Monday, June 21, 2010

Buckle up, folks this is a looooong one....

I am sitting here staring at a stark white rectangle where I really want some witty, snarky, super funny words to be but my hips hurt and I am distracted by trying to keep my ass out of the refrigerator where I know there is left over cake... So of course, the longer I sit here, the louder my inner A.D.D. eight year old gets as she announces other things I could be doing right now, "Hey! remember you wanted to clip the guinea pigs' claws? Weren't you going to clean out your school bag? Oh yeah! And what about the laundry? You could put that away... Awwww.... I remember this picture. You should really get it into the Viking's scrapbook."

Well, look... I've been a procrastinator way longer than I have been acknowledging my inner A.D.D. kid, sooooo... the laundry is still hastily piled up next to the guinea pig cage where I can hear the little fuckers "clicking" as they walk up their little plastic barn. I stubbed my toe on the still full school bag as I went to grab some scrapbook paper to put together a page for The Viking's book. Fuck it... cake is inevitable. I'll be right back.

Please excuse this interuption for the following Public Service Announcement: Never believe a chubby, angry gal who tells you to get rid of the cake so she doesn't have to see it the next time she passes the kitchen. File this away with the "Of course your butt doesn't look too fat in those pants." default setting.

So while I was avoiding motherly and domestic responsibilities, I remembered a piece of writing I started right after my oldest was born. I finished it when he was 19 months old. Next month, on the second, the Viking will be 19 months old. I'll try to attach the piece below this paragragh. As you read it, envision what I came upon this morning: The Viking standing on a chair at the kitchen table drumming on a tin box with a wide open pair of shears (not just ANY kind of scissors...) and a steak knife. From the room I was half-ignoring him from it sounded just like his metal Matchbox cars crashing into the rattly thing at the bottom of the fridge. Hmmm... the Mother of the Year Award is an elusive little sucker... I don't think I've ever been a contender. So have I evolved into a less neurotic mother or has there been a serious downward spiral, here? You tell me...

Afraid of the Dark
12 Days and Counting…

I haven’t been afraid of the dark since I was seven years old… until now. The daylight hours slip by steadily and by four o’clock I can feel the night breathing pure fear, moist and cold down the back of my neck. I dread the hours ahead of me. In the darkness, fear keeps me vigilant. Sleeping by way of putting my head to pillow and closing my eyes is impossible, and so for many hours, I simply lie awake holding my breath and waiting, as the weight of the blackness presses on my chest. The late night hours are ticked off slowly as I drift off and then am startled awake again and again, ever aware of it’s presence, and a servant to it‘s every need. Exhaustion is a strong and blessed adversary and I am forced to give in around four-thirty or so. Each morning is the same. I wake up, feeling insane and reconciled to the fact that the cycle has begun all over again; the sands slipping through the glass at lightning speed, hurtling me ever forward toward another white-knuckle night. The reason for my nights of eternity is never more than a few feet from me at any given moment, but it is in the seemingly endless nights that his presence truly tortures me. I hear every breath. I hear every absence of breath for that matter. Every shift, every twitch, each utterance is registered in my spine and makes it’s way as a shiver to the base of my skull.

There is no monster in my closet, no stalker fogging up my bedroom window. There is not even a semi-ferocious dog snarling at the foot of my bed. No, this is like no terror I have ever experienced. I gave birth 12 days ago. I have an 8 lb. 13 oz., burrito of need, and my only qualification for the job of “mother” is that I finally managed to expel this poor creature from my body after fifty-five hours of labor. My husband, God love him, was far less qualified for his new position in our family. Somehow attending some birthing classes and cutting the umbilical cord had earned him the title of “father.”

Three days after our son’s arrival we finally appreciated the full scope of our new job, and we were terrified. We had been home for approximately three hours when I found myself asking my husband if he thought the nurses at the hospital would let us live there if we went back right away. I was near panic and half serious. The hospital represented safety and the last bastion of comfort I would feel for almost two whole weeks - after all, at the hospital someone was always awake, always available to take the baby while I slept, they were ever capable of resuscitation should the need arise, as I was sure that it would. It seemed inevitable that my baby would cease to breathe the very moment that I took my eyes off of him, which I did not do for the first 1 ½ days that he lived at home. My eyes were in shock. Not only had I nearly pushed them out of their sockets during delivery, but the combination of constant crying and the fact that they had not closed in over 24 hours was causing them to spasm and sting.

