Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.

And Then There Were Two… The Grandparents Head Home

Today is the day Sam was supposed to be born. At least, this is the due date the infertility doctor gave us based on the date of our intrauterine insemination. Sam has filled out quite a bit since we brought her home last Sunday, and she’s finally started opening her eyes. I suspect they’ll stay blue, just like her father’s and Cassie’s.

The ratio of adults to children has changed in this house. My parents, who came up to help us out after Sam was born, headed out yesterday, off to see my aunt for her birthday. The amount of noise and chaos in the house immediately dropped the moment they left, but so did my sense of security. There’s no way this household can handle more than two adults for any real length of time. There’s just not enough room, even in a place this big. We were tripping over each other and driving each other crazy. Still, having Grandmama and Papoo around meant Cassie was constantly entertained and I never had to worry about the laundry or cooking. Now the place is strangely empty.

There are pluses to having my folks leave. I really was starting to go nuts with them around. Dad spends all day sitting on the couch reading, or else lying in bed taking a nap. Those times Cassie could get him up to play, he’d chase her around the house until she was screaming, and then aggravate her until she was hopping mad and crying, leaving Mom and I to deal with a hysterical and hyper-stimulated child as he headed off to take yet another two-hour nap. This did not do good things for Cassie’s mood or behavior, let me tell you. My dad’s an expert at how to upset people, and at the age of three, Cassie’s a prime target for his teasing. The night before my folks left, he threatened to sneak up on Cassie while she was asleep and “get her” in her bed. To a child who constantly worries about monsters in her closet, you can imagine how this came across. I told Dad if he ever teased her like that again, I’d put his butt out on the curb with the week’s trash and he could go to the dump where he belonged. Not nice or respectful, I know, but the man also worked hard on pissing me off all week long too, so he got as good as he gave in my opinion.

My mother did her best to intervene between Papoo and Cassie, but she also got ticked off with him, which only raised the stress level in the house. When Mom wasn’t fuming over Dad, she spent her time cleaning and cooking and shopping. This wasn’t so bad, except that the post-partum hormones have really made me OCD and Mom doesn’t clean the way I do. I’d go into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and wouldn’t be able to find the mugs because they were all jumbled up with the sippy cups and the glasses. I’d go to get dressed in the mornings and I wouldn’t be able to find any of my clothes because for some reason, Mom can’t tell my stuff apart from Michael’s, or else I’d find things, but in the wrong drawer because Mom isn’t familiar with my system of sorting. What really drove me nuts were things that were put away in a haphazard manner. Mom moves fast when she cleans, so corners aren’t always squared up and things aren’t always sorted according to size and type. I know, I know. Crazy and stupid to complain about all the help I got this past week, but I tell you, I hate opening cabinet doors and having everything fall out and hit me in the head because stuff wasn’t stacked properly. Kind of negates the point of putting it away in the first place, you know?

In any event, my parents left bright and early yesterday morning. As soon as they were gone, I started cleaning house – picking things up, putting them away, finding stuff out of place, sorting and reorganizing like some crazy demonic whirlwind of domesticity. Michael took Cassie out grocery shopping. Sam slept through all my cleaning and cussing. In two hours, I got a lot of stuff back to the way I wanted it, except for the lonely anxious feeling I still can not seem to dispel.

The good news is Michael and I survived the first day on our own just fine. Sam is settling in nicely, feeding on a regular schedule and sleeping just fine. Cassie is a little whiny and wants to be constantly entertained, but she’s tolerable and has been very helpful any time I ask her to do something for the baby. Michael and I are snapping at each other as we try to pick up the tasks my mother was handling, but we’re not tearing each other’s throats out, and that’s a good thing.

My parents drive me crazy, but I love them. In spite of the misplaced stuff and the aggravation and the way they spoil Cassie, I do manage to think of them fondly. I hope they have a good trip to see my aunt and a safe trip home after that. I know I’ll look forward to seeing them again… just as soon as I can get my house back in order.

Happy Birthday to Daddy

Yesterday was Michael’s thirty-sixth birthday. In spite of all the new baby chaos, we actually did manage to celebrate it, albeit not in any organized fashion. My mom made a cake with Cassie’s help. We had presents, and I even let Michael sleep straight through the entire night before just so he’d feel rested on his special day.

The day was not without its ups and downs though, at least for me. I’m still struggling with those post-partum hormones, and man do they make me bitchy. In spite of my best efforts, I couldn’t help but nag at Michael to move the old desk that’s been sitting in our foyer out the garage. I’d been tripping over the stupid thing (it was huge) and I couldn’t vacuum around it, and the fact was, it didn’t need to be sitting smack dab in the front room of our house. I wanted it hauled out and taken to the dump. I managed to get Michael to take it as far as the garage and I’ll have to settle for that because I doubt I’ll be able to get him to move it any farther any time soon. But as soon as I’m off the doctor’s restrictions, that damn desk is going bye-bye.

I was also frustrated with Cassie for a good part of the day. Mom and I decided to take her shopping for new summer clothes. It ended up being a three-hour trip, mainly because I had to stop and nurse Sam half-way through. I thought Cassie might enjoy taking her new baby doll, Baby Boy, with us and even suggested she push him along in the stroller, just as I would be pushing Sam. That did and didn’t work. Cassie was thrilled to push Baby Boy around and everyone went “ooh” and “ah” over her and told her what a good mommy she was. The problem was that Cassie got too easily distracted, especially in the parking lot, and frequently failed to pay attention to where she was going. She ended up ramming into me several times, got Baby Boy’s stroller tangled up in Sam’s, and darted off in random directions, often in the path of a speeding car, while we were trying to cross the lot to a store. Needless to say, by the time we left first store, my nerves were fried.

But I did my best to remain calm and patient. I swear, I don’t know where the patience comes from, but when I really need it, it’s there. I can keep my voice light, my attitude calm, and my wits about me. I can even keep myself from swearing up a storm when I’ve had my Achilles tendon slammed into for the fortieth time. I can do it, and if I can do it, other people can too.

Which is why it pisses me off so much when I see other people treating their kids like crap.

