Vax

Vaccines, in my estimation, are among the most important advances in public health in human history. Right up there with clean drinking water. Childhood diseases used to be such a scourge I don’t know how anyone was brave enough to have kids. Now, overwhelmingly, other than a few relatively minor conditions like coughs and colds and ear infections, they are a distant memory. It’s an extreme enough blessing to make any new mama’s eyes water.

THANK GOD I (almost certainly) don’t have to worry about polio, smallpox, mumps, whooping cough. It’s one of those things I always just took for granted.

So it was with extreme disbelief when I first began to realize there was an actual anti-vaccine movement out there. I mean, look, I don’t trust Big Pharma, either. We are an over-medicated society, with profits often treated as more important than health. I get that. I’m someone who makes a special lemon/honey/clove/cinnamon/ginger/garlic tea when I have a cold and otherwise generally lets things run their course. I use tea tree oil for topical infections. My son’s birth was drug-free, too.

But to me, refusing to vaccinate your children because you don’t like Big Pharma is like refusing to live in a building because you hate Donald Trump and he’s a real estate mogul. It’s like believing chemtrails are poisoning us because you don’t like the government. It’s like refusing to believe in global warming because you’ve heard most scientists are atheists / foreigners / whatever you happen to hate or distrust.

It’s particularly insidious because Big Pharma and the government absolutely have been wrong about plenty of things in the past, so it’s just plausible they got this wrong, too. But I’d guess most of those anti-vaxxers would give their child IV antibiotics if that child had a traumatic injury and was at risk of going septic and dying, even if that medicine came from Big Pharma.

Vaccines are like this, but it goes much farther than your own child. I won’t go into all the science here, you can find it with a google search, but vaccinating your own child helps protect other children (even vaccinated ones) as well as those too immunocompromised to get vaccines, such as small babies, sick people, and old people. Refusing to vaccinate is like reckless driving. It endangers other innocent families as well as your own.

That said, vaccinating your kid still sucks. Giving them any shot at all sucks. Strapping them into a car seat sucks. But you do what you gotta do to keep them as safe and healthy as possible.

So yeah, his two month check-up was yesterday, and he remains super healthy. 12 pounds 12 oz, head circumference 39.3cm, and 24.8 inches tall (98th percentile).

He was also super cute and flirty with the nurse and doctor, all smiles, and I was feeling so bad about what was coming. I asked if I could nurse him while they did it, but they said he had to be flat on his back on the table for safety reasons, like so they wouldn’t accidentally poke me or something.

Soon it was time. He was there on his back, happy to be the center of attention, and then suddenly the nurse was shoving a dosing syringe in his mouth (oral rotavirus vaccine) and he didn’t like that at all. Then she put band-aids halfway on his thigh where the shots would be, and I stroked his face and gazed into his eyes, feeling awful.

When the first needle went in, he looked so shocked and kind of scared and almost paralyzed with just not knowing what was going on or what to do. Thankfully she was super fast with the three shots in a row, and then he was crying and I was holding him against my shoulder and explaining to him quietly why I did it and how it wasn’t fun at all, but it was so much better than polio.

I took him home and fed him real good, and after a while he had a huge poop, and then he seemed to feel better. He was gritchy off and on for the rest of the day, including when my mom came to watch him while I went to my physical therapy appointment as well as a chiropractor in the same building. But overall not bad at all. Except once when I was feeding him, and suddenly I sneezed twice, and he started crying and refused to eat anymore. I let him sleep in the bed with us as a little treat after the long day.

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The day before, though, something even worse happened. So… anyone who’s been home alone all day with a newborn for hours and hours and hours will know how it can fray your last nerve. Once before, maybe three weeks ago, I finally yelled at him to just shut up and go to sleep. Not super loud, but louder and sharper than my usual voice for sure. He just startled a bit at the loud noise and went back to grousing.

I felt bad but figured he didn’t know the difference.

So on Tuesday he whined for like 40 minutes in a row when all he needed to do was sleep, and he absolutely refused. I was in the floor, my back hurting, my pelvic floor not in a good position, my shoulders aching, rocking him in his little bouncy seat, but he just whined and whined and whined in this same monotonous, annoying way, endlessly. Finally I jogged his seat a bit harder and yelled again, venting my own frustration, thinking he’d just startle again and treat it like a random noise.

Nope. He lost his freaking mind. I picked him up and held him against my shoulder, but he just kept crying harder than I’d ever seen him cry before. I started to get worried, like maybe I’d given him whiplash or something. I honestly started wondering if I should call 911. I felt like the lowest infectious shit-eating worm, the worst form of life that had ever existed.

Mercifully he calmed down after a while and soon seemed like his old self. But lesson learned. He’s already too old and aware for me to take anything out on him without consequences, even just raising my voice in frustration. I truly hope I’ll never yell at that boy again as long as he lives.

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Two Months Young

My boy is already a middle-aged newborn! In another month he’ll be an infant. The fourth trimester will be over. Time is flying so fast it’s crazy. It’s fun watching him grow, of course, but there’s also a feeling of every stage slipping irretrievably through our fingers. We don’t know who he’ll be as he grows, and we’re so eager to find out, yet he’s so delightful as he is right now, too, and it’s such a short season he’ll be a baby, much less every stage of growth he goes through as a baby. I suppose it’s all good…

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Things are really falling into a groove lately. He’s not as fussy, and gas drops work wonders when he’s gassy, even though I’m not thrilled to be giving him something with sucralose (Splenda) in it so young. He’s sleeping better at night. On a good night he’ll go to bed around 8 and wake up around 3 and 7:30, though he often sneaks in a 5am feed as well.

