Archive for April, 2012

RIP BFF

I realize this blog has been a bit babycentric as of late and I’m sorry for that but, hey, I had a baby. Did you know that? Well, I did. It’s true. I swear! I’m going to switch gears for a minute, though, to talk about one of my favorite topics: tv. I have been watching an exceptional amount of tv lately. I don’t have much of an attention span for other activities that can be done with an eight-week old baby such as, say, reading. You know what? I’m not even going to defend myself against any judgment you may have about this. I love television and I watch a lot of it. There, I said it.

There has been a lot of buzz about the new HBO show ‘Girls.’ I read about it in US Weekly, as well as The New York Times Magazine. Terry sent me an article about it from The Washington Post. I wanted to like the show but the truth is, having seen two episodes, I just don’t. I feel bad about this, but it’s true. I appreciate that the Times and Post writers highlighted its exceptional difference to current women-centered shows like The New Girl and Whitney – two shows I also don’t particularly like or watch (though I have seen). Shows like The New Girl and Whitney have little, if anything, to say about how women live or feel or think, though I don’t think they’re attempting to, either. ‘Girls,’ on the other hand, seems to be a sincere attempt to say something. I guess I’m just not sure I like what it’s saying. For starters, the sex scenes make me more than a little uncomfortable — frankly, they scare me a bit. I know I can be a prude, but watching an early 20s woman voluntarily participating in sex acts she pretty clearly has no interest in makes me uneasy and sad. I’m certain this is deliberate, of course, but I don’t particularly enjoy feeling uneasy and sad. Then there’s the whole privileged business. I know the economy stinks and I feel for anyone unemployed, particularly the country’s youth who may not have much of a shot at economic prosperity, but I find it two parts ridiculous and three parts obscene that the lead character, Hannah, doesn’t even seem to attempt to obtain a paying job. In fact, it seems as though she thinks such a thing is beneath her. “What??” you ask. “Yes, it’s true” I say. “She is a 24-year old woman, two years out of college, living in New York City on her parents’ dime. Or, more accurately, thousands.” You see, Hannah wants to be a writer (don’t we all?) and has an internship that she continues to hope (after two years) will turn into a paying gig. It seems, though, that Hannah can’t be bothered to also get a job in, say, retail or the restaurant industry to pay at least her electric bill. The Washington Post blames my repulsion to paycheck-averse Hannah on my age. You see, I’m over 35 so I just don’t get it. Maybe that’s true; I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure my 25-year old hard-working cousin, Maggie, would be confused by Hannah’s lack of employment and find it off-putting, as well. But although I find the sex obnoxious and the privileged status of the lead annoying, neither of these are reasons for me to condemn the show. And I don’t condemn it but, as I said, I don’t really like it. And why not? Because I haven’t found it particularly funny. I smiled or snorted knowingly (yes, I can snort knowingly) a time or two during the episodes I saw, but I didn’t find the show to be funny or clever overall. I just didn’t laugh. Or at least not laugh laugh.

You know what show did make me smile and laugh? NBC’s ‘Best Friends Forever.’ This apparently little-watched gem has, according to Sarayu, already been canceled. It’s too bad and I’m genuinely sad about it because I was really looking forward to seeing where it was going to go. The show stars its own writers (move over, Whitney!) Lennon and Jessica as, you guessed it, BFFs. The series starts with Jessica and Lennon Skype-ing when FedEx comes to Jessica’s door to deliver surprise divorce papers. Ouch. Jessica then promptly moves in with Lennon and her boyfriend in their cute Brooklyn apartment and the adventures begin. This show totally nailed the rapid-fire, inside joke-laden banter that often occurs between two women who have been great friends forever. TV and the movies so rarely get female friendships right. Too often writers make the relationships too heavy, drama-soaked and tear-stained. It’s almost as if women can’t have friendships on the big or little screen unless they’re held together by some great tragedy. Or they can have friendships a la Sex and the City, but this means each woman is a particular ‘type’ and no one woman may step into another’s territory lest the viewer get confused. In ‘BFF,’ though, we are given two smart, pretty, funny women who were close friends before tragedy hit (hey, they were Skype-ing about bikini waxes). The divorce gets the two friends back together, but not for drunken talk about what went wrong or who was at fault but instead for daytime viewing of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and debating whether Shelby would have had that baby if she’d really known what was in store for her. Lennon and Jessica are different people, but they aren’t so different that I could imagine anyone ever saying, “Oh, you’re such a Lennon with Jessica undertones” or whatever the kids say about SATC characters (see ‘Girls,’ Episode 2). I’m not saying BFF was the best show ever, but it was the best new show I’d seen in awhile and I wanted to get to know my new friends better.