After the first hour of shopping, we had to stop so I could nurse Sam. Mom, Cassie and I sat down in the café area of Target and drank fruit smoothies while I tucked Sam under a blanket and let her nurse. While we were there, another mom came in with her little boy and a man I assume was her husband or boyfriend. The little boy was so cute. He was about Cassie’s age, with a wild cascade of black curls and a smile that would have turned night to day. The mom was another story. Talk about ugly. It wasn’t her looks or her weight or the way she was dressed. It was that stupid, sullen sneer that spread across her face as she followed her child into the café. The little boy was skipping around the tables as they looked for a place to sit, and she just kept snapping at him. At least three times after they sat down I heard her tell her son to shut up. Do me a favor, people. Don’t ever, ever tell your kids to shut up. It’s demeaning and degrading to them and it makes the parent looks like a stupid ass. I swear, after the second time this mom said “Shut up!” I just wanted to walk over to her and punch her in the mouth (remember, post partum hormones are making me cranky and I’m not a nice person anyway).

But I didn’t. It was one of those situations where I really don’t know what to do (imagine that). With two kids and my mother sitting beside me, I’m not really in a position to start a fist fight, no matter how badly I want to. I’m not even in a position to start an argument, especially since I don’t know anything about her or the guy who was with her. Are they armed? Are they violent? Is either one of them possibly doing drugs at the moment? I have to think about my own kids first before I can stop and think about anybody else’s. So I sat there, listening to this stupid, stupid woman yell at her kid for no good reason I could see. Obviously, she was irritated about something. But like I said earlier, when I get irritated I still try to treat Cassie decently. She’s my child and I love her.

At this point, I also have to say that watching this woman made me feel strange and superficial in some odd way. This is where I get politically incorrect, folks, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, quit ready now. This other mom and I could not have been more different racially, economically, and socially. I never felt so white bread in my life as I did watching this woman and her child. Everything about the mom screamed urban street punk or gang member to me, especially her ratty shirt and jeans and that angry, sullen sneer. Meanwhile I looked like something out of “Desperate Housewives” with my yoga pants, Old Navy Perfect Fit tee, and carefully pampered face.

That got me wondering how much things like race, social background, environment and financial status really influence the type of parents we become. The money issue was what played on my mind the most, because it seemed to be the most obvious difference between me and that other woman. Was I a better parent because I had more money or because I could afford to stay home with my kids all day? Did money buy my patience? I mean really, there was a time in my life when I worked crappy part time jobs to make ends meet, but even then I had my family to fall back on when money was tight. I never had to struggle to survive, and I’ll never have to work a crappy job again as long as I live. Michael makes too much money for that, and if he dies (which better not happen in the next fifty years) I become an extremely rich widow. Was that the difference between this woman and me? My financial future is secure, so I don’t have to deal with the frustrations and uncertainties that economic hardship brings? I’m not going to even consider racial issues, because I don’t think being white, black, Asian, Hispanic or any other race matters when it comes to being a parent. Maybe it matters in other areas of life, but not there.

Sam nursed for a good forty minutes, so we ended up sitting in that little café for a while, watching this woman yell at her child, yank him around by the arm and hit him a couple of times. I did my best not to glare at her and then had to work to keep Cassie from staring, pointing and commenting. I know what questions where going through my daughter’s mind at that point, even if she isn’t old enough to voice them out loud. Why is that mommy hitting her little boy? Why is she being so mean? Does she love her little boy?

I don’t know.

Eventually, Sam quit nursing and we, the rich and privileged, headed out to do more shopping. We hit Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up such crucial necessities as kitchen chair cushions and a new pizza stone for Michael (his birthday present). It was all so bourgeois it made me sick. Then we headed home, baked a cake, ordered Chinese takeout, ate until we were all stuffed, and vegetated in front of the TV to watch “Chicken Run” on HBO. How upper class. How idle and rich.
None of it could put that little boy from my mind.

I don’t know if I’m a better mom than the woman I saw in Target yesterday afternoon, but I do know this. I love my daughter. I may give Cassie a spanking, but only to correct bad behavior in very specific circumstances and never to relieve my own anger and frustrations. I will never, ever tell her to shut up or call her stupid. She’s too precious to me, too much of a miracle. Maybe my money does buy my patience and love. Maybe it’s just that I can afford to be a better mom. Or maybe it’s just that I really do love my children more than that woman loved her son.

Again, I don’t know. I probably never will.

Happy birthday, Michael. Enjoy your pizza stone. It came with a lot of baggage.

It’s Magic Booby Time! A Few Thoughts On Breastfeeding

Once again, it’s 6:30 AM and I’m the only person in the house awake. Sam is dozing at my breast. My parents are asleep in the guest room. Cassie is conked out in her bed, and Michael is snoring away to beat the band. The snoring drives me crazy, but it’s his birthday today so I’m fighting the urge to pick up something large and heavy and throw it at him.

As a present to Michael, I let him get a full night’s sleep last night, meaning I took it on myself to handle all the baby details alone. Yeah, I’m crazy-stupid that way. I ought to be demanding that people take care of me since I’m the one who just had the baby, but considering that I’m breastfeeding Sam, I would have been up two or three times last night anyway, so it wasn’t too much extra work. I just had to change poopy diapers in addition to doing everything else involved in nursing.

Speaking of nursing, my best friend Cindy came over yesterday with her husband Rick and their new baby Izzie. This is their first child and Cindy is currently learning all about the joys of breastfeeding. Those of you who know anything at all about breastfeeding will realize the sarcasm in that last comment. Contrary to what people think, breastfeeding is not easy and does not come naturally. It’s a painful, frustrating, agonizing process that comes second only to being in labor in terms of physically painful things women end up doing in their lives. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Imagine having someone saw off your nipples with a dull steak knife. That’s what learning to breastfeed is like.

I made the decision with Cassie to breastfeed, and I was very determined to do it. I couldn’t get pregnant the natural way – had to go the infertility route. I couldn’t deliver the natural way – Cassie was breech and never dropped so I had to have a C-section. Therefore I determined that something about my initiation into Motherhood was going to be natural and breastfeeding was it. I knew nothing about breastfeeding. I just figured I had breasts, they looked to be in good shape, and I’d naturally be able to feed my child with them.

