Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad Mama

Baby boy was wide awake and ready to start his day at four this morning, as he is every morning.  Unlike all the four-in-the-mornings which have come before, however, I was not so eager as Mads to greet this one.  He wiggled, kicked his feet, punched his little hambone fists in the air, cooed and chatted, and I rolled over and buried my face into my pillow--for twenty minutes (or so Wolfman informed me--he woke in the other room, and watched the clock while listening to our baby's noises become more heightened and disgruntled; why I feel guilt over letting Mads fuss and my husband does not is clearly an essay for another time).

I was not feeling the whole Mommy thing this morning (if four hours before dawn can be called morning).  My right wrist hurt, the muscles in my arms and back ached, my nipples were raw from the hourly feedings all night (that's right, hourly).  Twice in the night I'd had to scoop Mads up and carry him into the living room to bounce him back to sleep on the yoga ball.  The second time, he kept spitting out his pacifier to smile at me, and I worried he wouldn't fall back asleep at all.

These are the tedious complaints of new mothers the world over, and I don't expect some special compensation or pity.  I'm only explaining that for the sake of my very sanity, I needed those twenty minutes of laying on my belly with my face buried in the pillow, the way I used to sleep before Mads existed, before he took over every aspect of my life, including my sleep (the position I sleep in, the room and bed I sleep in, the quality and quantity of my sleep, the subjects of my dreams).  During my fit of temporary, elective deafness, Wolfman rescued Mads from my neglect, and I took an extra ten minute vacation to brush my teeth, dress, attempt to tame the nest that is my hair these days, rub coconut oil on my face and frown over the newly acquired wrinkles gracing my forehead.  (My husband refused to commiserate with me over my rapid aging post-partum.  "I've had forehead wrinkles since I was seven," he said, then made monkey noises at the baby.)

Being a bad mother does not, surprise, come easy.  Every instinct I have urges me to put the little'un first, at whatever the cost, which is why I went two full weeks without showering in the first month of Mads' life.  I exist now, biologically speaking, to feed, nurture, and shelter this (admittedly precious) new life, and it's been a struggle to find my way back to myself.  For two months, I skipped showers, I skipped meals, I skipped opportunities for me-time in favor of caring for (serving, really) my baby boy.  But day by day, as he smiles more and grumps less, as he shakes off the PTSD symptoms after being pushed and squeezed violently through my body and out into this bright, cold, loud world, I reserve little segments of time to do things that make me feel like me, an autonomous human being.  

I've managed, lately, to write in my journal, send a couple letters, begin the process of emptying our storage unit and rearranging and filling our home, and, even, getting a little naked with my good looking husband (ahem).  Little things, these--writing, organizing, sex--but huge boosts in Mommyland morale.  In the mornings, I do a few yoga stretches and twist my hips and torso belly-dance style (the greatest and most fun ab workout) while Mads watches me placidly (usually) from his crib or Fisher Price vibrating hammock, which I carry with me from room to room of the house throughout the day.

He's not the most patient fellow yet.  He fusses if I spend more than a few minutes at a time without looking at him or speaking to him.  He's an energy vampire if ever there was one.  I spend, easily, 85% of my day with this boy in my arms, but that baby-free 15% of the day has been revolutionary for these hands and mind of mine, and I don't mind so much stretching that percentage bit by bit as Mads' development progresses.  We jumped from the laying-in period to an intense mommy-only phase; I've been sapped (but somehow not dry?) for two-and-a-half months now.  So, stolen moments here and there, even if and when he complains, are special.  This blog update, for example, took several of those stolen moments, and I was shouted at mercilessly during a few of those moments by the boy.  What he doesn't understand is that being a bad mama some of the time is a requirement to be a good mama most of the time--call it the Mommy Paradox.    

Monday, July 29, 2013

Expecting | Dear Baby

Capt. Woodrow Call

Dear Baby,

Spiders are making webs in bathroom sinks and across tall grass.  The tom cats spread out on long bellies and backs on the deck.  (I fill their water bowls twice daily.)  We're surprised by rain, but my poor potted patchouli is barely holding on.  I clumsily peel kiwis and wait for you.

It's difficult to concentrate on reading.  It's difficult to get dressed in the morning, and difficult to motivate myself to stand in front of a camera and mark these last (I hope) days of carrying you inside me--not because my belly does not make me proud, but because it is awfully heavy, or you in it are awfully heavy.  Four pounds gained in one week according to the scale at the midwives', and it's all you, bub.  Though, as enormous as I feel, strangers still comment on how "small" I look, completely flummoxed that I'm due to birth you on July 31st, and not some later month.  