And more on the pressures of motherhood…

Hanna Rosin says everything better than I, so I’ll leave it to her. I want to say, though, that I really appreciate her voice and her timing, for me, is just about perfect. In addition to formula’s role in allowing women to return to the workplace, I’d like to give it a shout out for allowing Aaron to feed Baby Girl in the middle of the night. And the middle of the day. And, really, whenever Baby Girl wants to eat. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think he’s grateful for those opportunities, too. Ok, maybe not the middle of the night ones, but being able to feed her is being able to participate in a pretty major part of her life. Although I feel ashamed when I buy the formula, and ashamed when I’ve had to make a bottle in public, I’m extremely grateful for its existence. And for the folks who strive to make it better.

You know, I have to wonder if some (or all) of this parenthood pressure of late — the attachment parents v. whatever the opposite is called — has more to do with parents making a choice that works best for their family and then feeling the need to defend it. And these individual choices and subsequent defensiveness of them has then been amplified to a nationwide debate. For example, I don’t doubt that co-sleeping, or family bed, works really well for thousands of healthy, thoughtful families. But it won’t work for me because I can’t sleep like that. So, when I am in the presence of a co-sleeping mom, if I get defensive about our decision not to share a bed and say something like, “I worry that I’d roll over on Molly,” it may sound to the co-sleeping mom like I am saying, “Why are you trying to kill your baby?” And the same, of course, goes for breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering, organic whatnot, swaddling and all the other myriad choices parents make every day. If we could all just accept that pretty much every parent wants to do what’s best for her child, and every parent’s decisions are not a judgment on their neighbors’ parenting decisions, then I think we could all take a deep breath and try to enjoy this nutty, exhausting, amazing adventure.

The end is near

Once doctors instructed us to start supplementing Molly’s feedings with formula, I started nursing her a bit less, allowing Aaron to feed her at times without me. I did not take the recommended route of nursing her, feeding her formula and pumping all at one feeding because, frankly, I was not up to that task, which sounds superhuman to me. Instead, I nursed her and then gave her formula when she was done, but sometimes she just got straight up formula. The consequence was less stress on me and I think all three of us enjoyed the feeding experience more. Another consequence, though, was that the boobs became engorged until they adjusted to the new schedule.

Then I got mastitis. After a lengthy visit to Urgent Care — during which I could feel the engorgement — I came home with antibiotics and a little trepidation about resuming nursing. Knowing that I had a “major fissure” on my left breast did not make me want to get back on that proverbial horse. I pumped for a day or two before I started nursing Baby Girl. The boobs again adjusted to their newly reduced role.

Then I had the D&C and the boobs were out of commission for a whole day. I had to express milk in the recovery room because things had gotten so uncomfortable. When I got home, I was less than interested in taking Molly to breast because, after all of the hemorrhaging, the idea of my uterus contracting – an effect of nursing – was so unappealing. And scary.

The weekend after surgery, I pretty much opened the boob shop for the first feedings of the morning — around 5 am — and closed them down around 2 pm. This worked pretty well, I thought. Molly was getting breast milk, but I wasn’t tied to her in the afternoons and evenings, which allowed me to do other things and Aaron to participate in feedings. My body seemed to adjust, too. If I didn’t start to nurse Sweet Potato by 5 am, I could start to feel the engorgement coming on. But then a funny thing happened (read: frustrating and annoying) on Saturday morning: Molly screamed at me when I tried to nurse her. I switched breasts and she did it again. Screamed and screamed and screamed. Argh. So, in order to stop the 5 am screaming, I gave her a bottle. When I tried to nurse her a few hours later, the same thing happened. Argh argh. This happened again the following morning. Yesterday, she took to nursing again, but she went back to screaming again this morning when I tried to give her a boob.

I think it’s clear I’m not dealing with nipple confusion here. Quite the contrary, I’d say. She knows how to nurse, but she is telling me she’d rather not. The bottle is easier and, thus, satisfies her hunger more quickly, I imagine. But what about all of the wonderful things she’s missing by not getting nature’s most perfect food? Well, I’ve been pumping. Tonight, though, I pumped for over an hour and couldn’t even get an ounce out. I seem to be drying up. For some women, this is their worst fear. For me, I feel a little sad about it – more sad than I expected to feel, but I don’t feel it’s a great tragedy or anything. In the scheme of things, I feel it’d be silly to get all worked up about it — Molly is growing and healthy and that’s what’s really important. I guess it makes me feel like a failure, but I think I pretty much dealt with that emotion when we started supplementing. Maybe my sadness is more about me: now there is nothing else that I am uniquely able to give her. Maybe I’m just sad as this is a small sign she’s growing up. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I feel a little conflicted about this change.

