Cling to Me

People keep asking me whether Joey is a good baby—without fail, I reply “He’s a sweetheart.” I’m sidestepping a little, in part because the question feels weird, but in part because of Joey. He’s a sweetheart to me. Oh, sure, he has had some rough afternoons; teething is hard, and he’s frustrated by his helplessness. But overall, he’s a sweet guy and he seems to enjoy my company.

 

I’ve read in a few different places that babies don’t care who takes care of them for the first six months, just so long as they’re cared for—but someone forgot to tell Joey that. That’s the other part of the answer to that question. I will sometimes go to Starbucks for a few hours so that I can work on the computer, leaving Joey with his Pop, and Joey apparently screams nonstop while I’m gone. He will usually let someone else hold him if I’m in the room, but if I go into another room, he completely loses it. This isn’t just a nursing thing, I don’t think; he doesn’t like the bottle, but will take one if he’s hungry. No, he seems to really want me around—me in particular. I was thinking about this and looking at him yesterday, and I said to Mr. Book, “Cricket didn’t need me.”

 

Cricket was, as I understand it, perfectly content to be with any friendly person when he was tiny. There was no reason to think that he missed me, or missed either of his moms when he was left with a sitter. I think about that, looking at Joey, and wonder whether Joey insists on having me around because his brother was sent away. Not that he knows that, of course, but maybe there’s something in me that he’s picking up. He’s happy at home, he’s happy out and about, he’s happy in the bath or on the bus or having his diaper changed . . . just so long as I’m there. He’ll sleep or nap only with me. And I’m happy with my little limpet, and am happy to take him with me to the bank or the shower or wherever I need to go, but at the same time I worry that I did this.

To Whom It May Concern

I got two emails from Ruth at the beginning of the month, two in a week, which is pretty unusual—the first to confirm that I will write them a letter of recommendation, the second to send me guidelines. I was a little sad about getting guidelines, since I had a pretty good plan in place for the letter, but I am slooowly adapting.

The guidelines include a list of points to address, one of those being “How would you feel about placing your child, or one you are personally interested in, with the applicants?” It seems likely that I’m not reading this question the way that it’s meant to be read; my first response was along the lines of “I would have lost my child, I would be heartbroken, why on earth are you asking me this?” I then decided not to answer it at all—now I’ve written a new response that sort of indirectly addresses the point, and I’m deciding whether to leave it in. My answer talks about how Mr. Book and I regret the adoption, but that seeing what great parents Ruth and Nora are is the silver lining. I don’t think Ruth or Nora will ever read the letter, but of course it’s possible that they’ll end up hearing details from it. I’ve decided that I’m okay with that, I asked Mr. Book and he’s okay with that—but ideally, of course, they won’t. I know that they don’t want to know, and I can’t really blame them. I also want to leave it in because I think it explains the conspicuous absence of “I am so happy with our open adoption” or “I’m so glad that I placed my son with the applicants.” On the other hand, I don’t want to ambush Ruth or Nora, so I’m open to advice.

I have to send this letter by the end of the month. I have a draft finished, I’ve tinkered with it a bit, but it still sounds a bit stilted. Go figure. I assume I’ll get another email from Ruth sometime this week reminding me of the deadline. My mom asked whether Mr. Book couldn’t write the letter instead, and I said that he couldn’t, because he doesn’t like them at all; it’s so weird that this is where we’ve ended up.

1/4

Joey is three months old! He’s close to crawling, but there’s a problem—he doesn’t want to crawl. He can scootch along on his stomach, kicking his legs and making a little progress, but what he really likes is to be held up so he can “walk.” He wants to walk, and to skip crawling, but he doesn’t even have kneecaps yet and just can’t walk; we’re trying to compromise. He demands tummy time, he pushes himself forward and yells for a few minutes, and then we “walk” around for awhile. We’re doing this several times a day. He has also, excitingly, started throwing himself sideways sometimes while I’m holding him—he’s never managed to make it more than a few inches sideways, but it’s scary for both of us. I have this sense, though, that I’m going to have plenty of chances to get used to it. He wants mobility so badly, and it’s just not coming together for him yet. I wish that I could do more to help.

I have a confession to make; we’ve been doing straight-up bedsharing since he was about three weeks old. This wasn’t part of the plan, and I resisted it for as long as I could—about three weeks, it turns out—but even with our little in-bed cosleeper, Joey would just howl and howl and refuse to sleep unless he was in someone’s arms. I would wait until he was deeply asleep and then move him to the cosleeper . . . and within an hour, without fail, he would wake up and commence howling. Finally, toward the end of my stay in California, I pushed all the pillows out of the bed, pulled the blanket down to his waist, and slept soundly for the first time in a long time. He spends every night with his feet against my stomach and his chin resting on my breast, and he sleeps for fourteen hours, nursing several times without really waking up. I worry about SIDS—I worry a lot—even though we’re doing bedsharing right (no extra pillows, fan running, no drugs/booze/smoking/sleeping pills). I’m sleeping lightly, the baby is sleeping well, and in a month or so I will worry less, but for right now, it’s working for everything but my peace of mind.

