Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving



My in-laws gave Piper a giant-size walk-on keyboard for Christmas.

It's very loud.

Especially since she can't walk yet, so she sits on the keys, and unlike a regular piano, the sound doesn't ring out and then fade. It just keeps going. And going. And going.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shootout at the ZZZ Corral


What time is it? Why that would be 2:45 in the a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

I am still up.

I am still up because Piper is up. She woke up tonight about 12:30, screaming as though the Boogeyman himself had appeared to her, and since my husband has to get up at 5 a.m. to go to the airport, I took her downstairs with me. I figured it would be a few minutes, a half-hour maybe, until she dropped off to sleep again. I could snuggle her on the couch while watching reruns of Jon & Kate Plus 8 or something.

She refused to snuggle. She refused to sit quietly on my lap while I surfed the Internet. She didn't take kindly to playing alone on the floor, either. Then she went through three diapers in a series of rapid-fire pooping incidents the likes of which I haven't experienced since her tiny-infant days. She screamed and threw herself around in my arms when I tried to rock and shush her. She pushed me away when I tried to snuggle her. She screeched in indignation when I put her in the Exersaucer. She howled with fury when I laid her in the pack n' play, even though I turned on the "soothing vibrations" and "nature sounds." She twisted off my lap and very nearly catapulted herself onto the floor when I tried to tell her a soothing bedtime story.

Currently she is sitting on the floor next to me, playing with the straps and zippers on my diaper bag.* She is obsessed with straps, buckles, and zippers lately, as well as taking things out of their container/box/bag, so it fits the bill on all counts. Even though I'm tired and annoyed right now, I am still getting a kick out of watching her studiously test the zippers and chew on the straps and try to pull out the things tucked inside and finger the zipper-pull.

This is a battle of wills. I can outlast her. She barely took any naps at all today (two, less than 20 minutes each, instead of the two hour-plus ones she should have). This may account for my current, slightly crazed, state of mind, but it also means that she'll have to fall some time. She is a tiny person, she's a kid, she has to sleep. I logged less than eighteen total hours of sleep in the week after she was born; I can do it again if I have to. I will win this. I will stay up with her until she passes out while sitting up, if need be.

Edited, 2:55 a.m.: She's on my lap now, because I heard a small thunk and looked down to discover she was no longer playing with the diaper bag but instead taking advantage of the smooth hardwood floors here in the dining room to lay down and push herself around backwards. The thunk was her foot hitting the leg of her high chair - she'd scooted underneath it and gotten stuck. Much squealing ensued.

3:09 a.m.: Ha-ha! I have the power of boob. I win. She dozed off while nursing and I laid her on the couch so I could finish up a few things. Victory!

3:20: I win nothing. She woke up howling, apparently quite pissed-off at being tricked into sleep.

3:35: Dozing...dozing....

3:45: Asleep again on the couch. Complete with little baby snores. Which, while I find them adorable, probably mean that she is congested and has therefore caught The Plague, aka the sinus/respiratory misery that has plowed through everyone else in the house since last week. Well, this means the rest of my week is going to be a totally shit time...


*My diaper bag? Is awesome. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. And I mean that in an "I have a funny story" way, not a "hey, I'm a freak who thinks everyone should hear about idiotically mundane details of my life" way. Okay, well, maybe a little bit the second thing, because I am blogging here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Again, Not Much of a Planner

My husband has a 6 am flight to Charlotte tomorrow, because he's going down there for a few days so he can do his orientation and meet his students and maybe look for a place for us to live.

Like I said, 6 am tomorrow.

He just got his hotel & car rental this afternoon. It required much scrambling.

He's not packed.

I don't think any of his dress clothes are even clean or accessible.

He can't remember what time his flight gets back on the 22nd.

I have to go buy him some shoes.

We're both sick.

And I have fucking Christmas presents out the ass left to knit.

*sigh*

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If I Were Smarter...

...I'd be in bed right now. Instead, I am up writing and blogging and reading and poking around on the Internet. I cannot do this during the day because Piper has decided that I must not be more than four feet from her at any point during the day, that naps are for suckers, and that the key to true happiness is to have someone hold your hands and 'walk' you around the house. She can support her own weight and has the walking motions down pat, but she can't get to a standing position or balance herself, so someone has to hold her up as she walks. I have to admit, it's pretty fun to have her chubby little hands clutch my fingers as she jaunts from room to room, toddling after the cats with delighted squeals and making a complete circuit of the first floor over and over. What's not fun is walking around hunched over for thirty minutes at a stretch, creeping around the house at a snail's pace, "walking" the baby through the maze of holiday-decoration-filled boxes my mom has dragged out in the past three days, trying to make sure she doesn't eat anything glass and every lap around glancing at the basement door and thinking about the 10 loads of laundry piled up down there.

It's hard to keep up with her from day to day, she changes so much. She's always doing something new, and it's difficult to remember it all, let alone write about it. I like to write about her, to try and record everything that's going on with her and put down the tiny moments that make up our life together. A few weeks ago, I read back through some old stuff I wrote when I was pregnant, and it seemed so very far away. Me? Pregnant? I was pregnant? It seems like a lifetime ago.

The truth is I love my baby, and I love being with her every day. I never thought I'd be one of those people. I keep talking about going back to work soon, and eventually I will have to, but right now the thought breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to think about not being with her all day. Even days like the past three, where most of the sounds issuing from her cute little mouth are whines and cries and howls and I drive myself crazy trying to either figure out what's wrong or distract her so that she will be quiet for five minutes before my head explodes. No toy is fun, no activity is amusing, even the once-beloved swing and Exersaucer inspire screaming and full-body thrashing whenever I take her near them. She cries if I put her down, she gags on her rice cereal and peas and sweet potatoes and looks at me as though I am trying to poison her. She fights sleep, throwing herself around in my arms as I try to persuade her to nap or at least go to bed sometime before midnight. My arms and shoulders ache from holding her all day, from picking her up and putting her down so many times. Yesterday I made chicken enchiladas one-handed.

Even on these days, when I am exasperated and tired and realize I haven't had a shower in three days and I just want to work on knitting Christmas presents and maybe finish a damned cup of coffee...even on these days I love her and I would rather be here than answering someone's phone or discussing user-friendly implementation strategies for the latest system upgrade.

I haven't been away from her for more than four hours since she was born. That was only because my mom dragged me out shopping one day when Piper was seven weeks old, and what was supposed to be a one-hour trip out for some birthday cards and Campbell's soup turned into a four-hour odyssey through first the dollar store and then Wal-Mart, with me dragging behind my mother as she perused every single greeting card they had and Max calling every half-hour to tell me that although he'd tried everything three times, the baby was still screaming and if I didn't come home soon he was going to float her down the river in a basket made of bulrushes. After the third call in forty minutes where I could hear Piper screaming in the background, I finally told her that we had to go right now, just buy your brother the card with the shitting monkey and get it over with before the neighbors call Child Services on my husband for stabbing our baby with red-hot pokers.

When we got home, I was out of the car before it had even stopped rolling, and I bolted into the house to find my stressed-out husband holding a red-faced baby who was shrieking so loud the neighbor across the street commented on it the next day. I took her and soothed her and nursed her (ahh, the power of boob) and promised my husband that we would take her with us next time, rather than disappearing into the great wide open and leaving him with a pissed-off infant.

I have been out a few times since then, Max and I have gone out to the movies or dinner once in a while, or I run errands alone. I don't leave her for long periods of time, partly because I don't want a reapeat of that day, and partly because I don't want to be away from her. There are, of course, times when my husband comes downstairs and I say "pleasewatchthebabyI'mtakingashowerrightnowokaybye" because I cannot put up with one more minute of listening to the ceaseless moan-whine and I don't want to dig chunks of soggy, chewed paper out of her mouth for a fourth time in two hours. It usually only takes thirty minutes of hot water and fruity shampoo and fluffy towels before I'm ready to go back downstairs and discover where the cache of oh-so-tasty paper is hidden or make another attempt at convincing her that smushed-up peas are really edible and not something to rub in your hair or grind into your clothes.

I like my little girl, and luckily she likes me right now. I treasure every slobbery kiss, every hug that invovles pulling my hair or poking me in the eye. I know that before too long there will be school and sleepovers and boys and iPods full of music I will call "noise." I'm enjoying this closeness with her for as long as she'll let me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not a Planner, But He Makes Good French Toast

One of my husband's more exasperating qualities is the way he hands out information. Whenver anything's going on, he either a) doesn't get all the necessary info, or b) doesn't give it to me. For example, he'll tell me his parents are talking about coming for a visit on Saturday, but he won't know what time and he thinks "maybe we're going to go eat lunch or something together." I don't find out until Friday night that they are coming the next day at two o'clock and not only are we going out to eat, they have a very specific place in mind and I need a nice-looking outfit to wear and they'll probably want to come back here afterwards so I need to make a dessert and stock the fridge with beer. It has taken YEARS of screaming and pleading and explaining and temper tantrums on my part to get him to correct this habit even a tiny bit. At least now he'll tell me up-front that he doesn't have any more information, and occasionally he'll remember to ask for it before he hangs up the phone with the person he has just made plans with.

I'll admit it, I am a control freak and I like to have as much information as possible beforehand. I like to be able to plan for every contingency. Some people would find it paranoid and weird that I would pick out three (sometimes more) possible outfits to wear to lunch with my in-laws, so that I have choices based on what the weather is like tomorrow, possible shoes I might feel like wearing, and whether or not I think his mom will wear a blue dress and do I want to run the risk that we might be dressed even a little bit alike. I am more inclined to call this facet of my personality the "they drive to weird-ass out-of-the-way places and I don't want to be scrunched into their Saturn for four hours of drive time wearing too-tight pants and a sweater that is hotter than a blacktop in July, and ok so sue me but I would be weirded out if my MIL and I both showed up in flowy blue dresses" factor. I will make said dessert and buy said beer for consumption post-meal at our house, but I will fret that maybe blueberry pie won't go with whatever we'll be eating, and perhaps I should buy both light and dark beer because you never know what people will be in the mood for.

