Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


17 Comments

Bionic Family Newsletter

Hey, y’all, she remarked sheepishly. I am sorry it has been so long. I thought I remembered about this phase, how it means just nursing 27 or 28 hours a day, but I crucially forgot that nursing a newborn requires, at least for me, both hands. Also, by 28 hours a day I mean 40.

But anyway, here I am. Mostly because how many places am I free to talk about my nipples and hooha hurting? Y’all are a special group, internet. I don’t have real hope of managing a narrative post in the next two years, but I will indulge myself in some categorized items. (Spoiler: my nipples hurt. Also my hooha.)

[Several hours later....]

Where to begin?  Jackalope, I suppose, since she’s the most novel:

Jackalope

Item: She’s marvelous.  Disregard all the time I spend begging her to go the hell back to sleep at 3am.  She’s healthy and growing and sleeping more than the Bean did, even if I could frankly use a lot more hours.  She seems to be that proverbial easier baby that some people have.  Now I understand the magical beliefs that persist about babies — how they give explicable cues before screaming that they are hungry, for instance, and how they like things like swaddles and pacifiers and soothing.  I imagine some of this is our being more experienced parents, but mostly I think she’s just a wildly easier baby than the Bean.  (Knock wood, knock wood.)

Item: She’s huge!  She was almost two pounds heavier than the Bean at birth (7/13 to his 6/1), and she’s growing much faster.  She was over eight pounds at her last appointment, at age 2.5 weeks.

Item: She’s tough.  At five days old, she reached down during a clothing change, took hold of her umbilical cord stump, and tore it off.  No crying.

Item (related): She nurses well!  This, I believe, is both cause and consequence of being larger (and born two weeks later).  Consequence, because her mouth is larger, her stomach holds more, and she is just more coordinated and, well, finished than the Bean was.  She latched on and nursed better in the delivery room than he did for a month.

Item: I have SO much more milk than last time.  Funny, it’s almost like a person is healthier when she keeps most of her original complement of blood.  Someone should study that.

Item: Nursing a baby who is into it while yourself making adequate amounts of milk is SO MUCH EASIER than nursing a weak, tired, young baby while making not enough milk.  It still takes forever and wears me out and hurts my nipples and drives me a little crazy, but really, not at all in the same ballpark.  I did have a small nervous breakdown at her first out-of-hospital doctor’s visit, when she had lost still more weight and I imagined us spiraling into the same nightmare we had with the Bean.  I took home formula samples and cried and refused to use them, which confused poor Sugar badly.  I couldn’t decide whether it was more irrational to begin supplementing a baby I knew didn’t really need it yet, or to dig in my heels, the way I did last time, and allow us to go back down the road of failed exam after exam, needlessly starving baby, etc.  (Side-item: I really wish we’d been able to see our preferred pediatrician for that visit instead of her young partner.  I think she might have been able to calm me down.)  But then, like in the books, my milk came the rest of the way in, and at our next appointment, she’d regained her birth weight.  Just like they say happens!

Item: As much as I like the lactation consultant we ended up eventually seeing with the Bean (as opposed to the ones we saw before her, who were various flavors of useless), I like not having to see her even more.  And even more than THAT, I like having a baby who can just be fed when she’s hungry and gain weight, without my having to go through routines of timing and facial exercises and diaper changes to wake her back up and horrible teas and pumping and crying and guilt.  Funny.

Item: At the second weight check, when she’d regained her birth weight, I also had my first experience of really feeling like an experienced parent.  The NP we saw that time, who had repeatedly praised her weight gain, asked about her sleep.  At the time, she had been sleeping a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, which, I’m sure you can imagine, was heavenly.  (I mean, the Bean doesn’t even always do that, and he’s THREE.)  Oh no, she said, you can’t let her go that long.  You need to be waking her up to eat.  And I thought, lady, you just said this baby is gaining weight and looking great; like hell I’m waking her up.  But what I said was, “We’ll see.”  Because I realized in that moment that not only did I not have to do that, I didn’t even need to tell her I wasn’t going to.

Item: We don’t always get that stretch anymore.  Or it isn’t always at night.  Sugar generally ends up in the Bean’s room, and I am alone with Jackalope, who likes to have a couple hours of being awake for no earthly reason sometime in the 1-5am stretch.  I am tired.

Item: On Monday, my first day home alone with both kids, she stayed awake from 5am until 10:30, napped for 40 minutes, was back up for a couple of hours of continued, constant nursing, took another cat nap, was up again, etc.  There was a period when all three of us were wailing.  It was precious.

Item: On Tuesday, Sugar came home from work early and I took Jackalope to a department meeting at adjunct-institution-community-college.  I had written to ask permission and not heard back, and I need brownie points over there.  No idea if I scored them with the right people.  I missed half the meeting, including the topic I’d come to hear about.  A woman next to me was snide at me while using FB on her phone.  It was one thousand degrees and packed; turns out my comfort level with public nursing does not extend to the front row of such a setting.  I had the unsettling experience of realizing that the woman I thought was the chair of the department isn’t.  But several people said kind things on their way out the door, and I reminded the person who hires adjuncts that I’d like work in the fall.

Item: Poor Jackalope is a second child when it comes to pictures, I’m afraid.  We remember to take them, sometimes, but then they are stuck on the camera.

The Bean

Item: The Bean is THREE.  How in cheese’s name did that happen? We got him a tea set.
_MG_2581

Item: He turned three the same day Jackalope turned three weeks old.  I tried to get a cute picture of them near each other.  Ha.
_MG_2616
_MG_2604

Item: We had a tiny little party and a cake with trains on it.  My mom tried to send the trains for his last birthday, but they arrived too late. He liked it.

