Am I the only one who develops an anxiety disorder the very instant her child falls asleep at night? Because even though Genoa is a world-class sleeper, I can't get that first rule of parenting out of my head: SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. It was a lesson I learned the hard way when Alex was a baby, but one that is completely wasted on Genoa. No matter how nervous I am that she's going to wake up in the middle of the night (or how nervous I am about actually writing this down, even while knocking wood), she doesn't. But there I sit, biting my nails down to the quick and Vulcan mind-melding her into staying asleep.
I especially noticed this phenomenon last week, when I could literally not drag myself away from the TV. Even though I'd TRY and pace myself, making petty promises to only watch ONE episode every night, I'd inevitably skip to the next one and then the next one until I finished the entire final season of Six Feet Under in a single week. Now every time I yawn, I curse HBO and their kick-ass programming. I also curse them for ending the best TV series since the Sopranos.
Even though Dave is [air quotes]not a fan[air quotes] of Six Feet Under, when that one episode ended with Nate howling "arm numb. ARM. NUMB!" Dave begged me to put the next episode on so we could see what happened. When I replied that it wouldn't arrive from Netflix until the next day, he squealed "YOU BITCH!" It was THAT good - swear-at-your-spouse-for-not-ordering-it-fast-enough good. From the fact that they never put a drop of mascara on Ruth to the way that Nate and Brenda fight like they mean it - it seems so true to life. And I've never loved an ending as much as I loved the series finale. The way they fast-forwarded through the rest of everyone's lives totally appealed to my sense of completion. I slept better knowing what happened to everyone.
As busy as I am, I love it when my calendar is this full. Monday I had the most awesome play-date with the lovely Mary Tsao of Mom Writes. It was like an internet-child-celebrity party in which the cutest children ever flickr'd* were all eating popcicles and chasing eachother down the hall to the potty. Mary is exactly the kind of mother that I wish I could be: calm and easy-going and fun. Meanwhile I caught myself snapping at Alex just because he asked me a silly question about poop. I need to relax! and I'm sure more playdates (or even just momdates) with Mary can only be good for me. Hopefully her mellow is contageous. And her sense of style too.
The rest of this week is going to fly by in a Blogher-induced haze. I won't be drinking (much), so I promise to capture all of your favorite internet heros in varies stages of debauchery and undress. Am I the only one not bringing their computer to the conference? I only have enough arms to carry my purse, my giant camera, my breastpump and the mandajuice cooler, so the photos will have to wait until I get home at night. I still have no idea what I'm going to do with all the cool swag.
* I took some great photos of Mary and the kids, but I already downloaded them to the laptop, which is on its way to Washington to take the ethics part of the Bar Exam with Dave. Mary's photos were even better than mine.
Apparently I'm not the only one losing sleep trying to figure out what the hell to wear to Blogher. It's been driving me CRAZY, I swear. The craziest part is that if the conference was called Bloghim and I was going to be the only woman there, I wouldn't give two shits about what to wear. This is total proof that women dress well to impress other women, not men.
It hasn't helped me that 1) I have nothing to wear and 2) I'm F-A-T this year and NOTHING fits my post-partem lumps. Combine those problems with the fact that I have to find couture that provides easy access to my boobs and I'm up shit creek without a paddle. It certainly doesn't help that every time I take something off the rack I hear Stacy and Clinton harping in my ear about A-line skirts and fitted jackets and color by my face. None of which I seem able to find.
Fashion aside, I am completely stoked about this week. I'm not usually the type of mother who wants a break from her children, but that's one of the MANY MANY aspects of Blogher that I'm anxiously awaiting. To think I might be able to hold a conversation with a grown-up without being interrupted every three minutes is almost implausible. I totally can't wait!
I'm feeling overwhelmed lately (and if you had any idea how hard it was for me to admit that just now, you'd reach right through your monitor to reassure me with gentle pat on the back. Because I like to imagine you're supportive like that and also, apparently, not too shy.) I usually have an unflenching bring-it-on attitude and the total inability to say no, so not being able to hack it lately makes me feel like a total failure. And I don't mean as a mother, I mean as ME. Fortunately the kids are getting what they need, even if I'm not Mrs. Merry Sunshine as I'm picking raisins out of the carpet.
