Friday, October 28, 2016

How to Avoid Wrinkles

When I look at my bedside table now and compare it to a year ago I realize just how much has changed.  I used to have a beat up copy of Pride and Prejudice laying there along with various other books I was rotating through.  Now I have a stack of board books, notably One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Mommy Hugs, and a copy of What to Expect: The First Year.  My inbox used to read about sales, politics, the occasional email from a friend, and updates from my favorite blogs.  These days my email asks me if I know how to interpret my baby’s poop, should I teach her French or Spanish, ASL, or all three, and how to determine if she is autistic earlier than ever before.  Signs I am missing critical early learning opportunities, stunting her independent drive, ruining her life before she can walk…. you know the nightmare inducing panicky stuff that seems to hit you as soon as you lay eyes on that tiny little bundle of perfection. 

Suddenly I’m doing everything wrong in my life and subsequently hers and at the same time everything right, depending on who I talk to or read.  It is honestly like watching a tennis match in my brain somedays.  I’ve read Dr. Sears, my father constantly tells me I’m spoiling Baby Girl because I go to her when she cries, my mother says I fret too much about her physical state (her weight, her temperature, her whatever), I question if I put her down for too many naps, or not enough…. Am I overfeeding her, is it possible to overfeed a baby? Is she comfortable? Is the sign language I am trying to teach her catching on? Is that really the sign for milk or is she just opening and closing her little hand? Do I try to keep the house quieter while she sleeps or be as noisy as possible?  At what point do you stop co-sleeping or should you never co-sleep? Swaddling is great, they taught me how in the hospital…. No wait it can kill the baby! Want to sleep ever again? Well…. SIDS, ha ha ha ha ha never again will you shut both eyes.

Honestly navigating the last six months has been so stress inducing I’ve seen my first wrinkle.  It’s right where I knew it would always be, but still I feel too young for that.  I started drinking coffee because I get so little sleep now, and it is not because she does not sleep well.  Baby girl is a champion sleeper most nights; it is me getting up to check on her. Although she has been a little fussier as I have started her on solid foods.  (Did I do that too soon? Or not soon enough? Am I waiting long enough on one food before moving to the next, to be sure of allergies or too long? Is making her food really that much better if I can get her organic jarred food? Am I really horrible for laughing when she gags on zucchini? How bad is it that the dog cleaned her face that one time? How soon should I give her peanuts or ever? Can you give her proteins during the introduction stages?)  I figure she is waking again as we adjust to caloric intake during the day and figuring out what is a serving for her and what is too much or too little.  Turns out if it is mangoes she will eat gobs of it anything else she will be a little more discretionary.  Put mangoes on anything and she will eat it.  Seriously I put mangoes with the chicken and she ate it like she may never see it again but wanted nothing to do with the plain chicken.  Really I cannot blame her it was nasty looking, but do babies eat with their eyes?  Not that I would, but you could put mangoes on a cat poo and she would probably eat it.  I’ve never met anyone quite so serious about mangoes.  Poor kid, tropical as all get out, as fair skinned as her mother… the beach will not be kind to you my child.  Not at all. Sigh.

I digress.  What I can say I have learned over the last six months is none of this really matters. At all.  Does anyone really know or want to know how to interpret poop beyond the obvious is she constipated or not? You can read every book available from cover to cover, listen to all the advice thrown at you, even that crazy looking lady at the Target who told you to give her a tablespoon of castor oil every day (why do people think that because you have a baby you want to hear their advice?), and you can drive yourself absolutely insane trying to live up to it all. All that crazy leads to wrinkles and gray or stark white hairs.  

The best thing I can decipher, and the irony of me dispensing a measure of advice here is not lost on me, is to follow your gut.  Your instincts will guide you.  Listen to you.  Want to let your kid cry it out? Go for it.  Do you want to pick up your munchkin at every snivel? DO IT! Whatever you do commit to it, be consistent but flexible…. I have Crohn’s disease, there are moments of my life that I cannot stop what is happening and rush to Baby Girl’s cries; believe me I have tried and it is impossible. I’ve had to learn that sometimes she just cries, like me.   You do not have to defend yourself to anyone, walk away if you have to, do not open the emails or the books if they are going to make you feel guilty.  Parenting magazines and books, in my opinion, can make you feel like you are missing things and layer on the guilt if you let them.  Basically you are in charge now, it’s your circus and your monkey, enjoy it and do what is right for you.  I’m blogging while she sits in the bouncy seat next to me staring at whatever it is she stares at.  In a little while I will plop her down in front of a screen with some brightly colored Disney film showing so that for at least ten minutes I might get to vacuum something without her wanting my attention.  I know, I know…. Screen time is evil.  I’m doing the best I can and that’s all you can ask of yourself.  Follow your gut, your rhythm, walk away from haters, and commit to doing the best you can and you will be just fine.

