Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ode to Amby

My son has been crying for the last hour or so (I use the term “so” loosely). Not consistently—I’m not heartless—but enough that I am contemplating adding a shot of tequila to my corn flakes. He doesn’t like his crib, and I can’t blame him.

For the last few months he has been sleeping in a lovely cocoon-like sack suspended from a spring, which is attached to a metal stand. It’s called the Amby bed and it’s a miracle. We bought one on the recommendation of some fellow parents who sang its praises and rightfully so. His typical night of sleep is 11 hours. Unfortunately the bed has a 25 pound weight limit—one he is rapidly approaching. So we have begun the daunting task of getting him to like his crib, which in comparison probably seems like a sprawling, 20-acre theme park.

I knew we would face resistance. It’s so comfy-looking that people who see the bed ask if it’s available in adult sizes (it’s not, we checked). We’ve toyed with the idea of making a bigger version of it ourselves. All we’d need to do is hang a sturdy spring from the ceiling, suspend a sack from the spring, and my son would be able to continue his blissful slumber well into his teen years. But it might be awkward when he brings girls over. Like hey, how come you sleep in a cocoon?

And what if he got so used to it he wanted to build a double bed version of it and his wife wasn’t into that? Not everyone wants to sleep suspended from the ceiling. Having sex might prove awkward. I mean, what if it fell on the floor in the midst of all that bouncing? Then his future wife would surely call me a bad mother for creating a man-butterfly.

People have started to voice their concern over my son’s affinity for the Amby bed. One of our friends—a fellow mother—recently said, “Oh God, is he really still sleeping in that sack?” Like we have him suspended from a rusty nail in the basement in an old potato sack! My mother worries about the lumbar support; I do, too (the sack sinks down in the middle quite a bit).

So into the crib he’s gone. Screaming. Kicking his legs (in the Amby bed, when he kicks, the suspended sack shakes him gently back to sleep; in the crib, he just makes the mattress thunder). Nothing works: not singing, the pacifier, the mobile, rubbing his forehead.


Which is why, after almost two hours of crying, whimpering, and making the mattress shake he is peacefully asleep in the Amby bed. I moved him. And the house is wonderfully quiet. For now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The anti-pregnant woman

When I found out I was pregnant I had one of those moments when you try to picture yourself as something other than yourself but can’t. Like when you’re a kid and you try to picture the adult you—it’s you, but so far removed from your experience that you can’t quite grasp who that person is. I feared the worst: that I would become a mother and lose everything chic or fashionable about myself, much in the same way elderly people seem to succumb to swishy windbreaker sets with sailing motifs. I would wake up with a closet full of LL Bean denim jumpers. I would cut my hair to save time but it wouldn’t matter anyway because anyone who knows anything knows that mothers don’t have time to shower.

I didn’t take the whole pregnancy thing well. Who were these women on television and in advertisements that looked so damn happy? Where were their pimples and bloat? Where were their frustrated husbands—the ones who chose to go camping again because they didn’t feel like talking them through another hormonal breakdown?

Naively, I thought I would find solace in other women. But they didn’t want to talk to me about my experience. They wanted to share their own horrific, traumatizing tales. Someone knew someone who had a niece whose baby was trapped in her ribcage and the doctor had to stand on the operating table and use a chair to unhinge the child during labor. Someone else still didn’t pee right—and it had been 20 years!

Everyone was full of tips. Tip after freaken tip. Get lube for your nipples, your child will gnaw them off breastfeeding. Do those keggles faithfully, even though your lousy-no-good-husband won’t ever touch you the same way again after seeing what came out of your hoo-hoo. My all-time favorite: start saving money in your own account now because before you know it your kid’ll be 18 and you’ll need all the money you can to piece back together the shell of woman you’ve become as a stay at home mom all those years.

Hence my fear of LL Bean jumpers. Hence my glares whenever anyone inquired about my bump. I dreamed of starting a t-shirt line for pregnant women that read, “Leave me alone.” I started to become known as the anti-pregnant woman.

But look, I made it. And now I’m not the anti-mom. In fact I have come to embrace my new role with a lot more ease than I think anyone thought I would. Some of my friends have even told me that my son is the happiest, most expressive baby they’ve seen. Granted they’re saying that because they’re my friends, but these are honest people. The good kind of honest. The kind of honest that tells me, “Sit down, I can cut up my own food, please stop being such a mom.”

