Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It really is

We've been living with that Barely Getting By feeling around here lately, accompanied by the Oh my Christ Will It Be Like This Forever? sequence of panic attacks. Our girl is not quite four months old, you know, and already parenthood begins to feel like a relentless series of fixes and by-the-seat-of-our-pantsedness. Ben and I are sticking things together with bubblegum, and hoping we make it through the night without our tent blowing away.

Except for sometimes. Sometimes, it's Sunday morning and there's good coffee, and Bee is contentedly world-watching from a bassinet wheeled into the living room. She's smiling and serene, so Ben and I eat breakfast not one-after-the-other, but at the same time, and it is a revelation! We sit on the sectional and have a grown-person conversation about politics, music, or art! And perhaps it will be this way from now on! Maybe today marks a turning point, and life with a baby will now be as smooth and glassy as a pond on a windless day! And I will always keep my composure, easily remaining nonplussed all day because there shall be no further infant melt-downs or sleep strikes or inconsolable all-day shriek-a-thons. This will be our new way of being, surely. It will be perfect.

And sometimes it's twilight and Bee and I are having a cozy chat, snuggled up in the rocking chair, and she smiles with rosebuds in her cheeks, and I am Mommy, and could this world be any righter? Mommy doubts, blissfully, that it could. And I don't even think about that still pond on a windless day. In this moment it doesn't matter whether life will always be this way, or even how long this quiet moment lasts, although it would be nice if it lasted long enough for me to finish eating this bit of chocolate. It doesn't matter whether we dodge Bee's meltdowns (we can't), or if I always remain unruffled (I won't), or whether this is our new way of being (dream on). It doesn't matter, because she looks up at me with sleepy eyes and rosy cheeks, and life is perfect right now. In our cozy twilight, it really is.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Other Babies

It's hard not to notice what Other Babies do. I know that comparisons are odious, but Ben and I are just trying to make sense of things over here. You see, we are given to understand that Other Babies of Bee's age sleep on their own some of the time. They may wake up a few times during the night (or they might just sleep all night), but they don't require being held by a parent in order to sleep -- every nap, and all night long. Every day. Always. While we slurp down cold dinners. (Did I mention we've been doing this for four months??) Other Babies, while enjoying being held, will, we've observed, succumb to occasional non-holding activities, such as chilling in a swing or hanging out lookin' at a mobile or something. Not ours. (Oh, and she hates being carried in the Balboa baby sling, the BabyBjörn, or our Moby wrap* -- nope, nothing but good, old-fashioned, prop-free, forearm-shattering cuddling for our girl.)

And evidently Other Babies can sometimes be shuttled about on errands and visits! Did you know this?! Today Ben was at the Mall of America on a work errand, and he observed several Other Babies being toted about while their mothers shopped or ate French fries. Oh my god. These infants slept serenely in strollers or watched the world with a contentedness foreign to my baffled husband. Other Babies are positively astonishing.

So, we love our Bee beyond all dearness, but she has extremely intense demands, even for a baby. In addition to only sleeping when being held in our arms, Bee has, at four months old, never once fallen asleep on her own. If we "put her to bed" (HA) after she finally falls asleep in one of our laps, those big, startled eyes fly open as soon as her pajamaed little rear touches the crib mattress. And the poor thing suffers digestive pain and is colicky, so she cries a lot -- often inconsolably for five hours a day. When I say inconsolably, I'm dead serious -- today she screamed in my arms for hours, actually making herself hoarse. (Does this sound like a baby who would simply soothe herself to sleep if left to cry it out alone in her crib? Be serious, people.)

Friends and family have ceased promising us that "it gets better," a phrase Ben and I heard almost daily in Bee's first month or two of life -- from friends, from relatives, from sympathetic neighbors, from random Internet strangers, and from the pediatrician. But it hasn't gotten better. In fact, if the it in "it gets better" represents our unbearable sleeplessness (we are so unimaginably tired!), it has gotten far worse. Ben and I have to take turns sleeping, which means we each get 3-5 hours a night. Any "extra" sleep one of us gets is subtracted directly from the other's. After four months of this, Dear Reader, Ben and I are a little surprised to find ourselves still alive. (Also, you should see the condition of our home. Disgusting! We're afraid to let anyone come over, for fear they will return with a camera crew.)

I can be quite a self-pitying creature when I want to be. (I know, you cannot believe it.) Although friends continue to congratulate me on maintaining my sense of humor, I'm pretty sure any levity you perceive while reading recent entries to this blog can be chalked up to what has been described as my perky writing style, for I assure you, I am quite humorless nowadays. Most days, either Ben or I wonders aloud how much longer we can go on like this, the other generally replying with naught but a dismal shaking of the head.

We don't want any of those Other Babies, though, and surely it's unnecessary for me to qualify today's complaints with assurances that Ben and I adore our spirited, sensitive, and clever little girl. But I feel compelled anyway, lest you become convinced, friends, that we are not grateful for Bee's generally good health and for what we believe to be quite a merry and charming personality (though frequently eclipsed by her physical discomforts and, um, constant shrieking). Being quite an eager and curious girl, Bee resists sleep -- there is so much in this world, you understand, by which to be fascinated. And curiosity and eagerness may someday serve Bee well. But right now -- I will confess it -- we occasionally envy the parents of dull, sleepy babies.

