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Good Stuff #6: Moms’ Group, a.k.a. “No way – your nipples do that TOO?!??”

14 Dec

An early shot of some of the babies. Yup, that's ours.

If I had to list on one hand the things that have kept my spirit afloat since I hatched the beautiful Seabass back in May, they would be:

  1. Jake
  2. Trust that God chose me to mother this specific child
  3. Anti-depressants
  4. Writing this blog
  5. My moms’ group

It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout this new thing called motherhood, my moms’ group has buoyed my sense of humor, helped me to process what it means to care for another human being, and given me a treasure of wonderful new friends.  Moreover, Seabass came into this world pre-set with a built-in group of baby buddies.  It’s truly a brilliant arrangement.

The whole thing started as a pre-natal birthing class taught through our OB’s office.  Jake and I met with eight other couples for six weeks to discuss our fears and expectations, and to practice for an event that would, inevitably, go nothing like we planned.  (Did anyone else manage to breathe calmly through their contractions?  Despite how much I practiced those breathing techniques, what came out was just a lot of grunting like an animal caught in barbed wire.)  As each couple had their baby, they e-mailed us their baby photos and labor stories.  Since Seabass and I were near the end of the line-up, it was fascinating to hear everyone’s birth story – and to see new little people that would soon be friends with our own new little person.

Ours is the big one sleeping in the front.

Later, the birthing class became the moms’ group, once again arranged through our OB’s office, and with all the same participants.  And this was where the rubber met the road.  No more abstract talk.  No more what-ifs.  With my transition from bright-eyed pregnant girl to battle-scarred new mom came a desperate need to get real. 

“Is anyone else experiencing pain that feels like a blowtorch on their nipples every time they nurse?”

“I’m in so much pain down there that I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the sitz bath yesterday.  Is that normal?”

“Every time I try to shop for groceries with the baby, he screams like I’m whacking him with a frying pan and everyone stares at us.  Will I ever be able to visit Trader Joe’s again?”

For eight weeks, all of us new mommies talked, mused, cooed, wept a little, and compared notes on nursing bras and sleep methods.  After each session, I went home feeling more at peace in my role and more connected to the outside world (though I also admit to feeling that somehow my baby was missing the QUIET/EASY button that the other babies had).

These days, it’s hard to stay connected as we all have such different schedules.  But this past weekend all of the moms, dads and babies made a point of getting together and had such a wonderful time seeing each other.  Babies rolled, crawled, and gummed toys.  Moms swapped night-waking stories.  And dads drank beer and discussed house projects. 

(Aside: After the little party, I asked Jake if he talked with any of the other dads about being a dad.  He said it never came up.  “How could it not have come up?!?” I asked, flabbergasted.  “Parenthood is your qualification for being in that group!”  Then we both chuckled because we were reminded of this video.)

Anyway, Seabass is, I’m pretty sure, the biggest of the babies, so we passed him around to let everyone in on what it’s like carrying 22 pounds of dead weight love around all the time.  We all marveled at how comfortable we are holding babies now, whereas before having children, holding someone else’s baby was sort of like, “Huh.  Great!  Okay.  Nevermind, it’s too scary. You can have your baby back now.”

By far, my favorite comment of the entire weekend came from one of the dads in our group.  One of the moms was trying to relay a story about their son’s narrow miss overdosing on teething tablets when the father broke in to say, “Don’t tell Jaime that!  She’ll write about us!”  I laughed and assured them that wouldn’t happen.

And here I am, writing about them.  Sorry guys.  It was too good to pass up.

Here’s to Benjamin, Cole, Riley, Hazel, Sienna, Jaelynn, Scarlet, Ciaran and Seabass – the little people who brought us all together.  Thank you, kiddos!

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How do you spell “mom?” G-U-I-L-T.

10 Dec

I really can’t think of any parents who are worse at commemorating their child’s life than me and Jake.  We love Seabass desperately – don’t get me wrong – but we’ve never done any of the lovely things that good parents typically do to celebrate the new life of their child.

  1. We never had him dedicated at church.
  2. Never sent out birth announcements.
  3. Never even had infant photos taken. 

On the flip side, however, here are a few things I have done for Seabass.

  1. Put together one of the jankiest baby books known to man, made from a 99¢ composition notebook I bought at Food4Less. 
  2. Dedicated a blog to him about how hard it is being his mother.
  3. Took advantage of a FREE Halloween photo offered by the local camera shop and didn’t even bother to wipe off the baby’s spit-up before the shutter clicked.

Am I proud of this?  Yeah, right.  Looking at this list makes me feel like finding a cave, curling up and dying a slow, agonizing death.  It’s not at all how I pictured motherhood.  I was so sure that when I had a baby, everyone in my address book would sport a beautiful, professionally-composed birth announcement on their fridge featuring my child’s stunning face. 

