  By the way, I said that the ugliest thing we had was the strap hanging from the changing table, but I seriously appreciate that strap.  It has given me peace of mind more than once.  And let me tell you, that ridiculous, laughable thing was still the most useful – Doll Baby.  We’ve stashed her in all kinds of places when we wanted to be sure RR would fit.  RR is bigger than doll baby now, but she only made it to be that big because doll baby paved her way.

We did get some other things from friends that we love and so many clothes that we’re now in shock that we have to buy new things for RR.  I’m still waging the anti-battery war (more on that later) but I think I’m slowly losing.  I have learned that dull shades, browns and black and whites are positively yawn inducing compared to eye-blinding colors.  And that she doesn’t care about faces so much as she cares about our faces.  I’m sure I’ll have a completely different perspective in another 3 months.  In the meantime, go check out Hello World!*

 

*P.S. Hello World did not pay me in sleepers to pimp them.  Though they can.  If they want to.  They can pay me in thousands of perfect sleepers.

 

 

 

Other Mothers

Having a baby has made me insecure and guilt-ridden, apparently.  How the hell did that happen?

My subconscious drew up a complicated birth plan and a rigorous set of rules for RR.  Worse, I find myself comparing our actual experience and techniques to those imaginary standards and the experiences of everyone we meet and coming up short.  Imaginary standards.  In moments of clarity, I’m reminded that this unflattering and inherited tendency is one that nudged us toward D carrying.

Aside to RR: Look, I’m sorry.  I don’t know about these hidden expectations until they actually happen.  So if I inexplicably want you to wear that plaid skirt on the first day of school or take pottery classes, just chalk it up to mama’s craziness.  Hopefully, it’s not contagious.

Here are the things I apparently boxed us into without even realizing it: all natural, drug-free childbirth (complete with a grassy hidden glade and frolicking fawns), breastfeeding, baby-wearing and cloth diapers.  And when it hasn’t worked, I feel like we’re doing it wrong.  Don’t hit the comment button yet.  I realize this is insecurity.  I know it’s unflattering.  I know we’re doing what works for us.  But what’s WRONG with me?   Here’s what’s happening:

We had the perfect childbirth for us.  Sure, it could have gone differently.  There was, in fact, no grassy hidden glade.  I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the miracle of my wife laboring.  When I hear other mothers talk about their eight centimeters dilated and water breaking and no epidurals, I feel a little as if we didn’t try hard.  In fact, we tried very, very hard.

We can’t breastfeed.  It didn’t work.  Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with cholera, hoards of the unvaccinated, or distant medical care. But when other mothers talk about breastfeeding and how they have to feed on-demand, I hear the implication that we have it easy because formula fed babies don’t need to eat when they first get hungry and that they sleep for days straight.  We don’t have anything easy.

We opted not to cloth diaper and thank god.  I see other mothers do it and I’m so incredibly envious.  This was something I actually articulated that I wanted.  Disposable is what worked better for us, but when I see other mothers sighing about having to change their babe from cloth to disposable for the ride home I feel an intense pang of regret.  I’m suddenly certain RR will be in diapers until she’s 18 and will be scarred for life with permanent diaper rash, not to mention the gas mask she’ll have to wear cause I’ve single-handedly ruined the environment.

Also, I said I’d wear that baby everywhere.  But you know what?  It’s summer and she’s hot.  I get enough screaming at home without poking her with a hot stick while we’re on a walk.

I dread the other imaginary standards at which I don’t even I know I’m about to fail.  I got a hint of this the other day when one of the other mothers said that they don’t ever have time to watch tv.  In fact, she can’t imagine the last time she turned it on.  At our house it’s on.  Perhaps RR’s brain has rotted already.  Good.  Then she’ll wear that plaid skirt I mentioned.

All those other mothers aren’t trying to be superior – I’m generating this inferiority complex on my own.  I wish I could be less hard on myself.  Because I’m not the mother I expected I’d be, I’m a better mother than I expected I’d be.

My Mother-in-Law

Spending time with her turns me from someone I pretty much like to someone I wouldn’t encourage my daughter to hang out with.

Nice.

