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Good Stuff #5: Netflix

20 Sep

Hey, that's my address!

Ah, Netflix: Savior of the United States Postal Service and my evenings, at least since Seabass wiggled into the world.

For a bunch of boring self-righteous reasons I won’t go into here, we don’t have television.  Nope, not even the free creepy religious stations.  But we do have a TV, DVD player and VCR (you heard me right) because I’m pretty sure I would expire if I couldn’t watch movies.  Let me spell it out for you: I am obsessed with them.  Always have been, and probably always will be.

If I were asked to describe my own personal nirvana, it would include the local art house movie theater, a bucket of popcorn, and hours with nowhere to be.  But I’m not picky.  Even a bad movie is a good movie to me.  It’s the whole experience – buying the ticket, the red velvet curtains, the moment the lights dim – that floats my boat.

In the narrative of my life, Seabass entered stage right as the whole movie-going experience exited stage left.  The fact that I wouldn’t see a grown-up movie without the assistance of a babysitter for at least 10 years simply did not occur to me during pregnancy.  Case in point: The last movie I saw in a theater before Seabass’ birth was the documentary Babies.   Seriously.  If I had it to do over again, I probably would have seen Evil Dead 19 or some such  inappropriate rubbish.

Thankfully, there is an escape-making machine called NETFLIX that pumps DVDs directly to my doorstep as if by magic.  Moreover, if we are between movies via the mail, there’s always “Watch Instantly” for a handful of flicks – most of them pretty horrid – to watch on the laptop whenever we so desire.  It’s a thing of beauty.

I don’t mean to glorify tuning in and dropping out.  That’s exactly why we don’t have TV.  But during these first months of Seabass’ life, we’ve needed nightly breaks from reality in a way that I never could have expected.  Sure, at the beginning it took about five tries to get all the way through Last of the Mohicans, but even so, everything  from the film’s bloody scalpings to Daniel Day Lewis’ melodramatic “I will find you!” suited our escapism needs perfectly.

So if I find myself in the midst of a challenging day – whether it’s that Seabass isn’t sleeping or I’m cranky from exhaustion or that we’re just pushing each others’ buttons – I know I can count on that flat red envelope to take me far far away in just a matter of hours.

Thank you, dear Netflix, for suspending real life one movie at a time.

The one where I explain how things are about to get crazier

14 Sep

We just opened escrow on a new house.  Upon walking in, I had tears in my eyes because I could imagine us raising our family there.  We couldn’t be happier.

…Or more petrified.  The negotiation process took a total of nine days and I’m already worn out.  That’s BEFORE we’ve even started scraping the popcorn ceiling, laying new floors, fixing electrical problems, painting, packing and – oh yeah – moving in.

How do you protect a baby’s sleep schedule in such a chaotic chapter of life?  How do you give them everything they need while also taking care of business? 

During a breastfeeding class pre-Seabass, the lactation educator specifically warned us naive new parents, for our own sanity’s sake, not to move during the first 6 months of our new babies’ lives.

Huh.

Recipe for a good cry

13 Sep

Ingredients:

  • One new mom
  • Dozens of crazy hormones
  • Two free minutes
  • This video

Mix well.

Heart Firmly Attached To Sleeve

2 Sep

One of these babies is not like the other.

Have you noticed how boring my posts have been lately?  Seriously: SNORE.  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because I’m happy.

And I’m happy, at least in part, because I’m on anti-depressants.  That’s right, mommy’s on meds. 

I have debated whether or not to share this bit of information with the World Wide Web since I popped my first pill a little over three weeks ago.  While it’s true that I am a drama queen sans pareil, I also have a deep desire to help anyone who might find themself in a similar situation at some point.  The friends who have told me their stories and helped shepherd me thus far are godsends.  So I’ve decided to follow in their footsteps in the hope that someone out there finds in me a sympathetic virtual shoulder to cry on.

