Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shock Therapy

The night before last Bella started going down at night with surprising ease. No patting and lifting and patting and nursing and patting and making sure there was not a peep or rustling nursing pad to be heard. I fed her, popped a nanuk in her mouth, and laid her in the crib. She was out. She looked so precious, I reached down and placed a hand on her chunky little thigh.

I can't explain the feeling I had at that moment except that it felt like an electric current was traveling through my fingers. I pulled back for a moment and looked at my hand, looked at Isabella, and put my hand back on her leg. The feeling remained. So I stood there with my hand on her leg, eyes closed and grinning like an idiot for far too long. I thought, What is this feeling? This is my daughter. She is beautiful. This moment is beautiful. I can't believe I get to feel this.

I knew there would be precious moments like smiling and cooing and crawling and walking and pooping. But this is a kind of connection I never knew about. It's a moment I never counted on. These happy little surprises make up more of parenthood than I had guessed. And people, it's sweety, schmucky, schloopy freakin' beautiful. I hope you get it.

Monday, August 17, 2009


People ask if your infant is sleeping through the night like it is a tremendous personal accomplishment, like cooking a turkey or earning a doctorate degree.

Isabella sleeps in completely unpredictable 1-3 hour spurts, and her best sleep is in our bed (with my boob in her mouth). I have been banking daytime baby sleep, allowing only a couple naps a day.
No, honey, don't let her fall asleep on you at 6pm when we're putting her down at 8pm. What? No, I know she's fussy. What? No, I'm not going to put my boob in her mouth, I just fed her an hour ago. What? No, get up and walk around with her or something.
I thought I should be stimulating her senses all day long because her brain is growing so fast and what if she gets bored and turns into a couch potato because I let her watch Yo Gabba Gabba while I check my email? Well, without admitting that I may be wrong (by telling my husband I'm trying something different), I'm trying something different.

Yesterday I let her nap every two hours, mostly 20-30 minutes at a time. Holy snarkles, Buddha, it worked. She was happy all day and evening. Not like she magically slept through the night, but she just slept better. I can't explain it. More actual sleeping. Of course, it's not working this morning because she wants to watch cartoons with the big kids (inservice day after school's been in session a week? Whatever). Right now she's down for some quiet time to herself. I'm listening to the monitor and surely there is someone else in the room because she is positively chatting and screeching her entire life story. And when she starts crying I'm going to wait ONE FULL MINUTE before I go running to her. But I'm going to keep trying this for the week until I'm sure I'm not fooling myself with it.

Meantime, you'll know when she starts sleeping through the night because see that idiot turning cartwheels down the street in front of a 300 piece marching band with floats and fireworks? Yeah, that's me, and I don't have bags under my eyes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I struggle. That's as honest as I can be, and I struggle with how honest I should be. Talking with my husband last night before trying to sleep, I realized there are dark moments that he doesn't know about, and he seemed surprised when I told him that when he went back to work after the baby was born, that there were days I would sit in the recliner with her and just cry on her head because I was so scared of being a horrible mother. Prone to depression until I turned 30 and started dealing with it, and with good reason that maybe we'll explore together someday, my family assumes I am suffering from postpartum depression. And I want to talk about it.

So let me just get this off my chest, World: the last month of my pregnancy, I wanted to die. Not because of being pregnant (I actually had a relatively easy pregnancy), but because I felt so helpless as I watched my family fall apart with the stress of my job loss, my husband's commuting, the special needs of my stepchildren and their mother's constant and nearly successful effort at sabotaging our family dynamic. I was so angry that we chose to bring a child into this awful situation that one day I drove away and cried for four hours. Gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing sobs of sadness and heartbreak. But what I was really mourning was that I had lost power over my household and I would soon lose power over my life. Then I went home. The next day, I gave birth.

A most wonderful and vagina-wrecking experience, is birth, and I will talk about that more someday, too. For now, suffice to say that the following six weeks were a blur of sleeplessness and pain that no one warned me about. People always said to nap when the baby naps, but no one told me that the baby would only nap when I stuck my boob in her mouth and the second I put her down she would wake up and cry. None of my books said there would be times that she would cry but didn't want to eat OR sleep AND her diaper was dry AND if I put her down she would cry louder so I couldn't pee for twelve hours until the bacon-bringer got home, much less shower/brush anything/eat. No one told me that I would love her so much, so fast, that everytime she nursed or fussed or pooped or blinked that would dissolve into goopy tears and snot (and man-oh-man did she hate it when I blew my nose).

For weeks I was this utter mess of hormones and mood swings. Here's where I struggle with how detailed should be about this struggle. The stepkids, to whom I have dedicated my heart and soul for several years undoing all of the early damage from before we got custody, started rejecting me, and with a vengeance. Whatever was going on for them was something I could not mentally handle. So a few weeks ago, I walked. I packed enough stuff for the baby for a month (because I had NO idea how to pack a baby for a week) and took off for Mom's. And folks, that was just the sabbatical I needed.

I dedicated five days to resting and bonding with my daughter. I know my husband missed some work. I went with his blessing but he was still sad. I don't want to know what he did while I was gone. I don't care. The kids stayed with his grandma when he did go to work and I know they treated her like crap and got spoiled anyway and I don't care. My dad worried because he thought I was leaving my husband even though I told him I wasn't and I didn't give it another thought. And without being cold or callous about it, I came home and I stopped caring so much. I didn't stop loving anyone and I don't love anyone less. But I stopped caring how the kids dressed themselves and whether or not they left the house with toothpaste on their faces because, ADHD or not, they need to deal with the social reality that other kids can be cruel. If you want to be the boy with dragon breath or the girl with snot on her face then that's YOUR problem, I taught you better and that particular job is done. I stopped caring how the chores got done, but made a list and said, These are your daily responsibilities because you are old enough to do this. You are going to make my life easier whether you like it or not. If not, then I will take away your privileges which will be your loss, not mine. When they pushed my buttons and manipulated my emotions, I laughed and told them I loved them and walked away. I made a deal with my husband that every day when he gets home, he will take the baby and I will go shower (not that he wasn't doing this already, but I had to tell myself what to do with that time). I let Isabella suck on her dress because she's teething and comforting herself and I can strap her in her highchair and go pee. And damn if this shit doesn't work. We laugh, and that by itself is a by-golly freakin' miracle.

Now I'm workin' it like no other. On a Sunday afternoon, I'm forcing the whole family to go grocery shopping so I don't have to carry anything AT ALL. And Mom and Dad(s) and Sister and World: I am not suffering from PPD. The hormones are balancing out and the kids are back in school and I have a smily, loving baby often attached to my boob. But all the laundry is done, my kitchen is clean and I got a new haircut. And while my disinfected countertops do not define my life, my family often does. And folks, I am workin' it.