My husband's refusal/inability to adhere to the Defense of Our Marriage Freedom of Information Act (i.e. Weetzie will freak the hell out when she does not know every tiny detail beforehand so if you are making plans you'd better get your facts straight, pal, and God help you if you don't tell her everything you know immediately) has forced me to be a little more Zen with my planning. Oh, sure, he's improved (he usually remembers to nail down time, date, and place now), but you are talking to a woman who will not wear red underwear beneath a purple skirt because those two colors don't match and it would bother me all day. I am so Zen now that he can say "my parents are coming on Saturday" and I will just shrug, pick out two possible outfits, and make an apple crisp. That's how Zen I am.

My Zen-master qualities will be sorely tested with this move. Er, possible move, since last night he said that he hadn't actually told them he full-on accepted the offer, and he thought maybe he'd go down there first and check it out. I spent the day combing websites and puzzling over neighborhood maps for a place we may or may not move. I haven't even gotten around to trying to price moving trucks or figuring out how we're going to live for months and months with no furniture because we got rid of it all and, horrifically enough, there is no Ikea in North Carolina.

I suppose I can't blame him for his caution. We went in blind and excited for our California move, and that did not turn out nearly as great as we thought it would. And a job is nice, but if it's going to be another terrible job in a place we can't really afford to live and would hate...well, that's why we left California.

I am pretty proud of myself, though, for not picking up something and beating him with it when I asked about things like the job salary, benefits, etc. and he said he didn't know. I just took a deep breath and told myself that I can't blame him for not researching the job all that well, since we thought it was a long shot and weren't sure how interested we were in another big move. It would just be nice to know these things, so I can work out a possible budget and maybe find a pediatrician or know if I'm going to have to auction a kidney on Ebay every time Piper gets an ear infection or someone keys our car.*

He's supposed to go down there for an orientation before the end of the month (two days right before the school lets out for Xmas break), and I think his plan is go down there solo and check it out - the school, the neighborhoods, the town in general. We want a reasonably nice neighborhood (our budget never allows for one that's super-trendy or super-safe) where we can survive with one car. I am going cross-eyed looking at apartment listings and trying to get familiar with a city I've never been to. When we moved to California, it was sheer dumb luck that got us an apartment three blocks from his school, which just happened to be on the safer end of town. We picked that complex because it was cheap and allowed pets. Somehow I don't think Fate will be that kind twice, and I don't want to end up livng next to a sewage treatment plant (does Charlotte have a DoWiSeTrePla?) or in a place where living with only one car is out of the question.

One thing that got me totally excited about this (possible, probable) move was when Max pulled up the weather forecasts for there...and then for here. It's supposed to be high-60's in Charlotte this weekend. Here? They're prediciting mid-30's and snow. I did not like the cold when I lived in Michigan before, and two years of wearing flip-flops 11.5 months of the year did not make me happy to come back to a place where I have to dress my wriggly, cranky child in 4 layers of clothing just to take her outside.




*Which happens a lot, actually. Twice in the first year we owned it - once in CA, and once two days after we arrived back in Michigan.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Southward Bound

This morning, Max got offered a job in North Carolina.

It appears that we Yankees are about to go get Southern-fried.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lactation Education

At church a few weeks ago, Piper was hungry and crabby after the service, so while Max got coffee and chatted with some friends, I took her into the "infant room" of the child-care wing to nurse her. Usually I'd just take her out to the car, but I was feeling both brave and too tired to drag her all the way out to the parking lot, not to mention she was yowling like a wounded Yeti while climbing all over me and pinching my arms. We were rapidly approaching meltdown. The baby room was close, likely deserted, and quick.

The lights were off, the room was empty of people. I sat down in the sole rocking chair and wrestled the baby into position. A little boy of probably three or four came in and started playing with some of the toys. I stayed were I was, since it didn't bother me to have him in there and he didn't seem like he even noticed I was nursing. He got out a game that resembled Connect Four, except it was dog-shaped. I saw that it was actually more like Tic-Tac-Toe, and you had to use the dog's tail to flip the red or blue chips into the slot you wanted. He played by himself for a minute, and then he decided he wanted company.

"Hey, can your baby come play with me?" he asked.
"Um, not right now," I answered.
"Yes she can," he said. "She can come down here and play this game with me."
"Well, maybe in a minute," I said. "She's eating right now."
I suddenly had his full attention. "She's eating?"
"Yup."
He looked puzzled. He came closer and leaned over me, peering directly at the spot where Piper was guzzling milk. "Is that baby biting your boobie?" he asked in a voice of concern.
I stifled a laugh. "No," I said, "she's not biting me. There's milk in there."
He looked completely astounded. "There's milk? In there?"
"Yes, it's milk, but it's not like regular milk. It's special milk for babies."
"Oh." He paused and looked back at his game. "Well, when she's done can she come down here and play?"
"Okay." And true to my word, when she was done I put her on the floor and she watched him flip the little red and blue discs around until I stood up and said we had to go.

I bet that kid's parents got quite the earful on the car ride home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Little Stinker


My child is sleeping in her swing (oh blessed instrument of peace) and snoring. Little baby snores.

Earlier, she managed to smell up the entire living room with a diaper so stinky it had to go immediately into the garbage cans outside, it could not be left in the pail until the nightly trash run. And that was nothing compared to Sunday's fun, when she pooped so much it blew out her diaper, soaked through the 3 layers of clothing she was wearing (including her socks), soaked the seat of her Exersaucer (which is how I disovered the cloth part comes off and is machine-washable), puddled beneath her feet, and soaked through both of my shirts when I picked her up.

Don't even get me started on her farts. She's always been gassy, but not particularly stinky. For some reason, in the past month she's started to smell like a locker room full of frat boys eating cabbage-and-bean burritos.

I will never lose her in a crowd, because I can smell her from 15 feet away.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

24 Weeks

It's unbelievable to me how fast we are zooming up to the 6-month-mark. Every day Piper gets less and less like a baby and more like a miniature toddler. She is still changing every day, and every day she gets more fun and interactive. Of course, this also makes her harder to entertain because she needs more stimuli - simply plopping her in front of the picture window and letting her watch leaves blow around isn't cutting it anymore.

To that end, I broke down and let an Exersaucer enter the house. I tried hard to avoid it, but just couldn't hold out. She likes to stand up, but can't do it on her own, so someone has to hold her up. I love my kid, but I can't sit there and hold her up all day, I have other things to do (like eat, shower, and oh, I don't know, the 14 loads of laundry piled up in the basement). Hence the Exersaucer. It's not like she stays in it all day - I can get 5-20 minutes of stuff done once I put her in there, and then it's on to the next activity.

When we do hold her in a standing postion, however, she has the mechanics of walking down pat. She will happily march between the two of us or do little crazylegs-marching-dances in place. When she's playing alone on the floor she can spin herself in circles and creep towards objects. She's getting pretty fast at it, and I have to constantly patrol the living-room floor to make sure things like knitting needles, stray leaves, and people's shoes (she likes to suck on the shoelaces) are picked up. She pushes herself up on her hands now, and I feel that the legs aren't very far behind. Everyone's still betting she will be crawling by the end of the year.

She's gotten very vocal this week - enter screaming. She's been shrieking for a while, but has now developed that high-pitched ultra-loud little-kid scream of delight. Occsionally it is a scream of less-than-delight, but mostly she screams for the fun of it. Which is hilarious, except when it's 1:30 in the morning and she just wants to climb all over me and scream in my ears. And that kid is LOUD. If we're in the living room, she can be heard all the way at the other end of the house upstairs. I'm pretty sure they can hear her outside, even with the windows shut against the cold. Actually, I'm pretty sure they can hear her in Toledo.

Between the Exersaucer, the (3) baby gyms, all the bright-colored toys and books scattered everywhere and the constant screaming, the living room is starting to resemble a Chuck E. Cheese's.

When she's not screaming, she's babbling. This week it's "d" sounds, a constant stream of "a-da da da da...a-daadadaDADADA!!" Max loves it because it is that much closer to an actual "Dada" even though he knows she's not using it in context yet. She still makes the "mamamamma" noise when she's hungry or she wants me, so we are still counting it as contextual. She will sob "mamamama!" while holding her chubby little arms out to me, and of course it melts me into little puddles. The worst heartstring-tug came a few days ago, when I was trying to let her cry herself to sleep. I plopped her in the crib with a blankie and some toys, but she wasn't having any of it. She started to cry, and I had to practically sit on my hands not to pick her up. I tried patting her back and shushing, but she looked right at me and sobbed (with real tears dripping down her face) "nununononooo mama!" Just about broke my fucking heart.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stolen



Good Lord, I go a long time here between updates. I'm prone to letting this thing sit idle for weeks or months, then dropping a flurry of back-dated posts and disappearing again.

Today I want to talk about Halloween. We did not do anything this Halloween, and for the first time in a long time, that was a big let-down. Actually, this year, it was a crushing disappointment to me. In years past, I sat in a puddle of disappointment as the hours ticked by and we sat at home futzing around on the Internet or watching stupid TV instead of going to fun parties or hosting successful bashes of our own. We never really got invited anywhere, and the one time we did attempt to throw a party, hardly anyone showed up (to be fair, it was pretty short notice) and we were left with 73 Jello shots, 2 cases of beer, a tub of ice, and 14 caramel apples. We were both sick for days afterward, because who in their right mind is going to let caramel apples and Jello shots go to waste? I don't think I was able to look at Jello without shuddering for two years.

