January 30, 2008

Sarah explains the world, part 379

So a pregnant friend of mine very sweetly emailed to me, this morning, that she'd be glad to hear any thoughts I had about childbirth...and of course, I emailed back a several page treatise that went on far too long in way too much detail--typical me. But since I spent all this time writing some thoughts, it occurred to me I might post them here, mostly because I'd be interested in what other people have to say.


As to labor itself...well, i guess I do have a couple of things worth sharing about that. maybe. the first is that: it will be fine. and whatever happens, you will love your story. whatever happens, it will be GREAT.

I felt really strongly before hand that I wanted a natural childbirth--it was important to me. If you decide that it's important to you, I can give you some tips about how to make that happen for yourself--it can be difficult to do in a hospital. But i don't think there's inherently anything better about a natural birth...though, i I will say that it was a huge boost to have a sense of delivering a child as something I DID, myself. It's like reading Moby Dick, or running a marathon. I did gain some confidence from the experience. But there are lots of ways to gain confidence.

The one thing I would say that I did right (given that I had an unusually short labor) is that I was really lowkey about the early stages of it. I just relaxed on the couch, with no lights and no clock, and just slept through it as much as I could. I basically think that timing contractions is kind of bullshit. It gets you all hyped up and distracted, which ultimately slows down your contractions and makes them less effecient. You don't need to know how far apart your contractions are to know when to go to the hospital. go to the hospital when, as a friend of mine said, you are "howling like a dog." EVERYTHING IS LESS COMFORTABLE at the hospital. So stay home where it is nice as long as you can. If you know you've reached your threshold, it's time to go to the hospital--and then you can either have your baby, or, if you're not dilated enough, you can make them give you pitocin and an epidural, and then you'll have your baby. Either way.

also, I would say that (and i know other people who've said this) the hardest part about the contractions isn't that they hurt, but rather that they make you afraid of how much it's going to hurt later. You get this sense, in the midst of a contraction, that "i can do this, but I can't do any more than this." But that is WRONG. all you have to do is have the contraction you're having.

The other thing I would pass on as really good advice I received is that you must remember that "birth is non linear." Nothing about any part of the labor tells you, necessarily, anything about how the rest of it will go. The first part can go really quickly and then you can get stuck for hours, or vice-versa. Both are perfectly normal--and this is part of why you want to stay relaxed as you can at the beginning, because you have no way of knowing what will happen later.

It's important to remember this in the weeks before you are due, particularly if your doctor does cervical exams. I know many many people who were, like, two centimeters dilated at their 38 week appointment. And then they were all hyped up about how their baby could come! Any minute! And they got all exhausted and wired and their baby didn't come until 41 weeks, or whatever, because those first two centimeters have NOTHING TO DO with the last eight. Doctors DO NOT UNDERSTAND labor; we do not know what triggers it or why it happens the way it does. Doctors can give you information about where you are, but they can't accurately predict, I would say, what is going to happen next.

Okay, that's a lot! Let me reiterate the main point: it will be fine, try and relax, etc. Also...it will not be what you expect. Which is okay. Because the great part about childbirth is that it's bigger than you...and it's good to be a part of something bigger than you. Or at least, that's what I'm learning.

January 29, 2008

I'm not sure this will work

but i thought i would try, because this song has been in my head all week, and it seemed baby-blog appropriate.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

also, it's my birthday today! yay! Our friend michelle (see sidebar) is coming over to hang out with the sleeping elliot so b and i can go out to dinner. People are so nice.

love to all!

What we learned today

So, Elliot somehow learned to say the word "uh oh!" this morning. I was reflecting on this, and the fact that although he enjoys saying "uh oh" he didn't seem to totally understand how to use the word. And then I realized that "uh oh" is the perfect word for a toddler, because in basically every moment of a toddler's life, "uh oh!" is a context-appropriate word. In toddler existence, things are going vaguely wrong all the time.

