The First Month

In the last stages of pregnancy, I read a book called Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke that I simply can’t say enough about. Not only did it help get me through my quick, intense labor in one piece, it’s helping me navigate parenting with more calm patience than I thought possible. It introduces your infant as your mindfulness teacher, and boy does that nail it on the head!

Adalynn is one-month-old today, and already she has instructed me in dozens of ways. I’ve learned many new skills, including:

  • How to change a diaper. Yep, before I gave birth, I had never done this. I didn’t babysit, and I was the youngest.
  • How to bathe a squirming tiny person. Well, technically I’ve only ever given her a sponge bath, but on today’s docket is the real thing! I’ve been making Erik do it because I’m terrified.
  • How to dress a wee sack of potatoes. Little sacks of potatoes are hard to clothe, but with humorous coaching and a firm hand, it can be done.
  • How to dodge geysers of spit-up. This is by far the grossest part of parenting, in my opinion. I’d much rather deal with poop than warm, runny, regurgitated milk.
  • How to feed myself in ten minutes flat. Inarguably, this is an essential skill.
  • How to breastfeed in public. Not only does it feel awkward exposing a body part you’ve been shamed into covering up all these years, you have to do it without your Boppy, recliner and legions of pillows.
  • How to communicate with an alien. She can’t speak, can’t understand you, and demands whatever she wants whenever she wants. Thankfully, it’s true when they say that you start to understand your infant’s different cries eventually. The tomato-red gas cry is much different than the overstimulated and tired cry.

Of course, there are many other skills to note, including how to take an infant out of the house, how to wear one in a Boba, what to pack in a diaper bag, how to deal with the endless stream of visitors, etc., etc. Most importantly, she continues to teach me the art of mindfulness.

How do you stay calm when she won’t stop crying no matter what? When you’re tired and on edge? When you’re hungry and can’t eat? When you’re thirsty and can’t drink? When you have to pee but can’t get up? When you’ve just fed her and she seems hungry again? When you just want to shower and feel like a human but you can’t leave her alone? When you sit in bed, waiting for her to fall asleep and she stares at you with wide-awake eyes and you have to listen to your husband snore next to you?

These are the moments when you shut your eyes for a second and begin to breathe deeply. Usually, you can breathe so deeply and calm yourself so much that she begins to pick up on your vibe and do the same. Not always, but usually.

Babies are skilled in teaching mindfulness because they just are. They can only communicate their needs by crying, and they do. They cry when they’re hungry, in pain, have a dirty diaper, are bored, are tired, are lonely. They exist to have their needs met: right, wrong or indifferent. They don’t fit into our schedule. They teach you to go with the flow and be in the moment.

So, happy one-month to my mindfulness teacher extraordinaire! I look forward to seeing what you will teach me in month two.

Bringing Sexy Back

“I’m bringing sexy back.”

This is what I said to my husband last night as we sat at the kitchen table. I was pumping one of my breasts and told him to come over and laugh at how funny it looks. That morning, I had finally steeled myself to try pumping. I had been afraid – who knows why. I chalk it up to new motherhood and the random bouts of anxiety it brings. It was important to me to pump alone for the first time just in case something went wrong or I couldn’t figure it out.

But once I had figured it out (and it wasn’t very hard, for what it’s worth), I knew I could call Erik over for a chuckle.

After all, we mused together, it may be hard for him to ever view me in the same light after witnessing the birth of our daughter, the aftermath of birth in all its glory (namely, mesh underwear and giant diaper-esque pads), the painful art of learning to breastfeed, and now the hilarious world of pumping breastmilk. Not to mention the new body I’ve gained through a successful pregnancy: wider hips, more back rolls and a new little pouch covered with angry purple stretch marks.