We’ve hit another milestone, although I suppose it’s just a milestone for me—we’re not going to have Irish twins, which I’m glad of. We do want to raise two kids relatively close together, but not that close together; breastfeeding is our birth control at the moment, and while unlikely, it was possible. I honestly don’t have a clear idea of when I’d like to get pregnant again; early in this illness (still hanging on, although mostly dwelling in my chest these days) I felt sick and weak and thought “This is like being pregnant again—wow, I am glad that I am not pregnant again already.”

Please Be Gentle, I’m Still Delirious

I’m not writing as well or as thoughtfully as Dawn, but I’m writing a bit.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical church. I have never not believed in the Christian God, never failed to celebrate Christmas or Easter, and am presently scheming to raise up little Christian children. I went to vacation bible school in the summers, and still remember when I realized that I was there for the last time: The first night was a pizza party and very little doctrine, and all us kids were handed little boy scoutsy handbooks that would be filled out with biblical answers instead of, e.g., different kinds of knots. I sat down in a corner and filled the thing out from memory—still my head is full of these things, many of them lists—the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Stuff like that. Now many members of my extended family no longer consider me Christian, since I converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen; I like to think that the experience of conversion gives me a bit of perspective on my privilege, but who knows.

There were a few years when I didn’t consider myself a Christian. I never stopped believing in the central doctrines, but a combination of things drove me away from the church, the chief two being a really ham-handed explanation of predestination by a well-meaning youth pastor and the incredibly misogyny of my parents’ church: the practical end to my attendance came when I walked out during a prayer after the Elder asked God to give the men of the congregation the wisdom to know how to vote (Republican, of course) and the strength to lead their wives to vote correctly. (My parents grounded me for two weeks as a result of the walkout, but I remain convinced that I did the right [somewhat melodramatic] thing.) I was never willing to evangelize, and I declined to become a member of that church even after all my younger siblings had. From the time I was in grade school, my friends were rarely Christians—most were atheists, one was Ba’hai—and I was self-conscious about the difference between us. My atheist friends were mostly of the variety who use terms like “sky wizard”—hey, we were in high school—and I was acutely aware that they thought of my beliefs as faerie tales for idiots. At the same time, my church was full of tales of “This one kid was praying in the lunchroom and he got suspended!” and “A boy who took a biology test answered the question of how life came to be by quoting Genesis and the teacher failed him!” Even as a very young teen I thought it pretty unlikely that you’d fail a test for getting one question wrong (or should that be “wrong”?). At one point in high school, my English teacher made us all give presentations on a topic of our choice, and one girl talked about her faith: my friend Thomas wrote her feedback (required by the instructor), saying “Very nice, but what will you do when science disproves God?” I was fourteen years old, and I still remember it word for word. I think that these experiences gave me a bit of perspective too, I hope—I learned to be careful, to say “I’m thinking of you” instead of “I’m praying for you” unless I can be pretty sure that the latter won’t bother the person I’m talking to. I tend to wish people happy holidays unless they’ve led off with “Merry Christmas!”

I enjoy certain privileges as a Christian: the federal government recognizes some of the holidays I celebrate; when I bought children’s books for my son, I was able to add a few lovely religious ones without looking hard; there are dozens of little ways that belonging to the majority faith smoothes my way. The ugliest part of my Christian privilege is my desire to avoid Cricket’s birthday parties because they are also Hanukkah parties; the unpleasantly outsidery feeling I get from imagining myself there is a rare one, because I am generally surrounded by Christian assumptions rather than Jewish (or Ba’hai, or Muslim) ones. At the same time, as a Catholic, I’m a little off to the side—besides having to explain to my mother every couple of years that no, Catholics do not worship saints, I am able to baffle door-to-door evangelizers by answering “Have you heard the good news/Are you saved?” type questions with “Yes, I’m a Catholic” and then escaping under cover of their uncertainty. Most Protestants seem willing to extend me partial credit.

I’ve been talking to a social worker at Catholic Charities whom I really like, and the CC in my town is committed to open adoption in a way I haven’t seen from any other agency—their placement rates are quite low, and that thrills them—I’ve heard workers there proudly telling stories of PAPs telling expectant mums that the PAPS think the mums can and should parent. This social worker longs to mediate our adoption, and has asked several times whether Ruth and Nora might be willing to meet with her, and I have pointed out that they would be unlikely to want to come to a Catholic organization. She’s Catholic, I’m Catholic, but I have some sense of how being a Jewish lesbian might make me awfully wary at a Catholic Charities office; heck, I have some level of discomfort with the Vineyard et al. myself, and while I can see important differences between the two, I imagine they rather blend together when viewed from farther away.

The fact of the matter is that if Joey decides to pray in the lunchroom at school, he won’t be suspended; he won’t likely face the scrutiny that a classmate of a different faith would if visibly practicing at school. If he wears his Noah’s ark onesie, it won’t be a statement in the same way that Cricket’s onesies with Hebrew letters on them were. To be Christian, unless you exist on Christianity’s fringes, is to have a sort of warm invisibility most of the time—there is no “Ooo, you’re Jewish?” equivalent for us, I don’t think—it would be like “Ooo, you’re right-handed?” Of course you’re right-handed.