In the few twenty minute chunks of my day during which the brood are simultaneously occupied, I find I can either read blogs, check my e-mail, respond to e-mail, blog at Club Mom, update Mandajuice or clean the house, but it's impossible to do them all every day. So I've only been faithful to one thing - the Naked Ledger and the sweet, merciful cash that Club Mom delivers to my bank account every month. Today was the first time I vacuumed in two weeks.
But we have a plan! And I should mention that Dave and I were talking about this long before I began to lose my mind. Preschool! Alex will be three at the end of September and EVERYONE (aka my Mother) has been pressuring me about when I'm going to put the boy in school. All along I've thought (and basically still think) that pre-school would be great for the boy, but that pre-school is meant to be PRE. SCHOOL., as in the year before kindergarten, the single year of doodling and eating paste that most of us endured before public school kicked in. I hate to think of how much THREE YEARS of preschool is going to cost us. And that's honestly been the only thing keeping us from doing it: money.
Maybe it's because I send it straight to the savings account, but I keep forgetting that I have a paycheck these days. It never even occurred to me to spend my Club Mom earnings, but that's obviously the solution. So after the Blogher smoke clears, finding the right school will be first on my to do list. Now we'll have to see which part Alex will like more - the two days a week of school or the three days of having a sane mother again. It will be nice not feel so distracted all the time.
Re-reading those last two posts, I think I may have come off more callously than I intended. I was just being whiny and those feelings are always temporary. Most the time the boy is so snugly and sweet that it breaks my heart when I have to discipline him. He's actually far more likely to profess his love for me and climb onto my lap for butterfly kisses and hair than he is to tell me he wants a new mommy. Are all toddlers this manic?
Yesterday I was trying to finally finish my Tivo'd episode of So You Think You Can Dance!, and he saddled up next to me saying "I hate to tell you this, Mommy, I really do, but it's my turn to watch a show now." And when it gets too quiet, he'll ask, "So, Mommy, what do you want to talk about?" And when I answer with something my grandmother would say like "Let's talk about picking up your toys," he'll castigate me, "No, Mom. That's BORING. Let's talk about dump trucks! Or bulldozers!"
He speaks ENGLISH is what he does. And it floors me. Of course the flip side of this is that he understands just about every word that comes out my mouth. (Several of which I wish he'd forget, like this morning when he found a diet coke can that Dave had left on the couch and remarked "Gah. Dave is such a dumb butt." Apparently I need to be more careful about what I say under my breath while I clean the house.) So when Alex is disobedient, it's difficult for us to remember that he's still not even three yet, and while his comprehension skills are advanced, his impulse control is still very much on track with his age. He understands that he's not allowed to chase the dog and he can explain to you in great detail how it might end with a gory dog bite, but that doesn't mean he can stop himself from chasing the dog. And that just makes his disobedience seem that much more disobedient.
Last week was hard. Most of it had to do with Alex's butt and the fact that he had a giant poop stuck up there for, like, a WHOLE GODDAMN WEEK. And that he was SO SCARED of how much that giant poop was going to hurt when it came out that he held it in and pinched it until tiny turd after tiny disgusting turd ended up in his underpants while he steadfastly reassured me that HE DID NOT NEED TO POOP. Or worse, he did not WANT to poop. I was scraping crap off of Bob the Builder FIVE TIMES A DAY while the boy skitted around the house clenching his butt cheeks.
It got OLD is what I'm saying. I just wanted him to freakin' POOP ALREADY. Unfortunately, this wasn't any kind of potty training regression or even a reaction to Baby Sister's arrival. He was just constipated and it hurt and have I mentioned that Alex is STUBBORN? Because HE DID NOT WANT TO POOP. Finally I pulled out the old potty chair and stripped off his clothes and that worked. He couldn't pinch it off into his underpants and he knew better than to poop on the carpet, so he ran down the hall to the bathroom and took the world's most gigantic dump. Poor kid. Afterward, we shrieked triumphantly and high fived and went to Toys 'R Us for a new monster truck. Now he's officially joining me in living La Vida Dairy-Free. That kid was eating way too much cheese.