All joking aside, I don’t mind my postpartum body. Sure, it’s a little lumpy and squishy, but it’s hard for me to hate it when I look at the gift it gave me just 18 days ago (currently snuggled against my chest in my Boba, for those who would like to know). And you know what? It’s a lot easier to appreciate this new squishy body when you remember the aches and pains of pregnancy! The last weeks of pregnancy are really hard. Everything hurts, the sleeplessness is awful, the anxiety and irritability are at an all-time high, and you just want the baby to be out of you. I still marvel at the fact that I can eat without heartburn; bump my belly into something without feeling like I was gut-punched; lay on my back; walk without getting winded; stoop down to pick something up off the floor!

I had an easy, healthy pregnancy, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Still, it was no picnic. I’m glad it’s over. And because of that, it’s easy to embrace the pouch on my belly that looks like the skin of an ugli fruit. It’s easy to embrace the wider hips when I look into my daughter’s face and marvel that my body helped to create a tiny person who is so perfect. It’s easy to be kind to myself and remember that it took nine months to create this new body, and it may very well take at least nine months to find a new normal. I may never wear the same size I did before, and the most upsetting part of that is having to purchase new clothes! That’s what thrift stores are for.

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Postpartum belly skin, perfectly captured by the majestic ugli fruit.

I never would have imagined I’d be so zen about “losing” my pre-pregnancy shape. While I was pregnant, I obsessed over each and every one of the 44 pounds I gained. But once baby was here, it felt natural to embrace the changes that occurred – the physical transition into motherhood. I now have a new facet to my identity and therefore, I look different than before. It doesn’t matter. Our daughter doesn’t know any different. And as I patiently wait for her to smile at me for real, I already know she’s starting to love my face, my scent, the feel of my body. She doesn’t care what size jeans I wear.

So for now, neither do I.

The Question I’ve Come to Hate

“How are you feeling?”

I think it was about month four or five of pregnancy that I began to dread this question. Back then, it just felt repetitive and annoying. Now it feels like, “How do you think I feel, genius?!” It’s like asking how someone is when they’re at a loved one’s funeral. Do you really expect them to tell you the truth?

“I feel like the world has stopped turning. I feel like the earth has gone from beneath my feet. I feel like I can’t breathe, and that nighttime lasts forever. I can’t think of the next day, let alone the next year without my loved one. I feel angry at God.”

Nope, no one is going to say that. Most of us are well-trained circus animals that have been tamed into submission and taught to say something sociably acceptable. These days, my response to the dreaded question is one of two options.

“I’m fine.” This reply is reserved solely for those who I don’t know well, which is most people. For some reason, people start really caring about you when you’re pregnant. This has been one of the most annoying parts of creating human life: You didn’t care about me before, why do you care now?!

“Do you want the real truth, or the nice truth?” This answer is more suitable for people I know a little better – or at the very least, people I don’t mind sharing my private life with. It breaks the ice a little bit. And once the ice is broken, I can tell them how I really feel.

I feel like a water buffalo.

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Why a water buffalo? Because one day I was huffing and puffing up the fit trail at work and this was the first thought that crossed my mind. I couldn’t have picked a water buffalo out of a line-up, but somehow it sounded like the most appropriate way to describe my new lazy, bloated body.

Here’s how I feel:

  • My lungs are slowly being crushed. Do you know how embarrassing it is for a former cardio queen to gasp through everyday conversation? I feel pathetic and out of shape and gross.
  • My ribs are in some sort of vise at all times. I alternate between slumping, trying to sit and stand as tall as possible, and leaning at varying angles. It’s not because I’m being kicked there. It’s because she’s stuck her limbs inside and is slowly spreading my ribs apart like she’s a pair of pliers.
  • Queasiness has returned, except now it’s accompanied by uncontrollable hunger. As soon as my belly is empty, I don’t feel well. It’s enough to make me want to stuff my face at all times. And I do. And for all the pregnant women who say they feel oddly full after just a few bites? I wish I had that problem. My stomach fits the same amount of food as ever. It just regurgitates itself into my throat instead of digesting into my intestines like it used to.
  • I am a fire-breathing dragon. Luckily for me, my heartburn comes and goes. Once I get it, it stays like an unwelcome uncle. And then nothing will touch it. Water, bread, milk – everything makes it worse.
  • Nothing is coming out of me anymore. I eat and eat, and it doesn’t come out. I’m already at the maximum recommended weight gain for someone of my size, and I’ve still got a long ways to go. I’m not a particularly unhealthy eater – it’s really just not coming back out. At this rate, I won’t be surprised if I gain 50 pounds total. And because nothing is coming out, I constantly feel even more uncomfortably large and squished.
  • There are lightning bolts in my crotch. Yep, I had no idea I could conduct electricity, but I’m doing it. Sometimes it feels like things are ripping, other times it feels like Zeus is in my body. Sharp, stabbing pains. Ones that take your breath away, and it’s difficult to carry on like this in a workplace environment.
  • I feel like I finished a marathon but instead of being able to rest, someone is forcing me to continue walking for miles and days afterward. Sleep? What’s that? When every single thing on your body hurts and you can’t get comfortable, it’s pretty hard to come by.

I have been staunchly against inductions until this week, and now I think if my doctor offers to induce me for one reason or another I’m going to gleefully pounce and say, “DO IT.” I have so far to go, and I just want my own body back.

So how do I feel?

Fine. Just fine.

Baby-wearin’ Mama

Last night was our final childbirth class, aptly titled, “Follow Your Heart but Take Your Brain with You.” The five classes covered more than childbirth and included everything from breastfeeding to finding a pediatrician to envisioning our first date after baby’s arrival. It was fun meeting other moms around the community and opening important conversations with Erik; luckily for us, we have very similar ideas on many child-related topics. (Actually, it’s not luck: we thoroughly discussed many of these things while we were dating and engaged.)

I was surprised to find how passionate I became about part of last night’s class: baby-wearing. The subject had never really registered on my radar. Sure, I had thought about in passing: We should probably buy some sort of baby-wearing system for walking around downtown and hiking and whatnot.

I was shocked at how much baby-wearing systems cost! K’tans and Moby wraps are $50 and up – for a piece of fabric! “Fancier” carriers like the Tula and Ergo are $150 and $120, respectively. There’s no doubt in my mind that these carriers are bomb and you get what you pay for, but we ended up registering for a carrier that was $30-40 and called it good.

One of my Facebook friends had tagged me in a video of a woman “easily” tying a carrier, and it looked extremely difficult. I knew I’d never feel comfortable tying a strip of fabric around my body and trusting that it would keep my baby from certain death.

Back to last night: a community mom came in to teach us about baby-wearing. Oh great, I thought, another hippy-dippy eye-roller! Sure enough, she came armed with homemade baby wraps (along with some other, more technical carriers) and a tiny baby wrapped snugly to her front. I immediately thought this wouldn’t apply to me and Erik shared my sentiment, but we listened and participated politely.

I don’t know how or when or even why, but as we watched a live human demonstrate how to create a baby wrap and then tried it out on our partners (pregnant bellies make it a little harder to wrap comfortably), something clicked inside me. It suddenly seemed fabulously easy – and cost effective – to wrap your baby to your body and be hands-free as you went about your business!

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Proudly sporting the baby wrap my belly wouldn’t permit

I was sold once again as the mom demonstrated how easy it was to use your wrap to modestly breastfeed baby. That could come in handy… I mused.

The final winning pitch was mom’s admission that baby-wearing often keeps strangers away! As she and the nurses shared stories about random people coming up to touch your baby in its infant carrier, or asking to hold your baby, and all sorts of the other nightmares I’m already dreading, I realized baby-wearing could be one of the greatest choices I make in the coming months!

“Oh, no, sorry, she’s sleeping,” I can say to anyone asking to see or hold baby while she’s safely nestled against my torso. And I can say it without a trace of genuine remorse!