Sure, it’s funny now…

Our tiny baby seemed so fragile, and in those first two weeks, I was positive that there was some sort of finite formula involved in keeping him alive. We nursed, changed his diaper (got peed on), changed the romper he had peed on, carefully applied Vaseline to his circumcision, and carefully applied alcohol to his umbilical stump. (This process was finished just in time to nurse again) I was so tired that I often forgot to eat and take my pain medications on time and I sometimes forgot to alcohol the stump and Vaseline the penis. I was certain that infection was imminent… My only consolation was that I never Vaselined the stump and alcoholed the penis.

One of our first nights went something like this:

9:30 pm: Nursed and asleep, we place him in his crib and I wonder: “Are his pajamas too big… could he wriggle them up around his airway in the middle of the night?”

9:35 pm: Smaller PJ’s on, baby is sound asleep. Yeah!

9:40 pm: I settle on the couch and look over the log where we track his feedings, diapers etc.. and I realize that I forgot to record his last 3 feedings and I forgot to alcohol the belly button. So much for the “Mother of the Year” award. I start to obsess: Is he eating as much as he should ? Am I producing enough milk? How do I know how much he’s getting when he nurses? I remember reading that dehydration in infants is marked by lethargy. He sleeps 20 hours a day… what exactly does a lethargic infant look like?

10:00 pm: Baby is awake and wailing. The diaper gives us no clues - he’s dry. Is he crying because he’s hungry or tired? Is it gas? What do we do if it’s gas? Is this colic? Is this what colicky babies do? Oh, God I bet he’s sick.

This is the point where I break down for the first time… Exhausted and getting surlier by the minute I curse the fact that breast feeding is a task which excludes my husband and I bark at him to pick up his dirty laundry (I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the only one awake right now.)

11:00 pm.: fed (again), changed and asleep, I place my baby back into the crib.

11:03 pm.: I change my shirt - I’ve been peed on and my right breast leaked all over when I was nursing him on the left. Super!

11:05 pm.: I climb into bed and stare at the ceiling tensely waiting for the next cry and straining to hear the moment that he’ll forget to breathe. I muse: “I’m going to have worry about him for the rest of my life… my God, this job never ends…”

Between 11:05 and 3:15am: I toss and turn, weep and sniffle worrying about SIDS, ear infections, infected belly button, bullies, drugs, perverts, broken bones, getting lost at the beach, driving, drinking, staying out late… Clearly, I am insane.

4:00 am: baby is awake and wants to be fed - I am awake and I want to stab my snoring husband.

4:30 am: baby is asleep, I am so tired I feel like vomiting. Thinking of my stitches makes me pray desperately that I don’t.

4:30 - 6:30: Who am I kidding… I blacked out. This state of semi - consciousness which I managed to sustain for a couple of hours cannot possibly be referred to as “sleep.” A voice in the black of my head whispers that formula-fed babies sleep longer than breast-fed babies and I make a mental note to get to the grocery store for some formula.

Three days later I gave up on breast-feeding and delighted in turning over the midnight feeding routine to my husband. My son is now 19 months old and gratefully, has survived his crazy mother - so far. We all sleep through the night now and have done so for a long time. Granted, we have disassembled the crib and purchased a king-sized bed. The once-upon-a-time burrito of need is now a “do-it-myself” kind of guy except when it comes to sleeping alone.


  1. I just came from Top Mommy blogs and just have to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. I too am a Mommy to two boys and never have I come across a blog or book that was able to put into words my exact thougts and feelings on being a Mommy. Reading your posts have been like some how reading my own diary (weird right? I know!), especially this post. This is exactly how I felt and were pretty much the same exact thoughts the first few weeks home after I had my first son (ok and maybe my second son too)Anway....I'm your newest fan/follower and look forward to reading more posts. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Welcome!! I have followers but I think you're my first "fan!" This is very exciting, indeed. It's always great to read that my writing strikes a chord, thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. Looking forward to hearing from you again.
    Did you catch Page 77 of 1001 Ways to Kill Your Mother? Only a boy's mommy could truly appreciate my horror... would love to know your take on it!