_MG_2649

Item: Still not eating many foods or sleeping through the night or reliably using the potty. But he can do a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle with almost no help. (Still figuring out how to work that “but” into his doctor’s appointment on Monday.)  I am an unabashed puzzle pusher, and am beyond thrilled that he likes them, too.

[There's Jackalope waking up....]

[And then the rest of the afternoon and the evening and the night happened, and most of the next morning.  There was an interlude for an unexpectedly early first brother/sister bath, which damn near killed me with the cute.]

GandJbath

Item: The Bean is so much better with Jackalope than I thought reasonable to expect.  He likes to put his nose against her toes.  We failed utterly to move him to a big bed and decommission the crib/toddler bed in time that he wouldn’t associate the loss of his familiar spot with the arrival of the baby, but as soon as it was converted back to its baby configuration (he helped), I heard him stop mid-sentence, correcting himself to call it “Jackalope’s bed.”  She was fussing in there one afternoon, while I was stuck on the toilet.  I was a little concerned when he went in to her — he is a lot larger than she is and unaware of her comparative fragility — but he sat down on the floor with his legos and said, “don’t cry.  I am making you a tower to make you happy.”  Melt.

_MG_2655

[Whoops, there went the whole weekend.  My dad visited.  There's a lot to say about that, almost all unbloggable.  He is charming with babies.]

Rotten Things

Item: Our older cat, Michaela, died.  She was diagnosed with kidney failure right before Jackalope was born.  Sugar learned to give her sub-cutaneous fluids every night.  There were supplements but no real hope of recovery.  She seemed okay for a while, and then suddenly wasn’t.  We all miss her, and of course this has started another round of questions and pronouncements from the Bean about his dead grandmother and great-grandmother, with lots of crying from me especially.  I know these questions are a typical part of being his age, but really, the last four months have been over the top for our family.  I am so sick and tired of death.

Item: Michaela came to us as a teeny kitten found in the woods, so dirty we didn’t know she was white.  (Really, she was a secret calico, with a smear of grey and buttery-tan on her head as a kitten.)  She lived with us in Massachusetts and Chicago and New York.  She nearly died of hepatic lipidosis in 2005 and after recovering, slept on our feet every night.  Despite being standoffish with strangers (“Michaela has boundaries,” said an approving friend, comparing her to our more dog-like Orson), she turned out to adore babies, both ours and others’.  We called her the Bean’s nanny.  Here she is with the Bean, in 2011, and with Jackalope:

A Boy and His (Very Patient) Cat

Great Minds Think Alike

_MG_2447

Item: Yesterday morning, Sugar’s paternal grandmother died.  (Her maternal grandmother died in December.)  It wasn’t a surprise, but it is awful.  I am so tired of death.

Item: Sugar is going to Chicago for the funeral for the first part of the week.  I’m not ready to be alone overnight with both Jackalope and the Bean, but, well, I guess I’m about to be ready.

My Addled Brain

Item: Despite everything, I don’t seem to be depressed.  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s almost weird.  I am sometimes sad and sometimes overwhelmed, but yeah, not depressed.  I do still cry about my mom a lot, but I have a hard time categorizing that as pathological; crying seems pretty rational to me, and naturally I think of her all the time, especially looking at this baby, whom she would so have wanted to know.  There’s not much I can do to make that not awful.

My Body, Upper

Item: Remember that Cold of Filth I was complaining about before Jackalope was born? (COF is trademarked to either May or Mrs. Hairy, not sure.) I had this fantasy that somehow the intensity of labor would drive it out like a demon.  Yeah, no.  Instead, I was sick for a solid month, coughing my brains out.  (Other things also coughed out, too, thanks to an enlarged uterus and a pelvic floor that went on strike altogether.)  The Bean and Sugar were sick, too, but luckily Jackalope was not, nor does the codeine cough syrup I was living on seem to have bothered her.  Still, I do not recommend the experience of being that sick immediately postpartum.

Item: Dateline: NIPPLES. The Reynaud’s is back.  For new readers, this means that my nipples are spasmotically seizing up in response to breastfeeding, and if that sounds horrifically painful, well, it is.  I got on the nifedipine in short order this time around, following some minor difficulties getting my OB to prescribe the extended release version in place of a “take as needed” regime of regular capsules.  (Let me tell you, you take one of those at the same time as a slug of cough syrup and WHOA, good luck standing up.)  Unfortunately, the nifedipine isn’t working quite as completely, though things are a great deal better than they were a few weeks ago, when many tears were shed.  Now I mostly have spasms at night, and they aren’t so terrible.

Item: I can’t try a higher dose of nifedipine, apparently.  I called the OB office a couple of weeks ago, when things were getting very bad, to ask about that and about some renewed locchia.  The nurse insisted I come in to see a midwife.  On the one hand, it was nice to feel they were concerned about my health, in marked contrast to Dr. Russian’s nurse.  On the other, schlepping into the city is not easy, nor was there a point.  As I had suspected, the bleeding was normal.  Meanwhile, they are afraid my blood pressure will bottom out on a higher dose.  I suspect that’s not right — my understanding is that, while nifedipine does lower BP in people with pathologically high pressure, it doesn’t have much effect in someone like me, whose body doesn’t have difficulty maintaining a steady BP.  Certainly my BP while I was taking it last time was at my usual level every time it was checked.  But, since my usual level is on the low side and I don’t want to pass out all over the place, I guess that’s how it is.

