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September 2005

Sept. 30
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 hand.

Spit is a big part of our lives now.


Sept. 28
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.


Sept. 25
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 5 hours.

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 every time.

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 impressed.

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.



Sept. 23
Sometimes Barney Forgets...

... that he has no testicles anymore.


Sept. 21
Milk Brain

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.


Sept. 20
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.


Sept. 17
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.


Sept. 15
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 people.

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 dead on.

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 left.

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.