Here’s the thing: I’m going to keep trying for a few more days, but I thought I should warn you all that I suspect the end is near. I wanted to tell you now, to give you time to come to terms with the impending loss. I know it will be hard on you, and I’m sorry, but I truly believe we can make it through this together.

Unrequited love

This week I made an announcement that startled even me. I declared, ‘Friends don’t let friends have babies.’ I posited that the reason other parents are so happy when they hear a previous non-procreater is with child is so that there will be more folks as unhappy as they. Misery loves company and all that. ‘It’s awful,’ I stated. I was kidding, of course. Or I was mostly kidding.

It’s not as if I went into this whole thing with blinders on, or even rose-colored glasses. I knew it was going to be hard and challenging and maddening. I knew I was going to lose out on a lot of sleep. I knew I would have to change my life dramatically — no more just heading out to the movies or dinner or Chicago. Not that I was a particularly spontaneous person before, but everything now requires more planning and thought. I knew pregnancy would be uncomfortable, labor would be painful and the postpartum period would be a little gross. I knew that babies were difficult and demanding; needy, you could say. I knew, also, that babies don’t really do too much — they cry, they pee, they poop, they sleep, they flail. That’s really about it. What I didn’t know, and what I couldn’t know, is how all of this would affect me.

I don’t have postpartum depression and I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I do feel, though, pretty unsatisfied. It goes without saying (though I will) that I deeply love my daughter. It’s a beautiful, wondrous love that is completely new. I look at her and I ache. It is, though, one-sided. People may say, ‘Oh no, she loves you,’ but I don’t buy it. I don’t blame her, or me. I just don’t think she’s capable of love yet. And that’s the thing: my intense love and devotion is completely unrequited. And that’s hard to handle day in and day out, largely alone. Unrequited love is painful enough when you’re not required to change diapers, bathe and feed the object of your unreturned devotion. Add in that this love is furlongs deeper and stronger than that previously known and the object not only doesn’t love me back, but she often screams at me and I think you can begin to understand where I’m coming from on this.

Molly has just started to do some social smiling, as they say, but it’s too inconsistent to rely on or thrive on. Yesterday, though, when she smiled at me for a good minute, I started to cry. It was so amazing. People often tell me that being home alone with a newborn made them thirst for adult conversation, but I haven’t had too much of that yearning. Instead I have hungered for eye contact, smiles and, quite simply, some recognition that I am here.

I know that those things will come with time and I appreciate the ways in which Molly is already significantly different than she was seven weeks ago when she flew out of me and into the world. For now, though, the hardest thing for me is the unrequited love.

Pictures

I remember when I was a kid, I really liked looking through my parents’ wedding album, which was kept under the living room loveseat. Hmm. That seems strange now that I think about it. Why wasn’t it on a shelf? I have no idea. Mom, care to clue me in? Anyway, that album is the only family album I remember. We had boxes and boxes of slides, though no slide machine on which to show them. Instead, when I wanted to look at old pictures, I took out the slides and held them up to the light. This wasn’t very satisfying. When I got a camera, I stuck my photos beneath the plastic sleeves of crappy drugstore photo albums. I didn’t have a lot of these albums because the whole enterprise was deeply unsatisfying. Almost every single one of my photos was out of focus and far from level. Often it was unclear what I had intended to take a picture of. Was I trying to take a picture of the upper half of the boathouse door or my friends standing to the left of it? No one will ever know. And the albums themselves were terrible because they just had one big sheet of plastic paper on each page so the photos never stayed put and, with the photos at odd angles and underneath one another, they made my pictures look even crummier. Egads. I cringe when I think about those albums.

Today, though, things are a little better. Ever since the digital camera came into my life, I’ve pretty much loved taking pictures. I’m still not particularly good at it – I don’t really even understand how a camera works – but digital cameras make it possible for unskilled ignoramuses to get off a good shot once in awhile. And iPhoto and the like make it possible to level out my crooked pictures. In the past, I printed just the photos I thought I’d want to frame so my orders from Snapfish were always for just a couple of photos at a time. I haven’t bought a photo album in years. But now that I have a baby sweet potato, I think I’m going to change that. I registered for some photo albums and we got a few at our showers. I have started slowly with this new endeavor: I ordered copies of all of the photos the hospital photographer took. A couple went into frames, but the rest went into a photo album! As long as that album stays safe — and it’s on a shelf, not under the couch — Molly will be able to page through it some day, giving her the opportunity to see her very first moments. I think that I should do the same thing with our wedding photos and maybe even our honeymoon. And maybe that trip to London and Malta we took. And maybe our family vacations to Presque Isle. I think if I were Molly, I might want to be able to page through pictures of my parents’ lives before I came along and changed everything.


April 2012
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