Bionic Mamas

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

On Discombobulation


The Bean is having another not-nap today.  There is distinctly unrestful thumpery emanating from his room, but so far no crying for me to come.

He’s not ready to give up his nap, that much is clear.  He never napped on Monday and was an emotional wreck for the remainder of the day.  Yesterday we were on the subway to the Bronx Zoo at his usual nap time.  We were with friends he adores, but he spent most of the ride staring, glassy-eyed.  He steadfastly refused each offer of a bottle of milk (his usual at bedtime and nap), although he would normally accept a bottle with no going-to-bed strings attached in a heartbeat.  I thought he might do the usual inconvenient baby trick of falling asleep two minutes before our arrival — last time we did this, he fell hard asleep two minutes before we pulled into an elevator-less station where construction forced us to make a three-stairway transfer — but no. He was full of energy to run (and run away) at the zoo, to find the tigers, to prove I’d been wrong when I told him there were no buffalo or red pandas (apparently he remembered them from his last trip, the better part of a year ago), to continually ask for the cookies I’d told him were a treat for the ride home.

He desperately wanted to see the giraffes, though, but when we headed their way after lunch, he fell asleep in his stroller before we could see them and did not wake up until we were nearly home again.  Whereupon, seeing our friends, he smiled and said, “on a special, special train!” Then he spread his arms in a comic “what gives?” gesture and said with a twinkling eye, “Oh! No cookies?”

One possibility is that he’s ready to switch his nap to the afternoon, which would complicate our lives in some ways and simplify them in others, if only I had the first idea how to facilitate the switch.  But I wonder if there’s something else in play here.  Several times in the past week, he has woken up — or rather, not woken up — with night terrors, long periods of flailing and a kind of screaming I never hear from him in neurologically ordinary moments.  Screeching that would peel paint off the walls, that floods my body with adrenaline, my brain frantic to find who is skinning my baby alive.  That kind of sound.  He’s been like this before, generally after naps — I refuse to believe these are tantrums; he’s so clearly not there — but not in a few months.  Their reappearance makes me wonder if the nap refusal is part of a larger pattern of sleep disturbance, perhaps related to a leap in cognitive/neurological development.

It’s happened before: the last time sleep went deeply to hell (not that it’s ever great around here), Sugar noted that his vocabulary was just exploding.  Growing a brain is a lot of work; big changes are bound to require some disruptive furniture-moving in there.  No wonder he’s a mess.

*    *    *

I wonder if any of my readers are surprised that I’m not posting about the goings-on at the Supreme Court this week.  Naturally, I feel strongly about these cases.  I even have some thoughts about them, imagine that.  I don’t have a good answer, except that I somehow can’t bear to.  Just reading about them for a few minutes at a time leaves me in tears.  Sugar can’t bear to read at all.

I nearly wrote just now that we are hardly on the front lines of these cases, living in a state that recognizes our marriage and having the usual denial about the death-related problems Edie Windsor’s DOMA case centers on.  But the truth is, we are on the front lines here, whether we want to be or not.  By virtue of living our lives in the most truthful way we know how, we are subject to having those lives dissected in, at best, dispassionate terms by powerful strangers in faraway chambers.  Moreover, our lives are subject to discussion by everyone with a mouth or a keyboard, and what isn’t deliberately dehumanizing is too often the kind of devil’s advocate “objectivity” unpacked very well here and here (in terms of feminism, but a very close match).  While nothing about the details of my days this week sounds terribly heroic — nap strikes, zoo trips, endless games of trains — I feel nevertheless buffeted by invisible winds.

Yesterday, my Facebook feed bloomed red.  Huge numbers of my friends, including tons of straight ones (and one who seems to be calling herself straight now, despite an impressive track record to the contrary in her youth, ahem) have replaced their avatars with HRC’s red equal sign logo.  Then came the mutated memes, the equal signs made of wedding rings, card catalog cards, broken matzo squares.  There are Rotko-esque ones, Muppet ones, Lucy/Peppermint Patty ones, and one made of belly-flashing corgis.  Eventually, even I had to get over my profound irritation that HRC, who are admittedly dab hands at branding, is going to be associated in people’s minds with this moment, when it is the ACLU who deserves the praise and the donations.  (Okay, I’m not over it. But it’s no longer my principle feeling.)  It truly is remarkable that, as one friend put it, “for the first time in my life, being gay is cool.”

