10.26.2012

October 26, 2012.

There's that old saying: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results makes you a crazy person. This is parenting, at least in the first two weeks. You stumble down the repetitive path of change diaper - feed baby - burp baby - swaddle - get baby to sleep. This cycle restarts every 2.5 hours, regardless of how long the baby fed or slept or burped. Sometimes you can get a full hour and a half of sleep while you await the beginning again... and other times you get 15 minutes.

I don't work well like this. I work best building things up, contributing small goals towards something larger. I love the process of identifying small tasks, taking apart a huge project by naming the sum of its parts. I'm good at it. What I am not good at is floundering.

Today was a flounderer. Last night was mostly sleepless; I felt myself getting bummed as the sun went down. I didn't want to go into the bedroom, where turning the lights out meant adhering to the 2.5-hour schedule when you wanted to sleep for 8. Today I cried on and off. I took no photos and I stayed off of Facebook, where people's appetite for photos of our child is insatiable (and, frankly, some days quite stressful).

It was a bad day.

These fuzzy days don't feel like building anything. They feel like surviving. When I look back at October 26, 2012, it will be a day on which I won't have accomplished anything.

Except my son is alive. He's fed, rested and clean. His legs seem the slightest bit chunkier.

So I guess we're building something.

10.23.2012

10 days in... some tangible advice.

Our first walk with the baby carrier. Awe.Some!
Noah is 10 days old today and we learned that he's gained 5 oz at our doctor's appointment this morning. This reassurance allows me to spend a tiny percentage of my brain to even contemplate writing a blog post.

Here's a list of things that have made the past 10 days bearable:

  • Origins Exfoliating Scrub- I fell in love with this scrub years ago but never consistently used it. I just bought a new tube a few weeks back and I'm so glad I did. I use this face scrub every other morning in the shower, which helps me feel like I don't look like the walking dead. Hooray for fresh faces!
  • Small, easily-eatable things- Yogurt. Granola bars. Cheese sticks. Bananas. Have these things on hand so that you can eat them with one hand. Every night I bring a banana and granola bar to our bedroom; when I inevitably find myself starving at 2am, I don't have far to travel for a snack.
  • Short reads on my Kindle (or torn-out articles from magazines)- I sent a bunch of interviews from the Paris Review archives to my Kindle and I went through all of my New Yorker mags and ripped out the articles that sounded interesting to me. While I can't invest my brain in a long novel at the moment, I can read these shorter pieces while nursing or in-between naps. Reading ANYTHING makes me feel more like myself.
  • Water bottle with a straw- On our first night at home, I had a Nalgene-type water bottle set up next to our bed; I left it open so I could easily drink throughout the night. The first time Noah woke up, I dumped the ENTIRE thing under the bed. Sigh. My mom brought me a reusable water bottle with a straw. Hooray.
  • Grovia reusable wipes- I got these to use with cloth diapers eventually, but we've been making lots of use of them even now using newborn disposables. Noah spits up? Grab a wipe. Noah threatens to pee on you while changing him? Cover him with a wipe. Noah causes you to have milk dripping down your stomach? Wipe. Then throw them all in the wash and you're good to start over again. 
  • Yoga pants and nursing sleep bras- Yoga pants are a no-brainer. There's no way you want to wear jeans for a little while. And these nursing sleep bras look enough like tank tops that you can wear them when your family comes to visit and not feel awkward. 
  • Baby Connect App- No joke, we LIVE on this thing. I can basically remember one number at a time right now... when the nurses in the hospital asked us how long Noah had fed for? And when was it? And what was the breakdown with left vs. right boob? I had no idea what to tell them. When the pediatrician asked how many pee diapers he had per day, when the lactation consultant asked what the poop looked like, when I need to keep track of the next time he needs to eat... this app does it all. It's $4.99 but SO worth it. 
  • A new sitcom on-hand- We started watching season 1 of Up All Night a few days before Noah was born. It's funny, takes no brainpower and is the perfect length at 22 minutes long. I highly suggest downloading a bunch of episodes of a new show... you might not feel up for watching the presidential debates, but you can watch Will Arnett fumble with a diaper for twenty minutes.
  • Baby carrier- Once things settle down the tiniest bit, watch some YouTube videos to figure out how to put your newborn in your carrier. Then do it! And take a short walk. We walked to Starbucks and the bookstore nearby yesterday afternoon and it was exhilarating... though I'm still not allowed to walk more than 4 blocks a day, this short trip was enough to show us that our freedom is coming back sometime soon!