Instead, I’m running into people I barely know who look at Seabass’ stunning face and say, “Oh, so YOU’RE the fussy baby from the blog!”

Controversy Wednesday: LETTING MEN BE MEN

8 Dec

An awfully good-looking pair of guys.

In my opinion, there is no more obnoxious humor than men-bashing.  Quips and jabs about how stupid men are, how slow they are, how simple they are – first of all, are not all that funny, and secondly, give me the heebie-jeebies.  That our culture finds this public emasculation socially acceptable is an indication of how pathetically reluctant we all are to grow up.

Take, for instance, just about every sitcom on television these days.  Somehow between the genesis of the situation comedy and now, it became the norm for television families to berate Dad.  “Look, kids!” says the fictional mother, popping a sassy hip and rolling her eyes with thinly-veiled contempt.  “Look how stupid Dad is!”  [Canned laughter.]  “Yeah!” say the kids, “Dad’s a real idiot!”  [Canned laughter.]  And all the while, TV Dad sits in his recliner with his beer and remote control with a stunned, moronic look on his face.   Really hilarious.

While I was pregnant with Seabass, Jake and I took a six-week birthing class with a wonderful instructor named Kathy.  Every week, Kathy distributed photocopied articles that she thought might help us to prepare not only for birth but for everything that comes after.  I’ll be honest: So much of that information went in one ear and out the other.  But one article stuck with me.  It was about letting dads be themselves, letting them play and contribute to the care of the baby, even if it means that the style is different than that of the mother. 

In theory, this doesn’t sound too difficult.  But in practice, it means letting Jake dangle Seabass by one leg over his shoulder when I’m terrified he’ll drop him.   It means watching the baby thrash and fuss while Jake’s trying teaching him how to crawl.  And it means standing aside to let Jake dress the boy like a circus freak – camo shorts, black socks, a turtleneck and a jester’s cap – no matter how ludicrous I find his fashion choices for our son to be.  I’m not saying I succeed at giving Jake total autonomy all the time, but I’m certainly working on it.

Reading that article made me hyper aware of my friends’ interactions with their husbands and kids.  I started to notice how crazy controlling some of my fellow moms are.  One mother (don’t worry, she doesn’t read the blog…at least I don’t think…) got in a tussle over the father letting baby put a *clean* restaurant spoon in his mouth.  (“We don’t know where that’s been!” she spat through her teeth.)  Another snapped at her husband for giving the baby zerberts on the belly.  “You’ll scare her!!” she barked.  “You don’t stay home with her all day but I do.  And I know that kind of thing really freaks her out.”

I’ll admit it’s very tempting to make these kinds of remarks to Jake.  And sometimes I honestly do know better.  But I try really hard to let go because I want Jake to parent Seabass in the way that’s most comfortable to him.  If I interfere and control every little facet of that relationship, chances are Jake will give up and shut down.

This theory is reinforced by a piece on MSNBC from earlier this year entitled “When Moms Criticize, Dads Back Off of Baby Care,” in which researchers found that nagging, persnickety mothers preclude distant father-child relationships.  In a nutshell, if I want Jake to be involved in the raising of our Seabass, I need to let him discover his own style, because if I don’t, he’ll tend to stop trying altogether. 

Taking this train of thought to its logical conclusion, if Jake never develops his own relationship with Seabass, I’ll inevitably become that pathetic mocking martyr of a housewife on TV.  “Why can’t you be more involved?  You don’t even try to parent our children.  You come home from work and turn on the game and tune everyone out.  I have to do everything around here.” 

And why?  Because I wouldn’t let him dress Seabass in camo shorts at six months of age.

But enough outta me.  What do you think?  Is it important to let Dad do his own thing with children, even if Mom is sure she knows best?  How hard is it for you moms to back off? 

Controversy Wednesday: VACCINATION

17 Nov

My precious little pincushion.

The timing of this discussion…er, monologue, is not a coincidence.  Seabass gets his 6-month shots today.  Hoo-ray.

A dear friend once told me about taking his daughter for her shots at three years of age.  “You think it’s bad when they’re infants?” he guffawed.  “Just wait ’till they can look deep into your eyes and plead ‘Why daddy?'”

I had never had a flu shot – or even given it much thought – until I was pregnant.  With the swine flu breaking out all around me this time last year, I suddenly cared very much about vaccines.  Very, very much.

I did some of my own “research,” which included poking around on the BabyCenter.com chat boards and such.  I scoff at the word research because, when it comes to the internet, I almost feel like there’s no such thing.  Everything is conjecture.  Everything is open for interpretation.  And God only knows where most of it really comes from.

Witness an article from something called Examiner.com stating that doctors are coming out to discredit the need for a vaccine because the H1N1  pandemic “may have in fact been a hoax.” 

