your body is not your own

My baby has been going through some hellish unpredictable sleep patterns recently– due to a series of unfortunate events including our move to a new home, his move to his own room, a never-ending runny nose, holiday excitement–which means I’ve been on a rollercoaster of sleep deprived emotion.

FYI when I’m in a shitty mood I tend to clean. AGGRESSIVELY. If you come over and I am scrubbing counters like they murdered my cat, you know what? Maybe they did.

So my place is pretty tip-top at the moment, and I worked out a night shift system with my husband so that we can each get a stretch of sleep at one end or the other. The baby might be mellowing out again? At least, he slept through till 4 am once last week, and a couple times now he’s only gotten up once before 4. We’ll see how it goes.

The other night I crashed early and left Randy to put the baby to bed. I hadn’t gone to sleep before the baby… ever? Or maybe a couple times when he was a teeny infant, and I only had a 3 hour window till the next feeding? I don’t remember, my short term memory was sacrificed on the altar of god baby.

I laid down, but I could still hear him puttering around in the living room and occasionally fussing, and my HEART WAS POUNDING. I am so physically trained to respond at this point that it was like panic mode. *WEEOO WEEOO BABY IS AWAKE, GET UP, WEEOOOO* I did finally fall asleep and it was amazing, but the incident made it pretty clear that my body is still not my own. You think of pregnancy as the phase where you’re physically wrapped up with another organism but it doesn’t end there. Even if I wasn’t breastfeeding there would still be this aspect of paranoid “where is the baby” care.

This is a hassle but it isn’t a bad thing. I know there’s going to be a sense of loss when I stop breastfeeding for sure, but also when I hit each inevitable stage of further baby independence that is necessary to raise a self-sufficient adult. In the book I’m currently writing, a side character has lost a child and she is kind of all my fears and dark thoughts wrapped up inside a Russian bow-woman.

Because I’ll say one thing for sleep deprivation: your emotions are all at the surface. My mood isn’t swinging, it’s just that every mood I normally have is so clear and convex I could use them as magnifying glasses. They just bubble out around me piercing whatever dares step across my path. Does this metaphor work? It’s 5 am and I’m simultaneously drafting a different blog post in my head about living in a dark, semi-isolated house.

Till then.

ruination

This seems like a good time to write this post. On the one hand, I’ve barely slept in two days because we’ve had a disgusting heat wave and my little sputnik will not sleep when it’s hot. On the OTHER hand, I have recently reacquired the ability to drink coffee. Well, it’s a weak, watery beverage that wants to be coffee when it grows up one day, but it’s still basically coffee. So right now I am in a semi-neutral dream state and feel perfectly objective about all things in the universe.

P1030437

I took this photo after a very long day at Comic-Con, during which I passed out while an artist put zombie make-up on my face. But let’s just pretend I took it this morning.

[Before we continue: if anybody is about to jump in crying about the coffee, I didn’t have any yesterday and he still didn’t sleep. It’s the heat.]

Anyway: ruination!

I have a lovely group of friends who often run the gamut of opinions on all things in existence. This naturally includes the topic of children, a topic which is SO FRAUGHT WITH OPINIONS it will draw full-grown men across a grocery store to give strangers advice on how to raise their children (I’m looking at you, Mr. “You have to speak a foreign language to your child between 6 and 9 months”).

Have you ever been on the Internet? The Internet simultaneously loves and loathes children. There are approximately 1.5 billion articles about whether or not to have children (I counted), and most of them fall into one of two camps:

  1. Children are angelic blessings sent directly from God and if you don’t have children you are the saddest and/or most selfish person on the planet, seriously why even live.
  2. Children are time vampires sent from hell to ruin their parents’ lives, overpopulate the earth, and make a ruckus in public when decent people are just trying to have lunch.
  3. BONUS camp: My pets are my babies.

And both sides are furiously determined to be smug about their choice and feel pity for the fools on the other side who clearly don’t know what they’re missing.

Newsflash: babies will ruin your life! If you want a child, the pros will outweigh the cons! If you don’t want a child, you will be miserable and make that kid’s childhood miserable as well! I don’t know why it’s so hard to acknowledge that this experience, like so many others, falls along a spectrum and there isn’t one correct decision. You don’t have to justify your life by proving other people are wrong.

(I do understand that there is a more complicated back-and-forth than that. The “Married > House > Children” life path was such an expectation in the previous generation that a growing chunk of the current generation must defensively explain their disinterest in kids… which leads to lots of parents feeling belittled and obliged to defensively insist that kids are the best thing that ever happened to them. I have more sympathy for the childfree camp, because you shouldn’t have kids if you don’t want to and you shouldn’t have to explain why. But, you know, you don’t have to pity parents to feel secure about that.)