Though he still catnaps during the day more than we’d like — he seems to want to just keep taking everything in, and who can blame him? — we do generally manage to get him napped eventually. And not always on top of us. He’s much more likely now to fall asleep in his bouncy chair (with one of us using our foot to bounce it more than it bounces by itself).

He’s also much more likely to be happier longer awake in a chair or his little play mat with toys above him. He’ll just sit there and watch me cook, or play on his mat while I make the bed or do the laundry. It’s magical, even as I’m ever so slightly sad he already doesn’t need me quite as much. He’s also grasping ring toys dangling above him on his own, and his head during tummy time is inching (millimetering?) up toward 90 degrees.

He has started to drool just a bit, and I know there’s much more to come as his salivary glands develop and before he learns to close his mouth and swallow throughout the day. His two month immunizations are coming up — his first — and I’m not looking forward to causing him pain or the possible side effects of grumpiness or low-grade fever that sometimes happen. But hey, so much better than polio, right?

His clogged tear duct on his right side seems to have cleared up, and there’s much less ooky yellow stuff in his left eye in the mornings. And he seems to have less preference for turning his head to the left as time goes on. He’s centering up 🙂

My husband just came home from work to cook me lunch (so sweet, but less and less necessary, thankfully), and he woke Ali up when he came in, so I spent most of lunch trying to get him to sleep again. I rocked him in his chair with my foot like an old Singer sewing machine as I ate, but he just sat there mildly fussy and looking serious until he pooped, and then the biggest smile broke out over his face. My husband had just been complaining about something at work, and when Ali poop-smiled so big we both just laughed. Leave it to a baby to remind you what really matters in life!

As for me, two months postpartum, I’m finally starting to feel just a bit like my old self again. I feel stronger, I have more energy, and if you saw me and didn’t know I’d had a baby, you might (or might not) notice I’d put on about ten pounds, but otherwise you can’t really tell. My belly pooches a bit more than it used to and that’s about it.

My pelvic floor is another story, and in addition to my physical therapy I’ve been taking advantage of Sarah Duvall’s online core exercise programs. I purchased Pelvic Floor Perfect, which included 30 free days of her entire program, and I’ve been binge-watching her videos and learning so much about functional human anatomy it makes my head spin. So fascinating, and it’s knowledge that will serve me well throughout my life.

I’m a total Type A and have a real hard time being told to do something if I don’t understand why. I want the whole damn story up front. And she actually offers that! You have to hunt around for it, but she basically gives you something close to a master’s level course in how it all works together, and why certain exercises are helpful. Hips, shoulders, feet, core, pelvic floor… it’s all a continuum, and she respects our intelligence while at the same time acknowledging it’s complicated stuff and not talking over the heads of us laymen.

Sometimes — like with any new learning — it takes a while to sink in, and you have to watch things more than once, or something you heard a while back will suddenly make sense when you learn a new thing or see a new move in action. It’s so fascinating and so useful. It’s stuff every human should know about her or his body.

Also, I have to say, I’m in some Facebook groups of women with prolapse issues, and it seems like the psychological aspects of it are almost the worst part. You have this invisible problem, and even though it’s incredibly common, for the vast majority of women it’s something they’ve never heard of before, and they can’t talk about it, and it feels saggy and heavy and weird and gross, and doctors are HORRIBLE about it and tend to just tell women to do kegels and then basically never do anything else again. No running, no lifting, no sports. For some women, this feels almost like a death sentence.

And it’s bullshit! There are so many things you can do to improve the symptoms and the prolapse itself, including just waiting as your postpartum body begins to heal itself and knit back together and firm back up. This alone often isn’t enough, but in addition to physical therapy and lifestyle changes (like alterations in posture, sitting, breathing), you can be fitted for a pessary or use a special type of sponge to hold things up when you want to play sports or whatever in the meantime. (And just wear it sometimes to give your ligaments a break.)

If none of this does the trick adequately, conservative surgeries can be done that allows you to keep your parts. And some women have had great results after having parts taken out. (As with any major surgery, you’ll want to do your research before choosing a doctor and a procedure, as there are many different success rates out there, from dismal to excellent.)

I see so many women in those Facebook groups just spiralling into depression, and it makes me so sad when there’s so much you can learn and so much you can do. Hell, I can even see how at the end of the day it may be a blessing in disguise. Though I understand I’m lucky to be in a position where I’m home all day with a baby and a computer and I can binge watch educational videos, and my physical therapy is free since I maxed out my insurance spending this year already.

Another thing that helps me deal with it psychologically is thinking of it as a sports injury. Giving birth is certainly the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done in my life. If that’s not an extreme sport, I don’t know what is.

It’s sad that it helps to think of childbirth as a sport instead of being able to respect childbirth as its own incredibly intense thing that deserves awe at least on par with any sport out there. But again, we have this culture where childbirth is supposed to be a black box, politely airbrushed, and then only the baby matters while Mom is just supposed to be glad he’s healthy. The word “postpartum” makes most Americans squeamish. Gloss over it, get over it, and bring on the baby pics.

But until childbirth gets the respect it deserves, it may help some women to think of birth injuries as extreme sports injuries, since it’s something more people can respect and understand.

Sigh.

Warm & Glowy

When I was younger, I never imagined myself staying home with a baby. I imagined myself Out in the World, Doing Things. If not an “astrofizzisist” (my first career plan, age 8, which persisted until college), perhaps a political commentator, or maybe a famous writer on frequent book tours. “Success” meant some combination of fame, money, and prestige, and I was voted “Most likely to succeed.” So there ya go, right?