Naturally, it turned out to hurt like hell.

During the eighth month of my pregnancy with Cass, I took a breastfeeding course at the local hospital. The lactation consultant there explained that breastfeeding does not come naturally to most folks, and that all us mo-mos were in for a bit of a shock the first time we tried it. Babies have to learn how to properly latch on to the nipple, otherwise they’re going to suck it raw trying to get the milk out. There are also the issues of engorgement (where your breasts suddenly turn into massive, rock-hard water balloons ready to explode), cracked and bleeding nipples, infections like mastitis, thrush, etc., etc., etc. All in all, breastfeeding is a fun way to torture yourself.

Even so, I was determined to go through with this. I’m one of those fools who can’t really fathom how bad a situation can be until they’re stuck right in the middle of it (thus explaining my willingness to do a natural childbirth this last time around). So Michael and I bought all the things I’d need for breastfeeding and then we waited for the day Cassie would arrive.

I had a C-section with Cassie, so on the day she was born, her first feeding didn’t happen until a few hours after the doctor cut her out of my gut. I was woozy from the spinal block and itched like crazy from the morphine. Somebody, a nurse I think, handed me this squirming fussy bundle and said, “Okay Mom, time to nurse!” That’s when I discovered I didn’t nearly have enough hands to do the job. I needed at least one hand to hold the baby, one hand to maneuver my breast and a third hand to pry open Cassie’s reluctant little mouth so she could latch on. It was impossible. Cassie’s jaws stayed stubbornly locked shut, and I kept thinking at any minute I’d drop my newborn daughter in my attempts to feed her because quite frankly, I suck at juggling. Then somehow, miraculously, Cassie yawned and managed to get my nipple into her precious little maw and that’s when the fun really began.
From the moment she first clamped down, I knew we were in trouble. The nipple was in, but it wasn’t positioned right. Cassie’s jaws once again went back to being locked up tighter than Fort Knox and I couldn’t get her off or reattached to save my life. I think the nurse had to get a crow bar and pry her off. My poor nipple came out flattened and bruised and naturally, I was on the verge of swearing at everyone in the room – husband, nurse and baby. But I decided to stay calm and try again. And again. And again.

I can’t recall how many attempts it took to get Cassie latched on and nursing. I do remember she never did latch on correctly and over the course of half an hour managed to strip the top layer of skin of that nipple. Two hours later, she got to do it to the other nipple. Two hours after that, she went back for a second layer of skin on the first nipple, and so on and so on. That’s when I discovered the further joys of breastfeeding. First, babies need to be breastfeed every two to three hours. Second, they have tongues made of rough-grit sandpaper. That meant I was up for grade-A torture every other hour of the day, more frequently if she was really hungry. My life was about to become a living hell.

I remember my mother sitting on the hospital bed next to me as I suffered through the third or fourth feeding. She told me my cousin Anne had managed to survive three months of breastfeeding before she finally quit. I remember thinking, “Three months? I’ll be lucky to last the next three days!” Then I doubled over in pain as I discovered another side-effect of nursing. Nursing promotes oxytocin, a hormone that among other things causes the uterus to contract back to normal size. That’s right, contract. In other words, warp itself back into shape one painful squeeze after another.

Michael and I used to joke about how everybody has their own personal version of hell. His was being stuck driving through the middle of a crowded country music festival in a manual shift car going uphill while trying to get to an event he was already fifteen minutes late for (the event, by the way, was Phantom Of The Opera). I found my personal hell that day in the hospital. It involved sitting in a chair, nursing a screaming infant while my uterus contracted and I suffered from a four inch hole cut into my gut. Yes, breastfeeding is natural… natural hell.

Still, I went home determined to continue breastfeeding. I quickly discovered how little time I would have to do anything between nursing sessions. Cassie ate every two hours on the hour. She nursed for 30-40 minutes at a time, leaving me with just over an hour to do anything else. Nights were even worse because she had reflux, so in addition to being nursed, she had to be carefully burped, then soothed and rocked to keep her from puking up anything she just ate.

I caught sleep in brief 30 minute snatches at night between feedings. During the day, I struggled to do anything beyond sit in a chair and swear as Cassie chewed my nipples into hamburger meat. When I wasn’t in the glider nursing, I stumbled around the house with leaky breasts and a screaming child. I considered myself lucky if I managed to get a shower. Bonus points if I got the dishwasher loaded or managed to do a load of laundry. I wept to realize that I had become nothing more than a badly functioning milk machine. The only good news was that I was producing milk, and doing so in spades.

I produced so much milk that Cassie couldn’t keep up with the flow. Frequently, she would break off in the middle of feeding, choking and sputtering. Then she’d begin to shriek in rage as my nipple continued to spew milk all over her face. I’d slap a burp cloth over the offending breast and watch in horror as liquid seeped through the fabric and continued to spray. I spattered the walls of the nursery with so much breast milk that people often asked if I had repainted the place.

I leaked, I sprayed, my nipples cracked and bled, my daughter screamed. It went on for ages. Then one day, a miracle occurred. I got out of the shower, rubbed myself dry, watched one last layer of skin peel off my nipples and discovered that beneath all that dead tissue, I had nubs of steel. That’s right – bright, shiny metallic points that felt no pain whatsoever. Cassie could clamp down on them as much as she liked and I wouldn’t feel it. It was a blessed relief.

You people think I’m kidding. I’m not.

Armed with my new anatomical discovery, I sat down and nursed my daughter. She latched on and sucked. I felt the pull of her mouth, but nothing more. Milk flowed in a nice even stream into her mouth and she never once broke off screaming. Cassie took twenty minutes on one side, then twenty on the other. I sat peacefully and cuddled her in my arms. Hell was over. I had finally made it to mommy heaven.
I continued to nurse Cassie until she weaned herself at 18 months. When we reached the day that she finally turned down my breast, I almost felt like crying. Almost. I had run an eighteen month marathon, I realized. I was ready for a break.