Item: I started taking some extra B6, on the advice of the internet.  Hard to say whether that helped, but  I already had it in the house.  At least I won’t get pellagra.

Item: The Reynaud’s has new tricks.  Several times a day, associated with let-down, I have what I think must be massive spasms in my milk ducts.  (This happened sometimes with the Bean, but not this early or this fiercely.)  The only reason I’m not weeping over this is that it doesn’t last that long, just a minute or two each time.  It is more of a sore feeling than a sharp one, but it is intense, like each duct suddenly has a fist inside it.  Not recommended.

Item: It was an act of purest optimism to have ordered that breastpump, wasn’t it?  Sigh.

My Body: Lower

Item: I know y’all mainly read this blog for hooha news.  It’s cool.  I mainly write it to talk about my hooha.

Item: Ouch.

Item: In so many, many ways, my recovery from Jackalope’s birth has been nothing at all like my recovery from the Bean’s.  Thank whatever it is you like to thank.  I am healthier and happier and in much, much better shape.

Item: My pelvic floor is shot, but recovering.  For a while there, advertising algorithms were chasing me across the internet with ads for protective undergarments.  Depressing.  Now I am mostly okay as long as I go to the bathroom a lot and, I discovered yesterday, don’t attempt any hopscotch games.  Bad idea.

Item: The hemorrhoids are likewise retreating, like big, ugly glaciers.  Butt glaciers.  Thank God for witch hazel.
(Gratuitous witch hazel shot because I also love the plant, mostly because it blooms so early.)

witch hazel

Item: Stitches still beasts.  The proverbial they say you don’t tear as much the second time, and I guess I didn’t, inasmuch as I’d already, erm, resected my vaginal septum and it’s hard to tear more than that.  Nevertheless, I was fairly shredded, inside and out.  My new vocabulary word is “sulchal.”  That all hurt in a predictable way at first, then got worse around week two, when everything got irritated and the lines of stitches felt like they might rip right out every time I coughed.  Or God forbid sat up.  Things improved again, with a delightful interlude of suture ends poking me in personal places.

Item: Except now I have these hard spots I suspect are scar tissue, and nothing is stretchy enough.  As in, it hurts to sit again, in sharp little ways, and then there is blood.  Not a whole lot of blood mostly, but I think I am tearing a little bit every day now, just from sitting.  I am so not into this, I can’t even tell you.  I have my postpartum appointment on Tuesday, and I sure hope there is something to do about this problem.  I’d like to, um, use that part of my body again someday, for one thing.  Ahem.

Miscellanea:

Item: Sara started blogging again!  Check that OUT.

Item: I have spent an absurd amount of time giggling at this, featuring drawings the Bean describes as “some funny folks!”


14 Comments

In which the Bean stands up for himself

Hello. Sugar here. Things are lovely chez Bionique these days. Jackalope spends stretches of time sleeping at night! Bionic is not demonstrably depressed! I am home cooking food! I thought I would satisfy you all with some pictures of our recent doings before moving on to the story I really want to tell you.

_MG_2510

_MG_2394

As you might imagine, the Bean is a bit bored, what with everyone being sick and the snow just dumping down day after day. I was finally feeling well enough to take him somewhere on Tuesday, and he chose the Botanic Garden. The two of us trekked up there through the snow only to discover that it was closed due to “ice conditions.” So, The Bean suddenly decided that we might as well stop in at the Brooklyn Museum. This we did.

When we were finished looking at the floor with all the historic houses and house models we came out to the elevator area and found a guard who addressed the Bean loudly. As in, “hello little guy!” at the top of his voice. He was one of those old white farts who pretends that he wants to have a conversation with a child, but actually just want to hear himself talk. He went off on a random monologue about the age of various houses on the floor, which went over the Bean’s head, segued into discussing his own house and how old it was, and wound all this up with “…just like your mommy and daddy.”

The whole time the man was talking the Bean was surreptitiously pulling on my hand, as in, oh god, can’t we just get on the elevator? But when the mommy and daddy statement happened he stopped. He looked at the floor, like he was reasoning something out, and then he looked up at the guard, gave him a hard stare, and said quite loudly, “actually, I have a mommy and a mama.” His tone said, duh, what rock have you been living under?

Mr. Guard said nothing, so I repeated what the Bean had said, verbatim, in case he hadn’t caught the Bean’s enunciation. Mr. Guard gave me a troubled smile but still said nothing. So we got on the elevator and left. Once the doors had shut I told Bean that he had done a terrific job, that not everybody knows about all the different kinds of families and that it is a fine idea to educate them.

In my heart, however, I feel conflicted about this incident. Part of me was very pleased, both to be validated by my kid and to hear him stand up for himself. But part of me feels sad and probably guilty that my “life choices” have put my son in the position of needing to stand up for himself and his family. It was stressful watching the Bean navigate this awkwardness at the age of not quite three. Of course it probably helped that he clearly thought the man was an idiot. I’m glad that it wasn’t a teacher or a friend or someone he had developed any respect for. But still.

So, two and a half cheers and an “enh” for reaching this milestone, I guess. Have a picture of the Bean painting his new firehouse, otherwise known as a cardboard box:

_MG_2384

(Bionic says this picture should be titled “objects in photo less darling than they appear”)


38 Comments

Jackalope

My mother, the eldest of eight children, grew up in San Diego, where, by the time the youngest were born, the family lived in a house with a large garden. In that garden grew a pomegranate tree that had never borne fruit.