These yearly disappointments could always be somewhat lessened by going the next day and stocking up on half-price candy and novelty socks at Target. No, I did not have a fun, exciting Halloween, but I did have 6 bags of fun-size Snickers. And, I reasoned, the bags of candy I stashed in the freezer would keep me happy until Thanksgiving at least, whereas waking up with a hangover and spotty memories of the undoubtedly stupid things I'd done and said the night before was pretty much a one-time gift.

This year, I did not anticipate parties that never materialized, I did not envy my friends' plans to get shit-faced on Day-Glo colored drinks and leave smears of greasy facepaint on the rims of unfamilar toilet seats. This year, what I looked forward to was dressing up our adorable little charge and parading her around so she could see and be seen. She loves to people-watch, and I figured we'd have a grand old time wandering around with her in some sort of costume, letting her watch away. And, hey, if we scored some candy in the deal, so much the better.

We even had her costume picked out - a lobster. Yes, it was one of those silly little baby-bunting costumes, but we saw it last year, when I was just barely pregnant, and thought it was hilarious. Besides, then we could call her "First Lobster" in a British accent. For our part in the costume revelry, we could wear lobster bibs and carry around a tub of butter. Hilarious, right?

Unfortunately, our monetary situation this year did not lend itself to spending $25 on frivolous things like a baby lobster costume. That's okay, I reasoned, she still has her wizard outfit from the Harry Potter book party back in July. It was huge on her then, and it's just a tie-front open-bottom gown, it should still fit. She can wear that. It'll still be cute.

But even that did not come to pass. We spent Halloween at home, doing nothing. Since we're still at my parents' house and don't really know anybody here anyway, it's not like we could have a party. We had nobody to go trick-or-treating with, and I thought it was a little gauche to take Piper by herself. It would be pretty obvious that we were only in it for the candy. I suppose we could've taken her around the neighborhood and rang some doorbells but told people we didn't want the candy. Then again, that's really saying "hey, we don't want candy, but tell us how cute our baby is!" We didn't even have any friends to visit or anything. So we sat at home. Piper got a kick out of seeing the 10 or so (seriously, that's all there were all night, mostly neighborhood kids my mom has baby-sat at one time or another) trick-or-treaters that came to the door. She loves to watch other kids anyway, and she thought the costumes were funny.

I sat on the couch watching pointless television the whole night, my underlying resentment at our situation simmering like a pot of four-alarm chili. If we'd still been in California, I told myself, we could go trick-or-treating with our friends E & M and their two little girls. We could take the baby around to our friends' houses and hang out drinking hard cider until 11 p.m. It would be the Halloween we'd been dreaming about for a year, ever since we saw that lobster costume. Instead, I spent the night hearing my mom say "look at our baby!" to everyone who came to the door and discussing Piper in a voice filled with ownership.

It was really a perfect illustration of why this situation isn't working for me, and how all my biggest fears about doing this have been realized. No jobs, no money, no friends, no chance for escape. We are broke, and it will be a while before we can afford to move out of here. The longer we stay, the more influence my mom has over our daughter. My mother likes to grab at and lay claim to so many things in my life, and my baby has not escaped this behavior. In fact, she is probably more grabby and territorial with Piper than she has been with anything else up to this point. This may only be because she can carry the baby around without remark, but people would've thought it strange if she had locked me in a a closet, put on my wedding dress, and hijacked our wedding. As it was, she came pretty close. Now she seems to think she has a free pass labled "Doting Grandmother." And as long as things stay the way they are, I can't do much to stop that.

There's always next Halloween, and, as a friend of mine pointed out, Piper won't even remember. I suppose those things are true, but they don't do anything to make it feel less like someone stole my baby's first Halloween from us. Next year she'll be too big for silly bunting costumes, next year she'll want to pick her own. Next year she'll be walking and talking and probably ready to trick-or-treat in her own right. She probably won't remember this boring, house-bound Halloween (or care). I will. I will remember that this year, her first time with my favorite holiday, there was nothing to remember.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Things We Carried

We spent a weekend recently at the home of some old friends, baby in tow. Traveling with a baby is an enormous pain in the ass. In August we had to make an eight-hour drive South to Illinois for a funeral, and that sucked. Particularly because it was hotter than Hell and my mom was with us, bringing her own special blend of “help” on the road. This time it was just our little family…and a car full of crap. Piper has started rolling in earnest, so when she falls asleep we can no longer just plunk her in the middle of the bed and call it good. Therefore we had to drag along our Pack n’ Play, which, although cute, is big. We also brought the stroller in case we went/walked somewhere and the almighty bouncy seat. The baby is at an age where she can play and be entertained now, which necessitated a floor-quilt and a tote full of toys. I learned the hard way last time that I didn’t pack enough clothes for the baby so this time I brought two of everything: two footie sleepers, two long-sleeve onesies, two short-sleeve onesies, two sweaters, three hats, and a warm one-piece outfit with long sleeves and a hood, just in case. I checked the weather but it can change pretty fast here and 74 degrees can feel like either 54 or 94, depending on where you are and what time of year and how humid it is and whether or not the gods have received their virgin sacrifices in a timely manner. So I packed for all occasions. I also brought extra clothes for me, since I learned that lesson the hard way, too. It’s not a lot of fun smelling like spit-up all day. I also packed a ridiculous number of breast pads, since I didn't pack nearly enough last time and therefore drove home all the way from the Indiana border with a Lightdays Unscented Pantiliner stuck inside my bra. Our car was not exactly stuffed by the time we loaded all this in there but it sure didn’t leave a lot of extra room.

It was sort of depressing, really, because we swore we’d never be THOSE people. The ones lugging mountains of crap around for one small baby. You've seen them, I'm sure. They are laden like pack-mules, bags and totes and mysterious foldable pieces of baby gear hanging from their limbs, and they leave a trail of squeaky stuffed animals and stale Cheerios in their wake. We have become those people. I’m trying to look at the big picture – she won’t be in diapers forever, eventually she’ll be able to get in and out of a regular bed by herself, one day she’ll be able to turn the pages of her books all on her own instead of just chewing on them. The amount of stuff she needs will decrease slowly. We just can’t go on any long trips with passengers until then.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Overheard In Our Living Room

"Oh my God, you have made me so gay."
"What? Why?"
"Because I'm looking at that girl, and all I can think is 'she has fabulous eyebrows!'"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not So Sunny

I'm in a bad place this (these) week (weeks). Everything I write is so melancholy and bitter. Everything I feel is so melancholy and bitter.

I am trying to focus on the good stuff: my loving husband, my beautiful baby, the fact that my little family is safe and warm and healthy. But in and around and behind those things creeps the fact that I am tired of living here. The arrangement has lost its lustre. I have never done well when I have had to live with my mother, and three continuous months of it have pushed the limits of my endurance. I am irritable and snappish these days. I grit my teeth and tap my feet. I snarl and grunt. Everything my mother does or says annoys me, it's like someone is running a cheese grater over my soul. I have to remind myself daily of all the reasons we left California. I use them like mantras. It was dirty, I chant to myself as I clench my teeth and try not to explode while my mother says for the 1,000th time that Piper is fussing because she wants her grandma. It was crowded, it was concrete ugliness and expensive trash and we hated it as I trip over a box of our clothes that's sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor because there's nowhere else to put it. Max hated his job, he was so miserable I tell myself as the box of clothes trips me a second time and I crash into a dresser, sending a cascade of our junk to the floor. I missed the rain. A stack of CD's falls behind the dresser with a clatter. We wanted our daughter to know her family.

It's not working so well these days. I am homesick for our old apartment, a place that was all ours. I am tired of sharing my baby. I am tired of nothing ever staying where I put it down, of all our posessions constantly being scooped into piles and dumped into baskets and shoved into boxes and nothing is ever where I need it to be and nothing is ever where I left it. I am homesick for the dry heat and even more so for our apartment's air conditioning, which we could turn on and set to nipple-hardening temperatures whenever we felt like it. I miss the places we used to go, even though by the time we moved I was so sick of seeing all those ugly malls and chain stores I wanted to scream. I miss the familiarity of it all, the rhythm of days that were ours for the taking.

I miss having a life of our own, seperate and far away from all this. I miss being able to try new things (like joining the Unitarian church or watching Justin Timberlake videos) without someone screeching "WHAT?!" because they don't know or understand the version of me that longs for a sense of community and would like to bring sexy back. We moved back here to be closer to our family, all of whom were so ready to love and love and love and love our little baby, but these days I wake up thinking why the fuck am I here? I want to be a continent away from these people again. I am starting to resent my husband for bringing us here, and to resent myself for not speaking out against this plan when I had the chance. I resent myself for not having fantastic job that would have allowed us to stay there. I resent California for being expensive and dirty and unsustainable; I resent Michigan for being humid and crowded with family and devoid of economic promise. I am growing morose and moody this week, I am twisting inward like a shriveled, dry tree trunk.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Holding On

Today I said to Max, “It’s so strange to think about…do you realize a few months ago we didn’t even know her? We didn’t know anything about her, other than that she liked food. We only knew that because when I got hungry she would kick me every time my stomach growled. And now she’s a whole little person, with all her preferences and personality. She likes Cuban music, hates riding in the car, her favorite toy makes crinkly noises. A few months ago we didn’t even know her name was Piper.”