I was so naive pre-Seabass.  Colicky babies were born to patient people, and post-partum depression was for Brooke Shields.  During my pregnancy, I had a voracious appetite for books on how to nurse baby, how to put baby to sleep, how to implement a schedule, blah blah blah.  All of the chapters on colick and postpartum depression were for some other mother.  So I skipped those.

But all the books in the world couldn’t have prepared me for Seabass’ arrival.  He screamed – a manly, deep, earth-shattering scream that belied his young age – in a way that gave entirely new meaning to the word “inconsolable.”  Surprisingly, I was hopeful and upbeat for the first six weeks.  This will end, I told myself.  Everyone says it will end some day.  I clung to a chart in the book The Happiest Baby On The Block which shows a precipitous decrease in babies’ crying from six weeks forward.

But when Seabass’ crying didn’t decrease at six weeks, faith in my own endurance started to wane.  I’d heard that one in eight women experience postpartum depression. Looking around the room at my moms’ group, I saw seven happy, engaged babies and mothers.  And then there was me and Seabass.  (Beneath the exterior, I’m sure those moms felt the same sense of panic and unease as me, but to my bloodshot eyes, everyone else looked like they were on the best carnival ride ever while I was still stuck in line.)

One morning, just two hours after Jake had left for work, I called him in tears.  “I can’t do anything right for this kid,” I sobbed, barely holding a howling Seabass in my arms.  “I don’t know what to do.”  When Jake asked me if he should come home, I didn’t even know how to answer.  I just mumbled “Um, um, um” into the phone until he finally said he was on his way. 

This scenario recurred with increasing frequency; I worried that Jake would someday say he couldn’t come home.  When people asked how things were going with expectant smiles on their faces, I tried to be honest without being a wet blanket.  “It’s okay,” I’d moan.  How could I tell them that I wasn’t fit to be a mother?

Getting out of bed to feed the baby in the middle of the night, I felt a resentment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before – not at Seabass, but at life.  Like someone was out to get me.   To make me miserable.  To find my breaking point.  And insult to injury, Seabass was wide awake and wouldn’t fall asleep after eating.  So I lay on the floor of his room trying to get some sleep while he rocked in his swing, eyes wide open for an hour and a half.  When he finally went to sleep, I crawled into bed and promptly started to weep bitterly, hoping Jake wouldn’t wake up.  But he did.  “I’m so worried about you,” he whispered over my shoulder.  “I think you should talk to the doctor about getting help.”

Interestingly, I balked at his suggestion that I was struggling with postpartum depression.  “It’s not depression,” I snarled.  “It’s just a tragic combination of tough baby and hyper-sensitive mother.” 

But on Seabass’ 10-week birthday, I felt cracks in the dam.  The whole week I’d been listless, heaving monstrous sighs and thinking that nothing I’d ever done was right.  Seabass couldn’t do anything right, either.  Every little chirp and minor fuss he made joined a chorus of voices in my head saying that the good life as I’d previously known it was over.  Talking over dinner one night, Jake was gentle but firm.  “I think you need to tell the doctor how you’re feeling, love,” he said.  “Life can’t go on this way.”

Still, I wasn’t ready to “give up.”  It took conversations with two different friends who’d struggled with postpartum depression to get my attention.  I relayed these stories to Jake.  “She went on anti-depressants?” he asked, amazed.  ‘And she did, too?”  Something about knowing that normal, otherwise healthy women had felt the same uselessness and despair changed our perspective.  Suddenly, postpartum depression didn’t seem so improbable.

I wanted my doctor’s opinion, though.  After hearing an account of the previous weeks, he suggested I consider anti-depressants and gave me a short but thorough explanation of how they work.  I started the medication the next day and haven’t had a single regret.  I suppose I could let myself feel defeated or incompetent about the whole situation, but honestly, I’ve been too engaged in enjoying Seabass to feel much of anything besides gratitude.

A new mother does not envision herself taking medication for this sort of thing.  She does not set up her registry to include diapers, receiving blankets and a six-month supply of Lexapro.  And many women probably muscle through depression in early motherhood without giving anti-depressants so much as a thought.  It’s very possible that they are stronger women than me.