Two days until our due date, but then, those dates are somewhat arbitrary.  Your cousin Ella was born five days early; your dear mama here was born a week late.  But still, each morning I say to your papa, enthusiastically, hopefully, "maybe I'll go into labor today!"  Well, every morning but this specific one, when your father left for work before the sun rose and I only managed to mumble sleepily, "I love you. Drink lots of water today," as he kissed my cheek goodbye.  

As much as I try to respect your time, baby love, I am so eager to see you.  We all are.  Your great-grandma called the day of my last midwife appointment, Friday, to ask, "Any news!?", thinking perhaps I may be dilated and ready.  Your grandma Sandra left a bag full of cloth diapers and other odds and ends on the porch yesterday afternoon while we were out.  I've been surprised by a few Braxton Hicks contractions, but nothing substantial.  I'm considering taking up mall walking if you don't make your debut in the next few days.  I'll try my damnedest to just walk you right out of me, but in the air conditioning and while window shopping for clothes that I can neither fit into nor afford at the moment--all those neon colors are still en vogue, and I do love them so.

In short, here I am, willing you to please come soon, baby.  And, while I'm at it, please stop jamming that foot into my ribs.

I love you, and I want you here, on the outside, where I can kiss your little face and hands and feet freely and hold you to my skin the way I keep dreaming of holding you.

Thorn Rex

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday | Cool Aunts

photos via Ashley
I love my girlfriends.  That's how my grandma always announced a phone call for me when I was a teenager; "Michelle, your girlfriend's on the phone!"  I love them as individuals, and I love them as women, and I love that we've been in each other's lives for so long.  I hate only that adult life has scattered us (continues to scatter us as Ashley just announced she'll be moving to Wilmington at the end of the year).  Selena, fun-sized, her signature color red, was the first friend I made after moving to North Carolina in the 6th grade.  Siobhan, six feet tall and newly emancipated, wearing three inch heels to boot, I met the following year.  Ashley, with her pineapple pendant and that accent that won't quit, I met the year after.  And, we've been in each other's lives, in one way or another, ever since.  I am so comforted by that fact, so proud of it, so in awe of these ladies and everything they've accomplished--degrees, careers, babies, travels.

We had dinner together on Saturday, for the last time before I add a number to our bunch, a little mini baby shower, which I honestly was not expecting.  As Ashley wrote on Facebook, "this baby's gonna have the coolest aunts!"  One thing I've been continually awed by throughout this pregnancy is the amount of love and blessings and well wishes that have been showered on this baby.  How extraordinary to come into the world already anticipated and loved so much.  And how lucky this baby is to have such a vast, diverse "family", including so many cool aunts--role model women, who've touched my life so deeply, and who inspire me always.

The night in February when I announced my pregnancy (with Siobhan's adorable minime, Jade). Photo via Selena.
Selena, Michelle, Ashley, & Siobhan--days before high school graduation.  Photo via Selena.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Expecting | 36 Weeks

"Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken." - M.F.K. Fisher

I keep calling the baby a "he."  I'll say something absently like, "He's got a foot wedged in my ribs," and a co-worker, or a family member, or a friend will say, "He?" knowing full (and frustratingly) well that I have no way to back up that pronoun.  We don't know if this is a boy, we've just got this feeling.

The night I found out I was pregnant (and rushed out of the bathroom with tears in my eyes to tell Wolfman in a voice that nearly failed me the news), he drew a masculine rune at random from his hand-sewn leather bag and announced, "it's a boy."  About a month later, I was at the library perusing the spirituality shelves and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys nearly jumped off the shelf at me; it had clearly been misplaced, and stood proudly next to Deepak Chopra, cover out, as if waiting just for me.  When Sierra Dawn found out she was having a girl, she and Grandma looked at me over a Chinese buffet lunch saying, "You're having a boy," both so firm, I didn't argue with their mystical logic.  

I'm carrying low.  And a stranger on the bus one day leaned over me as he got off at his stop and said, "You take care of that little man in there," pointing at my belly.

We're not leaving the gender up to surprise and speculation on purpose.  The search for unisex infant clothing is an arduous one, after all.  We simply decided that an ultrasound didn't seem necessary, and one of our midwives (my favorite at the birth center, actually, the woman I hope is on call when I'm in labor) agreed with us.  She said, cheerily, "It's not!"  And that was that.

But when this baby is so big and so close, it feels like he (or she!) is here already in a way, a part of our lives viscerally, it's hard to not know for certain.  I'd like to call him (or her!) by name.  We already have them picked out, the names--have had for months now.