Like a number of my married gay friends, I changed my profile picture to an image from our wedding.  I found I liked seeing these friends marching along my feed in their fancy dress, cutting cake and exchanging vows, kissing and just grinning at the camera.  There is something visually right, to me, about these pictures being surrounded by the sea of red, the allies sublimating themselves for a moment to those of us who, like it or not, find ourselves on the front lines.

This moment is incredible; if you’d told me, even five years ago, this week would happen as it has, I’d never have believed you.  I can’t believe, as I frequently tell my students, that the conversation has gone from, “Should gays be allowed to teach school/live in settled areas,” to, “Should gays be allowed to marry,” in only the time it’s taken me to get from high school to here.  It doesn’t seem possible, anymore than the strength our elders have shown in carrying us here seems like something I could find in myself.  I see this picture of Edie Windsor* entering the court today, and I see a warrior.  I see this picture and I think of song by Sweet Honey In the Rock: I don’t know how our elders have done it, but I do remember.


*from the ACLU twitter feed

I admire more than I can say the bravery of the people who have taken the most public steps to bring us here, though I know all of us who have made this issue seem real to our friends and families are helping in small ways, too.  Even though small ways are exhausting in a week like this.  Allies, we are so happy to have you, so proud of you.  I can’t think I’m the only one who feels the strain, though, so I ask one more thing this week.  Please, be gentle.  As in the Bean’s brain, big changes are happening in our worlds.  It’s surely no wonder if some of us are a bit of a mess.

14 thoughts on “On Discombobulation

  1. I can’t bear to read too much either! Though, given the number of thoughts tumbling in my head, the dam is certain to break sooner or later. Gentle, allies, change – all big words here too.

  2. Coming out of the woodwork to say that the HRC takeover of this moment really bothers me as well. It is unfortunately hard to criticize HRC without a lot of very well-meaning people feeling like they are also being criticized.

  3. — sometimes I think I am living the same life, if only I could articulate it as well as you do! toddler who screams in the middle of the night, yet is not really awake and refusing naps – CHECK, significant language spurt, CHECK, love/hate of HRC and the whole “my lifestyle/this institution is not even as old as cellphones” comment – CHECK.

    Thank you for, as always, putting my thoughts into a beautiful post 🙂

  4. Poor bean, and poor mamas! I hope his growth spurt settles soon, and he starts sleeping better. “This too shall pass, etc.” Not that it’s much comfort in the moment.

    It is astonishing to see all the support on Facebook, and gratifying as well. When I was in high school in the late 90’s in a tiny town in WI, I remember reading a newspaper article discussing gay marriage. It was during some English class, and I remember exclaiming, “Why can’t they get married, this is rediculous!” Before then, it hadn’t occurred to me that gay people couldn’t marry if they wanted to. Then the rest of the class looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head, and whispered to themselves. I’m so happy the tides are changing!

    *sigh* If only WI weren’t under the thumb of a backwards congress and governor, and things were changing a little faster here!

  5. I’ve been thinking of another Sweet honey song, “Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won/Many stones do form an arch, singly none, singly none.”

    The sea of red yesterday meant something because so many people are speaking out for families like ours…speaking out at last. And I’m so thankful because I am tired.

  6. You know what offends me? The handful of acquaintances who have posted about how this marriage issue is co-opting authentic queer activism. Care to comment on that?

    I have restrained myself from making uninvited comments, but I am tempted to de-friend.

  7. Big changes indeed. We live in momentous times.

    As for the all new non-napping Bean – this sounds Difficult. Oh dear. I feel for you in the loneliness too – I remember my mother telling me the only time she ever felt lonely was when stuck at home at a similar phase with my brother. Funny, now I think of it, that the loneliness did not reoccur with the young me. Probably I was better company. Heh.