It’s two years later now and I’m back in the glider, nursing Sam. The steel nipples never went away, fortunately, so I only experienced a little discomfort as we started out nursing. Sam figured out how to latch on very quickly, just as I recalled how to easily bring a squirming baby to the breast. My big problem with Sam is getting her to nurse long enough so that I don’t end up engorged. I still tend to overproduce milk. But we’re working through that. In fact, I’ve gotten so good a nursing that I’ve been able to sit here this morning and type in this entire blog entry while nursing Sam. I’ve got a pretty sweet set up – a nice new glider, a small table for a drink and snack, and a portable desk with my super-cool laptop all ready for me to work on during those round-the-clock feedings. I’m a plugged-in 21st century mom.

My advice to any expectant mom who’s considering breastfeeding is this. Keep in mind that breastfeeding is just like any other part of raising a kid. It’s long, frustrating, and frequently painful. But it also has its rewards if you can work through it. And for those moms who can’t or don’t choose to breastfeed, don’t worry, I’m not going to chew you out. It’s a painful process, sometimes so painful that you can’t make it work. I know. I’ve been there. But if you do decide to suffer through it, take heart. It’s worth it.

I Swear – What Happens When Mommy’s Language Goes South

There’s one thing about post-partum recovery that really makes life interesting.

Mood swings.

After I had Cassie, I had a terrible time staying on my usual, cynical, even keel. I would go from feeling a freaked-out sort of mania (not a happy feeling) to outright terror and despair in mere seconds. Every time I sat down to nurse, I literally had a panic attack. It was so bad, it felt like the ground actually opened up beneath me and I was falling into a bottomless pit. During the first two weeks home, Michael had to go into work for a three hour meeting. I was twitchy and nervous when he left. When he got back, Cassie was sitting in her bouncy chair howling and I was on the couch in tears. I immediately jumped up and screamed, “Don’t you ever leave me alone with this child again, you bastard!”

I got over it. Eventually.

Things are a little different with child number two. Sam has a very different temperament from Cassie. Cassie was a colicky live wire that almost never slept and shrieked constantly. Because she didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, and that more than anything else was probably the source of my problems. I was barely able to function in my sleep-deprived state. I shuffled around like the somnambulist in “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari,” my arms stretched out in front of me to keep me from running straight into a wall as I lurched around trying to take care of the baby.

Sam is Cassie’s polar opposite. She’s a limp noodle who sleeps constantly. In fact, last night I had to wake her for each late night feeding, otherwise my breasts would have exploded and I’d be one flat-chested mama this morning. She’s so sleepy that I can dab her face and belly with an ice cold wash cloth and it doesn’t even faze her. She just snoozes right through it. You couldn’t even fart in front of Cass without waking her up. A 72-piece marching band could parade around Sam’s basinet and she’d snooze right through it. It’s a little disconcerting (okay, last night it was unnerving when I couldn’t get her to eat) but Sam doesn’t terrify me the way Cassie did.

Another difference between this time and last time is the physical effects of the post-partum hormones. After Cassie was born, I lost a lot of hair, my skin turned all rough and scaly, and my bleeding flowed hard and heavy for over two months. This time around, all I’m losing is weight and the bleeding is no worse than a normal period. My skin looks better than it did in my 20s (although that’s not saying much), and I could almost pass for one of those fake, airbrushed mommies in the parenting magazines. Hey, right now, it’s 7:30AM, I’m dressed, my hair is brushed, my teeth are clean, I’ve got even got jewelry on and I’m the only person in the house who’s awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Physically, I’m doing fine. But none of that means I’m not feeling the ol’ baby blues. I am; they’re just expressing themselves in a different fashion this time around. Namely, swearing.

Now I will be the first to admit I swear a lot. Much more than your average mommy does. I’ve said it before, I got my degree in swearing courtesy of the US Army. I take to foul language like it was my native tongue, and when I’m really torqued, I revel in the imaginative use of blasphemous phrases and scatological terms. I’m a writer. Creative language is second nature to me. But when Cassie came along, I tried to cut back on the dirty words. I had to swear whenever I nursed during the first three months because it hurt so badly that it was either swear or castrate my husband. Outside of that, though, I tried to cut back. I really curbed the habit the first time Cassie tried to repeat a certain four letter word that I usually reserve for computer malfunctions. Nothing like seeing your nine-month old pull herself to standing, shake a tiny fist at your PC and shout, “Fa!”

So I cleaned up my act, sticking to just one mildly offensive word that I could get away with if Cassie repeated it. Then Sam came along and my language skills returned in full force.

Last night, I opened a kitchen cabinet and discovered someone had put away all my glassware in the wrong place. Nothing fell out and hit me. Nothing was broken or missing or dirty. It was just all jumbled up, which annoyed the crap out of me. So when I was confronted by the chaos of mugs and sippy cups, I reverted to true form. I uttered an expletive that I won’t repeat here and five seconds later, Cassie ran into the dining room and repeated it to her father.


This has been going on ever since we brought Sam home. Some little thing is not quite right and I express myself in my native tongue with a vengeance. Why? I’m not sure, except that I may just be feeling a little too good this time around. I’m up and moving, cleaning house and taking care of the baby. I’m waking up at 6:30AM, as well as at midnight, 2AM, 4AM, and any other time I feel the need to drain my engorged breasts into sleepy Sam’s pouting puss. I’ve got so much energy I’m not even napping during the day. In fact, the first day home from the hospital, I set about cleaning out our suitcases and putting stuff away. At 3PM, I looked around and realized I was the only person in the whole frikkin’ house who was awake. Michael, Cassie, Sam and my parents had all collapsed and gone to sleep. Of course, this led to a solid round of swearing.

How will I curb my tongue, I wonder? I know I’m tired, even if I don’t feel it, and I know that as long as I’m tired my language is going to be foul. It’s just a natural stress reaction for me. And with so many people in the house, I’m naturally going to continue to be stressed. Of course, as people leave I’m still going to be cranky. Eventually, it’s going to be just me, Cassie and Sam and I’m pretty sure my patience is going to be at an ebb for a while as I learn how to take care of two children instead of one.