* Yes, we have three different babywearing options and they have all been rejected outright. Our optimism and buying power begin to wane.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

My old life

My old life is gone, you know, and I'm okay with that. With a new baby, there's very little time to grieve the hundreds of little things I'll never, it seems, have time to do again, like go to a restaurant or see a movie (I know, everyone says we will do those things again, but that remains to be seen). Tonight, though, I'm feeling a bit soppy over the dumb, fun things I used to sometimes have the opportunity to do. I've been reading one of my favorite blogs, written by an unusually smart and thoughtful* 20-year-old college girl who bobs about going to classes and visiting yarn stores and eating in sandwich shops, and, wow, nostalgia just grips me as I do so! Tethered as I now necessarily am to the house (and for Christ's sake the Minnesota snow doesn't help), I miss a few small things, you know? I miss walking around downtown (any downtown) and popping into shops (oh, used bookstores!) to kill time, all the while wearing a cute vintage thrift-store coat, and then wandering about until I'm hungry and irritable, and stopping for a coffee and an onion bagel, and then relishing the relief of getting back home again, and taking off my shoes and picking up my knitting or a book, and cozying up next to the radio to hear the news as I knit or read or think about what to make for dinner.** Spending time alone, and having the pleasure of getting home after being (imagine!) away from the house for an afternoon -- those two things sum it all up, because that's the thing about this new life, Dear Reader: there is time for verily nothing besides taking care of my sweet little girl.*** And that's alright, and God knows I'd do it a thousand times over to keep her happy and healthy, but I will find myself remembering the unhampered flitting-about of my early adulthood. It can't be helped. In fact, I'm quite sure that a bit of fond, benign remembering of one's days of comparative liberty (and of the wearing of thrift-store coats) is a time-honored tradition among new moms, and is to be anticipated.

So many things about this new life, I assure you, make me immeasurably happy. You would not believe, for instance, how I love this baby's scent. It's quite dizzying; she just... smells like my baby. I love when she looks up at me with milk on her face, big-eyed and blissful. And how she sleeps with such sweet abandon. And even this: I hold very dear indeed the sound of angry protest Bee is capable of emitting when jostled a bit too much -- the very fact that she expresses herself so ardently and with such assuredness of her right to not be jostled. I adore it. And she smiles and laughs so easily -- a wide, toothless grin and a mirthful, hilariously voiceless laugh. I love, too, that -- for now at least -- Bee needs me, and seems so happy to see me when she wakes. So I will always be here. And someday when I can't hold her in my arms anymore, the world outside will still be waiting.

* It's because she's British, I'm sure of it! How many American college students do you know who write/think/knit like this?
** Proper dinner, not the by-the-seat-of-our-pants power meals we've been bolting down each night to, all too often, the sound of a crying baby.
*** I can blog (one-handedly) and examine the Internet while sitting up with Bee all night every night. Every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case that silver lining involves groggy blogging.

Frogging and blogging

I've resurrected this sweater and it's driving me totally nuts. Such a simple sweater shouldn't require three rippings-out, but there you go. And although frequently the knitter must take the blame (especially when I am that knitter!), in this case I think Sarah Dallas should have splurged on a top-drawer pattern-tester, I mean it. If anyone knows Ms. Dallas personally, please let her know that I'm in need of errata for the front panel of her Fluffy Sweater pattern. For Pete's sake. When you only get about four minutes of knitting time per day, you resent spending them frogging 60 rows (twice thrice).

In other news, I've been futzing about with a new blog design while sitting here with a baby in my lap. What do you think? Is it annoying that the banner is so big? Not that I know how to fix it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The knitter's child...

Well, I'm pretty sure I just bought fifty dollars' worth of yarn on the Internet.* I talked myself into it by considering my absolute lack of a life outside of the house; for real, having some pretty knitting about gives me something meaningful to do with my seven minutes** of squirreled-away free time per diem, and that's the truth. And it is meaningful to me, because making something lovely takes time, skill, patience, and -- most challenging for me -- the willingness to learn new things: in my case, a tricky new knitting move now and then. Because I'm basically lazy, I'm naturally inclined to choose patterns requiring me to learn absolutely no new techniques (and it doesn't help that my sleep-deprived brain is a bowl of banana pudding -- instant banana pudding -- these days). When I do so at all, the way I strong-arm myself into learning new knitting skills is by plunging headlong into a project requiring some crazy new expertise, beginning with the easy part, if there is one, and then having no choice but to figure out the new technique(s) by whatever means necessary. Sometimes involving swearing and woman-tantrums. That's how I made this, and it's how I plan to do this glorious thing. Anyway, the point is that learning new things is good for me (especially now that my life is a tunnel of parenting), and it's easy to count breath-taking, first-rate yarn as a necessary bit of the learning process.

Look, here's one of Bee's future sweaters. Homigod, prettiness!

* Having set out to buy yarn to knit a scrumptious little sweater for a friend's forthcoming baby, I of course ended up impulsively also buying materials for making two sweaters for Bee, who already has more hand-knit things than any infant needs. The adage about the shoemaker's children going barefoot apparently does not apply to my family.
** Seven nonconsecutive minutes.