We had another appointment at the birth center this morning and, once again, everything--womb size, baby's heart beat, blood pressure, hemoglobin count--is just on-the-dot perfect.  I guess in light of that, boy or girl doesn't really matter.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Photo Journal, no. 58 | Ella, 2 months, 10 days

Ella's a little skeptical of anyone who's not her mom these days.  But, oh to prop her up on my big belly and smell that strawberry blonde baby hair, and to have that little hand squeezing my finger tight, and those long eyelashes, that funny little side-eyed look she gives.  I'm in love.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grilling with Friends in Senses

Seeing | The Dark Crystal, muted, on the television screen as Wolfman & Justin (the Metal Commander) jam | a micro Hulk toy standing guard on a desert of beige sofa | Eric's toy guitar proudly displayed on the stand with his dad's bass guitars

Smelling | woodsmoke | beer | the oncoming and aftermath of rain

Feeling | the sting and itch of ant bites on my toes | Justin's bass vibrating the floor under my feet

Hearing | Eric's wild giggles as his mama tickles him | a reunited Black Sabbath booming out the open window

Tasting | happy cow burgers grilled by my man, with just a hint of worcestershire | grocery-store tiramisu after a long, emotional day

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday, no. 4 | On a Friday, actually

A photo of pregnant Sharon Tate,
which has nothing to do with this post really,
but which I like muchly.
The sidewalk at my morning bus stop is uneven, and I've tripped on it a dozen or so times since I've been catching buses there.  But today, very nearly eight months pregnant, I tripped and fell.  I'd just hastily kissed Wolfman goodbye and was rushing to the awaiting bus, my arms full of morning smoothie, umbrella, thick Wallace Stegner book, my head turned and scrounging in my bag for my wallet to pay my bus fare.  And, down she (I) went.  The things I'd been carrying scattered forward, the green smoothie spilled in a puddle which my umbrella lay in, the cover of my book bent (my poor books--even when I'm not falling down, they sure do take a beating).  I'd landed on my hands and knees, and I'd broken my fall with my bag, which was underneath me now.  Before I had time to react at all to what had happened, Wolfman was at my side, pulling me up, sounding slightly panicked in asking me if I was okay, which is when, I think, I started crying.

My hands and knees stung, and honestly, I was a little embarrassed, but what made me cry was this big ol' belly of mine, what I'm smuggling inside it, how precious that thing is, and how now is not a time to turn clutz. (I've been, if I do say so myself, rather graceful my entire life, but I'm not quite used to this newer, bigger, slower body of mine, and pregnancy has made me semi clumsy.)

The bus had driven off at this point, and Wolfman gathered my scattered belongings and helped me back into the car, where he drove me home to collect myself before we trekked back out to Raleigh for work.  All I could think on the ride home was, what if I hurt my baby because I wasn't paying attention, because I was in a hurry?  What if I'd hurt my baby, for what?  To make it to a bus on time?  To make it to work on time?  These things don't matter.  Nothing matters at this point in my pregnancy but keeping this baby safe and healthy.  

Wolfman says watching me fall was, hands down, the scariest moment of his life to date.  I was scared, too.  So, he held my hand, and I cried, and I willed the baby to start wiggling around to let me know he or she was still in there and doing just fine.  Baby obliged about a mile from our house with one solitary THUMP.  When we got home, I lay on my back on the bed, lifted up my blouse, and watched my belly roll, and felt my baby move, and I don't think I've ever even known what relief truly feels like until those moments.

This seems silly now, of course.  It was just a little trip on a sidewalk!  I only skinned the heels of my hands and my knees!  Elementary-age me frequently sported bloody knees with nary a tear for them.  It's embarrassing now, typing this, as this baby bounces around inside me on a lunch time high, to think of how I reacted, how my husband reacted.  I didn't fall down any stairs; I wasn't in a moving vehicle. 

I confessed to Wolfman after the incident, once I'd calmed down, that never in my life have I been so conscious of and wary of bodily harm coming to me in some way.  These past few months, I've been haunted by stray thoughts like: what if I get stabbed? What if I get hit by a car?  I never worried about these things before, and now weekly I'm plagued by images of harm coming to me, and as a consequence, my baby.  I guess I'd never had something to protect before.  By which I mean, I never went out of my way to put myself and my body in danger, but I guess I'd always been pretty confident in my chances of survival--the blessing, or curse, of being young, healthy, and strong.  But now, the stakes are so much higher, and I feel so much more vulnerable than before.  It's confusing and annoying, and I can't shake it, no matter how many affirmations I mutter to chase away an unfounded worry.  