While our administration and countries across the globe have been “pushing” pregnant women to the front of the line for the H1N1, we are now discovering much heartache from those who listened, received the vaccine and now are sure it caused them to lose their unborn child.

Articles like these make me nuts.  In the name of rigorous journalism, these writers plant ideas in my head that may or may not be true, and in the meantime, freak me out to the point of neurosis.  The fact that the website is called “Examiner” is a nice touch, too.  Gives it an air of credibility even though it’s basically a wiki.  (And speaking of wikis, notice that the author even cites a Wikipedia page as a reference source.  Come.  On.)

So anyway, back to my vaccination.  I was very much divided.  On the one hand, I had my OB telling me to get not only the swine flu vaccine, but the seasonal flu vaccine as well.  “I’m not going to demand that you get these shots,” he said, “but I am going to strongly recommend it.”

On the other hand, I had the onus of internet nay-sayers…and Jake.  That’s right, you guessed it.  Jake is anti-vaccine.

We had the discussion, and I totally tracked with him.  “These vaccines are so new,” he reasoned.  “How can anyone know what they’re doing to us in the long term?” 

It’s one thing to think about yourself and your own safety as an individual.  Frankly, if this were just about me, I’d say screw the vaccine and pass the mint jelly.

But it is something entirely different to think about a child for whom you are responsible and utterly head-over-heels.  Of course, all of this talk inevitably led to concerns about vaccinating the wee Seabass.  All I wanted to do was protect him.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Oh, the ignorance. 

“It’s only one set of shots one time, right?” Jake asked me.  “And we just have to pick which ones we do and don’t want him to get, right?”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea.  Again, after the tiniest amount of “research,” I wanted to hurl myself out a window.  It is LOADS of shots on SEVERAL occasions.  To make matters worse, there are groups out there claiming that vaccines do horrible, unspeakable things to some children who receive them:

  • SafeMinds.org says vaccines cause autism. 
  • But Dr. Paul Offit says “no way, dude!” 
  • Then there’s some other guy with the wonderfully curious name of Seth Mnookin whose next book, The Panic Virus, details the implications of battling infectious diseases. 
  • Then there’s Jenny McCarthy running around through it all with GenerationRescue.org, which asserts that vaccines can indeed cause autism.  (By the by, WHY am I listening to you Miss McCarthy?  Because your son is autistic and you were in Playboy?  Hmm.) 
  • And then there are comments and blog posts and forums with all of us moms trying to figure it out.  It’s maddening.

In the end, I told Jake I couldn’t defer to research.  “Basically,” I said, “I can find a fact to defend any argument I choose.  So I leave this up to you.”  And here is what he decided:

  1. If the vaccine is less than 10 years old, we skip on it, as there is just too much unknown there.
  2. If the doctor (whether my OB or Seabass’ pediatrician, Dr. Awesome) doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other about a particular vaccine, we skip it.

Well, so far we haven’t encountered any vaccines younger than 10 years, and our doctors have urged us to go through with vaccinations.  So we’ve been textbook.  We didn’t even choose to get creative with scheduling Seabass’ shots like Dr. Sears recommends.  So boring.

In the end, we’ve decided that we have doctors for a reason.  Yes, they fail us sometimes, and yes, it’s hard to trust anyone to know all the answers.  But I really believe these people still know better than the internet does.  At the very least, they can hold our shaky parent hands and look in our bloodshot parent eyes and reassure us that whichever decision we make will be our own and no one else’s.  Now, which website can claim that level of sincerity?

I’ll never forget hearing a medical student describe her training: “Patients want so badly to believe that medicine is a matter of black and white, but I’m learning that it’s all just shades of gray.”  Scary.  And also, oddly reassuring.

Enough outta me.  What do you think?

Sunday, phlegmy Sunday

14 Nov

It finally happened.  My sore throat has turned into a rich, gurgly hack of a cough.  This means I’m on the mend!  It also means my head is full of snot and my voice sounds like Harvey Fierstein. (In fact, when I called my friend Jenny in San Francisco yesterday, she asked, “Is this a drag queen?”) 

I’m tempted to take a video of me hacking to prove it to you, but instead, I offer this photo of my bedside table.

The worst part about being sick is that I have finally infected Seabass, poor little guppy.  As I write, he lays in his crib attempting to fall asleep, quiet for five minutes, fussing for one minute, quiet for three minutes, fussing for 30 seconds.  Remember the recent Controversy Wednesday about “crying it out?”  Yeah, that pretty much goes out the window when I hear my boy wailing from plugged nostrils and a hot little forehead.  You anti-cry-it-outters will feel vindicated to know that we’ve already gone in once to do some serious Seabass-soothing, and we’re on the verge of doing it again.