Let’s face it. The language is just going to slip, and we’re going to have more “Oops!” moments like the one we had last night. All I can say is I’ll do my best to watch my mouth. I just hope Sam’s first word doesn’t turn out to be “Fa!”

Why Parenting Is Hell

Sam is a limp noodle right now. We had a long night full of screaming and fussing and wanting to be held and nursed all night long, with Michael and I arguing over whether or not we should get up and hold the baby. He wanted to get up and rock Sam. I wanted to let her fuss it out. We hadn’t figured out the rules yet last night, so we sort of screwed ourselves in this department. Hopefully by tonight we can agree on what we’re going to do.

Sam’s first few nights home remind me of Cassie’s first night, although Sam and Cassie are two very different babies. Sam screamed last night, but not like Cassie used to scream. You ever noticed the animated cartoon up in the corner, the one of the demon mommy holding the screaming demon baby? That’s Cassie and me. She was a demon child, the original angry baby (so very, very angry) and boy did she know how to howl. I remember when I had my C-section and the doctor pulled Cassie out. Michael said, “She’s out! The baby’s finally out!” But we didn’t hear so much as a peep from her. I got a little scared and said, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t she making any noise? What’s she doing?” “Just kind of looking around,” Michael said. Then the nurses took this strangely silent child to the clean up table, pricked her heel to get some blood, and that was the last time Cassie was ever quiet. Since that moment, my eldest daughter has made her presence know with as much ruckus as she can summon.

So Cassie was a screamer, and her first night home was no exception. My mom and dad came to stay with us and help out that first week (they’re here now too). Mom handled all the cooking and cleaning. Dad sat on the couch and read the entire time. Michael did things like assemble the swing and put batteries in all the baby toys. I stumbled around trying to figure out how to breastfeed and stay sane. The first day home was agony. I couldn’t even figure out how to bath Cassie. I had to watch Mom do it. She screamed bloody murder through the whole thing (Cassie, not Mom). I was terrified, and oh-so-grateful my knowledgeable mother the nurse was there to hold my hand.

Then night time came and my parents went to bed and Michael and I were on our own.
Cassie started out the evening by crying non-stop. I responded by nursing. These days, nursing is old hat for me. Sam latches on and we just go. No pain, no fuss, no problem. When Cassie latched on in the beginning, it was all I could do to keep from swearing a blue streak. In fact, many times I could only hold off from swearing the first few minutes and then I had to cut loose because it felt like someone was sawing my nipples off with a dull steak knife (put that as an 11 on the 0-10 pain scale). Of course, every time she nursed, it started off contractions in my slowly shrinking uterus, which also hurt like a bitch. And then there was the C-section incision, and the fact I was still having bowel problems. I was in my own little personal hell, screaming demon baby and all, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you see horns on my head and Cassie’s in that darling little picture I put up in the bio section.

So I suffered through nursing. Then I went to put Cassie down in the basinet next to our bed, with vague hopes of getting an hour or two of sleep before she woke up screaming again. I got two minutes. The howling started out low, quickly built up steam, and then threatened to shatter the windows. My parents, both of whom claim to be going deaf, slept through it all. Michael, who can usually sleep through anything, actually woke up, and yours truly, who will jump out of bed if she hears a flea fart in the next room, was about ready to throw herself off a cliff.

Cassie screamed, and Michael and I took turns trying to soothe her. At first, we tried rocking her in the glider. She hated that. Then I tried nursing her, which only seemed to plug the noise as long as she had one of my nipples to chew on. As soon as I detached her, the screaming started again. We massaged her and pumped her legs. It quickly became apparent that the only way to get Cassie to calm down (not sleep, but just calm down) was to carry her as we walked around the bedroom. She had to be held upright and kept moving without stopping. The only time Michael and I got a break was when I sat down and nursed her again. Because I was in so much agony nursing her, I refused to let him sleep while I was sitting in the chair. In fact, the first time he did lay down to sleep, I picked up a box of tissues and threw them at him. “Wake up, you #&%#@! I ain’t suffering through this alone!”

The night seemed endless. We walked, nursed, swore and lamented. I threatened to kill Michael more than once. At one point, I did let him sleep five minutes, during which time I made my only attempt at singing a lullaby. Unfortunately, I was so fried I could only remember the lyrics to one song – “Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw” by Jimmy Buffet. To this day, Michael asks, “You couldn’t remember the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?” Hell no.

Dawn came eventually. At 5AM, Cassie finally wore herself out and went to sleep. I placed her in the basinet and laid down in bed next to Michael with a heavy sigh. “Sweetie,” I said to him. “We’ve shared some good times and some bad ones, and I love you. But no matter how much time passes, I will never, ever look back on this night and laugh.”

And then from the basinet we heard, “BBBRRRPPPZZZZT!”

“I’m not laughing,” I told my husband as our daughter farted again.

“Still not laughing!” I insisted. But Michael already had tears in his eyes and couldn’t keep from shaking.

By the third time she’d farted, I couldn’t help it either. I laughed too. Cassie had stayed awake all night, screaming because she had to pass gas and couldn’t. That was when I finally understood that parenting was hell, and I was perfectly suited for the job.

The Human Pacifier

Nothing is more tedious than trying to nurse a sleepy baby. Really. Sam will not stay awake when we nurse. She falls asleep at the boob and just makes these little tiny sucks that aren’t getting her the milk she needs, leaving me as over-inflated at the Good Year tire guy. I swear, my left breast is about to blow and this kid is just poking along. I’ve tried putting a wet washcloth to her neck, giving her a vigorous back rub, blowing in her ear, singing loudly and badly. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. She won’t wake up.

Until I put her to bed that is. Then she’ll be up all night until we sit back down again to nurse. That’s when she’ll drop back off peacefully, using my nipple as a big human pacifier. Then when I put her back down again, she’ll cry. I’ve spent three nights in a row in bed with this kid latched on the whole time. I got to stop this somehow.

Wish me luck.

