my baby love

I was never much of a baby person. My attitude ranged from mild interest in the offspring of close friends, to irritation with babies encountered elsewhere. I never understood why anyone would want to buy a greeting card with a photo of someone else’s baby, or how a baby in a commercial was supposed to make anyone feel compelled to purchase a product. When I thought of having children, I’d think of babyhood as a period of investment, a time that must be endured in order to achieve the goal of “child.”

As I wrote about a couple of years ago, I have since become a different person. I have learned to appreciate the creature that is “baby.”

Even with this new pro-baby attitude, as I anticipated Theo’s arrival, I still didn’t look forward to the early months. I braced myself for the dreaded newborn stage.

When Phoebe was a newborn, you see, I had a tough time. Her weight gain was too slow, and feeding-related activities took over 12 hours a day. She spent many hours a day crying and needing soothing, and so did I. I was extremely sleep-deprived. It was the most exhausting and overwhelming time of my life, and each day felt like a week.

With Theo, these months have flown by. He is generally mellow, and feeding has been uncomplicated. I’m amazed that I have been able to provide all the nourishment Theo needs to grow and thrive.

The flip side to this is that my days and nights are a bit of a blur of feedings and diaper changes, and that it’s rare that I can get even 4 consecutive hours of sleep at night.

In the past 6 months, I haven’t been away from Theo for even a full hour. I have been alone in the house exactly once, when John took Theo with him to pick up Phoebe from daycare. I spent that half hour or so on the phone, as I was in the middle of a work conference call. And I was making dinner.

While part of me is going crazy from the constant tether and lack of decent sleep, another part of me doesn’t really mind.

I have been really enjoying Theo’s babyness. The chubby legs, the impossibly soft skin, the tiny toes. The fuzzy mostly bald head. The wide toothless smile. I love it when he looks up at me, and touches my face, even when he grabs my lip or my nose with his sharp little baby nails. I love it that I can make him laugh when I kiss his cheeks back and forth. I love it that I can scoop him up and hold him high over my head.

I know that I fell in love with Phoebe, too, as a baby. But I don’t remember so much just enjoying the here and now of the there and then. When Phoebe was tiny, the uncharted territory was so much more stressful. I questioned myself often, agonized over mistakes. I found myself thinking “next time, I will know what to do,” and “next time, things won’t be so hard.” And now, remarkably, I have largely known what to do. Things have been easier. Even though life has been more complicated with our jobs and with having a toddler to parent as well as a baby.

I think I was in a hurry for Phoebe to grow and develop, too. I was eager for all those big next steps. Now they seem to be coming all too quickly. Theo keeps growing, and climbing that developmental ladder. He’s babbling now, and has started sitting up unsupported. He’s discovered toys, and is entranced by sounds and shapes and colors. It’s fun and exciting, but I want to slow down the time. Or at least to bottle it up and save it.

I need to get the time to buckle down and catch up with the work that I’ve committed to doing. I owe many hours to my job, and need to get moving on my degree requirements. There are plenty of other things that I have been letting slide, too. Plus I would like to have more time to myself, or time with John go to a movie or dinner.

Theo is 6 months old now, as of Wednesday. He’ll start daycare, as soon as I can get myself organized enough to get him used to a bottle. He’ll be starting solid foods, which will probably mean longer stretches between nursing. He’ll hopefully sleep longer at night, and nap better during the day.

I find it funny how I can, near-simultaneously, feel like I’m going crazy, and lament that these days of near-constant baby care will soon end.