Just as I was realizing this, Elliot proved my point by wandering around, happily saying "uh oh! uh oh! uh oh!" for no apparent reason, and then he paused, and peed all over my yoga mat.

January 28, 2008

What not to do at 7:04 am

Teach your one-year-old how to play the harmonica.


(But I did it anyway! And it is AWESOME! -- BLWH)

January 22, 2008

We've Been Gone!

But we're back, now. We were in lovely lovely Puerto Rico, where you all should go, particularly if you can go with grandparents eager to join you in care of your child.

We're still a little exhausted from our travels, and from Elliot's persistently screwy sleep schedule, but we wanted to say hi, and that we hope sometime to tell you of our adventures and misadventures, including but not limited to: Elliot being startled by an iguana, Sarah being startled by a manatee, Sarah, Brandon and Baba being startled by the sudden collision of their kayak with a coral reef, and everyone but Sarah being startled by the stomach flu. I would describe the transition from Chicago winter dreariness to Puerto Rico winter lushness as not so much "startling" as "well nigh sublime."

More photos over there on flickr, and some videos to come, hopefully, soon.

January 09, 2008

This Morning

Well, B and I woke up a little bleary and irritable, for the obvious reasons.* But the good news is that we did not do this bleary waking up until...6:42.

Because Elliot slept in! And woke up cheerful and chatty. He actually was pretty chipper yesterday morning too, and I just can't tell you what a difference it makes to not have your day start at 5:45 and continue with tears and whining and wuggling** for the next hour or so. Cheerful mornings are SO MUCH BETTER. So much. I can't even tell you.

His new magical skill is to say the word "hot" and use it to refer to things like the radiator, the water in his bath and (this last especially impressive to me) the steam coming from the kettle.

*Okay, I really am going to try and not let this blog get too derailed by my political rantings. But I just really have to say this. Until Sunday, I honestly would have said that I would have been very happy with any of the frontrunners winning the democratic nominations. I've never found Hillary particularly inspiring, but I believe she is smart and well-meaning and capable. But the last couple of days I've found the Clintons to be so mean. Completely as divisive as right wingers say they are. So last nights result's are a bit of a bitter pill for me to swallow.

** Wuggling is one of Brandon's coinages for crying, moaning, grumbling, and basically carrying on. It's sort of like what Anne Lamott calls "gritching". It's also not too far from what the British call "wingeing". But wuggling can also be used as a noun, as in, "Elliot, what's the wuggle?"

January 08, 2008


As you hopefully know, dear reader, we store lots of photos du bebe in our pages at flickr.com. (Click link to visit.) I just realized that they've improved the "slide shows" over there -- much bigger! Much prettier! Worth looking at (finally). (Personally, I'm just not a fan of postage-stamp sized photographs.)

In the upper right of the flickr web pages, see "View as slideshow". Too fast too slow? "Options" in lower area of slide show.


January 06, 2008

Field Notes

I have strictly minor observations -- but I have a handful of them.

Elliot's chatter.
What a fascinating creature he is -- signs that he knows how to make, he stops making (see, "toilet", "please", "up", "more"). Words he knows how to form, he gives up on (see "key", "tooth"). Syllables he knows how to apply (see "d"), he doesn't apply: it pleases him to call me "ba", instead of "da". And habits that he has, he loses, and then he refinds.

Last week, for example, he forgot how to have dinner. There was just no dinner-having. But this week, he is eating like a champ again. (Well, he's a "champ" if we're grading on a curve, I suppose. Elliot is not nearly as interested in food as most babies. Possibly relatedly, most babies are larger.)

But his talk. Such splendid nonsense, I could listen to it all day. Fluent, elaborate, enigmatic babble grows around him and his activities, like a vine or a cloak or a moat. He vocalizes, soliloquizes, whoops and doo-wops about all sorts of things, from the undignified way we are stuffing him into a winter bundler to the sight of a bird.