10.19.2012

From the land of milk and honey.

Milk.
Eating this morning from a syringe.
When you're pregnant, you're amazed that your body is capable of making another human being without any coaching in the least. Idiots have babies. Your body just knows what to do; avoid cigarettes and take a prenatal vitamin and you can end up with a perfectly healthy little baby too.

We made it through pregnancy with minimal biological intervention. There are many stories to tell on this blog about the past week of our lives (and I will tell them), but I need to start out of order. I need to start with the milk problem.

Within a few days of giving birth, I had the bizarre experience of finding myself producing FOOD for a baby. "Hooray!" we cheered. My milk had come in. Some people don't even get that.

But Noah has shown himself to be somewhat stubborn when it comes to eating. He gets himself all worked up, to the point that it means we spend 60 minutes trying to get him to productively eat for 10. As a first time mom I figured this came with the territory. He seemed fussy, so I walked him, soothed him, sang to him in French. He sucked on his fingers and he sucked on our pinkies. It was adorable.

Until we went to the pediatrician and he had lost more weight. It's normal for babies to lose weight in the first few days of life, but the important thing is to get them back to gaining. Once milk is in, they should start the upswing... but Noah has not had his upswing yet. He was born at 7 lbs 7 oz and as of yesterday morning, he is now at 6 lbs.

To be clear, we are on top of this. Noah could not ask for more paranoid parents and so we found ourselves last night calling the emergency line for the pediatrician around 3am. "Help!" we said. "He hasn't peed for 8 hours." There is nothing less motivating than feeding your kid every two hours only to find that he still isn't getting nearly enough. I've averaged about one breakdown a day about this, feeling frustrated and like I'm starving my kid. The newborn clothes that I lovingly washed and folded and tucked into the dresser hang off of him and remind me every time I roll up his sleeves how tiny he is and how much he needs to grow.

It's funny what you predict will be difficult and what turns out being so.


Honey.
Sleepy guy.
"Little Bean!" we call him. "Noah bear!"

"We got the cutest baby," we say to each other. "Look at those fingers!"

He has a cowlick just like his dad. Sometimes the light hits his face when I'm nursing him and he looks so much like my baby picture that I have a bizarre meta-moment in which I am feeding myself. He likes sleeping on our chests, but he also sleeps in his bassinet and crib and bouncer and car seat. He is not picky.

When he's awake, he's AWAKE. Giant eyes take in the scene. He loves looking at his dad. Sometimes he looks worried, but that's when we kiss him and tell him "HI! Hi, Noahbean!"

He's met a few family members and will meet more this weekend and over the next month. Facebook has changed the game when it comes to babies. When I was born I lived less than a couple hours from my extended family, who came to visit me soon after but then didn't have had the day-to-day updates that technology allows today. We text family and friends with photos constantly. It's a different world, one in which it feels like everyone is right here with us.

And yet we wade through becoming a family of three successfully. We hold each other and get each other Tylenol and glasses of water. We make sure the other one has the remote and a phone within arm's reach. This afternoon I nearly peed myself laughing at Chris for the tenth time this week.

"You're much funnier than usual," I said. "But maybe it's my lack of sleep."

"Maybe you just don't spend all day around me," he said. "And also, I'm in a really good mood lately."

Indeed.

10.17.2012

We totally had a baby.

His name is Noah Andrew Dary and we like him very much. Born on October 13th at 4:57am... much more to come from us, but for now here are some pix and links to a couple of Flickr sets that I was able to throw together.

P.S. Being a parent is emotionally hard!
P.P.S. Being a parent is awesome!










10.11.2012

Les Livres de 2012: round 4

Let's get to it.

I couldn't find any recent book photos. So here's Oscar.
36. The BFG by Roald Dahl
I remember LOVING this book when I was a kid. As with the other young adult books I read recently, it felt waaaay shorter than I remembered it. I feel like maybe there used to be 100 more chapters or something. In the end there is really just one adventure that Sophie and the BFG have together, but I swear I remember it lasting forever. 