So off we go to the fabric store to buy linen gauze and make a “hippy-dippy” baby wrap. If it will save me from awkward and annoying interaction after interaction, I’m going to embrace it to the fullest!

Freedom

Ahh… freedom. I just disconnected this blog from my Facebook page and I feel like I can finally write again. The last time I posted (this post about naming our unborn daughter), I became traumatized. Instead of recognizing that I had written yet another blog post, a bunch of crazies came out of the woodwork on my Facebook, “liked” what they thought was a photo (completely ignoring the post), and started throwing name suggestions at me!

So disgusted was I that I stopped writing. I was shocked that so many people couldn’t be bothered to read and figure out that it was a blog post accompanied by a photo; even worse, I couldn’t believe that people actually thought I would leave something so meaningful and personal as naming my first-born child up to Facebook. It was easy for me to crawl away back into my shell and cease life as an author.

But lately I’ve realized that this wasn’t the best solution. The best solution was to disconnect my blog from my Facebook page! Part of the problem is that when WordPress automatically posts your blog and it’s accompanied by a photo, it shows up in your timeline like, “Derziriff posted a new photo.” Even so, I can’t blame people’s overwhelming ignorance on that.

I’ll remain here in the safety of like-minded writers, thank you very much. It’s good to be back!

Naming Rights

One cool thing about having a kid is that you get naming rights.

One horrible thing about having a kid is that you get naming rights.

Back when Little Bean was just that – a tiny bean – it was easy to pretend there wasn’t a human in my womb and that I was sick and tired for other reasons. As my belly began protruding, and our one and only ultrasound approached, it became a fun game to argue over names. I was convinced we were having a boy, so we concentrated on boy names mostly. I was in love with the name Oren. Erik said it was awful and that everyone would call our kid “Orville Redenbacher.” I argued and told him that kids don’t even know who that is!

We came up with some good ones, though: Ernest Bertram, shortened to Ernie Bert; Stubert; a score of other horrible names we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.

I began to realize how difficult choosing a name would be, since we couldn’t agree on anything in all seriousness. I accused him of liking “boring” names. He accused me of being stubborn. True on both accounts.

During the anatomy scan at 19 weeks, 5 days, we could no longer deny we were having a baby. There it was, up on the screen! Of course, the tiny flutters I felt in my lower abdomen also had something to do with the newfound conviction that something was indeed alive in there.

Soon after we found out our Little Bean was a girl (to my shocked delight), the Question began to recur:

“Do you have any names picked out?”

Oh God, we have to name a human?! Like, a name she has to have forever – or at least until she’s a legal adult?! *bleep* That’s hard. We can’t do this! We tabled the discussion.

Because I’m so impatient, it wasn’t tabled for long. We decided to make the choice last night. We both came armed with a list of our top ten. Actually, Erik forgot his at work but I whined and said, “You promised we would do this tonight! I’ve been thinking of this all day!” He “remembered” what was on his list – otherwise we would have driven to his work to pick it up.

So there we were, armed with our lists. I wrote them carefully in my pregnancy journal. Then we agreed to cross out any name we just couldn’t live with, choose any we thought would be OK for a middle name, and rank the ones we liked. Each of us ended up with two middle name choices, four first name choices (two of which were common to each other’s lists), and four crossed out. Fair and equal!

Next, my anal-retentive nature begged me to write each name on a post-it note so we could move them around on the wall.

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The name game

We made combination after combination, eliminating ones that didn’t work and starring ones that did. By 6pm (just one hour later – we’re efficient!), we had it narrowed down to two choices: Josephine Violet and Adalynn Grace.

“How are we supposed to choose?” I cried. “I really like Adalynn but I’m so afraid if we don’t go with Josephine, I’ll regret it forever.” I imagined calling my daughter Josie or JoJoVi and couldn’t get it out of my head.

