Archive for March, 2010


A tale worth telling

There seems to be a general consensus that becoming a mother changes you. I’ll admit I’ve seen it happen. Rock stars turned into prudes. Free spirits racked with fear.

Many things have changed for me. When milk is spit up all over my shoulder, I don’t immediately need to change my shirt. I hardly even find it disturbing. I sleep a lot less and appreciate the smaller blocks of sleep I get … all without getting grumpy over being woken up in the middle of the night (like I used to). And breastfeeding fascinates me where it used to make me slightly uncomfortable. I thought those women breastfeeding on planes or in stores wanted privacy, and maybe they do. But I’m coming to realize that it’s not that big of an issue, at least to a mother with a hungry baby. Now I’m filled with curiosity when anyone talks about it: How does she hold her baby? Does the baby claw maniacally at her breast (like my daughter sometimes does) throughout the feeding?

But who I am isn’t one of the things that has changed. If anything, I feel that it is important to be more me than ever. To recapture the energy, curiosity, and urge to explore that has taken a backseat to things like school, house renovations, and falling into the trap of money worries that have taken up most of my time the past two years. The person I want my daughter to know is the one who tangoed in the snow on an Alaskan trail, who spent New Year’s Eve in a crazy bar in Brussels the night they switched to the Euro, who slept on a train bunk bed in Spain on Halloween, who goes on a road trip to see an amazing singer performing over a thousand miles away (multiple times), who thinks of something fun and exciting and does it …

Having a child makes me want to do more, see more, be more. With her. Not to curl up in a safe place and fret over the recalls, pedophiles, viral infection of the year, and other hyped up threats to life. In the words of one of my favorite poems “Only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all.

In The Wild…

In the wild, I’d be dead. Something in the past four months would have killed me, that is if I’d made it this far to begin with.

It’s possible I’d have made it through the birth. The medical industry is after all balanced upon a notion of fear. So it’s possible that when they scared me into allowing forceps to be used because it was the final dance on the way to an emergency C-section after 28 hours of labor … they may have been exaggerating. She did shoot out on her own before they even got the forceps unwrapped after all. But then there was the tearing and bleeding. And the constant bleeding for 8 weeks that followed delivery, which sent me back to another emergency room for another round of prod the woman and try to understand the mysteries of the reproductive system.

The one thing I learned in this process of pregnancy and birth is that no one knows anything.

Really, I’ve known that for a long time. I even wrote a paper about it for my master’s degree that caused a professor to question my emotional balance. (Why is it that radical questioning is seen as depressing? I find it exciting.) But somehow I did not understand that it applied to pregnancy and birth. There’s just so much literature on the topics that I figure somewhere in there, there was some knowledge. Nope. It’s all guesswork.

According to the literature I had everything going for me. It should have been an easy birth. I did yoga through the entire pregnancy. I was one of two women in the birth class who could squat down to the floor and stand back up on my own at 33 weeks. I could still touch my toes and shave my legs to the end. As for the labor itself, we set it all up to be in a non-stressful environment at the birthing center. We had food, drinks, music, a jacuzzi tub, and no drugs. Drugs have been shown to slow down labor, make it take longer and be more difficult. That’s funny because in 20 hours I dilated 4 cm without drugs in a relaxed, nurturing environment. At that point the midwife wanted me to rest so she shuttled me off to the emergency room where they plugged an epidural in my back an hour later. In that time of high intensity stress I dilated another 2cm, which hadn’t happened in hours of transitional labor. Then I slept for four hours and finished dilating. I don’t know about all that research, but drugs seemed to make my labor faster and less painful. My water didn’t break until right before our daughter shot out. (And by right before, I probably mean about an hour before since the pushing phase took hours and it’s all a big blur to me.) Supposedly that alone should make the entire process less painful. Instead I had back labor for 28 hours.

An even bigger area of guesswork is breastfeeding. There is so much contradictory information floating around that I don’t even know how the milk is made. It seems like a high school anatomy class should be able to cover this topic, but apparently not. Some resources say the baby experiences many tastes and textures through the breast milk, introducing her to a variety of food through her mother’s diet. Others say the mother can live off of cheesy poofs and diet cola for all they care, the baby will still get the same nutrients. The mother will just feel horribly drained. Folk sources say eating gassy foods leads to gassy babies. Scientific resources say milk contents come from the blood, so nothing that causes gas in the mother’s digestive system passes into the baby’s system. Lactation experts say the foods the mother eats can increase and decrease her milk supply. Others say there’s nothing you can do about milk supply. It’s all just a big mess of possible information.

And if I had made it through the delivery, breastfeeding would have surely killed me by now. I’m recovering from mastitis attack number two. Lucky that I can support my daughter with my milk supply, but unable to do so in a manner that keeps me healthy.

Mastitis is an exciting infection. It makes your entire body hurt. The latest attack began creeping up on me Friday afternoon. I was confused when my fingers ached as I changed a diaper. That was odd. And somehow my daughter had gained a ton of weight overnight, because she was so heavy to lift I could hardly play with her.

The best part is when the fever kicks in. When I get a fever I’m sort of like a stoner, I think I’m really really smart all of a sudden. The thoughts that are racing through my head are pure brilliance, shining diamonds in the sky. Magical.

Even before the thermometer would register a fever I lay in bed, because being up was too difficult, with my whole body aching. My skin hurt where it was touching the sheets. I wanted to sleep. But my pre-fevered brain was not having any of that. It was excited. I lay there for 2…3…4 hours thinking mad thoughts. In that time I composed an application to Google’s Fiber for Communities on behalf of my neighborhood, figured out important aspects of my dissertation — I may have even completed the literature review, wrote those thank you notes that I have been unable to get to, and blasted through a few posts to this blog. This streak of productivity hardly compares to the other time I had a fever and theorized on the progressive nature of consciousness concluding that it is a virus passed on during the prenatal period.

Of course, I was lying there sweating through my sheets and didn’t have a pen and paper much less a keyboard near me so there’s no knowing whether those compositions were anywhere near as magnificent as I thought they were. If I’m really like a stoner, then it’s probably for the best that these ramblings stay in my memory rather than scrawled across the walls.

Why babies are amazing

Before I had a baby I did NOT think babies were amazing, awe inspiring, or even adorable. Babies do baby things. We’ve all been babies. It’s nothing impressive, it’s actually quite mundane.

Of course now I think my daughter is all of these things and more. How can this be reconciled?

Other than the simple need for survival, a biological imperative for the child to be cute and the parent to fall in love with the child, I like to explain it away with exploratory curiosity. Mine and hers.

It’s really not interesting to see a clip of the development. Say you’re a friend of the family and you see the child every few weeks. The child goes through huge developmental milestones between each visit. And you are rewarded with spit bubbles or hearing about cooing or rolling over. None of which are very impressive on their own.

The real magic is in the effort, the process behind the steps, and the realizations each one brings. The journey is, truly, the destination. In fact the end-point destinations are boring, by the time they’re in sight there is something new on the horizon to explore.

Hands? Check. Been watching them for weeks, think I understand their function and am now able to control them without inflicting facial damage. But what are those other things down there that are usually covered with socks that seem to also have phalanges I can grip things with … ?

Ah yes, the daughter is now staring at her feet. I imagine they will soon be making their way into her mouth, just like everything else.