But exciting blog posts be damned.  I’m sticking with boring and happy.

I will take it every time.

19 Aug

About four weeks after I’d given birth to the wild Seabass, I was feeling bad about my post-partum body (e.g. the sagging, the bulging, the all-around frumpiness), and decided to lift my spirits by going on a stroller walk downtown with the boy.

As I passed the neighborhood watering hole – abuzz with butt rock and college students yelling expletives at full volume –  I remembered that it was graduation weekend for the local university.  Sighing heavily, I realized that C and I would be dodging drunk and/or hungover 22-year-olds for the remainder of the walk.  I’m only ten years older than them but I suddenly felt like Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace.  Stinkin’ kids.

I managed to avoid any major drama until, in front of the Gap, two young guys staggered toward me from the opposite direction.  It was immediately obvious that they were a) wasted, and b) looking for an opportunity to hassle someone or something.  Unfortunately, the only someone or something available at the moment was me.

“Hey!” one of them blurted from a couple feet away.

Keep your head down.  Just walk past.  And don’t let them barf anywhere near the expensive stroller.

“Hey!” he repeated.  “Dijoo grajooate thisss weekend?”

I looked over my shoulder, wondering how this poor soul could possibly confuse me – the drab woman pushing the stroller – with a perky young graduate.

“Uh, no.  That was about fifteen years ago, buddy,” I quipped, thinking that would put an end to our brief relationship.

The two young bucks exchanged slightly surprised glances before one of them gave me the thumbs up and slurred, “Lookin’ good, mom!”

Now, I should say that I do not condone drunkenness, nor leering, nor cat-calling.  Not in the least.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk home with a big smile painted on my face.  And perhaps holding my head up a little higher.

A Tiny Love Affair

18 Aug

Mommy and Baby In Love

Something is in the air.  What is that I smell?  Is it…*sniff, sniff*…HOPE? By golly, I think that’s it.  Go figure.

For the past several days, Seabass has been a brilliant, stupendous, fantastic, bodacious little fishy.  Between a combination of him getting older, getting more sleep, and allowing me to sleep, we are contentedly moving toward being hopelessly in love with one another.  And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Allow me to lend some of my hope to those of you out there on the WWW who have a righteously tough, colicky baby to care for:

He coos.  He giggles.  He smiles with his whole body.  He squeals with delight and plays weird little games we’ve made up together.  He even lets me rock him to sleep.   No, seriously.  He does.

Folks, I never thought this day would come.  I literally pictured myself trying to keep an 11-year-old Seabass from crying by doing squats with him in the Baby Bjorn.  But at 14 weeks, our little guy has suddenly turned a corner,  slowly becoming the baby I always imagined.

If ever there was an onus of expectation on a new mother, it is that she would be automatically bonded to her baby the moment he or she enters the world.  That’s a tall order, and it can wreak havoc on a woman who doesn’t actually feel all that connected to the writhing, screaming, slimy little purple lump she’s handed at birth.  Don’t get me wrong: I was over the moon when they handed Seabass to me.  I had been looking forward to meeting him all my life.  And I loved him instantly.  But I didn’t feel like I knew him when he was born.  How could I?  How often had I met a new person who couldn’t talk – could only howl – and felt profoundly connected?  Never.

But now, nearly everything has changed.  Jake feels it too.  When Seabass wakes up in the morning, he entertains himself in the crib for up to 20 minutes while we lay like corpses in bed, trying to eke out a few more moments of unconsciousness.  To greet the day by seeing his shining little happy face is far better than drinking the strongest cup of coffee.  To watch him learn how to grasp at toys and almost roll over is more entertaining than watching any movie.  And to see how fast he’s growing (95th percentile for weight, people) is like watching time-lapse photography.    It’s baffling and beautiful.  I wish I’d known it was all just around the corner when I sat crying with Seabass in my arms on the exercise ball for all those hours.