My mother was grown up and married when her youngest sister, Annie, decided she knew what the tree needed. Perhaps inspired by the nest eggs used to encourage the chickens to lay, Annie took a pomegranate ornament from the Christmas boxes and hung it from the tree. To show it what to do, she said. Her older sisters laughed indulgently, as I imagine it. Only Annie would think of something like that.

The next year, the tree bore fruit.

Perhaps I am a little like that tree myself: not 24 hours after Sugar gave me the necklace in the previous post, our daughter arrived.

Julia

Jackalope, born February 8, 2014, at 2:36 in the afternoon. Seven pounds, 13.6 ounces of healthy, beloved girl. Her first name is for my mother and her mother; her middle is for Sugar’s maternal grandmother.

I am tired and a bit beat up, but happy. I will tell you the whole story one of these days, but I feel I owe it to you not to leave you wondering about whether I’ll be in therapy for this one, too. And I won’t. Everyone was wonderful, everyone. There were times I was frightened or upset, but never because someone was frightening me or trying to upset me. College Friend was perfect. Dr. Joy, the OB I was most afraid of when coming to this practice, told me I was safe and held my feet in her lap while she stitched my tears.

And you all, you were wonderful, too. I mean it.


30 Comments

Gravid Grief

The TLDR version: It sucks. Horribly. No, worse than that. Don’t do it.

Oh, internets. This is the worst dream I’ve ever had. I’m ready to wake up now.

PicsArt.com
Not pictured: more handkerchiefs

I keep trying to tell myself it could be worse. This might have happened when I was a child. It could have been violent. She might have suffered and suffered — and point of order, people telling me “suffering is over now,” but this is not the same situation as dying at the end of an increasingly painful bout of cancer or similar. Yes, she was sick, but she’d been sick for my whole life, and it’s a bit hard to tell me to think of all of that time as pure suffering. Yes, she’d had some particularly unpleasant migraine and tendon problems recently, but when I talked to her on Sunday afternoon, she said she was feeling much better. Nor did any of that have to do with her dying, though I’m sure plenty of people who don’t know the details basically think, “Bionic’s mom was sick for a long time,” as if that explains it in any meaningful way.

She had a pulmonary embolism. At home, alone. No warning. Given her propensity towards large bleeds under her skin and a fear of stroke, no one would have thought she should have been on a blood thinner. Not much narrative satisfaction to be found there, sorry.

(May, please go give H an extra hug for me.)

So, yeah, no warning at all. And hey, there’s could-have-been-worse there, too. We might have been fighting. I think I forgot to say I love you on our last phone call, but at least I’d been saying it pretty often. It might have been the long, drawn out, cancerous sort of death more typical in my family. I’m not sure if that’s worse or not. It might well have been, given her auto-immune disease, some awful series of infections. Cascading, horrible medical interventions. Tubes and wires. Disagreement on the definition of “hopeless.” Soul-rending decisions.

It could have been worse.

The trouble, dear internets, is that it turns out that the Pain Olympics don’t make me feel any better, even when it’s me versus hypothetical me.

Given that focusing on the supposedly positive isn’t doing a damn thing for me (read: I am crying in public, bawling at (mostly) home, and have the emotional reserves and cognitive abilities of a newborn), all I can give you is a list, in no particular order, of things that make grieving while pregnant especially awful. You know, in case you were considering choosing this course.

  • You have to eat. At a time when renunciation of the flesh seems so right, too bad. You aren’t in charge of that anymore, and the very small person who is, is extremely determined. But Bionic, I hear you say, some of us like to eat our feelings. And being pregnant means you can eat as much as you want! To which I reply, hope you like wet sand, because that’s what everything tastes like now.
  • You can’t drink. Yes, I know, I know: plenty of people think a glass of wine doesn’t matter this late in the game. But I don’t want a glass of wine, and I’m pretty sure getting regularly blind drunk is still a no-no.
  • None of the good drugs, either. Sorry, they’re all category D. I checked.
  • You know that thing where you wake up and can’t remember what you were sad about, and then you do remember and it’s like being thrown off one of those 700-foot fjord cliffs all over again? Being pregnant means you get to do that four or five times a night, every time you need to pee or feed the tiny tyrant. See also: crying yourself to sleep.
  • Oh, were you happy about being pregnant? Maybe even enjoying it, despite the discomforts and indignities? Too bad about that. Now you’re not happy about anything. You do get to keep the discomforts as a parting gift.
  • Meanwhile, you’re supposed to “take care of yourself,” which means take care of the baby, even if you don’t feel like it. Vitamins, for instance. Trying not to get listeria. You’re supposed to keep going to your prenatal appointments, even if you’re pretty sure your mother died during your last one, right around the time you started shaking and crying in the waiting room for what seemed like no reason but is in retrospect exactly like what happened when your grandmother died.
  • Speaking of PTSD, guess how much cerebral CPU processing capability is now available for dealing with all that birth stuff you were trying to sort out? What, this isn’t what you meant when you said you wanted to stop obsessing over those fears? Your therapist, who is trying to break up with you*, says it’s appropriate that you aren’t thinking about all that, which makes you wonder if she owns a calendar and knows the basic theory of its use. Of course it’s appropriate, but it’s also a bit dangerous, no, given that this baby is likely to be born more or less on the original schedule? If there were any justice, you’d be allowed to hit pause on the whole gestation thing while you get your sea legs, but if there were any justice, you wouldn’t be in this position.