The uncanny thing is when it verges on -- or *seems* to verge on -- perfect English. Did he quietly say the word "raisin", just as I offered him a raisin today? Or did was it more like "g'bleisnihhh" that he mumbled under his breath, simply as the fancy struck him? He may have been mulling over something entirely separate from the raisin, something that needed urgent remarking upon. Maybe he was talking through his plans for a new assault on Ada's left nostril with his right index finger. Absolutely no one knows. And yet when our two parallel worlds even seem to swing into alignment, even for a flash, it's eerie. It's arresting.

Elliot's teeth. He spent the week after Christmas teething fiercely, the most obvious episode of stereotypical "teething" that we've seen. (And it seems to have passed now. No new teeth ever showed up, though in our experience, the real pain is in the tectonics, while the teeth do their burrowing underground. Cutting teeth, per se, seems milder.)

Not a drooler, typically, right after Christmas my son began leaking -- pretty much constantly -- from his poor, slack, wistful, but still-half-smiling mouth. He would apply the back of his hand, sadly, to his cheek, and moan "uhhhhh" piteously. He would weep, sadly, many times a day. He was so sensitive about everything. It was pretty sad.

One day I wore a gray cotton shirt that (as it turned out) turns very dark when it's wet, so it shows any spots of moisture very clearly. Then I spent a few hours with Elliot. I found myself decorated with damp half-moons, from one shoulder to other, across my collarbones: the garland of many little consolations, mutterings, minor wrestles, and restful hugs.

While he was lying passively upon me at the bookstore in Evanston, I talked to a woman trailing a thoughtful, experimental little five-year-old girl. They both had eyes for Elliot. The mom asked me if he was teething (this was while I was wearing the drool-shirt, so it was a relatively easy call). I said that indeed he was: baby teeth 17 through 20, if I'm not mistaken. He has everything else. How interesting, said the woman. Those are the same teeth that she (pointing to the daughter) is working on right now.

Kids vary a lot.

Elliot's fever. While the teething was at its peak, he came on all warm. At least, he felt weirdly warm to me, first thing one morning last weekend. I could tell, the same way (I think) that my Mom could always tell: lips pressed to head. (How many times a day do we do that? So many.)

And found him different, strangely radiant. So we called a nurse at the doc's office, and they asked us to take his temperature. New parental task -- who holds him down? And who sticks it up his ass? Answer: B holds him. S sticks him. Elliot: didn't really cry, but didn't exactly break into applause either.

His temperature was a little north of 100, and they said we should bring him in. He had some tiny red dots on his skin, here and there. They called it a virus, and said it would blow over with a little tylenol, which it did. At around the same time as the teething pain stopped, actually, the fever disappeared.

Now, did you know that, officially, our medical establishment doesn't believe that teething can bring fevers? I think they're kidding themselves, but I'm too busy trolling the internet for news about the primaries (pollster.com, for example) to troll the internet for studies about teething immunology.

Elliot's crying. Now we've over the teething episode, and we're over the fever, and we're eating decent dinners again. And yet he wakes up so sad, these mornings. Just crying and crying. It takes something to snap him out of it -- a surprise bath, or an unusual object, or a change of air.

Elliot's head-butting. He head-butts me. He did it on the airplane trip home from Utah, all of a sudden, as we were getting situated in our seats. He just put down the crown of his skull, pointed it at my chest, and started whacking away. I laughed like it was the best thing that's ever happened, and it basically was. This egged him on, and he did it some more. The only thing to watch out for is that he doesn't know what's OK to head-butt, and what's not. He head-butted the armchair I was sitting in today, and that was OK, but when he head-butts the coffee table, it goes poorly for him.

Here's a little video which shows 2 things:

  1. Elliot head-butting my knee

  2. Ada getting a bath today. Total chaos ensues after Ada escapes from the tub -- still muddy, still grimy, but also with a coating of fresh, gooey shampoo -- and proceeds to SHAKE, which rockets shampoo and muddy water all over the walls. Due to my limitiations as a journalist, most of the real action was not captured on video. But you get to see how it all starts, anyway.

