Been There, Done That, Or, A Meditation on Why Everyone Is So Mean to Kourtney Kardashian

On mornings when my daughter goes to preschool, I sometimes pop on the TV for some adult voices as I nurse, change, care for Henry and do things around the house.

Sometimes (all the time) there’s nothing really good on so I kind of half-watch whatever is on. The other day, I found myself watching one of the Kardashian spinoff shows for the first time.

I was sucked in, big time.

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the way Kourtney as a mother to two young children, one a baby, was depicted. Her sisters obviously had no conception of what it’s like to be a tired, nursing, protective Mama Bear mother to a baby. Her husband was off racing cars and the sisters were making fun of her for wearing sweatpants and smelling bad.

Of course it was all played up for laughs and giggles and the sad sap mom, in her apartment-hotel just breastfeeding and covered in spit up, was the comic butt of the show’s overall joke. It was interesting to see how motherhood was depicted in the least mother-y of settings…high-flying celebrities, partying Miami, beauty, flash, conspicuous selfishness…how far from the self-sacrifice and all-encompassing nature of early motherhood.

Yet…Kourtney seemed to take it all in stride. She seemed completely confident in her choices, to breastfeed, to care about her little family pack above all else, to just hunker down and BE a mom in the face of her family’s ridicule. It was kind of cool.

Credit: CelebrityBabies

I guess I’m having a lot of deep thoughts about an E! TV reality show because that juxtaposition between what it means to be a baby mother and the non-understanding larger world around is kind of resonating with me right now. I remember before I had my first baby, how annoyingly been-there-done-that moms were, with that whole “you just can’t understand until you’ve been there” attitude about what it’s like to give birth, be a mom, be up all night for a year, to have your whole world and priorities and universe shift, irrevocably.

There are groups I circulate in who will just never understand. Most men, for one (Sorry, guys. I know many men are equal parenting partners, but…). Pre-children people in their 20s, or of any age. Weirdly, people whose children are long grown also seem to revert back to a hazy innocent un-remembering about it all, too. Babies are recalled as sleeping and perfect angels by grandparents. It’s a forgetting of time and an inevitable scrubbing from the memory of the bad, the stressful, the difficult.

But I think that does a disservice to the moms of now. If you can’t understand, or remember, or try to understand, you can’t support them.

I HATE HATE HATE when well-meaning older women post things on friends’ Facebook statuses about their babies, how they are struggling with lack of sleep, or baby fussiness, or whatever it may be, and then here comes a nice middle-aged lady, saying something like “These are the best days of your life,” or “This is the easy part, just wait until they walk/run/drive the car,” or “My kids are 17 and 19 and I still don’t sleep at night.”

NO. No no no no. Let’s please stop lying to poor women in shellshock from their first weeks with a new baby. They knew it would be hard. They didn’t know they’d have to shed their old skin, lose their self before they regain a better, tougher, harder, Mommy snakeskin.

They didn’t know the chrysalis would be like this. By fire.

Don’t admonish them on Facebook to appreciate it. I understand that from a twenty-year-long vantage point, these ARE the  best days of our lives. That never again will our homes be so full of children’s laughter, joy, sounds, family. We understand that. But these are also the hardest times. Don’t scare new moms into thinking they will be this sleep-deprived forever.

They won’t. It gets better and better. But support helps, especially for those of us who have been there, done that.

Workouts and Blowouts

Alternate blog title, am I right or am I right?

It’s amazing the gross things you talk about, sing about, accept as routine as parents of little babies. When we change Henry’s diaper, Anna comes running over.

“I want to see his poop!”

Don’t we all, kid, don’t we all.

I walk around calling my poor babies whatever comes to mind. Henry is Henny, Little Henny, Boobie Bear, Big Spitter (this is to the tune of Big Pimpin’, obviously) and who knows what other Mommyese high-pitched utterances that just fall off my tongue.

He’s rightly ashamed of me.

Everyone talks about how different kids are, even siblings, but who knew my two children could be polar opposite poopers? My daughter had, I think, one blowout in her life. Henry? Can’t keep it in his pants.

He has at least one daily blowout. He gets to change outfits like Beyonce on World Tour.

He’s also three months old and being officially administered reflux meds.

Only my kid can rock double chins this cutely. Just saying.

But this time Mommy’s taking the drug-dosing into her own hands and is doctoring over the counter Prevacid to give to him to avoid the hassle and inevitable fighting with docs that goes along with the fun of a refluxing baby. I think I slipped into third-person there because I realize I sound like a lunatic.