A few short months ago, we did not even know this strange and delightful creature. We did not know her name, we did not know the tone and pitch of her cries, we did not know the curves of her smile. She was still hidden deep in my belly, floating in the darkness and muffled noise. There are times I miss those days. I don’t miss the discomforts of being pregnant, but growing a child was the greatest mystery I have ever known. What would she be like? Who would she look like? What would her voice sound like? What color eyes? I also find myself missing the feeling of her there, swimming around in her own safe cocoon. I did not have to share her in those days. I happily shared everything my husband wanted to know, but when the house fell quiet late at night and I trudged off to the comforts of our guest bedroom with its sinkhole mattress just for me, we were alone. Nobody could take her from my arms, or insist that she missed them, or tell me they knew what she needed. I could put my hand to the place where my abdomen used to be, and feel her limbs thumping against the swell of my belly.

In the late months of my pregnancy, a friend told me to enjoy those final weeks, because it was the last time the baby would be all mine. It was the last time I would not have to share her or wonder where she was, and any decisions about the baby were still mine to make. I tried to do this as best I could, but I didn’t fully appreciate her words until after my daughter was born. When people ask me what the hardest thing is about being a new mother, my answer is always easy and always the same. Sharing. Sharing my baby is the hardest thing. So many arms reaching out, so many mouths talking, so many people laying claim to the child that was all mine until so recently. I can’t fault these people for what they do; Piper is their niece, granddaughter, grand-niece or pseudo-cousin just as much as she is my baby. But it can be exhausting, all these reaching arms and talking mouths. It is tiring to manage them, to try and make sure that everyone gets a turn and everyone feels special and everyone gets to dispense their own particular advice and know-it-all about my own child.

I am trying to be gracious. I am trying not to hold her too tight, because I know these people are the first of so many I will have to share her with. Teachers, roommates, friends, lovers, maybe even her own children one day. They will all know her and love her in ways that are different from the way I love her. They will all be parts of her life, each building on the last. I look ahead and I see this, the endless line of people waiting to love my special little girl.

But for now, I yearn to have her all to ourselves, away from everyone, just the three of us together safe and warm and loving.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

12 Weeks

Twelve weeks old. Three months. This little person has been out and about for twelve whole weeks now. I looked at some pictures from her first three weeks, and could not believe how tiny she was compared to the robust little being who now fills my days and nights. In the past two weeks, she’s had a language explosion. There were a few noises here and there, a little cooing or babbling, and she loved it when we had “conversations” where I would mimic her, but her game is at a whole new level. She’s making noises now that resemble parts of actual words, vowels and consonants which we receive with delight. We’re pretty sure she says “hi” already, because as first-time parents we are convinced our baby is a genius. She says it to people when they walk in the room or come up to her, and she says it when she sees the smiley face on her favorite toy, so it appears she knows how to use it and therefore we count it as a real word and not mere noise. Even my skeptic of a dad, who politely laughs when I tell him my baby is a genius, is convinced.

In the past few weeks, her personality has emerged loud and clear. She has a “blankie” now, which is really just a cloth diaper, i.e. a square of white gauze material. Not the thick kind, but light and loosely-woven. She waves it around, she chews on it, she plays peek-a-boo with it. She has to have one wherever she goes, clutched in her chubby little fingers. She latched onto it over a month ago, during a phase when she was starting to grab things and loved to have fabric in her hands. Her quest to hold handfuls of fabric resulted in her grabbing the skirt of anything even vaguely dress-like we’d put her in, and hoisting it over her face. If only we could’ve taught her to say “free show!” while she lifted her dress, we’d be YouTube superstars right now. One day she grabbed the gauze diaper I was using to wipe spit-up off her face, and refused to let go. The free shows immediately ceased. While it would’ve melted the heart of a knitting relative if she’d latched onto one of the many hand-made blankets bestowed upon her by distant aunts and grandmas, I am happy enough with her choice. These diapers come in packs of 12, they are machine-washable and easily replaceable. I can only hope she chooses more comfort objects that make my life just a little more stress-free.

A development that has melted my heart in the past month is clinginess. Sometimes, she just wants her mama. No amount of “oh, Grandma’s baby needs ______” or “here, she wants to bounce” or “she wants _________” from the self-appointed baby experts will suffice. It has to be me. She can’t really reach for me yet, she’s not that coordinated, but when I hold her after one of these episodes she clings to my shirt like a baby koala. It doesn’t happen very often, because I am blessed with an easygoing baby, but when it does a tiny, selfish part of me smiles. You see, for the longest time I was convinced that Piper didn’t actually care who I was. I was also mostly-convinced that she actually preferred my mom to me. My husband repeatedly told me I was nuts, but I just felt like “oh, THANKS. I went through all that crap, crawling around on the floor of our apartment for two weeks because I couldn’t walk and then having a c-section and then getting raw, bloody nipples from breastfeeding and you don’t even like me best?! What the fuck?!” I know parenting isn’t all about getting what I want or rewards or whatever, but it’s nice to finally see a return on my investment. I’m banking these moments against the inevitable teenage “eww, stay away from me!” phase.

So now when she quiets down immediately after being passed to me, I hug her and smell her head (shut up, I know y’all are baby-head-sniffers too) and at last feel like her mother.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

10 Things

10 Things I miss about California:

10. Cheap, yummy, authentic burritos.
9. People who don't freak out about "traffic," i.e. more than 3 cars on the road.
8. Having our own apartment where we can have sex, crank the A/C whenever we want, eat curry, sushi, or falafel without someone wrinkling their nose, have the baby to ourselves, sleep naked, know where all our stuff is, receive our mail, and sleep on a couch which is a real couch and selected specifically for its comfy-nap-enabling qualities and is not a loveseat specifically selected for its sleep-discouraging properties.
7. Employment.
6. Distance from our families.
5. Being able to drive an hour and see the ocean.
4. Being able to wear flip-flops 11.5 months of the year.
3. Driving on roads that are not full of giant potholes.
2. The friends we made there. They were few, but we miss them all the same.
1. The dream of California - being able to say that you live in that weird, hot, fabled place.

10 Things that make me glad we moved back to Michigan:

10. Jimmy John's, Bell's Oberon, Bilbo's Pizza, and Faygo.
9. The possibility of getting in on the ground floor of some gentrification instead of having to buy into the tail-end.
8. Watching Piper interact with her grandparents, aunts, and uncle.
7. Our friends.
6. Taking the baby outside for a bedtime walk up and down the street at 11 p.m. and feeling totally safe.
5. Summer rainstorms.
4. Going to the grocery store and not being accosted by 6 kids selling candy, 3 people with petitions, a rep from the L.A. Times, two panhandlers, and a stray dog.
3. Can now say "governor" without snickering.
2. Can reference any point in the lower peninsula of the state by pointing to a spot on my hand because this state is shaped like a giant mitten.
1. Looking at the real-estate section of the paper.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday was today, and Piper's gift to me was sleeping all the way through dinner so that I could actually eat my food. It's only the second hot meal I've had since she was born. Normally sitting down to eat triggers some sort of automatic response in her, and she decides that she is starving right this minute. So I feed her, and return to the table to bolt down my now-cold food before she decides she wants an extra helping of boob.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Motherhood

A question I get asked a lot lately is "How do you like motherhood?" There are variants, like "So, how's motherhood treating you?" or "How are you doing with this whole mom thing?" or "How do you like being a mom/having a baby/having a kid so far?" I never know how to answer these questions. "Um, I don't know, how do you like breathing?" Because it is a lot like that. Things come automatically. She is here, she is my child, I care for her. These are facts, irrefutable and unyielding. I don't think about it any more than I think about breathing. She slipped into our lives like a key into a lock, all the parts falling into place as the tumblers turn. Besides that, there have been so many changes in our lives over the past two months that it's hard to ponder them individually.

Many times over the past ten weeks my husband has looked at me in wonderment and confessed that I am handling all this much better than he thought I would. These tiny confessions do not anger or upset me, because I know that these statements actually mean you amaze me and I love you fiercely. Children were never on my radar, and neither one of us knows exactly how he was able to talk me into this whole adventure in the first place. He thought I'd have more trouble coping, adjusting, getting into a groove - whatever you want to call it. But it all comes as naturally to me as breathing.

My brain has instinctually recorded and translated her cries, given me a crash-course in Piperspeak. I can tell from the other room when she is hungry, overtired, or scared. I almost always know what she wants or needs, and it is a way of knowing that goes to the very core of my being. This has led to a few crazy-making moments when someone else will be holding her and she starts to cry, and the other person will say "oh, she's wet" or "I think she wants to go outside" or "She just wants her Grandma" *coughmymomcoughcough* when I absolutely know that she's hungry. But I am nice, I do not snatch the baby out of the arms of the other person and say "You're doing it wrong" even though I really want to. I let the other person try their solution for a few minutes. I let them try and pretend that her red-eyed, real-tears-dripping, banshee-howl crying with Extra Vibrato For That Pissed-Off Feeling means she really did want to go outside or be hugged extra-tight or have an extra blanket put on or whatever it is the person thinks she needs that is totally the wrong thing. I let all the Amateur Baby Experts take their turn. And in the end, many of them hand her back to me and say "she needs to eat" or "she's hungry" in some super-authoritative voice, like I was the one holding things up in the first place. Which sometimes makes me want to cry, but I suck it up because I am a nice person and I know that everybody wants a little baby time and I'm trying not to be a bitch by refusing to share.

I love my baby, but I do not say things like "I didn't know what love was until she came into my life" or "I can't imagine my life without her" because they are not true. I was told to expect an overwhelming rush of love, something strangling and drowning-deep. I am still waiting for that. It's more a creeping kind of love, a growing sort of love that is as matter-of-fact as her existence in our lives. It is there, every day, just as she is.

