Saturday, December 20, 2008

So long, farewell

Speaking of songs from The Sound of Music, I sing "Do-Re-Mi" repeatedly to Lion because it's the song that never ends. I also sing "American Pie" a lot, because while that song does eventually end, it takes a hell of a long time to get there.

Speaking of taking a hell of a long time to get there, we're leaving for our road trip bright and early tomorrow morning, when- SURPRISE!- they are calling for the dreaded "wintry mix". I decided to stop for nursing rather than pumping in the car, because even if we can save some time by feeding him a bottle as we drive, I will still have to spend time cleaning bottle and pump parts in nasty bathrooms, and the baby will still need to be burped, and spit-up will still find its way to his clothes and my hair, and- let's face it- there is no real saving of time to be had. It will be what it will be, and it will take however long it takes. We will most likely stop overnight on the way back from Florida, since I am grudgingly admitting that you people might know what you're talking about when you say that trying to make it home in one day is insanity.

Speaking of insanity, (would you LOOK at me with my righteous segues?) I will not be doing anything Internet-related while on the road. If I am to make milk, feed the baby, amuse the baby, wrangle the dog, change diapers, change books-on-CD discs, scrape poop out of the treads of my Nikes, scrape poop out of the car seat, and sing American Pie fifty thousand times, then I cannot also be online.

I know my limitations. But I will try to post from Florida in a few days.

(insert segue here. I am all sold out.)

I got home from work last night after a gray, dreary day and gratefully scooped my son up in my arms. Leaving him at daycare is still hard, but I no longer fear the worst. I know now that I was full of unfair judgment when I dropped Lion off that first day. I feared that daycares were dismal places where my baby would be seen only as "work". That he might go hungry for too long, or be forced to sit in a dirty diaper, or cry to be held, to no avail. That *I* was the only one who could love him and care for him the right way.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When Miss Thelma greets him in the morning with a cheery, "Hello, Mister Chunky!", when she knows that he loves to look at himself in the mirror and prefers sitting to lying down, when she knows that he detests "tummy time" and will howl in red-faced protest every time, but STILL attempts it every day because she knows it's good for him, it's clear that he's not just "work" to them.

Hey, Lion even rolled over for the first time while he was there, and the world didn't come to an end. They were so excited and proud when they told me, the jealousy that pushed its way up into my throat couldn't last. I figure those women spend hours dealing with the crying, poop, snot, and vomit of other people's kids. They deserve some of the good stuff, too.

So anyway, I had scooped Lion up in my arms and was basking in his huge, delighted smile when Mike pulled something out of a little gift bag.

"Look," he told me. "A gift from Miss Thelma."

It was a handmade Christmas ornament. A clear, beribboned plastic ball with a round disc down the middle, featuring a nativity scene on one side and a picture of Lion's sweet face on the other. Little iridescent snowflakes drifted gently to the bottom of the ball as I held it. Love, Miss Thelma, the tag read.

There was a little lump in my throat as I hung it on our Christmas tree. I put it in the best spot- right in front, about three quarters of the way up.

Sometimes the best gift of all is finding out that you were wrong.

Happy holidays, everyone.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Halp

So, after ONE WEEK of daycare, the baby got sick. Suddenly he was congested and snuffling and waking up every hour or two at night with the most pitiful mewing you've ever heard. I knew the doctor probably wouldn't do anything except tell us to run a humidifier in his room (which we've been doing anyhow, to help with his dry skin), but after three nights of no sleep I asked Mike to take him to the doctor so we could waste $20 to get our egos stroked because, YES, YOU ARE GENIUSES, KEEP RUNNING THE HUMIDIFIER THAT IS ALL PLEASE PAY ON YOUR WAY OUT.

The hilarious part was when they weighed the baby (15.9 pounds at 14 weeks) and Mike asked if they could also measure him.

"No," the nurse said seriously. "Length measurements are only covered by the insurance during routine check-ups. Today I can weigh him, because his weight could be affected by his illness. But a length measurement isn't necessary."

Mike stared at her, then at the scale where the baby was still lying, the scale that has a convenient RULER right there on the tray, a ruler that was so convenient, all she had to do was simply stretch the baby's legs out to see his length. By the time Mike had recovered enough to close his mouth, she could have measured the baby a dozen times. But I'm really glad she stuck to her guns. I mean, insurance fraud hurts everyone!

In other news, we will soon be leaving for our annual holiday trip to Georgia and Florida. Mike and I will cram ourselves, our infant, our dog, and assorted gear and luggage into our ever-shrinking car and "drive" ourselves insane, ho ho ho! The trip down shouldn't be too bad, as it usually takes us 8 hours to get to Mike's brother's place in Georgia, and then it's another six hours to my parents' house (I dunno... maybe we should assume that all travel times will be DOUBLED and then we won't be disappointed when we make miserable time?). It's the trip back that I'm concerned about. It usually takes us 12 hours to drive home from Florida, SANS infant. Okay, there was that one time we made it in 11 hours, a victory that we celebrated by stopping at Chipotle and waiting in line for 45 minutes.

I'm open to any and all suggestions that might make this trip easier for all of us, but the real dilemma is how to feed the baby. Breastfeed at rest stops and gas stations? Bring my pump and some bottles and take care of bidness while we zip down 95 South?

