Five reasons why “tagging in” (17 days after giving birth) to play with hose-wielding Lily wasn’t instantly appealing

1. Still some bleeding happening in the hoo-ha region.

2. “Tagging in” would force me to make an unappealing choice: either I dig out the full-on maternity, I-just-swallowed-the-Great-Pumpkin two piece, which I’d anxiously already placed in storage; or I wrestle with the swimsuits I wore before I was pregnant, which will inevitably be stretched out to depressing proportions to accommodate my still-poochy, post-birth belly.

3. When I go with the second option, seeing myself in the mirror will regretfully cause me to have a Cathy moment – depressing in part because Cathy was/is such a crap-tacular comic strip. Ack!

4. Said Cathy moment will fuel my self-consciousness to such a degree that I’ll pull an old pair of shorts and a sheer, loose running shirt over the swimsuit. Yes, in my current, not-pregnant-but-not-yet-back-to-normal physical state, I’ve become that kid at the public pool who wears a t-shirt in the water.

5. Lily will playfully hold the hose directly on my stomach and on my backside, thereby making the accessory worn to absorb blood weigh 45 pounds and resemble an over-inflated raft between my legs. Good times.

(Author’s note: I did actually enjoy playing with Lily and the hose once I gave myself over to it. But you can understand my initial hesitation, yes?)

Field notes

* In one of our first days home from the hospital, when Neve was getting a little fussy, I placed her on my chest, and she stopped crying for a minute or two, her eyes wide open. I wondered if she was hearing my heartbeat, and if, to her, that sound was home – the only place she’d known before this. There was a look of longing on her face as she blinked, and all I could think to say was, “I know it’s a big change, baby girl. But I think you’ll get to like it out here.”

* While I’m sure part of it has to do with having past experience going for us – and while I’m also sure some challenging times lie ahead – I must admit that so far, this home-with-a-new-baby experience has been about a billion times easier the second time around.

Now more than 2 weeks old, Neve is thus far a sleepy, laid back baby. She sleeps well and quickly between nighttime feedings, which are reasonably spaced out, and she has never yet fussed inconsolably for longer than a few minutes. (Swaddling, feeding her, or finishing the diaper change seem to be the answer in every situation presented so far.)

And despite my paranoia – or maybe partly because we did everything we could to prepare Lily for the change a sibling would bring – Lily is generally handling the whole thing like a champ. She’s maintained her routine, going to pre-school on weekdays; she loves holding Neve and giving her kisses; and while I’m repeatedly having to admonish her to GENTLY hug Neve, and GENTLY rock her in the swing, and GENTLY play with her fingers and toes – I’m struggling to bodily protect Neve while not completely dousing Lily’s enthusiasm about her – I’m thrilled that Lily’s so tuned in to her new sister, and seems not at all threatened at the start. Again, I’m sure there will be more challenging times ahead – but it’s sure nice to have a smooth, dare-I-say “easy” transition after a bat-crazy delivery. Continue reading

My “Toy Story” DUH!! moment

For a recent plane ride, I checked out “Toy Story 2” from the library for Lily. I hadn’t seen it in years, but as I saw and heard parts of it again – particularly Sarah McLachlan’s heartbreaking song “When She Loved Me,” which plays as the cowgirl doll Jessie tells her story of being loved by a child, and then left behind and forgotten as the girl grew up – I started tearing up.

I’m not a big movie-cryer at all, so at this moment, it finally dawned on me: the story of these films is, in essence, the story of parenting. Like the toys, moms and dads are the center of a child’s world for a time; and the warmth and love that a parent and child shower on each other, unabashedly, during these early years is powerful. But a big part of the parent’s job is to raise a child to be an independent adult who can stand on her/his own two feet. So as a mom or dad, being the bridge to your own obsolescence is natural and inevitable; yet after pouring years of love and effort into a child, it’s pretty wrenching to let go of the place you once held in his/her world.

(Seriously. Watch this clip with all this in mind, and just see if you don’t become a weeping puddle of goo by song’s end, too.)

Admittedly, the emotional impact may be further heightened for me by virtue of the fact that I have daughters, and this focuses on a young girl’s journey to adulthood.

But here’s hoping they won’t leave me in a box at the side of the road, at the very least.

Childbirth #2: the lightning round!

New big sister Lily meets baby Neve

When I was pregnant the first time around, I thought birth classes and birth plans were, to a certain extent, a silly waste of time and effort.

Both seemed to offer first-time mothers a false (but deeply, intensely desired) sense of control over something they ultimately have little real control over – namely, how the birth of a child happens. So as an alternative, Joe and I watched an informational DVD series about what happens in the mother’s body as the end of the pregnancy draws near, how to recognize early labor, etc.; and, at the urging of our doula, we filled out a birth plan that essentially said, “Jenn would really, REALLY like an epidural, but otherwise, we’ll try to roll with whatever happens.” Continue reading

Contending with a midlife crisis and pre-partum depression simultaneously: An existential double whammy (or, “Is That All There Is?”)

During the month that this blog lay dormant (and we attended a dozen different events), my general mood and outlook regarding the future took a swan dive and pretty much, on a day-to-day basis, remained 20,000 leagues below the sea.

This is no coincidence, surely. Blogging, and having people read and respond to what I’m writing, is therapeutic and always makes me feel good about the parenting perspectives I’m throwing out into the world, no matter how small my “audience.” Yet when I’m honest with myself, my low-grade depression wasn’t just about missing my creative outlet; it was also a larger wave of “Is That All There Is?”-ness. One that was temporarily threatening to drown me.

Now, for those who don’t know me that well, this is not typical – despite the fact that I’ve long assumed my place in the ranks of neurotic writers. (Yes, the minute any of us hear of the professional/artistic successes of friends and peers, we’re among the first to sincerely, excitedly congratulate them – and THEN we lock ourselves in a closet for several rounds of “Why aren’t I achieving things like this?” self-flagellation.)

Generally, I’m somebody wants precisely what I have. Strong, fun, committed relationship with someone I adore, who prioritizes me and our daughter and makes me laugh? Check. A job involving things I love to do (learning through research, talking to fascinating artists/people, and writing)? Check. A quirky, cheerfully painted old house in a neighborhood that hosts block parties and is footsteps away from a small downtown? Check. Good health? Check. And co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family members (including crazy little Lily) who play a positive role in my life? Check.

So is my problem simply a self-indulgent luxury of white, middle class existence? Which is to say, have I become one of those annoying people whose “problem” is that their dreams came true, for the most part, and now they just don’t know what to do with themselves?

I’ve been tempted to dismiss my ennui this way. It’s an easy explanation, with the added bonus of having a built-in, guilt-riddled “get over it, crybaby!” sensibility. But as is usually the case, things surrounding this funk were, I think, more complicated than they originally appeared. Continue reading