Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gin and Juice

We are driving to my mother's house in Beaver County, Pennsylvania when Alice begins wailing uncontrollably, pinwheeling her little arms and bucking against the confines of her car seat.

"Quick!" I yell to Spiceboy over her cries. "Put on some music, maybe it will calm her down."

Spiceboy grabs a random CD and shoves it into the player. Unfortunately, our vehicular music collection is severely outdated, as our car spends most of its time in Pittsburgh and we spend most of our time in New York.

It's a mix CD of hip hop songs from the late 80's through about 2003. We try Public Enemy, Missy Elliott, Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac in hopes of soothing the savage beast wailing from the back seat, but her screaming only intensifies.

"Listen, Alice," calls Spiceboy in desperation, turning up the volume to Baby Got Back. "It's Sir Mix-a-Lot! Don't you like Sir Mix-a-Lot?"

Alice clearly does not care for Sir Mix-a-Lot.

The last track on the CD is Gin and Juice. When the bass starts, Alice's wrinkled little face smooths out, her arms stop flailing, and her eyes take on a peaceful expression. Snoop Dogg sings "G's up, ho's down," and Alice breaks into a huge grin. And as our trusty Volvo station wagon bounces along the rough Pennsylvania highways and Snoop Dogg waxes poetic about Tanqueray and chronic, our sweet baby girl drifts off to sleep with a smile on her face.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Transition of Power

Unless you've been living under a rock these past weeks, you know there's a transition of power happening in Washington right now, as the Bush Administration makes way for the Obama Administration.

But what you may not be aware of is that here in my 350 square foot apartment on the far eastern and utterly unfashionable section of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a different type of transition of power is taking place. And if you were to climb the 48 echoing steps to my apartment, you would catch a glimpse of the Mom Administration making way for the Dad Administration.

Last year at this time, as Spiceboy and I began our ascent to that strange and foggy summit of becoming a family, I looked forward to the experiences that would come with it--that we would we able to have a baby and still do right by each other, and share responsiblities in a way that our parents' generation did not. But in the excitement and rush of the pregnancy, the anticipation of those experiences dissolved in the face of the little bundle of cells growing inside of me, and I became immersed in all things "mama."

But now the final weeks of my maternity leave are coming to a close, and the lovely Spiceboy, man of men, husband of husbands, father of fathers, has made the brave decision to spend his days at home with Miss Alice so that I may return to my job in publishing. So I've been trying to step back a little bit around the house, to let Spiceboy and Alice find their own groove.

It's been a lot more difficult than I expected. Too often I find myself hovering over the two of them, making suggestions from the sidelines:

"She might want her binky."

"Try holding her over your shoulder."

"Let her head fall back just a little bit more. Good. Now bounce her. Now swing her. No--not that way!"

It's difficult to watch Spiceboy hold or feed or comfort Alice without feeling like he's doing it wrong because he's not doing it the way I would do it. But he's not wrong--he's just different. And therein lies a lesson that I haven't had to heed for awhile: being in relationship is a constant balancing act. Trust is a fragile thing, and putting that trust in someone else's hands requires a huge leap of faith. You make that leap of faith when you first fall in love with someone. And you make it again when you exchange wedding vows. And you make it yet again when you undertake the gargantuan, heartbreaking task of raising a child together.

Spiceboy might not do things the way I would do them, but that doesn't make them wrong. So maybe using the phrase "transition of power" to describe what's happening in our household is the wrong way to put it--because the power was never all mine to begin with. Power is a fluid thing. It's something that passes back and forth between us, something that holds us together as a family unit. It comes from understanding our strengths, reconizing our weaknesses, and knowing when to let the other person step in and help.

And now, as I prepare to leave the cozy little nest I've feathered with my family over these last three an a half months and lash myself onto the 9-5 merry-go-round once again, the experiences I so looked forward to last year at this time have finally come to pass, and they are more frightening and exciting than I ever imagined they would be.

I only hope I can meet them with an open mind, an open heart, maturity, and grace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hello, Old Friend

For the past few days, I've been feeling rather grumpy and twitchy and generally out of sorts. I've been snapping at Spiceboy and throwing dirty looks at Betty, whose biggest offense is wagging her tail and being adorable.  I'm restless, and I just want to be left alone. And the other day, I went to the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding.

"Something's wrong," I announced to Spiceboy in a tone that I hoped conveyed the gravity of the situation. "I'm bleeding. I'm going to have to call my doctor."

"Are you sure?" asked Spiceboy.

"Yes. I don't know what's going on with me. What if it's some sort of post-pregnancy complication? What if I have some awful disease?"

"Um, do you think it could be your period?" Spiceboy asked. He spoke carefully,  keeping his distance from me in the wary way one does when confronted with a potentially volatile situation, like trying to speak rationally to a very drunk person, or lure an angry cat out from under the bed. 

Ah, yes. All of the feel-good pregnancy hormones have officially fled my body, and it's back to regularly scheduled programming. 

Leave it to me to miss the obvious.  

Sunday, November 09, 2008


You know what's coming from the way she holds her body; she stiffens, then arches backward, then screams.

And so it begins.

Sometimes the crying lasts for hours, sometimes it's only 15 minutes. Still, you're always surprised by the red numbers on your alarm clock because it feels like forever every time.

You walk.  Bounce. Swing. Sway. None of it ever works, but you try anyway. In the end, you lay her on the bed and curl up beside her. You take her tiny fists in yours and press your lips to her damp forehead  and your tears mix with hers as you whisper, "Sssh, it's okay. It will be over soon." 

You don't know if you're talking to her or to yourself.

"Why does your baby cry so much?" your helpful neighbor asks. 

"She has reflux," you answer. You say this in a nonchalant way, as if it's no big deal, as if the crying doesn't bother you, as if you've got it all under control. 

When it's finally over her whole body relaxes, and so does yours. You kiss her tiny fist, and she unfolds it against your face and smiles at you through the tears dotting her cheeks. 

"Goo," she says, as if nothing was ever wrong.

"Goo," you agree, and you scoop her into your arms and hold her tight, tight, tight.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Sounds of Fall

We are walking in the Upper East Side, and the sidewalk is covered in brilliant yellow leaves, which make the most delicious crunching sound as we step through them.

"Hear that?" I say. "That's a great sound."

"You know what else is a great sound?" asks Spiceboy.

I've fallen for similar lines before, but this time I'm onto Spiceboy's game. 

"Your fart?" I ask.

Spiceboy grins, then lets out a little poot.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Years From Now...

...when my daughter asks me what I was doing on this amazing night, I will be able to tell her:

When Barack Obama was elected president, I was holding you in my arms and you were sleeping, and I pressed my lips to your sweet, sweet head and whispered, "I love you. We are making a better world for you."

Monday, November 03, 2008

This is Only a Test

Alice's test on Friday went well. She has no physical digestive problems, thank goodness! She is a healthy, normal baby!

She does, however, have reflux, and an intolerance to dairy and soy, so we're still figuring some things out.

Maybe someday I'll write more about this and how challenging these last two months have been, but I'm not quite ready to do that yet.

Thanks for your well wishes. More soon!