Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Olivia's lone daycare-mate, one day her junior, is crawling. Really, truly crawling. As in, moving herself with great facility from point A to point B--like, from her play gym to the nice caretaker ladies' kitchen. The very best Olivia can manage is to arc and squirm on her back for a few feet; less on her stomach. I'm not quite sure what is says about me that I flew home in a mild panic and started googling "developmental delay not crawling six months". Paranoid? Surely. Jealous, oh yes. Behind in reading my Mayo Clinic Guide to the First Five Years? Youbetcha. At least now I know that Crawly Girl is just being precocious. The showoff.

. . .

Did I ever mention that I sing her a lullaby to the tune of "O, Canada"? It is entitled, "O, Livia".

. . .

My breasts may have something against the metric system. Every time I pump, I get exact ounces. Two, three, four, five--always exact. It's never two-and-a-half or three-and-a-third. Weird, huh?

. . .

Have I told you that Olivia says both "Dada" and "Mama"? As for "Mama", she says it--or, rather, moans it--"Mamaaaaaaaaaa, Mamaaaaaaaaaa"--only when some great tragedy has befallen her, such as the removal of her banana-besmirched onesie or the glancing brush of her dainty head against any object firmer than the breast of a baby snow goose. But she says "Dadadadadadadadadadada" when she's thrilled by something, usually accompanied by her flashiest, gummiest grins and the vigorous jumping-up-and-down-while-holding-our-fingers maneuver she patented a while back. (I know--ha! She'll skip right past crawling and even walking and move right on to the pogo stick! Take that, Crawly Girl.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Anger, pain and politeness

Arriving very late at the birth plan party, but what am I if not unoriginal? Anyway, our plan read, "My husband and I plan to do whatever it takes to have Olivia come out healthy. Do whatever you have to do."

Until the very day I went into labor, I had every intention of getting pain relief as early on in the process as possible. I guess one of my reasons may be a little different from others', though: I don't have a particularly low pain threshhold; I have dealt, unmedicated, with a reasonable amount of pain at various stages of my life--the torn ligaments and major sprains resulting from my daredevil childhood on the balance beam and uneven bars, the repeated bursting of my eardrums, infected tonsils the size of Chinese apples, unanesthetized wisdom tooth extraction (long story). Like Jen, who wrote a much better post than this on the birth plan topic, I don't tolerate pain meds well--they generally make me retch. I've always preferred pain to retch. So, why was I so certain that I'd want the pain relief, even at the risk of the retch? One big reason is that pain makes me angry and self-centered. Instead of making me contemplative in some beneficial, self-reflective or transformative way, it makes me want to punch something. Always has. That wasn't the frame of mind I wanted to be in for the birth of my daughter. Also, let's be honest, while it's not my biggest fear, I don't particularly like pain. I'm guessing I'm not alone here. While I fully realize that this is not the case for everyone, I do not find it enriching; my ability to withstand pain is not tied up in any way with my sense of strength or womanhood. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it is.

On that day in April when I went into labor, I became, much to my own retrospective astonishment, quite shy about asking for the drugs. Shit, there were five strangers in the room poking at my cooch and I wasn't feeling shy about that--but asking for the drugs felt a little like asking for a cup of coffee during a job interview. Like it wasn't quite polite. Also, for the first twelve hours or so, the pain was completely manageable. Just like really strong period cramps. And then there was the excruciating pain and nauesa of transition, then that beautiful stretch where the drugs kicked in (plus, bonus! No retching!), then that hideous stretch where the drugs had worn off.

In the end, we met the requirements of our birth plan--she was healthy. I, however, was in so much pain, and so agitated by it, that I couldn't truly enjoy the moment of her arrival. Jeff couldn't understand why I wasn't full of joy, ready to overflow with happiness, but the best I could muster for a good twenty minutes was to not snap at him or the nurses, and to be jealous of the fact that he was clearly ecstatic while holding our daughter.

I've decided that our birth plan will be more demanding in the unlikely event of a "next time": I will include a line item for "give me more drugs."

Thursday, October 12, 2006


We struck out swinging the last two nights. Like the better forms of stomach flu, Olivia's beneficial sleeping bug was of the 24-hour variety. It then mutated, as viruses will, into the all-night-fuck-you-and-your-little-dog-too bug, the Anti-Sandman's merciless Trojan horse. We have used every trick in the book, and I have even started pleading with her, eyes be-dewed with the tears of exhaustion, to Please, please just sleep for a couple of hours, Olivia. Please, baby girl, I need to sleep. Won't you sleep, please? Please, sweet girl, so mama can go earn a living and keep you in those fuzzy, tagless sleepers you demand?. I need a better word for this. It...Hoovers? It Dirt-Devils? It Electroluxes?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Even the banging of garbage trucks...

...couldn't deter Olivia from





Yes, she did. Last night.

I am ready to dance some sort of uncoordinated Irish jig, though I will continue to eschew the florid headbands and pancake makeup of Michael Flatley.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


My sweet Olivia is six months old today. Life is nothing--nothing at all--like I pictured it would be, on those rare occasions when I let myself imagine anything at all.

I have this baby, this dazzling girl. She's full of energy and gravity, the central star in her own spiral galaxy. But that's the thing: she's there, at the center, alone. There can only be one center. Instead of some merged triumverate, Jeff and I are satellites, with lesser asteroids whizzing by.

I still do not feel like her mother.

It makes me cry to say it that way, but it's true. I think of her constantly, love her overpoweringly, worry obsessively, would turn to stone if something dreadful happened to her. But, while she is the star, I feel like a passing player in her life, surprised every day to still find myself pulled along in her wake. Part of it is, no doubt, the fact that I am away from her so much. How could she really know me, how could I expect her to turn to me over all others when she's distressed? Part of it is that I do not know what it should feel like, this business of being a mother. The joys--the blinding smiles and unblinking, heart-filling stares; the way her head nestles into my neck when I hold her to my shoulder--feel like little off-hand presents, bestowed without thought and lapped up overeagerly, a puppy begging for illicit table scraps from a lenient owner. In some way, I don't feel like I've earned them: they are a part of her general largesse, not a reward specific to me.

If you've been with me for a while, you may remember that I have a mother who is...not. She abdicated about 25 years or so ago, and was never particularly interested in the title to begin with. I don't remember her being all that important to me. I missed out on something--I know that--but I'm not quite sure what. I want it to be so different with my daughter. I want, so badly, to be central to her.