January 05, 2008

Especially for parents, but also for everyone who likes to cultivate the festive

I just thought I'd point everyone towards this great list of midwinter holidays, generated by the very excellent Beck.

A mentor of mine growing up--an awesome artist math teacher lady--often advised me that in life it is important to "cultivate events." Events don't happen on their own; they only have the spirit and importance that you instill in them. This is something that I try to remember as I go through life, particularly as I parent, and Beck (who I don't know, really, except through her writing) strikes me as someone who is extremely good at this.

When you're only half-way up

Last night in the tub I was singing that song to Elliot about "The Grand Old Duke of York," which ends with the observation that "when you're up you're up, and when you're down you're down, but when you're only half-way up you're neither up nor down."* As you can imagine, this is a fun bathtime song as it involves standing and sitting and thus SPLASHING.

But anyway, today it occurs to me that the song is also an apt description of Elliot's mornings lately. This week, in the mornings, Elliot has been such a crab. He's never been one of those babies who will contentely play in their cribs upon waking (like Anni) or go back to sleep if given some milk and a hug (Gilly). Normally, when Elliot's up, he's up. But this week! No! He's been waking up early, and pissy, and clingy, and groggy. He doesn't want to be left alone or kept company or read to or played with or fed. He just wants to sort of go "mwah mwah mwah mmWAAAAAAAA" for a while. And I am willing to get up early with my child, I really am. But it is a little painful to get up with him WHEN HE DOES NOT WANT TO BE UP HIMSELF.

Earlier on the week there were some teething issues, and that is different, and I was very sympathetic to that. But we seem to be over that now (unless these are just special teething issues that only occur between the hours of 5:30 and 7:00 am) and I am loosing some patience here, my friends.

* I have never typed the lyrics to this song before, and thus only when I was typing it did I realize that I never ever say "neither up nor down," though surely those must be the words. But how awkward and formal! I always sing "neither up or down." But I couldn't quite bring myself to type it that way.

January 03, 2008

Now back to our previously scheduled Elliot

Enough about politics -- let's talk about little boys and their reindeer games.

First you'll see this weird seal toy, something picked up by family from a street merchant in China. Elliot is utterly, magnetically bewitched by it -- we contrive (as cleverly as we are able) to hide it from him most of the time, just to give ourselves a rest. (And we don't want to give it to him to play with however he wants, because, well, it came from a street merchant in China.)

You'll see he's quite careful not to actually *touch* the thing while it's in operation. But he wants to relate to it somehow. He chatters at it. He invents little signs with his hands.

And this is a video of bye-byes. (Some of the bye byes are actually hellos.) Turn up the volume and enjoy Elliot's most perfectly formed word. (Phonetically speaking, it's even got a diphthong in it. Pretty sophisticated stuff, folks.)

January 02, 2008

One voice! Your Voice! Every Voice!

Friends. We love Barack Obama.

I am not totally sure what tomorrow, or the next year, will bring. I know that my parents and family, Iowans all, are doing their best.

But I do know that in a long Iowan childhood of listening to many many political speeches, shaking many hands, being inspired by many people, few things have moved me as much as this person and this campaign. Maybe none. I don't remember anyone, even Jesse Jackson, and he was always a great stump speaker, doing such a great job of inspiring an audience not to follow, but to LEAD THEMSELVES. Ourselves.

This morning Elliot was having (yet another) melt down related to the acquisition of his last few painful molars. He was sobbing and drooling onto my shoulder when I started watching this video, but became completely riveted almost immediately. So we watched it three times. By the end, he had stopped crying, and I had almost started.

What I would like in this world is to teach my son this lesson: that it is better to unite than to divide, and that it is bolder to hope than to fear.