I stared at the post-it notes harder. Adalynn was a great name, but something was wrong. As lovely as Adalynn Grace sounds, it didn’t feel right to me. If I was going to give up Josephine, I had to have Violet. All my friends know I’ve been stuck on that name for a few months now.

Finally I stood up and changed the post-it notes to read Adalynn Violet. “I’ll do Adalynn if I can have Violet,” I declared.

“OK, that’s good,” Erik replied.

“Really?” I made him sign a document in my pregnancy journal – this is what you do with your husband who changes his mind every five minutes – and it was decided: Adalynn Violet. I yelled the name in different threatening tones, just to test it out. I said it endearingly. I used Addy as a nickname. It seems like a good choice.

Erik said, “Did we have this much trouble choosing Lady’s name?”

“I thought we did this well! You know how much people fight over this stuff?” I answered. “Good work, team!”

At least now we know our future teammate’s name: Miss Adalynn Violet.

It Follows: A Review

Earlier this year, by hook or by crook (but most likely via Buzzfeed), I heard about It Follows and was immediately intrigued. The reviews I read said that it was a purely psychological movie, unlike so many of the horror movies nowadays that rely on gore-porn or jumps.

Psychological horror is my jam! What more do you need than for someone to plant a seed in your brain? If you have a wild and crazy imagination, it’s easy to let that seed grow all the way into a massive [creepy] tree.

Yesterday as we bumbled around Walmart, I remembered I should buy Straight Outta Compton (yes kids, it’s true: we do not have a Netflix account… we’re not “movie people”). As I locked eyes with the first side of a movie display, there it was: It Follows. For the low price of $9.96, I carried my treasure home and prepared to watch it.

“Can we watch this tonight?” I asked Erik. “I’d rather not sleep tonight than tomorrow when I have to work in the morning.”

Anyway… we watched the movie. About 30-40 minutes in, I declared that I already didn’t like it (by which I mean it was definitely scaring the shit out of me) and looked at the box to see how long my torture would last: a mere 100 minutes.

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Photo courtesy of denofgeek.com

The reviews I had previously read were pretty spot on. They said the entire movie had an ominous feel, and it did. The suspense continually mounted, only to have nothing scary happen… yet. The main characters never seemed happy, even before anything happened. And of course, it was set in Detroit. Need I say more about the atmosphere?

So basically, the movie is about a sexually-transmitted… umm… thing. Once you’ve received this thing, It follows you on foot wherever you go. You can buy time by driving away, but It will find you eventually. It looks different every time, but always like some creepy horrible person walking after you. The only way you can get rid of It is by infecting someone else and hoping that person doesn’t die; if the person you infected dies, It comes right back after you again.

Which is why, I suppose, you can’t just infect a hooker and have your problem solved. It appears that if you don’t know about It, you wouldn’t understand something was wrong with the “person” following you until it was too late and you were dead. The main character, Jay, even tries to get rid of the curse by having sex with some boaters, only to find It coming after her yet again. It seems your best chance for survival would be to infect someone you trust so that you can both watch your backs for the rest of your lives.

Of course, in true psychological horror style, there’s no telling what It is, either. The only person who can see It is the infected person (and the person infected before them), which leads to extreme paranoia. So no one else can see It, but It seems to be able to hurt other people regardless. It has a one-track mind and only wants the infected person, but if someone else gets in Its way, It has no trouble pushing them away or hurling something at them. Toward the end of the movie, someone throws a blanket over It: so apparently, It’s invisible but very much real. It can’t go through walls or doors but It can break windows and climb into your house and bang on your bedroom door until you unsuspectingly let It in. *shudder*

Overall, I really liked the movie. I liked it so much that I woke up at 1:19am and decided to sleep on the couch with the lights on, watching Friends. I’ll be watching it again at some point, just to find even more creepy nuances that escaped me the first time.

As I explain again and again to everyone who thinks I’m a freak for loving horror movies, some people get their thrills from amusement parks. I get mine from horror.