Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The art of seduction

Sex is still extremely infrequent in our household. And while I did determine that I can have an orgasm without pissing myself (Yay.), I still don't have much interest, and there's also the fact that after Bun Bun's in bed (around 7), we just want to kick back, and then before you know it, I have no love left for anything but my pillow. Fortunately, I have stumbled upon the key to reigniting the FLAME.



This excerpt comes from a poster on relationships that recently appeared in the bathroom down the hall from my office, in the section entitled "consent can be sexy". And although college students are the intended audience, I think we can all learn something, don't you? I'm going to try it out as soon as possible.

Hey, Mr. Bunny. What do you think about doing sexy action?

Well, Bunny, I really like sexy action. Can we do that?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advice on two matters, one unrelated to BABIES.

Oh People of the Internet, share your wisdom with me!

1. As part of Operation Flail Around Helplessly in Pursuit of Childcare, we are looking into in-home care. (Edited to add: in MY home. As in, a nanny.) I'm doing my first interview next week. I suppose the purpose of such a meeting is really just to get a vibe. Would I trust this person with the thing that's most precious to me on earth? I'm guessing it will be instantly clear--all I really need is a thin slice. But I should probably also have some, like, questions, just to pass the time. Any thoughts on what to ask? Any general advice? Besides staying home with her because it's best? (Just a little shout out to Anonymous.)

2. I teach the same course every spring semester, and FUCK, the spring semester will be rolling around again soon. Last time an odd thing occurred: About 25% of the students got Ds or Fs. It's never happened before--usually there's one F at most. I've reviewed my behavior, my level of clarity about my expectations, the amount of feedback I provided, etc., and honestly don't think I did anything radically different. The only difference I could think of was that I was pregnant. (Ooops, sorry, this was supposed to be unrelated to babies...) Did they think I was going to be a softie because I was all maternal or some shit? Despite the fact that I told them at the beginning that I am a hard ass when it comes to deadlines and grading? (And yes, I used the phrase hard ass.) ANYWAYS, my question for you is, what should I do this time around?
1. Change nothing.
2. Be meaner. Make it clear that I am really, really mean. I'm thinking something modeled on Professor Snape. Rely on extrinsic motivation.
3. Be nicer. Go all Dead Poet's Society or something. Rely on intrinsic motivation.
4. Quit my job.

(Speaking of which, I met with a senior colleague who was on my tenure committee, and she was all you're so awesome, you're definitely getting tenure, and when I left her office, I thought OH FUCK. I know I'm a huge jerk to be so cavalier about a stable (beyond stable, really) job in these tough times, but hey, that's what I thought.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey made my baby cry, but at least she sleeps brilliantly

As usual, I have gotten my way in the care and feeding of our baby.

We proceeded with the baby-led weaning approach, despite the doctor's objections. She does splendidly with feeding herself and I love the whole thing very intensely. Mr. Bunny seemed to have an epiphany when he was in charge of making dinner for once. He made a veggie burger for me, a hamburger for himself, and a tiny hamburger for Bun Bun. Gee, it's nice not having to make her something special, he said. NO FUCKING SHIT.

(I also had an epiphany watching her nom down on beef for the first time. It made me both delighted and extremely disgusted, and I realized this is how my husband feels about vegetables.)

I love it because it means we can eat dinner together instead of one of us gobbling down food and then holding her while the other gobbles down food. I love it because it passes a difficult evening hour when she needs extra entertaining. I love it because it involves sharing. I love it because she seems to love it. She ate the fuck out of a pile of lentil stew and cornbread tonight. My almost-seven-month-old can pick up a lentil. I love it because we got to attach her little chair to the table at Thanksgiving and put some food in front of her and then carry on with our dinner, together.

Is it trashy to eat with my shirt off, Mama?
So far the only thing that she has declined to eat is turkey. It actually made her cry. Which was hilarious. We took it away, and she happily ate squash. She's had chili and limes and meatballs and asparagus and butternut squash and tomatoes with hummus and all manner of fruits, and all SORTS of things.

Plus, my sister in law--a nutritional epidemiologist who studies childhood obesity--was most impressed with the whole thing at Thanksgiving. Of course, then her dog bit one of the children in attendance, so maybe I don't care what she thinks.

And although I hate the BLW book (the one entitled BLW, because of the absurdly sweeping claims about the benefits of this approach--drives me totally nuts, even though I know it's not meant to be evidence-based), I don't care if it IS a fad. Sensible things can start as fads. And it's normal in other places. And I love it. SO THERE.

I also love the fact that my baby once again requires nothing from me from 7pm until about 5 or 6 am. Operant conditioning is effective, and in our case, it was the silver bullet. She figured out what was happening quite quickly. Most nights are now 100% cry-free, and we are far less anxious about bedtime. And night in general. But I should confess that there have been two painful moments since the initial period. One night she cried at 3am for about twenty minutes on and off. I promise you that I thought all the horrible things about myself that anyone who believes this approach is unwise would want me to think, and I wept, and there was black despair. And on Thanksgiving night, when my sister-in-law was staying down the hall, Bun Bun felt the need to indulge in ten minutes of angry screaming before falling asleep.

Perhaps she feared the return of TURKEY.

I know this approach won't work with all babies, and I know that it may not work long-term with MY baby, but every night that it does work is a night that it fucking works. I get to savor holding her at bedtime instead of hoping and praying that when I put her down, she won't cry. I get to wallow in bed in the middle of the night instead of standing in her room wondering why she weighs a thousand pounds more than she does during the day, and why nothing I can do will make her go back to sleep. And I assure you, I am deeply, deeply grateful for this easy, cheerful, miraculous, lentil-grasping baby.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A little rant about toys

We recently achieved a new level of parenthood: We aquired a set of blocks. I LOVE THESE MOTHERFUCKING BLOCKS. My father in law gave us the uppercase set, and we dug them so much we checked to see what else they had, and discovered they have a lowercase set, and the animals on the lowercase set are BABY VERSIONS of the uppercase set, and they did it up RIGHT, so that frog --> tadpole (and not some "baby frog" bullshit) and butterfly --> caterpillar, and...

If you're insane, you can buy the periodic table set and start your baby nice and early. Me, I plan to get the Russian ones next.

The texturey faces are perfect for chewing on, and Bun Bun can play with them forever.

Which is helpful, because Bun Bun's world is a bit toy-deprived. I mean, she has a whole basket of toys, but a lot of them are wooden, and only a few make noise. Every two weeks or so, I freak out about this, fearful that not surrounding her with blinking, squeaking, talking plastic objects will means she'll never learn to solve differential equations. And then I watch her play with the grain of the wood floor for an hour and feel better.

Maybe it's because I grew up playing with rocks and sticks, or because I read the Little House books too many times, or because I'm fearful of what we're doing to our children with that there modern' livin', but I keep gravitating towards boring wooden toys and not too many of them, at that.

Save me from the boring wooden toys, internet people.

I remind myself that people grew up smart before Fisher Price, and that she's fine, and then a few weeks later it happens again.

And then it slowly began to dawn on me... There are people making a living by creating and then profiting from this kind of insecurity. There are people trying to convince me that my child needs this or that, and if I don't buy it for her, she will be stupid or unprepared or somehow at a disadvantage. Don't get me wrong--I'm not normally a crazy tinfoil hat person who sees conspiracies everywhere, and I am certainly not suggesting that I am somehow GOOD for not buying the latest gadget and anyone else is BAD for buying it. But it seems to me like you should buy a toy because you find it cool and fun and believe it will lead to endless hours of enjoyable interaction (or endless hours of your baby out of your hair so you can bathe), not because the box tells you your baby won't learn to walk or count or whatever without it.

So here's my plan. The next time I find myself feeling bad because Bun Bun doesn't have a Fisher Price TeethingMathCrawlSortTieShoes MegaPlayCastle, I'll just quietly mutter: FUCK YOU, capitalism.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh pediatrician, you make me sad.

Mr. Bunny took Bun Bun in for her six month checkup on Friday, while I was at work. When he gave me the report, it seemed clear that I am an inadequate mother in several ways.

ONE. We've started Bun Bun on solids. I'd heard about this baby-led weaning deal where you skip purées and let the baby feed itself, and I thought that sounded awesome. It was a thrill to see Bun Bun picking up pieces of banana and pear and mango and smearing them all over her face and nomming them down in a gaggy sort of way. I'd also done some spoon feeding if we were eating something that was appropriate, like puréed soup. I'd given her some harder things, too, like orange slices and lime wedges, which she seemed happy with. And it made me happy to sit at the table and share food with her. The doctor? Not happy. Choking hazard. Bad mother. I'm not sure which things precisely he objected to, since I wasn't there to ask, but Mr. Bunny's report made me feel chastised and depressed. Partly because Mr. Bunny was a bit nervous about the whole thing, too, although he'd agreed to do it. So I felt like I was wrong and he was right. And the truth is, I jumped into it because it made sense to me, and I read a few websites, but didn't do exhaustive research, so I wasn't totally sure of myself...

