Oh, My Baby, My Baby

I was just listening to the radio; a scientist was explaining the ways in which trauma leaves black, greasy fingerprints all over a person’s mind and body. She was listing off differences between the traumatized and the neurotypical on and on and on, and I was slumping down in my seat, looking out the window, thinking about Cricket.

Much progress has been made in repairing my emotional connections to these local boys. It didn’t take too awfully long to repair things with Joey, since we were securely attached going into my depression—but Kit and I had barely begun, and so it took some time. He spent some time critically undernicknamed, although we’ve made some progress on that front; he looks remarkably like a baby Bing Crosby, so we often call the kids Toot and Bing (Joey’s been our Toot since he wasn’t yet crawling). It hasn’t hurt, of course, that Kit has been sleeping better and looking better and growing into quite the little cheerful bug since I got my diet straightened out. I’m not ready to call myself recovered, but I’m in a better place, and you can tell it just by looking at my twosome.

I want to thank someone for her advice—I believe it was Gretchen—because telling me to ask Joey whether he wants to be my baby or my big boy was such an excellent tip. He chooses baby every single time so far, but seems comforted when I rock him in my arms and put him into the Moses basket, all the while saying things like “Oh, my baby, my baby! Do you want to lie down, baby Joey?” He’s had a long, rough stretch, but the last few days have been easier, and I’m hoping that he’s turning a corner to greater competence, confidence, and joy.

We’re into the time of year when we have an excuse to send things to Cricket at least once a month: Halloween card, Thanksgiving card, Birthday gift, Christmas gift. All of these things are in my closet, ready to be written or wrapped and sent. I don’t really know how he’s doing—Ruth has been posting on Facebook more often than usual, but not about him. Even if everything’s going well, we won’t see him again until next year . . . and of course the Mister and I don’t think that we will see him next year, or for years. That may very well be unfair, but the pullback from his parents has been steady, and now that he’s old enough to say hello on the phone or dictate a card, those things are completely out of the question. I’m knitting a sweater that would be the right size for him next year (and the yarn is a green called “Cricket”), but I haven’t mentally committed to sending it. Maybe none of this is new information. I’m just letting words dribble straight out of my brain and down my arm.

I don’t know whether it’s SAD, but this last third of the year has been bad for me for as long as I’ve been paying attention, since long before I lost a son in December. I’m turning thirty in a few days, but it doesn’t feel like much of a milestone—I’ve been telling people that I’m thirty for about a year and a half to save time. But my family seems minded to celebrate, and I am very touched. We’ll take the kids out to dinner the night before and eat breakfast together the day of. I will try to get pictures so that I can share them here, so that you can see how lucky I am in my family.

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A Rundown

  • Part of my problem with PPD is that as I start to better, I give more to the kids—I started to feel better, I got warmer and more active with the kids, and then I stopped feeling better. I’m overspending emotionally, I think. But shoot, that’s my job, right? I’m not seeing a perfect solution here.
  • Mr. Book was deeply skeptical that it was actually my going dairyless that had helped our Kit, despite the fact that he had his best week so far while he had a cold starting when I had cut out the milk etc. a few days before—but yesterday Kit got a bottle of milk expressed and frozen this summer (oops) and then spat up all day and couldn’t sleep for about twelve hours. So that was a lousy mistake, but it has convinced the Mister that it really was the dairy in my diet making Kit’s life so difficult. And don’t worry, I’ve started pumping new milk and am looking for someone who might want the freezerful of dairyful milk for his or her baby. Kit only gets a bottle maybe twice a week, when I’m out either grocery shopping or taking a little personal time (…to work), but I’m going to build up a stockpile of milk all over again.
  • Have I mentioned that Mr. Book has a job now? Because he does! It is a crappy retail job, but after a year of looking, it’s nice to have even a small check coming in at predictable intervals. This is especially handy since we’re switching Joey back to paper diapers 100 percent of the time; he just pees so much now that even if I change his (cloth) diaper once an hour, he’s soaked and getting rashy at least a couple of those times every day. He can tell when he’s wet, but won’t tell us anymore, because he doesn’t want a diaper change. I think we’ll go back to cloth diapers once we’re trying to toilet train him, if they still fit, but right now I just can’t see buying a whole new stash of bigger diapers and raw silk liner and so forth. Paper diapers are happening, and I barely feel bad about it.
  • Joey has been really affectionate with Kit these last few days, despite having a brutal head The other day, he was sort of swooping at Kit and brushing the baby’s face with the top of his head—it took me awhile to realize that he was giving his brother kisses. (If you ask Joey for a kiss, he will offer you the top of his head. He hasn’t quite worked out this kiss thing.) Today he was wrestling with him incredibly gently, curling up with him, and smiling at the baby who was smiling back. I’m carefully not assuming that this is a permanent change, but I’m grateful for the change in weather. They’re both just sweet as anything, so I do hope that long-term they’ll love and be loving with each other.
  • I guess that most parents say their kids are sweet. And I don’t really know the oldest one very well, and his mothering mother seems to feel that he is not sweet. But the two I know are genuinely laid back and affectionate kids. Joey, even in the grips of toddler freakout, still shows signs of the person he was before and hopefully will be again; he sobs and shouts no and runs away, but even when he is very angry, he doesn’t hit anymore. (I know, this could change, but he doesn’t and hasn’t for some time, and I’m very appreciative.) When he was much smaller and did start hitting, I would tell him that while he could not hit people, he could clap his hands together if he felt like he needed to express his anger with his hands—and sure enough, when he’s mad, he will usually give a single angry clap. It’s weirdly adorable.
  • No word at all on the adoption front. The picture I posted some time ago I got after I texted a Kit picture to Ruth at random—had not done that before and haven’t since—and she replied with a picture and “more soon.” Would that it were so. Mr. Book and I are pretty angry about adoption stuff for the last . . . several months, now that I come to count back. Oh, well.
  • I want to end on a positive note, so: Kit likes it if you rub his belly. Just like a gator!

Miraculous

I emailed a friend a list of Kit’s symptoms, then kind of freaked out about the length of the list, and took the list to some moms I know—they suggested that I try cutting dairy out of my diet, I did, and Kit is a whole new baby. Seriously, he’s almost unrecognizable: cheery and mellow and sleeping. Not sleeping through the night, of course; I think that would take some kind of black magic. But I’d swear he’s even a healthier color. Family members have remarked on how much more comfortable and happy he seems.

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten better as he has. I’m muddling along, but it’s harder than it ought to be. Some of that is just that these two are growing, and every time Joey hits a new developmental phase, I start thinking about what it would be like if all three boys were together here. Pointless, sure, but I’m pretty lousy at avoiding it. Joey climbed out of his crib, and suddenly I’m extra introspective and sad.

One of the first things that I tried was cooking—I’ve been cooking all along, of course, but the meals got more elaborate, and I started baking again. I’ve liked to cook forever. My family has seen me fighting depression—mixing up bundt cakes at 3 a.m.—before. And while it didn’t really fix anything, it could me a small time of feeling okay; yesterday, while the boys were asleep, I made cookies. It was weirdly peaceful. And then there were cookies. I don’t quite understand how Joey has been able to figure out what makes something a cookie, but he can identify new cookies on sight, no problem—he can also get at any cookies left on the kitchen counter.

After I talked to my husband and parents, we developed a slightly more well-rounded plan. My mother had postpartum depression after her second daughter, Tammy, was born—she told me that I need to get time away by myself every week, and that Mr. Book and I should get a date out alone together every other week. We’re trying to make space for me to get a little more sleep. And I’m trying harder with the baby—I know that if I need to fake it, I will, and he has responded positively to my pushing myself to be more outgoing and smiley with him. My mother took me out to dinner; she brought me a rose. And knowing that I will have a little time of my own each week keeps me from feeling quite so trapped.
We’ve tried a number of things with Kit: off the top of my head, pacifiers, swaddling, babywearing (four different carriers!), a swing, have Mr. Book put him to bed, altering my diet, white noise, different sleeping positions, showering together, music, and this complicated nursing maneuver that I can’t really describe. Some things help sometimes. I will ask about sensory issues when we see the pediatrician next month—I don’t think that that’s the problem, but how would I know? It can’t hurt to ask. Aside from hating to be worn, Joey as a a tiny baby was very similar (although Kit’s lows are slightly lower and his highs are higher)—but since I didn’t have a toddler, I really could just curl up with him almost whenever he wanted and stay there. Kit also seems very frustrated by his limitations in a way that seems perfectly logical to me; he inchworm crawled across our bed a couple of times this weekend and seemed very pleased with himself thereafter. When he’s cheery, he is exceptionally jolly and delightful; when he’s unhappy, he immediately starts screaming louder than any baby I’ve ever heard. Even the nurses at the hospital commented on it. And he’ll scream for hours. There are worse things than having a strong personality, I guess—not being able to really control your arms, for example. I have some sympathy for his position, is what I’m saying.

Part of what I’ve done to help myself is to wean Joey. Every day he was weeping about nursing—because I have to turn him down sometimes, especially as he wants most to nurse when I am most involved in caring for Kit. It’s been rough. I offer him alternatives when I turn him down (milk in a cup? a hug? a story?) and he wails “No, no!” and throws himself to the ground or runs away (but never too far).

This morning, Joey wanted me to put on his favorite song—but I didn’t have the cd handy, and I was nursing Kit. So I just sang it, with lots of “Na na na na” and so forth for the instrumental parts (it’s “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend, if you’re curious). I have no kind of voice at all, and the attempt felt pretty lame until I saw both boys smiling up at me and heard Joey laughing and asking for more.