But don’t worry, this is not as insane as it sounds. I’ll go into the whole deal in another post. But good news is, I think the medication is working already. And by working I mean he isn’t screaming every time he eats and crying all day.

I’m like an intravenous drug user, getting all my “stuff” ready.

So besides walking around with a fussy baby who pukes on every surface (cleaning spitup takes up a lot of my time, actually, I think something like 47% of my waking hours to be scientific about it) I’ve been trying to work out more.

After my triumphant first three mile run last week my calves were incredibly sore. I chalked it up to being fat and um, out of shape. But they were still sore  five days later, especially my right calf. I tried to run anyway, since I had a babysitter visiting to meet and great the Sweets, and I had to stop a half-mile into the run. Every step was pretty painful and it felt like my calf was seized up into a painful rock hard lump.

I was dressed all fancy, too.

So I replaced running with even more Spin classes, and even pretended I was in my own personal Spin class when I couldn’t make the last Sunday morning class (9 a.m. Boo, gym.)

I still got sweaty. I’m good at that.

No running since. I’m going to wait until my calf doesn’t feel sore on the stairs and then tack on a good few extra days on top of that. I don’t want any more lingering injuries, jeez. Hear that, body? Stop falling apart.

In other highly exciting yet highly uncharacteristic news, I’m getting a house cleaner for a day. I’m a cleanliness stickler who lives with the misery of not being able to have my home as spotless as I’d like (my dog is more of a problem here than two kids, by the way). My husband’s family is visiting this weekend and I freaked out at the prospect of cleaning my house top to bottom with that fussing baby I carry around all day in my arms. I priced out some “deep cleaning” offers…we shall see if the cleaning is decent, and if it’s truly “deep” and worth the cost which was surprisingly reasonable. It all feels weirdly sinful and like shamefully luxurious to hire someone to clean my house. The only other time I’ve done it was right after Anna was born and I was, again, totally overwhelmed with a non-sleeping, non-happy-to-be-a-baby baby. Two women spent the two hours vacuuming and mopping. That’s it. That’s all they got to. My house isn’t even that big. I do that shit in like three minutes (I get sweaty). So I swore never again will I be tempted to get a house cleaner.

I’ll let you know how it goes. After my butler drops me off and my stylist blows my hair out.

This is the original kid who drove me batty as a sub-six-monther:

She turned out to be the best child ever. Hear that, Henry? You better do the same.

We’re fans of the Yankees around here. And sheep.

Isn’t it funny how when it comes to dressing a preschool-aged girl, the frumpier the better? Like, the more weird patterns, tights, knits, and mumus you can cram on her thirty-pound frame, the cuter she looks? If the outfit looks like you closed your eyes and grabbed ten things form the old lady rack at the thrift store, it will be an adorable ensemble for a two, three or four-year-old girl? Or a grown female hipster, I guess. Not me, I’m ten pounds and eight gray hairs past the cuteness limit for that.

I love dressing this kid.

But she only loves dressing like this lady:

“I’m in love with Belle, Mommy!”

“Oh, I know…princess train conductor child o’ mine.”

Foundational

I had my six week postpartum check up on Friday! Although I’m now eight weeks post-birth. Anyway, the midwife said, yup, I have a mild rectocele. She didn’t see the bladder prolapse but I know it’s there. BUT, she said she didn’t think there was any reason I couldn’t start running, as long as I try to hold up my pelvic floor while I run, and to keep doing all my strengthening exercises.

If I’m not noticing major resolution by March, she said, I can go see the specialist again. She also confirmed that as long as I’m breastfeeding, I might not see a 100% reduction, but I already knew that.

I went to the gym for only the second time since Henry was born on Saturday. I think I’m going to make Saturday and Sunday two heavy gym days, since my husband is home and I can feed the baby, pump, and then leave for as blessedly long as I’d like. It feels amazing. I might do a weights day and a Spin day, and then take a rest day during the week instead.

I ran a mile. I probably shouldn’t have, since I was feeling a bit heavy in my pelvic floor that morning. Overall, I’ve been feeling a lot less symptomatic though! There are entire days, or at least 90% of days, where I don’t feel anything at all. Much better than a few weeks ago.

I was out of breath running one 8:30 mile. Funny how my half marathon pace of last January is now my quick one mile pace. I guess I really am starting over in a lot of ways. I’m out of shape! I’m also 15 pounds heavier than normal, which really shocked me, since I feel and look pretty close to my pre-baby weight. Everyone I told this was surprised. I’m HUNGRY all the time, too. Between breastfeeding and dairy free dieting, I feel like I can’t get enough food as it is.

I did an hour long strength session after the quick treadmill run.