I was also informed that she should start eating three meals a day as soon as possible, instead of my lazy one or two.

And, Mr. Bunny selected a few delicious MEAT SLURRIES (a.k.a. baby food featuring meat) for me to spoon feed her. (I'm vegetarian but have no plans to raise Bun Bun that way.) Those things are fucking GROSS, and not because they contain meat.

So anyways, something that was happy is now SAD. I've ordered a BOOK, and we'll see what I think after reading it. Maybe I'll continue with the BLW, maybe I'll modify it a bit, I dunno. I need to figure out which principles are important to me and see if I can keep them alive in a way that Mr. Bunny is comfortable with.

TWO. After being a wonderful sleeper for about five months, Bun Bun has begun waking multiple times a night. Sometimes only two, but sometimes four or five (which, yes, I know, probably sounds good to some of you, but still), and feeding her and putting her back down is no longer sufficient.

Before she was born, I was pro sleep training and Mr. Bunny was con. But she didn't need it, so we'd agreed that we'd revisit the whole issue if she ever did. When she started her recent waking pattern, we'd been riding it out hoping she'd go back to her old ways. It had been about a month, so Mr. Bunny asked the doctor. Even though I KNEW what he'd say, it still made me feel bad to hear it. The word counterproductive was used regarding my tendency to feed her to get her to shut up. Some version of sleep training was recommended. BAD, BAD MAMA.

And the thing that particularly pissed me off about this one was the fact that, had it not been for Mr. Bunny, I'd have tried sleep training long ago.

Last night Mr. Bunny and I both had some kind of hideous 12 hour bug. (I hope. Please don't come back, hideous thing.) Mr. Bunny was vomiting and my whole body ached. So we started sleep training using the semi-gentle method described in this book I like because it says I can drink. You choose a 10 hour window and neither feed nor pick up during that window, though you can check in at increasingly longer intervals. It went well, and although it made me cry to leave the room without picking her up, it genuinely seems right for all of us.

I know there are competing views on both these issues, and I'm not ideologically committed to either camp, really. I just want to do what makes sense to me, what I believe best combines all our interests. And hey, I guess this is what parenting is: Carefully figuring out what you think is best, negotiating with your partner if you've got one, and then being told you're doing it all wrong.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reflections at six months. With pie charts.

About a week before Bun Bun was born, Mr. Bunny and I were having a conversation we'd had many times before. People had been telling us that having a baby was sooooooooooo hard, harder than we could eeeeeeeeeever imagine. And we were wondering why. I mean, how bad could it be? Was it really true that we should get paper plates because we'd be too exhausted to wash dishes? Would we really be so desperate for help that we'd wish we had people around and regret asking them to stay away for a month? Could two people really not care for one baby without falling apart? Weary of having the same conversation, we decided to take a quantitative approach. We'd write down all factors that we thought contributed to the whole babies are so hard business, and then estimate their impact. We did it, and then we sealed it in an envelope and agreed to open it in six months.

There it hung on the fridge. We decided to open it when Bun Bun was six months old, rather than six months after sealing it.

Bun Bun's six month birthday was this weekend, so we opened the envelope. Here's what we predicted.



Sleep deprivation, incompetence, and lack of preparation are self-explanatory. With isolation/ resistance to change, we were thinking that people who like to go out would have a hard time being trapped at home, and that people might resent the loss of their old lives. You hear about people being all waaaah, I never get to have beers with my buddies anymore. That kind of thing. We decided to create one large category called "baby hard." We wanted to capture the various ways in which caring for a baby might be genuinely hard, but in the end we felt they all boiled down to...crying. So "baby hard" included the following items that might change the equation considerably, depending on how they worked out.
  • Baby temperament. Colicky baby = harder.
  • Baby health. Sick baby = harder.
  • Breastfeeding. If it goes poorly = harder.
  • PPD. In this case, I'd be the one crying.
With self-aggrandizement we were thinking a tendency to be hyperbolic about things so you can feel good about yourself. I'm sure everyone's met parents who wail and moan about how haaaaaaard it is and then you find out they have six nannies and you wonder what the fuck they're whining about.

So, our chart shows that we expected sleep deprivation to be the major portion, with baby hard coming in second, and a few other things playing minor roles.

When we considered the reality we were pretty pleased with our predictions, overall. But we did do a little revision.



Self-aggrandizement, incompetence, and lack of preparation no longer figure in. Naturally. And baby hard has not grown at all, because our baby is fucking easy. The surprise was that the whole isolation / resistance to change was a factor for us. Despite never really wanting company before, I went through a very intense longing for just one friend with a baby. This lasted from months 2 -5 or so. I still like the idea, but I no longer consider accosting random women with babies. So isolation turned out to affect me after all. And the resistance to change I've described here: we both like time alone, but figuring out how to arrange that proved more problematic than expected.

So it was an interesting exercise. But we also decided that the chart fails to capture an important feature of our experience, which I've tried to show here:

I'm not sure what the pies are even made of, but it's been clear from the beginning that having an easy baby is a whole other universe from having a typical baby, let alone a hard baby. For instance, yeah, we would like more sleep, but our sleep deprivation is a tiny little crumb compared to the giant wedge that is the sleep deprivation of the average parent. Ditto the baby hard. As much as I struggled with nursing, I can see that my experience was pretty normal, and so much easier than the battles many have faced. And yes, there are times when I am crawling out of my skin because of the crying, but it's, like, the easiest possible version of that phenomenon.

In conclusion, the one piece of wisdom I have for prospective parents is this: You have no idea what it will be like until you meet that baby. It might be rainbows and flowers, it might be like being boiled alive.

Oh, and be sure to get an easy baby.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ooof! Daycare!

You know, when I wrote that last post, I was zoomed in on my own emotional state, and forgot that daycare is a hot button issue, with strong feelings in various camps. Hence the little throwdown in my comments section. And it makes perfect sense--what could be more emotionally charged than considering how this choice might impact THE REST OF YOUR CHILD'S LIFE, particularly in a community where people waited a long time for this baby and where many face the possibility of never having another. And where the choice is so tied up with one's identity as a person, a woman, a mother.

I don't pretend to have expertise in this area, and I know enough ink has been spilled on the topic to replace all the water in all the oceans. So please forgive me from writing about this from a place of relative ignorance. But as part of my Psych Ph.D., I did take developmental psych courses, and I wanted to share a couple of things.

First, the issue of whether daycare is good or bad for infants (focusing just on infants) is not settled. How could it be? It depends on what you mean by good and bad and how you're assessing. For example, are you measuring effects on cognitive development and later academic performance? Are you measuring physiological markers of stress like salivary cortisol*? Are you measuring levels of aggression or other behavioral problems? Are you measuring attachment or other social/emotional indices? The truth is, you can find evidence FOR and AGAINST on every one of these dimensions. Partly because effects depend tremendously on quality of care, quality of the parent-child relationship, and a ton of other shit. It's a complex multi-dimensional space, AND it's constantly in flux as attitudes change and as care gets better. So the point is: if you want to prove that daycare is bad, you can find evidence, and if you want to prove it's good, you can find evidence. People in both camps are highly motivated to find support for their choices (e.g., as someone who must use childcare, I'm motivated to find proof that it's okay for Bun Bun), but I think we are all obligated to consider the whole picture.

(I highly recommend this lovely review**, though it's got a bit of a metatheoretical take that might not be of much interest if you're just looking for an answer.)

The second thing I want to share is a beautiful study** that I think illustrates just how little objectivity some of us have on this topic. In this (2006, i.e., RECENT) study, college women (you know, modern, educated women) were shown videos of mother-child interactions and asked to rate them on a number of dimensions to do with quality of care (e.g., "The stimulation/encouragement that the mother provides"). Half the participants were told the mothers were stay at home mothers and half were told the mothers were working mothers. There's a lot more to the study, but the finding I want to share is this. Stay home mothers were rated higher overall than working mothers. In other words, being told these are stay at home mothers! led modern, educated women to perceive the interactions as indicating better care than being told these are working mothers. Please read the original study as it's not perfect, BUT, I think anyone who believes there's an objective truth to this question should consider that finding very carefully.

I want to stress that I've written all of this from the point of view of someone who is ambivalent about the whole thing. Plenty of women are eager to return to work and thrilled with the experience of daycare or in-home care. I am delighted for them, and would hate them to think I'm suggesting they should feel bad about their choice. In many ways, I envy them.