A Funny Thing Happened On Thursday

I’ve been working on another blog entry, but something came up on Thursday that pretty much blows anything else I’ve got out of the water. Thursday afternoon around 3PM my water broke. You can imagine this made for an interesting evening.

I had no idea what was going on. In all those stupid videos they show in the birth preparation classes, when a woman’s water breaks you always see this huge gush of fluid coming out and soaking the place like a centennial flood. Not what happened to me. I’d been having contractions all morning, some fairly strong, although nothing in a pattern that would indicate I was in labor. You know, I’d have a few good squeezes, then nothing for a while, then another contraction strong enough to stop me in my tracks. Only thing unusual about them was that I was supposed to go to karate class that morning, but I’d had enough strong ones on my way over there that I didn’t think I’d be able to either take class or help teach without having to drop everything at least three or four times during class and freak everyone out. Some people in my class having been playing “Prophetess of Doom,” predicting when I’d go into labor, and a couple of folks have just been getting on my damn nerves by going on saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t be in class today! I just know you’re going to go into labor right now!” So I just decided not to deal with the aggravation and stay home instead, although my instructor kept giving me a bunch of crap about how he expected me to show up for the annual dojo banquet that evening anyway, contractions or no. He was optimistic that I would be there, no matter what. I was optimistic that he’d get hit by a bus.

So anyway. I skipped karate class, took my daughter home instead, and let her play in her little wading pool in the backyard while I lounged in a lawn chair and kept contracting. After an hour or so of that, I put her down for her nap and lay down to rest myself. Fifteen minutes later, I had a contraction hard enough to wake me up from a sound snooze, and that’s when I felt this pop and gush between my legs. And I said to myself, “What the hell was that? Did my water just break? I have no idea!” And I didn’t, because the gush was just a little one, not even enough to soak the pad I was wearing. So I figured maybe I was losing another big of my mucus plug, which I’d been doing since 2AM that morning. Yeah, yeah, I’m not too bright. I should have realized what was going on, but hey, I was expecting Niagara Falls here, not a tiny trickle.

But the trickle was what I got and what I kept having, and after half an hour of trying to work at my desk, I finally called the doctor’s office and they told me to come in. I woke Princess, called my husband, and we were all at the office by 4:45PM. I was hooked up to the non-stress monitor for an hour. Hubster  kept Princess  entertained by spinning her around on the doctor’s chair and playing peek-a-boo with the privacy curtain until I finally sent them both out. Then my doctor came in, looked at the non-stress test and at me and said I wasn’t in labor but yeah, my water broke, and off we went to the hospital.

I spent from 7PM Thursday evening until 11PM walking the halls of the labor and delivery floor, dragging an IV pole behind me. At 6PM, I was barely 1 centimeter dilated, and the doctor said I’d probably have to walk all night to get any farther. Even then, he didn’t think the chance were good that I’d open up, so I could expect to have an emergency C-section. Well, I told him I’d walk and we’d see. He was worried about infection since my water had broke, so he said he didn’t plan on checking my cervix again until morning and then he took off for the night. Here’s what happened after that.

7PM – I finish up registration paperwork in the labor and delivery ward and start walking. Hubster  takes Princess over to my best friend’s house to spend the night. I have completely forgotten it’s M’s anniversary, but she told me afterward she didn’t mind, because Princess kept her son occupied and out of her hair, and that was the best anniversary present she could have ever gotten from me. Her husband was hoping to get laid, of course, and that didn’t happen with two kids running around the house screaming, but Mary said she made it up to him later.

8:30PMish – Hubster returns with my running shoes. I’ve already been walking a good while, and my contractions have settled into a regular pattern, but only when I walk. If I stop to chat to anyone, the contractions stop too. So we keep walking and dragging that stupid IV pole with us as we go. The nurses think it’s funny we consider the time to ourselves an actual date. Do you know how rarely we get time to ourselves?

11:00PM – the contractions get hard enough and frequent enough that I can’t keep walking. The nurses hook me up to the monitor to see what’s going on. Sure enough, I’ve finally got an early labor pattern going. After an hour of monitoring, Hubster and I discuss getting up and walking some more. I try, and can barely get two steps before the contractions knock me back on my ass again. Back into bed I go.

11:30PMish? – I start to lose track of time here. The contractions are coming really hard and heavy now, which surprises the hell out of me. I’m more than uncomfortable. The nurse asks me on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being like their cutting off my leg and forgot the anesthetic, how uncomfortable am I. Not having ever had my leg cut off, with or without anesthetic, I have to guess. I say I’m at a 5, sometimes up to a 6 with the contractions. The nurse wants to keep me at a 3. Do I want pain medication? No, what I really want is to go to the bathroom. I have this overwhelming urge to have a bowel movement. This should have been a huge clue to everyone in the room what was going to happen next.
Midnight – used the bathroom. Still need to go, and the feeling gets worse with every contraction. I’m at a 7 on their little pain scale now, and am having a hard time keeping up with the contractions. Every time I have one, I’m sure I’m going to rupture my bowels. I can’t stop myself from pushing down on them. The nurse suggests pain medication again. I say yes. She checks my cervix, the one the doctor says he wasn’t going to bother with until 8AM the next morning. I’m 2, almost 3 centimeters dilated. The nurse gives me the lowest dose of Stadol and Phenergan she can give me. I’m completely loopy for the next several hours.

1AM – Hubster tells me I slept for 40 minutes before the contractions started waking me up. Then I grunt and groan and push down on that horrendous feeling of constipation I’ve been fighting all evening for a few minutes while my entire lower abdomen tries to turn itself inside out. Soon as the contraction is over, I’m out again. I start having conversations with people who aren’t there (that’s the Stadol talking). I lose all sense of time. I have no idea exactly what happens when next. I’m still in pain though, so I tell the nurse I want an epidural. I’m getting a little panicky at this point, because I can’t control the need to push and can’t think through the pain (again, the Stadol has really put me out).