Here’s to grace unexpected.

Ouch

30 Jul

Oh, it hurts.

I’m embarrassed to admit that before Seabass sashayed into my life, I used to think this way.

“Seriously?!?” I thought to myself.  “You’re posting yet another album of pictures of your kid sitting on the toilet?!? *GIANT SIGH.*”

I’m also pretty sure I promised myself I would regularly update my Facebook status saying something that didn’t have anything to do with the baby.

Yeeeeeaaaahh.

The Post Where I Complain About Getting Old

28 Jul

The Masters of My Funk Paradise.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but sometime between turning 22 and 30, I got old.

This is sure to elicit comments of the “If-you’re-old-what-am-I?” nature. (I can practically hear the indignant uproar now.) Whatever – it’s all relative. Despite the fact that I’m only 32, the events of the past few days have conspired to make me feel like I am one short step away from popping tennis balls onto my walker and scooting out into the sunset.

We left a decidedly persnickety Seabass with Grandma Lewis two nights ago to see one of our favorite bands of all time, The Black Seeds. We discovered this tight, funky, superfun act while we were living in New Zealand, and had seen them perform once already. Although the Seeds are hugely popular on their home turf, they were relegated to playing a tiny club on a Monday night in Santa Barbara for $10 a ticket. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Leaving a fussy baby with a babysitter – even if it’s family – is much harder than I ever imagined. I swear Seabass could smell my anticipation of a good time without him because he never quite mellowed out all day, putting me on edge. Between that and a tough day at the office for Jake, our departure for Santa Barbara was less than relaxed. Thankfully, time and a little distance did their magic and pretty soon we were the Jake and Jaime of yesteryear, laughing and chatting and excited to hear good live music.

We had a lovely, easygoing dinner wherein I pretended I could eat anything I wanted, breastfeeding be damned. The show was set to start at 8pm, so I had plenty of time to pump in the car (awkward) before heading over to the club.

Okay, this is the part where I started to feel old.

The entrance to the club was deserted, save for one bored, grizzled bouncer. “We’re here for the Black Seeds show,” Jake told him. “We bought tickets online.”

“Aw, yeah. We’re just pulling ourselves together. Give us just a few minutes to open the doors.”

We hung out for the requested few minutes and came back to be let into the club. It was now 8:15pm. No band in sight. We had told Grandma Lewis the show would definitely end by 10pm – 11 at the latest.

Right.

“Well, we might as well pick our spot,” said Jake. In the old days, we would have headed straight up to the stage’s edge and stood there, defending our place for hours until the show started. Not so anymore. Jake scoped out the venue and then looked sheepishly over to me. “Um, you want chairs?”

“Uh, yeah,” I meeped, a little embarrassed. Chairs. At a show. God help us.

With a couple of beers in hand, we sat and waited for the first opening act to start. We waited. And waited. And waited until 9:15 when the music finally kicked in. They didn’t finish up until 10, at which point the second opening band took the stage to set up for their act.

To the naked eye, this band appeared to be comprised of eleven-year-old hip-hopsters: a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist/vocalist and a guy with turntables and a Macbook.

This pre-pubescent group started playing their set and, subsequently, making me feel cranky and ancient. They strutted self-consciously across the stage – guitars slung ridiculously low – in a manner obviously absorbed from hours of watching MTV. The guy on the turntables spun records of simple keyboard tracks that a monkey could have played on an actual keyboard, but he bobbed and concentrated like it was the most complicated thing that has ever required a laptop. The bass player peeled off his shirt to reveal his white, underdeveloped chest as though it were 100 degrees inside (which it wasn’t). It was all too much. Not being able to stand it any longer, we walked back to the car so I could pump a second time (still awkward) before coming back to see the band for which we’d been waiting so impatiently.

By the time the Black Seeds took the stage to start rocking my world, it was 11:30pm. Seeing my inability to relax, Jake said, “There’s nothing we can do about it, now,” with signature practically. “Seabass will be just fine, and so will Grandma. Just enjoy yourself, sweetie.”