The word ‘ruin’ has negative connotations, so we could just as easily use ‘transform.’ But if you birth/adopt/foster a child and continue to raise that child, say goodbye to your old routine. I mean ‘ruin’ in the sense that your prior life ceases to exist, and is replaced with a new one. Depending on how much you enjoyed your old ways, and depending on how well you handle change, this may be a new adventure or it may be utter ruination.

I’m not going to bother explaining why I wanted a baby, because these explanations inevitably reek of judgment no matter how you word them. Suffice to say, I knew what I was getting into and I don’t regret it. No lie, it’s a chore to juggle work and life and feel like I’m still there for everything at home. There isn’t really a way around that unless the only thing you ever wanted to do was stay home with a baby, and now you get to stay home with a baby (in which case, kudos on having it all).

At the same time, I feel like my life has gone through a magnifying glass and narrowed down to a streamlined point, and I’m increasingly on board with this. I used to over-commit like crazy (three jobs and an Etsy shop and several sets of friends to keep up with and also writing a book?) but the baby has given me a socially acceptable and mandatory-for-sanity reason to whittle out the fluff.  Faced with the very limited nature of my time, and the very time-consuming nature of the baby, I had to decide what the most important bits in my life were, because the rest was going bye-bye.

I stripped back to one part-time job (sidenote: yes, I was in a privileged position to be able to do this in the first place).  I limit most of my social activity to big family events, plus a monthly Book Club with one group of friends and a monthly Dinner Club with the others. And I kicked all of my hobbies except reading and writing. No arts and crafts, no big theme parties requiring massive preparation, no popping out to happy hours left and right, and (gasp) minimal web surfing.

And you know what? It has been incredibly liberating. I have become so efficient with the personal time I do carve out of the day, that despite my responsibilities I’ve been more productive in the writing arena this year than in the last several, and I’ve certainly read more books. It is so calming for me to look at my schedule for my days off and realize: I’m not going anywhere. When the baby takes a nap I’m going to write for a while, and maybe I’ll read a bit before bed.

This probably sounds horrifying to other socially active folks, and I am surprised and relieved to have adapted so far. Obviously I chafe now and then and feel left out when I don’t attend a party or manage to see a movie before it leaves theaters, but I also don’t feel guilty at the end of the day because I went to a party or the movies instead of working toward my personal writing goals.

Which is a very long way of saying: your mileage may vary. And that’s okay.

six month review

Dear body,

Has it been six months already? Close enough! I don’t think another week is going to make much of a difference, to be quite honest.

Right before giving birth, we were so in tune, body. I don’t think I had ever felt so connected, so solidly grounded in you before. Sure I had all of those comedic aches and pains, but I was hyperaware of you in a fascinating way. I was conscious of every movement and every sensation. I was, very simply, at home with my appearance and my physicality.

Immediately after the baby was born, I was left in this flabby, deflated meat sack devoid of a wriggling little body to make the extra weight worthwhile. I felt like an alien in my  own skin, uncomfortable and unattractive.

men-in-black-edgar-suit-bug

Like a… an E’gar suit.

I’m relieved to say I’ve come out of that feeling, and my body somewhat feels like my own again. Let’s take a look at where we are now!

You’ve bounced back better than expected, weight-wise. You’ve lost over thirty pounds since returning from the hospital. Fifty pounds, if you count the act of childbirth itself! Technically you are back at your starting weight, though it’s been redistributed slightly. You’ve got a bit of a pooch where… well, there wasn’t no pooch, but there was less of one. We’ll keep working on it.

You’ve got some rad tiger stripes on your belly and hips now. I actually have nothing bad to say about that, they’re like battle scars.

But speaking of battle scars: eugh. Let’s take a moment to talk about the psychology of childbirth. I was pretty doped up, but not completely numb, and even being able to feel a bit of what was going on down there convinced me most heartily that I never want to feel the whole thing.

Let’s just say I had a couple of nightmares in the weeks after our return home. The kind of nightmares in which you’ve got a gory gaping wound between your thighs and not much else. When the doctor says that you’ll be healed by your six-week follow-up appointment, they mean in the most technical physiological sense that your flesh has closed and is no longer at risk of infection. It took closer to five months for me to feel normal. So two thumbs up to that!!

In other news, breastfeeding is simultaneously the best and the worst.

My life.

My life.