Which is not to say it's all sunshine and roses. In the early weeks, I was so tired and in so much pain (psychological as well as physical) from getting her into the world that I sometimes wished I hadn't. It wasn't that I didn't love her or that I wanted her gone. I just wanted to feel normal again, not sore and exhausted and stressed, and I couldn't help thinking that my life would be much easier at that moment if I hadn't just had a baby. I knew what to do for her, how to take care of her, but that didn't mean I liked doing it all the time. I already felt pressure to be a perfect mom, and our move back to Michigan was looming, with all its attendant financial, familial, and emotional concerns. My C-section left me wounded in body and spirit and there was no time to rest and recover.

Some nights when I was up late watching Six Feet Under DVDs over and over because I was lonely and breast-feeding her every twenty minutes for six straight hours, I would question my ability to do this. If I was thinking things like Oh God, please don't be hungry again and shut up shut up shut up, please PLEASE PLEASE just stop crying and fall asleep already at two weeks, how would I handle toddler tantrums or teenage rebellion? And the thing about kids is: there is no break. Before this, I just had to get through finals week or tough it out until my benefits kicked in or finish that project or wait until we got back from our trip, and then I could rest. Then I would get a break. But with a child, there is no break. There is no done, there is no out, there is no over. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are up late with a crying baby and wondering if you'll ever feel like yourself again, facing months until you can sleep through the night and years before you can take the plastic thingies out of every electrical socket in the house and many many years before your house will be cool, quiet, and nap-friendly in the middle of a weekend day...it can drive you mad. It can crush you if you're not careful.

When Piper was only hours old, I sat in my hospital bed and held her as she slept. I had just successfully breast-fed her and was riding the high of my new mama-hood. Oh, yeah, I thought. I can do this. She sighed contentedly, her belly full of warm milk and my arms wrapped around her. I looked down at her tiny face and then looked at my husband, and we spoke of how small things would now mean so much, how we would live for tiny moments. A smile, a laugh, an A-plus spelling test, a prom picture, first steps, watching a bicycle stay upright as she pedaled down the street. It would all start with this moment, sitting there in my shoulder-snap hospital gown, the place where the surgeon had separated her from me throbbing a little as I cradled her tiny body in my arms.

That’s what life is like now; a series of moments. Every day they come and go and I live each one and then try to remember it, hold on to it, keep it with me as long as I can.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

7 Weeks

Seven weeks old. I can hardly believe it. She’s a part of our lives, but we still forget about her once in a while. Sometimes we’ll get out of the car and almost be walking away before we go “Oh, the baby!” We never get farther than the edge of our parking space, but we both feel crummy whenever we do it.

I was warned that “they change so fast,” but I had no idea what an understatement this is. The difference between now and her newborn days is amazing. She smiles when we call her name and tracks us with her eyes when we walk across a room. She loves it when I have “conversations” with her – I mimic her noises and facial expressions, which “they” say teachers her that she is important and I’m really paying attention to her. I’ve started playing peek-a-boo with her, which makes her laugh. She really likes motion games too, like patty-cake. When she’s really crabby, I play a “naming” game with her – starting at her feet and going up to her head, I ask her “What’s this?” and tell her the name of each body part. “What this? It’s your foot! What are these? Your tiny toes! And look, what are these? Your little baby knees!” I’m sure I sound like an idiot, but she likes it and it makes her laugh.

Our formerly quiet baby is now a fountain of noises: snorts, giggles, wheezes, coos, howls, laughs. And farts. Lots of farts. Farts that can be heard from across the room, farts that drown out the television, farts with surprising depth and resonance considering they are created by a person who weighs less than ten pounds. She is a noisy sleeper, too. The absolute stillness of her newborn sleep is gone. Instead, she breathes loudly, sniffs, smacks her lips, whimpers, grunts, moans, and of course, farts. She roams around the bed in her sleep, turning and rotating so she ends up sideways. She rolls from side to side, wiggling ever closer to me and snuggling in. Once in a while she will half-wake and wail for a moment, a noise similar in pitch and tone to a police siren. Then she goes back to sleep, crisis averted. I have tried to keep her out of our bed, because from what I can tell once you start letting them in there they never want to leave. I don’t know why, because she has a number of very nice sleeping places (a bassinet, a pack n’ play, a crib, and a Moses basket) when all we have at the moment is a metal futon with our Ikea foam mattress on it. My resolve to avoid a “family bed” cracked, however, when I was faced with the following choice: either put her in our bed and have her sleep for a minimum of four solid hours, or put her in her own bed and spend the next six to eight hours waking up every fifteen minutes to feed, hold and quiet her, beg her to go to sleep, then doze for a few minutes before she began to wail again. I was not so much a weak pushover as sleep-deprived and beginning to consider auctioning her off on Ebay. I had calculated a reserve price that was enough to pay off our car before I caught myself. She spent the night with us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I think I just wet myself.

I called to make the appointment for Piper's two-month checkup, and when they asked what insurance we have I had to say "none, we're self-pay."

Some days I wish I could go back to being 22, when my biggest fear was spending a Saturday night sober.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thank God for Vibrators

The little kind that come in bouncy seats, of course. Well, I'm fond of several other kinds of vibrators too, but those are of no use when it's 3:30 am and your colicky baby is screeching like a banshee. The little bouncy seat with vibration that my mom bought for $2 at a yard sale has turned out to be the single most useful piece of baby equipment we own. I feel sort of bad because I've been putting her in it a lot these days, but it's been so hot she's getting heat rash all over her face from being held, and anything that makes her forget her stomachache long enough to stop screaming can't be all bad.

Taking care of a tiny baby is so time-consuming. You wouldn't think that'd be the case, since they sleep so much, but no. I finished my antibiotics and am breast-feeding again, which takes like 40 minutes every time and sometimes she wants to eat every 45 minutes so I spend entire days sitting around with my boobs getting gnawed on. When she falls asleep I am usually so tired I sack out right along with her or run around frantically trying to get household chores done, take a shower, or do some laundry so the two pairs of pants and three tank tops I have unpacked and accessible right now will be clean at least once a week.

Piper is five weeks old now. I have not taken nearly enough pictures; I have not written nearly enough words. So much information about her slips through my fingers every day. Every morning she wakes up different; every day she changes a little. There is always a new noise, a new facial expression, a new degree of control over her limbs, a wider smile, a deeper cry. The spindly little creature we brought home from the hospital has evolved into a little person with moods and preferences and expressions. She's gained nearly two pounds since she was born, and now weighs in at a robust seven pounds, six ounces. People still talk about how tiny she is but she seems gargantuan to me. She's nearly outgrown some of her clothes; the tiny onesies we made for her before she was born are getting tight. She loves to be outside and even the noise of a chainsaw deconstructing a mulberry tree doesn't bother her. When she is awake at night, she likes the lights on. She loves to snuggle and will happily sleep for hours curled up in someone's arms or resting on their chest.

At five days old, she rolled onto her side and slept, and she perfers to sleep that way most of the time. No amount of putting her on her back or stern talks about what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends has not changed her mind. At eight days old, she put her arm up under her head while she was sleeping, resting her head on it like a pillow. This is exactly the way I sleep. Max and I looked at each other in wonderment. Where did she learn that? She can roll from her back to her side and back again, and from her side to her front. The movement isn't fluid or practiced yet, but she does it enough that we can never set her down alone on the bed or couch. She takes a long time to wake up fully, like Max and I do, but she is at her most smiley and playful around 9:00 am, when she wakes up from what is usually a 5-hour stretch of sleep. She laughs now, too, tiny wheezes and hints of giggles. When she has colic at night, terrible gas pains that turn her stomach rock-hard and leave her red-faced and screaming with pain, she looks up at us with those deep blue eyes and her expression says why aren't you helping me? Why won't you do something? and it breaks our hearts.

We are her parents. We're supposed to fix things like that. She trusts us to take away the hurt. And there's nothing we can do.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Help"

Things are...interesting. Living with the family has its pluses and minuses. There's always an extra pair of hands or a babysitter around when you want one...and even when you don't. Everyone wants to "help" and "help" usually means taking the baby from me, under the guise of being useful and giving me a break, but much of the time I just want ten minutes to be alone with my daughter. I am very good about sharing her; lots of people have remarked that I'm much more generous and much less paranoid with Piper than most first-time moms. But it is very hard not to explode/cry/snatch her back when she's sobbing and miserable and my mom either takes her right out of my arms or won't give her back. My mom just wants to help, I know, and I am making a great effort to see that she gets to be involved with Piper in lots of ways. I am frustrated, however, because every time Piper cries my mom comes running with a "what's wrong?" or "how is she?" or takes her from me. It makes me feel inept, and angry. I can manage my child, thanks. I'm not totally stupid. I am her mother. When I got married, my mom forgot whose wedding it was; I think sometimes she forgets whose baby Piper is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Packing

It's 1:00 am, and I am totally not packing, which I should be. I'm not completely goofing off, I'm making a list of stuff for Max to do when he gets up at 6:00 am. I am on the night shift with Piper, and in the morning I will sleep for a bit while he baby-wrangles and attempts to put a dent in the chaos that is our apartment. There is stuff everywhere, stuff piled on stuff piled on stuff stacked on things piled on stuff. We have no furniture except a fold-up table, a couch, a mattress, and a living-room chair. We sold some things, and donated the rest to a family that needed it. Most of it was too big to take with us and we were happy to give it to people that could use it. However, this means that all the stuff that was on the bed, desks, coffee tables, night-stands, and so forth is now ALL OVER THE FLOOR. My job tonight is to sort the big piles into smaller piles so in the morning my husband can attack one pile at a time.

I should probably be napping if I'm not packing, since Piper is asleep. Normally she wakes up around midnight and wants to be up until 4:00, 5:00, or even 6:00 a.m. and insists on being held or fed or otherwise interacted with during that entire span, thus ruling out any chance of me a)sleeping, b)pumping out some more of my toxic-to-babies-antibiotic-laden-breastmilk, or c)doing anything even remotely useful.