I did check out all those paths. In college I majored in physics and worked in a cutting edge physics lab, and I took a course on black holes that was way above my pay grade. And aced it.

Then I studied abroad in Moscow and realized I loved travel and politics (and writing) more than the day to day grind of physics. My advisor also happened to be quite disenchanted with his work at the time, and he was at the top of the top. The idea of spending decades trying to get to the top of the top only to be disenchanted was, shall we say, not particularly motivational.

So I threw myself into my new interests. I traveled with the best of them. I’ve spent time in about 40 countries at last count. Then I worked at a think tank in DC and got an up close and personal look at politics. And left that job profoundly depressed and demoralized. So I wrote a book and traveled the world talking about Palestine, an issue I am passionate about. That was rewarding in so many ways but not sustainable. For the first time I started to feel travel as a drag (book tours are beyond exhausting, and they take months to set up), and I felt relieved just to break even. Per hour, I probably would have made more money working at McDonald’s.

So that left me pondering my next career move. The pondering started a year or two into our “trying to conceive” sojourn. Expecting a baby at any moment, I decided to hold off on getting too serious about that and just did what came easy, which was freelance editing. Some clients came from my Palestine connections, others from my husband’s freelance web design business, and a few trickled in from Facebook or Elance. I actually enjoy editing, and when I had extra time, I’d work on my novel (if I wasn’t feverishly researching the latest in fertility science). I figured when the baby came, we’d save a huge amount on child care and I wouldn’t find myself subjected to the horrendous American workplace take on the value of motherhood.

More importantly, I found I actually wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I totally understand that it’s not logistically possible for everyone, especially in America. My husband and I have scrimped in many ways so that I can stay at home, and I consider it a luxury in this country. (Which is a very sad commentary on the US, but that’s another blog post.)

I also understand that some women simply don’t want to. Some women are ensconced in fulfilling careers and don’t want to give them up, and/or being a full-time caregiver isn’t a vocation that interests them. Perfectly valid. Healthy, happy children can be raised in different ways, and there are many ways to mother other than the daily grind of keeping a small human alive. If a woman is psychologically healthier when she’s not tied down, alone, with a kid most of the day, that can only be good for the parent-child relationship. This is meant as absolutely no disrespect to anyone who chooses (or is forced into) a different path.

(If I could afford to pay someone to change every diaper, to make my meals, to clean the house, to hold him for an hour sometimes so I could exercise or write undistracted or run an errand, and to bring him to me when he’s hungry at night, there’s an excellent chance I would. I’d probably be a better mother on more sleep and eating better (and more) food and not stressing so much about him napping so that I can do my physical therapy exercises. Extended families used to fill these roles while a mother recovered and well into the child’s life. Finding modern substitutes makes sense if you can swing it.)

Anyway, I didn’t find it particularly lonely staying at home editing. It suits me. I’m an introvert, and most people exhaust me. I’ve found working in an office utterly stultifying. I’d rather save “peopling” for my off hours. In our culture, most moms staying at home are left alone with their kids for hours every day, so I imagined the transition wouldn’t be too jarring.

But… turns out it’s very likely to be jarring no matter who you are. Add in that you’re likely recovering from some kind of trauma (those lucky unicorns who have easy births can scratch this off) and it can be absolutely overwhelming. Plus in our culture, the work of nurturing and tending to the “weak and helplesss” is denigrated as “women’s work,” which does double duty denigrating women at the same time. After all, the “weak and helpless” contribute nothing to the quarterly bottom line (and neither does the work of parenting), therefore they have no value. So says our capitalist, winner-take-all culture.

I don’t believe this for a moment. And yet I have a massive hangover from a lifetime of being steeped in a culture that says being a stay at home mom lies somewhere between puerile decadence and mindless drudgery. Playing with babies is “a waste of time” and tending to babies is beneath serious attention. It doesn’t even generate minimum wage (unless you’re hired to do it for someone else, in which case our culture is slightly less harsh about it).

So after our two week “babymoon” was over and my husband went back to work, I felt this intense (self-inflicted) pressure to be “productive.” But when you’re alone with a baby, it’s hard to put him down long enough to feed yourself, much less have the brain power and sustained attention necessary to do professional editing work or write a novel. Housework goes to hell, too, and then if you can’t even keep the damn baby happy, you can really feel like absolute dog poo. Utterly worthless.

Worse, the baby can start to be seen as this tyrant who’s stealing your ability to be “productive,” and thus your self-worth. When you’re told that looking after a baby is worth nothing, taking care of your own child can feel like a “waste of time.” (Having feelings like this, however deeply buried in your subconscious, is that much more guilt-inducing when you’ve struggled to conceive!)

All of this didn’t get me down too badly because I recognize that our culture is deeply dysfunctional and that nurturing and raising the next generation is incredibly important work. But a lifetime of messaging doesn’t just go away because you know it’s bullshit. Even my most hard core feminist friends agree that the hangover is real. Saying and believing something is one thing, living it is another. It’s so hard for women not to feel guilty and worthless in our culture, almost no matter what they do. (If I had a high-flying career and put my child in day care, that would come with its own ready-made guilt and feelings of worthlessness.)

But as time passes, as I get more sleep and the baby gets ever more cute and cuddly, watching him learn and grow at lightning speed in real time, it gets easier for my heart and mind to overcome my conditioning and for this time to feel like the honor, the privilege, the joy, the fleeting golden era of life that it is. I’m so grateful no one is telling me where to be right now, that I’m free to follow my instincts and be so close to him through the fourth trimester and beyond. It is a luxury in our culture, even as our culture calls it other not-so-flattering things.

