I Will Lick You to Death
Eliza is in a big oral phase. Anything new she encounters,
she must explore by means of her mouth.
The other day we were on our evening walk through the
neighborhood and one of the older women who always seem to be hanging
out on their porches called us over to give us a stuffed animal duck.
I could tell it was something she'd had for a while, and god knows where
it had been - it reeked of cigarette smoke besides. I had a Larry David-ish
moment of trying to look appreciative as I ripped it from my kid's hand
just before she stuffed the duck's entire filthy head in her mouth.
This everything-must-be-licked tendency is funniest in
the middle of the night when she squawks for her pacifier. My husband
or I, half asleep, will reach into her little bed, set up next to ours,
to put it in, and find we suddenly have a suckerfish attached to our
Spit is a big part of our lives now.
Heart on My Sleeve
Just now, I heard my little girl fussing in the bedroom.
I went in and she wasn't really awake, just needed a pacifier. I put
it in her mouth and, sucking madly, she grabbed my hand in both her
tiny ones and pressed it to her. Then she closed her eyes and relaxed
back into sleep, her chest rising and falling softly under my hand.
She does this at least once a night, and every time,
my heart breaks into a million pieces.
What Happened on June 2
What happened on June 2, 2005
The last 5 weeks of pregnancy have less to do, in my estimation,
with fetal development than with getting you so heartily sick of being
pregnant that you cease to freak out about the prospect of labor and
becoming a parent.
In my case, the things I was becoming increasingly less
enamored with every day were: 1. my proximity to the 200-pound mark
on the scale, 2. the panoply of exciting symptoms accompanying my pregnancy-induced
hypertension, not the least of which was the size Enormous feet and
hands, and 3. the unbelievably annoying comments of everyone I knew
on the subject of my hugeness — "Hey, you're waddling"
— the impending birth — "Have you started contracting
yet? You look like you're ready to go." — and parenthood
— "You'll never sleep again!"
All of which means that when the doctor called to tell
me I was developing symptoms of toxemia (see ER episode "Love's
Labor's Lost" for a worst-case scenario), I was less alarmed than
excited, because I knew it meant I would be induced (that's the only
treatment for the condition).
My bags had been packed for about 5 weeks, a combination
of wishful thinking and many, many episodes of fake labor. So we headed
over a little after 4 on June 1, and checked into our Holiday Inn-ish
room to begin the excruciating procedure also known as "paperwork."
We actually got started around 5 p.m. The doctor inserted
what looked like a tampon ("A $300 tampon," she said) doused
in hormones. The idea of this stuff (Cervidil) is to sort of marinate
your bottom system overnight so that when you start the Pitocin drip
the next morning, your body says, "OK, let's get to work."
However, I have always been an overachiever, and my body
said, "Hey, what the hell, let's go into labor RIGHT NOW."
I did not realize this at the time, because it started off mild enough
that I could ascribe the pain to the insertion. And also denial. So
I sent Jim off to get veggie sushi and settled in for some quality time
with Law and Order.
The nurses came to offer me morphine and I turned them
down. Advice: when someone offers you narcotics in relation to any element
of childbirth, you should probably accept. But no, I did not want to
sully my daughter's veins with drugs. Also, I was in denial.
At 9-ish, I sent Jim home — I figured he might as
well get a good night's sleep, and the Pitocin was 12 hours away anyway,
so let him take care of the cats and have good coffee for breakfast
and show up with his A game for the main event. Also, I was in denial.
Except, as I said I was already in labor. And in denial.
And strapped into a monitor, and paranoid about the damn $300 tampon
falling out (how would I even know - it's not like I can see what's
going on beyond the bellydome).
Way back when, I had had visions of myself in active labor,
being karate superwoman, doing rohai kata to steady myself and birthing
this child in a matter of hours, virtually unassisted squatting.
Partially, I was just deluded, and partially, this is
how birth is sold as an experience in happy hippy land where I live.
So there I am. I tried squatting. I tried leaning. I tried all-fours,
I tried karate, breathing, walking, focusing on the music that I decided
to play, etc. The thing I hadn't counted on was my bad back. I have
two herniated discs, and the ligaments and muscles that support the
uterus must be attached to the spine there, because everytime I contracted
in the front, I also got serious back pain - and the things you do to
take care of labor pain are antithetical to the things you do to take
care of back pain, and vice versa.
The only thing that helped was pacing and chanting "That
Roxanne is full of shit" to myself - Roxanne being the childbirth
class instructor (who, I should say now that I am again of sound mind,
was actually quite nice and very informative).
At 7 a.m., the doctor checked me and said I was 1 centimeter dilated.
One. Fricking. Centi. Meter. After. Fourteen. Hours. Of. Labor.
At 8 a.m., Jim showed up, and so did the Pitocin. Pitocin
is a version of the same hormone your body produces naturally, called
oxytocin, which is responsible for labor. Except your body knows to
release it in waves, so that you get a break in between. And a drip
is a constant.