Between 1AM and 3:47AM – Things get very confused at this point for me. The nurse checks my cervix again. I’m now dilated 3-4 centimeters, enough to go ahead and call the anesthesiologist in for an epidural. It seems to take forever for this guy to arrive. I recall lying on the hospital bed and demanding at one point, “WHERE IS THAT DAMNED EPIDURAL?”Hubster  stands by me the whole time, letting me squeeze his hand. He says I never managed to crush his fingers, but that was probably because all my strength was going toward this tremendous urge to push something, anything, out of my body. He finds a pregnancy magazine at one point and announces that is has an article on “Ten Things No One Ever Tells You About Labor.” Item number four says that the urge to push during labor often feels like having a bowel movement. Great. I’m not supposed to be pushing just yet, and that’s what I’ve been doing all along. I can’t control it and I can’t stop myself no matter how hard I try. I’ve completely lost control of my lower body at that point. Shortly after getting this news, the anesthesiologist arrives. They check my cervix again. I’m now at 6 centimeters. The anesthesiologist asks me to sit on the edge of the bed and curl my back over while he puts needle after needle into my spine. I can barely hold still with the contractions, and the floor seems like a long way down. At one point, I realize I’m about to get extremely sick. The only coherent thing I say during this entire four hour period is, “Get a bucket!”Hubster ’s been married to me long enough to know what’s about to happen and gets a small basin. Most of what I bring up goes into it. Only a little ends up on his shoes. It’s all bile, which I hate.

The epidural sorta kinda kicks in. It takes the edge off a bit, but I can still feel everything. Between that and the Stadol, all I can really feel is every agonizing contraction, but I’m not actually panicking now. We’re too far gone for that. All I can do is ride out the waves and keep pushing. The nurses are the ones panicking now, because I’ve dilated to a full ten centimeters and the doctor hasn’t arrived yet. Poor Doctor T. He honestly didn’t expect to see me until 8AM. Now he’s got to get up out of bed and come running to catch this baby. I don’t think he’s going to make it though, and I tell the nurse so. She keeps saying, “You’ve got to stop pushing. Please stop pushing!” And I keep yelling back, “I CAN’T STOP PUSHING! YOU GET DOWN THERE AND CATCH!” Hubster  and the nurses keep telling me to blow. I’m sure I say something very unrepeatable in response. Then one nurse says, “Dr. T is here. I told him we weren’t in any hurry, so he could take the stairs.” I announce that the epidural did not take any great effect on me and I will get off the hospital bed to kill her if the jokes don’t stop. Or at least I think I did. The Stadol really has me going at this point. I know because I spend fifteen minutes talking to my dead grandmother. Unfortunately, she has no advice to offer me on how to survive having this baby.

3:47AM – Finally, Dr. T shows up in the delivery room. He pulls on a gown, gets down and checks me out and tells me it’s finally time to push. Nobody bothers to mention the obvious, which is that I’ve done nothing but push since about 11PM. So I’m pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and the more I push, the more I think I’m going to die. And I mean this. I can feel tissue inside me tearing as something HUGE comes clawing its way out of my body. There’s no way in hell I can pass something this large out of me, and I can’t believe how incredibly stupid I was to think I could ever do a vaginal birth. I vaguely recall one of the other obstetricians at Dr. T’s practice telling me that a vaginal birth after C-section can result in a ruptured uterus, killing either the mother or the baby or even both, and I’m thinking maybe that’s what’s happening now. A few minutes later I realize nothing of the sort is happening, and that I’m not going to die, maybe I can’t die, and that’s even worse because I can’t go on with pushing and I can’t back out. I’m stuck in this eternal hell where my nether region is being stretched and torn and ripped to shreds and I can feel every single second of pain, magnified a bazillion times by the Stadol. But now everyone is telling me to curl up and push, and they’ve got my legs pulled up behind my damned ears making it impossible to do what they want me to do, but I’ve got no choice so I push and push and push and then the contraction quits and I have to quit, and then another one starts so I start pushing again, and if this isn’t the longest damned ten minutes of my life I don’t know what is. Dr. T keeps prodding at my vagina, trying to open it up I guess. He tells me I’m doing good, keep pushing, and I keep trying and then I feel this god-awful tearing/burning sensation and I know I’m actually ripping and I’m not ripping down my perineum like I expected, but up into my clitoris instead, which I figure must hurt a hell of a lot worse, because hey, I use that part of my body for fun and it doesn’t like being tortured. But tear it does and I give a couple more pushes, and Dr. T says a couple more after that and we should be done, and I want to ask, “How many more is a couple more, you *&#$?” But all I can do is push.

And then miracle of miracles, at 3:57AM on Friday, 2 June, I rip open and something slips right out and the next thing I know, Dr. T is catching a baby and all the nurses are cheering, and nothing, I mean nothing, feels as good as having that kid slide out of me, and by the way if anyone ever asks you on a scale of 0-10 how much pain you’re in, 10 has nothing to do with having your leg cut off. It’s all about having your naughty bits ripped down the center instead.

Anyway, that’s how Pixie was born.

Ready Or Not?

I had contractions all day yesterday, low-level ones that kept coming and going, with the occasional strong contraction to knock the wind out of me. The baby did a lot of turning and kicking as well. Then late last night when I got up to go to the bathroom, there was some blood. Looks like things are finally getting started, although I don’t know when I’ll go into actual labor.

I recall having a huge freak out back in January when I wrote about the changes in my weight and in my work hours, both caused by the pregnancy. I’m still a little freaked, but feel a little calmer now. I finally finished my novel and the submission package heads out the door today to a publisher. I don’t care what happens after that. I can go into labor in the damn parking lot of the post office, so long as that package goes in the mail first. I’m finally ready to switch over to full-blown mom-duty for a little while.

Of course, I have been devising ways to keep working after I have the baby. I’m no good at not working. That would just drive me crazy.

I bought a portable laptop desk and set it up next to the glider in my bedroom. I can wheel the desk over to my side or my lap and type away while I nurse or rock the baby. Or I have the option of running a handwriting recognition program, since I do have a graphics tablet connected to the laptop. I can certainly draw on the computer with that set up. So I’m ready to do the work.
My only concern is will I get any time uninterrupted to do it. Cassie is a very curious child, and she will probably spend a great deal of time standing at my shoulder watching me nurse, asking, “Whatcha doing? Huh, Mommy? Whatcha doing? Can I help? Can I push the buttons on your computer?” I’m considering making Michael get Cassie her own mini-laptop, so she can play with that while I work and nurse, but then the problem is what happens when Cassie can’t get the laptop to do what she wants and she gets frustrated. I won’t exactly be in a position to get up and help her.