And while it’s certainly not some decadent life taking care of him all day, neither is it sad or mindless. He is sweetness and light and he needs to be taken care of as he flowers into his humanity. I’m so grateful I get to be the one to do it full-time for as long as it feels right. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now.

And I consider that my biggest success in life: Learning how to define success for myself, based on my own satisfaction, and not what anyone else might think. It’s far more important, I believe, than becoming rich or famous, and that is driven home every time another rich and famous person tragically commits suicide. (RIP Anthony Bourdain. I’m still gutted by the news.) Whether you have a billion dollars and worldwide acclaim or modest savings and a pretty good haul of Facebook friends, the same things are the most important, and they are free.

In the unlikely event I end up rich, famous, or dripping in prestige, please let me remember this simple happiness and don’t let me stray too far from it. Amen.

P.S. He’s going through a phase right now where he’s much more likely to cry, or even scream, if he’s held by anyone but his mom or dad. My mom and step-dad came and watched him earlier this week, and apparently he screamed for 45 minutes after I left. He also screamed again when the chiropractor was handling him (she was very gentle, definitely not hurting him). When my parents came back for a quick visit the next day and held him, even though I was just a few feet away, he screamed again until I took him back. I chuckled and said, “I have a superpower: I can make this baby stop crying!”

I have to admit. It’s a pretty cool feeling. But I do hate to see him upset instead of happy to interact with new people.

It’s apparently Wonder Week 8, the second big leap into the world of patterns. Extra crying, clinginess, and crankiness are very normal. And even for all that he’s been mostly quite chill. We’re just gonna love and reassure and cuddle him through this big changing world as well as we can and make sure he gets enough stimulation, but not too much, and as much sleep and quiet time as he needs.

He’s becoming a true champion of batting toys above him, even when you move them higher or into more difficult-to-reach places. When a toy is hung in a new place, he studies it for quite some time and then you can almost see him will his little arm to flop in the right direction at the correct height. It’s fascinating to watch, and I’m so curious what his experience of it is. Does he think it’s magic that he can just think about it and something comes out and hits the toy? Why does he want to hit the toy in the first place? Does he know yet that his arm is part of his body? Does he know yet that he has a body? Or are his sensations still disembodied, floating in a colorful sea?

Does he know me at all, or just warmth and scent and hunger and the alleviation of hunger? How much of his adorable smiling and cooing is the hard-wired instict of a social animal? I will, of course, smile and cuddle and feed him regardless, but I am curious about the shifting line in him between simian instict and individual humanity. I guess there are and always will be shades of grey.

A first today: I put a ring toy in his hand and he held onto it for several minutes and waved it around. It’s such a joy to watch him grow.

Thoughts on the Birth

I’ve hesitated in writing this, because women are just supposed to be glad a baby is healthy and not feel anything else. And of course the most important thing is that he’s healthy. But my feelings about his birth don’t stop there, and there’s no good reason to pretend that they do. So many women’s feelings about their birth experience are so much more complicated than “All’s well that ends well.”

And that’s OK.

I was inspired by another blogger who wrote about her experience, and how the surgeon made things so much worse than they had to be, given that she had to have an unexpected c-section. Even if it is “just a day at work” for them, they of all people should understand that this day is absolutely momentous for a new mom and should be treated accordingly, with respect and reverence. It breaks my heart that so many health professionals are so hard-hearted about it. (A nurse once told me over the phone, CHEERFULLY, that my beta numbers determined I was going to miscarry my first pregnancy. I’m still not over that. I still want to punch her in the face.)

My birth, as written about on this blog, went reasonably well until after he was out (even though it was F***ING HARD), but then I was too weak and exhausted to enjoy the moment and ended up in the hospital for 10 hours, forbidden from eating or drinking and unable to rest. I’m still pretty sad that the first 13 hours of my son’s life, I was too out of it to take anything in or be much of a mother at all. My doula had to remind me to let him feed the first time (she helped him latch), and I just kind of lay there and told my husband to do skin to skin afterwards because my arms couldn’t even hold him. There’s a picture with my husband and the baby and me, and Ali is off to the side and it looks like he’s trying to latch by himself. God it breaks my heart every time I see that picture.

Then I was incarcerated in the hospital and hardly got to hold or see him during that time. There’s another photo with our little family in the hospital, and again Ali is just kind of draped over me, I’m not even really holding him, and my face is so pale and sallow. I remember being in survival mode, glad someone else was dealing with him because I could only focus on getting through each hour as it came. I’m sad whenever I think about it. He deserved so much better in his first hours of life, and I want so badly to have a “do over” and properly take in each moment and be fully with him as he entered this big new world.

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This may be our only birth, so there may not even be a “do over” with the next child. And now I’m dealing with a prolapse that makes it tougher to do all the fun things I want to do with my boy. Sigh.

In short, childbirth can be brutal, even as it’s also beautiful. Society likes to sugar-coat it and make moms feel guilty for feeling anything other than ecstatic at all times and wrapped up in a pretty pink bow. But incredibly momentous and complicated things can be and often are more than one thing at the same time, and we should acknowledge and honor that.

He is here and healthy, and that’s truly wonderful. It is the most important thing in the end, by far, and overall I’m grateful and feel satisfied with my birth experience. I just wish I’d eaten and slept more in the run-up to full-on labor. I was too excited after the endless wait past my due date, and it bit me in the ass. And I’m bummed I had a few too many complications for a nice easy Ina May Gaskin birth, but no one could really help that.

But that doesn’t erase or negate the rough memories, the regret, or the guilt. I can work through them, but not if I try to deny them.