So I did. That band absolutely cooked. The groove was grooving and the vibe was vibe-ing. For about an hour, I forgot about all the challenges of taming the wild Seabass, and it was glorious.

Getting in the car to drive home: not glorious. In fact, quite painful.

Coming home at 2:30am and waking up at 6:30am to nurse Seabass: horrific.

Seeing Seabass smile at me and contentedly greet the day after a tough 24 hours: priceless.

Thank you, sweet little boy, for going on easy on mommy when she needed it most. Love you, little guppy.

Missing: My Butt

22 Jul

Something's missing here.

While we’re admitting things we’re not proud of, I’ll just go ahead and share that I think about my body a lot these days.  Probably way too much.

When I read the word “PREGNANT” on the white stick last August, of course the first thing I considered was the tiny little Seabass swimming contentedly in my lower abdomen.  But just behind that thought was a more sinister one, lurking deep in the shadows: You’re going to get fat. And then, to its logical conclusion: The fat might never go away.

Thankfully, I only gained about 30 pounds during my pregnancy – truly a miracle considering how I put away tri-tip sandwiches and muffins for nine months.  Also very thankfully, I have lost all but five of those pounds due to breastfeeding and the God-given grace of good genes.  But that’s not to say I look the same.  Uh, no.  Not even close.

You see, I appear to have lost my butt.

It first became clear that my butt had gone missing about two months into the pregnancy.  “Does my bee-hind look different to you?” I asked Jake, turning to give him the best view.  Having learned his lesson years ago, he replied, “No, you look beautiful as always.”  Smart man.  And a liar.

I probably wouldn’t have asked him or even noticed it myself if my undergarments hadn’t started acting differently. To explain…hmmm…how can I put this delicately?  It suddenly felt like I was pulling my underwear out of my rear 24 hours a day.  There was no longer anything of substance to hold it back.  The elastic looked for something – anything – to cling to, but there was no hanging on.  It just slid across that flat surface and happily wedged itself right in the middle.

Afraid that my Mom Butt (a real condition) would lead to the inevitable wearing of Mom Jeans (a real product), I consulted with friends who’d already had babies to get the inside scoop.  “Don’t worry,” they reassured me.  “Your butt’s just hibernating.  There’ll be junk back in your trunk the moment Seabass is born.  You’ll see.”

But I’m not seeing anything yet.  My trunk remains junk-less, and I’m still playing tug-o-war with my undies on a bi-hourly basis. To make matters worse, my stomach looks like a Shar Pei puppy and my shoulders are permanently slumped from holding the baby.  I’m like the friggin Phantom of the Opera.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I know I should be patient with myself.  I know, I know. And I know that Hollywood has given me an unrealistic expectation for my postpartum body.  I know, I know.

Perhaps more helpful to me right now is knowing that my body has done something for which it was made.  I grew a beautiful, healthy baby and birthed him, all by myself.  Shouldn’t my body look different after a feat of such enormity?  If it took nine months for this body to grow with Seabass, shouldn’t I expect that it will take another nine months to shrink back to size?

Yes, I should.

But I think some of this crazy-making comes from my refusal to accept that I look like a mom.  I may not wear Mom Jeans (yet) but I carry a diaper bag that requires its own zip code.  I can’t wear most of my cute pre-preg clothes because they don’t present easy access to the boob for nursing.  I mean, I drive a little SUV for crying out loud.  Anyone who looks at me can easily deduce which phase of life I’m in, long before the baby comes into view.  And maybe that scares me a little.  The no-question-ness of it all.

So for the time being, I’m putting up little signs around the neighborhood that read: “Have you seen this butt?  Last seen August, 2009.”  I’m checking between the cushions on the sofa.  I’m peeking in the dryer and under the bed.  My tush has to be somewhere around here, and I’m not giving up until I find it.

