Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Nostalgia

Another night is coming to a close, and here I am, having (finally) successfully rocked Alice back to sleep after her night feeding.  It's too early to do much of anything, but too late for me to go back to sleep. 

I'm sitting here thinking of Saturday nights past when Spiceboy and I were just creeping home at this hour, the hour the diners are bright and empty of all but the most unsavory patrons, before the corner flower shops open and the doormen come out and hose down the sidewalks, when you can see remnants of the night mingling with those of the coming day--empty beer bottles on the street corner next to the stack of morning papers, the occasional cab making its way down the avenue with a sleepy "hush" of tires on the pavement.  

I loved those loud and fast days, but I am relieved to relinquish them to the past, to let nostalgia keep those memories pretty and preserved for me so I can flip back to them whenever I wish, like looking at photos in an album. 

Now I am settling into my new identity, one in which I am someone's mother. So far, it has been the most exhilarating, terrifying, heartbreaking experience of my life. And in this new reality, I get to experience the end of the night in a different way; a light spilling across Alice's face, the smell of milk and baby wipes and the scent of her hair--like honey and something warm and delicious from the oven. I sway her to sleep while playing her the Platters, or the Cowboy Junkies, or the Mills Brothers, or the Ink Spots. We move back and forth, back and forth, until she gives a coo followed by a huge sigh--the signal that she's deeply asleep. 

And even though I'm bone tired, I feel bereft when I finally shift her warm, sweet weight out of my arms and into her bouncy seat (the only place she'll sleep), because  I know that I'm once again racing against the clock, trying to hold still for a second or two, to commit to memory the milky gray quiet of the apartment at this time of morning, surrounded by the sleeping breaths of my newly minted family. 

Soon these moments will fade into the pretty nostalgia I love so much, and life will change pace once again, one perfect pocket of time slipping into another. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life On Planet Alice

You move in your own orbit, all sighs and fragile baby sleep, unimpressed by the wail of police sirens whisking blank-faced diplomats off to meetings at the UN, or by the spectacle of Barbara Walters strolling past you in Central Park, bedecked in oversized sunglasses.

On Planet Alice, sirens are the sweet lullabies that put you to sleep and your parents are glittering cinema kings and queens, come down from the silver screen especially to make you smile.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Not Really A Retraction...

Some of you may recall this post, in which I spoke ill of the Boppy--the current "must have item" the childcare establishment is telling newly minted moms we can't live without.

Through a twist of sweet n' sour irony, I wound up getting a Boppy as a gift--all cutesy and pink-flowered. And in those first dark and swirling days of motherhood, desperate to make breast feeding go more smoothly, I unearthed the much-scorned Boppy from my miniscule bedroom closet and attempted to use it.

I could lie to you here but I won't: even in my sleep-deprived and tormented state over whether I would ever be able to properly nourish my child, I'm still self-involved enough that as I situated the Boppy on my lap and lifted my sweet newborn to my breast,  I feared I would have to write a retraction of the Boppy post on my blog, should the Boppy prove to be even the slightest bit useful.  

I needn't have worried. After several days of Boppy feedings, I was left with nothing more than a sore back and resentment that I have a large pink pillow with a ridiculous name taking up space in my tiny apartment. So I flung the useless Boppy onto the couch in a fit of despair and there it stayed.  

Every time I passed by the Boppy, I scowled at it and envisioned climbing out onto the fire escape and hurling it over the railing and laughing as it disappeared into the glittering Manhattan afternoon.  

And then came a turn of events,  which forces me to keep the frigging Boppy in my life just a little while longer and to admit that it is, in fact, slightly useful.  

I will never have fond feelings for the Boppy.  Betty, on the other hand, absolutely adores it:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Labor Day

Alice Spice is one month old today! To commemorate, I'd like to tell you about when she was born. I'll spare you any gory details, I promise.

The day I went into labor, we took Betty to the park in the damp, hot morning. Upon returning home, I discarded the leisurely pace I'd adopted over the interminable spring and summer. I was ready to get this baby out, one way or another. "Out of  my way!" I cried to Spiceboy as I barreled up the 48 steps to our apartment. 

That afternoon, we went to the Met and I waddled  past the Impressionists and the Modernists at breakneck speed, stopping occasionally to rest in front of a Pollock, a Matisse. 

I also insisted on walking the 20 blocks home.

The first labor pain came at 7:57 pm, though I didn't believe it was labor--I thought it was just really bad gas--not an unusual malady in our house. As I paced the floor in denial, Spiceboy packed his bag for the hospital. Mine had already been packed for weeks.

Two hours later, the pains were coming faster and harder.  The glass of wine and hot shower recommended in birthing class had not slowed them in the least. Each time a pain hit, I curled up on the bed and moaned.

"You need to page your doctor," said Spiceboy.

We finally left for the hospital, and when I stepped out the front door, everything was achingly normal--the hot sidewalks, the honking horns, old men lingering at the curb as their small dogs sniffed here and there. Spiceboy ran to Second Avenue to flag a cab, and I waddled to the stoop next door, where our neighbor, who was sitting and smoking a cigarette, eyed  me curiously. 

"Do you mind if I sit here with you for a minute?" I asked, lowering myself onto the cool, damp steps. "I'm in labor." 