Let me end by saying this. Maybe you believe women who can't afford to stay home for 18 months shouldn't have children. I'd say you're only entitled to that opinion if you yourself have elected to forgo reproduction for that reason alone. In reality, it's awfully sad how little choice many of us have in the matter. There's the fact that many of us spent years building our careers and these careers won't wait for us (academia perhaps being an extreme case, where there's no getting off the carousel and then hopping on again--not if you want to ride the same brightly-colored pony). And issues of personal fulfillment and shit aside, there's pure economics. One persistent finding is the BAD effects of non-parental care (in multiple dimensions) often emerge for women who have jobs they don't like and who can't afford quality care. Just think about the size of the segment of the American population that describes, and weep. If you truly believe daycare is evil, take that passion and use it to help these women.




*Want to get FUCKING DEPRESSED? Read a bunch of papers about STRESSED BABIES.
**Leave an e-mail in a comment if you want the full papers and have no way of accessing them. I'll send them if I don't think you're some hater who's just going to plague me with mean e-mails.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So yeah, daycare

I've been avoiding thinking about it, refusing to count the weeks until January. I even made it Mr. Bunny's job to set up appointments so I could keep hiding. But now the time has come when even HE thinks it's time to find a place, and has been saying things like, we should really start looking into it, to which I respond, it's your fucking problem waaaaaaaaah!

Let me be clear: I think daycare is GOOD for babies. Intellectually, I accept that it's not a bad thing, may even be helpful for a baby who doesn't know a lot of other babies. And I don't really expect Bun Bun to care, though I do worry that the timing will interact poorly with the separation anxiety a lot of kids experience around nine months, leading to endless guilt and misery for Mama. But it's not that I have qualms about daycare qua daycare. That said, I wouldn't choose to do it if I didn't have to. If I could, I'd stay home with her for a year at least.* And okay, I suppose I could ask my chair for a leave of absence, and I might get it, but what would happen to my career if I spent another semester gazing lovingly into my child's eyes? Of course, do I even care about my career?

Um...anyway, I didn't actually  intend this to be about the emotional turmoil and the questioning and the blah blah, I really just wanted to ask...how the hell does one find a place that feels right?

So far we've only been to one, and I was so choked up and freaked out I don't think I really absorbed much. Is it going to be like that at ALL of them? Or was it just the fact of having to really contemplate leaving her? Should I visit one that I know is unacceptable (smells like piss, flies on the babies**) just so I will gain some perspective, and feel better about the other options? Is there going to be a place that feels right to me, where I can imagine Bun Bun being happy?

Or can I only imagine her safe and contented in my tender lovin' arms?


[A couple of things I feel compelled to add based on comments:
1. I hope I didn't suggest to anyone that NOT doing daycare is BAD by saying daycare is good. Totally don't feel that way, as I hope is made clear by my desire to stay home.
2. I can't stay home next semester. I'm under contract. Maybe next year I could wrangle something, but I'm screwed for January-May. Which makes me sad.]

*I know, I get eight months, which is so fucking wonderful. But not enough. Because I'm a greedy whore.
**Sorry. Not good to joke about flies on babies, but these are the images that go through my mind...

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Holiday of My People

Halloween is my favorite holiday. And even though I have once again failed to make the giant snake to wrap around the tree in our front yard that I keep talking about, I did succeed in making Bun Bun's costume. Mr. Bunny has wanted her to be a pumpkin since long before she was even a gleam in our RE's eye. So a pumpkin she is, and a mighty sweet one, if I do say so myself.

Mama, I'm a PUMPKIN!


Mr. Bunny chose the buttons.




Please don't make me into a pie, Daddy.

Mr. Bunny says the costume has surpassed his wildest dreams.

We also toured our first daycare today, in preparation for January. I am feeling extra thankful to have this time with my little pumpkin today. And in light of Jennifer's shitty news, and thinking of Misfit's scan tomorrow, and thinking of all of you, I'm feeling so insanely EXTRA grateful that Bun Bun is here with me. So grateful that I need to gorge myself on tiny candy bars and cry.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Never having sex again

The last time we had the old Intimate Relations, I opted to forgo orgasm. As I've been perfectly willing to discuss before, I don't have an orgasm from intercourse alone. This time, I thought it might be nice to have one. Well, friends, I pissed myself. Yes, just as I was thinking, Hurrah, my first orgasm in almost six months! I perceived an odd wetness. A spreading wetness. A substantial spreading wetness.

WHAT THE FUCK. How come nobody told me this was a THING?!?! Those of you who have had postpartum sex are seriously to blame here.

Or is it just me? It can't just be me!

In case you're curious, I don't think I actually got there, if you know what I mean. I was too surprised. My response was to say, Something...has...happened. I think I'll have to change the sheets.

AND SO: pregnant, parenting, lost all hope of ever being either, I don't care. If you're not doing Kegels RIGHT NOW, you should be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Robot harnesses

As you know, I am a baby, and have limited mobility. Consequently, I am forced to use a giant robot to get around. You know, like Ripley.


I'll fuck you up, Aliens.

I have two robots. One is a bit softer and smells milky, and the other one is easier to control--I can get it to go for super long walks instead of just the stupid laundry room. But when you get right down to it, robots are pretty much all the same. I HAVE found that there are large differences in the comfort of the harness used to attach me to the robot, though, and I wanted to share my findings with other babies.

I started with the Moby, back when I was a newborn. At first I thought my robot was just inept, but as time went on, I determined that it's just NOT the harness for me. It's squashy. I like to look around, and my robot kept trying to tuck my head in, and I'd pull it out, and then it would flop around on my neck, and then my robot would have to hold me in, and it was just...absurd. And when I started talking to other babies, some of them agreed. While it's funny to watch the robot struggle with the harness like it's wrestling a boa constrictor, ultimately...not worth the trouble.

I tried the Baby Björn next. But I found that both robots would take me off waaaaay before I was ready. It was almost as though the harness caused them some kind of PAIN. I know, I have a foolish tendency to anthropomorphize...but the robots kept making these weird groaning noises that made them seem almost human. So that one's out.

Then I found two that work great, the Mei Tai and the Beco Gemini. The Mei Tai works well with my milky robot and I loved it when I couldn't really control my head. The Gemini works with BOTH my robots, AND I can face forward or backward. (I know--there has been some discussion among babies about whether it's good for us to face forward, but my physical therapist assures me that any harness where my adorable pudgy knees are level-ish with my plump, delicious little rump is okay when used in moderation.) And later I can go on my robot's hip or back! Both these harnesses are comfy and taste great, too. The Gemini even has these little dangly things that I can chew on. Mmmmm. Since I got these good harnesses, I've been having a lot more fun. I take my robots to the grocery store, and all around the house, and the library and...everywhere!

OH, and I DID try out that rolling cart thing. You know, where the robot pushes you? I hate it. I can't see shit and when I want to sleep, there's no warm robot chest to snuggle into. So these are my recommendations, for what they're worth. Gotta get back to work--I'm trying to program my robot to give me a beer but all I get is a piece of banana.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Secret people

A few people I read have recently gone private or written about their fears of being found by people who know them In Real Life, as the kids say.

I also started using the new blogger interface, which does not permit you to hide from certain facts about visitors, whereas before my policy has always been to cover my eyes and ears and say la la la about anything to do with page views, reader's locations, etc. (On the principle that if I respect your privacy you'll respect mine.)

And I allow anonymous comments because mainly I get nice anonymous people (I love you, Anonymous!), but now and again I get one that's genuinely mean (what the fuck, Anonymous?). Usually because I've been offensive about something or other, as is my way. And I have no plans to water down my opinions...any more that I do already, because for me there's no point in writing if I can't be at least a little honest.

Anyhow, these things in combination have made me wonder whether I am the world's largest moron to be putting my intimate details out there with only the thinnest veil of anonymity to protect me. I mean, I'm basically relying on the kindness of my fellow woman, and on being too boring to attract a lot of readers. It makes me wonder how people get found out. I've been in charge of websites and tracking traffic and such before, so I know the obvious stuff, but people getting found out seems to rely on people trying to find people, and I just wonder, who does that? Or maybe it's just that I don't read a whole lot of stuff on the internet so I don't ever accidentally bump into someone who seems eerily familiar...

What do you guys think? Am I going to end up fired (because I call my colleagues assholes), shamed (because my STUDENTS could read about my SEX LIFE), divorced (because my husband could read about my marital frustrations)?