I’m out of shape strength-wise as well! I’m sure sleep deprivation and breastfeeding hormones play a major role in that, too. But it felt great to BE at the gym and do some semblance of my old routine.

I took it easy, overall, and I was trying to stay conscious of my pelvic floor during lifting. Which I could feel that I wasn’t completely successful at. I could feel it drooping at times. But I’ve read a lot about pelvic rehab, and the next step after doing the basic Kegel type exercises is to practice holding it all up while you do other stuff, like run and lift and cough and move. I’m determined to get as strong as I can down there so I can get as strong as I can everywhere else.

Feels great to be back, even with some limitations.

 

Something Worse

Wait, what was that number one lesson of parenting that I should have learned by now, a year into the gig? Don’t complain, because it could get worse? Yup, that’s it.

Anna got roseola, which actually wasn’t that bad. She had a fever which Tylenol helped, and didn’t want to eat but she still managed to mostly sleep at night and we continued on our merry weekend way, going to a Fall Festival in our town, the playground, dog park, and trying to relax. But her crankiness just increased. Hourly. By the end of the three-day weekend, I was completely drained. Walt was home, luckily, and helped. But I was really starting to learn what the extreme, desperate end of my patience reserves felt like, and it wasn’t pretty.

It would start as soon as she woke up. Whining. Hysterical crying over terrible injustices, such as: Mommy and Daddy taking away the cereal box that she was slowly emptying into the dog’s mouth but mostly onto the floor; setting her down, lovingly, with an array of musically engaging toys; offering her tidbits of food and drink (the incorrect tidbit of food or drink, obvs!) and inanimate objects that refused to move or function exactly as Anna wanted them to in that given moment of time.

Throwing her body on the floor when an injustice was particularly injust was another theme. Toys, cuddling, holding, sleeping, distractions, outings, were all found to be highly inadequate at the job of getting Anna to stop crying, whining, or tantruming.

It was oh-so brutal. I resorted to my primary self-preservation strategy: Googling, which taught me that some babies act totally fine while suffering from roseola, and others can be a bit clingy and cranky. So when I put that information through the Anna-Translation-Presto-ChangeO-Machine, the output is that we must suffer the wrath of the crankiest baby ever in the history of the world to the point of death. There’s a mathematical formula for that, the Anna factor. It’s coincidentally probably also the same factor that explains why the stars in the universe are getting further apart from each other, contrary to rules of gravity and such.

So then, of course, the only next thing that could happen would be a turn for the worse. The fever broke, the roseola rash appeared, good I thought, we are moving on. Then came last night. She cried. At 9pm. She screamed in pain. She writhed. She moaned. She hysterically melted down. She couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t sleep. We got a snatch of sleep around 1 am until 3 am. Infant Motrin was liberally applied. Our bed was tried, the crib was tried again, sleeping upright in the rocking chair was attempted. Thunder and lighting added to the hellish effect.  The dog cowered in the nursery, equally terrified of Anna’s screaming which was the most piercing we’d ever heard in her life and the crashing and booming outside. At one point he shivered on my lap, all 50 pounds of his awkward long coonhound body contorted on top of me.

Finally at 4 am another snatch of sleep. My poor husband had to wake up at 6:30 and go to work. I slept, fitfully, with the intermittently moaning and thrashing Anna until 10, blessedly, mercifully. A trip to the pediatrician this morning didn’t show an ear infection as I assumed must have been the case. So the mystery continues which means tonight is a scary prospect.

It can always get worse.

Toddler Without a Cause

Do you know those times where you find yourself wondering whether you are truly insane or actually the only sane one amongst mass delusion? Like a Kafka high school 1984 moment? Well, I experience this every Wednesday morning from 10 am to 11 am, at my town’s local Mommy and Me program.

Now this class sounds great in theory: ages 6 months to 2 years, one hour Mommy and Me class, babies play for 20 minutes to start, then circle time with singing and hand games, then craft, then snacktime and a story. We’ve done plenty of classes from the library storytimes to the corporate funfest that is Gymboree. Anna loves them, I enjoy the structure of having somewhere we go every week and see the same parents and children. We’re old pros, in fact.

But something in that last paragraph really should have stopped you in your tracks. It was the word “craft” used in relation to the phrase “ages 6 months to 2 years.” What the frig, Snookies and Situations?

We are supposed to sit on little chairs at little tables with squirming, crying, tantruming, mouthing 1 year olds, and then glue little pieces of cut out paper to form cutesy shapes, then glitter crap and add eyes and write our names and draw embellishments. Then take it home and put it on the fridge because of course everyone wants to display something Mom made, that she didn’t even come up with on her own because the whole thing was already created for us. With predetermined pieces of paper to form a predetermined scene. Of a pumpkin with googly eyes.