I find myself sad that this is it for me. This time, there isn’t a “next time.” No more babies. I always imagined myself having two kids, and I am incredibly fortunate to have them. I find it terribly surprising that I can even imagine having another baby, but I know it doesn’t make sense for us. And realizing this makes this baby time feel all the more sweet.

baby_eyes
Photo by John.

catching up, bearing down

I don’t have much time tonight, as it’s 10:30, and I’ve got some work to do before a meeting tomorrow. However, I feel compelled to give an update.¹

Pregnancy seems to have finally caught up with me. After feeling strangely spry for the first 2 months of the 3rd trimester, my body apparently caught sight of the calendar. Suddenly, the heartburn has kicked in stronger. I’ve started having joint pains. Gravity is now exerting a greater than normal force on me, causing me to be more strongly adhered whatever surface I happen to be sitting on. And most irritatingly, the sausage feet that visited me occasionally have not only returned, but apparently camped in for the long haul. I feel like I am walking around with a 5 pound weight strapped to each of my feet, and I can barely shove my feet into the pair of sandals that had previously fit just fine. When I take my sandals off, I get a couple of big stripes of puffiness and dents that would make the Michelin man proud. Attractive as this may sound, there is a downside. My feet hurt, dammit.

I’ve been trying to keep my feet up when I can, but this is not as often as one might expect when one is tending to a toddler. While Phoebe has gotten quite capable at many tasks, showing amazing fine motor skills in her paper-folding abilities, she has not yet mastered the art of cookery. Letting her have a go with the cooking knives did not go well, and she struggles with even the most rudimentary recipes. (This should not surprise me, considering previous research.)

Then there’s the potty training, which continues to be the bane of my existence. We are on our third chart now, each glimmering with sparkly stickers of victory. 28 stickers on each completed chart. And not a single potty usage at daycare. (The child, who apparently has some sort of will of her own, has announced her intentions of using her diaper at daycare. She can do well keeping her big-girl underwear clean and dry at home, but if she is wearing a diaper, she tends to use it. And the daycare provider is not comfortable with kids wearing underwear until they have demonstrated an ability to use a potty for a couple of weeks.)

I had an ultrasound today, as the new kiddo was stubbornly keeping his head up at my last appointment. Happily, he is now facing the general direction of the exit. Also, he appears to be growing well. (I actually had an ultrasound 4 weeks ago, too, to check on growth. My external measurements were not increasing over a whole month, which was a bit unsettling. We’ve both caught up, though.)

I also had my last violin lesson for some indeterminate amount of time, which should at least make my schedule feel slightly lighter as I continue to grow heavier. Which is good, since I am feeling the pressure of time bearing down on me. I still have work/school goals I haven’t yet abandoned, and there is some chance I can get some of them done.²

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¹ I’m apparently still addicted enough to this blogging business that I will take a break from my other methods of procrastination in order to blather on.

² Assuming I stop procrastinating.³

³ I’m still also working on finishing up writing about our experiences with Early Intervention. I’ve also got some pants on the backburner. (And I say Phoebe has trouble with cooking?) So, as soon as I have a chance to catch up….

she picked black for the background of the most recent chart.
Phoebe's progress charts. Note the evidence that Phoebe is our child: she picked black for the background of the most recent chart.

what to expect when you weren’t expecting the Y chromosome

I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my head around something. I’m going to be having a son.

I joked a while back about the reassurance that an ultrasound would provide that I was not incubating “some sort of tentacled alien spawn.” But, aside from reassuring me that creature had the correct number and arrangement of limbs to be classified as human, it also revealed to us an appendage that I had not anticipated. It seems that I have been, in fact, incubating some sort of testacled alien spawn.

It’s come as quite a surprise to me just how much of a surprise this is to me. I mean, I have known all along that it was a possibility.

And yet somehow, I didn’t really think it would happen.

I left that ultrasound appointment feeling someone stunned. Surprised. In mild shock. And I will admit here, and please don’t attack me for this, even somewhat disappointed.

That seems so harsh. Disappointed? The poor little guy hasn’t even been born yet, and already I’m disappointed in him? That hardly seems fair.

“I guess we won’t be reusing Phoebe’s dresses,” I’ve said. But of course, even though I’d love to hold on to some of those cute girl clothes a bit longer, my feelings aren’t really based on wardrobe.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s going on here. And I’ve realized that there are a lot of things going on.

Ever since I was little, I imagined that someday I’d be a mother. The specific circumstances of this motherhood status were typically murky, especially with respect to the role of a father in these imaginings. But always, I imagined that I would have 2 girls. Just like in my family.