I'm at a loss. Tell me what to do and I'll give you $20.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Transformation

As a veteran with four whole days of daycare under her belt, I'll say it's... fine. Really fine. I cried a little every morning that I dropped him off last week, while Lion was his usual happy self, smiling and showing off his dimples and completely oblivious to the fact that his mother had been having anxiety-related intestinal problems for THREE DAYS.

"You can come visit or breastfeed him any time you want!" consoled one of the women in the infant room. More tears leaked out. "I w-w-work too far away to do that," I gulped. "Well then," she said. "You call on the phone as often as you want. We'll tell you what he's doing."

Shuddery sigh. I smiled bravely and handed Lion over to Miss Thelma.

"Come on, little Lion," she said. "Come with me while I give Natalie her drink. Sometimes a little drink makes everything better." She winked at me, and I desperately wanted to fling myself at her and clutch her pants leg and say, "Yes, that's exactly what I need. LET'S GO TO A BAR."

On the first day I asked Mike to call and check on him, then call me with the report. I guess I didn't want to seem overbearing, especially since that was my half-day and he would only be there for a few hours anyway and would you just RELAX, mommy? Nothing like daycare subterfuge.

I'm still exclusively breastfeeding, and pumping at work has been a challenge. The fact that I don't have a private office makes it difficult, as does the fact that the "special" designated area for pumping where I work is esentially a shower stall.

And no, there's no law against that.

The first few times, I scambled to find places to pump. First in my supervisor's temporarily empty office, looking at a picture of my son while the machine whirred and I wept. Then I attemped a bathroom stall, where I got the pump set up on a baby changing station, had myself exposed and ready to go, and the battery pack died on me. Then behind my desk in my shared office with no lock on the door, as I hid under my nursing cover and a tower of empty boxes, just waiting for someone to ignore my Do Not Disturb sign and burst in on me.

A professor heard of my struggles and came to offer me a key to her office, since she's rarely there. I promptly burst into grateful tears.

"You know," she said as I blew my nose, "I had to go back to work four weeks after my daughter was born because I was a single mom and I couldn't afford to take any more time off. I pumped one time in a bathroom stall, cried the entire time, and then said fuck this shit, I'm switching to formula. You come use my office any time you want."

I have to tell you- back when I was pregnant, I fully expected to go skipping back to work after maternity leave ended. I thought being home with an infant would eventually drive me crazy, and while I would of course love my baby, I'd be longing to ditch the sweats and get back to heels and adult conversation and challenges that didn't involve bodily fluids.

It turns out that I'm pretty good at holing up with a baby. Once we got past the horrendous period that was early breastfeeding, I loved caring for him every day. During those first few weeks, my favorite part of the day was our afternoon nap, when we'd lie skin-to-skin under a warm blanket. I'll always remember holding him to my chest, breathing in the sweet smell of his breath, stroking his impossibly soft skin, and kissing his downy head as I drifted off to sleep. Even the sight of his hair sticking up could bring me to thankful tears. The fierce love I have for him, and how I want to be with him so much that my arms literally ache, has been the surprise of my life.

But that doesn't mean that it would be good for me- or, ultimately, for him- to be home full-time. I need the structure and stimulation of my job, in a way that I didn't fully realize until I went back to work that first day. I am not interested in starting a debate on stay-at-home versus work-outside-the-home. Everyone makes the choices that are right for them, whether the reasons are moral, emotional, professional, or financial. Live and let live.

What I do find interesting is how I now view the world through Lion-colored glasses. Everything I do, I do with him in mind. It's like I'm becoming a better version of myself. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to know that I did things that were hard because I love him.

I want to be proud of myself. And I am.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Quiet

I'm still taking a break. The very existence of this post would seem to indicate otherwise, but it's true!

Blogging has brought me many friends, some of whom I've had the pleasure of spending time with, and some of whom I'll probably never meet. I like sharing bits of my life with all of you, and I love reading about yours. And while my little corner of the Internet is hardly a font of Pultizer Prize material, it's been a great creative outlet.

But.

At this time in my life, what I most often feel like sharing is related to my son, and for now I'm simply not comfortable doing any more of that here. Using an alias for him does not seem like enough. I don't like the idea that what I write about him is available- and will be, for years- to everyone in the world. I don't feel comfortable with the thought that someone could lift a picture of him from this blog and do whatever they please with it. I'm aware that many bloggers write about and post pictures of their kids- heck, some make a living of it!- and I don't criticize that choice. I visit their blogs and hope for pictures, in fact. I'm just no longer comfortable reciprocating.

Look, I blogged here for several years before my son came along. I know there are other things to write about. I'm not obsessed with him, nor is "mother" my only identity. But for now, I'm going to extend my little blog vacation while I sort out my feelings.

I recently joined Facebook (and the twenty-first century, apparently?) (although we still own and use a VCR, so...huh.) and while I don't consider it a substitute for this blog, it does give me some control over who can view my pictures and daily drivel. I suspect I'll be back here someday soon, but in the meantime, let's meet up there.

Today is my day off and I have delicious baby cheeks to kiss, so I'm signing off for now. I'll be checking up on you, though, so be sure to vacuum under the couch and put on clean underwear. ;-)

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