being here

February 18, 2013

so, part of the huge slew of changes that happened with having a baby was a job switch. faithful readers might remember the burden of having to read thousands of posts about boredom when i was working a shitty receptionist job. and then they might remember reading 2 posts about me having my “dream job” (loosely interpreted) for about a year.

i suppose it is one of those cliché rites of passage into motherhood – reassessing what your work life will look like with a little one in tow. and i guess i already knew the end of the story even before edith was born, but, hey, we all have to figure things out at our own pace. i sort of assumed that i would be a superhuman who could faithfully and effectively manage to mother my child and mother my clients at the same time.

so i worked up until the day i went into labor with the plan that i would return part-time when edith was 3 months old and become full time when she was 7 months old. which, even when i was agreeing to it, made me sick to my stomach. this sickness, of course, swelled as my maternity leave dwindled. what had always been evident to those closest to me, now became more and more evident to me – that i was, in fact, no superhuman and the love i had for the people i was working with was only indicative of the insane love and devotion i would have to my own offspring. and at a certain point i needed to learn how to protect said offspring from the love-without-boundaries mode i tended to operate in with clients.

i had experienced hints of this epiphany throughout my pregnancy. say, when i was spending my nights off helping a client who was kicked out of the house pick all of her possessions off her front lawn and load it into the backseat of my car. or when i was holding screaming babies in the middle of domestic altercations that i felt at a loss to stop. or when i, you know, witnessed a shooting. the critter in my own belly would twist and squirm with uncharacteristic intensity and i would hear my own advice to my clients ringing in my ears: “your baby is affected by your stress!”

so when edith arrived and i was swimming through layers of postpartum depression and distress at knowing how to care for both her and i, it became apparent that i wasn’t going to be able to return to my old ways of operating anytime soon.

thus, two days before i was set to return to family focus, i accepted a job with a doula agency that would allow me to do postpartum work part time and largely based on availability that i chose.

and, as one might imagine, this decision has been a mixed bag for me. it’s VERY clear that i could never have handled going back to my old job. it’s also clear to me that what i want to do with my life is what i was doing at that job. and another burst of clarity is that i really don’t want to be working at all right now. but, life such as it is, means that we need a little money to keep us afloat and the best possible option is what is happening right now.

to be sure, this current job is a gift. i mostly work overnights so i’m with edith when she is awake. of course, this means i’m something of a zombie at times but i’m fairly sure that zombie-hood is synonymous with parent-hood whether you work at night or not. it is also, of course, difficult for me to be caring for other people’s babies when what i really want is just to be caring for my own.

but i’m not sure that i would be as present with edith, if i would savor each silly minute with her, if i didn’t experience the occasional distress of being away. the easiness of being with her is brightened in contrast to the difficulty of handling fussy babies. there is new joy and reverence to nursing her after spending a night struggling to bottlefeed someone else’s baby. i think a lot about women (particularly black women) who have historically had to spend all their time away from their own children in order to care for the children of others and  i’m grateful that my time away is as minimal as it is.

in the jumble of reflecting on where i’ve been and where i hope to be one day (reels which often run on repeat throughout the day), on all the permutations of balancing work and family that myself and others are living, i’m grateful for where we are. grateful to be home when i’m home, grateful for the change of scenery when i leave (or at least, grateful for the dollar bills the change of scenery provides), grateful for the constancy of sweetness that is my family.

grateful that this sweet face has a sweet personality to match. grateful that the multitudinous delight that we daily experience is only a glimmer of the expansive, beautiful being she is becoming.

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quiet riot

February 8, 2013

like any self-absorbed person, i take great delight in how much my daughter reminds me of myself. i mean, genetically we’re very similar so the odds of overlapping traits are pretty high.

luckily, she nabbed mostly good stuff. she’s remarkably laid back, she likes to laugh, she is incredibly social. we literally fell down the stairs a few weeks ago and she instantly stopped crying five seconds later upon seeing her friend, iva. she also nabbed some “lesser” qualities like a deep love of immobility, and the ability to sit on tons of things without noticing (a very clear acquisition from me).

and then there are those middle-of-the-road qualities. like how quiet she can be.

which is good at mass.

and apparently bad at nap time.

it’s becoming increasingly apparent that edith doesn’t actually sleep at nap time. that kid will sit in one place and chew on a book for hours during “playtime”. she’s technically known how to crawl for two weeks but hasn’t employed this skill to move more than a few feet total. but she seems to be throwing ragers at “naptime”.