Jennifer

Many of you know Jennifer, as she's one of those amazing people who keeps reading your blog even after you get pregnant and she doesn't. Well, she's pregnant now, after multiple miscarriages, surgeries, and an unsuccessful IVF. But all is not perfect in the land of her uterus, and I would be so grateful if you'd go show her some love, particularly if you know of cases where a low FHR did not result in miscarriage. She so SO deserves for this miracle spark of life to be her baby...as does everyone in this place.

(And if you have a large readership, unlike ME, maybe post a request as well to help get the word out?)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But, alas, you have a point

So why did the terrible book actually have some merit? Well, primarily because it made me feel so smug about how awesome Mr. Bunny and I are relative to the couples described in the book. Mr. Bunny is a pretty good model of egalitarian parenting, whereas apparently there are men who pride themselves on never lending a hand. And yeah, I'm a horrible nagging bitch like the women in the book, but at least I periodically apologize for it.

So that was awesome. But there were a few additional things I took from it aside from a sense of superiority.

The book also made me realize that I'm having some knee-jerk reactions that are pathetically typical.

SIGH. For example, when Mr. Bunny says I'd like to watch a soccer match this morning, and I'll take Bun Bun this afternoon, instead of hearing I need time alone, just as you need time alone, so here's how I propose we arrange that, I hear I hate my boring baby and wife and want to chase the doe-eyed gazelle* of sitting on my ass. So yeah, I seem to be just like all the women in the book who are afraid their partners will abandon them with a young child (because, you know, On the Veldt), and see all kinds of things through that filter.

Plus which, I also have a stupid tendency to give him the time alone and then not take MY time alone, or use it to clean or make dinner. BOO. (I know, I said I enjoy cleaning, but not as much as I enjoy sitting on my ass watching trashy TV. I AM an AMERICAN, you know!) Then I get to feel resentful, which is THE BEST.

And I guess even though I've been making a real effort since day one not to undermine my husband's parenting by nit-picking or criticizing (because what the fuck do I know about child-rearing), I think I need to extend that general approach, and stop being so fucking uptight. I genuinely do believe that one of the benefits of having multiple caregivers is having multiple care-giving styles. And while I'm okay about letting Mr. Bunny do whatever the hell he wants in terms of naps and feedings and whatnot when he's in charge, I get all tense when I see him do certain things. Like check his fantasy baseball scores when he's hanging out with Bun Bun. I feel like she deserves his full attention. But the truth is, she doesn't need two parents like me. Nobody does.

Anyways, I hope you appreciate my sharing the wisdom so you don't have to slog through all the offensive shit to get to it on your own. I look forward to you all having perfect relationships thanks to me.


*Thanks for the imagery, Bionic.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I HATE YOU, BOOK!

A couple of women to whom I vented about the Post-Baby Marriage mentioned a book* dealing with the subject. I finally got around to checking it out of the library, and OH, HOW I HATE IT!

Tragically though, it makes some good points. We'll deal with those next time. This time, let's discuss the reasons I hate it.

First, the authors use concepts from evolutionary psychology to explain our behavior. Mr. Bunny calls these On the Veldt arguments, as in on the veldt, our ancestors had to flee from predators, that's why men like sports. Okay, that was a mean parody, but in books like this, the argument always takes the form men do x because...and women do y because... While I think evolutionary psychology has a lot of explanatory power, in the hands of the authors of this book the presentation is so simplistic as to be insulting, and the message is you can't fight against your biological inheritance.** So basically, any time the phrase hardwired is used, I get my back up, because somehow hardwired always means men don't have to do the dishes.

Second, perhaps because of the above reasons, the picture painted of both men and women is extremely unflattering. Women are irrational shrews, men are selfish louts. Men want only sex and to play golf, women want only to talk about their feelings and to suffocate and control men.

Third, there's a whole chapter on sex, which is not surprising, but the presumption is that women won't put out because they're just too tired, because men won't do the dishes. And maybe I'm an extreme case, but I know I'm not alone, because you told me so, but I was blown away by the strength of my anti-libido. I was repulsed and horrified by the idea of sex. People told me I wouldn't be interested, but they didn't tell me just HOW un-interested I'd be. And my husband even does the dishes. I think glossing over the power of hormones in this domain does everyone a real disservice.

Fourth, the book assumes all women stay at home and formula feed. Now, I know better than to pass judgment on any woman who formula feeds or stays at home. Seriously, I really do. But the presumption that all women do those things alienated me and also made me feel the book was out of step with the times. Breastfeeding is mentioned once that I noticed, and all that is said is it hurts.

Fifth, the book assumes all parents subscribe to something I am only now learning has a name, extreme parenting, where parents attempt to schedule every moment of a child's life with activities that will give him or her a competitive edge. This is a whole other topic, so for the moment the point is that the book assumes your entire existence is nothing but ferrying your children to and from activities. Not everyone lives that way, man.

In short, the book paints a very bleak picture of men, women, children, Life, the Universe and Everything.

And I wish I could just leave it there. But sadly, I find myself feeling less grumpy towards my husband since reading it. So I guess I have a moral obligation to talk about that, too. SIGH.



*I'm not giving the title in case it's someone's favorite book in the whole world.
**Despite the fact that a) we can only speculate about what our biological inheritance is, and b) we have culture, which is why I personally ascribe to Dual Inheritance Theory.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Standards

My mother in law visited recently. Here's all I really remember about the visit. During dinner, a bit of something fell on the floor. Mr. Bunny did a half-assed job of wiping it up, and I said good enough.

Mother in Law: I HAVE noticed your standards slipping a bit.

To be fair, she and I both know her standards are far lower than mine, so I don't think she meant it in a you're filthy and I'm appalled way, I think she meant it in a thank heavens you're finally sinking to my level way. But I sure did want to punch her in the face. Particularly since we would have cleaned the house that very weekend, but for her visit. Turns out it's hard to find time to clean when there's an endless stream of visiting relatives wanting to be entertained.

I will eventually let this comment go, but it made me think about standards, and what to do about mine.

People like to tell you that when you have a baby you just have to let things go. Can I let things go? Hmmm...

I'm not anal, I swear. There are whole areas of the house that I don't give a shit about. Like that spot between the fridge and cabinets where stuff falls and can't be retrieved, or, you know, other things that make me sound genuinely not anal. And I have relaxed my standards a fair bit, for Mr. Bunny's sake. But I grew up in chaos, and keeping things orderly makes me feel safe and in control. Plus I find cleaning therapeutic. Like, I actually have a duster and vacuum in my office, and when I'm struggling with some project, I clean. This does not mean I always feel like being elbow-deep in dirty dishwater or shitty diapers, but by and large, cleaning is not something I detest. So I don't want to let things go, and I don't want to do the other obvious thing, which is hire a cleaner, for the above reason, and others.

The solution is clear, of course. Refuse to allow anyone to visit, particularly my WHORE of a mother in law.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Like a virgin

Dear Diary,
OMG it finally happened! Last night MB and I DID IT. I guess I'm a woman now. It was totally not like in the movies. It hurt, like, a LOT, at first. After that it was okay. I don't really get what everyone's so excited about, though. Maybe I'm just not very good at it yet? Anyways, I guess now I have to do it again. 

He said he loves me. I hope he really does. But he hasn't called or texted me...

Probably because we live in the same house. So yeah. The long (exactly five months!) hiatus is over. Mr. Bunny was clear that now we're back in the game, he's not going to be so patient in the future. Fuck. I should have held out for a few more months.

Okay, I'm not entirely serious. It wasn't awful or anything, and I do believe the physical connection is important and blah blah blah marriage good blah blah, but I hope at some point it doesn't feel like a fucking obligation.

Get it? A FUCKING OBLIGATION?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Teach me to be mean

As you know, I'm the sweetest, kindest person on earth, with never an unkind word for anyone. But one of the things I have to do today is write a tepid letter of recommendation for a student's grad school applications.

The student got Bs in both the classes it took with me, and produced a course project indicating no understanding of experimental design or data analysis. It also appeared to spend every class on Facebook. So when it approached me to write a letter for it, I explained that the letter would not be a good one. I reviewed the facts above. I urged it to find someone else, and even went through various possibilities with it. Turns out it truly didn't have any better options, so in the end I agreed to write the letter, with the understanding that a tepid letter is better than no letter at all. That is, the student genuinely wants me to write a tepid letter.

Okay. When I sit down to write it, though, I kinda have NO IDEA how to approach the whole thing. Worse yet, it's applying to my former PhD program, and for whatever reason, this makes me feel extra self-conscious about the whole thing. I fear the easy way out will be to emphasize its good qualities and say nothing about the important lacunae in its skill set. I know there are a couple of experienced academics who visit me here, and I could sure use your advice. And those of you in other areas, perhaps you've encountered the same quandary in your fields? (And yes, I'll ask my senior colleagues, too, but what do they know that THE INTERNET does not?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fridays

When Bun Bun was a few months old and Mr. Bunny had been back at work for a bit, I asked him to wrangle a four day week. He's the VP of a tiny company with a boss who raised two kids while starting the company. She is extremely understanding, and generously agreed to let him take Fridays off.