Instead, I am working on my list and watching The Family Stone. I have loved this movie from the first time I watched it. I passed on it in the theater because I thought oh, no, Sarah Jessica Parker. But I turned it on one night for something to watch while I folded laundry, and was instantly charmed. I think it's a sweet and funny film, and it's on my list of favorite "non-traditional" (for lack of a better term) Christmas movies (a list which also includes Love Actually and The Ref). The Family Stone makes me laugh because I've been there, on both sides of the equation - both as a member of the family peering curiously at a sibling's chosen partner, and as the outsider who has a hard time connecting with her partner's family. This year, holidays should be a whole new sea of treacherous waters, since we now have the first/only grandchild on either side and will be living back in Michigan, but don't know exactly where in the state we'll be at the end of the year.

Right now I'm watching this movie because it's funny and I feel less stressed about the move when I can laugh. It's also giving me a small amount of warm-fuzzy feelings about living near family and friends, which I really need right now because all I can think is this better be fucking worth it. Moving back had better be the best thing we've ever done, because I don't want to give up matching furniture we actually liked and uproot our lives and do all this shit just to get back to a crappy hellhole we can't wait to get out of again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Donkey Kong's balls, maybe?

Life with Piper is settling down. She is still getting used to us and us to her, but every day it gets a little easier. Not that it's hard in the first place; so far she's been a really easy baby. I have come to accept the fact that she does not sleep between midnight and four a.m. - at all. But it's okay, because then she crashes for a big long stretch, and I can get a few hours' solid sleep in before the day starts.

Far more stressful than the baby is our impending move and my medical status. I am constantly freaking about about how we're going to get everything done in time, and I run into the bathroom ten times a day to look at my incision and make sure it's getting less red and angry-looking instead of more. My husband keeps telling me not to stress because that won't help anyone or anything, but I can't stop it.

Pumping sucks donkey balls. It's difficult enough taking care of a tiny baby, but also finding the time every 2-6 hours to attach cones to my boobs so they can get drained of their poisonous milk is a pain in the ass. Doing all this while trying not to rupture my stitches and pack for a cross-country move is not fun, either. What is the next level of suckage above donkey balls?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Terrific.

Well, I have an infection. In my c-section incision. Over the weekend, I noticed it getting a little red, and then it started weeping yellowish fluid. On Monday I called the doctor. They wanted me to come in and see the surgeon who did my c-section, but I can't drive yet and Max was at work so we couldn't get there in time. They told me to go to the urgent care place ASAP. I showered, got the baby ready, and we took off. When we arrived at the urgent care center, I got out of the car and felt something wet on the front of my clothes. I looked down and saw that fluid from my incision had soaked through the front part of my yoga pants, tank top, AND hoodie on the fifteen-minute car ride over. I started to panic.

When they checked me in, the nurse who did my intake took one look at my soaked clothes and the now very-angry-looking wound and said she'd find me a room right away. The look on her face made me want to throw up because oh, shit was written there plain as day. We got a room, but then we waited over an hour before a doctor saw us. And when he did, he scared the shit out of me by saying I'd have to be hospitalized and they would probably transfer me right away, tonight, right now. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done to maintain any semblance of calm, because I really just wanted to freak out and cry. We are moving back to Michigan in less than two weeks. I can't be sick right now, I just can't.

But they called the OB on call, who happened to be my regular OB (though not the one who did my surgery) and he said that since I had no fever and my white cell count was normal, I should be managed as an outpatient. So they gave me some IV antibiotics and some super-strong oral antibiotics to take home. Hopefully these will clear it up. Unfortunately, they're all too strong for the baby, so I can't breast-feed until I'm done with them. I have to pump & dump for the next two and a half weeks so my milk doesn't dry up. Which is fabulous, because now am I not only taking care of a baby and trying to coordinate a cross-country move while recovering from major abdominal surgery, I have to find the time to pump. Piper's still so young, we hadn't quite worked out the breastfeeding thing yet, so I'm not even sure how often/how much to pump. She's doing okay on the formula, although the first couple times she looked at us like "what the hell is THIS?!" It will be frustrating, though, because when I'm done with the antibiotics we'll basically be starting all over with the breastfeeding. It wasn't going badly, it was just not easy. I never knew so many things could prevent a baby from getting milk out of a boob properly.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tired.

My mother and sister are leaving today, and although I've loved having them here it's been two and a half weeks of their constant company and I think we all need a break. I want to get to know our tiny little girl and we need some time to bond as a family. That is in short supply - in two weeks, my dad and my sister are coming out to help us move. My sister and I will take the baby and fly back to Michigan; my dad and Max will drive our car (with all 9 cats inside) across the country. It's the same drive Max and I made almost two years ago, in reverse. I don't envy them their journey. It is a long, hot, exhausting drive with animals who don't like to travel.

I am so tired. I can't sleep. I barely slept in the hospital because there was always someone coming in to check on me or check the baby or some monitor going off or noises outside. When I got home, I couldn't get comfortable. When we bought our bed, it seemed like a good idea to get the cool-looking (and more importantly, cheap) one that was only a foot and a half off the ground. Turns out having a bed at calf-height is something of a problem when they had to slice you open to get a baby out. My mother has been in the guest-room bed, which is at hip height and really too high for me to get in and out of comfortably. My sister is on the couch. I slept in 10-minute bursts in the hospital, sitting straight up because it was too painful to lay down. I could feel my stitches pulling every time I moved. At home it's no different. Getting into our low bed is a painful, slow process, and getting up again means rolling to the edge of the mattress (ouch), sitting up (ouch), and vaulting myself over the hard (ouch) side-rail then using the wall for support while I pull myself up (ouch).

I am so, so tired. I am terrified I'm going to fall asleep while I'm holding the baby and drop her. I have actually almost done this on five seperate occasions (three of them while I was still in the hospital), but luckily I caught myself as my arms started to relax. I have started spontaneously crying several times because I'm so exhausted. Our experience at the hospital was so awful I start to cry every time I think about it. I feel like I'm losing my mind. And it's so hard to have people around, even my mom and sister, because I can't just let go and cry it out like I want to. I can do this in front of my husband, but all these other people expect something more from me. And they want my baby. Everybody wants a turn, and I don't really mind most of it, but it's hard to have so much "help" 24 hours a day. I don't know how this is going to go in a couple of weeks when we get to my parents' house and I have to face the rest of the summer with all this "help."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hello, Baby. Welcome to Earth.

Piper Reid was born at 9:33 am on June 2nd. She weighed 5lbs, 8oz and was 19 inches long.

It was an emergency c-section after 19 hours of labor. To say that things did not go as planned is an understatement, and to say that things did not go as we wanted is an even larger one. Everything about bringing her into this world was difficult and unexpected.

But she is perfect and healthy and I am doing well. We got home from the hospital late yesterday afternoon and so far the cats seem mostly scared of her, except Ellie who had to be informed repeatedly that you can sniff the baby, but you can't walk on the baby in order to sniff.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

41 Weeks: Baby, it's Cold Outside...

...but would you get the hell out, please?

As you may have guessed, Monday was not the day. It was the day we went to a gigantic outlet mall and walked around for more than four hours. Tuesday I did not do a lot of walking, because three full days of it left my back and tailbone screaming for relief. I did have Thai for lunch and Mexican for dinner on Tuesday, however. Wednesday I went to my doctor's appointment and discovered that none of it had done any good, as I am "still about the same as last week." Which is to say, the baby is apparently not dropped quite all the way and there is nothing else going on. Not even enough room for him to do a membrane sweep. I was disappointed but not surprised. He asked me if I've been feeling contractions and I had to say "uhh...maybe?" because I really don't know. After all that walking I was sore and achy, but every twinge or pain I feel is easily explained away so I've still not had a single identifiable contraction in all this time.

Apparently I am doing a great job keeping the baby comfortable and fed, because she seems uninterested in coming out. We are going to the hospital tomorrow morning for an induction. I am a little nervous, since they are going to use Pitocin to try and take me from almost-zero to liftoff, and I have heard that it can be nasty stuff. I have also heard that since it's an induction I'll need continual monitoring, which means no getting out of bed. I don't know if this is true or not, but it's not quite what I had in mind - I have accepted that the Pitocin will probably mean I'll opt for medicated pain relief at some point, but I didn't anticipate having to sit around the whole time. Hopefully I just need a little jump-start and it won't take two or three days to get the kid out. My husband was unaware that even with an induction, it can take that long. He said he knew it wouldn't be like Instant Baby Magic, but he thought if we started in the morning it would mean a baby by nightfall. Let's hope so.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Not Yet Either

No baby yet. We did a lot of walking Fri and Sat and a little yesterday. I find myself feeling a little awkward sometimes, because everyone else is growing more and more impatient waiting for the baby (my sister says "come out already! come out NOW!" in a very loud and cross way to my belly at least 3 times a day) and I am growing less so. The relatives keep calling (and calling and calling) to ask if I've had the baby yet - like we're not going to call people or something. People keep telling me things they think I should do to bring on my labor. I ignore them all. I'm perfectly okay with the induction on the 1st. We can go in at a certain time and things will proceed in an at least kind-of-orderly fashion; it won't be the middle of the night or I won't have to call my husband home from work and scramble to get all the stuff together while telling everyone yeah, I'm okay, can you just let me organize my suitcase please? No, you can't do it for me, I'd like to do it myself, if that's alright. Yes, that was a contraction, no there's nothing you can do. No, I'm okay, I just need some space. Yes, that was another one. Yeah, I'm okay...and so on. I can feel good about getting an epidural and my three helpers can stop telling me they wish I'd get one because they hate to see me in pain. I know they're concerned for me, and it's just because they care, but I'm sure the doctors/nurses will be pushing for all that hard enough.