Growing up, and moving around so much as I did, my closest friend was always my sister. We were, and still are, very close. It always seemed the natural order of things.

Somehow, I always imagined I’d reproduce this pattern, when I got around to reproducing.

I realize that even if I were to have a second girl, the individuals wouldn’t necessarily have had the relationship that my sister and I had. I know, of course, that Phoebe is not a new version of my sister, and that a second daughter wouldn’t be a new version of me. And yet I feel like I’m saying goodbye to that person that never existed outside my head.

And then there’s the fact that boys were largely unknown to me growing up. My immediate family consisted of me, my mother, and my sister. The next most involved family member was my grandmother. Obviously, there had been males around at various points. But by and large, we were a family of females. Even the cousins I saw most often were girls.

My father was around for my first 6 years, and then died. Both grandfathers had already died at that point. There were uncles I’d see for a few days every few years. There were boy cousins that I’d met here and there. There were stepfathers and boyfriends of my mother’s. But mostly, these males never felt part of my own life. They were visitors, or passers-by. I knew boys at my various schools, but was never even friends with any till high school. It wasn’t till college that I had any close relationships with men.

I realized, in my various ponderings, that John is the first male to have been in my life in any significant way for more than the 6 years that my life overlapped with my father’s. And John has even passed that number by another 10 years, clocking in now at 16 years.

And I sure am glad that John is here to share this experience with me. Because, among other things, John has some experience with growing up around boys. In fact, he even grew up as a boy.

I find myself continuing to be surprised that we’ll be having a boy, still avoiding using the gendered pronoun even now that it’s weeks since the revelation. And I question whether this leads me to feel a bit more detached from the pregnancy than I was the first time around. Or maybe it’s just that I’m so busy right now, and that I’ve been feeling pretty bad physically.

I am certain that I’ll come to love him fiercely as I love Phoebe. And I expect that there will come a time when I won’t be able to imagine things any other way, and when I can’t imagine my life without him.

nutty as a fruitcake, happy as a clam

I’ve been keeping something under my hat. I’ve been going on lately about how I have a lot on my plate, crabbing that I have may have bitten off more than I can chew. Sometimes I run around like a chicken with its head cut off. And then I’ve also been feeling pretty under the weather, with my head in a fog half the time. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And as things stand, come hell or high water, I’m about to open up a whole new can of worms.

I can certainly be one to beat around the bush, and you may well wish I’d just let the cat out of the bag and talk turkey. I mean, here I am, dragging things out at a snail’s pace, as slow as molasses in January. I could just sit around and chew the fat till the cows come home. But I suppose I should just come clean, take the bull by the horns, and spill the beans. So here’s the dirt, in a nutshell: I’ve got a bun in the oven.

Phoebe Lenore, abstract expressionist

white_on_red21.jpg

Untitled
Phoebe Lenore, 2007
White fingerpaint on red construction paper

The art world is being taken by storm by the latest works of Phoebe Lenore, a young artist who has left an indelible mark on the hearts of her public, as well as on the walls of her living room.

The artist follows in the footsteps of the abstract expressionists, and her bold and spontaneous works have been compared to those of such venerable greats as Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell.

When asked about her inspiration for her most recent work of art, the artist replied simply “moo.” It is left up to us to decide whether she was referring to the moon, or to the cows which live nearby her Massachusetts home. This ambiguity is characteristic of both the artist’s subject matter, and her conversational style. The viewer (or listener) is asked to interpret possible meanings, and is invited to respond based on intuition, emotion and past experience.