I think. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016


The thud sound will forever be etched in my memory.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to erase it from mind, the look on her tiny little face as she lay there perplexed at what had just happened. Frozen in stunned silence we both just sat there for a second, then a tiny wail came up from the floor.  It had happened, everyone told me it would; I had told myself I would never let it happen.  I had, technically, dropped my infant.  It was really more of a roll off the ottoman where I had laid her to change her diaper.  In my mind though it felt as if I had thrown her off a cliff.  She was fine of course, but for the most agonizing of moments I thought she might not be.

So began the worst post-partum day I have had.  It was the first time I really came to realize that it was just me and my baby girl.  I do not have a spouse or a S.O. to pass her off to.  Yes, I am quite blessed in that I have my mother, but 90% of the time it is just the baby and I.  Even as I type this she is tucked into the swing behind me, cooing away, and singing her sweet songs.  So much reality hit me that day, with that small thud.  I cried for the rest of the day.  She was fine and I was fine but something in me broke, things that I had not allowed to the surface during my entire pregnancy.  When I was carrying her I worked very hard at preventing negativity and sad feelings because I did not want her to feel them.  I feel I was fairly successful at that, but she’s no longer attached to me physically and the floodgates broke.  Everything just came pouring out, I could not contain it anymore.

The full weight of being a single mother fell on me as she toppled to the floor.  She did not have even a mark on her, but I felt like I had been gutted.  I never want her to
I have a terrible cry face... 
doubt my love for her because it is so real it overwhelms me at times.  It would be my wish for her that she never has to face the realities I do.  I have serious worries now that I never thought twice about before…. really serious stuff…. Like how I will ever manage to teach her to whistle, when I myself cannot whistle.  Seriously I cried over that once early in my pregnancy, it was one of those weird preggo freak outs.   I worry I won’t be able to provide for her, or send her to college.  I worry that I will have to work three jobs just to make ends meet, because I cannot count on any spouse to help support us. What will become of my social life? How will I provide her with all the wonderful things a father does?

My identity doesn’t seem to fit anymore and it crushed me.  I am slowly working to rebuild the structure of who I am and how I see myself. Hopefully I will come out of this better on the other side of this transitional period.  I just wish someone had
prepared me for the blow.  It was my thought that having a baby would be all joy and light, but there are some serious adjustments that have to be made not just in your life but emotionally as well.  Things you never think of until something like that moment happens and it lands in your heart like a little rock, with a thud. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ain't Got No Time for That

This time last year I was deep in the throes of hyperemesis gravidarum. I will openly admit I was not a happy camper.  There were days I could not even keep down the water that my mother was busily providing me, on doctor’s orders.  I was pregnant, it was not planned, and I was so far no good at being pregnant.
Not 100%
You could tell from about five minutes after conception that I was pregnant.  I told myself I was just a bit bloated, after all I had been on the pill for years, used two back up methods, and my boyfriend at the time swore on a stack of Bibles he had, had a vasectomy.  Turns out that God should have smote him right there because he did not ever so much as even think of having a vasectomy, but that’s not the tale for today. The point is that three reliable forms of birth control all failed and all at once. I am suddenly the cautionary tale that all sex education teachers tell you, at least down here in the American South where abstinence only sex ed is still the norm. I am a walking, talking, breathing, and eating, example that birth control can and will fail you sometimes…. And sometimes you have to just roll with it. It turns out to be the greatest thing to ever happen to you. Mind you I was 35 and pregnant, not 15 and pregnant, but I was still had no business being pregnant in the first place.