    Anyway! No to no napping, Bean. I hope he settles down again soon.

  8. I’ve been wanting to post about the week in gay marriage, but you just said exactly what I was thinking more articulately. Thank you.

  9. I have a vague memory that Bug tried the same thing on, but my “Mama needs a break” was greater than his capacity to stay awake every single day, so eventually he went back to a nap. Here’s hoping.

    I don’t have any opinion on what ‘authentic gay activism’ is but it sounds a bit like those people who sometimes natter on about the essential hermeneutics of nihilism in America and whether red curtains can truly have any meaning in the context of imperialism (come see the violence inherent in the system!) when most people are, frankly, too busy worrying about what’s for dinner and can they afford to buy a pair of shoes this month. And petty details like whether your employer must provide health insurance for your same-gendered spouse and whether you have Social Security survivorship benefits. You know, real life.

  10. Wow, yes, this. It is really weird to know that so many people are having public debates about my life. I’m with you on the HRC-branding bit. And with the awe at seeing so many friends (including ones I wouldn’t have expected to) with red facebook profile pictures.
    Hope that the Bean re-figures-out napping soon. Is it possible to gradually shift the nap to afternoon, keeping him up a bit later each day? My memory is that we did something like that with Tadpole at one point when we needed to shift things around.

  11. I already responded to this post, but I was looking for a post-op update and now I have to comment on naps.

    I think the afternoon nap might be the way to go. Bunny has skillfully pushed his back to around 2 pm or even later (after waking up around 8 am – don’t hate me – remember, we co-sleep and I nurse him at around 5 am). He’s so tired by then, he can’t help but eventually fall asleep when we trap him in the bedroom. The only thing that sucks is if he falls asleep earlier (car seat, stroller, carrier, etc.) then he won’t take his afternoon nap and will be miserable at bedtime (around 9 pm for him). I know this because one day during spring break I tried to put him to sleep after he’d had a 10 minute car nap in the morning. An hour later, after he started body slamming himself across the bed, I pulled out my white flag, and we emerged from the bedroom.

    So yeah, adjust the hours for Bean’s much earlier schedule, and then just try to get him late when he’s too exhausted to fight it for too long. Maybe?

    Also, Bunny still falls asleep every single time in the car seat, stroller, carrier. Do these still work on Bean? Bunny LOVES riding in his stroller, so when he just has to sleep and won’t go down, we take a walk. It never takes more than 15 minutes and then I just let him sleep in the thing when we get home.

    (And no, the Bunny does not sleep alone yet. Maybe after we move, we’ll work on that. He did stay in the toddler bed all night yesterday, though, after falling asleep on me before being transferred over. Small victories.)

  12. I must just say that ‘distinctly unrestful thumpery’ is a delightful, delightful phrase!

  13. I have been away so am just getting caught up reading. Hoping to hear soon about surgery and how it went.

    I loved reading about the Bean at the zoo because I just took E. to the zoo for the first time. Although your Bean is less than two months older than E., I feel he is light-years ahead in some areas of development, since E.’s zoo highlights included: the ride-on green tractor in the children’s farm area; the pedestrian tunnels between the monkey area and the giraffes (and not, please note, the monkeys OR the giraffes); and the ramps up to see the lemurs. “This isn’t really a toddler-led experience” I said to my sister as we wrestled E., screaming, away from the tunnels to go and show him some animals (at which he repeatedly said “no no” but then wailed distraught when we eventually left the zoo).

    Anyway. E.’s sleep has always been messed up with developmental leaps and it’s shown mainly with his naps since he was 15 months or so- if he stops napping that is always followed by something big changing in his brain. So I am hopeful this will be true of the Bean too.

    You know, I am seriously in awe of what is going on south of my border. I never, ever, thought the U.S. would get to a stage of debating gay marriage so openly so soon. Gives me hope that maybe gun control might actually get somewhere too in the not-so-distant future.


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