The first few Fridays, Mr. Bunny urged me to go out, to take some time for myself. I didn't want to. Where the hell was I going to go? Plus, I didn't want to be separated from Bun Bun. So I'd just hang around, interfering with his attempts to be a solo parent. I wasn't sure what I wanted, to be honest. I'd made this request because I felt like the weekend was just too short, that there wasn't enough time for me to see him, AND be a family, AND accomplish anything I couldn't do with a baby tied to me. But soon enough, the semester started. Since I'm technically supposed to be doing research this semester, I've started going to the office on Fridays.

It's a weird experience, having this professional alter ego.

There's the fact that the rhythms of the two parts of my life are so different. Monday through Thursday, it's an incredibly fine-grained existence. I live from book to tidying to finding a sunny spot for Bun Bun to practice rolling to nap to laundry to walk to another book... and then on Friday, a week's worth of meetings and e-mail and writing and thinking and paperwork. Considerably more hectic, and I'm required to think about things happening on a much different scale. How to analyze data I won't have for six months, for example.

There's the weirdness of being a lactating professor. It's strange to shut the door every few hours and hook myself up to a machine, while trying to relax and think about my baby so I can maximize milk output. To shift gears from thinking about experimental design to thinking about nursing. And I feel like there's a giant sign on my door that says: BREASTS. BREASTS. BREASTS. THINK ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR'S BREASTS. THINK ABOUT MILK COMING OUT OF HER BREASTS.

Then there's the horrible ache of having to say goodbye to Bun Bun in the morning. My throat constricts, I feel tears coming, and I shut my mind down so I can get the hell out the door. She's always so smiley and happy, and it's an awful moment. For me. She doesn't care.

And of course there's the experience of my husband as primary caregiver. When I was around, he felt so scrutinized. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't resist making recommendations. If I were you, I'd...you might want to try...ummm....NO, DON'T DO THAT! Alone, he gets to make his own discoveries, and of course he does brilliantly. Plus, he seems to find the whole thing very taxing and difficult, and as a result, has a vastly increased appreciation for the work I do. Which is fabulous. Meanwhile, I've learned that she can adapt, and that I don't always know best.

For all the weirdness, I'm enormously grateful for this gift of a day. Walking home from work, the air pleasantly autumnal but still warm, the bustle of campus giving way to the quiet of my neighborhood, I wonder if I'll look back on this as the happiest time of my life.

Of course, I've been wondering that since the day she was born.

Except for when I was FUCKING DEPRESSED and my nipples were bleeding.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bun Bun vs. Mama

Mama and I have gotten along quite well since I was a fetus. I like to think I've been good to her--I've slept a great deal and hardly cried at all ever since I was born. Sure, I may have made her nipples bleed, but that was only because I'm such an eager and efficient eater. I've never been sick a day in my life, and I've given her a delightful crop of hair to entertain herself with, and loads of smiles. What more could a mama want?

And I'll be fair: she's been pretty good to me, too. She gives me lots of kisses, and has the tastiest breastmilk. Why, just last night, I got carrot-ginger soup breastmilk with notes of oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Delicious! She does her best to entertain me, too, and if I'm bored to death by those three toys she's always pulling out, well...I try to be polite.

But it seems we've hit a bump with this whole self-soothing business. First, let me be clear. I'm perfectly capable of self-soothing. What the hell* does she think I do when I wake up in the middle of the night? I KNOW she hears me sucking on my hands. And then I go back to sleep, don't I? DON'T I?!? Yes. Yes, I do. SO WHAT if sometimes when she puts me to bed at night I need a little extra help falling asleep? SO WHAT if sometimes I don't want to go down for a nap? Is it my fault she let me get over-tired? Certainly not.

And I feel a bit bad for saying this, but it's clear she has NO IDEA what she's doing. On one occasion she'll let me wail for ten minutes while standing there looking like a trapped animal, and on another occasion I have only to let out a few shrieks and she'll scoop me up and snuggle me. What on earth is she thinking?

She keeps telling me she wants me to learn to fall asleep without her, but I DO, some of the time. And she says she wants me to grow up to be a self-actualized, independent person, whatever the hell that is, not a needy, clinging brat, as if I could ever become such a thing.

I mean for fuck's sake, I am only barely capable of voluntarily rolling myself over into whichever position I feel like being in. And sometimes when I get upset, I forget how. And my fat little legs and arms are constantly getting caught in the bars of this stupid sleeping cage she puts me in--what does she expect!

SO. Could you people PLEASE tell her that all this exploring your limits and experimenting with your ability to self soothe is just unnecessary? When I cry, the correct response is to pick me up and snuggle me, with that swinging back and forth thing that makes her creaky old knees hurt. Not sitting down, standing. Every time.

It's so obvious, even to me, and I'm only a baby.





*I know such language is shocking in a baby, but like my mama, I believe in the value of a good expletive.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This is NOT how to get laid

I recently checked in with my husband on the topic of our continued abstinence.* We'd had kind of an ugly not-quite-fight-that-would-have-been-a-fight-had-either-of-us-had-the-energy-and-not-been-afraid-of-saying-things-we-didn't-mean-yet-could-never-take-back...um...moment, so it was time for a state of the union conversation. The sex part went something like this.

Me: Blah blah blah plus I just feel repulsive and deeply unsexy.
Him: Yeah, me too.

Later I realized that I'd been a little hurt when he hadn't protested and reassured me that I was still the most ravishing beauty he's ever laid eyes on. I was like, Way to make me feel hot!

And still later I realized that he'd probably been hurt when I failed to reassure him.

Sigh.










*Going on five months now, friends. I sort of can't believe that. But then I consult my libido, and totally can believe it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The venting circle

My older brother is visiting next week to see Bun Bun. He and I are pretty close. He tormented me an appropriate amount when we were children, but it never stopped me from idolizing him, and since we were about 12 and 14, he has treated me like an equal, even actually hanging out with me when we were in high school. We've talked about some intimate things, and I feel like I can be open with him about most matters. Not that I always choose to.

I know I'm going to want to talk to him about the effect parenthood has had on my marriage. He warned me to expect that it would be hard, and I want someone older and wiser to tell me it will all be okay.

But should I? I've been thinking about loyalty to one's partner, and who is allowed within the venting circle. To whom can you complain about your partner without it being an act of disloyalty?

Total strangers on the internet, of course. (Though I do make an effort not to complain qua complain. It's just that the effort sometimes...fails.)

Friends, of course, at least if they're partnered themselves, and I think it has to be understood that friends are not allowed to say rude things about one's partner. They can echo the things you say, but are not allowed to say new ones. For example, Oh, he sounds so frustrating! But not, Wow, your husband is a lazy-ass slacker, huh?

Parents? For me, parents are not within the circle. I know this is not universal, but I would never complain about my spouse to my mother or father. I'm not sure why. Well, I mean, my dad's dead, so what would be the point. Anyway, I'm sure there are whole books written on this subject...


It's not even that I want to complain, just discuss. See if he has any wisdom. I guess I have to figure out whether my brother counts as friend or family. But maybe the fact that I'm even considering whether it's a good idea means it's NOT.

So tell me, who falls within your circle?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cribs are safe! Cribs are Safe! A series of deeply boring updates.

We accomplished the bed-to-crib transition. I couldn't pull the trigger, but Mr. Bunny said he was ready to give it a try, so on one of the nights he was in charge and I was in the guest room, he did it. Bun Bun slept normally. Mr. Bunny, on the other hand, reported that he slept nary a wink from the time we put her down to the time he came to get me for her middle of the night feeding. It all became clear the following night when I was on duty. While it was hard going to sleep without her next to me, her room is quite close and I can hear every little noise, so I just repeated cribs are safe* until I fell asleep. And slept for about half an hour, until she made her first little peep. And then I spent the rest of the night startling wide awake at every little noise, certain she was about to start shrieking with terror. That she'd wake up and find herself alone and freak the fuck out. In reality, she did not give a shit. I expected her to be lonely and heartbroken, she did not appear to notice that one of us was no longer there by her side.