So, I was still sort of in denial because I told the woman
to hook me up with a mobile monitor so I could go walk around the childbirth
center. Apparently, I look no worse when I am staggering, sweating and
nauseous from pain than I do ordinarily, because my husband, walking
around with me, was blithely unaware until he said something about me
not being in any pain yet, was I, and I looked at him and said "Are
you FUCKING KIDDING ME?!"
At that point I demanded my bed, and drugs. I read somewhere,
and have come to agree wholeheartedly, that the measure of how bad labor
pain is, is that you actually start to think shoving a large needle
directly into your spine is a good idea. The hour I had to wait for
the anesthesiologist to come and give me an epidural was the longest
hour of my life.
Jim proved his worth as a labor partner in that hour,
massaging my back the entire time and doing his best to keep me from
losing it. Ditto for the epidural, which is not the easiest thing to
administer - they tell you to curve your spine into a C. Uh, didja notice
I've got an ENORMOUS belly in the way? But I was very motivated to get
this, so I sucked it up. Relief was quick to come. The back pain went
away and the labor backed off by a considerable degree - I fell asleep
from exhaustion almost immediately, and drifted in and out for the next
All this time, I was hooked up to monitors, and the soundtrack
of those 24 hours is the rapid, steady whooshing of my little girl's
heartbeat. I heard it in my sleep for days after.
The anesthesiologist must've been some sort of genius
because around 3:30, it wore off, and as I began to feel the pains again,
I also felt an urge to push (basically, like having to poop).
The doctor came to check on me and I told her this, she
stuck in her finger to check and didn't get very far - baby head in
the way and ready to MOVE.
I've told people seriously that given the choice between
an hour of labor and an undetermined amount of pushing, I'd take pushing
Finally, I got to use all that karate training: that ability
to laser in on what very specific parts of your body are doing, to isolate
particular muscles to do exactly what you need them to do, to work with
breath, all that stuff I spent 8 years learning - I got to use it all,
and it was exhilerating to feel it all working.
The doctor, the nurse and Jim and I had a nice rapport.
When Sweet Caroline came on and I joked that I couldn't push now because
I didn't want that to be the first song our baby heard, we all laughed.
We found out that like me, the nurse had taken her children to see Bruce
Springsteen in utero. They tried to pry the name out of us but we held
fast to the very end. We wondered how big the baby was because it'd
been hard to tell on ultrasounds.
After all the waiting, pushing felt celebratory.
I didn't squat, I didn't go on all fours, I lay down like
a traditional western woman, but it worked for me. (Where does the baby
go when you're squatting? Don't know about anyone else, but when I squat,
my butt's pretty close to the ground. The logistics puzzle me...)
Through all this, Jim was amazing. I'd given him permission
to stay up by the head of the bed if he wanted, something he'd accepted
gratefully when it was theory. But come the main event, he asked if
he could take pictures. After he took one of my face while pushing,
I told him that he might as well focus on the business end, because
that would frankly be more attractive than my face at this point. So
he did. Then during one push the doctor turned away to get the pediatrician
on standby and he grabbed the leg she'd been holding, and until the
baby was there, he held and helped, still taking pictures. I was so
So finally, there was her head - they let me feel it while
it was coming out - I could feel that she had hair. There was a brief
stutter as her shoulder got caught, then a little head full of hair
whisked by me - I saw it blurrily because my glasses were fogged from
the effort. I don't remember if she cried. I asked Jim, did she look
like an Eliza? Yes. He announced the name.
I held her only briefly - the shoulder thing had affected her oxygen
level and they wanted her under the tent for a bit to stabilize her.
She was a tiny, puffy little bundle. True to form, she looked mad —
what had we just done to her?! — but beautiful.
Before she left, Jim cut the cord, and then he followed
her, like her own personal bodyguard, and watched her get her first
bath. She screamed, he said, because she didn't like it and she was
mad. That's my girl. My Eliza. The heart I now wear outside my body.
Sometimes Barney Forgets...
... that he has no testicles anymore.
I have too many nicknames for all my small creatures.
Eliza is my Tiny Poo, Tiny Kid, Kiddo, Lovey, Miss Eliza,
Baby, Sweetie etc.
My cats are Tigers, Little Man, Tiny Man, The Moe, Moesie
Louise, Moesie Lou, Kitties
The upshot: I addressed my daughter as Kitty yesterday.
I asked my husband if this ever happened to him and I
got this "Oh dear God please don't tell me the post-partum psychosis
has returned" look.
Yet Another Reason Why I Love My Husband
Tonight, my husband is at a White Stripes concert.
I wish I was there.
But I asked him jokingly to call me during 7 Nation Army,
and at about 9:30, the phone rang and I heard a raucous crackle that
resolved itself into the chorus of that song. I listened along with
him until it ended.
I love when he does that.
He went to a Bruce Springsteen concert 2 years ago that
I couldn't join him at, and he called me during the opening, a tricked-out
Iraq-war-protest version of Souls of the Departed.