I got a really strong contraction as soon as we got in the cab, and I arched back into the seat and moaned. The cabbie eyed me in the rearview mirror. "You might want to take it easy," Spiceboy warned him, "unless you want to have a baby in your cab."

We hurried down the quiet hospital corridors, racing against the contractions. When we arrived at the labor and delivery desk, my doctor greeted us with a smile and a cheer. "Yay!" she said.

Things went quickly after that. The delivery room was dark and quiet and I stripped out of my black skirt and tank top and slipped into my hospital gown with shaking hands. The doctor checked me and informed me I was 8 cm dilated, which for the uninitiated means I was very far along in the process. "Do you want an epidural?" she asked. 

Throughout my pregnancy, I'd entertained very strong notions of having a natural childbirth--no drugs. But the contractions were coming faster and stronger and I felt feverish and sick to my stomach--I couldn't breathe through them any more, couldn't relax.  I needed to make a decision. Another contraction hit me and I panted through it. In an effort to stall for time, I cried out to my doctor, "But it fucking hurts!"

"Yeah," she said, "but it's going to fucking hurt either way," she replied. 

I got the epidural. 

I have no regrets. Once the drugs kicked in, I was able to relax. I was excited. To be honest, I felt great. No more pain--none at all. Spiceboy stood bravely at my side, whispering encouragement and promising me that when this was over, he would  bring me many sandwiches (I'd been craving them) and the bottle of Roederer he'd stashed in the fridge. I loved him more than ever. 

Then it was time to push, and Spiceboy did what he does best--kept me laughing.  He yelled and cheered so much one might have thought he was watching me run in the winning touchdown during the big game, which made me laugh even harder. "Not many people laugh when they push out a baby," said my doctor. Indeed. But as all of my best moments with Spiceboy include laughter, I couldn't have imagined a better scenario. 

And so at 2:52 am in a small darkened room on the East Side of Manhattan,  Spiceboy and I found ourselves at yet another turning point in our relationship: we had finally become a family. And after the breathless, bloody blur of labor had ended and the doctor and nurse had us alone in the room,  he climbed into bed with me and we kissed and kissed, then we wrapped our arms around little our little cosmic baby--all red and hot and new--and dozed off as dawn crept into the sky over the East River. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

This Is What A Relationship Looks Like From The Inside

Spiceboy, after having taste-tested a batch of cookies I just made, turns to me with a bewildered expression and says:

"I have something brown on my finger, but I'm afraid to lick it because I don't know if it's baby poop or chocolate."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What They Don't Tell You

  • Each moment is one of exquisite joy and heartbreak; out of a million breaths there is only one first breath, out of a million smiles there is only one first smile, out of a million days on this earth, there is only one first day
  • Your body will be battered and sore
  • You will feel lonely, and you will cry into your husband's shoulder and he will be brave for you, even though he wants to cry himself
  • The smell of your milk on her breath is the sweetest thing in the world
  • Fifteen minutes of screaming at 3 am will feel like fifteen hours
  • When you look into the mirror, you will see her eyes. When you finally fall asleep, you will see her face
  • You will be humbled, honored, exhausted, joyful, overwhelmed
  • Somehow, in the middle of the night when she is crying, your hips will find their own sway; your voice will find its own tune, and in that moment you will become "mama"

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pop Quiz: Why Is Alice Crying?

1. She has gas.
2. She's sick of reading headlines about Sarah Palin.
3. She is outraged that they made a "new" 90210--Brenda and Brandon will always be #1 in her heart.
4. She is hungry.
5. She just heard that "competitive crying" has been added as an Olympic sport for the 2012 games, and she's fairly certain she can take the gold if she starts training now.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Calgon...You Know the Rest

Alice screamed all night. We're talking purple-faced, high-pitched, slit-your-wrists screaming. 

The health insurance company won't cover my prescription and claims that Alice isn't "in their system" even though we have an insurance card with her name on it.  Yelling at them hasn't improved the situation.

I'm trying to print out my disability forms for work (because in America, giving birth is considered a "disability"), but both printers keep jamming.

I didn't brush my teeth yesterday.  Or today. 

And at the moment, there is no hot water in our building, so Spiceboy and I both smell really bad. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Throughout my pregnancy, everyone warned me that once we had the baby, our whole lives would revolve around poop. I've found this to be untrue. Since we're a family who spends an inordinate amount of time discussing our own bodily functions as well as those of our dog, the arrival of Alice has only marginally increased our extremely high and graphic level of poop talk.

What no one ever mentioned was how much attention I'd be paying to my boobs. 

All day, every day, I'm dealing with my boobs. 

So here's the admission of a lifelong flat chested girl: I now have a great rack.  That's right--my boobs look fantastic.  As Spiceboy (very happily) pointed out, I have cleavage!

And that, my friends, is where the irony of the situation comes into play. Because for as great as the boobs look, that's where the fun ends.

Having a baby slows time down and immerses you in the minutia of a situation. I now spend vast amounts of time doing very small things. I spent at least eight hours on Saturday staring at my right boob and willing it to work properly. That's the equivalent of an entire work day--spent staring at my boob. 

Too much milk. Not enough milk. Hot compresses. Cold compresses. Cabbage leaves. Nursing bras. Breast cream. 

Boobs, boobs, boobs. It's a fun word to type, no?

And now I must run. Alice is alseep in her crib, which means that my boobs and I have time to grab a short nap before the craziness begins all over again.

Happy Tuesday!