Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yeah, yeah -- Another One About Sleep

When I imagined being a mother, one of the things I pictured was rocking my baby to sleep at night. I imagined sitting in a rocker in the nursery with my daughter’s head on my shoulder, both of us softly illuminated by the glow of the moon through the window. Her cheeks are lightly flushed. Her mouth is slightly open, exhaling sweet little puffs of baby breath on to my neck. I am softly humming or singing a lullaby. In my imaginings I felt blissful and satisfied. I became so attached to this vision and convinced of its reality that I commented to my BFF, “Sleep deprivation can’t be that bad.” I think she had a 5 week old at the time. It was probably good we were on the phone and separated by 650 miles so she did not have the option of killing me with her bare hands.

I did not once imagine a squirmy, kicky baby who often has more than sweet baby breath coming out of her mouth. Sour spit up and sticky drool did not appear in my baby fantasies. And I did not imagine having to sing 4 songs (multiple verses) in an exact order to get my baby to sleep.

We start with Stars Shining and count up through number 12. Twice. Zoey picks at the sheets, squirms, kicks, whines, and tries to bite. Next we sing Simple Gifts. Both verses. Zoey cries and pulls at her hair. Then we move on to Rock a Bye Baby. We sing it 3 times through inserting her name for ‘baby’ the second and third times. Zoey calms a little and the biting becomes sucking. Last up is Oh Come All Ye Faithful -- verses one and two and then verse one again in Latin. Yes, Latin. My Catholic school days finally paid off. Sometime during this Christmas song Zoey’s eyes will slip shut. If I’m lucky they stay shut and she sleeps:

If I’m not lucky, this happens:

If a time machine existed I would go back to the moment, pre-Zoey, when I uttered the words, “Sleep deprivation can’t be that bad”, and punch myself in the mouth.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bring it On!!

You know how you often hear about those parents who put a ton of pressure on their kid to be a particular something, like a doctor or lawyer? Well, that is so not my problem. There’s really only one thing I want Zoey to do (play soccer) and there’s a whole list of things I want her NOT to do. Of course there’s all the regular things that no one wants for their kid: I don’t want her to be a drug addict, a serial killer, or a country music fan. But I have another list of things I don’t want her to be. And if this list existed somewhere other than in my head, the first two things on the list would be in all caps and then underlined and highlighted:

Number one is obvious. But the cheerleader thing is more complicated. I tell anyone who will listen that I don’t want my daughter to be a cheerleader. I want her to kick ass on the field while others cheer her on. I want her to wear jeans, not skirts that require waxing. I want her to listen to Ani and the Indigo Girls, not Britney. I want her to eat when she’s hungry and wear her hair in a pony tail without a ribbon. I want her to learn to do a bicycle kick instead of spirit fingers.

But here’s my confession: I secretly love spirit finger. Whenever Bring it On is on TV I watch it. Actually, I prefer Bring It On: All Or Nothing, but really either one will do. I used to be somewhat respectable: I would sneak downstairs late at night, close the curtains, and watch it. The volume was low so as not to wake Demetri but at least my shame was appropriately high. Now I don’t even hide it. Now I make Demetri recite lines from the movie with me:
Me: Say the thing
De: Nooooooooo!
Me: If you loved me you’d say it
De: (with audible and visible eye roll) Do I have to?
Me: (batting my eye lashes) Yes!
De: (sighing) Make sure you bring it.
Me: Oh! It’s. Been. Brought!

The above is followed by gleeful and hysterical laughter. By me. Not Demetri. He’s busy trying to back out of whatever room we’re in so I won’t make him do it again.
Maybe I should revise my list . . .

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not A Funny Post

So today was a bad day with Zoey. You know, not third world bad but cranky-pants, fuss-butt, shots at the doctor, stinky poops, no naps bad. I came across this piece I wrote in a writing exercise at my writing group. We were given a stack of photos to look through and we had to pick one and then write about it. I am reminded how the worst day with Zoey is better than the best day without her. And yes, I am going to say the sappy mom thing: I am reminded how our life was full before but not complete. She completes us. (Thanks Tom Cruise for the line.) Here's the piece:

I am looking for a picture of my own child. I think I will know her. Maybe the color of her hair will feel like home to me. Maybe her eyes will remind me of the deep cool of the ocean. Maybe her skin will have the tones of wet sand. I
search through the pictures, glossy papers sliding over and under one another.

She is not here. She is not here.