Life is definitely good now, I just wanted to get that off my chest as a part of working through it 🙂

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My mom took this goofy picture of “Poindexter” wearing her reading glasses. Yep — a nerd just like his mama! (Though I don’t know why he looks orange in this photo…)

A Happy Anniversary

We have been married five years today — and it also marks the anniversary of when we started trying to have our first child. I never imagined it would take us longer to have a child than it took me to graduate from college. But last year, on our four year anniversary, we still had nothing but hope.

Look at us now. Sleep deprived, our life turned upside down, and completely in love — with each other and with our incredible boy. I’ll always remember those four long years, and the ambivalence during the long pregnancy, and even during the birth, that this was still not real and still would never happen. It’s not something you just “get over” right away.

But it is beginning to recede into something more misty and less dreadful. Something that happened, not something that is happening. TTC warriors always seem to say at this point that they got exactly the child that was meant to be theirs and they wouldn’t change a thing in retrospect. I have to say that, too, because Ali is here, he’s real, and I could never, ever wish him out of existence.

Of course I can’t help but wonder about all the children who didn’t make it far enough to become children. I guess by definition it’s a moot point. They were briefly balls of barely differentiated cells, and that was all their fate had in store. They were potentialities that never got to realize their potential. It happens. A lot. Most of the time, actually, when you think of all the hundreds of trillions of potential humans given our vast genomes that can combine in effectively countless ways.

In the end, though, we couldn’t have custom-ordered a better son than our sweet Ali. Such an unlikely and gorgeous little miracle.

Who absolutely WILL NOT nap more than teasing catnaps lately, or otherwise allow himself not to be the center of my attention at all times, and it is driving his mama insane! I haven’t even been able to do my pelvic floor rehab exercises as much as I’m supposed to, and that’s my number 1 priority now, after making sure the baby is fed and healthy and reasonably content. I’ve barely been able to feed myself. Gah. And then Ahmed comes home and as often as not Ali drops right off to sleep or sits in his bouncer like a perfect angel. Sigh…

But hey, he’s a baby, and 6-8 weeks is apparently the height of newborn fussiness and a growth spurt on top of it. Just a season of life, and an often sweet one at that. And it is pretty amazing to be the absolute center of the universe for another human.

We went to a baby chiropractor yesterday to check for torticollis. He has it just a bit, with a preference for looking to the left and tighter muscles when looking to the right, and apparently a slightly stiff spine in general. This amazing chiropractor only charges about $10 a session for babies (a session only takes a couple of minutes with a small instrument that taps the spine gently), and she was kind enough to stay after hours and offer us this first consultation and session for free. She said that since we brought him in so early, it won’t require that many sessions to fix him right up.

At one point, for no apparent reason (possibly gas), he started screaming as if in pain. The chiropractor held him out, trying to figure out what the problem was, then realized there was only one thing to do: Hand him off to his mama. And that was me.

For all these years I’ve been the one handing a baby off when he started crying and I didn’t speak his baby language and wasn’t his mama and had no idea what to do. For this baby, I’m the expert. I’m the home base. When something goes wrong, I’m the safe place he goes to. It was such a sweet, poignant little moment. Little by little I’m emerging into my new identity as Ali’s mother, which means so much more than just being his caretaker. It’s still such a huge thing to try to wrap my mind around.

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Barely 7 weeks old… check out that head control!

[UPDATE: We didn’t do anything in particular to mark the occasion. Just quietly heaved a sigh of relieved and enjoyed the day. But the next day my parents came up and watched the baby so we could have a nice sushi lunch, then Mom and I got pedicures, then I got a badly needed hair cut.]

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Anyway, I got off track a bit. Do I regret anything? I regret how long it took, how many of our young years passed by without our fondest desire, how much sadness and emptiness we felt in those years, and how we’ll be that little bit older when our kid(s) are teenagers, graduating from college, having children themselves, and the like. I definitely regret the tens of thousands of dollars we had to sink into clinics and hospitals.

While I feel absolutely no regret about the genetic origins of our son, I regret that it may later on be an issue for him. I regret that his donors were anonymous, and this was the only route we could attempt at that time and still keep our sanity and some tenuous hold on financial solvency. But that means I put the burden on my son to track down his donors later on if that’s something important to him, and that makes me feel sad and a bit guilty. (I won’t feel threatened at all if he wants to — curiosity about your genetic origins is very normal, even if I happen to have basically none about mine, and distinct from love of your parents.)

Then there’s the paradox that if we didn’t go this route, he wouldn’t exist at all, and that would be even more sad. I’m so glad he exists.

I just found out via the clinic that he has one full genetic sibling who’s been born and no more embryos remaining from his batch, though I know at least one person was offered one of his batch’s embryos in December. So there may be some embryos out there that are spoken for or developing in someone’s belly but not born yet. I’ll keep checking back so that at least I can tell Ali as much info as I can gather about what there may be to find if he’s interested.

In any case, we made it. It took almost five years, but we finally have the anniversary we’ve been waiting for — the one where we’re not alone as a couple.

We did manage to enjoy our lives quite a lot while it was “just us” for all these years, despite the stress and sadness of fertility issues. Inshallah the best is still to come!

Wonder Boy’s Farts

Life is still good. The bane of our existence these days is intestinal gas, namely Ali’s, who’s 7 weeks old today (and who was a whopping 11 and a half pounds a few days ago at our check-up with the midwife). I’m not sure if it’s something I’m eating or just his little digestive system learning to work at the same time he’s becoming more aware of his own body. I guess our simian ancestors were carried and jiggled more of the day, so this wasn’t as much of an issue. And indigenous people tend to carry babies around in wraps or slings, or siblings and cousins play and jiggle them all day.