Because when I say my body is my own again, I only mean that in a conceptual sense. Really body, you are enslaved to the baby for now. After some burst blood vessels and a bout of mastitis, breastfeeding has long since ceased to hurt, but producing milk is still your primary function.

Reason it is the best: mostly the bonding. The baby looks to me for comfort. We smell the same–a fact which at first contributed to my feeling like an alien, but which I am now so used to that I’m going to have a whole different identity crisis when it goes away. And it is so cute when he nuzzles up and dozes off.

Reason it is the worst: mostly the shenanigans necessary to maintain milk supply while working part-time. I’m glued to the dang pump both at work and on my days off in order to build up enough backstock for babysitters. I have to carefully plan how long I’ll be away from the house. When I am home I have to do every single feeding myself rather than waste precious, precious bottles. And I require… so much gear.

My actual purse vs. my accouterments.

My actual purse vs. my accouterments.

All in all, I think we are doing okay, body. We’re on track to being trim and healthy, the baby is thriving on your flesh, and we are very nearly sleeping at night. I suppose I’ll keep you around… for now.

Talk to you again soon!

-Sam

fatigue and irritability

On top of everything else that baby-making has wreaked upon my body, I learned this week that I have a thyroid disease. Wooooo. To be fair, it’s very possible I already had it and just didn’t know about it, in which case… thanks for bringing it to my attention, I guess? For various reasons I won’t be starting any medication for a while, which means living with the symptoms for now.

Two of the big ones? Fatigue and irritability. Which made me laugh, because these are also the chief symptoms of getting up every night to feed a baby. And hoo boy do I have them. The fatigue goes without saying, but the sheer intensity of my irritability took me by surprise, and it is almost a relief to find out there is more than one cause. Because I’m not talking mere annoyance. I’m talking flames.

flames-on-the-side-of-my-face

On the side of my face.

I’ve been going from zero to furious at the drop of a hat (because who left this hat here, I just cleaned this room and now there’s fricking hats all over ugggghhh). I’ve mostly managed to keep it bottled behind a bland expression, because logically I know there is no reason to be angry and therefore I shouldn’t take it out on the people around me, but logic does little to cool me down. (I should mention, before anyone gets worried, that about the only thing in the world right now that doesn’t irritate me is the baby himself. Cuz he’s just a baby.)

Long story short, I thought it would be cathartic to write out a list of things that have infuriated me lately, so I can hold them up, acknowledge their ridiculousness, and hopefully give everyone else a bit of a laugh in the process.

Without further ado:

Merges. You know, lanes of cars. Everybody gets irritated when people don’t merge properly and the lanes back up. But I’m irritated even when everybody merges perfectly. There can be one other car and he’s way ahead of me so there is no conflict, and I squeeze my fists around the wheel anyway because UGH MERGES.

The radio not playing what I want. I don’t want to listen to this!!

Oh, and cars that have the nerve to drive down my street when I’m putting the baby to bed. YOU IDIOTS DON’T YOU KNOW THERE IS A BABY ON THIS STREET?

Librarians from the 1930s. One in particular who was quick with a bottle of glue. I want to build a time machine so I can go back in time and slap her in the face.

Well-meaning advice. Deep down I know that you are only trying to be helpful, and that I can listen to your opinion and then take it or leave it. But on the surface it sounds prescriptive, and if there was ever a time in my life that I liked being told what to do, it certainly isn’t today. For now it’s probably better to keep it all to yourself, because I might slip and give you dagger eyes and then I’ll just feel guilty about it, but I won’t apologize because that would mean bringing the conversation up again.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

My hair. Why won’t it do what I want??

The Facebook news feed algorithm team. Who wrote this shitty new algorithm? Why can’t it just show me what my actual friends have actually posted? I don’t care what pages my friends like. I don’t care when my friends comment on threads made by people I’m not friends with. And for the love of god I want it all in chronological order!

My neighbor with the big “Irish Pride” tattoo. He never wears a shirt. He walks his dog on the slope behind our windows, presumably so he can sneakily avoid picking up its poop. He’s single-handedly responsible for the new sign that says no alcohol in the pool area. He is, say it with me:

He's the worst.

He’s the worst.

And finally, a shout out to songs that get stuck in my head at night. My heart boils but there is nowhere for the excess heat to go. I chew on my fury as half of a chorus loops on and on because my tired brain is glitching and I can’t make it stop. And when I wake up in the morning, it’s still there!

So thank you for your patience, I’ll get back to normal eventually. For now, forgive the dagger eyes and the curt, insincere-sounding thank yous. Rest assured, it is mostly in my head. Mostly.

half year goals

Uh oh, I’ve been back to work for half a week and I’m already slacking on the blog! I just have to settle into my new routine–although next week is a big mess of San Diego Comic-Con, so I’ve got to settle into a new routine after that.