While all this was going on, Dave and I sat down one night and discussed the spanking issue and decided that I should do it, but only for two reasons: hurting his sister or lashing out at me with the scratching. He's still been nothing but an angel to his sister, but I reserve the right to react quickly if he ever gets that idea in his head. When he scratches me he gets this "I CAN TAKE HER" look in his eyes. It's fierce and completely unacceptable (she says in her best Super Nanny voice). We agreed that it had to be stopped and that our usual discipline wasn't working since he usually lashed out at me WHILE I was in the process of putting him on the naughty spot. We decided that I'd spank him the next time he scratched me.
Unfortunately, I didn't have to wait long before Alex chose to do it as I was lifting him off the toilet. As much as I hoped I'd never have to do it and as horrible as it was that it happened in the bathroom, I had WARNED him REPEATEDLY that scratching me ever again would get him a spanking , and he did it anyway literally SECONDS after the warning. So I gave him one firm swat to his bare butt. Five minutes later, he did it again and got another one. I was exceptionally calm the entire time, so I can say with complete honesty that I didn't spank him in anger or even in frustration. The line had been drawn clearly and he crossed it.
And now it's over. Sure he's talked a lot of shit and I've seen that look in his eyes more than once, but he's been able to keep himself from acting upon it and he hasn't lashed out at me since. And I would stand up here on my soapbox and say neener neener, we were right after all, but the whole ordeal still leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. I hope I never have to do it again.
So I'm handling this whole no-dairy thing much better than I thought I would. I guess once I accepted my fate, which in this case means I may never eat another butter horn as long as I live (or, you know, until Genoa stops nursing, whichever comes first), I could live with it. It may take a little longer for me to stop bitching about it to every person within a twelve mile radius. I CAN'T EAT BUTTER. AND I WILL COMPLAIN ABOUT IT UNTIL YOU PITY ME!
Fortunately the cravings have also finally accepted their fate and rarely bug me. Not being pregnant anymore really helps; in fact, I've never stuck this strictly to a diet in my entire life, not even the Nazi Fetus Diet. It also helps that I'm trying to lose ten pounds before Blogher and I have FIVE more left to go. That shouldn't be hard, right, losing five pounds in two weeks?
The other day I was changing the girl and when I caught a whiff of her stinky neck, it occurred to me that if I desperately wanted to eat cheese, I'd have to make it myself. Like, literally. I totally have the means to make dairy-free cheese or better yet, BUTTER. An even though I had zero intention of even thinking about the mandacheese any further, I mentioned it to my Dad and my sister at Red Lobster just for a laugh. I'm nothing if not generous with the conversational hors d'oeuvres. And thus began a wonderful digretion in which we all wondered how a long a lactating woman could survive imbibing only water and her own boob juice. And even though I've gone completely mental lately and have a bunch to talk about, that's pretty much all I've got for you today: some weird cannibalistic shit for you to ponder.
My contractions started just as Dave got home and put the coals on the BBQ. Even though we'd had a great day with our friends over, Alex woke up from his nap historically cranky. Then Dave made the mistake of calling us before leaving the office to see if we wanted anything special for dinner. Alex's response, while sitting on my lap in a pile of snotty tears, was "I want steak. You need to Bar. Be. Cue." So Dave obliged Captain Cranky's request and stopped on his way home to get the supplies. At the time I'd been having so many Braxton Hicks contractions that I don't even think I'd really noticed that they were getting more intense. It wasn't until we sat down to eat (filet mignon of all the perfectly memorable things) that I had a contraction bad enough to make me ask Dave to look at the clock so we could start timing them [8:03.]
I SCARFED my dinner. [8:12] Normally I can't get all the way through a filet by myself, but that night I was starving. [8:??] I couldn't shovel it down my pie hole fast enough. By the time we finished eating and I was back in my chair, [8:31] I was trying to convince myself that the contractions weren't that painful and that this wasn't labor, [8:37] but they were coming pretty close together. [8:43] Dave was still skeptical because I wasn't grunting or moaning like I did during Alex's labor. [8:49] Just to be on the safe side, Dave called his mom to warn her that she might need to come in the middle of the night.