I slipped on my butt at Hemlock Bluffs early in my pregnancy, before I had a belly, before I'd even told most people.  The stone stairs leading down to the parking lot were slippery and down I went.  I laughed because I bounced a little (I've got some cushion back there, of which both Wolfman and I are pretty fond).  I laughed and then said to Wolfman as he pulled me up with a kind of rueful expression on his face, I need to be more careful now.   It's not that I consider myself solely a vessel or carrier; I'm still an autonomous being, and I expect to be treated as such--by society, by the medical industry.  But, I'm sharing this body now, in the realest of senses, with some little being who needs me, who relies on me completely.  Being aware of that, every day, every minute, sure does make me think differently about myself and my place in the world.  And, yes, sometimes it makes me panic over little things that seem so much huger now. 

I'm grateful for that one THUMP on the ride home, grateful for a visible wiggling as I watched my belly in bed, grateful now to feel the baby pulsing happily inside me.  I'm grateful for my husband, who was beside me so quickly.  I'm grateful for this wake up call, even, this alarm clock ringing, telling me it's time to sloooowww dowwwn.  Officially, we, baby and me, are on slow time.  If we miss a bus, we miss a bus.  So be it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Expecting | 34 Weeks

Dear Baby,

Friday was the summer solstice, and your papa outdid himself this week.  First, there was the oscillating fan he brought home for the bedroom, to cool me down some while I sleep.  (I'm overheating these days and walking about the house in various degrees of undress.  When your Great-Grandma Polly was pregnant with Grandpa Bob in an Oklahoma summer, she was naked much of the time, or so goes the tale.  I believe it as I'm nearly there myself.)  On Sunday, your papa dug a pit in the back yard and cooked us up a beef brisket from Queen B Farm over a wood fire, which he dressed with a BBQ sauce he mixed himself.  I do just fine in the kitchen with the one pot/one pan meals, but your Papa, we decided this weekend, is the special occasion cook--all gourmet weekend and holiday meals will be at his hand, and you and I are are ever lucky for it (as I'm sure you're aware by the time you're reading this).  How I managed to find a such good-looking man who can cook and keeps me laughing, I don't know. 

You're getting big.  Gigantic, actually.  According to the midwife, your head is already nestled down in my pelvis (and it better stay there, bub), but you've got this one foot consistently wedged into my side, and the other jammed up against my diaphragm making breathing something of a labor.  Sometimes I'll feel you moving in two opposite places at once in my belly, each thump so far from the other, and think, how is that even possible?  You must be one froggy-legged babe, one strong, tall glass of milk already.  I may be complaining a little these days, but it's an affectionate complaint--a bragging complaint, even.  If you weren't making trouble for me, I'd wonder if you were mine at all.

We fell asleep, your Papa and me, and missed the super moon.  I think we're conserving sleep these days, getting as much of it as we can, before your arrival.  The next super moon will happen in August 2014, and you'll be a year old.  I can hardly imagine it.

Love always, Mama  

A shirtless Wolfman tending to dinner.

Spinach salad with all sorts of goodies.

Brisket and mashed potatoes courtesy of Chef Wolfman, pretzel roll courtesy of the grocery bakery.

I was giggling so hard, I could barely take these photos of Thorn, who obviously melted in the heat.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thankful Thursday, no. 3

This has not been my week.  Wolfman bought me a beautiful dress on Saturday which I wore on Monday, promptly smudged with coconut oil, and thereby effectively ruined. (Today, also, I noticed too late that my little embroidered cardigan has a stain--this one a mystery--on the back.  Is this my life now, I wonder?)  I've been rained on this week.  I've blistered my feet wearing the wrong shoes this week.  I've peed my pants when sneezing this week.  I've woken to the 5 AM alarm and cried this week.  In short, it's a perfect week for gratitude.  

I am grateful: for the sound rain drops thumping on my umbrella as I wait for a bus with the hem of my dress uncomfortably wet.

I am grateful: for air conditioning on buses now that summer is upon us full force.

I am grateful: for the smell of sliced nectarines packed from home, bringing me cheer even after working through my lunch break, which always puts me in such a gloom.

I am grateful: for strangers on the street who offer blessings to my unborn baby and well wishes to me.