As for me, wearing Ali saps my energy so fast it’s hard to wear him for more than ten minutes at a time, and that’s if he’s actually in a mood to be shoved into a contraption against my chest without getting fed. (Some of what I need to do involves a hot oven or stove, which is not the best place to be wearing a baby in the first place.)

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I really hoped my energy would be higher by 7 weeks postpartum, but I’m still nowhere near my normal energy levels. I can be totally great for a lot of the day, but then doing the dishes, getting groceries, or going for a walk can wipe me out. It’s frustrating. I’m taking iron, eating plenty of red meat, taking all kinds of other vitamins (including a high-quality prenatal), and just added a B vitamin lozenge to the mix.

I guess I’m still recovering from the longest day of my life, bookended by two other days with virtually no sleep, including 10 hours incarcerated in a hospital, followed by 7 weeks of almost never getting enough sleep and sometimes not eating enough, either, just because it can be hard to peel the baby off me long enough to do so. Hoping I turn a corner pretty soon.

The good news is that right around 6 weeks, breastfeeding became much easier and not painful at all (except when the milk flows too fast and he clamps down with his gums to slow it down). It’s become pretty pleasant.

And for a little while he was stretching to a feed every 2 to 4 hours, with a 5 hour stretch at night now and then, which was great! But now it’s back to roughly every 2 hours, including at night. I guess it’s the 6 week growth spurt, plus the gas issue. The poor guy just can’t seem to sleep for very long without waking up either grunting or yelling until he manages to fart. It makes for long days and nights for all of us.

His grunts are super cute, and I wish I could just stay up and appreciate them and hold him and jiggle him for hours. But then I’d be a pretty useless mom and general human being during the day :/ As it is, just getting up and jiggling him for several minutes and then feeding him again and then trying to put him down again… lather, rinse, repeat… is zombiefying enough. If this wasn’t a holiday weekend, with Ahmed off work on Monday, I don’t know how we’d have traded off naps enough to make it through the coming week.

I wish I knew if there was something I could do, or if I just have to wait it out. Any insights will be appreciated.

Meanwhile our wonder boy is flying through his milestones. His head control when we pull him to sit is well ahead of the curve, and he can not only intentionally bat at objects above him while lying on his back, he managed to grasp some rings above him as well. Might have been by accident, but when he does things on accident, doing them on purpose often follows quickly.

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A little funny story: We have three main types of tea that we drink: Darjeeling, English Breakfast, and Earl Grey. This morning, as I was feeding the boy (in bed, side-lying), I asked Ahmed to put some water on for me (for tea). Then I dozed off while the boy finished his breakfast.

Several minutes later he came back and asked, “English breakfast?”

I looked at him for several seconds, wondering why he was offering to make me baked beans, tomatoes, toast, and blood pudding instead of our usual breakfast… 😛

Yesterday I managed to injure our boy in a small but painful way that kind of broke my heart. I put him in the Pack n Play diaper changing insert upside down (so his head was where his feet normally were) just to be silly, to show him my face upside down. He laughed and smiled a little, and then I took him out and he started pain-crying loudly. I thought maybe it was gas again, but it sounded more insistent than usual, and I noticed a little round scratched place on his head. It didn’t break the skin, but somehow I knew he wasn’t over-reacting. I felt around on the changing insert and felt a little metal knob of just exactly the right height and width to be especially painful if you raked someone’s head across it as you lifted them.

I felt so horrible, and I held him close until he calmed down. It didn’t take that long, and he’s fine today, but oh how it hurt me to see him in pain that I caused. And why the hell do Pack n Plays have a pain-causing knob right there instead of smoothing it over somehow? I guess you’re not supposed to put kids in them upside down, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s done it.

Anyway… One thing that’s pretty easy to do with a baby is watch sports on TV, and it’s been one heck of an NBA tournament. It’s unfortunate that they tend to go so late at night, because we’d do better to go to bed earlier, but it’s been a lot of really good games.

Last night Ahmed asked why it’s “from downtown” when someone makes a long three-pointer.

“Isn’t downtown, like, the center of the city?”

He makes a good point, as he often does when it comes to questioning our sometimes bizarre language and idioms 😉 Apparently it came from games at Madison Square Garden, which was a bit far from downtown? Or maybe it was a directional thing in New York — perhaps one end of the court pointed uptown and one pointed downtown?

Anyway, it’ll be nice when the World Cup starts. The games will start at 7am, which is right about the time our boy wakes up. A(nother) good incentive to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier 🙂

One article I enjoyed reading lately claims science says happier people are raised by parents who do one thing, and that’s respect the individuality and autonomy of their kids.

“Feel free to set limits you feel are appropriate. Feel free to have expectations. But then go one step farther: Talk about why you set those limits and why you have those expectations. Then allow your kids to talk, and make sure you listen.

You may be able to control [I think ‘influence’ is a better word here] certain behaviors, but you can’t control every opinion — so don’t try. Show that even though you might disagree, you still respect their right to see things differently. Showing respect is a great way to show you care.”

Sounds legit.

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Another fabulous article (from NPR) says “The result [of our sometimes bizarre Western culture] is something unique in human history: A mom stuck in a box, often alone, doing the job typically performed by a handful of people. As Gillis writes, “Never have mothers been so burdened by motherhood.””

I have it incredibly easy compared to most. I make my own hours at home, and my little guy has a super engaged father. And I wanted to be able to take care of my own child as much as possible. This was my choice, and I consider it a luxury compared to most of my other options. But it is still strange and not super easy being stuck in a box all day alone with a baby most of the time.