It hasn't been perfectly smooth. There have been a few nights when I've been up every hour, soothing her back to sleep. And there have been more nights when I've simply been unable to sleep because of her noises, but I'm sure that would have happened if she'd been in our bed, too. And putting her to sleep for the night is more elaborate now. Our former routine was to put her in our bed and then just go about our business. You know, brushing our teeth, whatever. She'd usually fall asleep pretty much on her own. But now we have to do that whole book, snuggling, singing, rocking thing which is just UGGH sooooooo awful. That's sarcasm. It's lovely, and something I've always dreamed of, though half the time it involves screaming with rage, too, which is less lovely. We have also been tinkering with eliminating her middle of the night feeding, as it wasn't clear she really wanted it, and hey, turns out many nights she doesn't. So, on the whole, it seems like she's happy. And there may just come a day when I have to share a bed with a wolverine again. Sigh.

There are a couple more insanely boring things I wanted to mention, in case the information proves useful to anyone.

1. I ordered some swaddle straps before they were even available, but how did they actually work out? Great! They got us through the hellish hot days wonderfully. And we're still using them on those occasions when she seems to want a swaddle. Can she escape from it? Absolutely. But unlike the blanket swaddle, I never find it OVER HER FACE. Which, you know, was terrifying. The design prevents it from moving beyond the shoulders. And since she's probably entering the end of her swaddle phase, I have no problem with her getting her arms out. In fact, I sometimes leave one arm out on purpose. I should note that I never bought any of the many other swaddle products out there (except I did get a woombie, which she kinda hated), so the strap may not actually be all that superior to existing items with cold weather coming on. But it was a life-saver for me, and might be worth having in your arsenal.

2. I mentioned this before, but never again because it's soooo boring. Bun Bun has torticollis. No, it's not a tasty filled pasta, it's basically a stiff neck. I'd never heard of the condition, despite the fact that it's apparently insanely common. It typically happens because of position in utero or sometimes because of injury during delivery. It's easy to fix early on and hard to fix later, so at her two month visit, we were advised to take her to a physical therapist. I was like SERIOUSLY? But we decided to do it. (Actually, we decided to switch practices, and met with a new pediatrician, who is lovely, and LIKES babies [imagine!], and gave us the same recommendation.) Fortunately, the therapist is a lovely woman, and I basically sit there for an hour every week while she stretches Bun Bun and we talk about babies. And then I have to do some exercises at home, which Bun Bun hates, and I suck at, so I'll be super happy when she's better. I've been at it for about eight weeks now. Blech. ANYWAY, the reason I mention it is that our slacking on the tummy time interacted poorly with this condition. Not only was she not getting the chance to develop abdominal and neck strength, but as her head got flatter, she had a greater tendency to lie with her head turned in a direction that exacerbated her torticollis. ANYWAY, the REAL reason I mention it is this: if your baby hates tummy time, you might try putting a rolled up towel under its arms to ease the strain a little. Also be sure to have a flashy toy on hand for distraction (the ItzBeen, a MUST HAVE already, turns out to be awesome for tummy time distraction. It has a pretty red/blue light that works great for getting your little one to stretch that neck!). And be comforted by knowing that even a minute or two as often as possible will lead to rapid results--we saw a remarkable improvement over the course of a few days. Bun Bun is fine with being on her belly now and does all the proper milestoney things, so I have not ruined her.

Oh my lord, that was boring. I almost fell asleep just writing about it all. But I serve the public, you see, and must report on my fascinating experiences.




*I know, it is silly, considering that the APA would have me believe it's bedsharing that's the danger.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time is a human construct

I remember the first time it really sank in that time does not exist. It's something we constructed, and all our ways of thinking about it and talking about it are just that. Sure, there are biological cycles, from the oscillations of neurons firing to the seasons, but that ain't time. You might think this realization came early on, like when I read Madeleine L'Engle as a kid, or when I took physics in high school or some shit. No, it wasn't until college.

Having a baby has made me realize it all over again. Time passes so strangely--both too quickly and too slowly. And so many things get lost and forgotten, or pushed aside.

Because Bun Bun has been amazingly easy, those things are NOT sleeping and bathing. But you may recall I bought a pattern for a tiny dress a while back? I made excellent progress at first, and this is how:



But then I made no progress at all for MONTHS. In fact, the project would still be sitting there half sewn had it not been for the fact that one day I remembered I can sew with MY HANDS. Yes, friends, sewing does not require a machine. So now the dress and bonnet are completed.

Yes, it does match my skirt. I used scraps for Bun Bun's dress, and while the whole matching mother-daughter outfit thing is not really me, Mr. Bunny insisted for the photo.

Mr. Bunny took her out in the carrier while she was wearing her bonnet, and some scruffy shirtless guy washing down his orange Camaro and saw them and said OH MY GOD! WHAT A CUTE BONNET! That's just a beautiful image. Everybody loves a bonnet.

Anyway, TIME. The semester is starting this week, without me. And while I am so, so, SO happy not to be resuming my duties, and still not quite able to imagine doing it again in January or, like, ever, it's odd to have the rhythm of life not changing much as fall comes on. Fall has always been a time of anxious anticipation and energy. This year it's a bit of a blank canvas.

Fortunately, it's about time to start on Bun Bun's Halloween costume.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Ghost Mama

It was a dark and stormy night. Rain lashed against the windows and flashes of lightning illuminated  dark tree branches outside. A dim lamp cast ominous shadows over the nursery walls. On the rug lay a forlorn baby, alternating between stuffing her hands in her mouth and crying angrily. In a rocker sat a bedraggled woman, rocking, rocking, rocking. Like an autistic person. Staring at the wall. Rocking.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Bunny went out of town. His absence happened to coincide with my menstruation-induced milk supply dip, and possibly also a growth spurt, but most certainly a fussy, angry baby. Like...an entirely different baby from the one I am accustomed to caring for. And I began to lose my shit. On the night the scene described above took place, Bun Bun spent much of the day wailing and refusing to nap, and I was tore up. After rocking her and cuddling her and nursing her and singing to her and walking her around etc., etc., etc., I put her down (gently, safely!) and just took a moment. And then as I looked down at her with a stoney face, it suddenly felt weirdly familiar. As though a ghost had briefly taken possession of my body. The ghost of my very own mother.

OoooOOooooooOOOoooo!

I wondered, was this what it was like when I was a child? Was I remembering being on the receiving end of such behavior?

As I've mentioned, my mother went through some rough shit while I was young, including depression. Because of that, and because of my own tendency to become cold and detached when under pressure, I've always secretly feared that I wouldn't be able to handle motherhood. That I'd turn into a silent, angry presence. Certainly during my episodes of FUCKING DEPRESSED I felt a bit like that. Remote. Cold. However, aside from those times, I actually feel like I've taken to motherhood pretty naturally--the love and playfulness and patience (you know, SORT OF) and strength are there after all.

Just not always. And my brush with the ghost mama made me wonder: will having this spectral presence just outside the door ultimately be a good thing? Will it put me on my guard, make me extra wary of becoming angry or withdrawn? Do people who had less than perfect parents make better parents themselves?

Of course not. I simply experienced a typical episode of being worn out, the kind every parent goes through, even those who had perfect milk and cookies parents. People with good parents have good parenting models, and are therefore just as likely to be good caregivers as those of us cobbling together a ramshackle model out of our favorite books.

That's the conclusion I came to in the light of day, anyway, with the phantoms of night all banished and so forth.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Will I ever be ready to get rid of them?

I have a beautiful wriggling baby, one who's learning to grasp things and roll over, and who will soon be babbling, and who fills my world with absolute joy, and yet I still take them out occasionally, and look at them, and remember August 31st, 2010.

Black and white so you can tell it's Oldey Timey Times and don't think I've managed to get pregnant again without sex. Even though that's how it happened the first time.

It was a day of such intense hope and fear and happiness and love. It fucks me up that there are women who have longed for this sight for years and never seen it. It fucks me up that there are women who have seen it, sometimes again and again, and yet don't have a child to wrap their arms around. I'll be thinking of you all today, and especially the women I read who fall into that latter category: CGD, Augusta, Jennifer, Misfit Mrs., May, Egghunt, Andie and Twangy. I would wish you and your partners fortitude, but you obviously already have it. Ditto strength. Um...cake? Wine? Whatever might help today, I wish you that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ignorance is...confusing

For some reason, I refuse to read books about parenting. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm afraid of thwarting whatever natural instincts I've got. (And hell, I've kept a baby alive for ALMOST FOUR MONTHS! Therefore I am THE SHIT! QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM! Do you like being yelled at IN LATIN?) Or maybe it's that I know there's a ton of conflicting information out there and I don't want to get involved. Or maybe I just spend so much of my life reading and assessing and learning that I just want to fucking BE IGNORANT.

It's worked fine so far. But this is simply because I have the world's easiest baby. (Want to see my certificate from the Baby Grading Department?) Suddenly, however, my baby is presenting parenting challenges that need to be solved. So I could read books, or look at The Internet. Or ask you. I'm going to ask you.

