Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, year

2010 was a lively year for us. Ben started a Fancy New Job, we bought a house in small-town Minnesota, I finished school (for what I swear is the last time) and began my illustration career in earnest, and, best of all, we became parents!

It was a good year -- a great and momentous year, really. The changes in our shared life have brought Ben and me* closer together than ever, and the many changes of 2010 are overwhelmingly positive... but they're also simply overwhelming. The baby is a joyful presence in our lives every day, that's for sure, but let me be frank and admit that the girl is running us ragged! No one really tells you how difficult it is to have a newborn, because they know you wouldn't believe it -- couldn't possibly believe it.

But, we are happy. We love our little town and our house, we're happy enough with our respective work, and we've got a charming little girl to dazzle and fascinate us (and keep us awake all night). Life is good!

Our year is ending, though, with rather a muddy puzzle. Doctors are trying to figure out why I started having stomach pain as soon as Bee was born,** and Ben, Bee, and I have been going to the doctor's office every day for the last several days. Doctors thought I was suffering from gallbladder problems (apparently not uncommon after childbirth), but tests don't suggest that that's it at all. I've had blood and urine tests, an ultrasound, and, today, a freaking CAT scan.*** Have you ever had one of those? I ask because what the fuck is up with that stuff they inject into you that makes you feel like you're peeing yourself? Is that strictly necessary??

So we are keeping all things crossed. Hopefully we'll find out soon that I'm suffering from something conveniently curable with a drug that doesn't pass into breast milk--as opposed to, say, something that will leave my baby motherless and my husband wifeless. Sorry to get grim, but one thinks of these things. So here's to a healthy new year, a 2011 that is as happy as 2010 was for us. Warmest wishes to anyone who's still out there reading!

* This is the grammatically correct phrasing of this sentiment; do not give me any crap.
** Due to the timing, I spent weeks thinking the pain was caused by Constant Fear, and the mega-stress associated with new parenthood.
*** Which they now call a CT scan, probably because the words "CAT scan" strike fear into the hearts and bellies of many people. Claustrophobia or whatever. But the machine is not particularly confining... it's shaped sort of like a miniature Stargate, and you move through it while lasers beam through you. When you come out, though, you're not on P2X-416 and you still just have the same old stomachache.

Monday, December 27, 2010


These days, Ben and I take turns sleeping. Here are some things I do to stay awake at night when it's my turn to spend some quality time with our girl:

  1. Play this brilliant game,

  2. listen to Music Through the Night,

  3. look at Facebook and wrestle with important decisions like whether I should edit my "political views" info -- from left to far left,

  4. eat leftover Halloween candy (namely, Jolly Ranchers),

  5. blog (if I can reach the laptop),

  6. admire my perfectly sweet little girl,

  7. read novels by Jack Finney, and

  8. stream Netflix (recently: season 2 of Futurama, season 3 of Eureka, some recent SNL episodes, 84 Charing Cross Road (wonderful!), and a handful of Dolly Parton movies (I love Dolly!). Catching up on years of television and movies is one [dubious] bonus to breastfeeding for fifteen hours a day.

Regarding dinners, cuddling, and
a Dangerously Fluffy bassinet

During the week, when Ben is at work all day, I really don't even try to do anything EXCEPT take care of the baby, unless the compulsive checking of Facebook and a few showers a week count as doing something.

I sometimes get dinner made, usually with the aid of our crock pot -- but the quality of these dinners is such that I cannot refer to them as accomplishments. Not by a long shot. Gone, for the foreseeable future, are the halcyon days of even slightly elaborate foods. Cutting out ravioli with a wine goblet? Are you freaking kidding me? Nowadays we're lucky to get a couple of bowls of ugly but passably flavorful lentils with rice, prepared in the crockpot. And it takes me the better part of the day to get a meal prepared, chopping vegetables or tofu for a few minutes at a time while the baby watches me solemnly from a bassinet wheeled into the kitchen. If I start before noon, I can usually get dinner made by working a few minutes at a time. But if approximately 2 PM comes and goes and I've been too busy to prepare anything, then I know I'm fighting a lost battle. The result is generally Chinese take-out or hastily heated leftovers (although leftovers are hard to come by these days: they're GOLD! Leftovers mean I can eat something other than pretzels and blueberry soy yogurt all day!).