Turns out, it’s just not how it’s really meant to be done…

Wondering if I can somehow reach out to other mothers in my apartment complex and improvise a “village” at least a little? A friend told me there’s an app called Peanut that’s like a dating app for new moms who want to connect. I’ll probably look into it (one of those things on my very long list), but I don’t have a smartphone, so I’m not sure how that’ll work.

Speaking of not being sure how things will work, my Facebook “village” has suggested various things for Ali’s gas, including gas drops (simethicone, a medication), gripe water (an herbal remedy), a certain kind of hold while burping, and just waiting until the phase passes.

Of course, every bit of advice / medicine / herbal remedy / contraption works different for every kid. It’s like every child is this whole new experiment, and sometimes you have to buy every damn contraption / medication / miracle cure out there to figure out what works for yours… or just suffer until a given phase passes.

We tend to err on the side of suffering, I guess, since baby stuff is so grotesquely over-priced. But every now and then we strike it just right, like with the Love to Dream suit that swaddles his arms up by his head. That was definitely a life saver. Worth paying $35 for a glorified baby pajama, even if it set my teeth on edge.

Thankfully most of the contraptions we have are second hand or were gifted to us, but I could easily spend a fortune trying all the other things. (Part of the expense is also the time spent researching every damn thing to see if there’s any science to back it up or at least good reviews on Amazon. Time I could spend making freelance money. Or blogging.)

Luckily our life more or less works as it is, but the baby industry must seriously be just about the biggest money maker out there, since so many parents are willing to spend anything if their kid will just calm down and sleep. And I understand that impulse completely, even with my relatively easy baby. If he was much more difficult… we might just go bankrupt! And/or crazy.

But in the end, it is a short season of life, and with respect and unconditional love, it’s hard to go too far wrong. And his little smiles, and the way he looks so content and secure when he sleeps, are so amazing. We’re still so happily astonished by the simple fact that he’s here. He’s really here, and he’s really ours.

I saw a quote the other day that said something like, “Children show us who we were and who we may yet become.” Children are so open, full of wonder, eager to play, naturally affectionate, unselfconscious, and devoid of prejudice. Something we can all strive to emulate. They can teach us at least as much as we can teach them, if we’re open to it.

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Here’s Ali with a bunch of my baby stuff that I’ve saved all these years, and that my mom brought down when she visited last week to help me out. (All the photos on this post are by her.) That was my “I’m a Wild and Crazy Baby” shirt, my Rattle Bear, my Glenda Rabbit (gifted to me by my mom’s friend Glenda), my red gingham blanket, my little Silver Bear (half-buried) that I got for my eighth birthday in Tahlequah (the name is because I think he has a Silver Dollar City logo on him somewhere).

And my son. My sweet summer child.

P.S. We’ve been making a vague attempt to influence our boy to sleep from 7pm to 7am, since I’ve heard that “sleep begets sleep,” and this schedule seems to work for a lot of people. More importantly, he seems to get up at 7am at the latest for his morning play time, no matter when we put him to sleep. Apparently, putting babies to sleep earlier helps them sleep a bit later. (If we put him to bed at 10pm, for example, he might wake up at 5:45am. Ouch.)

It’s not working very well, and we end up kind of wrestling with him until 10pm or so. Because of the farting he keeps waking up, wanting to be fed, etc., and that’s if we can get him down at all. So we’re officially giving up until the World Cup final, which will take place a few days after he turns three months old. As long as everyone is reasonably OK, we’ll just let him sleep and wake when he wants to, and of course help him along toward sleep whenever he makes sleepy signs. We’re still in the fourth trimester, and Ali is still king 🙂

Plus we like to take walks at sunset — it’s one of those things we’ve been looking forward to for years, taking our child for sunset walks along the river — and sunset is well after 7pm these days. So our sweet summer child will be a sweet sunset child for a few weeks anyway!

After the World Cup and its 7am games is over, we’ll see if we can hit the Holy Grail of a 9pm to 9am sleep for our boy… or even 8 to 8 would be amazing. He’s big enough now that he doesn’t actually need to wake more than once a night for feeding — he just does it for comfort, or habit, or maybe he’s not eating enough at some sessions because he falls asleep before he’s really finished, or maybe it’s a growth spurt, or maybe he’s just using me as a 24 hour snack bar. Who knows, maybe that will run its course before long, too, or I can pick through all the advice out there on how to “wean” a baby to one feed per night. One can dream! (Well, at least when one can sleep…)

Six Weeks Breathing Oxygen

We got four super cute picture frames at our baby shower, and so far they’re just sitting around with the stock photos still in them because we’ve taken well over 250 pictures of him so far, and not only is there no good way to choose between them, we also just keep taking more, and he just keeps getting cuter. We’re so besotted with him it’s as joyously all-consuming (and probably more than a little nauseating to some outside observers) as teen love.

That’s not to say there aren’t long stretches that are tiring, frustrating, monotonous, and/or LOUD. He’s a baby, after all. Right now I’ve been wrestling with him all day to get him to sleep anywhere but on top of me so I can get ANYTHING done. I’m typing with one hand right now, holding his legs in the other to keep him from kicking and waking himself. I tried letting them go and he woke immediately.

Then there’s the inevitable guilt. I just wrote on Facebook:

I think Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on my Mind” was written by a guilty mom who wished she could do the things she needed to do to function as a human and also cuddle / entertain her baby all day…

Without full-time help, everything is a compromise. If he won’t stop crying pathetically when I really, really need to feed myself, I try to reason with him: “Buddy, if I don’t feed myself, I can’t feed you.”