Poor Pitiful List

The laptop is still busted, and now we all have the flu. Luckily, I was vaccinated in the fall, so Joey and I aren’t nearly as sick as Mr. Book . . . but altogether, I am not succeeding at the internet (or much of anything else) these days.

Joey seems to be teething about 800 teeth at once, so this week has been tough for him—the new bedtime routine involves some rocking and crying. He refuses any teething toys so far, and I’m pretty sure that he’s too young for baby orajel; hopefully he’ll feel better soon.

Mr. Book has been teaching Joey to make pigeon noises—he’s not that good at it yet, but he’s better than I am—he manages a cute little gurgling coo. Of course, he’s probably aided by all the mucus in his throat. I wonder whether he’ll be able to make the same sound once he’s over the flu.

We’ve started playing board games for entertainment. It’s hard to really watch a movie these days, and there aren’t many places we can really go out together, but if Mr. Book moves all the pieces while I hold Joey, we can play board games. I was disappointed in Crack the Case, although I hope to give it another try; Anti-Monopoly is our current favorite.

I’ve been trying different books out on Joey, but kept striking out—he wailed through many a board book—until I tried Strange But True Baseball Stories. Maybe he can tell that I’m interested, or maybe he’s just eager for tales from America’s pastime, but finally I am reading him something that he enjoys.

My husband is working a really ghastly schedule for the next few days (nine p.m. to six a.m.), so our Valentine’s Day is going to be distinctly subdued. We usually exchange small gifts and try to eat out; this year I am making a secret pie, hoping to make up for the fact that we won’t be going out for the foreseeable future.

Dawn’s call for discussions of Christian privilege have got me thinking; I’d love to write about that, but between the baby and the sick and the goldurned laptop, it’s hard to find the time. But maybe I should make it a priority.

Big C/Small C

How do you raise Catholic kids? More specifically, how do you raise good little liberal, feminist, openhearted, practicing-Catholic kids? My church is a good start: every week, they pray for a world in which no person is considered illegal, world peace, success in reaching out to “those alienated by the institution,” and a host of other good things; they last week asked for input from parishioners as to how they can be more involved in LGBT issues, because while they always march in the Pride parade, that simply isn’t enough; much of their resources are dedicated to helping those in poverty; there are little altar boys and altar girls. But I don’t really know how to have a Catholic home—no one in my family is Catholic. I converted in high school. I really like the idea of cultural Catholicism, but don’t really know enough to pull it off at the moment. This was all brought home when I was talking to Kate and Hank, Joey’s godparents, about his upcoming baptism; Hank is a lapsed Catholic, and was telling Kate that they’d need to get a candle and a cloth. She asked me about this, and I had to tell her that I have no earthly idea—my RCIA class didn’t cover anything to do with children.

I’m now reading a couple of books about having a Catholic home and raising Catholic children, and picking out what I’d like to do and what I’m not so much interested in. One of the books has an uncomfortable emphasis on being really loudly Catholic in order, apparently, to shame your neighbors into greater heights of Catholicism. Since all I know about our neighbors is that they have two dogs and smoke weed every day, this would probably be a wasted effort even if I was interested (I am not). I remember way back in the day, probably while I was pregnant with Cricket, talking to Mr. Book about future kids and religious practice. Mr. Book is agnostic, and while he says that he may very well end up Catholic at some point down the line, neither of us is too terribly bothered about that. I made sure that he was okay with my raising kids Catholic before we got engaged, and that more or less settled the issue for us.

What will my Catholic household look like? I don’t think I want a statue of Mary in the living room; I do like the idea of pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. I want to be visibly and joyfully Catholic without making my husband feel shut out or oppressed. He doesn’t seem worried at all, but it makes sense to me that it would be my job to worry about this. He found out yesterday that his job is changing (this is a good thing), and that he won’t be working Sundays anymore—“So I’ll be able to go to church with you!” he said.

I remember way back in the day when we had a conversation that started when I lamented having to field the “So you think I’m going to hell?” conversation with friends, which, sad irony, led to our having that conversation. I remember that my parents were very worried about my dating an “unbeliever,” and I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach that I realized that he was asking that question: my response went on and on and on, but highlights include “I have no idea whether or how people end up in hell, and I think that spending time making bets with myself about it is super inappropriate and unchristian” after the initial “What? No! No!” I’ve heard that bit about not yoking oneself to an unbeliever over and over again, and I’ve never been a fan of Paul, but I did wonder whether and how it could work out. Certainly we’ve had points of conflict in our relationship (my tendency to WIG OUT and get panicky and mean while trying to get ready for company being a big one), but religion hasn’t been one. There’s mutual respect, and when last year he said that he thought he would like to believe in God, I managed to remain cool and not grill him about it. This is big for me, a natural nagger. Now that I’m turning up the “green food on Maundy Thursday” aspect of the thing, I think we’ll still be good—he seems interested and unconcerned—but you get to watch me brood about it.

Fizzle

We’re having some tech problems over here—the laptop is busted, but should be fixed soon (God bless extended service plans!). In the meantime, I’m mostly ‘net free. Hope to be back soon!