Once Upon a Time

My next assignment is to write the story in a style suitable for Joey—and Cricket, she says, throwing me into a mild panic. This isn’t a story I’ll tell him; it’s a story his moms will tell him. Shut up, shut up. Oh, how I hate the knowing smiles any therapist will give you in this sort of situation.

I likely will try to turn this into an actual book for my snerkleberry, so I welcome feedback; I know how likely it is that I am inadvertently being creepy and or scary. I am looking to convey three things, primarily: Why Cricket was placed, minus inappropriately gruesome details; Ruth and Nora are his parents, and we are your parents, and you are brothers; this will never, ever happen to you.

Anyway. Once upon a time—

Before you were born—long before you were born—your mama found out that she was going to have a baby. And she was scared. She had never had a baby, and didn’t think that she ever would, and she didn’t know what to do.

She talked to your daddy, and they decided that they needed to find someone who had been waiting for a baby for a long time: someone who was ready.

Your mama and daddy loved that baby, even before he was born, but they didn’t think that they would be able to give him all the things that someone else could. So they looked and they found your Tante Ruth and Tante Nora, who had been waiting and hoping for a baby for a long time, but couldn’t have a baby by themselves.

When that baby was born, he stayed with your mama and daddy for one day, and then he went to be Tante Ruth and Tante Nora’s son; your mama was his mama for a day, but Ruth and Nora are his mamas forever, because they adopted him. They named him Cricket.

After Cricket was gone, your mama and daddy’s hearts were broken. They were so sad to lose him that they wished he had stayed with them forever instead of being adopted. But Cricket was happy with his new mamas, and his mamas loved him more than anything in the world.

When Cricket was still a very little boy, your mama found out that she was going to have another baby, and she was overjoyed. That baby was you! And your mama couldn’t wait to meet you. When you were born, your mama held you in her arms and your daddy sang to you. They are your parents forever, no matter what, and they love you more than anything in the world.

Even though Cricket doesn’t live with you, he and Tante Ruth and Tante Nora are part of your family, like Oma and Granddad—Cricket is your brother.

Your mama and daddy still miss Cricket, and they wish he could live here. Sometimes they wonder about what that would be like.

You are your mama and daddy’s little Pete, and they are happy as clams to have you as their son. They feel so lucky to have you, and they will be yours forever, no matter what.

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Day and Night

Joey had fallen into a pretty regular sleep pattern until this bout of teething started; he’d go to bed about 7 or 7:30, wake up an hour later but settle quickly if tended to, wake up around midnight to nurse, and then sleep until 8 or 9 a.m. Then a nap around 10 or 11, which would last about 3 hours if I napped with him, and another short nap or two on his own in the afternoon. I don’t know how typical it is, but it worked pretty well for us.

And then the teething started.

The Booklet is a sweet and obliging baby, which means that I am uncomfortably aware of how miserable he must be to be so whinging and droopy all the time. He is drooling like mad, gnawing like a creature possessed, and sleeping poorly. After Saturday night, when he woke up crying every half hour (he usually doesn’t cry when he wakes in the night unless no one offers him a breast in a timely fashion) all night long, I broke down and started giving him pain medicine before bed, which has helped. We have baby chew toys, crackers, and a teether that lives in the freezer when Joey isn’t smashing it against his gums. We have a soft-tipped sippy cup that I fill with ice water. I’m also nursing him for hours-long stretches, a few minutes at a time; apparently he wants to nurse because his mouth hurts, but the act of nursing causes blood to rush to his mouth—which hurts—so he pulls away, but then his mouth hurts so he wants to nurse. . . .  When I met with the therapist, she was surprised by how subdued he was.

I’ve had any number of kindly people tell me that it’s time to put him into the crib so that he can learn independence, and since I think that a six-month-old cannot be independent in any meaningful sense, I smile and ignore the advice. Now that he’s so unhappy, I’m especially glad to be cosleeping; I can let him sleep in my arms, and that seems to help, and I would do anything to help. But even when he’s at his best, I’m happy about the way that bedsharing has gone. Sure, I get kicked sometimes, and I still am not quite sure what to do with my arms—but it’s reassuring to be able to drift off while watching him breathe, and I never have to get out of bed for a midnight feeding. Mr. Book and I have talked recently about when we’ll move him into his own space, and we’re thinking that probably at the end of the year we’ll start moving him—and I’m sure that it will be an ordeal, and we might put it off awhile longer. But right now I can’t really imagine putting him to sleep on his own. He’ll get there eventually. We have time.

In the meantime, I am soliciting advice on what to do about teething; he’s so unhappy, and I can help so little. I’ve heard that baby orajel is not a good idea: true or false? Should I be going totally drug-free? Icing my nipples before I nurse him?

Wears Joey

I think I’m going to write a series of posts about my parenting experiences so far. This may be extremely boring to read, but I want to have it written down where I can get at it later, so the blog it is.

Babywearing has really gone according to plan: lucky me. When I was pregnant, I hedged—we hope not to use a stroller, we plan not to use a stroller but know that blah blah—because I know what happens to the best-laid plans of expectant parents, and was fully prepared for my snerks-wearing dreams to gang agley. On the other hand, I had a number of baby carriers and no stroller, so clearly I had hope. And in fact, for at least these first six months, it’s been great. When he was just a little raisin, I used the moby wrap that luna gave us; when he was a little bigger, I used the Ergo that Molly gave us; and now that he’s past the six-month mark, I use the Ergo if I need to haul groceries or suchlike and the ring sling Sarah gave us otherwise. He loves being able to sit on my hip and look around, but misses, I think, being cuddled against my breasts when he’s tired.

You may have noticed that all three of the carriers we’ve used were gifts; we’ve been extraordinarily blessed in that regard. I have a mei tai that I bought before we got any such gifts, and I haven’t used it yet. (We also have a couple of woven gifted wraps that I’m a bit intimidated by.) We still don’t have a stroller, and while I recently, idly, read some reviews of cheapish strollers, I don’t think we need one, honestly—perhaps when he’s older. But he’s nineteen pounds now and that isn’t any trouble, and my mother has assured me that he won’t grow nearly so fast during the second half of this year. I’m not terribly clear on when exactly kids stop needing strollers and start walking alongside one, smirky blogs aside, but I can imagine wearing him up to about forty pounds, since I am regularly carrying more weight than that (see: groceries + baby).

The ring sling still makes me nervous; I can see clearly in my mind’s eye the ring suddenly letting slip the fabric, the baby starting to fall. But the little bug is awfully snug therein so far, and I suspect that I will start to relax in a few more weeks. And oh, it is beautiful.

Taken after we got home from the co-op, with the baby crashed out. It wasn't covering his face all day, I swear!

Counting

I’m bad at anniversaries. I’m pretty good with birthdays, I think—I put them on a calendar and then make a fuss on the day—but to tell you the truth, I don’t know the real day of my anniversary with Mr. Book. I know when we got legally married, I know when the wedding was, and I sort of know when we became a couple . . . but not the date. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving in 2002. We’ve never really celebrated it or any other anniversary, but this year we’re planning on going out to dinner (a day late) for the wedding one, and I got him a card. So.

Two years ago today I stood in my parents’ backyard and was married by one of my sisters. Best decision I ever made. I’m pretty critically short on sleep right now (p. sure this is teething), but not too short to give my husband fond looks and talk him up on the internet. He’s a peach, and I’m a lucky woman.

I Dream of Snerkleberries

Wednesday was my mom’s day out, the first time in months that I was to go out by myself. It was a beautiful day, the kind that makes it obvious why we’re willing to sit through eight months of rain to get to it: sunny, warm without being hot, and breezy. I went downtown for two-ish hours, but then I had to go back home and coax the lads to join me—it was too nice of a day to spend it alone.

The two of us adults got vegan barbeque—and we got to share with Joey, a bit, which he was pretty happy about—and then walked to the library. At that point, Mr. Book left us to study out of an LSAT prep book for a couple of hours while the Snerks and I wandered around. He fell asleep in the Ergo and so I marched around and around, through much of the downtown. When he woke up, we stopped at a fountain, where he was petted by a gaggle of cooing preschool kids. I’ve discovered that kids who have not been taught how to deal with babies tend to ignore Joey, whereas kids who’ve gotten talks about gentle touches seem unfailingly to come carefully stroke him or occasionally—adorably—kiss the back of his head. Joey seemed quite pleased by all the attention. The two of us rode the train for a few blocks back and forth, went to the library ourselves to read children’s books. I held him up to picture book displays and read whatever he lunged at; apparently the noises that Mother Bear makes in Blueberries for Sal are just hilarious. When the library closed, the three of us met up out front, and then caught a bus back home. Whenever we were all together, Joey was smiling and laughing at his pop. If there’s some smitten in the air at casa Book, it’s infected us all.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook memoir by someone who seems like a pretty unhappy parent of a little kid, and I’m having a hard time empathizing with him. Do I enjoy a cup of coffee with myself every once in awhile? Sure. Do I sometimes wish that I could go to a movie? You bet. But honestly, even on the bad days, I feel pretty lucky. Who knows how much of that is losing Cricket, how much is the sweet temper of the Snerks, and how much is just me liking this mom thing. But when the baby wakes me up from a dream of being kicked in the chest by kicking me in the chest repeatedly and smiling to see me goggle groggily at him, I’m glad to see him.

the type of memories that turn your bones to glass

That therapist has encouraged me to write out the story of the placement again, in part to prepare me to tell a baby-appropriate version to Joey, and in part (I suspect) because as I get farther away from it, it changes a bit. So I’m going to put that right here.

The farther I get away from the placement, the harder it is for me to come up with my reasons. So many of them seem so stupid now. The ones that stick with me, that still resonate—and that were the biggies at the time—are these:

  • Money. I didn’t have any work, and my partner was only working part-time. We would have had the support of my family or his, but I liked the idea of giving Cricket a home that didn’t worry about money. That’s not as important to me now, but I do have to admit that I don’t know whether we’d be in Stumptown right now if we’d parented; heck, we’d probably be in central Missouri, which really isn’t where we’d like to be or where we want to raise kids. I can’t totally erase this one—but it doesn’t seem sufficient when I look at it now.
  • Mr. Book. Two parts to this one: I thought that he didn’t want to parent (turns out I just wasn’t listening to him), and I didn’t want us to parent a kid whom one of us had wanted to abort. I’m still not comfortable with that, although I’m sure that there are plenty of loved and happy little kids out there whose parents had a talk about their options when they saw two lines, and there’s no reason that the kiddo would ever have had to know. But it still niggles at me, honestly.
  • Me. Of course, me. There’s still a part of me that suspects that there’s no greater gift I could give a child than to send him away from me. Some of this I’ve been able to resolve in therapy; I had to talk about my childhood, yawn. But I did end up persuaded that I could be a competent parent, and at least so far I believe that I am, so that’s a good thing.

Anyway. I got pregnant early in the spring of 2008, while I was in a long-distance the relationship with the bachelor Book. We’d been dating for five and a half years at that point, so the long-distance thing didn’t seem so crazy. I was four and a half hours away from him, and one week out of the month, I’d go stay with him. One month I got pregnant, the next month I was weirdly sick. I threw up when I was about to leave for the visit, I threw up when I was at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and I drank about half a gallon of milk a day. Weird stuff. Only as I was headed home did I decide that I should maybe buy a pregnancy test and see how it went. It didn’t go the way I was hoping.

At first, I hoped that I was going to be a mom. I was excited. I talked to the bachelor Book, and he told me that while he would support any decision I made, he voted abortion. I had always assumed that I would have an abortion if I got unexpectedly pregnant—but then, I had also assumed that I’d never get pregnant. I told the bachelor Book that I couldn’t do it; he continued to vote abortion pretty frequently until it was no longer legal. I decided that the only real solution would be adoption, and stayed pretty fixated on that despite the fact that Mr. Book now says that his preferred order of options would have been (1) abortion, (2) parenting, (3) adoption.

I had read Dan Savage’s The Kid, so I emailed the adoption agency of which he spoke so highly. Until I heard back from them, I looked at the adoptive parent profiles on their site and made a tentative top three list. My partner did the same, and we had the same couple in the top spot. When OAFS got back to me, they told me that they couldn’t work with me because of my location, and pointed me toward another agency that apparently dominates open adoption in California. Halfway through the pregnancy, I moved to California with my family and started to talk with Ruth and Nora.

I didn’t think of the baby as mine, which made the pregnancy a bit easier. My logic then is distasteful to me now, but I can still see it clearly, if I look: Children are a gift. I clearly did not deserve such a gift, and anyway any kid deserved better than me, so this child must be a gift for someone else—and at the same time, the pregnancy was my punishment for something. At the same time, I couldn’t stop from claiming him in some little ways; I gave him nicknames, I played him music, and I took the best care of myself that I could. The agency checked in once a month to be sure that I was still going to place, and toward the end of my pregnancy, they tried to talk me out of nursing the baby or spending time with him. I also found out that some forms that I had been assured went only to the court had in fact been passed on to Ruth and Nora—a health history and so forth—and told the agency that while I was still placing, I wasn’t willing to talk to them outside of email, where I’d have a written record if they lied to me again. They told Ruth and Nora that I said I wasn’t sure about placing anymore. I don’t want to dwell on it too much right now, but they are bad people who treated all of us badly.

Ruth and Nora and I started to negotiate the terms of an adoption. They told me about their plans for parenting, which didn’t end up being the way they have parented, but I know that it just goes that way sometimes. They wanted to have visits, and so did I. I insisted that the bachelor Book be just as involved in the adoption as I was, and while he was politely ignored by them during the pregnancy, they agreed. They wanted me not to name the baby, and I refused. I told them that my partner and I wanted to be alone with the baby for a day before we gave him up, and they agreed. They visited me, and I visited them—and went to their baby shower. Some of their friends were pretty rude to me, and I found out later that most of their friends and family were convinced that I wouldn’t place. Not sure how that was supposed to help.

The week before I gave birth, I didn’t want to talk to Ruth and Nora. I still planned to place, but I didn’t want to talk to them. I started to feel very peculiar on Friday afternoon, and so Friday evening I took castor oil. Saturday morning, I was having regular contractions, but didn’t seem to be super close—so the bachelor Book called Ruth and Nora, they flew down, and we drove down to the motel where we’d be spending our only alone time with the baby. I was in labor on and on and on, and I couldn’t sleep, and finally on Monday morning a midwife broke my water at the birthing center. After that, I pushed for forty-five minutes and Cricket was born. I am terribly glad that I wasn’t giving birth in a hospital, since there’s no way I would have been allowed to labor for so long—and yet the baby and I were fine, if tired—his Apgars were 9/10, and we left the birthing center within two hours of his birth, after Ruth and Nora held him and took some pictures.

After that, my baby, my partner, and I spent a night and a morning together. I nursed him, my mother came to meet him (and bring us some food, bless her), and while I had planned to stay up all night, after a few days of laboring without sleep,  I did pass out for a few hours while my partner held his son. When I woke up, he was talking to him about the Kinks. Around noon, we took him to his moms-to-be and handed him over. That night, I sat in the shower and sobbed (“I lost my son, I lost my son, I lost my son”) until the bachelor Book banged on the door to see whether I was okay. Not so much.

It’s official: Mr. Book is now more interested in having another child than I am. While I’ve been thinking a lot about how happy I am with Joey, and how maybe that means that I should be done, the Mister has been saying things like “when you hit a home run” you don’t just quit there, and about how handy it will be if/when we’re in California (looking very much like “when”) to have my parents to help with a new baby. I was pretty startled by his change of heart (from lukewarm to deeply enthusiastic), but perhaps I shouldn’t have been; when Joey was smaller than he is now, the Mister admitted to me that he’d had a pretty accurate idea of how hard it would be to parent a newborn, but that he hadn’t realized that it would be good, too.

And it is good. I try not to gush too much here, but I’m so happy with Joey that I could spit, and his dad is over the moon. We are both very lucky, and hyper aware of our luck in a way that we might not have been had Joey been our firstborn. So here’s a gushy list:

I know that words spoken without real comprehension don’t count, and that this one doesn’t count. BUT. I’ve been reading Watership Down to Joey, and the other day he said “El-ahrairah,” clear as day. He has a mobile of rabbits, all of whom are named after Watership Down characters, and one of them is El-ahrairah (the others, if you wondered, being Bigwig, Bluebell, Blackberry, and Dandelion)—so it’s a name he’s hearing on a semi-regular basis. I know it doesn’t count . . . but I want it to.

Sticking out his tongue and blowing raspberries have been his proudest recent achievements. Joey likes nothing better than to be able to stand (he needs us for balance, but supports his own weight) and give you a big, toothless grin before performing one or both of these tricks.

Some time ago, I got Joey a big stuffed horse that I wanted very much for him to like—so I decided that he wouldn’t like it and just put it away. We pulled it out a couple of weeks ago, and he appears to be in love with the plush creature, whom we have named Clancy.

Still no crawling. Joey just doesn’t want to crawl; he wants to walk. He wants to do just about every thing that he sees us do, although he seems comfortable doing things he enjoys that we definitely do not do (e.g., wrassling Clancy). I am totally okay with this, and don’t think I care if he never crawls.

I’ve been feeding him solid food for a few weeks now. I have a some guilt about it, since I’ve got this idea that the really good parents wait until at least six months (based mostly on one woman I know on the internet whose daughter at thirteen months still eats essentially no solid food), but it had gotten to the point where Joey was nursing every hour and seemingly discontented even though I have milk to spare and he was clearly getting plenty of it—so we tried some solid food, he took to it like a duck to water, and now he’s back to nursing only every couple of hours. Which is I guess still a lot, but I’m fine with it.

I got a call on the day before Mother’s Day, and Cricket wished me a “Happy Birthday Mother’s Day,” which is a sentiment I like better than the one he was actually coached to deliver. I also got Mother’s Day cards from my parents and my sister Kate, and my sister Tammy sent me a book. Buncha sweet people in my life.

Joey can lie now, sort of. He sometimes wants to get in position to nurse and then blow/hum against the nipple, making an apparently hilarious “burr, burr, burr” noise. After several minutes of this one afternoon, I closed up my blouse and announced that we were done. Joey tried making milkface at me: “No, mama, I need to nurse!” I tried again: “burr, burr, burr.” I made the “all done” sign and closed up shop again—then more milkface. When I told him that I wasn’t going for it, he tried his recent variation, solid food face. I think you can guess how that one went.