While the artist is new to the medium of paint, she has long been experimenting in other media. Her earliest works included avant-garde three-dimensional works in sweet potato and pureed petits pois, large installations of toys and found objects, as well as rawly emotional performance art pieces. The works for which she is best known are undoubtedly those in a somewhat more traditional medium: the drawings in her series of Crayola on newsprint. This series expresses the gauntlet of human emotions, from the joy of seeing doggies, to the angst of approaching naptime. Her choice of color and line are often vivid and playful, reflecting an almost childlike naïveté. Other drawings reflect a starkness revealing the artist’s capacity for solitary introspection and her metaphysical musings.

excitement.jpg     swoop_and_dots.jpg

forest.jpg     green_stark.jpg

Above: Selections of Phoebe Lenore’s famed series of crayon on newsprint drawings.
Below: The artist has branched out, experimenting with the Crayola medium on a three-dimensional wood surface.

crayon_on_wood.jpg     table.jpg
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This post is being displayed as part of this week’s Monday Mission, an exhibit of art critques of up-and-coming young artists.

psychic baby (qu’est-ce que c’est?)

You know how when you’re expecting a phone call, or waiting for someone to show up at the door, it’s hard to settle down and concentrate? Well, that’s how I usually feel when Phoebe’s having a nap.

Even though she usually naps for about an hour and a half, the time zips by. I get her settled, putter around for a few minutes, and usually open up my laptop. To, well…putter. Before I know it, 45 minutes have elapsed. And I think about getting to work. Knowing that I probably have only about 45 minutes.

Today, we were down at John’s parents. (We’d gone down for the weekend to get in a visit before our big trip.) The plan was to head out to the rehab center to visit John’s dad after Phoebe’s nap, and then to go directly home. So, once Phoebe was napping, my puttering included some packing and getting organized. I read some stuff online, answered a couple emails, and did some other puttering and even some work-related stuff.

It looked like Phoebe was going to have a longer than usual nap. She was upstairs, and the baby monitor was with us downstairs.

I’d started reading the new Harry Potter last night, and managed to read about 15 pages before I fell asleep. In this unexpected quiet time, the book beckoned. John was sitting reading his copy of the book. (Yes, we did buy two copies yesterday.) I commented to him that I felt like whenever I settle down to do something focused, Phoebe always wakes up. “I feel like if I sit down to read, she’ll wake up.”

After some more deliberation, and couple more minutes of quiet from the baby monitor, I decided to pick up the book. I sat down. I said to John: “Do you want to time this?”

I started to open the book.

“Waaaaaahhhhhh!!” said the baby monitor.

I slammed the book shut. And there was silence.

Tell me, how did she know?

a small laughing matter

Phoebe is making great strides in her walking skills. Also singing. And tickling. I have a few movies from earlier this week that I can’t help but share.

First, the tickling! Phoebe found a hole in John’s sock:

Second, Phoebe walks forward on cue, retracing her steps of 3 weeks earlier:

Third, my favorite. Phoebe starts off strong with singing (or possibly trying to communicate with dolphins), and showing off her stellar hand-eye coordination. But just look out for the dramatic finish.

(That last bit makes me laugh every time I watch it. As it did the first time I saw the little topple. John says that Phoebe will some day resent me for that little laugh of mine that can be heard at the end of the movie. Perhaps she will resent me, or perhaps she’ll realize that she could have a career in vaudeville.)

Anyhow, we’re down in NY once more for the weekend visiting the in-laws. The drive down was looooonnnnngggg. (So long that I am inspired to use additional non-standard orthographic elements to represent my exaggerated lengthening of the word.) Traffic was slow, leading to a 4 and half hour trip, when it usually takes 3 and a half. One extra hour doesn’t sound toooo bad. But, somebody no longer falls asleep in the car. (Oh, except for the last 5 minutes of the drive, leading her to wake up cranky and howling upon our arrival.) She (it’s Phoebe we’re talking about here, by the way, not me) seemed to need constant entertainment the whole way down. I generally sit in the back seat with her. And I sang, I danced (well, the belted, seated kind of dance), played games, recited stories, soothed, talked, sang, talked in silly voices, sang, counted toes. (Did you know that Phoebe has 5 toes on each foot? I counted them several times to make sure.) When I’d stop, we’d get screaming. (Not me, mind you.) Let me tell you, we had some Quality™ time.

But, we arrived, tired, but generally with some sanity left intact. Though my voice is feeling a bit strained today.