Sometimes I think she is in the air around me, above me, watching. She watches me brush my dog, gently smoothing the golden white hairs along his neck. She watches me fold laundry and boil pasta too long. She watches me settle into the crook of my husband’s arm before bed.

Sometimes I think we are already tied together, my daughter and I. Connected with invisible thread. Strong, glistening, silver thread that is gradually reeling her in, pulling her closer to me. Sometimes I think she looks at the thread between us, and I imagine she sighs. A tiny sigh of a patient person. And here where things are solid, where I can’t see her watching me, I sigh the sigh of an almost mother. This sigh is not patient. It is closer to keening.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pretty Pretty Princess

I’m pretty sure it will start with Princesses. Princess books, princess dresses, Disney princess movies. Snow White, Cinderella, Jazmin, Ariel. Then there will be requests for princess bedtime stories – which I will have to make up. I’ll spend a lot of time telling stories about average-sized princesses with short hair, who only wear jeans and who have special skills like a black belt in karate and the ability to think for themselves. The stories will not involve princes – handsome or otherwise. I may do a lesbian princess though, just to add a little romance.

I predict that one day I will be on princess overload from reading/watching/hearing the above mentioned princess propaganda. I will be putting my daughter to bed in her princess pajamas and she will ask for just one more princess story – about Snow White perhaps. Before I can even think about the coveted Mother of the Year title I will say, “Snow White can suck it.” And I will mean it. Not only will I lose Mother of the Year, but my daughter will cry and wail about how she loves princesses, and princesses are nice and pretty, and how she wants to be a princess.

For years to come, all because of my one princess insult, my daughter will fixate on princesses. She will dress like them for Halloween, she will draw them with crayons, she will hang posters of them on her wall. Eventually, this phase will turn into fixation with the modern day princess: the Cheerleader. Suddenly, she will want to cheer instead of play soccer. She’ll start watching her weight at age 10. She’ll flat iron her hair and want to take make-up lessons. With her friends she’ll be bubbly and giggly. With me she will be quiet and vaguely angry. She’ll say “what-ever” a lot and her main form of communication will be the eye roll. She’ll want to wear dresses and heels.

All the years we each spend in therapy, apart and together, will all eventually lead back to the ‘Snow White can suck it’ comment. We will have a breakthrough moment in a family session in which I tearfully admit that when I was in kindergarten I wanted to either be a princess or a hamster, confusing what I wanted to be with what I wanted to have. And I will admit, that even though Snow White isn’t a lesbian or even very smart, she has a pretty dress and a cool tiara.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Running Like Girls

Choosing a running partner is very important. You can’t pick just anyone. I have picked Kara (or rather she picked me when she promised we could wear matching t-shirts for the Music City half marathon). Neither of us are big runners. Or at least not the kind you see flashing past in lots of lycra barely breaking a sweat and breathing a forced “hah hah” as they pass. We each have run one other formal race in our lives: Kara ran a 5k in grad school and was passed by a silver-haired lady wearing an over 70 running club shirt. I ran a 5k with my dad when I was 11. I ran that race also due to the promise of matching t-shirts.

We don’t have the whole running thing down quite yet. I mean, we make the miles but speed and style have yet to be part of our equation. On Saturday we ran at a park that has a 1 mile loop. We were aiming for 4 miles so we encountered many of the same people during our run. We were smoked by the same runners frequently but only managed to pass someone else once. Actually, it was two people: two old ladies who had stopped to look at a bird in a tree just off the path. Yes, we passed them mainly due to the fact that they were fully stopped for several minutes consulting a bird book. And yes, we still felt good about it.

We make quite a site. Every few steps I manage to kick myself or veer suddenly and for no apparent reason toward the grass … or towards an oncoming walker/runner/innocent child. The kids on scooters are wisely giving us a wide berth. Kara is wearing some big headphones to keep her ears warm -- the cord hangs loose in her pocket not plugged into anything. She hates to be cold and even though it’s in the upper 50s she is wearing enough clothes to warm a small northern country. Kara first gets stuck in her windbreaker due to a jammed zipper. She is eventually able to shimmy her arms out of it and tie it around her waist. She then takes off her fleece and ties it around her waist. I tie her sweatshirt around my waist as Kara has a small waist and if she ties one more thing around it gravity may win and pull her to the ground.* I’m secretly glad to have the sweatshirt around my waste because in the warmish weather my underwear has started to get a bit sweaty and bunchy and cannot be providing a good view from the back.