The year is half over, which is basically ridiculous. This warrants a roundup!

My accomplishments so far:

  • I read 33 books, over halfway to my annual minimum
  • I wrote the rough draft of a book
  • I had a baby

Wow!!!

My meager goals for the rest of the year include:

  • Reading at least 19 more books (preferably another 33)
  • Polish my book draft (preferably begin another)
  • Play with my baby (he might even speak by Christmas)

This list. It’s pretty weak. Especially considering it’s the last bit of my 20s I’m talking about here. 30 is a completely arbitrary age, but it’s such a nice round number that it’s difficult not to set goals by it! I’ll take the opportunity here to say I am expecting my 30s to rock. These days the entire 20-something decade can be summarized as “getting one’s shit together.” Now that my shit is firmly together, things are looking good.

So let me add some more colorful items to the list:

  • Throw an amazing Back to the Future party in October
  • Draft some excellent new content for the blog, including the time I crashed a Wiccan wedding, my earliest short stories following a childhood head injury, and continued adulation over the character of Ellen Ripley
  • Make baby’s first cosplay
  • Enjoy another round of themed holidays– this might be the year of Superhero Thanksgiving and GIFT HARD Christmas, unless somebody suggests better

And then I’ll be 30, it’ll be the year 2016, and I will have all new sorts of aspirations.

Um um, every blog should have a picture soooooo

DSCN0417 resize

ways in which this baby is trying to kill me

I actually had a pretty good week. I’m still exhausted and surviving nap-to-nap (so forgive me for remaining absent from life and social media for a bit longer), BUT I think I am starting to get a handle on how to manage my sleep schedule. Mostly it involves laying down at 8 p.m. for the first micro-nap and then proceeding through the night as before.

THAT BEING SAID. My son was clearly conceived with murderous intent.

DSCN0283 resize

Witness the scheming look on his face.

WAYS IN WHICH THIS BABY IS TRYING TO KILL ME

1. First he tried to accomplish the deed from within my womb. He pummeled my gallbladder into submission– a sneaky tactic, but I figured out his plot in time to take corrective action. After two trips to the emergency room to investigate a mysterious, rhythmic, debilitating pain, the doctors turned up gallstones. The verdict: restrict fatty food intake, especially the morning cream cheese that sparked these attacks, or else risk emergency surgery around a swollen uterus. Joke’s on you, baby! I’m going to have that organ removed before I have another child, so she’ll have to try something else!

But really, I don’t think I can ever forgive him for the cream cheese. I love cream cheese. As soon as the gallbladder is out, I’ll probably eat a whole brick of it.

2. Next he attempted to stop me up on his way out. He couldn’t just give up easy and come into the world, oh no. He had to cling with all his might to the inside of my cervix (laughing, no doubt!) and doing his best to force a c-section. Well sucks to your assmar, kid, the miracle of modern medicine includes something called a VACUUM PUMP. I hope you enjoyed your cone-head while it lasted, because you cannot defeat me. I’m stronger than you and I weigh the most.

3. Lastly (SO FAR) he tried to destroy me through an old-fashioned bacterial infection. Specifically mastitis, aka infection of the boobie. But I knew what it was, and after a day of living feverishly I hauled myself to an urgent care and acquired the necessary antibiotics. This attempt was feeble– on my guard against his schemes, I caught this one early enough to avoid the rock-hard abscesses and burning sensations which sound so pleasant to nurse through.

So do your worst, baby! I’m cleverer than you and I have health insurance.

—–

P.S. Shout out to modern medicine, seriously. It is slightly alarming to think that all of these things, solved pretty simply nowadays, would have meant my death not too long ago (and still would with lack of access to health care). Pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading causes of death for young women in many poorer countries. And basically in every country through the history of time until the last few decades of medical advancement.

P.P.S. Oh man, while looking for a citation on that, I also learned that (at least a few years ago) the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. was… murder?? And then according to Wikipedia, this isn’t unusual because murder is the second-leading cause of death for women in their early twenties anyway? I’m going to stop looking into this, it’s too grim!

I’ve got to end on a joke… shit!  Uhhhhhhh

What do baby pythons play with?

… RATTLE-SNAKES!!

an open letter to my body

Dear body,

We’re nearing the end of this pregnancy now (my baby is due today!) and I thought this would be a good time for your semi-annual performance review. It’s been an interesting year, fulls of ups and downs, lotta ins, lotta outs. I firmly believe that a little praise goes a long way, so let’s talk about your strengths before we get to the constructive criticism.