Our sweet girl is an extremely cuddly baby. And I would be a little sad if she weren't -- my friend Tiffany's daughter was an independent and un-cuddly baby, and Tiffany always felt sad about that. But our girl fully expects to be held in someone's arms at all times, day and night, and when she occasionally sleeps on her own, it's a precarious sleep achieved only after I have Tricked the Baby by slowly and painstakingly transferring her from my arms to a specially arranged, ultra-fluffy sleeping surface. (Not recommended for babies, but we're in survival mode here. We never leave her unattended in her Dangerously Fluffy bassinet, I swear.)

My hard-won hands-free time never last very long. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes, most of the time (occasionally, she'll nap for a magical 30 minutes!), and usually only once or twice a day. (And never at night.) Oh, and always within my line of vision, because she'll only sleep on that ultra-fluffy, not-really-safe-for-infants sleeping surface I mentioned.

Constantly aiming to achieve more hands-free time, I try to convince our girl that she would really, really enjoy hanging out in any of these things we purchased and that she totally hates:

the baby swing

the sling

the BabyBjörn

the crib

the infant carrier

the bassinet

Truly, she has nothing but disdain for all of these situations (other than, for brief stretches, the bassinet -- the mattress of which must be elevated 45 degrees, plus, as I mentioned, tricked out with pillows and blankets). As she gets bigger, I return to each of these things, hoping she'll take to one of them so that I can occasionally do laundry or pee without holding an eleven-pound baby in one arm.

It's the middle of the night and I'm tired. So I'll just leave you with what I think is a cute photo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I bet the Germans have
an actual word for it

Our healthy daughter, a dark-haired, wide-eyed creature, was born seven weeks ago. She's seven weeks old, seven weeks tall, seven weeks fat*! Already this girl, our daughter, is different than when we brought her home: not just bigger, but more... person-y! She recognizes us, she turns her heavy little head in the direction of interesting things, and she states--as it were--preferences. (Preferred: cuddling, opera music; strongly not preferred: scratchy woolen hats**).

My month and a half-long hiatus from blogging is not just a consequence of the intense craziness resultant of caring for a newborn (although having a newborn is RIDICULOUSLY CRAZY AND BASICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO HANDLE NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE); the lull, to tell you the truth, has more to do with the Too Much-ness of it all. The intensity of the experience of childbirth -- it's Too Much, too momentous, to put into words. The special closeness between Ben and me as we meet our girl and get to know her, and as we work out how to best love and take of her together -- it's Too Much, too enormous, too special, too ours to translate. And especially the love I feel for this little girl, that in particular is Too Much to explain. For now, at least. Maybe coming up with descriptions and explanations will seem less impossible when I start getting more than two and a half hours of sleep a night. Maybe not, though, you know?

Intimidated by the thought that I had write about things I knew I couldn't properly put into English (who exactly do I think is reading this blog, my expository writing prof from sophomore year of college?!), I took a guilty break from blogging. Now that my explanation of the Too Much-ness is out of the way, though, I admit to feeling rather liberated, and I think that I'll enjoy posting regularly again--an activity I think may be viable during my eleven hours a day of sitting in a chair and breastfeeding. I'm sure my six readers and assorted anonymous lurkers (who I'm pretty sure arrive here after Googling "vegan potpie recipe") will be relieved to hear this.

To conclude this post, I'll just point out that our daughter has ten happy little toes (see photo evidence above). Same with fingers.

* She was on the small side at birth, under seven pounds, but has since gained half a pound a week, which apparently is a lot. At last week's check-up, the pediatrician took one look at our girl and said, "Well, she's certainly not failing to thrive!" -- a weirdly-phrased pronouncement in which Ben and I have decided to take cautious pride.
** Below: Bad hat!!!!! Photo snapped one second before the three-day-old baby completely lost it. As soon as I snatched the hat off of her head in maternal terror, she regained her composure and the angelic expression to which we have already grown accustomed.