I know, I know. Quit worrying about hypothetical situations that you don’t even know are going to happen yet. It will only drive you crazy.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to plan for said situations, now does it?

I’ve got nothing else on my mind this morning. I’m just a ticking time bomb, counting down the seconds until my water breaks and baby Sam finally makes the long journey down my birth canal and out into the world. I hope I’m ready for this, but I know I’m probably not.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day brings back fond memories for me. This time four years ago, I was lying on an examining bed in a doctor’s office having an interuterine insemination. My husband was there, as well as Rita, the nurse who performed the procedure, thus allowing me to joke that there were three people involved when Cassandra was conceived. I had no idea four years ago what I was getting into, and some days, I still don’t know.

We did the same infertility procedure back in September for Samantha, the baby who is currently kicking the stuffings out my innards and leaving me with enough stretch marks to make my hide look like a map of Rhoade Island. There were five people present this time, including myself, Michael, Cassie, Rita and Dr. Flood, our reproductive endochronologist. Cassie was extremely excited to be involved in the creation of her future sibling, and has gone through every step of this pregnancy with me. I mentioned in an earlier post that while I’ve been pregnant with baby Sam, Cassie has declared she is carrying “Baby Boy.” Baby Boy does every thing Baby Sam does – kicks, wiggles around, eats his “mommy’s” food. If you ask Cassie very nicely, she will pull Baby Boy out of her navel and show him to you. She’s even complained of having contractions, suddenly stopping in the middle of the room, grabbing her belly and going, “Ooh! I having contractions. I have to lay down!”

Cassie doesn’t know it yet, but I went out and bought a “Baby Boy” for her. I had a hell of a time finding a baby doll that was just the right size and look. Too many of them are all cutsied up and made tinier than real babies. And I’ll be damned if you can find a doll that’s actually male. I don’t expect them to be anatomically correct, but would it kill any of these overpriced toy manufacturers to sell baby dolls with little blue outfits? Every single one of the dolls I looked at came with pink clothing, which I thought was pretty weird, considering they were all made in China, a country not known for valuing female children.

But I did some hunting and finally found a decent looking doll with a little purple and aqua colored outfit. I also got Cassie a stroller, some feeding toys and a spare set of clothes. She has a rocking chair already, and I’m pretty sure that Cassie is more than likely going to go through the whole diaper-changing/breast-feeding routine with me, just like she’s gone through the rest of this pregnancy. All of which just astounds me.

Four years ago, I wasn’t even pregnant. Today I’ve got a tall, skinny three-year-old who loves to run, play, count, sing, read and chase the cats. She can converse better than most adults I know. In fact, yesterday, while we were housecleaning, Cassie turned to me and said, “So how’s your day been so far, sweetie?” And when I asked her about her day, she shrugged and said, “Oh you know, the usual cleaning and stuff.” It’s the weirdest mix of adult and child I’ve ever seen, but she’s mine and I love her.

So for Memorial Day, I celebrate Cassie and the baby about to come. We’ll have burgers and potato salad at my best friend Cindy’s house where we can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over her new baby, and I’ll remember what it was like to lay on that examining table four years ago and start down the road to parenthood myself.

Yeah, sappy, I know. Wait a few weeks until I’m up to my hips in poopie diapers and spit-up. Then I’ll be back to my cynical old self. I promise.

Can Mommy Make Some Money?

Cassie didn’t wake up until 7 AM yesterday. Today she’s up again at 6. Yesterday actually went pretty calmly for me. Today I’m back to wondering if I’m going to blow a gasket from handling a cranky three-year-old all day long. It amazes me how much difference that one hour to myself makes.

Anyway, today’s topic – can Mommy make money? I quit working outside the home about five years or more ago. Basically, I hated my job. It was tedious, most of the people I worked with were too stupid to live, and I worked 80 hours but only got paid for 40. Still that pay wasn’t bad – forty-two thousand a year for building briefings and running a conference room that made me want to tear my hair out. I had to quit. I had reached a point where just the thought of going into work made me want to puke. To this day, fluorescent lighting and cubicles send me rushing to the john.

Now I’m at home, where the work is still frustrating, but more enjoyable (yes, believe it or not, I am having a good time being my usual bitchy self). The problem is, I’m not making very much money. I had hoped that after five years of working on my own, I’d have figured out a way to make at least five thousand a year, but I’m not even making two grand at this point. Somehow, I’ve got to turn that around.

The question is, how? With child number two almost here, I know my work schedule is going to be damned tricky. I’ve set up a workstation at the glider so I can handle e-mail and write while I work. I should be able to do graphics as well, since I’ve got my Wacom table hooked up to the laptop. I did a lot of writing by hand when I was nursing Cassie (all of it porn!), but it all stayed in the three-ring binder I was scribbling in. None of it ever saw the light of day, and none of it ever made me money.

What that writing did do was get me into the habit of writing on a daily basis, and I’m hoping that this time around I can get into the habit of doing productive, money making work while nursing Samantha. I just have to see if I can nurse, handle a three-year-old, and write or draw at the same time. I also have to find a market for whatever work I turn out. Should be easy, right?

My other option is to do the Fly Lady thing of working in fifteen minute blocks throughout the day – fifteen minutes of writing, fifteen minutes of cleaning, fifteen minutes of playing with the kids, fifteen minutes of break, fifteen minutes of drawing, fifteen minutes of whatever, and keep rotating through the things I want to do for the first several weeks after Sam is born. I have no clue if it’ll work, but I’ll give it a try. In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now – taking fifteen minutes to write this blog entry. I’m down to my last 2 1/2 minutes, and it seems to be working at the moment. The real test will come in the next few months.

Time’s up. Gotta go. Have a bitchy, y’all.