Might need medication. 
My boyfriend at the time and I had known each other for many years.  Dating was at first easy and fun. Then it started to change…. He started telling me he was the President of a Motorcycle Club.  Being the trusting soul that I am, at first I thought he meant a group of middle aged guys who ride around on Sunday afternoons together.  I shrugged it off.  I would tease him, and ask him if he was a “T-Bird” and if so did that make me a “Pink Lady”. He never found my jokes, I’ve got so many, very funny. Slowly he started filling me in on little details about this club of his, it was all so counter to the person I knew him to be, but I let him tell me what he wanted to and above all I just tried to listen to him. His stories kept getting more and more extreme, violent even.  I truly began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. The adventures he described became scary to me, but here I was pregnant with nowhere to go and desperately wanting to make it work because I was having his baby.  This just was not how I had always pictured having a family.

Jack, as I will call him here short of Jack Shit for Brains, was not the guy I grew up with anymore.  In fact, I had come to notice he was a heavy drinker, highly impulsive, lazy, selfish, and very dishonest. When he finally came right out and said to me that his “MC” was known as the Outlaws, (a VERY real club, just not for Jack) and not at all what I had envisioned originally.  This was a biker gang, for lack of a better term… How in the hell did I find myself dating the president of a biker gang?! Especially since I had never even seen him on a damn bike? He wouldn’t show me this patch that he always talked about, said something about it being only for those involved and since I did not want to be his “Old Lady” I had no business looking at it.  After one particularly exhausting week and the latest saga I recall just looking at him and saying “…but your grandfather is a deacon in the church!”  How much more Southern can I be? My disbelief in his being able to participate with this was measured against the fact that his grandfather was a church elder.  Stars and garters I must have been losing it. 

can you say wannabe?
As it turned out his entire tale and all of the drama was a lie.  Every. Single. Word. I will tell more details on that at another time, but suffice it to say Jack was acting out/playing pretend/delusional.  He did not limit these stories to just me or just him, every person in his life was somehow included in ways that kept him the center of everything. Literally every person he knew or I met was somehow connected to this club, which is real it just is not real for him.  Every sleepless night I endured because he said we were on “lock down”, the pain and weight of carrying his drama, the isolation of feeling too afraid to share it with my family were all so he could live life vicariously through his favorite television show, Sons of Anarchy.  I had never seen the show, and he fed me the plot line of the show as though it was his real life and he was the lead character.  I’ve since seen the show and I cannot understand why anyone would want to even pretend that was their life!

I was put on bed rest for preeclampsia at about 30 weeks or so.  He was quick to anger to begin with but being put on bed rest and not being allowed to leave the house sent him right over the edge.  Jack was livid that I would not be able to come over and stay with him for the time being.  During the whole pregnancy he had been talking about me moving in with Baby Girl, and we could all be a family with his other two kids. Around Valentine’s Day I got one last phone call from him.  He refused to come to my house because I am living with my parents and he did not want them around, “like we are children.”  Clearly my family knows that their pregnant daughter is no longer a little girl… but whatever.  At the time I had no idea I would not ever hear from him again, but my gut told me for quite some time that we were not alone in this twosome.  That this was more than a two-person relationship, and I do not mean the baby.  That last night he told me he loved me, he loved BG, and he would come see me the next day or perhaps the following day.  I never heard from him again. 

Jack has yet to even call to see if Baby Girl has arrived or if I need so much as a box of wipes or diapers. As I write this she is five months old.  He has never laid physical eyes on my daughter, though the rumor mill suggests he has seen a few pictures. One day she will ask about him and I hope I’m able to tell her nicer things about her “donor” but as it stands now I have nothing really good to tell her.  More than anything I wish I had provided a better father for her than I did.  That’s my failing…. But one day he will wake up, likely at the bottom of some bottle and realize he has missed out on the most amazing things.  Her first giggle was just as clear and light and magical as you might imagine.  BG’s first smile was the best thing I’d seen since they held her up for me to see.  She is the most beautiful little girl and making strides and changes every day.  These are moments he will never get back, moments that are
not my kid. 
as fluid as a stream and once passed they do not come back by.  His threats no longer keep me awake at night.

He will have his second baby of 2016 in November (you can do the math), this time a boy, with a girl that by marriage is his cousin.  They are not blood related so I hear they are pretty insistent they are not cousins, but everyone says they grew up knowing each other as cousins… I guess he is living some other show now? I do not know and I do not want to.  I am far too busy taking care of the most adorable baby.