I guess I'm just cranky - I am trying to enjoy my last few days as a non-parent, although it's a little hard to do when I feel like the most closely-watched pot in history. Everyone asks me every day if I feel anything and I always have to tell them no, I'm pretty sure I'm not in labor yet, I'm pretty sure I'd know if this was The Business or not. My mom is going stir-crazy sitting around waiting, and I'm trying to find things for her to do. She wants to help pack up the house before she leaves, but we're having trouble getting boxes and a lot of the stuff around here we still need for the next month. I finally agreed to let her do the laundry so she'd feel useful, but it took me half an hour to explain which things get washed with baby detergent and which do not, and which things can't go in the dryer. I am inventing projects for her, like mending a pair of Ryan's pants, crocheting me a scarf, or turning some shelf-bra tanks into nursing tanks with needle, thread, and swimsuit-hook clasps. I'm about to run out of projects, and I feel bad because she came here to help pack and get some Baby Action, not work in my own personal sweatshop. But I don't know what else to tell her to do.

And every grunt or wheeze or whatever I make, I get "are you okay?" with the underlying "is that a contraction? are you in labor? is it time?" factor. I'm used to doing for myself, and having people hover over me is making me a little crabby. Of course, the not sleeping is also making me crabby. I managed to sleep most of yesterday, which was nice, because I barely got any Friday night and Saturday I finally sacked out for a nap (it took a fortress made of 5 pillows and 2 thick comforters for me to get comfortable enough to doze off) but everybody woke me up after 10 minutes because they wanted to go eat. Then all three of them kept asking me if I was okay all night and what's wrong and are you sure you're okay?

I am also fine with Her Royal Kickiness putting off her debut for a couple days because Max and I seem to have contracted dueling sinus infections. I don't know if it's because of the season, the weather, the fact that we've been running the a/c a lot, or just really shitty timing, but we are both sniffly and sneezy and croaking. I've had a sore-and-or-scratchy throat for a couple of days and I feel like my head is full of ooze. Max has been mainlining Zicam, in the form of chewable tablets which he thought would taste like Starburst candies but which he was quite disappointed to find are actually flavored like Strawberry Death. I feel like I am going to float away on a sea of orange juice and peppermint tea. This is not adding sunshine to my general mood and sense of well-being, as you may imagine.

But my mother is convinced that today's the day, so we'll see...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No Babies Here

Well, today is my due date, and I don't think there's a baby in sight. I had an appointment yesterday and it was the same as Friday - the baby hasn't dropped and nothing else is going on, either. In fact, the baby is still high enough he said an induction would not be favorable at this point. I am scheduled for one on June 1st, in case things don't happen on their own, so we will have a baby in-hand by next Friday at the latest.

Hear that? That's the sound of my brain trying to grasp the fact that we're about to be parents. I mean, duh, we knew it wasn't just an extra bowl of Cap'n Crunch here and there that has made my belly go all basketball-shaped and caused our house to fill with tiny clothes and flannel receiving blankets. It is, however, an entirely different feeling to walk into our bedroom and see the bookshelf with its bins of miniature t-shirts and hats and think soon my daughter will fill these clothes. The pack n' play is set up right next to our bed and as I fall asleep I realize that this plastic-and mesh contraption? With its cute mod circle design and sunshade? This is where my baby will sleep.

It's really weird.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An Inside Perspective

Well, I went to the doctor today and he said there's not much happening, I have "at least" a few more days. The baby has not fully dropped, and my first thought after he said this was oh, fabulous, it gets WORSE?! How much more uncomfortable do I have to be?!. But I consoled myself by thinking that maybe as the baby gets lower, the weight won't be hanging off the front of me, forcing bits of my tailbone to rub together, but rather in the middle, putting enough pressure on everything to keep the bones apart.

He also said I'm not dilated much at all. Now, logically I knew that there's really only one way doctors check this sort of thing, and this is why I have been refusing internal exams up to this point. I figured there will be enough people sticking their hands and whatnot up there before this is over with, so there's no need to seek it out. I tried to get out of it this time, too, but they wouldn't let me. And logically I knew that having someone reach up there and poke around would not be comfortable. "Uncomfortable" is not quite the word for it. When he did this, he was also pushing the baby down so he could make sure her head was in the right spot. I think that was the worst part - my entire midsection felt squeezed like the filling of a Baby Sandwich.

My husband was with me, and afterwards he said the exam looked really uncomfortable. "It did not look like fun," he said. "Your eyes sort of bugged out."

Then I showed him just how much of the doctor's hand had been prodding around in there, and his eyes bugged out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

That is that

We think we have finally solved the last-name dilemma, at least: we're going to give her both. It will be a little unwieldy, but if it's a huge pain we can always change it later. And if she hates us for it, well, I'm sure that will be one of a long list of our parenting mistakes she can discuss with her highly-paid therapist some day.

We've also (pretty much) finalized our first-name list. We both do this thing where we run hot and cold on certain names - one of us will love love LOVE something for weeks or months, put it at the top of our personal list and think it's perfect...and then one day, wake up not liking it much anymore. "Oh," he or I will say. "I'm over that one now." Then we move on to something else, and probably will come back to loving this name later. We're apparently both quite fickle, but have forced ourselves to freeze our choices where they're at because we are out of time to play I Love It, No Wait, I Hate It. From a field of sixty-plus potential names, we've narrowed it down to a dozen or so. I'm sure there were a few things we left out, or some we haven't thought of, but the current incarnation of the list is a good length, with not too many weird or boring choices, so we're quitting while we're ahead.

My husband said using "Reid" as a middle name may head off any "potential bitching" from his family about the last name thing, since it was a family name when they gave it to him as his middle and there's been one in every generation or something like that. This, as you can imagine, raised my hackles a bit, as per usual.

"What, you think they're going to bitch about the fact that my name's in there, too? I carried the baby around all these months and got it out into the world and I don't even fucking deserve to have my last name included?!"
He sighed. "No, I'm not saying I think they will, but in case they do..."
"They'd better fucking not, you hear me? Because I will go apeshit, I think. I will tell anyone who whines to go suck it. Our last names are getting equal footing, so if anyone bitches about that they REALLY ARE saying my name doesn't matter."
"That's true. I don't think my parents are going to step up and say that."
"Anyone who does will have to deal with me, because it happens to be our business and none of anyone else's and I'm sick of trying to tiptoe around everyone's issues." I smacked my hand down on the table. "And that is fucking THAT."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Unless of Course Your Mom Is Cool With The Porn

I have been cleaning (or attempting to clean) like mad lately, although if I hear the word "nesting" one more time, have one more person tell me it must be my hormones, or get one more vehment insistance that this means I am about to go into labor any second, I may buy a gun and climb a clock-tower. That's saying a lot these days, since the hip/back/tailbone pain is back again and so bad I can't do one lap around Target without resting twice, but I swear I will find a way.

I am not feeling a crushing sense of "oh my God baby almost here must clean clean clean NOW!" Rather, what has me re-discovering the joys of organized living and overuse of Scrubbing Bubbles is the impending arrival of my mother and sister. They will be here in just over a week, and they are staying for more than two weeks. Two weeks is plenty of time for my mother to find all the piles of dirt I've swept under the rugs, realize that I never clean my oven unless the crud covering the bottom is actually on fire, open the hallway closet so all the junk I've shoved in there falls on her head cartoon-style, and generally confirm her long-held suspicions that I am the world's most disorganized person.

My mother and sister are also going to help us pare down and pack up our posessions while they're here, so I am frantically vaccuming up golf-ball-sized wads of cat hair from under the furniture, cleaning clutter off all the flat surfaces, and making sure there are no porn DVDs or dirty socks stuffed in random places. Nobody wants to explain to their mom what they're doing with a copy of Jenna Jamison's Greatest Clits or why they didn't pick up the dirty clothes that got kicked under the bed two months ago.

Nobody believes me when I tell them this. I have had several people insist that it MUST be "the hormones." Strangers, relatives, acquaintances - they all are all pregnancy experts apparently, because they all like to tell me how crazy pregnant ladies go crazy with the crazy hormonal pregnant cleaning right before they pop out a baby. Yes, thank you for the info, I've seen sitcoms and read the "funny stories" section of Reader's Digest too. They continue to tell me I am suffering from hormones no matter what I say. I will be sure to call these people up and ask when I need to take a piss and what flavor of ice cream I would prefer, since they seem to know my body and mind better than I do.

I don't get it - nobody wants their mother to know how much of a slob they really are. Do you want your mom finding your copy of 365 Sex Positions or a pair of dirty socks behind The Chronicles of Narnia in your bookscase? If your mother was coming to stay with you, would you feel okay about letting her brush her teeth over a soap-scummy sink or shower in a tub that, while it is in the guest bathroom and therfore rarely used, has inexplicably developed a visible dirt ring? What would your mom say if she knew that you hate putting away laundry so much that you frequently skip this step altogether and chuck it wholesale into the pile at the bottom of your closet or wear clean-but-horribly-wrinkled items straight out of the basket until it is empty again?

Mmm-hmm, that's what I thought. Must be your hormones.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Guess what the baby will be going as for Halloween?

In search of somewhere to walk around that was not scorchingly hot, we went to a huge outlet mall last weekend. We made the mistake of entering the baby section of a clothing store. Even though we are drowning in baby clothes, have more clothing than triplets could wear, have sworn that not one more item of clothing can enter our home lest the closets explode cartoon-style, we could not resist the tiny bodysuits and hats with coordinating blankets. I'm starting to think they put some sort of addictive chemical on that stuff, to make you keep buying it even though what you have at home could fill a dump truck. That's probably the real reason everyone tells you to be sure and wash everything thoroughly before giving it to or putting it on the baby. It's one of those parenting secrets they don't let you in on until you've actually joined the club.

