Archive for September, 2009

Reflections for a New(er) Mother (Than Me)

September 22, 2009
Clueless“Tai, how old are you?” “I’ll be 16 in May.” “My birthday is in April. As someone older can I please give you some advice?”

With five weeks behind me as a mother I’ve noticed a few things. No sense robbing the world of my wisdom.

* Everything has the ability to make you fret. If your child is wailing for an hour and you put them in the crib and they calm down you’ll start to worry within three minutes of leaving the room that something is wrong. If they sleep through the night you’ll worry that something is wrong. Eat a lot? A little? Something’s wrong. They cuddle up under your neck and it’s the cutest thing ever, right? Sure, until you start worrying that they’re blocking their mouth and nasal passages. Mothers of newborns could give Woody Allen a run for his neuroses.

* The Internet is the greatest invention ever. Just Google any combination of substance you or your child is ejecting plus a verb plus the words “baby” or “post-natal” and you will instantly learn of 100 other parents also experiencing this malady as well as doctors and other professional experts offering the solution. Thank you, Al Gore!

* The Internet is a scourge wrought upon humanity for its wickedness. Googling your or your child’s latest malady yields the blathering of scores of cranks and quacks who all contradict one another with their ridiculous advice that leaves you more confused than when you started. Go suck a lemon, Al Gore!

* Forget the Internet anyway. Just call or visit your child’s pediatrician or your doctor. No matter what you describe to them they will respond, “Oh that’s totally normal.” Your child’s head is spinning 360 degrees? Totally normal. Your lower abdomen has suddenly contorted into the shape of a Frank Gehry building? Totally normal.

* You will suffer extreme paranoia that everyone is judging you. In your defense, everyone is judging you.

* If you thought you were intellectually superior for reading the Sunday Times before just wait until you have a baby. Reading one wedding announcement on the Vows page now makes you feel worthy of a Charlie Rose interview.

* You will rail against the parents who put a happy face on the post-natal experience, never speaking honestly about the myriad physical, emotional and logistical strains. “They were all lyingggg!” you will wail in one of your more broken down moments. And then you will go out and do the exact same thing, exclaiming cheerily, “It’s going great!” when anyone asks how it’s going.

* People will tell you, “Nap when the baby naps!” These people either have nannies or no children. Because it is impossible. Do you know who naps when the baby naps? The one who doesn’t worry about the cleaning, pumping, cooking, bill paying, and working from home. That person does not nap when the baby naps.

* You wait feverishly for your husband to walk through the door in the evening. Then you spend much of the time he’s home eying him with suspicion, wondering if he thinks you laze about all day napping while the baby naps.

* You wonder how you were ever, even for one nanosecond, a snot with your own parents. You also wonder why you didn’t call them every day of college just to let them know you were still alive.

Finally, the most important piece of wisdom I’ve gleaned:
* Babies are awesome. They have beautiful eyes and their hair smells like cinnamon. The first time they give you a genuine smile it goes a long way to diminishing the junk above.


Hello, Baby

September 17, 2009

It was 2:30 in the morning and my husband and I were driving over D.C.’s silenced streets, bound for the hospital. The only sound from outside my open window was the truck’s engine and the ambient noise of the humid summer night. Inside it was just Wolfmother’s “Vagabond” coming from the stereo because we were both quiet, processing what was unfolding. As we drove past the monuments they glowed under the moon.

It had been a dyslexic version of the classic scene that night. Instead of waking with a start and calling the hospital, we were awoken by the hospital calling us at 1 in the morning to tell us we could come in. With the baby deciding to hang out for an extra week, I was supposed to be induced on a Wednesday. With every baby in the D.C. metro area deciding to be born on that particular Wednesday I was delayed until Thursday morning. “We’ll call you when a delivery room frees up,” the nurse had said Wednesday evening as the wait dragged on.

Finally, at 3 a.m. on Thursday we settled into our delivery room. It was dim and cozy and we reveled, albeit sleepily, in what we knew now were the waning hours of quiet in our lives. The last of You and I.

As it turns out, there would be more of those hours than we expected. An early induction drug did nothing, necessitating the high-octane juice later that morning. With that came an epidural. (Gotta love a process that makes you actually ask a doctor to stick a needle in your spinal cord.) And then came…nothing. Over the next 16+ hours things progressed only so far and that wasn’t far enough.

Around 8:30 that night the baby played her high card. Through the epidural that kept me from feeling contractions so strong the monitor printout read like the screen of a treadmill set to “Alpine Adventure”, I felt her kicking. Like crazy. “That was odd,” I thought. A minute later the doctor and a nurse came hustling in the room and asked if I’d felt the baby moving. Shayeah. The baby’s heart rate was dropping at the same time that her sudden activity indicated some sort of distress, the doctor said. It was time to consider that a c-section was likely necessary.

Up until this point the best word to describe labor would be boring. Too drugged by the epidural to get out of bed. Too overwhelmed by the experience to read or do a crossword puzzle. Clockwatching becomes the pastime. When the doctor starts talking emergency c-section it becomes un-boring. It becomes terrifying. When she asked what my feelings were about having the procedure I said, “I do not care about the type of birth. Just get the baby out now.”

The minutes that followed were the cliched blur: husband getting into scrubs, me telling him to follow the baby and not me after she came out, me telling him to save the baby and not me if something went wrong, me telling him not to remarry or I’d haunt him if something went wrong, anesthesiologist asking questions, residents who looked like they were 18 introducing themselves, wheeling to the operating room, staring up at the glaring lights, arms strapped out on both sides, “Can you feel this?” and through it all, uncontrollable shaking due to the nerves or the anesthesia or both. “Stop shaking or you’ll screw them up,” I told myself. Also through it all: my husband’s head right next to me, eyes locked on mine, whispering to me through his mask.

At 9:42, our baby came into the world. You and I became The Three of Us.

Because of something hinky that had happened when my water broke earlier that day I’d expected there would be problems at her birth. I didn’t expect to hear her cry. I’d spent the afternoon preparing myself for the likelihood that there would be initial respiratory problems and that silence would likely mark her arrival. But at 9:42,  through my anesthetized haze, I heard her cry. Loudly. Sustained. This baby was peeved.

With good reason as it turns out. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Because of her ample carriage she’d been jammed in with little to no chance of moving. One side of her face initially showed the signs of being smushed. Her check-out of the Hotel Tummyington had not gone smoothly. A stern letter to the management was in order.

Luckily, in the days that followed she agreed to forgive us. Because she is perfectly lovely.