The question I'm currently facing is the transition from family bed to crib.

I chose co-sleeping because it just seemed natural to me, not because I have a strong commitment to a particular parenting style. It's been lovely. However, something has to change about our current sleep set up.

First, Mr. Bunny has been kicked out of bed. The problem is that he's a prodigiously loud snorer. It's like sleeping with a wolverine. (Everyone knows wolverines snore, right?) In the past I just dealt, but with Bun Bun in the bed, I'm sleeping more lightly. I'd often find myself lying wide awake next to a peacefully sleeping baby--you know, sleeping so quietly that I'd check for signs of life--and a monstrously loud husband. I realize this does not compare to having a screaming baby who has to be soothed back to sleep every hour, but how unfair to have a good sleeper and not be able to take advantage of it! So now some nights he sleeps in the guest room, some nights I sleep there and just drop in for her middle of the night feeding (so that he gets some time with her). The important feature is that he and I don't sleep in the same bed at the same time. And while I'm remembering how much I LOVE sleeping alone...apparently my marriage is important or something? So I think my goal should be to sleep in the same bed as my husband eventually.

Second, Bun Bun has begun to get a ton more active and is fighting the swaddle more and more. Lately she's super into grabbing her feet, and will wiggle out of any swaddle for the delicious pleasure of grabbing those toes. So I'm sleeping less well.

The most amazing thing I've ever seen.

So maybe now is the time to transition to the crib? I know through osmosis (since I refuse to read) that around the four month mark is a typical time to think about deswaddling/ moving to a crib. But somehow I've been unable to pull the trigger. During the day, I keep saying, yeah, I'm ready! But then when night rolls around, I somehow find myself unable to deal with the idea of leaving her all alone in another room. Or something? I'm honestly not sure what the issue is.

If you have any advice, please share. Or if you just want to tell me how stupid I am for refusing to educate myself, go for it.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hard on a marriage

Five years ago today I was in a Trader Joe's in Boston, choosing some flowers to decorate my wedding cake. It took me about an hour, dithering over the same three or four limp bouquets, while rabid shoppers elbowed past me. It felt like a massively important decision, but I think my brain was simply overwhelmed by the knowledge that I was getting MARRIED in a few HOURS.

A year ago today I was being inseminated, then musing to you all about how cool it would be to conceive a child on my wedding anniversary. Well, friends, I did. And this morning, we told her the story of how Daddy went to the room to look at some pictures of women who were not mama, and how mama went in an hour later to get her cervix poked.

This focus on Bun Bun on a day that should be about US is a microcosmic version of what's been going on generally. I feel a million miles away from my husband. In some ways it's not unlike my wedding day--all the Other Shit is so noisy, I can't really focus on him at all.

When people repeatedly advised me to make time for the two of us, I didn't see what the issue was. Mr. Bunny and I are homebodies with a minuscule social circle, so having a baby would change little about the day-to-day. Why would we need to do anything special? But now I see. A baby really IS hard on a marriage.

I'm going to be as honest about this as I can, in case there are others feeling this way, even though I'll probably get some reactions that make me feel pitied and pathetic.

In some ways I feel closer to my husband than ever before, but much of the time he barely exists for me. I don't WANT to make time for the two of us. I'd rather be with Bun Bun, or hey, ALONE. If pressed, I'd be willing to make time for him to pick up his fucking socks.

For the first few months, I was so grateful for everything he did, and we had such fun cocooning and enjoying our new life. I loved the way he made me laugh and took care of us. That shit is OVAH. Now I just go about my day hoping he'll leave me alone until I can hand childcare over to him.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about this. I think it's pretty normal, though not necessarily universal. Instead, I decided to take my mind off the whole thing by making blueberry pie.

It sits out for a few hours to collect itself, so I had to make it early. And I can promise you, it's going to be a winner.

I'm just not going to tell him that I'll be thinking: stick this in yer pie hole, and leave me alone. So yeah. Happy anniversary to us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Noooooooooooooo!

My period has returned. UGH! HATE! UGH!

When I became part of this community, I realized that I was lucky to have a nice, regular period that only occasionally makes me pass out with pain, and I'm grateful.

I am.

Just NOT TODAY.

FUCK. HATE!

I was really hoping to get at least six months. It's a bitch with breastfeeding. I thought Bun Bun was having a massive growth spurt, but no, I've just been starving her as my hormones had a fun vacation in Menstruation Land. (Best theme park ever. Daddy! Daddy! Can we ride the Giant Tampon again?) Basically, exactly the same OH! Now it all makes sense experience Bionic had, because reading about hers had no effect on my tiny brain.

And...there's something about menstruating while breastfeeding that makes me feel a little too Earth Mother Moon Goddess. If only I could simultaneously be pregnant as well, and, I don't know, maybe also deliver a few babies, all while wearing a hempen shift.

And...although this has mainly passed by now, I find that I'm completely conditioned to respond to my period with intense disappointment and misery. I mean seriously, I felt crushed. And I had to actually remind myself that it's OKAY. I have a BABY. Getting my period does not mean I am a FAILURE. 

Sigh. Meanwhile, the abstinence only movement is still in full effect in our household. I KNOW! But if anything, I find the idea of sex MORE horrifying as time passes, not less. Hmmm...

Monday, August 15, 2011

I spit on your happiness!

A while back, everyone's favorite cucurbita Lady Pumpkin wrote one of those all about me posts, and I was surprised to find that we have the same favorite play, Jean Anouilh's Antigone. I thought this was pretty awesome. It's not the best known work of literature in the world. It's not like I discovered, wow, we both like Harry Potter books or something. (Which, by the way, I do.) So when she offered to make an embroidered onesie for Bun Bun, I felt like I really had to choose something from the play to honor the weird coincidence. I chose the most famous line from the most famous scene: I spit on your happiness! It seemed oddly perfect for a baby. After all, Bun Bun spits on my happiness multiple times a day.



At the time we didn't know Bun Bun was a girl, but now the full quote seems even more apt.

I spit on your happiness! I spit on your idea of life--that life that must go on, come what may. You are all like dogs that lick everything they smell. You with your promise of a humdrum happiness--provided a person doesn't ask much of life. I want everything of life, I do; and I want it now! I want it total, complete: otherwise I reject it! I will not be moderate. I will not be satisfied with the bit of cake you offer me if I promise to be a good little girl. I want to be sure of everything this very day; sure that everything will be as beautiful as when I was a little girl. If not, I want to die!

I mean, I want to die is not exactly a sentiment I'd like my daughter to feel. In reality, I'd rather she choose life, even if it is humdrum. But I do want her to have passion, even if it's a petulant adolescent passion like Antigone's, and most of all, I want her to have a whole lot of cake, not just a bit.

And for the record, Pumpkin is quite the needlewoman. Every stitch is perfect. As someone who can't embroider for shit, I think this is MOST IMPRESSIVE.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Are YOU my Mama? Number Two: Interesting Hair

(Number one in the series of ruminations on identity and motherhood)

My main reason for wanting to get pregnant was to get that shiny hair everyone talks about. Sure, baby, whatever, experiencing a magical transformation as life grows within me, bond with husband, propagation of my genetic material blah blah blah...but I wanted that shiny hair. Well, I didn't get it. My hair remained unchanged--a bit coarse, very eager to get frizzy on top at the slightest sign of humidity, increasingly grey with each passing day.

I am, however, getting that thing where your hair falls out after the birth of your child. And because my hair is waist length, having drifts of it everywhere is...what's the word...disgusting. It has also taken on an extra dull and brittle quality, a sort of straw-like texture.

Furthermore, Bun Bun manages to get her limbs caught in it multiple times a day. It's just the right length that her toes snag it when she's nursing, and sometimes while I'm untangling her toes, she'll manage to get a hand caught. And she's not even old enough to grab things yet.

So naturally I'm thinking about cutting it off. The thing is, I think seriously about cutting it once a year. It hasn't been short since I was sixteen, when I chopped it off myself. When my father came home from work he gently asked if I'd like some help straightening it out. You can imagine what a picture of beauty I was.

There are a few reasons I always end up deciding not to cut it. First, short hair has to be kept short, and usually by a professional. That sounds tedious. I can't see myself going to a salon regularly.

Second, hair is a statement of who you are. I don't know what my statement reads to others--probably something like I am hideous--but having long hair makes me feel a bit unconventional, a bit impractical. When I wear it down, people comment on it, and I find it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Something like: I may not be beautiful, but at least I have Interesting Hair.

I've always wondered whether I would cut my hair if I had a baby. Babies are notorious for hair pulling: even if you wear it up, they'll find a way to get you. Do I want to suffer endless hair pulling? It makes me see red to have my hair pulled...