[8:54] I went to the bathroom, again, [9:00] and DEFINITELY felt some pressure down there. [9:06] And then there went the mucus plug (which I don't remember losing with Alex). I sat back in my chair, wrote a quick post, [9:12] and watched TV while I waited to see if this was it. [9:18] [9:25] [9:32] I can't even remember what we watched.
When Dave finished reading Alex The Ogre Book and it was my turn to tuck him in, I was suddenly sentimental and had to keep hiding my tears. This is the last time Alex will still be my BABY! The last time I tuck him in before he's not my ONLY child! So sad! I spent a lot of time talking to him about how he might wake up in the morning and Mommy and Daddy would be at the hospital and Grandma Carol would be here instead. It would be the first night I ever slept away from my boy.
After one last teary goodnight kiss, my contractions seemed to be spacing out again. [10:13] [10:21] [10:33] [10:40] [10:48] Dave called his mom to warn her that it might just be a false alarm. Apparently, she already had her clothes laid out and was ready to rush over if need be. [10:56] We watched a Jeopardy (Dave won). [11:03] [11:12] [11:19] [11:24] [11:31] [11:39] [11:46] [11:54] We decided to try and get some sleep and I stopped timing the contractions. [12:01]
By around 1AM I was SURE this was it. Even though the contractions weren't coming any closer together, I was panting and moaning my way through them. There was no way I could sleep and Dave was getting nervous, so I called the hospital. I joked with the nurse "Exactly how SOON can I come and get the drugs?" "As soon as you can't stand the pain anymore," she said and I told her to expect us within the hour and please have the anesthesiologist waiting for me.
We called Carol and I took a nice hot shower and put my makeup on (for the pictures - y'all don't think I look like that naturally, do you!?) I was already getting antsy for the epidural. Carol got here around 2:00. The boy heard her come in and woke up excited to see her, so we got to explain to him what was going on and he stayed up until after we left for the hospital. We even got some nice snuggle time in before the final goodbye.
We got to the hospital at 3AM. I was in my room, undressed and hooked up to the monitors by 3:20. I was also at FIVE centimeters, which totally made my night. Since the contractions had never been closer than five minutes apart, I had been sure they were going to send me home. By 4AM I had the IV and the epidural and was feeling all numb and tingly. The epidural itself was not painful - more weird and uncomfortable than anything else. I didn't even feel another contraction for the rest of the delivery.
From that point on, I remember the birth as if I'm fast-forwarding to the ending. I know at the time it seemed like the minutes couldn't be passing any slower as I waited until morning, but now it seems like the birth just flew right past us. Somehow, even though I couldn't feel any contractions and the monitors were barely even picking up on them and they never came faster than about five minutes apart, my cervix just magically opened and the baby just slid right down where she was supposed to be. The nurses kept saying that you get an upgrade with your second baby and I'm sure this is what they meant. My body just cooperated with literally zero effort on my behalf. Every time they checked my cervix, I was amazed at the progress. It just happened so quickly.
At around 5:30, Dave ran to Albertson's for the world's ugliest birthday cake, a tradition we started with Alex on his birth day. (You only have one ACTUAL birth day!) He was back in less than an hour and then things started moving along. My doctor came back at 7:45 and broke my water. He ran upstairs to see some patients while the nurses got me ready for the delivery. At about 8:00, I had to call the nurse because I thought I had pooped myself. Fortunately there was nothing there and when she checked my cervix she confirmed that the crap I thought I'd taken was actually the baby dropping even more; I was ten centimeters and ready to go. She also found meconium in my amniotic fluid and called the NICU doctor to be ready to come over for the delivery.
I called my mom at 8:15 and told her she should head on over to the hospital. I was so calm and mellow that after confirming that the epidural was working, she asked me "are you sure they didn't give you anything ELSE?" I wish I could accurately describe how completely relaxed I was - THIS was the birth experience I had wanted with Alex. I had always pictured this calm serene experience during which I was at peace and in control and not stressed out. I kept thinking about how STUPID I'd been not to get the epidural the first time.