I still love this book and can't wait for my kids to read it one day. Side note: one of my favorite things about it are the crazy words that Dahl made up for the BFG. "Snozzcumber!" Hilariously great. (Also, in doing some googling for this review I found this amazing list of words that Dahl created for the book. Awesome.)

37. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
In a way, reading this book was poorly-timed... I was ready to completely revamp my life while reading it, but obvious biological reasons require me to NOT start a new project right about now. I loved this book. One day when this baby comes out and is old enough for me to start a new project, I will buy a copy of this and use it as a workbook for getting my shit together in our home. 

I was, however, able to make a few minor tweaks inspired by the book already:
1. I dug out a box of the few framed photos we have and put them out.
2. I made a commitment to learning how to use the gadgets in our house (like all 2700 TV remotes) so that I can fully participate in life. (There is nothing lamer than someone who avoids machines because they don't get them, right? This is what I keep telling myself.)
3. I donated a bunch of things that I was hanging onto because they had been gifts. I think there's a way to be grateful and thankful in the moment of receiving a gift, but later acknowledging that it's not your thing. Or you have too many. Or you live in a small apartment and can't possibly store everything generous people give you. 

P.S. I really want to read Rubin's first book, The Happiness Project, but figure there will be a better time to do it once things settle down and I need motivation and direction in life.

38. An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance
You know what? I really liked this book. It's a mix of Edith Wharton-esque New York and a psychological thriller. Well, "thriller" is a strong word. A foray into psychological practices of the 1800s. There. SOLD YA, DIDN'T I?

This is the story of a married woman in NYC in the 1800s who is depressed. She's treated by a doctor who has new ideas about hypnosis and therapy... and involves a murder, an affair and a really intriguing last scene. The last scene sealed it for me, actually... you should read it just to get there and then email me so we can talk about what was REALLY happening psychologically the whole time.

39. Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor 
I didn't read this in the past month, but I realized that I never wrote it on my list and therefore never reviewed it. Here goes.

Sometimes I think that I should be a minister. Every few years I google "syllabus for seminary" and check it against what I think I should do in my life. The only real issue here is that I don't know what religion I'd be a minister in! I love the community building, the personal relationship building, the text reading and analysis and the writing of thoughtful speeches. The only thing missing is the key to the whole thing: believing fully in a religion.

So this memoir, which is about a minister who leaves ministering in order to teach, was fascinating to me. It pretty much convinced me that I shouldn't go to seminary, but was really great about pointing out different ways for people to serve a similar role in other communities. If you're thinking about religion or spiritual communities lately, you might want to check this out.

40. A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates
I saw Joyce Carol Oates at the New Yorker festival last weekend and I will admit that pretty much the only reason I went to that event was because she's so famous. What a cool thing to hear from someone who has written so much that almost any high schooler has read one of her short stories! 

She was quiet and demure and spoke thoughtfully about her latest novel, but it was the mention of her husband's death several years ago and the memoir she wrote about it that caught my attention. I must have read an excerpt of this somewhere when it first came out because I recognized the first few chapters when I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle. Then I devoured the book over a couple of days... 

I don't know what to say about it other than, when you're in the mood for something all-engrossing, this is a great book to pick up. Oddly enough, though it was sad in an obvious sort of way, the only time I got near tears was when she described the death of their cat shortly after her husband's death. I recommend.

41. Peace from the Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant
Though she is a little cray-cray, I have very much enjoyed watching the show "Iyanla Fix My Life" on the OWN network. She gets up in people's faces and demands they respect each other. This has kicked off many an internal conversation for me, such as: "In what ways am I passive-aggressive with others?" and "What can I do about conflict if the other person (people?) are not ready to deal with it?" and "Why won't Oprah just be my best friend too?"

This book is Vanzant's memoir of sorts and describes her life and journey. Some of it is a little much, spiritually-speaking, for me. But lots of it was helpful and inspiring, particularly as I prepare to become a parent and think actively how not to pass my patterns or issues on to my children. Again, you gotta be in the right frame of mind for this book to be useful to you, but I definitely recommend it if you're needing this kind of thing.