Anyway, Max picked out a onesie with a crab on it, because he knows how much the crab in the Honda Element commercials cracks me up. "Look," he said, holding up the blue-and-white garment. "He pinches." I cracked up, and agreed that maybe we should get it, because it was pretty cute and, more imporantly, cheap.

"That will be so cute for summer," I said. "With a little hat and those blue bubble Babylegs we bought."
He started to laugh. I asked him what was so funny. "Bubbles and crabs," he chortled. "Basically, we're going to dress our baby like a frat-house hot tub."

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Tides of Yesterday

We are close. We are so close, my due date is only two weeks away. Somehow I don't feel quite ready. I don't think Max does either. We are comfortable with the idea of bringing a baby into our house, but not quite ready to actually do it. People have "helpfully" been telling me things I should do to bring on labor, and I have to explain that I'm trying to avoid that right now. We need these two weeks.

When my parents had me, their first child, they were not ready. They were young and unprepared to start with, and on top of that I was born by emergency c-section at 30 weeks' gestation. My mother said she "got a headache, got a nosebleed, had a baby." So as unprepared as I feel right now, I can't imagine how much more disorenting and frightening it would be to come into parenthood so abruptly. Our child is at 38 weeks' gestation; by this time in my own life, I had already been out in the world complicating their lives for two months.

When we took our hospital tour a few months ago, our group stopped in front of the NICU window. There were only a couple of tiny babies on the other side of the glass, but one incubator was pulled up close. A doctor and at least two residents were clustered around it, working intently at doing something to the baby inside. As they moved around the artificial womb of plastic and rubber, I caught a glimpse of the baby's foot waving around. It took me entirely by surprise. That little baby's foot looked like the tiniest thing in the world. I wondered how old it was, how far along it had been when it was born. I wondered if my foot was that small when I entered this world.

I have read blogs of parents with NICU babies and wondered about the circumstances of my own birth. I know I was in the hospital for a number of weeks; I know I weighed around three pounds when I was born. I know it was pre-ecclampsia that caused the doctors to rush my mother into an OR. I have seen a few pictures of my tiny body, wires and tubes snaking out from my small form like extra limbs. I know they told my mother that I would always be behind the other kids, I would be slow and would never really catch up mentally or physically and that my mother has spent all the years since then laughing at that diagnosis. I know I have never been a very good sleeper and my mother has always thought it was the result of spending my first weeks among the lights and noise and bustle of that NICU. But lately I have begun to wonder about other things. Did my parents come visit me every day? Did they bring toys to put in my plastic cradle? Hats to put on my tiny head? Did my mother and father come, sit with me, hold me when able, rock me in the stiff hospital-nursery chair?

I have never had the courage to ask these questions. I don't even know how to bring the subject up. Whenever we are discussing babies or preemies I hold my breath and wait for a new scrap of information, a nugget of story I have not heard before. I cling to these snippets, and wait for the day when I can piece it all together. This is one of the times when I regret the unspoken rule in our family that does not allow for direct questioning about past events. If someone offers information, you listen, but we are not people who probe and push to get it. Even with the birth of my own child looming, I do not have the courage now to ask my mother if she was as terrified at the prospect of motherhood as I am right now.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Crying Game

Dutch's post about tears and children's books made me think of something that happened a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday, and we were nearing the end of a weekend-long move-the-furniture-around-and-clean-the-carpets binge. While we waited for the living room to dry so we could go over it one more time, we started fixing lunch and flipped channels. That silly Steve Martin movie Parenthood was on, and we stopped flipping to watch. We exchanged glances, because we both realized that in a few weeks, we would be part of this club, we would be parents. It was a little weird.

When it got to the end part where everyone's at the hospital waiting for a baby to be born, and there's babies and kids and moms and dads everywhere, we both got a little sentimental. I suppose we can't be blamed, there are like twenty babies or something in that final scene, all tiny and cute and being held and adored and receiving misty-eyed gazes from loving members of the Buckman clan. Anybody would be doomed. It's all so cheesy and the life-affirming-ness of it clubs you over the head like you're a baby seal. There's no escape.

I could hear Max sniffle next to me, and I felt my eyes grow warm and watery. I clenched my jaw and told myself I will not cry at this stupid movie, I will not, it's so hokey I will have to be ashamed of myself forever, but I lost the fight. There were fourteen babies too many, I could not fight the tide of parents beaming at their drooly little wonders while changing diapers on a hospital waiting-room chair. A tear slipped out and trickled down my cheek, and I wiped it away fast, before Max could see. He was sniffling and rubbing his eyes, and he reached over and hugged me tight and buried his face in my hair. I tried to fight off the waterworks I could feel building, but it was no use. Some of them got out. After Max let go, I raced into the kitchen and pretended to finish lunch. I didn't want him to see me getting all teary like, you know, a girl.

He wandered in and, between bites of carrot stick, made a comment about how it's funny that he's much more emotional and sentimental than I am, especially where this whole baby/pregnancy/parent thing is concerned. "I'm the girly one," he laughed. "I'm the weepy emotional wreck."

I just smiled and handed him his sandwich, then pretended to be fussing with my hair as I checked for stray tear-tracks on my face.

Friday, April 20, 2007

California, You Break My Heart

A couple of weeks ago, we drove the hour-ish out to Newport Beach to see a friend of Max's. Usually I don’t get along with this friend very well. I mean, we make nice conversation, but end up arguing about stupid stuff. I try to make all these highfallutin’ points about how if you’re a real fan, you’ve got to be willing to admit when something sucks and you need to maintain some objectivity or you’re a mere sheep who will wind up watching the new Star Wars trilogy while sucking down a Big-Gulp and raving about how funny Jar-Jar Binks is. Much of my ass-talking about art and artforms is lost on my husband’s friend. But Max loves this person as though they were blood brothers forged from the same unholy mold, so I try to shut the fuck up and make nice. I often get the impression that Friend doesn’t quite know what to do with me, he’s unaccustomed to a girl who talks about which actresses she’d like to sleep with and curses like a sailor. And I don’t know what to do with him, either. He has an engineering degree, he’s from the same small town Max is from, we have some TV shows that we both like. That’s about it.

This time, we did better. We managed to find some things in common. We went to Huntington Beach and walked the windy, chilly pier up and down. It was a fun outing.

Friend lives in a tiny studio apartment. He doesn’t have much stuff, mostly a few clothes, a big-ass computer (with two huge monitors), and a really big-ass television. You know, the usual trappings of an unattached guy with disposable income. We gazed around his small, just-moved-into place with envy. I think, in our hearts, we both long to live like that. Barely any stuff, able to pack up and go whenever we please. But we have a lot of stuff, and nine cats. We have school debt and car payments and will usually opt for groceries over a faster Internet connection. There are no studio apartments near the beach in our future. Which did not stop me from being filled with a terrible longing to live where Friend lives. He’s just up the hill from the beach, less than two miles. In my head I saw myself pushing an expensive, streamlined stroller full of baby those two miles and back to our tiny, uncluttered apartment. I saw myself working at a desk, doing freelance writing, and actually making enough to help with the gargantuan cost of living so near the ocean.

It was a stupid thing to imagine, stupid stupid stupid. Unchecked fantasies of a life so completely different from the one we have now are dangerous; they are insidious, creeping like vines to infiltrate the brain. They grow like cancer, and poison everything in their path. Weeks later, I still find myself drifting off to sleep lulled by these visions. I ache for this different life, this fantasy life. The longing fills my days and makes me useless to manage the life we already have.

But, truthfully, can I be fully blamed? I love it when we go out to the coast. We’ve never been in the summer, so I haven’t gotten the full-force experience of noisy, rude tourists crowding every square inch of space and crawling so far up the locals’ asses it takes the Jaws of Life to pry them out. We go in the off-season, November or February or other months when the sunlight fades fast and breezes are more chilling than welcoming. I still love it. It’s always about twenty degrees cooler there, the wind is incessant but not dry and baking like it is here. There’s little or no graffiti on the buildings there; here anything that doesn’t move for 12 hours will be covered in spray-painted scrawling. There are sidewalks everywhere, and real bike trails; it’s not like here where you’re lucky to even find a sidewalk and the drivers consider anyone on a bike a moving target. There are actual things to walk to along the sidewalks there, shops (albeit full of overpriced souvenirs and “beach wear”) and restaurants and grocery stores. We’d hardly need our car.

I build this life in my head and then idealize it. In this dream-life, we’re both the trim, athletic versions of ourselves we've always wanted to be. Our daughter is adorable in her tiny tank tops and sandals as we let her toddle about in the sand. And there I am, sipping coffee in a real cup from a local coffee house as our adorable girl slumbers in the stroller beside my table and I type furiously on my laptop. The baby and the stroller and the laptop and I walk all the way home to our tiny uncluttered apartment, and a few minutes later my husband arrives, smiling. He loves this job, which actually pays him enough to live on. Later, we turn out the lights and crack the window, then fall asleep in each other’s arms with the ocean smell wafting in.

You see? It’s poison. I ache so badly for this future that can never be. We will never have this, this simple but happy life in a beautiful place we love. At least, that's how it feels from where we are now.

While we were in Newport, I kept thinking that California is evil. Because this, this was the California all our friends are shocked we want to leave. Sandy beaches, breezes, a sense of freedom – it’s the California you see on television, the one they write songs about. It in no way resembles the place we actually live. And it broke my heart to get in our car and drive back out to the dust and sand and the terrible kids my husband tries to teach all day and the trash everywhere and graffiti covering everything. I felt so miserable as we came back to all this, miserable and trapped and filled with rage that we couldn’t have our tiny slice of the good life.