I’m Not That Mom

20 Jul

The reward for staying home

Pre-parents have to be the most optimistic folks in the world.  “I’m not going to disappear!” I told friends while pregnant.  “I refuse to be one of those new moms who vanishes the moment the baby’s born.  You’ll see me at all the same parties, I’ll go out to dinner, we’ll have you guys over – it will be exactly the same…only Seabass will be there, too.”

Well, shoot.  I wish I could be That Mom.  The one who looks stunning in a breezy summer dress at the restaurant, holding her bright-eyed baby loosely on her lap while sipping Prosecco, eating a chopped salad, and laughing contagiously.   The one who has no fear of a full calendar.  The one who puts her baby in the car seat and drives to Timbuktu while he sleeps peacefully.  The one who can nurse at the cafe while simultaneously reading the NY Times.  Who uses the baby as a weight for bicep curls.  Who showers.  Who even looks showered.

Coming to terms with the fact that I am not That Mom – and that Seabass is not that baby – has been a big, nasty adjustment.  It all started with Jake’s paternity leave.

He’d been approved for three weeks’ vacation time when the baby came, and we envisioned the four of us (me, Jake, C and Murph) going to the beach, wine tasting, and completing longstanding projects around the house.  Instead, we spent those 21 days bouncing on the exercise ball, changing diapers, nursing, swaddling, sleeping, and guessing a lot.  There were whole days spent in pajamas.  Whole days spent with furry teeth.

I wish I could say it got a lot better after those first few weeks, but it didn’t.  Seabass started waking up, revealing his true nature.  He screamed going on and coming off the breast (reflux), which meant I didn’t feel comfortable nursing in public.  He often couldn’t relax without being swaddled, which meant we couldn’t put him in the car seat to go grocery shopping.  His naps were sporadic at best, and they would only happen if he was at home in his crib.  He cried if he wasn’t eating.  He cried if he wasn’t sleeping.  The one “silver bullet” to keep him from howling was (is) the exercise ball, which I cannot and will not bring with me everywhere I go.

So instead, we stay home.

You know, everything in our society tells women that we can “have it all.”  As a new mom, I’ve been scolded countless times that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of the baby. But what exactly constitutes self-care?  Is it the bottom level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, including the basics of eating, sleeping and hygiene?  That’s not usually the context, no.  When people recommend that I “take care of myself,” it usually implies doing something I want to do, rather than something I need to do.  Very different.

And also, I’ve decided, not good for me.

How do I know this?  Whenever I “take care of myself” by making Seabass revolve around me – whether by working out, seeing friends, or cooking something other than Hamburger Helper – the baby flips out and inflicts pain back onto me.  I feel like we spend the next 24 hours re-calibrating through weeping and gnashing of teeth.  It’s dreadful.

But if I look first to the baby’s needs – a solid nap in his crib at the regular time, a long nursing in the rocking chair, keeping that stupid exercise ball within arms’ reach 24 hours a day – I find that my life is more serene and manageable, even if it has become tragically small.  (Approximately 900 square feet small!)  While parenting Seabass has meant an abrupt cessation of life as I once knew it, the more I’ve embraced the fact that I can’t be That Mom, the richer my life has become.

By no means is this a painless lesson, though.  The day I realized that having Seabass prohibited me from leaving the house, I sat down at my laptop to decline a full inbox worth of invitations for lunches, going-away parties, bridal showers, movies, writing work, walks on the beach, etc.  Fat tears squiggled down my cheeks as I repeated the sad refrain: “I’m sorry.  I just can’t commit to anything right now.  Maybe next December?”  But the moment I was truthful with them and myself was the first really freeing moment of my foray into parenthood thus far.

So, to all Those Moms out there who manage to do it all – have it all – while the baby just comes along for the ride, congratulations!  You are blessed.  But to the rest of you who struggle disproportionately with babies who can’t and won’t adjust, I grant you permission to go underground.  Forget having it all.  Do your best to enjoy having what you have.

See you next spring.  Maybe summer.