Suddenly I’m silent, sullen, withdrawn.  I’m critical of everything she does, usually just to my wife.  But then I realize I’m talking to her daughter, someone who still loves her very much despite the way she acts.  And then I dislike who I’ve morphed into – like some angry, wronged anti-hero.

Regardless, this is my daughter’s grandmother.  And she is the one person who shouldn’t see this side.  I want her to learn that it’s okay not to get along with and to love everyone, but I want her to have a good relationship with this woman.  And so, I’m trying to be nicer.  Less critical.  But also, I’ve stopped trying to win her over or to make her like me.  I think it’s impossible.  She might not have that much good will in her heart.

See, there I go again.

We had originally invited her to come for a week in August.  The week I’m going back to work.  But she just spent three days with us and lifted not a finger, offered no help and enraged my child.  One day she slept until 1pm.  That night she went to bed at 8:30.  We cooked for her.  She held the hollering babe on the couch instead of in the rocking chair because she was “comfortable there”, even though RR most certainly was not.  She stretched our nerves thin.

I don’t think I can handle a week when RR is this little.  How do we ask her to stay home?  Suggestions?

Waking Up

I have no idea how people do this.  This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 8:00 but only after stripping off my pajamas so that I would get chilly enough that I had to get up.  I’m mostly a morning person.  I do not usually require nudity to get me out of bed.

I don’t even think we’re sleeping all that badly.  Sure, it isn’t uninterrupted, but RR sleeps in three-hour stretches punctuated by a snack and a diaper change.  There aren’t tantrums or prolonged periods of obnoxiousness.  I know it’s coming, probably tonight, but as of last night, she was still an A plus baby.  We’re each getting up once with her, although she occasionally, like this morning, stretches her 4am hello into a 430 and beyond GOOD MORNING, DAY!!!

But dragging myself out of bed at 8:00 and a 3:00-4:00 pm nap is not going to successfully get me to work.  Fortunately, I negotiated a very reduced schedule through mid-August, but come next Friday, I actually have to get up, dress, be at work by 830 and begin productively working until 500ish.  Holy shit, I’m in trouble.

How does anyone do this?  I’m not even all that distressed about leaving my infant since she’ll still be in my wife’s capable hands but who will wash the bottles?  Who will mix the formula?  Who will kiss her at her diaper changes and curse when she inopportunely pees, again?  Who will make sure she eventually passes out so my wife can sleep?  Who will keep me awake in meetings?  Who will pack my lunch?  Furthermore, who will go to the grocery store?  And, most importantly, will get me out of bed?

I’m a little concerned that we’re going to have to manage all this together when RR goes to daycare at the end of the summer.  Right now, I can’t even imagine manipulating this child into waking up any sooner or eating any later than she plans to.  She may not cry much but she has very firm opinions about what should happen when and she’s never heard of a workday.  We’re in trouble.  I’m in trouble.

Unexpected

This may not be the most popular opinion around here, but the other part of labor, the part I didn’t mention, was how stunningly beautiful my wife was in the midst of it.  I know she isn’t supposed to be beautiful.  Ragged, maybe.  Worn, certainly.  And, for her maybe, tough.  Gritty.  Hard.  Instead, she was beautiful.  Raw, yes.  More than a little sweaty.  Strong.  Exquisite.

My admiration for her hasn’t faded in the two weeks since she gave birth.  I’m not surprised – labor and delivery was an astounding accomplishment and, let’s face it, she produced a gorgeous baby.  However, it’s unexpected how much I find myself marvelling at how beautiful she was in the moment.  Not a day passes that I don’t think of it and wonder how, above everything else, this is what I remember (and value) most about the birth.

I remember that late afternoon with the rain lashing the windows and trees whipping sideways, that we worked in a storm-dimmed room accompanied by muted thunder, steady, soft beeping, synced breathing and quiet encouragement.  She rocked through each contraction, forehead and hair dripping, positively glowing through this amazingly hard thing, and I gripped her hand and held on.

I can’t do her justice, or that moment, but it catches me at odd moments and I think, I’m married to the most incredible person.  I’m partly snared in that scene and I think I might be, happily so, forever.