That is the kind of thing I can say to Kara – about the underwear. And that keeps the conversation going for a good half mile. Someone must make special underwear for sweaty-butted runners, right? We both agree this has to be ‘a thing’. No subject is off limits: recipes, boobs, books, ovulating, husbands, parenting, politics, and desserts are all fair game. We have also been known to sing the theme from Rocky while cresting the slight incline that can only in the loosest sense be referred to as a hill. Kara comments, “I think we may be running in place….”

But the pace is not the point. I have not chosen my running partner for speed or distance. My running partner is not ashamed to be seen with someone who kicks herself and has major wedgies. I would not be mortified to throw up in front of her. Or admit that I need to walk. My running partner tells off the mean guy at the indoor track who yells at us to get out of his lane. My running partner always has enough clothes to keep us both warm. I picked Kara because when I run with her, or walk with her, or talk with her, I feel strong. The first steps of our run always feel like the first steps into spring -- our hearts light and our hair and skin soaking up the new warmth of the sun.

* Note: we did not stop running on any of the above wardrobe adjustments. We are such multi-tasking goddesses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dr. Ferber Can Suck It

Just because it will be therapeutic to type it again: Dr. Ferber can suck it; he did not solve my child's sleep problems. We Ferberized months ago and although we got rid of Satan’s Tool (aka, the paci), Zoey is STILL not sleeping through the night. The last two nights she has woken up at 3:30 AM for the day. Both De and I are dealing with it and I am down-on-my-knees-thank-ye-Jesus appreciative that I have a partner who helps out. But even so, we both have wildly different approaches. De is more Mr. Sensitivity and I am more of Ms. Rigidity-with-a-pole-stuck-up-her-ass.

When De has the baby monitor he tends to go to her after a while, pick her up, cuddle her, and often brings her back to our bed. Which I hate. Hate. Zoey is deliriously happy any time she makes it into our bed in the middle of the night. At first she coos and cuddles. Then, De will roll over into a deep sleep and suddenly Zoey is pinching and whining, pulling my hair and smacking me in the face. Very restful. If she ever does fall asleep I lie awake worrying that every move or cover adjustment one of us makes will result in Zoey’s instant suffocation.

When I have the monitor I worry and watch and stick to Dr. Ferber’s schedule like the chance for world peace depends on my accurate timing of Zoey’s cries. If De offers to go in and comfort her I have been known to shriek, “No!!!! We still have to wait 1 minute and 37 second!!!!” Other times I whisper ominously, “Go comfort her. But I’ll be watching you …. so DON’T PICK HER UP.” Or suffer my wrath is the implied threat. And he has suffered it, often very patiently.

The monitor is a problem in itself. My ever patient and calm husband can sleep peacefully by it and magically awake when Zoey needs him; he hardly ever uses the video function. Not me. I am constantly watching her. At least I’m no longer commando crawling into her room several times in the night to make sure she is still breathing. And by “no longer” I mean I haven’t done it in about a week. So when I have the monitor I lie there and worry about all the things that could go wrong. And this is when she is sleeping peacefully. Yes, I am worrying while she is sleeping.

Here’s what I often worry about:
Is the collar of her sleep sack too close to her mouth and thus obstructing her breathing?
Is her face angled too close to the mattress and thus obstructing her breathing?
Is her nose too close to one of the wood slats of the crib and thus obstructing her breathing?
If she stands up could she somehow stick her hand through the slats and reach the wire for the video monitor which is a good 2 feet away?
If she suddenly figured out how to catapult herself out of the crib (perhaps from chewing one of the wood bars loose) would she get tangled in the blind cords mid-flight?
If she has arm strength that I am not aware of and she pulls herself up and over the side of the crib will she hit the foot rest from the rocker on the way down?
Could the feet of her pajamas become twisted, cut off circulation, and result in foot amputation?
Will letting her cry cause her to overcompensate with perkiness later in life and put her on the path to being a cheerleader?
Will she be afraid of frogs since there are frogs on her bed sheet and they probably look creepy by the dimness of the nightlight?
How many years of therapy will she have to have to overcome the fears projected on her by her own mother?
Will we have to do family therapy?
Will we have to talk using all “I” statements?
Will Zoey say,, “I hate you but I love my 19 year-old boyfriend who has tattoos on his head and who doesn’t have a high school diploma”?

And I could go on. But it's really all just downhill from the imagined family therapy scenarios.