And when you're needing to crack your shit up? Read this book. I read it in a day and laughed so hard I cried in many places. You can just hear Kaling's voice while you're reading and it nicely mimics her new TV show, The Mindy Project. It's not a deep read but sometimes that is exactly what you're in the mood for. Hilarious.

10.10.2012

Maternity leave, day 3.

Earlier this evening wearing THE leggings.
Oh hey! Heyyyyyy. What's new? Election coming soon, hm? It's been pretty chilly here in Brooklyn. Oh, what's that? A baby?

WHAT. BABY.

Don't get me wrong. It's been nice to catch up on some stuff this week without having work to worry about. Our apartment is very clean. Packages that needed to go to UPS are now mailed. I donated a bag of stuff to Housing Works. I've read two books in the past three days. I finished some cross stitch projects. I've watched everything Oprah has produced since starting her new network. I've cooked dinner every night.

I KNOW what you are going to say.

"Enjoy it while it lasts!" "You'll never have time to take another walk again!" "Your days of reading books/cooking/etc. are soon OVER!"

Yeah. Except. You know how, when you fly to a foreign country, you wake up ready for the day at 3am and you know you should just stay in bed and sleep because you have a big day ahead of you? But there's that pesky thing called jet lag? There's a point in which you are all slept out. You just can't sleep anymore! Even though it would be productive and helpful later on... you know later in the day you're going to crash and wish you'd slept soundly. But that's just not how it works.

I have baby lag.

I mean, I can probably hold out a few more days. I'm saving "go to the movies" for Friday in case I'm still pregnant. I've started some basic notes for a novel I'd like to write and can bang out a few thank-you notes that we owe people for baby gifts.

But it's hard to explain -- I KNOW I'm going to be tired and I KNOW life won't be the same and I'll wish I was back in this week and I'll be crying and sore and missing my old life. But I'd like to record this very distinct feeling for posterity's sake: I just don't care. I've done what I needed to do. I don't regret anything. I'm ready to be a mom, to embrace the whole messiness and ugliness and crankiness of it. I'm geared up for a physical challenge.

The evidence? The joy I feel about one huge pair of leggings. (Read on.)

*

The cold spell has been inconvenient because, as of Monday, I had no pants that fit. When you're pregnant all summer, you live in dresses and skirts. On Monday I decided I needed to shell out for some giant pants, so I wandered into Ann Taylor Loft (it was the closest shop I felt like walking to) and asked the woman folding sweaters if she could help me find the biggest leggings in the store. 

Ten minutes later I was pulling XL leggings over my sneakers (What? I tie those suckers once a day, as it's nearly impossible to get down there anymore) and asking her to scan the price tag so I could wear them out the store. Do you know how freeing it is to say "bring me your largest pants!"? It is awesome.

So now I take a 2 mile walk in the morning and a 2 mile walk in the evening and I wear the same outfit every day. I wear my old running sneakers and when I catch a glance of myself in a store window, I laugh because I look like someone with a love of charcoal gray dressed me in the dark of a sparse thrift store. 

The best part is that NO ONE CARES. People smile at me while I walk. They grin and sometimes they ask me when I'm due. "Thursday!" I call as I waddle onward and they are delighted. Women in Starbucks tell me I look adorable, other pregnant women tell me they can't believe I'm due this week, people hold doors and give me free cookies. 

New York City, I don't know how other places do it... but you guys are the best. You know how to make an unshowered girl sans make-up (weighing 40 pounds more than normal) feel great about roaming these streets. 

*

How do babies know when to come? Some scientists say that labor is kicked off by the baby himself when he has enough of a certain chemical that signifies his lungs are ready for the world. Cool.

There's another, more hippy approach, that could hold some water too. Earlier this week I was very thoughtful about any unfinished emotional business I might have that could be interfering with his arrival. I read a couple of serious books (book reviews coming tomorrow) and did some journaling. I got to a healthier mental place about who I am and the relationships in my life. I took some steps that felt productive. 

