Four and a half years and three babies later, I think I'm finally ready to write again. And...now that it's seven, the babies are up. Three sentences is a start.
I discovered we were going to be a family of four because I like to drink wine. Less than a month after I stopped breastfeeding, we went on vacation to California, and since it had been approximately, oh, a gajillion years (alright, 16.5 months) since I had drunk anything stronger than mint tea, I was filled with joy at the prospect of wine and the drinking of it being on the horizon.
Oh, and was there wine and the drinking of it. What a glorious, glorious 10 days those were - days of wine tasting, wine drinking, wine guzzling. It was a vacation filled with lovely, grapey goodness.
And then we came home. And I thought that, clearly, since I was enjoying drinking, that there was probably a very good reason why I shouldn't be doing it. (Because I am Catholic, and guilt often trumps logic, I often think this way.) So I bought a pregnancy test. I bought three, to be precise.
Took one. Nothing. Sweet! Wine with dinner it is!
Took another. Nothing. Awesome! Again, wine with dinner.
Took the third. Started laughing really hard. Milk with dinner.
It was a really lovely 15 days, wine. Thanks for the memories.
As he put it, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."
I had a baby. I got overwhelmed and intimidated by that dang baby, cute as she was. I got over being overwhelmed and took an amazing trip to see friends and friends and more friends and some dazzlingly beautiful bits of this country. I decided I had gotten the hang of the motherhood gig, and that it was time to get on with getting on. To do things like paint the house and hang pictures and join playgroups and get back to my writing and lose some baby weight and pick a marathon to enter.
And so, I'm having another baby.
Because John Lennon was right.
They tell you that you're going to lose your hair after you have a baby. They tell you it's going to be a lot. And true, starting about three months after the peanut was born, my hair started coming out in clumps. Handfulls. Fistfulls. Droves. Herds. Flocks. So I scheduled a haircut.
Yesterday, I got my hair cut, and it was like dying and going to heaven for a little bit and getting to return with good hair.
It was no big deal - just your basic wash, cut, and blowout, but it was amazing for me. For the first time since I gave birth, I let myself be cared for by someone else. The utter luxury of getting my hair washed with gentleness almost made me cry. For the first time in a long time, someone touched me in a manner totally devoid of need. It was like drinking long and deeply from a fountain after walking across a barren desert for five and a half months.
It reminded me how important it is not only to care for oneself, but to allow others to care for you, to cradle you and coddle you. To wash your hair for you.
Finding time to write is difficult these days. I had been trying the up-early-to-beat-the-baby method. Which sounds kind of awful, now that I look at it. But the child is an early riser. She would wake at 8. Then 7. Then 6. And darnit, I'm simply not going to get up at 4 to write.
Because "writing" entails checking my email. And the Book of Face. And then I usually read some blogs. And then do a little online shopping, pondering which size I might be now. Which, of course, sends me upstairs to weigh myself. Which, naturally, sends me right back downstairs to google "breastfeeding and weight loss." (MYTH! TOTAL MYTH! In my case, at least. More like "breastfeeding and the extra 30 pounds that grip your body with a jiggly hug.)
I'll finally settle down and sit down to write when I remember that I don't have my coffee. So, up I am again. And then back down. Knuckles cracked, fingers poised, delicately hovering over the keyboard, ready to tap out all the incredible greatness flitting about in this mind of mine, when...
...the baby talks. A lovely little monologue in her crib about the joys of waking early and how much she loves the birds.
And then it's a full day of feeding, singing, looking at ourselves in the mirror, more feeding, walking aimlessly around the house, realizing in the afternoon that we are still in our pajamas, deciding that going outside is for wimps, again more feeding, more singing, and then bed.
And then the greatness, the brilliance, the pithy wit, well, it is gone. Flown from my addled brain like feathers flying from a pillow that has just been sat upon by an elephant, and thus exploded. And I am left, sad and forlorn, with only the following types of bon mots:
+Every time I hear "All the Single Ladies," I think of "Toy Story" whenever she sings that "to infinity and beyond" line.