 

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everything you see in this picture is now in the crib.

the mobile i made has been ripped apart, blankets, books, birdhouses, bookends, bumpers all somehow end up in the crib with her. most of these items are not even that close to the crib –  how she reaches them is a mystery. she sleeps like a fallen soldier, body splayed wherever it happened to land when fatigue took it’s final blow.

like most aspects of parenting (“parenting” meaning anything beyond keeping her clothed, fed, and clean), i find myself at a loss. apart from keeping her safe*, am i supposed to stop this? am i allowed to let her know how bizarre and comical this all is? isn’t an exploratory nature a virtue? it’s a good thing to have some buffer months where i’m not sure how cognizant she is of my reaction (though maybe that assumes too much). rome wasn’t built in a day. and i guess it wasn’t destroyed in one either.

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tiny destroyer

 

*concerned readers will be glad to hear that her “wall” (we share a room) is looking more like a soviet era cell block – isolated and barren.

9 months ago, i had a baby. and, though i think about that day every day, it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it.

our birth story is actually a story about how i was convinced i wasn’t going to have a baby. well, not yet at least. as a doula, i had been to many (well, mostly) 18+ hour births. granted, nearly all of the births i attended were for first time moms. granted, most of them were induced. granted, most of them were being treated by over-managed care providers who were often pushing them into labor when their body wasn’t ready. but anyways.

nine months ago, i was completely convinced i was going to be pregnant for another 3 weeks. i was supposed to have stopped working but couldn’t help myself – i ended up attending 3 births in the last few weeks before my own. and that was probably what did it. a few days after doula-ing for some good friends of mine (and a week before my own due date), i was texting with a friend saying (LITERALLY) “i’m not even going to worry about having this baby for another 3 weeks”. 10 minutes later my water broke and i was freaking out.

my midwives had warned me that doulas are always the least prepared for their own births and i most certainly fit the bill. i sat shaking in the bathroom, telling mark this couldn’t be happening for a while, then we sat on the bed and talked about whether mark should go to work in the morning. at about 4am, mark got up to make quiche and i tried to sleep while slow waves of cramps started to build in my gut.

i called my mom a million times and, though she had been anxiously sitting by her phone for MONTHS at this point, waiting to hear news, suddenly could not be reached by any avenue. around 6 or 7am, the cramps were getting too uncomfortable to keep laying down so, ignoring the advice of my midwife, i decided to get up and take a shower. though the birth ball didn’t fit in the shower, i stubbornly jammed it in there with me while the contractions continued to build. mark sat on the bathroom floor, eating eggs, both of us relatively unfazed by labor at this point. i wouldn’t let my doula come by since i was convinced i was just in early labor.

you know, early labor where the contractions are 2 minutes apart.

i’m a doula, remember.

we called our midwife intermittently and she would listen to me as i had a contraction. i wasn’t feeling super overwhelmed by pain and was staying pretty quiet through most contractions. i’d bend over the changing table in our sunny bedroom, mark would press on my back, and then that’d be that. let’s recap the fact that i had spent the last year watching teenagers in labor – teenagers who screamed and yelled even when heavily medicated. so i was expecting labor to be downright awful, despite how beautiful i also deeply knew it to be. i was a little surprised that it wasn’t hell-on-earth, at least for the most part.

as one could probably imagine, we realized in retrospect, that i was basically continually faking everyone out in terms of how i was reacting to labor.