I am grateful: for this one moment so small, but so transcendent, I will fail to describe why it made me cry.  This moment I experience wholly, this moment I live in and appreciate, every single sensation--Wolfman putting headphones on my belly and nestling against me in bed, his hand resting on my naval as he plays music for the baby (one of the pieces he wrote, a mellow Buckethead tune).  Lunchbox curling against Wolfman's bare back, and I rubbing his belly with one hand, running fingers through Wolfman's hair with the other, and feeling this baby rolling and thumping inside me like a mermaid.  We three still and perfect and happy while Xena rough-houses with her kittens on the floor, unseen by us but heard, bouncing against various obstacles and calling them with her particular mother coo. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Expecting | 32 Weeks

Eight more weeks.  Or, perhaps, depending on how impatient this baby of mine gets, even fewer (but no fewer than 5, okay, babes?).  We baby showered yesterday, at Wolfman's Aunt Theresa's house in Angier.  It was a lovely time, with delicious sandwiches and cucumber lemon water and family we don't see nearly enough.  Grandma finally met Wolfman's niece Samantha Jane, who we talk about all the time, and was as taken with her as we are.  And, she held Wolfman's cousin's youngest baby girl, Dani Rae, five months old and "built like a butterball turkey", according to Wolfman (you'll remember his mother describing his baby self as a certain holiday entree as well).  Baby girls abound on this side of the family (and they are all just as loud, funny, and mischievous as little boys, by the way).  We received all sorts of gifts I hadn't even thought to ask for, and all sorts of sage advice, from Dani Rae's mother, in particular, Hollie, for which I am very grateful.  Sierra Dawn brought Ella, the youngest of the babies present, and I leaned over to look at that gorgeous little face, but couldn't hold her as I'm recovering from a head cold.  It's hard being around so many babies, expecting one of your own very soon, and not being able to jiggle a one in your lap.

As you'll see from the photos, I made due with Thorn Rex.  He and Dani Rae are comparable in heft, though he's furrier, of course.

I'm a bit uncomfortable these days, I'll admit.  My legs are starting to ache from carrying so much weight (I've gained 32 pounds so far!).  My bladder is being punished relentlessly.  It's getting more difficult by the day to lean over and put my sandals on.  I've had to slow my pace quite a bit, literally and figuratively.  I never thought of myself as much of a She-Ra before getting pregnant, but I'm constantly disappointed throughout the day by things I can not do--speeds I cannot achieve, objects I cannot lift, things I cannot remember, toes I can only reach with much grunting and adjusting.  I'm certainly ready to have my body back, and this baby in my arms.  Just eight more weeks!

Monday, June 3, 2013

This Weekend in Senses

Granny & Gramps bobbleheads in Grandma's car; a gift from me several Christmases ago

Seeing | Wolfman flashing me a flirty smile | Grandma stealing and eating a single cherry at the grocery store

Hearing | wind whipping through the open car windows as we drive | Dean Martin's "Memories are Made of This" playing on the diner jukebox

Smelling | fresh cut lemon slices | Wolfman's home-made throat tonic (honey, brandy, spices) 

Touching | soft, plump kitten bellies | coconut oil against the drum of my belly 

Tasting | crisp, bittersweet green grapes | Ben & Jerry's Liz Lemon frozen yogurt (lemon with blueberry lavender swirl) 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Expecting | Dear Baby

Dear Baby,  

On Friday we had our 30 week check-up.  The midwife listened to your heartbeat and told us, "Sounds like a happy baby."  I can only imagine that's the truth as you've got one happy Mama, and we're sharing this body of mine (which is getting rounder by the day, as you get bigger by the day).  As I write this, your Papa is out mowing the lawn.  We have the sweetest smelling air out here at your Grandpa Bob's house--with that wall of honeysuckle in the back yard, and the rose bush under our bedroom window, and now all this fresh cut grass.  I cannot wait for the Spring when your little fingers, though still pudgy, will be dexterous enough to carefully extract the nectar from a honeysuckle bloom, just one single drop for your finger tip or tongue.  We'll make honeysuckle tea, you and me, and maybe even rub the blooms against our neck like your Papa rubs rosemary sprigs and patchouli leaves against his.  

It's nearly summer, Baby, which will bring blackberries and barbecues and birthdays (yours and mine, both, and your Aunt Sierra Dawn's and Grandpa Bob's as well).  I'm too eager to speed up the clock.  

With love always, Mama

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo Journal, no. 57 | Long Weekend

Capt. Woodrow on the daybed in the in-progress baby's room; he thinks he's camouflaged.

Wolfman's migraine cure: feverfew tea in a TARDIS mug.

Playing with a new table setting.

Found in my father-in-law's office.

Preparing some snail mail for sending.

In-progress sacred writing space.

A lot of time spent on the back deck this weekend.

Thorn Rex

Xena Warrior Princess

Lunchbox, demonstrating his rolling technique, showing how he earned the nickname Stinky Naked.

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