But then I think about that prototypical mother with short, practical hair. Do you know the one I mean? The one who shows up in ads for cleaning products or frozen food, who has zero time for anything at all because she's so busy caring for her family? And real mothers with short, practical hair like to tell me how I'll be sure to cut mine off any day now, as it's just Too Much Work. I can imagine what they'd think if I were to say, But it's my expression of self! They'd think: There is no self, there is only Mom. If you think you have time for Interesting Hair, you're in for a rude awakening. Or else you're just not a very good mom, not willing to make sacrifices for your child.

I don't want to become that mother. She seems impatient with the very idea of her own existence. I think Bun Bun knows (or will eventually know, when her brain is less primitive) that I'd cut off any part of me, head included, if she needed me to. I also think ultimately it's better for Bun Bun if I try to keep my sense of self. Particularly if it gives her something to yank on.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bun Bun's Book Corner

With the last precious days of summer slipping away, we have no time to waste on mediocre reading material. And, let's face it, we babies are confronted with quite a few books that simply don't measure up. That's why it's such a pleasant surprise to get one that really strikes a chord in our plump little breasts.



In My Tree is just such a book. My mother received In My Tree from her friend Augusta. As it happened, the book arrived not long after Augusta lost her precious owlet, and I believe the message of the book was particularly poignant for us as we read it in the shade cast by those circumstances. In My Tree is a touching story of nature, family, and home, as told by a young owl. The book artfully conveys these powerful messages through a simple plot, using language that is not overly complex, yet not insultingly simple. The illustrations are charming and bright, which my underdeveloped visual cortex finds very pleasant. In addition, the author cleverly builds tension with a sequence of cutouts that become progressively smaller with each page, culminating in a delightful tactile experience provided by a felt owl that I look forward to chewing on when I am able to grasp objects a bit more effectively. In short, a  delightful summer read.

My Book of Baby Animals is as consummately a failure as In My Tree is a success. Most damning...

Excuse me. I just shat myself, and shall have to cry a bit in order to get a clean diaper.

Most damning, the title suggests a wide range of baby animals will be discussed, and the book is extremely heavy on puppies and kittens. The experience of reading My Book of Baby Animals is therefore one of disappointment. In a world filled with lemurs, ocelots, pangolins...why focus on the most quotidian of all creatures? Furthermore, it's unclear who the intended audience is for this book. One page might be written for an illiterate fetus (e.g., puppies are full of fun!) while the next requires the reader to engage in high-level counting activities. What sort of baby is this book designed for--one who is simultaneously quite stupid and quite brilliant?

In addition to the book's numerous weaknesses of tone and content, the artwork of My Book of Baby Animals is atrocious, consisting of randomly placed images of animals over dull pastel backgrounds. The sort of effect I could achieve with an hour's lackadaisical Photoshopping. If my mama would help me with the mouse. Because my fine motor skills are lacking. There is really nothing at all to recommend My Book of Baby Animals, and I intend to make my heartbreaking pout, and if necessary even shriek, if Mama ever tries to read it to me again.


So, dear readers, as your primary caregiver is packing your bags for that last trip to the beach, remember: bright smiles for In My Tree, angry tears for My Book of Baby Animals.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Twelve weeks

I remember the last time you were twelve weeks, little Bun.

You could not hold your head up.


It's odd--over the course of a few days, she went from lying there, a pathetically snurfling inert lump, to holding her head up for minutes on end, checking out the world. We have kicked Tummy Time's ASS.

You could not fend off ravening lemurs.

Those pesky lemurs.


You could not look contemplative while wearing a girly outfit.

She's so good with power tools she can afford to wear bows.

When last you were twelve weeks, I already loved you, though I was afraid to love you, for fear you'd vanish.

Then, I had no real evidence of your existence. Now I can hold you in my arms, so warm and strong.

Then, you were an enigma. Now you are my own dear daughter.

Then, I could not drink. Now I can have a margarita.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A harrowing weekend. But not that harrowing.

Thursday night, after spending the day in the basement, Bun Bun and I slept in the basement. It was a bit musty, and, um, scared the shit out of me, because I'm basically a two year old, but infinitely preferable to being boiled alive upstairs. In the morning Mr. Bunny came down and encouraged us to come upstairs, and I shrieked NOOOOO! THE MOLE PEOPLE REFUSE TO RETURN TO THE LIGHT!

We spent the day there as well. I mainly used the time to contemplate the crying baby moral dilemma. (Short version: it's wartime, you're hiding in a basement with some others and your baby starts to cry. If the baby keeps crying the enemy will find you and kill you all, so you [ostensibly] have to choose between smothering the baby to keep it from crying, or all dying.) And to hope with every fiber of my being that we would not have a power outage. The freezer is stocked with precious, precious breastmilk, and boy would it would break my heart to have to pour it all down the drain. But in the evening we got a tremendous thunderstorm. Mr. Bunny and I dashed around the house opening every window and door as the blessed coolness swept through the house, returning it to a habitable place. The storm passed, and still the power held.

In the morning, I was in a celebratory mood after sleeping in my own bed, and requested some of Mr. Bunny's fabulous cornmeal waffles. After making the noises of cooking for a while, he suddenly asked me to come downstairs in a tone that I know means SOMETHING IS WRONG. It seems that while we had not lost power, the freezer was not working properly. Not the fridge, mind you, just the god damned freezer, which was warmer than it should have been. Panic and buying lots of ice ensued, and the (still frozen) breastmilk was transferred to a cooler, which was then filled with as much ice as it would take, wrapped in a blanket, and placed in the coldest corner of the basement.

Then we had waffles, and they were DAMN good.

Then a man arrived to fix the fridge.

Then a man arrived to tell us that our water had just been shut off as they'd had to do some unexpected thingy with the ongoing water main repairs in our hood.

Oooof!

Although it was not fun, it certainly reminded me that I live a life of incomparable luxury. I don't have to go to work today, so if I lose my stash of breastmilk, it's actually not the end of the world. I have clean running water, most of the time. And most important, I don't have to live in a basement, hiding from enemy soldiers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Solitude

It's time for another of those posts wherein I complain about my extremely luxurious situation.

Bun Bun and I are currently hiding out in the basement. It's not pretty, and there's a dripping noise that probably means our hot water heater is about to explode, but it's so coooooooool. You see, because Mr. Bunny works from home, I normally spend the day on the second floor of our house, while he spends the day in his first-floor office. But the second floor is unbearably hot today.*

Why don't I just hang out on the first floor? Because if I did, I would most likely stab my husband in the face.

At first, I couldn't quite figure out why I got so irritable when our paths crossed during the day. I'd be perfectly content doing whatever with Bun Bun (lately, being amazed at her ability to lift her head during tummy time.** I don't think the parents of the organism that first crawled onto land could possibly have been prouder than we are...), and he'd pop his head in to see what we were up to, and I'd suddenly feel an annoyance that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. Even as I felt it, I knew it was silly, and it felt particularly silly when he'd pop his head in with an offer to make lunch, or to take her for a while. I mean, what kind of insane monster gets annoyed with someone for being helpful? But I sure did. And feeling silly didn't change shit.

So I considered the fact that we'd never spent this much time together before, and figured maybe even the best of partners becomes a little suffocating after a while. But then I noticed that I was perfectly happy to spend time with him on the weekends, even eager for his company. So it's something to do with him being "at work".

I'm still not entirely sure what. Maybe I'm resenting him for having an existence outside the realm of Bun Bun? But it's not as if I want to run off to the office for a bit--nothing could be less appealing. Or maybe I'm resenting him for sort of being half in, half out. You know, not really primary caregiver, but not really noticing the difference between my life and his life? Certainly I find myself getting prickly when he tells someone that laundering the cloth diapers is not such a big deal, because LIKE HE'D KNOW! Or commenting on what a quiet baby Bun Bun is, because LIKE HE'D KNOW! (Though, ahem, it's not, and, ahem, she is, though not nearly as quiet as he thinks.)

Ultimately, it's probably a combination of several things. One, I don't want to spend every waking hour with my husband. Two, I want him to do his damn work and then be DONE. When he pops his head in, it creates the impression that he's got nothing to do, and if he's got nothing to do, why isn't he on Bun Bun duty, or why aren't we doing something super fun as a family? Three, my life revolves around child care, which still feels weird, his doesn't, a fact that might activate some kind of primitive knee-jerk feminist reflex.

So. There's definitely no way we could possibly exist on the same floor of the house.

I hope it cools off soon, as I'd like to return to my normal habitat.




*So hot that I pre-ordered the new-fangled swaddle strap. Because swaddling Bun Bun at night feels like animal cruelty, and not swaddling her is not an option.
**GAG. Still hate that name.