I don't know if those things were barriers or not, but last night I went to sleep satisfied with my emotional health and looking forward to the challenges that face me in the future. The truth is that I just couldn't have been the same parent to our son five years ago. Biologically I could have had a child, but emotionally and mentally, I'm a thousand years from where I was. I know I'm going to make mistakes with him, but my intentions are right and my head is screwed on straight. It took a while to get here, but here I am. 

*

Last week the midwife suggested I have a bunch of funny movies and tv shows on-hand. "Laugh," she said "laugh a lot!" It occurs to me that reading the memoir of a widow and one of a mother whose daughter died of cancer earlier this week was... the opposite of that. OOPS.

While writing this post I've been compiling a playlist on Rdio of the most fun songs I can find.  It's already making me feel awesome to hear them. And I wonder if anyone reading this might want to suggest great songs to add to it? Or link me to hilarious YouTube videos? Or the funniest blog posts you've ever read? 

Because maybe, just maybe, this kid is waiting for a dance party. 

10.02.2012

Tick, tick, tick...

Making friends in Frenchtown, NJ.
I've been around a few gravely ill people in my life and it's all sad and tragic until I realize that they are craving the end. Perhaps craving is the wrong word; accepting might be a better one. While I sniffle in the corner thinking about the Christmases or birthdays they won't be present for, they are quiet and purposeful in their breaths. I can't attest to the truth of what's going on deep in their minds, but it sure does seem that they are slowing, expecting less and rarely heartbroken at the end. Whether that's because they know something I don't or because death blankets their full attention, I can't say.

Physically (and sort of mentally), pregnancy throws off echoes of this experience towards the end. I can't move as well as I used to. I don't want to go out for drinks or start a new novel or bake anything. Lately I've kind of been ok with trying to get sleep for as long as I can, showing up at work, and eating little bits of food along the way.

So here's where it gets interesting. Pregnancy, which ends in labor, is not just a birth for the baby... but it also is a REBIRTH for the mother. I'll get my mobility back. I'll be able to plan things farther than 24 hours out. At some point I'll ease back into a running plan, I'll buy more than a couple bananas at a time, I'll start dreaming of travel again. Pregnancy is leading me to a moment of stillness... but once labor is over, it all comes whooshing back. LIFE! Life will come back.

*

Feeling adventurous, we rented a car on Sunday and drove to Frenchtown, New Jersey. This is where Elizabeth Gilbert lives and I'd wanted to check out the store she owns with her husband. So we're driving down I-78 with the new Mumford & Sons album playing and I'm feeling like myself. TRAVEL. Ground beneath us. Exploring and adventure. Leaving a 5-block radius. Thrilling.

The M&S album is beautiful, the kind of beauty that results in me thinking exaggerated thoughts about the English language. Like, how stunning it is. How the perfect words in the perfect order are exquisite.  How the phrase "fade away" in the song "Reminder" suddenly seems like the most perfect syllables to name a daughter. Fadeaway. Fadeaway Dary.

Future daughters, you are warned. Your mother gets irrational about the English language in her 9th month.

Future son, I hope you like the name Autumn Leaf.

*

People are having babies all around me. A friend two weeks ago, another last week. There is such joy in meeting a new baby. New babies get the hugest benefit of the doubt. They're pure delight for grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts and friends. And Twitter.

It occurs to me that the time you get the most generous, unfiltered reception is at your birth. You don't even know who you are yet! Arguably, you are not even yourself yet.

You're potential incarnate.

What if we greeted new people in our lives like this? What if we met middle-aged colleagues for the first time and gave them a hundred percent benefit of the doubt, generously assuming that they were there for the right reasons and not trying to screw you over or manipulate you or make you jealous? It feels impossible. But it also feels impossibly cruel to start off a baby's life with a limitless landscape of possibility and to reduce that to a square inch later on.

I'm not talking about people with track records. I'm not talking about people who disappointed you time and time again. I'm talking about strangers. People you just met. Those you don't know a thing about. What if you arrived, symbolic birthday cake in hand, when you shook theirs for the first time?

It might make meeting new people less intimidating.


*

Let's get this show on the road, kid. We're not ready but we never will be (or so we hear) and I'm ready to move from the season finale to the season premiere. 

I'm ready for some rebirth.