I’m going to miss the adorable basketball belly. I have to confess, you’ve charmed me. The way you sway in the opposite direction of my hips and torso when I’m waddling around is particularly amusing to watch when I’m going down a flight of stairs. I have to grip the handrails for dear life because there is an anchor strapped around my waist, but who’s quibbling.

I’ll also miss watching/feeling the baby kick. Now, this isn’t strictly a good practice on your part, body, it’s the baby, but take praise where you can get it. I’m going to miss the surreal, scifi-esque weirdness that is another body squirming inside my body. Bulging out here and there, flailing under my ribs, head-butting my cervix. I’m not making it sound very good but trust me, it’s the coolest thing.

DSCN0202

The only pregnancy photo I want or need

While we’re here, I’d like to thank you for avoiding many of the most cliche pregnancy symptoms repeated ad nauseam on television and film. Approximately two thousand people asked me if I had morning sickness, mood swings, and hilariously crazy food cravings, and approximately two thousand times I answered: I was nauseous for a month but never threw up, I feel fine, and no I happily ate all the same junk before.

Oh, and thank you for surviving Egypt. It was a much-needed vacation and I’m glad we snuck a last hurrah into the second trimester before beginning what will surely be a long dearth in travel. I mean, your feet swole up something awful and we weren’t allowed to pet a million feral cats, but we walked the shit out of that country anyway and I appreciate it.

THAT BEING SAID.

There are a few areas, body, in which you seriously dropped the ball. Aside from the fact that you gained fifty pounds rather than the recommended thirty. Aside from the gallstones (yes, the gallstones, you’ve never had a gallbladder problem in your life and suddenly cream cheese is our mortal enemy?). Aside from the aforementioned swollen feet, accompanied by swollen hands, chubby cheeks, and a general Michelin Man aesthetic I didn’t realize we had aspired toward.

First, there is the matter of our hips. Hips, why are you trying to dislocate from the rest of our body? I need my legs. I need them to remain attached to me. I use them on a nearly daily basis. I know you don’t like sleeping on your side, but we all have to make sacrifices in life. Running away isn’t the answer.

Body. Really. You’ve put the gas back in gastrointestinal system. I thought we were more dignified than this, but the last nine months have been a rollercoaster ride of constipation, diarrhea, and weird smells. And nobody wants that on a rollercoaster.

While we’re in the region: you’re leaking pee now, too? Don’t blame the baby, you can take a few punches to the bladder without going soft on me. You’ve had 29 years to learn self-control, and you’re losing a boxing match to a fetus. You know what, body? Let’s just cut you off from the tailbone down. Legs had the right idea.

And now we’re not sleeping. I thought we were supposed to be saving up sleep to remember fondly when we’re up all night with an infant, but no, you’re a classic overachiever. Calf cramps, broken hips, and wild nightmares about shadow ghost killers, you’ve really gone out of your way to make every night last as long as the clock will allow. I’m not really sure what you meant to accomplish by this–please include an explanation in your self-review.

Anyway, I don’t want to psych you out right before the Big Day! Haha. What’s done is done, and now we can focus on getting you back into your old, slightly more fit shape. Let’s get back in touch–oh, say six months from now?–to assess our progress. You can do it, body.

Or you’re fired.

-Sam

alien baby shower

I haven’t mentioned my pregnancy much on the blog, but with 7 weeks to go there isn’t much reason to be coy about it. Yesterday we had our baby shower, and it rocked. About 40 people spread through my sister’s yard–and after seeing how comfortably we all fit I realized, dangit I should have invited more of my friends and work buddies!

We went with an alien theme. Like, Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens. Because Ellen Ripley is my favorite movie character ever, and it totally made sense because the movies are all about body horror, procreation, and (in the case of Aliens) mothers doing whatever is fucking necessary to protect their kids.

aliens1

Hell. Yeah.

But I’ll devote a whole blog to the awesomeness of Ellen Ripley, and why she has never been topped as a female action hero. (My second-favorite action mom, Sarah Connor, does come close).

Today I’ll just say I was really happy with how the party turned out. The premise was that the crew of Nostromo went back into their freezers shortly after Kane’s facehugger dropped off, when they all thought he was doing okay. Ash also collected some more eggs as specimens since the crew didn’t understand their danger. Therefore, instead of shit going down in space, clearly shit would have gone down at the Welcome Home party thrown at Weyland-Yutani headquarters.

Clearly.

DSCN0021

 

DSCN0017

 

DSCN0019

 

DSCN0043

 

DSCN0027