*Well, what she said was I could keep coming if I just wanted a place to cry and say whatever I feel like, but that doesn’t seem all that useful, really. I’m not working on the birth stuff at all, things being how they are, nor do I need therapizing about the grief in a way I can’t get from people I actually know and trust more. I’m not depressed, per se; I’m just really, really, really sad. Surely I could do something else with the money.

PicsArt.com
Are those clouds? Hills? Giant, fluffy carrots?

  • Speaking of that baby, whose arrival you were already scared about, how on earth are you supposed to take care of it while you’re like this? Let alone do a better job than you did last time, the way you had promised yourself you would? (You know, so your mother wouldn’t worry so much.) Do a little poking around the Internet on the topic, and find reports of a study showing babies born to grieving mothers have a higher rate of serious illness in their first four years of life, plus the news that you are basically guaranteed to get postpartum depression.
  • For the sake of your electronics’ integrity and not being yourself reclassified as an inland salt water sea, try really, really hard to avoid thinking about how this baby won’t know your mother (and your two-year-old probably won’t remember her). Don’t worry; you will fail in that attempt one thousand times a day.
  • In case you manage to steer clear of that thought for a minute, apparently a cavalcade of perfect strangers — work colleagues of your father, that sort of thing — now feels empowered to stand too close to you at the visitation, the last time you will see her body, and tell you how sorry they are WHILE RUBBING YOUR BELLY. This ranks among the most profoundly inappropriate experiences of your life, and it keeps happening again and again and again.


13 Comments

Sunday Snapshots

Morning.

No coffee, or rather, no milk, which means no coffee for me, given present esophageal conditions. Sugar and the Bean get dressed, count down the minutes until the local grocery store opens, and return victorious, bless them.

~ ~ ~

Sugar and the Bean make pancakes. Banana for me and Sugar, chocolate chip for the Bean, because calories he will eat > calories he will not eat. (He didn’t eat much yesterday and was up repeatedly in the night, until applesauce and milk finally applied at 4:30 in the morning.) He eats a whole one, cut in squares! He asks for another, a dinosaur this time. I do my best with a paring knife.

Dinosaur pancake

He smiles. “No, I don’t want a dinosaur. I want a square instead.”

~ ~ ~

It’s my father’s birthday. He was going to come to the East Coast for a meeting next weekend and spend a day with us, but my mother is too sick to be left alone. It will be easier for us not to have him, as Sugar’s mother is coming that weekend, but I am still disappointed. And envious.

~ ~ ~

I unaccountably find myself crying over some dumb article about baby shower etiquette. Rude to plan one for yourself, they say. Unless someone offers, have everyone over for a cookout to meet the new baby, instead.

Point of order, I don’t want a shower, exactly. We don’t need much stuff. (Another chair. Maybe a few cute things that can belong just to this baby.) I don’t need to be treated like a princess or a well-maintained incubator or whatever. I wanted to be pregnant and I like being pregnant; I don’t think gestating makes me more special than those who aren’t. But it is work, especially while keeping the the Bean alive and my students more or less on track. And given how much of my work feels invisible at all times (see: daily parenting, adjunct professing), I admit a small desire to be noticed, just for a minute.

Sugar thinks we should just invite people over for champagne as a combination un-shower and early birthday party for her, since we are usually traveling for Christmas on her birthday. I seriously doubt any of our friends will actually care about the etiquette of such an event, especially if there is champagne.

I think the real reason the article got to me is that it presupposes a place in a social structure that doesn’t exist in our lives. We don’t have local family. (Well, one aunt I love and never see.) We don’t live near our hometowns or our high school and college friends. We don’t (and I’m not sorry) have a place in the cavalcade of heteronormativity these rules presupposes. I don’t regret the decisions that have led us here, but sometimes feeling different is too close to feeling wrong.

Moreover, I remain envious to an unflattering extent of people who are well enough to host parties two weeks postpartum.

~ ~ ~

The Bean naps today. Not for all that long, but it is sweet watching him fall asleep. For once.

~ ~ ~

In the afternoon, Sugar makes bread. The Bean is appalled.

“Punch down the bread?? That would be terrible!”

Yeah, Sugar. No hitting.

~ ~ ~

I vacuum the bedroom. It’s getting harder to do that sort of thing; I am not what you might call gainly. But it is worth it for the Bean’s praise upon inspection: “This looks beautiful to me!”


18 Comments

Barely Legal

The deed is finally done!  We had our second-parent adoption court date yesterday, and BAM, we are now a legal family in all fifty states and the good ol’ D of C.  Feels mighty good, I tell you what.
Between Sugar having to run home from the subway station to fetch her ID, my brilliant decision to take a different train downtown (forgetting how infrequently it comes and not knowing the elevators were broken at the downtown station), said train’s passing us without stopping after we waited for one hundred years, torrential rain, and all the joys of going through security with a stroller, a toddler, and all the accoutrements both collect, we thought we would be so late that they’d tell us we were out of luck, but somehow we weren’t quite that late after all.  The elevators were confusing, but the nice man at the desk where we had to leave our camera gave us directions and congratulated us; when we got upstairs, there were toys in the waiting room and the court clerk went down and retrieved our camera.  Thanks to her, we have this winning picture of me with half-popped collar — I am tough, but sensitive — and blinking with our lawyer:

P1050990

P1050991

The Bean is chewing on a wooden block from the adoption office, a block likely encrusted in the spit of hundreds of fellow Brooklyn babies. Ah, tradition.