+One of my favorite parts of doing baby laundry is cleaning out the lint screen of the dryer after her wash goes through. Baby lint, like all other things baby, is heart-meltingly sweet and endearing in its lightness, fluffiness, and delicacy. The professor's and my lint, on the other hand, is just depressing.
+My hair is falling out! I'm now simultaneously going grey AND bald. It's like I've inherited both my mom's and my dad's hair destinies. In my thirties. AWESOME.
But I find that I miss writing. It flexes a muscle not used otherwise. It forces coherency, fluency, shape and form. It coaxes narrative and structure from a shapeless mass of thought. It demands care and thought and skill. And it also takes time. Time to settle down and let thoughts percolate, time to hone and mold those thoughts, and time to express them precisely. I love the way writing forces me to stop, slow down, and consider things with care.
Lest this get too maudlin and syrupy, let me close by sharing with you the Professor's take on those baby tickers you see everywhere. I was explaining to him what it is and how it works, and how and why people use them. And he wanted to see for himself. And this is what he came up with:
Life's got a new pace around these here parts. The bed is never made, the dishes are never done, the laundry pile towers menacingly in the closet, and dust bunnies frolic winsomely underfoot. I have a hard time getting showered before lunch, my hair is jumping off my head with abandon, and my underpants keep falling down. Seriously. I mean, every book about pregnancy and childbirth told me my body would change in ways that made me unhappy, but I naively thought that meant that I'd gain some weight, accrue some scars, have to buy all new shoes in an all new size, lament it all and go running and make peace with my new and weirder body. No one warned me about my underwear not staying up. For heavens' sake, I gained weight. A ton of it. And I can't lose it. Isn't it somehow defying the laws of physics for one's clothes to fall off one's larger, girthier self? Good gravy.
So I spend my days, baby in one arm, hitching up my pants and drawers every thirty seconds with the other arm, trying to figure out how in high hades I'm going to get the yard weeded. The baby's a hoot and a half, rolling and eating her feet and slowly learning the rules of peek-a-boo. Her underpants are velcroed to her, so they stay put, although sometimes they do leak. We spend an awful lot of time in our pajamas hanging out on a shamefully dusty floor reading books and listening to NPR.
Every morning begins with the baby talking to herself and every night closes with me valiantly reading a page in whatever book is on my nightstand before falling asleep and drooling all over my arm.
Sometimes I get jealous of people who have the ability to go places and do things and have adventures and sometimes I'm happy to just sit and be and inhabit our little life here.
And I do think, bittersweetly, that this is probably as good as it gets.
No. Someday my underpants will stay up, and then, *that* will be as good as it gets.
*It snowed on March 31st last year, the day I told my mother she would be a grandmother.
*I craved fruit like crazy during the first trimester, with kiwi and mangoes being marked out as serious objects of desire. And consumption. There were a couple of weeks during which I ate a mango (or two) a day. Thank heaven mangoes were 3 for 5 dollars during this phase.
*I dreamt we were having a girl.
*I thought I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks.
*I took a pregnancy test a day for 14 days in a row.
*The baby moved in week 21.
*The baby's favorite position in utero was sideways.
*Everyone in Europe is incredibly kind to waddly pregnant ladies. I've never been offered seats by so many people in so many places.
*My doctor predicted that I was "well on the way to having a larger than average baby."
*The first stranger to ask me if I was pregnant was the baggage-checker-inner lady at the RDU airport. She predicted I would have a girl. She was right.
*The only stranger to touch my belly was the proprietor of our favorite Chinese food joint. He asked when I was due, sized me up visually, put his hands on my belly and declared, "7 pounds!" He was right. (Well, only 3 ounces off; better than my doc.)
*My belly was insanely round and huge, but there are no stretch marks to document this.
*Three days before the baby was due, we cut down our Christmas tree. I helped haul it, and I strung all the lights.
*The first contraction was right at the end of "The Princess and the Frog" the Sunday before she was born.
*Labor lasted 32 hours. I pushed for 2.5 of those hours. Thinking of the entire experience as the longest marathon ever really helped. So did an epidural.
*During contractions, I totally withdrew and closed my eyes. I also needed total quiet, which resulted in us watching an episode of "House" that got muted every 5 minutes or so.