And here we are. John and his mother are out hunting for a new microwave, and Phoebe is napping. Later, we’ll go visit John’s dad in the hospital. (It’s a sub-acute care facility. He’s been in and out of many, many hospitals of various types since he rebroke a hip last summer.) It’s good that we’ve been able to get down here pretty often.

There’s a particularly bright star on the horizon. We are (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully) going to get to go to my favorite restaurant in the universe. It’s a little place about 40 minutes away from John’s parents’ house in a town called Pine Bush. The restaurant is called Pure City, which leads me to regularly call it Sin City. (Not to the proprietors, though.) I keep meaning to write about it. However, it may not make it’s way into this week, since this is Cheese Week. And this restaurant is 100% cheese-free. Aside from some tofu cheesecake. Does that count?

something beautiful

Phoebe took her first steps today. (Not counting a few inadvertent ones she’d taken over the past few weeks.) I caught a bit of her first toddling on camera. I’m happy to be able to share this beautiful Phoebe moment.

Phoebe’s a very good sleeper, and rarely wakes up in the night. But she woke up tonight a few hours after going to bed, just a little whle ago. I was actually glad. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to hold her, comfort her, cuddle with her. I needed some comforting, too. It was hard for me to tear myself away from her, to let her go back to sleep…

different

Phoebe turns one tomorrow. Leading me to reflect a lot on the past year. I’ve been asked if having Phoebe has changed my life a lot. The answer, after I stop laughing hysterically, is more than I could have imagined. But while I’d expected my life to be different, I hadn’t realized how much I would be different.

I always knew I wanted kids at some point. (Not many kids. One or two.) But I always thought of myself interacting with older kids. The kind that can walk and talk and feed themselves. Read books. Go to school. Have conversations about reading books and going to school.

I was pretty indifferent to babies and small children. Actually, I had a slight aversion. I’d jokingly, or not entirely jokingly, call them small things. Smelly things. Noisy things. And all these things are true. Babies are small and at times smelly and at times noisy. This has not changed. What’s changed now is how I react to these issues.

I used to work in a bookstore, and spent some time as children’s department manager. Not for love of children, exactly, but for love of children’s books. The kids themselves were part of the scenery. Almost a necessary…well if not a necessary evil exactly…a necessary hazard. I liked (some of) the older kids well enough, and enjoyed doing craft and reading activities with them. But babies? Toddlers? Well, quite honestly I learned to tune them out. I could actually pretty much ignore the the squeals, cries and other miscellaneous noise emissions from the smallest of bookstore customers. I once had an experience where I became aware of this power to turn out the sound of babies crying. I was on a long flight, and shortly after landing, some parents travelling with a small baby in the row behind me more or less apologized for all the crying during the flight. Amazingly, I hadn’t even particularly noticed.

But lately, I’ve developed heightened baby awareness. And I’m not annoyed by them at all. In fact, when I was on the train recently, a young baby around Phoebe’s age was making fairly loud babbling and howling noises. Not crying, but making loud happy noises. And I…enjoyed it. I felt warm and fuzzy. Me, who once would have tuned it out with some annoyance, or even changed seats to get more quiet.

And this isn’t the only way I’ve changed. I’ve developed a new vulnerability. I’ve been devastated for weeks about news stories involving the deaths of young babies, and lost sleep over stories where a parent of a young child died. It’s even been when such stories were from several years ago. Don’t get me wrong. I was never exactly insensitive to such events, such stories. But they never used to make me feel destroyed. And my new sensitivity extends to fiction, too. I got choked up watching “The Incredibles”, for god’s sake, when I saw it a few weeks ago. An animated action movie. And I’d seen the movie before with no such effect. But in many ways I was a different person then.

So, here I am. One year later. Almost one year ago today, the population of our household changed. We added one small new person. And small as she is, the difference she’s made is immeasurable.

brand new Phoebe almost 1year.jpg
Phoebe Lenore, 1 hour old (left) and almost 1 year later (right).