The Bean was an amazing sport about the whole thing, especially considering it was very much nap time. A lot of cookies were involved. Special thanks to the guys working security, who stood next to huge signs prohibiting food or drink in the court house, x-rayed our huge bag of Bean food, and only asked if the steel water bottles had hot liquid.

Afterwards, the Bean napped in his stroller while we walked to and through this phenomenal new park; when he woke up, we visited a playground and had a magnificent feast at Superfine, thanks to a sweet friend (and stupendous non-bio mom) who is a chef there.  After a postprandial return to the waterfront, we climbed back into Brooklyn Heights (that name is no joke, y’all) and rode the subway home, exhausted and happy.

P1060013

P1060037

P1060045

 


13 Comments

A Very Good Mother

Hello, internets. Apparently my iPad got peckish and ate the post that was almost done. I’d say it was a pity except it wasn’t much good, so perhaps it is in fact a blessing. Anyway, hello.

My hand is still bandaged but much less terrifying, lest you feared I’d met a gangrenous, Game-of-Thrones-ish end.

The Bean is splendid and only driving me slightly insane on these hot, mostly house-bound days; he more than makes up for it with his new love of the alphabet. I’m not claiming he knows what a letter is or anything, but he is quite smitten with the list itself and now babbles bits of it. He has this sly, preening look he gets when he knows he’s about to do something clever; the other day at breakfast, he looked at my side-long under a raised eyebrow and remarked significantly, as if making a witty observation,

H I J.

In short, he can play me like a violin.

Meanwhile, here is your Friday Feel Good, thanks to Mombian:

This month is the 40th anniversary of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which is the kind of organization I can’t even really read about without getting a bit teary. I’m just going to quote two of their six strategies goals, while I collect myself:

Create a world in which our young people may grow up and be educated with freedom from fear of violence, bullying and other forms of discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation or that of their families.

And

Create a society in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons may enjoy, in every aspect of their lives, full civil and legal equality and may participate fully in all the rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country

Until today, when Mombian posted about it, I’d never thought about how PFLAG’s founding; it was just there, helping people like me and my family, and maybe still more blessed, helping parents who maybe aren’t quite sure what to think when their children come out to them, giving them a place to be afraid and unsure what to think and still love their kids.

It turns out the whole thing started with one hell of a rockstar-mom, Jeanne Manford, who stood up for her gay son after she saw him on the TV news, injured at a protest while the police did nothing to help. She wrote a letter to the newspaper, saying something both perfectly natural and, in 1972, not quite three years after Stonewall, revolutionary:

I have a homosexual son and I love him.

She marched in that year’s NYC pride parade, carrying a sign reading, “Parents of Gays: Unite in support of our children.” And they did.

Thank you, Jeanne Manford. Thank you, all you parents of us LGBT folk who just keep on loving us. We know it’s not always easy. I hope that in those moments when loving the Bean requires courage, I can live up to your example.

(reading about Jeanne Manford today keeps making me think of the brave — both in her life and in her willingness to show her vulnerability when writing about it — author of the blog Transparenthood. Check her out.)


13 Comments

Blog Carnival: Donor Sperm

This post is part of the Love Makes A Family Blog Carnival.  Check out this week’s other  posts, including the next in line, from, um, Next In Line.  (I did not do that on purpose.  That was my brain, making a funny.)

As I write this, riding the train home after teaching a night class, breasts sore clear up to the collar bone (pumps work better when you bring all the parts), the Bean’s sperm donor feels like a very remote concept, hardly a person at all, and certainly not part of daily life in any real way.  When we started TTC, I thought about him a lot, and when we got the fertilization reports, I felt glad my eggs liked his sperm so much, but now that the Bean is here, well, I admit wondering when he got his first teeth and whether he was an early walker (because The Bean is clearly not taking after my own, politely restrained model of first steps at 18 months), but he doesn’t have much to do with our immediate realities.  Nothing in his profile tells me whether the Bean is crying out of hunger or tiredness or whether he’s just pining for the cats; his interview doesn’t cover what to do with my mixed feelings as my milk ceases to be enough to feed the Bean.  In a theoretical way, I recognize that the Bean wouldn’t be the Bean if we’d chosen Mr. NMEBSI, but that doesn’t make the donor we did choose seem to me like a father.  For me and for Sugar, the donor is only a set of characteristics loosely associated with a product we paid for and have found satisfactory.  If he materialized in our living room, he wouldn’t know our son the way Sugar and I do, no matter how many genes they might share.

I realize, though, that someday he may seem very important, indeed, because the odds are good that the Bean isn’t going to believe he is the product of parthenogenesis.  (My pesky father will probably tell him about Y chromosomes, for one thing.)  We will tell the Bean that his donor is his donor, but ultimately, we don’t know who he will decide his donor is to him.  The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.  We can’t know whether his donor will want to meet him (or whether the Bean will be interested in contact), whether he’ll actually not be the thoughtful man he seemed in his interview, whether he’ll even be alive.  We just wanted to be able to say that we did the best we could.

This all sounded very good to me, very well-reasoned and mature and considerate, until I was actually pregnant, when donor concerns suddenly seemed a little more real.  And then the Bean was born.  “He has your nose,” Dr. Russian announced, while Sugar cradled him.  “Really?” I said, craning to see across the room.  Later, I looked up the donor’s baby picture.  The Bean looks a lot like me, but he does not have my nose.  Nor my ears.  I looked at the picture and I looked at the Bean: it’s not just my genes in there.