Music is really important to us, to our relationship,
so that he thinks about me during the show, and that the first thing
he does when I'm not at a show is call me afterward, that means alot.
So even though I wish I was there I don't begrudge him
a second. He's had a rough summer - the thing they don't tell you when
you decide to have a baby is that the first 3 months are an unremitting
hell of shitty diapers, sleep deprivation and screaming. Oh, the screaming...
Add in a wife driven completely insane by post-partum
hormonal shifts (and fat, to boot), and I'm surprised he hasn't run
off to Alaska. But that's not what he does. He sticks, he steps up,
he does the right thing.
It's cool when the guy you married turns out to be the
guy you think you married.
Happy anniversary in 9 days, baby.
As If the Post-Partum Body Didn't Suck Enough Already
I fished this out of the hair trap in the shower yesterday
morning. It's all mine. It's all from one shower. It's all from my head.
I've lost this much every day for the last 2 weeks or so. Apparently,
now that I am no longer carrying the baby, I no longer need all that
extra warmth on my head. As far as I'm concerned the whole hair thing
belies both the evolutionary and intelligent design theories of life
on earth. I subscribe to a "contrarian bastard" view of life.
A Word or Two About My Furbabies
NOTE: I submitted this for a column in a local newspaper I write
for, but they didn’t accept it (possibly because of the coma-inducing
saccharine-ness). I like it anyway, though.
I realized the whole cat-mom thing had gone too far
the day I found myself standing in front of a hermit crab display in
the mall, thinking, “Hey, I bet the kitties would like to have
one of these for a pet!”
Though I’d never had a pet bigger than a fish,
I’ve always leaned toward cats, and so does my husband. When we
moved into our first home, it took us all of three days to get around
to adopting some cats. Well, that’s not right. What really happened
is we went to the shelter and two kittens decided we should be their
One of them was a goofy, ratty-looking 10-week old whose
orange fur stood up wildly in all directions and who loved clambering
up on tall things, be they shoulders or cabinets. (People who know cats
tell us there’s Abyssinian in his mutt-mix, and that this is one
of the breed’s traits.) The other, a dainty girl with huge neon-yellow
eyes staring out of an all-black face, got so mad when we stuck her
back in her cage, yowling and swiping her paws through the bars to snag
our pants as we stood nearby, that we ended up taking her home as well
though we’d sworn to get just one.
We named them Barney and Moe, after the odd-couple barfly
and bartender on the Simpsons, and given Barney’s abiding fascination
with sniffing the empties in the pantry and Moe’s occasional outbursts
of crankiness which are really camouflage for her neediness, we were
From day one, we were besotted. The hardest I cried
all year was when Moe got a nasty cold and I had to take her to the
vet, where she had to have her temperature taken in the, um, embarrassing
place. (I was impressed with how hard she fought it: It took two people
to hold this 3.5-pound, extremely irate kitten down long enough to get
a reading.) Whenever anyone new comes to the house — friends,
family, insurance salesmen — we make them watch how Barney has
figured out how to get the top of his can of cat treats all by himself.
Hell, we think their farts are funny. Obviously, we have no objectivity
Although they’re often hysterical, they’re
also incredibly loving and constantly dumbstruck by the world around
them. It’s these two traits that I most appreciate about them.
Though from different litters, it wasn’t 24 hours
before they started grooming each other, a sign that they’ve accepted
each other. They’re always in the same room and when we take one
of them outside on a leash (don’t ask), the other is miserable.
Their affection extends, unconditionally, to their people.
Barney loves it when I’m working on the computer; he crawls onto
my lap and curls up, happily purring. Moe’s less of a lap cat;
she prefers the ground near my chair, where she can lie for hours, purring
and occasionally emitting a meow that sounds for all the world like
she’s asking, “Hey, whatcha doin’ now?” We give
them the run of the basement at night, and when I open the door in the
morning to let them out into the rest of house, I am treated —
EVERY morning — to a 10-minute frenzy of purring, headbutting
and rubbing. I’ve been groomed by Moe and kneaded by Barney; I’ve
had the pair of them curl up with me, one at my stomach and the other
at my back, comforting me when I’m sick. Frankly, I don’t
get people who describe cats as cold creatures.
And then there’s the wonder. Barney is absolutely
fascinated by dripping spouts. He can watch them for hours. When we
take Moe outside on her leash, we get no exercise, because she HAS to
sniff EVERY SINGLE DAMN BLADE OF GRASS, thus covering maybe 5 yards
in as many minutes. Snow falling outside, the Christmas tree, the beam
emitted by a flashlight, paper bags, birds outside — everything
blows their minds.
And it’s contagious. I’m not saying that
my cats are little furry Buddhas who are in on the secrets of the universe,
but there’s something about their rapt concentration that makes
you realize that sometimes we do take the ordinary miracles of our daily
life for granted.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Barney and I have to
go stare at some peeling paint, and Moe would like her chin scratched.