our doula and dear friend, annie, arrived 10am and hung out with me while mark did some last minute preparations like, you know, packing our emergency hospital bag (just-in-case) and blowing up the birth pool by hand. i tried all sorts of positions and essential oils that i had used for other people, just to see what worked. my mind was working like a doula through the whole birth, constantly assessing what was bullshit advice and what was helpful. i started running through every suggestion i’d ever given a laboring mother before, now asking forgiveness for making so-and-so sit on a birth ball or rubbing her back in a certain way. it was a welcome sort of relief when the contractions became strong enough to get me out of my own head.

at a certain point, i started getting a really strong urge to push. but i was in early labor, right? so i shouldn’t start pushing. it took every fiber of will and strength in me not to push, and i was not successful at not-pushing. i cried “FUCK” every time i accidentally pushed, which was pretty much during each contraction. i got in every position that i tell others to get into when they feel the urge to push and know that they should not. as one might expect, none of those positions work.

around 12:30p, the midwives’ assistant, rachel, arrived to check out the situation before the midwife got there. as i moved to the bed to be checked, i told annie that i felt like i had a bowling ball between my legs.

and both of us, experienced doulas, just nodded at each other like i was commenting on the weather, not at all realizing what i just said.

rachel smiled and chatted with me, took her time before checking my dilation. i was ready to hear that i was 2cm dilated. instead i watched her smile freeze as she told me: “lauren, you’re having your baby right now.” here, on the bed. not in the lovely birth tub that mark had only half-inflated at this point.

all of us were in shock. i had another 30 hours of labor ahead of me, right?

not the case.

rachel called our midwife, while annie and mark rushed around to get whatever supplies we could: a mixing bowl for the placenta, some scissors for the cord. 30 minutes later, a little blue alien-like baby was hoisted up onto my chest, her arms open, squawking like a dolphin. we couldn’t believe she was here, that fast, that simply.

she had come out sunny side up – a position that is typically really difficult to navigate and most of the time makes labor incredibly long and especially painful. this had been what i most obsessively worried about throughout my pregnancy, my pet fear if you will. it was an amazing gift and lesson to me that what i most feared came to pass and…was not actually that bad. a deep gratitude for God’s grace and the beauty of birth was etched into me that day in a way it never quite had before.

it was a crazy thing to see that face for the first time, all squished and confused. she looked so much like my grandma, so unlike anything i had ever imagined. she emerged from such an intimate place within me and yet we still were so unacquainted with one another. even now, nine months later, having watched her every expression and emotion, i still find myself surprised by elements of her being that burst forth. like her father, she is an extension of me which brings delight in the vast amount of unknown that has yet to be explored. sometimes i feel like my whole life before she was born was just a drawn out passing of time, a waste really. even in the isolation, exhaustion, and frustration of parenthood i feel like this is really living. i feel most myself when i’m with her.

there is no greater gift than that.

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the smile and the snow

February 4, 2013

i’m thoroughly glad for the snow as of late. much as i enjoy the 60 degree days we’ve been occassionally enjoying, i get entirely apocalyptic about warm winter weather. it makes me freak out about the fact that i’ve reproduced, about how much waste we contribute to this earth, about the fate of humanity at large.

our apartment doesn’t get direct sunlight and so the best we can hope for is an outside world bright enough to send its glow through our windows. snow-white glow is an amazing gift. it contributes to the coziness of being indoors and, unexpectedly, makes me daily decide to drag edith out of doors to go enjoy it, despite how much she dislikes the process of being snow-suited.

we’ve been walking to the park, mostly, where i make her lay in the snow with me, her little arms flailing so that she makes unintentional snow angels while kicking up snow into her face. she seems genuinely perplexed by the whole situation, trying to eat snow flakes with a look of grave concern on her face.

these walks, like mostly everything i do, are more for me than for her. part of the joy of having a child is getting to share the world with them for the first time, cliche as it sounds. i feel like i’m compiling a gigantic “best of” album and then doling out one little track at a time: snow on trees, long walks, the evolution of local foliage. if nothing else, it highlights for me the vibrancy of things that i so often take for granted. just now, at this age, i’m starting to feel like she’s catching it. whether she is honing the art of humoring me with her full-face smiles or genuinely delighting in the way snow falls from bushes when you shake them, i don’t know. but i love to see the smile and the snow anyways.