I feel that we did do the best we could — for a variety of reasons, a known donor was not a good choice for us — and it’s possible that some of my concern is a product of internalized homophobia, a lingering belief that my gayness makes me an unfit parent.  (I reject such ideas with my conscious mind, but you know how minds can be.)  And yet, I can’t help worrying that the Bean won’t feel the same.

Donor Unknown, a documentary about the experiences of a group of donor-concieved teenagers who find each other on the Donor Sibling Registry and subsequently meet their (originally anonymous, from before the days of willing-to-be-known donors) donor after he reads about them in the New York Times, both fanned and allayed my fears.  It’s a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it.

(Okay, I’m home now and it’s late, so this part has to be quick.)

The donor in the movie is a fascinating character.  He is what you call a free spirit.  I was pleased to see what a kindhearted man he was, not at all someone who was only into donating for the money.  He seemed to feel a real spiritual connection to the idea of sperm donation, which had a beauty to it.  On the other hand…he’s weird.  He lives in a camper in a parking lot by the ocean.  But he’s so nice!  He recognized himself in the Times article and voluntarily reached out to these kids!   My reactions to this aspect of the film were a classic Aww!/ACK! conflict.  He loves animals.  Aww….  He rescues pigeons!  Ack!

Then I realized something important: the kids aren’t weird at all.  They are, you might say, all right.  They seem smart, kind, and sane.  With the exception of the one whose parents lied to her about being donor conceived, they seem happy and well-adjusted.  (If you ever needed a reason not to lie, imagine finding out that your daughter had talked to a NYT reporter about her donor siblings only when your voicemail filled up with friends calling about the article.  Heh.  Guess she got her own back, surprise-wise.)  Many of them talked about traits they imagined they might have inherited from their donor, but none of them seemed, upon meeting him, to find that his eccentricities challenged their sense of themselves.

The most important idea I took away from the movie is that the donor belongs to the kids, not the parents.  One of the moms of a boy in the movie talks about how she wants to go with him, to see him meet his donor, who she’s been curious about since before he was born.  The boy ably deflects her; he goes on his own and meets up with other donor sibs (and the camera crew) for the meeting.  Watching from the outside, it was so obvious that was the right choice, but I think I would have the same desires his mother did.  Besides pure curiosity, it’s hard to imagine relinquishing control over that moment.

Yet at the same time, the thought of relinquishing some control over that relationship is a relief.  It’s nice to think that Sugar and I aren’t messing everything up by not already being on the DSR, seeking out donor sibs and planning playdates.  We may yet join, but having watched this movie, I feel easier with the idea of letting that be his decision, donor siblings his discovery.  As long as we are honest with our children, then as with many parenting decisions, I think there is more than one right way to do this.


10 Comments

Liveblogging the Storm of the Century of the Weekend

Hey, folks.  In the interests of neither going mad nor doing the necessary work of rejiggering my syllabi to account for classes starting late, I thought I’d use the excuse of the coming storm to natter on about our lives in even more detail than usual.  The likelihood is that we’ll lose power at some point, so you’ll be spared reading about the whole weekend.

A little background:  As you faithful readers know, Chez Bionique is in beautiful Brooklyn, in an apartment in a large building.  The building itself is tall, but we are only on the second floor, out of reach of water and not in danger of extra-strength winds, as higher floors either are or aren’t, depending on whether you read what the city’s Office of Emergency Stuff says about hurricanes in general or about this one in particular.  We are outside of all of the various evacuation zones for storms of various severities.

Sunday

7:30 pm

Sorry for the epic pause.  I spent the afternoon searching for this awesomely dorky picture of me and the aforementioned friend at the beach in NC, all too cool to smile for the camera, but I can’t find it anywhere.  A profound disappointment.

We haven’t had much rain since this morning, and though there’s still quite a lot of wind in the trees, just now some blue started to show overhead.  The clouds are going west-east again.

Parts of the city are flooded and without power, the trains won’t be back for a bit, and no promises on the airports, either, but it looks like we were on the whole very lucky.  Hope that any of you whom Irene visited were, too.

9:20

Okay, now THAT is some wind.  Goodness.

Also, either the health care place across the street lost the enormous sail banner formerly tacked to its wall…or they took it in ages ago and I failed to notice.

8:30

I can’t believe the dead tree across the parking lot from us is still standing.  It is just the height and size of a live tree directly in front of it, and as the live tree’s branches are tossed and bent, its remain rigid.  (Aaaand now I have Ani in my head.  Name that tune, for 15 lesbian points.)  Ordinarily, the dead one is barely visible from our window, but today it is like an eerie crack in the sky.

We’ve had several very, very bad storms in the past two years, and its possible we won’t lose too many trees because only the strongest are still standing.  The great Lebanon cedar in the botanic garden went down in a particularly nasty spring storm.

Red Tail + Lunch

You might be able to make out the squirrel hanging from the hawk’s talons in the big size.

But it is also possible that we will be hit hard once again.  Hurricanes are particularly dangerous for trees because they usually occur in summer, when the trees are heavy with leaves, and because they bring so, so, so much rain, which softens the ground until a wind the tree could have withstood at any other time can tug even a giant out by the roots.

Today I am concentrating my concern on my favorite tree in Prospect Park, an enormous and ancient beech beside Enfield Arch.  Half of its crown went down last fall, but even so diminished, it has a majesty.  I’ve tried again and again to capture it in a picture, and have never managed to get the sense of it into a frame.  This is the best I have, from three summers ago:

My Favorite Tree

8:00 am

Hi, there.  We’re still fine.  Have power, water, all that.  No big leaks around the air conditioners, even.  I have a bit of a headache, hardly surprising in a storm this big, but nothing awful.