If only someone would give us all the answers.  Or even just create a Nyquil for nursing mothers.  I never thought I’d miss an over-the-counter drug quite so much, but I do.  Enough to write an ode.

Ode to Nyquil

Your hue, a bluish-green
As a syrup or a pill
You give us all relief
When we are feeling ill
My precious, precious Nyquil
The salve to soothe my brain
In earnest, I do wonder
When will we meet again?

The best medicine for a sick nursing mother

11 Nov

Okay, so it's a little creepy that there's a fake blog for a fake couple and their fake baby.

I’m really sick.  Yes, I’ve descended into an abyss of wadded up toilet paper, fleece, grape juice and whining.  I’ve never been all that great at handling illness, but at least there used to be sick days I could use. 

Now?  Yeah, no such thing as sick days.  Drat.

Thankfully Jake has some.  When he got out of bed to start the pre-work hygeine routine this morning, I looked at him with death in my eyes and pleaded for him to stay home.  Thank God it worked. Otherwise Seabass may have driven me over the edge.  I don’t know what’s gotten into that kid, but he is downright inconsolable.  IS IT NORMAL FOR A BABY TO LAST ONLY ONE HOUR BEFORE MELTING DOWN???  IS IT NORMAL FOR HIM TO ACT LIKE HE’S ONLY THREE WEEKS OLD AGAIN???  Forget it.  I already know the answer: Every baby is differentTeeth.  His diaper’s too tight. 

Sigh.  He’s lucky he’s so stinking cute.

I think the toughest part about being sick right now is the fact that I can’t take much of anything to make me feel better because it will all either go straight to Seabass’ delicate little system or dry my girls up.  No Nyquil, Dayquil, Tylenol PM or anything that will knock me out and take away the pain.  I’m trying to remember that I did labor drug-lessly.  Labor was a lot harder than this, right?  Right?

Anyway, in my unmedicated oblivion, I’ve spent a fair amount of time poking around the internet.  And guess what I’ve found?  Only the best baby blog ever:

The Halpert Baby Blog.

I love love love The Office.  It’s the only TV show I watch because even when it’s bad it’s good.  So discovering the marketing genius that is a mockumentary blog about Jim and Pam’s baby Cece tickled me pink, though it’s also made me a little crazy how easy the show makes parenting look.  I know, I know: it’s not real.  But the blog certainly blurs the lines a little, doesn’t it?

For this I will most assuredly be sent to hell.

8 Nov

Just this once...

I put him in front of the TV.  And he loved it.

When Seabass was first born, a friend came by to hand down a bunch of her kids’ old toys and such.  Excitedly pulling cool things from the bag, my hands found a VHS tape of “Baby Bach” by the Baby Einstein Company.  Then a “Baby Mozart” video. 

As if.  That’s the first thing that ran through my head, though I kindly thanked her and continued to delight in the new loot.  The videos took a spot on a shelf in Seabass’ room and have been collecting dust there ever since.  That is, until today.

Yesterday was Seabass’ first Daylight Savings day, and while it went okay, he’s definitely been fussier than usual, rubbing his eyes and biting his hands like he’s at war and they’re the enemy.  But the real kicker is that I’m sick again.  Went to bed last night with a raging sore throat and awoke to it in full bloom this morning.  So let’s just say the dye was cast.

I sat little Seabass in his Pack ‘n Play in the living room, lightly dusted with a few choice toys to occupy him.  And then I put in the Baby Bach video.  I lay down on the couch, my head throbbing, and watched as my sweet, innocent son surrendered to the mind-meld that is Baby Einstein.  Yes, I was complicit in the crime.

A few weeks ago, BFF Caroline told me that she had indulged in Baby Einstein with her own wee one.  “Have you seen this stuff, Jaime?” she asked in hushed tones, lest anyone hear how she’d sinned.  “It’s like a drug trip.  Or, at the very least, it’s certainly drug-induced.”

How right she was.  I suspect that if the stoner community at-large caught wind of these videos, The Dark Side of the Moon would be asked to step aside.  Baby Einstein consists of short – VERY short – clips of toys spinning, bouncing, and rolling to the music of whoever the featured composer happens to be. 

The Baby Einstein website describes their approach thus:

Baby Einstein offers a wide range of developmentally appropriate products for babies and toddlers. What makes Baby Einstein products unlike any other is that they are created from a baby’s point-of-view and incorporate a unique combination of real world objects, music, art, language, poetry and nature — providing you an opportunity to introduce your baby to the world around them in playful and enriching ways.

The part that gets me is that last sentence: “an opportunity to introduce your baby to the world around them in playful and enriching ways.”  I’d always believed that in order to introduce my baby to the world around him, I’d have to actually take him into the world, rather than plop him in a play pen to watch a video indoors.

But today?  Oh how I needed it.

The good news is that this whole being-humbled-with-impunity thing is getting a lot easier.