The top 12

The prego mags cover the most common side effects of pregnancy (blah blah, those super cute outfits (!), water retention, fatigue, etc.) and labor but what about all the other stuff? Looking back, here are some things my friends and I wish we had known:

1. Pregnancy is stressful.
Before I got pregnant, I imagined that pregnancy was going to be a happy, carefree time. But the feelings of excitement were quickly (think car skidding out of control) overshadowed by anxiety. Being pregnant made me feel like I had suddenly walked onstage. I worried about the health of my baby, whether or not my husband and I could support our new life, and whether or not we would make good parents. Then a coworker gave me some good advice. She told me that I was fretting away what should be a very beautiful experience and asked me if I wanted to look back and remember my pregnancy as an exciting time or an anxious time. From that point on I made a concerted effort to vehemently express my anger at strangers who rubbed my belly and let my husband rub my shoulders until his hand cramped. And he whimpered in pain.

2. It’s okay if you don’t love being pregnant.
Sometimes pregnancy makes you puke, cry, and scream all at the same time. Maybe it lowers your immunity so you’re sick all the time. Maybe you never get that cute pregnancy glow, instead you really just look like you’ve been eating steak and cheese sandwiches and washing them down with a six pack of beer every night. That’s okay. Your baby doesn’t care.

3. Morning sickness isn’t only in the morning.
Morning sickness can happen any time of day and it doesn’t always mean you vomit. Some of my friends threw up daily, for seven months. Others never even experienced nausea.

4. You should know what tests you are supposed to have.
Don’t assume your doctor’s office knows all. If you think you’re supposed to be tested for something at a particular time, call the office and ask.

5. Birth plans are a crock of shit.
Someone will probably say that no, she followed her birth plan down to the classical music she had playing as the baby was expelled from her non-anesthetized vagina into a pool of lukewarm, lilac-scented water. Fine. Congratulations. Personally I think the only reason birth plans exist is to give women a false sense of control over the labor process. I asked my doctor if I needed a birth plan because all the pregnancy mags said I did. She laughed.

6. Your husband may deny you.
You may actually get turned down by your husband, the same person who got you in this situation, for sex in the last couple months. I guess if I had to chose between mounting a tired, cranky, bloated pregnant woman from behind for a few minutes of satisfaction I’d probably prefer reruns of Star Trek, too.

7. The mucous plug is not a jellyfish.
Although it looks like one, it will not wriggle across your bathroom floor when it comes out (hopefully). It’s also not plug-shaped. It’s a gross blob that keeps on giving, sometimes for days.

8. Pack for the hospital like you’re going to the hospital.
Leave your CDs, DVDs, books, computer, and stuffed animals at home. You are not going to a resort. You are going to a hospital to have a baby. What do you need? A bathrobe, a better pillow than the flat pad of foam they’ll provide, towels, toiletries, comfortable clothes like sweats, and slippers. Comfort is the key word. Snacks are good too (see 10).

9. The old wives tales for bringing on labor don’t work.
Every woman has a grandmother or friend who has recommended unconventional methods for bringing on labor. Some of the more common suggestions are castor oil (which tastes disgusting and might cause horrendous diarrhea), herbs like raspberry leaf tea, nipple stimulation (which stimulates the release of Oxytocin, a hormone that causes contractions), and intercourse. Not so common recommendations include eating pineapple, walking with one foot on the curb, jumping off the toilet, and eating spicy food. I guess if you’ve already started your maternity leave and are bored you could try the last few for shits and giggles.

10. If you’re starting labor, you should eat before going to the hospital.
I don’t just mean eat. I mean eat like a horse. You can’t eat during labor and that might just end up being 24+ hours. Which means that when you’re lying there with your shiny new baby beside you, you will be craving a Big Mac instead of listening to the fascinating tips from the lactation expert.

11. You must throw your pride out the window.
In addition to being gawked at, rubbed without permission, and commented on while pregnant, labor brings about its own set of intrusions. By the end of my labor, I had been manhandled by so many people I swore at one point the janitor had taken a turn. At that point I was in so much pain I didn’t care, but the groping of my nether regions was nothing compared to the fondling the girls experienced when it was time to try breastfeeding. The nurses and lactation experts are resources, to be sure, but they think nothing of sticking your kid in your arms, whipping out your boob and shoving your nipple in the kid’s mouth. If you’re modest, be prepared to lose it. Fast.

12. Your husband might actually be a good little mommy.
My husband changed every diaper at the hospital. After we got home and I was having trouble breastfeeding, he brought me the pump and threw me some encouraging words like, “Don’t fall asleep with it stuck to your boob.” After I pumped for three hours and got a dribble that resembled one raindrop, he acted like he really cared when I cried. For the entire night. And when I was done, he didn’t even try to mount me.


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