*When I was in triage at the hospital, there was also a crazy (literally, not figuratively) lady in triage who made our eyes pop with her ability to be a recalcitrant patient. At one point, she yelled into her phone, "Listen! I have to be quiet. They're telling me to be quiet, because there's a lady actually having a baby in here." It took me a minute to realize that the lady was me.
*The doctor who checked me in triage said, "I can feel baby's hair!" and it was a moment when I could feel life actually change.
*When a contraction would hit while I was up and walking around, I would press my head into the wall to steady myself. I had a goose egg for the two days after the baby was born.
*Apparently, I moo when in labor. (Actually, I said, "Ow...ow..ow," which turned into "oooo...oooo...oooo", but still sounded pretty darn bovine.)
*The worst part of the epidural was when they untaped the catheter from my back. It felt like the world's biggest bandaid coming off.
*I never felt like I had to poop, contrary to what everyone said the urge to push felt like. (Everyone except the librarian at our local branch who said that description was worthless.) The urge to push felt like an elephant sitting on my tailbone. A harbinger of things to come.
*I pushed 5 times with every contraction.
*Right before the baby was born, the room was flooded with people. I looked around and said, "My it's festive in here!"
*It snowed seven inches the day she was born--she brought the winter snow.
Wow. So I deleted that last post, because, you know what? After writing it, I felt better. After reading it, I thought to myself, "Huh. So that's all I have to deal with? Not so bad." And really, when it comes down to it, the area where I'm *truly* limited is long-distance travel, and that? That I can live without for a little while.
So, here's the new version of that post:
1. Breastfeeding with a broken tailbone truly, truly sucks.
2. Tailbones heal.
3. Cluster feeding is still a total and complete nightmare and made me do a faceplant into the dirty laundry while weeping. Oh, cluster feeding, how I loathe thee!
4. Sometimes, babies don't take bottles and you do whatever it takes to keep them alive. And quiet. (Or, rather, quiet-ish.)
5. It took 12 weeks for me to believe this, but I think I will survive this experience.
6. Writing things out really is good for you. It gives you perspective.
Not last night, but the night before, when the Little Sweet Potato woke up for a 2:30 a.m. feeding, I spent the time plotting and planning my NCAA bracket in my head. The Professor, not fully realizing the rule that when baby-waking is involved, if you CAN sleep, you SHOULD, decided to use the time to haul his computer into bed and check out what happened at the Oscars.
(A few things of note:
1. I've given birth to a produce department. It is quite possible that the baby will grow up thinking her name is Little Peanut. Or Little Tomato. Or Little Sweet Potato. I'm contemplating throwing in a Little Eggplant here and there.
2. I expect good things from Syracuse.
3. Oh, if the Professor would like to wake up in the middle of the night, why, why, why won't the baby take a bottle?
4. He wanted "Up" to win for Best Picture.)
Recent small victories noticed and celebrated:
1. I can sit on the couch! It has been a long and sad twelve weeks, but my rear is now happily (although somewhat tentatively and delicately) perching on the couch and the bed. Being able to sit on the latter makes putting my socks on in the morning so much easier. Before, it was just a lot of hopping and falling over and cursing.
2. I can leave the house! This was a hard one for me. Scared to go out without the baby, scared to go out with the baby, I just sort of cocooned up on the second floor and gave up on life on the outside. But, somehow with the passage of time (and the arrival of sun and above freezing temperatures) I'm pretty sure that we'll survive not only on the first floor but out in the real world as well.
3. I can wear non-maternity clothes! Ok, this was mostly due to my laziness, as all non-maternity wear is in storage and when you have to feed a baby every 2.67 minutes because they're unaware that 3 month olds and newborns perhaps do not eat the same number of times a day, really, who wants to go up in the attic and lug around boxes to find pants that aren't going to fit anyway? Not me. So I ordered some new pants online. Woohoo!
4. In the span of 1 hour (the actual time between the end of one feeding and the next) yesterday I: dressed, made the bed and straightened the bedroom, made and ate breakfast, and prepped and baked a casserole for freezing.