Dr. Weber came back down (his office is literally up a flight of stairs from L&D), called the NICU to send the staff over and I started pushing at about 8:20. The pushing was surreal. I couldn't even FEEL the contractions, so it was difficult to tell if I was making any progress. Then Dave got that excited look on his face when he saw Genoa's head crowning, so I guessed I wasn't doing half bad. Again, I was amazed at how easily my body just made way for the baby to slide right out.
And then there she was! Unfortunately because of the meconium in the amniotic fluid, I didn't get to hold her right away, which was unbearably sad. After I almost kicked her while moving my foot back into the stirrup, she was whisked over to the warmer to have her lungs checked. Then time seemed to stop completely for me. I swear it took them three days to suck the gunk out of her lungs. Dave hovered over her and I saw him struggling to hold back the tears. Later, he admitted to me that watching them shove the tubes down her throat set something off in him and got him thinking about how our DAUGHTER was finally here and he came seconds away from having a major emotional breakdown. He almost lost it, but managed to somehow suck it up and dribbled out only a few tears.
Oddly, I didn't cry at all. The big emotional relief I felt after Alex was born didn't happen this time. The birth was just SO EASY that I felt more elated than anything else. I wasn't even worried about the meconium - I never doubted that she was fine. I just wanted to hold my damn baby already. By the time she was finally in my arms, I was all sewn up and had even delivered the placenta. She was bundled up and cleaned off and the whole thing was, admittedly, a little anticlimactic. But really, when I think about it, I've taken POOPS that were more painful and difficult than Genoa's birth, so how much of a climax could it really have had? The whole thing went so smoothly it still seems like a dream.
Once I was all fixed up and made decent again, the nurses brought in Carol and Alex. I wish I could remember better what his initial reaction was like, but I know he immediately climbed up onto the hospital bed while we looked at her together and I introduced him to his new baby sister and told him and Carol her name. A few minutes later my parents arrived and Alex was so happy to see my mom, who he hadn't seen in two weeks, that he completely forgot about the baby. Dave broke out the cake and we all had a piece while my mom took video and we took a bazillion pictures of everyone holding the baby.
I tried to nurse her in the delivery room, but she never got a decent latch. I was immediately struck with that disappointment I felt after Alex was born - that nursing would, once again, be this seemingly insurmountable task. Fortunately, I turned out to be wrong and she latched fine after a few more tries, but at the time I assumed the worst.
Then Dave went with Genoa to the nursery for the first bath and the shots. (We have this crazy thing where we NEVER FOR EVEN ONE SECOND let the baby leave our line of sight while we're at the hospital. I'm not kidding when I say I rolled her bassinet into the bathroom with me so I could take a shower.) My parents ran to get us all some Starbucks and the nurse shooed Alex and Carol back down the hall in order to reinsert my catheter and relieve my crampy uterus. In fact, the most painful thing about this birth was the shrinkage - the uterine cramps I had each time I nursed those first few days were just as bad as my worst contractions. And then it was time to go to my room and settle into my new life as a mother of two.
By the time Dave came back from the nursery with Genoa, we'd moved to the maternity ward and the entire room was filled to the brim with family. And I kept hoping that they would all leave (sorry family). Alex was all wound up and everyone was talking and loud and all I wanted was some quiet time with my new baby. So I politely shooed everyone out and Dave and I spent the rest of the day staring at our beautiful daughter and remarking at how absolutely lucky we felt.
The boy has officially experienced the shock of a firm swat to his bare bottom. Even though it was more traumatic for me than it was for him, I'm still not ready to talk about it yet. Instead I will leave you with some Flickr'age.
Here's my boy hitting the bottle at an early age. And for the record, I WARNED HIM and could not get up to stop him from taking that sip because I was nursing his sister. Fortunately, it only takes one hand to hold the camera.
I'm still working my way through the 4th of July photos. That will be the last time I hand off the camera to my siblings - it seems they both know how to work that 5 photos-per-second feature a heck of a lot better than I do. Between the two of them, they took 300 photos in a matter of maybe three hours and it may take me till Christmas to sort them all out.