My daughter had nothing to do with this. In fact, she raged mightily against the making of this construction paper art. She tried to throw the crayons against the wall, she tried to eat the glue, she tried to dive bomb off of my lap head first if need be to escape the enforced lap sitting. So I’m going to take this home and frame it? She didn’t even draw squiggles on it. What the friggggggggggggggggggggg?

So the “Unabomber I should live alone in a cabin because the world is fucked” feeling really descends on me when I see the other mothers seem to enjoy this! Their kids sit like stupid lumps on their lap. They’re not doing the craft either but at least they sit there. Lately I haven’t even been attempting this craft time. I dutifully wrangle Anna during circle time because this child does have a mind of her own. She has enough mind for a small African nation. She has mind. But the poorly planned mind control craft I just cannot abide. I make a few half-hearted stabs at gluing before Anna goes ape and tries to throw everything off the table before I just go in a corner and feed her some Goldfish she’s desperate for and wait for snacktime to roll around.

The lady who runs the class gets upset when we let the kids wander from the activity at hand. So needless to say there is a ton of crying and throwing of small bodies on the floor at any given time. Except for about half the kids, whose temperaments are such that they don’t mind just sitting there.

One mom I talked to totally didn’t get what the hell my problem was. She was all “Oh, it’s so good to get them ready for preschool. They have to learn how to do what they’re supposed to.”

Do they really? They are 6 months to 18 months old. Her son was 15 months, mine is 12 months. Do they really need to sit quietly and do some crap that makes no sense? My daughter was engaged with the singing and dancing and playing and exploring, which makes sense. I don’t really feel the need to force her to sit and watch me glue crap because we are supposed to. Am I raising some kind of nonconformist toddler? Will she never learn how to act once preschool, kindergarten rolls around?

I think she has time. And so far my parenting style seems okay to me. My daughter is lovely, affectionate, advanced for her age. She just doesn’t sit quietly.

Maybe I don’t want her to sit quietly. She isn’t joining the Industrial Revolution any time soon.  She doesn’t need to learn how to sublimate all independent thought so she can be more easily wrangled into punching a time card just yet. She’s 1. There is so much more time for soul killing.

Breakdown

So did I mention that by day we are a happy family, visiting friends, reveling in our daughter’s recent BG (Big Girl) accomplishments of almost completing one year on Earth, eating from a spoon relatively successfully, and gesturing 75% of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider song, and frolicking in the late summer/early autumn sunshine, and one big loony breakdown-frantic-recurring-meltdown by night?

I have an urge to take the above sentence and plug it into one of those “what famous writer do you write like” gizmos and see if I “write” like David Foster Wallace meets John Milton as I suspect.

Let’s try:

Oh, okay. Note to I Write Like developers: add more writers to your database. I’m onto you.

So the reason for the double life is the same old reason everything that has gone very wrong has gone very wrong for the past year. Our daughter just doesn’t effing sleep like any human baby you’ve ever heard of. She spends half the night alternating between laughing like a baby monkey on Jolt Cola and crying because she wants you to come laugh with her like a mama monkey on Red Bull and vodka. She isn’t eventired half the time. I guess one day she will be able to hang out and read books in her crib or enact make-believe sagas with her stuffed animals to pass the time at 2 am when mere mortals are sleeping (is she a vampire baby per Stephanie Meyer?) but for now, when she doesn’t sleep, well, we don’t sleep. Sometimes when she sleeps, we don’t sleep either because intermittent crying is part of Anna’s sleep regimen.

She’s pretty astonishingly beautiful, though, so maybe it’s a beauty sleep trick. Laugh, cry, create porcelain cheeks and sparkling green brown eyes.

A Full Life

One year ago, I was getting ready for my baby shower, nesting, ironing my curtains, resting my aching sciatica, walking my dog every night as if that would somehow bring the baby sooner, convinced that sooner is better, for everything, always.

I always wanted to be three steps ahead. When I was in high school I frantically wished for college, thinking all my problems would be solved with some freedom (turned out I was right about that one). In college I pretended I was in graduate school, shunning the gaucheness of the undergraduates and their social scene, hanging out with the PhD students who lived off campus. When I was 10 I ached to be 14,16,17 and have my first boyfriend and first kiss. When I was 23 and single, living in Manhattan, I stayed up all night, laying on my Ikea slat bed, with my laptop overheating on the mattress, reading strange granola stories about women who went to cabins in the mountains and gave birth to their babies alone under the moonlight, cutting umbilical cords with rocks. I wanted a baby – I felt it physically – even though I had just ended my first serious relationship and was going out every night, dating for fun.