I was up several times in the night (understatement), so I can report that things started to get wild between 1:15 and 2.  At 1:15, heavy rain, moderate wind.  At 2, big winds.  I saw a large street sign go flying across the street.  More of the same at 4 and 7, though it turns out the part where the attendant’s hut at the parking lot across the street ended up overturned in the road was, in fact, a dream.

Saturday

10:10

Thunder!  After not hearing any for a couple hours, a fair amount now.  Pouring rain, but not very windy yet. The cat who hates storms is starting to look nervous.  He did get some good cuddling in while we watched our new favorite distraction, Doc Martin.

Speaking of what the thunder said, a week after the first and only time I heard a “da” from Graham (his first very clear consonant), he has exploded in da’s and de’s and di’s today.  Proto speech!  His prolix Mama swoons, I’m sure you can imagine.

We are filling the tub and going to bed.  Guess I’d better do the dishes, as I don’t want to be stuck with dirty ones and no water because naturally we’d never go to bed with dirty dishes.  We’re not animals.

8:20

Yum, watermelon cocktails!

_DSC0353

to make:

Fill a large wide mouthed glass about half way with scoops of watermelon. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Mash with wooden thing. Add 2 Tbsp of simple syrup, some vodka, some ice, and some seltzer. Stir.

7:20

Putting the baby to bed (no, he never did take that nap: an evil confluence of my failure to notice a dirty diaper and his tendency to get hyper when overtired), I can see low clouds scudding across the sky, from east to west, the opposite of the usual pattern and a sure sign of a counter-clockwise spiral storm.  On the weather map, the first green and yellow fingers are brushing against us.

When I stand up, I notice red flashes on the wet pavement.  There are three fire trucks outside.  Firemen carrying hoses are climbing up our front stairs.  Another one is cranking open the hydrant.  I trade my flannel pajama pants for the first substitute I can find that fits my current body, an old pair of velvet sweat pants.  NOW I don’t look like I’m sitting around in my pjs.  I start to unbutton my (unmatching) pajama shirt and then decide I’m being ridiculous.  I run down the stairs to find out whether I need to grab the baby and go out into the rain (please say no, please say no — and in a really convincing way).

The super is there.  I love our super.  Turns out someone got stuck in the elevator and hit the fire call button.  He’d already solved the elevator problem when the firemen arrived; by the time I get back upstairs, the last truck is pulling out.

The news has pictures of the parts of North Carolina where Irene made landfall, at the islands off Morehead City.  I went to the beach there every summer.  The pier where we fished for crabs, where I first saw a real shark (a hammerhead someone had caught by mistake) was destroyed.

…but perhaps sentiment is making me foolish.  There are a lot of hurricanes in North Carolina, and my pier may have collapsed years ago.

In 1991, I was there with my best friend’s family when Hurricane Bob swung this way while my parents stayed at another house a few miles away.  An evacuation was ordered.  Police drove up and down the island with megaphones; there were signs everywhere.  We left first thing in the morning.  Traffic crawled down the one main road, over the single bridge across the sound.  We were home by noon, and I sat in my friend’s living room for hours, alternating between terror and rage at my perpetually late parents, who blithely didn’t even leave the island (with the friend of my father’s sharing the house, whom I never could stand) for hours afterwards.  And of course, they were right.  There was plenty of time to get home before the storm.

Now they are the ones worrying, I think.  They live in Arkansas now, where tornadoes are frequent but sudden, without the days to worry that hurricane warnings provide.

I just heard thunder.  Sugar is scooping out watermelon for drinks.  We’re having meatballs, made from all the ground pork and beef we could find in the freezer.  If we lose power, we’d have lost the meat anyway.  If we lose gas, it will be nice to have some food that’s cooked already.  If we lose power and gas, we’ll just gorge on the meatballs quickly, right after the ice cream.

4:30

It’s pouring.

The Bean refuses to nap.  After lots of crying from the crib, I nursed him for a million years.  Now he’s in there chattering to himself.  Oh, well.  It’s kind of cute, and no rules on hurricane weekend!

Drinking water supplies now all set up.  Filled pitchers, pots, nalgenes, and the odd tupperware.  If Irene doesn’t take us out, the BPA may.

water for hurricane

Cracked open the first of the adorable little cans of coke I bought in yesterday’s supply run.  Don’t worry; there’s beer for later.  And if the power does go out, we’ll have to eat that ice cream up with a quickness.

Hung out yesterday with a friend who was here on 9/11.  She said that immediately after the attacks, she went to the store and bought lots of canned beans and also coffee, because she remembered something about coffee being a useful currency during World War II.  We contemplated buying cigarettes.

2:38

Holy shit.  The Bean crawled forward.  Not very effectively, as he was on a slippery blanket, but still.  This development will definitely wreck more havoc on the household than Irene could.

why can't i crawl yet?

Sugar is unpacking all the toys her parents sent and surrounding him.

a lot of toys just arrived

2:26 pm

Raining a bit, sometimes heavily.  Despite the fact that I laid up important stores yesterday (batteries, coca-cola, ice cream), we decided to head out to the nearby store, more for the experience than for much else.  Besides, if the power DOESN’T go out, we will need milk.  I splashed out on all kinds of new kinds of canned beans.  Also coffee, watermelon for cocktails, and chocolate chips.  Just in case.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers