Sugar Beet

I’m still here. I’ve been somewhat hesitant to post about Joey just so that there’s some kind of big, impressive birthday post to write—but that post will probably be all pictures and sniffling from me, so let me tell you what he’s like these days.

He can stand on his own, but won’t do it on purpose—and when he realizes that he is standing unsupported, immediately sits down or grabs something to hang on to. He is not interested in walking by himself, but at the same time, he keeps coming up against the limits of what cruising can do for him and getting frustrated. He climbs down and up—down more easily than up—boldly, and his favorite maneuver is to climb down the side of the futon and then get stuck in the magazine rack.

I had assumed that there would be one discreet first word that I’d be able to point to, but instead wordish things have grown into words, and now he regularly uses appropriately rather a number of words: up, down, all done (“ah dun”), mama, daddy, granddad (“dadad”), night-night (nigh-nigh), moon, that (“dat”), and no. He’ll also echo things that we say: yesterday he and the Mister were going back and forth with “Hot stuff!” “Ho’ ‘tuff!” He also chatters in the right sort of cadence for English, and has started incorporating the words he knows into the toddlerese: apparently wondering where his granddad was, he asked me “Ha ba dun dun dun aya Dadad?” Ready for a nap, he berated me with “Abba bara ah ba ba ara nigh-nigh!” Clearly, he thinks that he is talking. And he’s not far wrong, anymore.

I’m still enjoying him—so much, right off the charts. He’s eating more and more human food; we feed him every two hours or so while he’s awake, and he is more and more eating a good portion of food at those times. He always wants whatever we’re eating, even when he doesn’t like it. I was eating a bagel with raw tomato and onion on top of it the other day, and Joey demanded a bite, spat it out, poked and glared at it, and then demanded another bite.

He’s still so sweet-natured that I can’t imagine what I did to deserve him. Oh, sure, he gets cranky when he’s tired and throws tantrums when I won’t walk him around and around and around, but he also gives kisses and smiles at everyone and loves to wave and clap and see us respond. Joey also likes to listen to music and dance or to play the piano and sing. He loves to go outside, and to go for walks; we’re lucky to be in such a mild climate, I guess. He started to say moon on evening walks, reaching up as far as he could and signing <want> <want> <want>.

Joey’s godmother and an uncle are coming into town in time for his birthday, and we’re going to have a little party. We got our birthday present for him when he was born, since I am weird about this sort of thing—recently I was given a gift card and bought his birthday present for next year. Of course, after that I’ll have to wait and see what he wants! But for now, I think we can make pretty good guesses as to the things he would like: this year, a ride-on fire engine toy (next year, a play kitchen). Okay, both Christmases are both mostly in my closet as well. I think this is a result of placing Cricket, and of telling myself that I obviously couldn’t keep him because I didn’t have baby stuff; I now badly want to have whatever baby/toddler stuff a little Snerkleberry might like to have. I know that good parenting isn’t about stuff, and I’ve certainly seen my son ignore toys in favor of Tupperware containers and empty boxes, but I can’t quite shake this desire to be materially prepared. But I’m working on it.

Old Duffer

Thanks so much for the congratulations, everyone—I am greatly honored and touched. And expressing that in a stilted fashion, I guess.

Well, I started offering Joey solid food sometimes when he’d try to nurse—and now he’s eating tons and full of beans, so I feel pretty good about that decision. He’s also high-fiving and clapping like a champ, and saying “ah duh” when he’s all done more than half of the time when it would be appropriate. On the other hand, he’s teething something fierce again; I thought that four teeth were plenty, but I guess he’s got plans of his own. Twice yesterday, Joey tried to nurse, pulled away screaming and jammed his hand into his mouth, and then repeated that process until I got the poor child some Tylenol. He’s also waking up at night (3 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 a.m. on Wednesday, 11:30 p.m.  . . . and 3 a.m. . . . on Thursday), which is awful, but he’s got so much brain and mouth stuff going on that I suppose it’s no wonder. He’s nowhere near walking, I think—he’ll cruise, but it seems to scare him a bit—but I’m certainly in no hurry to have to chase after him.

I’ve decided that (if, God willing, this pregnancy gives me a healthy child—if I ever forget to write that, please never doubt that I’m thinking the if) this baby will be a boy. You see, during each of my three pregnancies, I consulted an online Chinese gender prediction chart: it told me that Cricket that would be a girl; it confirmed that Joey would be a girl; and now I am assured that this little possum is a girl. I mean, the thing is practically infallible. If he’s a boy, he’ll be named after an animal in real life, so I’ll have to be extra clever with a blog moniker. Well, there’s time for that yet.

—And now I’m distracted by trying to imagine what anyone reading would guess after that. Husky Dale Book? Ursa Tremulo Book?

Mr. Book thinks that I should tell you that “hair is in the air.” We cut Joey’s hair, and then I cut all of my hair off, more or less, something I’ve been telling people I’d do when I got pregnant again since I was pregnant with Joey. I put up a blurry shot of my hair on Facebook and Ruth was the first one to “Like” it, leaving me paranoid about whether I ever mentioned that “when I get pregnant again” thing to her. I also posted a picture of Joey in which I commented on how shaggy he’d gotten, and on the fact that we pulled out the clippers after the snapshot was taken—minutes (it turns out) after Nora posted a picture of her long-haired boy. So: hair is in the air.

Up the Duff

For a few days now, my gums have been bleeding when I brush my teeth. I told Mr. Book that I thought I had scurvy. That’s something I’ve experienced before—er, bleeding gums, not scurvy—but only under a particular set of circumstances, so I considered the way I’ve been feeling overall and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough: I am pregnant!

I’m surprised, but pleased; I will worry intensely about miscarriage for awhile, but if all goes well, we will have a baby in May or June. As with my last pregnancy, while we’re not telling the world at large (my parents, the Mister’s mom, and Kate), I will want to talk about a miscarriage here if it happens, so I might as well blurt the good news out at six weeks(ish. This is just my best guess). Honestly, I’m not so much excited yet as boggled; yes, I know where babies come from, but I was genuinely surprised to see the second line on that test. Heck, I have kept it around and keep pulling it out to look at: yup, still pregnant. I don’t know why I was so surprised—bleeding gums, nausea, tender nipples, fatigue—I decided that I had scurvy and mono, which while an unconventional choice, doesn’t really seem like the most obvious answer.

Mr. Book says that if this one turns out as great as Joey, we have to have another.

I feel a little weird about my fertility. I think this is an artifact of birthmotherhood. For one thing, my internet world is filled with really amazing ladies who had to put a lot more time and money into family building than Jenny Fecundity over here. And for another thing, of course, I am a birthparent because of that fertility. There’s some cultural problem bound up with that in my head: that my fertility is the slutty kind, and that the kind you have to work at is not. Certainly having kids eighteen months apart adds volume to that self-critical voice—even though that’s what I wanted, thinking that kids close together will mean staying in baby mode and then moving out rather than having to switch back and forth, choosing a really rough year and hoping for sibling closeness. Of course, that voice is not only in my head: When I told my mother that we’re expecting, she immediately asked about our future contraception plans (condoms and then a vasectomy, for the curious). My mother has made it clear in past conversations that she’s ready and eager for another grandchild—but her first response was not that.

At any rate, despite the weirdness of my brain and self-image, this is good news. I’m drinking tons of water and touching my stomach and smiling.

Baby Jail

Joey rolled out of bed (while napping on his own) twice in a week: time to move to the crib, clearly, especially when you add the fact that Mr. Book is ready to be done with cosleeping. The Mister spends a couple nights per week on the futon now, trying to escape the kicking baby. And he does kick—I have tiny bruises scattered across my body, including a now-faded perfect set of toe prints on my thigh. So, okay, it makes some sense to have him start sleeping on his own.

Or maybe not.

After two nights, I gave up and made some changes in our bedroom setup that that make it less likely that Joey will roll out of bed—and safer if he does. Those two nights were brutal; if we checked on him frequently, if we gave him more time on his own, if he had a nightlight or no light, Joey screamed and screamed. Finally, when I went to check on him and found him crying so hard that he was shaking, I pulled him out of the crib and started moving furniture in our bedroom. “You’re acting crazy!” said Mr. Book. “I am having a hormonal problem,” I replied—or agreed, maybe. Joey was a little extra on edge for the next twelve hours or so, screaming immediately when he woke instead of rooting or chatting as he normally would, but he has now settled back into normal sleeping habits. Mr. Book says that we can move him in November; I give him worried, mutinous looks. He points out that we both slept in cribs; I point out that neither of us had happy childhoods. He suggests that this is not a result of sleeping alone; I agree, but say that we’re hardly arguments in favor, either.

We’re not fighting, but we don’t agree. I am happy to have a slightly lousy night’s sleep if it means waking up with a cheerful, well-rested baby; Mr. Book is more focused on the fact that sleeping without the baby is much more comfortable, and that thousands of babies sleep well in cribs. I remember how, when he was a newborn, he didn’t start sleeping well until he slept in the bed with us. I am sure that he isn’t ready. But how can we tell? Before Joey was born, Mr. Book had voted that we cosleep for six months, and I proposed eighteen months—the sixth month is behind us now. We’ll have the conversation again in November, I guess.

The End of an Era

Joey has a tooth. I could feel it a few days before I could see it, which made me seem a bit mad when talking to other people (“It’s there, I know it!”). Now I can feel a second little ridge, which is faintly terrifying. Goodbye, gummy smiles. . . .

We’re in central Illinois at the moment; our frantic-feeling schedule of travel slows significantly after this week, but this week is a chance to see Joey’s godparents and a—I’m not sure what to call her—a courtesy aunt? Is that what they’re called? At any rate, a friend who is close enough that Joey will call her Tante Hazel. We cut his hair for the first time—it had started to look a bit like a comb-over up top. And overall we’re just enjoying the heat and the company. Stumptown has been remarkably wet and cool over the last few months, a result (your narrator assumes) of global weirding. Illinois is exactly as hot as late June ought to be.

His sleep has changed a lot—for the better. After the trip to Connecticut, which was several days of sleep catastrophe (oh, and there was a wedding in there somewhere), I decided to go with Mr. Book’s recommendation; put Joey down by himself to sleep. We now have a routine that involves nursing, a musical seahorse, and some cuddling, and he’s sleeping eighteen hours a day. He sleeps twelve hours at night and takes three naps during the day—after I leave the room, there is usually a couple of minutes of complaining—and then rock solid sleep. It is completely amazing. He still sleeps in our bed, and I just join him at night after he’s been alone there for several hours. Our bed is not on a frame, so it’s a short drop onto carpet if and when he decides to go seriously exploring, but so far he’s shown no inclination to leave the bed; this despite the fact that he rolls cheerfully across the room under other circumstances. I’m counting my blessings and keeping an eye out. I do feel guilty about putting him to bed by himself, but he seems to be thriving.

After writing that paragraph, I had the worst night yet of putting Joey to bed; I went back in once, patted his back and talked to him; I went in a second time, gave him some baby Tylenol, patted his back, talked to him; and then I went in a few minutes later, hearing that he was only growing more upset, and brought him out to join the grownups for dinner. And then, when I finally took him back to bed, he went peacefully—he cooed at me when I left. My mother would say that Joey successfully manipulated me into picking him up, but I just don’t buy it. Mr. Book says that he needs to learn to sleep on his own, but I want part of that to be learning that I will always be there if he needs me, and that what he feels is important. My mother keeps expressing the concern that I will be pushed around by my kids—I know that she sees parenting as a power struggle—and Lord knows that there will probably be some power struggles along the way. I know what toddlers are like. But I don’t want to think of our relationship as defined by that. Bed at 7 p.m. sharp is less important to me than the squishy stuff: you know, love.

Grownup Time

Since Joey was born, we have had sex by the Dan Savage definition, but not by the biblical knowingness yardstick—I haven’t done anything that could get me pregnant. Oh, sure, the baby is an excellent reason why not (I am always tired, and it doesn’t bother me the way that it used to, but it certainly has an effect), but he sleeps soundly for longish periods of time. People have done much more with much less, is my impression. So I circle back to the fact that I’ve avoided anything that could get me pregnant.

Our birth control method, post-childbirth, has been more or less nonexistent; I am breastfeeding, and attentive enough to my cervical mucus to be confident that I am not ovulating. We want to raise two kids (and how I am coming to hate the need to carefully phrase that one—I can’t just have like a normal person, I raise), and we want them to be close-ish together—I have an aunt who has three kids, each a couple of years apart, and never had a period until after her youngest was born. That sounds like a reasonable sort of model. Mr. Book has started to wonder what it might be like to have a daughter, my mother is excited about the idea of another grandchild, especially a girl, and I feel weirdly neutral about the idea right now. I do want another child, I know that I’ll love him or her just as much as I do Joey, and I want Joey to have a sibling; I heard a woman say recently that sibling relationships are the longest-lasting in a person’s life, and I had never thought of that, but it seems like a wonderful thing to me. And not to be excessively morbid, but my husband had no siblings around him when his father died, and when I try to imagine what it will be like when that happens to me, I can’t imagine getting through it without my sisters.

And. Joey and I are together almost his every waking hour, and most of the sleeping ones, too—much of the time, we’re alone together. And I love it. And I know that I’ll never have this again. Assuming we’re blessed with another child, that child will be loved and attended to and totally adored by me . . . but there will be Joey with us, needing a different kind of attention than the peaceful staring into each other’s eyes and small, stationary jokes that I’m enjoying with baby Joey. And it will be hard, maybe harder than this time, but also great. But as soon as I get pregnant, Joey and I aren’t alone together. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it; I don’t mean to make it sound as though I am a single parent. But Mr. Book is gone twelve hours a day, five days a week—and now that he needs to really study for the LSAT, he’s spending several hours away at the library on his days off. There have definitely been days when I felt overwhelmed, but recently (even through the teething), I’ve mostly just been happy to be with the snerks. He peed on the carpet for the first time; he has mastered peek-a-boo; he wants terribly to chase the cat. And I get to see all of it! I’ll almost certainly be there when he starts to crawl, walk, and say his first word—and I get to pay attention. I’m maybe not ready to lose being alone with him.

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!

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.

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.