Then later: “Baby Boy, if I don’t get enough sleep, I won’t be as able to be the kind, patient, healthy mother you deserve.”

But there’s really not much reasoning with a newborn. They want what they want, and the live in an eternal Now in which they’re either getting what they want or they aren’t.

Case in point: Fussy Butt absolutely will not drop off to sleep without me holding his feet, and I kept trying, wanting to be able to type with both hands, and now he won’t fall asleep at all. Sigh. I’ll try this again later.

OK, he’s feeding on a stack of pillows on my lap now. Where was I? Right. How awesome parenthood is 😛

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But seriously, as much time and work and tiredness and sore muscles as this involves (it is not trivial hoisting a wiggly a 10+ pound chunk all day and contorting your body to breastfeed no matter how hard you try to get comfy and bring the baby to the breast — easier said than done, yo), the joy is greater. Not just in the now but in all the things there are to look forward to as this boy blossoms into his full humanity.

(But I also totally see and respect how parenthood is not for everyone. As for me, I’m excited for… most of it. Enough of it that I certainly don’t regret it and don’t anticipate regretting it. But I do understand kid regret better now. It is quite a hand grenade in your usual life and routines, and most people have no idea if they’re cut out for it until it’s too late — if they intended to get pregnant at all. It’s especially hard in our society since there’s usually no “village” to take some of the burden off and let new moms rest and heal a bit. I’m not someone who gets lonely when I’m with Ali all day, but a lot of people are, and sleep deprivation will drag just about anyone down.)

Just yesterday I put him on his back on his play mat, and while before he’d just kind of lay there inertly until he got too bored, now he can play for long minutes at a time, carefully eyeing the toys hanging above him and then flailing his arms in a way that hit the toys far more than would be the case if he was just flailing randomly… and more and more often as time went on. It’s so thrilling to watch him learn new skills, to watch his little mind and body develop and to see the quiet satisfaction it gives him to master new abilities through his work/play.

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I feel like Ali whizzed through the passive bobblehead newborn phase. He had great head control and was pretty responsive so quickly. It really feels sometimes like he’s just about to start speaking and walking. I feel bad for the guy that his cognitive and physical development are going to be a long time catching up with him!

I remember being very young and my mind being so far ahead of what my verbal skills or my body could say or do. Our little guy (and maybe all babies) seems like a toddler trapped in a baby’s body, and he’s remarkably good-natured given how frustrating that must be.

My mom came last week for a few days to help out, and it was so nice to have that help. She is absolutely crazy about this little guy, and he likes everyone, but he really likes his Grandma. She took some great pics of him, too.

An example of thoughts that went through my mind: “OK, Grandma is holding the baby and he doesn’t need to be fed. Should I make and have breakfast, clean up the cat puke, clean up the baby poo folded into the blanket on the changing table, fold the clothes from last night, move stuff to vacuum, make the bed, or do my rehab exercises?”

Here’s what I did in that case: Food, puke, fold clothes, made the bed, half the exercises, fed the baby while mom vacuumed, then went to Taco Bell because I could and I was starving. Luxury!

Here’s a link to a video my mom posted on Facebook of my busy little guy in the morning. I don’t know if it’s public or not, but at least I can access it 🙂

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I love this photo of him from May 6. It captures his handsome face and his personality so well.

I really just can’t get enough of his face. He’s so expressive and beautiful. He’s also so gorgeous when he sleeps (or stretches in his sleep).

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I am completely incapable of any kind of objectivity when it comes to how gorgeous he is, but he’s so beautiful to me. And I’ve been so much mellower since he was born. Like all the other “little stuff” of life (like what anyone thinks other than him) slides off that much more easily. I still don’t worry about him too much, like in a distracting or counterproductive way. I do my best and trust him to keep being the healthy, smart little guy he’s been since he was born. I do check to make sure he’s breathing occasionally when he’s sleeping, but not in an OCD way, just every now and then. It’s nice to be able to live by this quote:

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People keep saying how much he looks like Ahmed, and I can see it a little. He certainly looks more Turkish than Northern-European-Okie. I don’t yet feel like broadcasting his genetics to the world because I’m not yet sure if that’s my story to tell, or if it’s his. And it’s a bell you can’t unring. I have told many people individually, but I haven’t Facebooked about it, and I haven’t posted this blog on Facebook for a long time.

I’m not trying to hide it or anything — I’d rather talk openly about it, and I’m proud of it and think it’s very cool — I’m just not sure yet if it’s my place to do so. And of course, opening this subject up to random people inevitably invites a lot of ignorant questions and comments I don’t necessarily feel like dealing with right now. Any thoughts on this are welcome. Am I being a coward here, or am I just protecting my son’s privacy and exercising my right as a new mom not to invite unnecessary BS into this lovely time?

I’ll of course be totally honest with him and have been honest with close friends and family. It’s just the rest of the world I’m not so sure about.

It’s so crazy to think that if our first egg donor hadn’t dropped out, we’d have a completely different baby right now. Or no baby at all. We were so very lucky. Sometimes the way our children come to us is impossible to predict or understand. But I couldn’t ask for anything more than this sweet little guy. Even when he’s driving me crazy, he’s so completely and utterly mine, and I’m so completely and utterly his.

And when he smiles when he sees my face? Oh my God. I just… yeah. I’m a writer, supposedly, but I have no words. I don’t know if there are words for this. Maybe it’s something you can only experience.

Right now he’s been asleep on me for a few hours, and it’s killing my tailbone, and I’m hungry, and this blog is the only thing I’ve accomplished all day. But he’s so damn cute and sweet. He’s just so damn cute and sweet.