When I was 5 I read the newspaper with my father, instead of my board books. When I was 9 I crept into the Young Adult Section of the library and then read every single book they had, over those long summers that only existed when you were a kid, laying in air-conditioning on a blue carpet, in our high ranch. Sprawled on a towel at the public pool. Chlorine, yearning. All I wanted was for time to pass, rushing me into that next place. Feeling like I was meant to be somewhere else, already, fast. I quit smoking cigarettes when my friends were just swinging into their pack a day habits. I was 21 and I threw my almost full pack of Parliaments onto the highway, the only time in my life I’ve littered from a car. I taught college courses at 24, the boys snickering as I walked in the first day, exchanging glances that I knew meant they would never listen to me, no matter what I did or how thick the rims on my black eyeglasses were. I’m almost 30 and I’ve had more jobs than most people have in a lifetime, two abandoned almost-careers. I don’t know what I want to to do or be besides a mother to my daughter. The rest will come, or it won’t come, because I still have a lot of time left.

When my daughter was one month old, I wished she were 4, 5, 6 months, thinking that she would sleep, I would sleep, life would be a dream; when she was 6 months, I couldn’t wait for her to walk. Now I’m ready for potty-training, preschool, family vacations where we talk and play games in the car, conversations. She’s not a year yet.

I think I’m ready to stop time, at least for myself.

Other People’s Kids

So we all know we go around coveting our friend’s hair and our cousin’s house and our husband’s ability to eat only refined carbohydrates to no apparent bodily harm, but children too? Aren’t our children perfect beings that we would never change and serve as a vehicle for all that is God and holy and miraculous in our lives? Well, yes. But:

Scene: storytime. Subject: wanton jealousy.

I am jealous of moms with babies who Just Sit There. Wherever There is, I want Anna to once in a awhile Just Sit There. Not run to the nearest dangerous location, not attempt to climb objects, not steal things out of other diaper bags and purses. I want to look at a book and have conversations about Danielle Staub’s memoirs with strangers.

Some mothers I know compare their placid, happy, Just Sitting There babies to Anna, and wonder why she or he doesn’t walk, run, climb, and generally be all over the place at 10 or 11 months. They actually say things like “Look at Anna, why can’t you do that?” to their baby. Trade-offs.

Some moms want their child to be out-going and friendly. Anna runs up to strangers in the bookstore with her arms up, asking them to pick her up. She toddles up to other babies and thoughtfully pokes their cheek. She loves everyone. Especially when they pay attention to her.

Some moms want nothing more than to have a child who goes down for a nap easily. Anna refuses to let me feed her anything with a spoon or fork. Even birthday cake. If I was holding the most delectable morsel of food in the world, she would not let me put it in her mouth. Instead, I must put it in her hand for her to feed herself. I’ve met women who plead with their one year olds to pick up a single finger bite, and must spoon 100% of their baby’s sustenance into their mouth.

Do we get what we deserve in a cosmic circle of gene expressions? Or is every child a particular challenge we happen to receive, as we look wistfully to our left and right, at that baby hanging out in the stroller with not a thing in their hands to occupy them, not even crying. WTF? We think. Why me?

Worst Ever

Sleeper, that is. I have her. I birthed her and I care for her. Along with my tired husband.

She is 10 and a half months old and she has never slept through the night.

I don’t know what is wrong. But something is wrong. She doesn’t want a bottle  in the middle of the night and she’s not calling for us. Because she cries in her sleep. And if she cries long enough she wakes up. Then she tosses and turns. And cries. Then she comes in our bed. Then she tosses and turns and cries. The she goes back in the crib. Then she cries. Then an hour later she cries again. Then I cry. Sometimes I throw myself on the floor in my bedroom in desperation. Then she cries. Then she screams. Then we give her a pacifier and she sleeps a bit. Then she cries. Then she wakes up at 6:30 am for the day.

I just described every night of the last two months. Before that the waking was once or twice a night. That was liveable. Before that was the horror of the first two teeth. Before that was just horror. Two hour round the clock wakings for the first six months of her life.

Did I use the word “horror” enough?

This is (almost) ruining our lives.

Tomorrow is Monday. I’m going to call her pediatrician and ask about allergy panels, any physical reasons for sleep problems, anything we can look at, test, investigate, do. Then when she is over her cold, and doctors say she’s fine, there might be a terrible period of letting her cry and seeing if that helps. I don’t know if it will. My daughter doesn’t cry herself to sleep: she cries herself awake.