Mama Duck
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Motherhood

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Emotional triage


I swear, after I resigned last week, it felt like my heart grew several sizes larger. Could it be that I was subconsciously putting limits on my feelings, so the strain of working and dropping him at daycare would not cut so deep?

After resigning, it felt like I was able to love the duck more. Or rather, to let myself love him more.

Which I hadn't even thought possible.


posted by Mama Duck6:47 PM

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

About resigning


I resigned last Monday, and Friday is my last day. Reactions are actually not that varied. They include:

1. Congratulations
2. We'll miss you
3. I'm envious
4. You're lucky that you can do that
5. It must've been a hard decision

My responses:

1. I think it's interesting that most people's first response is positive congratulations. I think it IS a positive decision, and I'm glad I'm getting it validated, but I think it tells a lot about the tough row that working moms have to hoe that as soon as I throw in the towel, people are cheering.

2. Well, of course they'll miss me. I'm fabulous.

3. Wait till I'm doing it till you're envious. When I spend a day covered in spit up, unable to console a screaming baby and having had no adult interaction, when I have a fight with my husband over money, then we can talk about envy.

4. Inherent in this comment is the implication that my husband makes enough for this to be easy. My husband and I make about the same amount of money. There are two main reasons it's me staying home and not him. One, I'm still nursing the duck. Two, my company is up for sale, his is stable. I spent about half my take home money on daycare. Quitting means that we'll cut our income in half. This will not be easy. But we feel strongly enough that we want to get the baby out of daycare and into a more stable environment that we want to make it work. Whether we do make it work remains to be seen.

5. It wasn't a hard decision. It was five months of difficulty, juggling work and baby and daycare and bottles and pumping and mornings and sickness and exhaustion. And when the call came from daycare that he was sick again, and I had to miss another two days of work, it all became very clear. We wanted him out of daycare with a stable caregiver and we wanted it to be one of us. For the reasons in #4, we decided it would be me. Done.

His health may or may not improve. It may have improved if he stayed in daycare just because it's spring. I may go nuts as a stay at home mom. I may go nuts not having my own income. I may get even less writing done than I do today. I don't know what'll happen. But I feel fairly certain it's not going to be all rainbows and sunshine, chocolate truffles and Oprah.


posted by Mama Duck5:05 PM

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The better part of valor, and all that


I've just returned from England for my friend Chrestomanci's wedding. Nearly six years ago, she missed both her Oxford MBA graduation as well as a Dar Williams concert so she could come to Philadelphia and be the reader at my wedding. She'd had much anxiety when I'd asked her to select a reading for us. When she read an excerpt from Anderson's The Snow Queen, I smiled, having known she'd pick something fitting, wonderful and unique. And she did.

So there was never any question in my mind that I'd attend her wedding, and I looked forward to having her meet the baby. But as my husband and I made trip #1 by plane in January to Ohio, #2 by car in February to Chicago, and #3 by plane in April to Philly, something became increasingly clear: the duck does not travel well.

I can't really say he travels badly, though. Rather, he travels like a baby--sometimes good, sometimes fussy. And as per his usual, rarely sleeping. After serious consideration, my husband volunteered and insisted on staying home with the duck. I'd fly solo to London for the wedding.

Three things tell me we made the right decision.

One, both my flight out and my flight back sat for an hour on the runway before taking off for the planned eight hours in the air. This would not have pleased the duck.

Two, travelling to a different coutnry with a time difference meant that everything I did took slightly longer than I'd planned, and was more difficult to negotiate. See
Girl Detective for the stories. I find caring for the duck a challenge at home, where things are familiar. Duck care abroad would've been quite hard.

Three, since I didn't have to duck-wrangle, I was free to help my friend, running errands and helping with to-do lists in the last days before the wedding. I also got to meet and spend time with the groom, whom I'd not yet met. Not only was I able to help in various small ways, but I had the privilege of spending time with the couple just prior to the wedding. Things were tense and busy, but there's something special about this liminal time, as they teeter on the edge of a major life change.

Additionally, there are the unofficial reasons I'm glad I went. I got four nights of uninterrupted sleep. I ate every meal in one sitting, at my own pace. And I got to talk with grown-ups about grown-up things: Iraq, deplorable American sit-coms, wedding ceremonies, books, music, film.


posted by Mama Duck6:36 PM

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Monday, May 24, 2004

Where in the world was Girl Detective?


Just back from England, where I was for a friend's wedding. I'm exhausted, and happy to see the baby even though he's crying himself to sleep. More later this week.

Oh, and I resigned last week. Friday is my last day. After that, I'm a stay-at-home mom.


posted by Mama Duck4:52 PM

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Monday, May 17, 2004

A few quotes about working parenthood



From I Don't Know How She Does It (2002) by Alison Pearson from Anchor Books:

At times, I can almost be moved to tears by the picture of the thrifty responsible homemaker I could and would become. But the idea of not having an income after all these years makes me so fearful. I need my own money the way I need my own lungs. ("What your poor mum never had was Running Away Money," Auntie Phyllis said, dabbing my face with her hankie.) And how would I be, left alone with the kids all day? The need of kids is never-ending. You can pour all your love and patience into them, and when is it all right to say when? Never. You can never say when. And to serve so selflessly, you have to subdue something in yourself. I admire the women who can do it, but the mere thought makes me sick with panic. I could never admit this to anyone, but I think giving up work is like becoming a missing person. One of the domestic Disappeared. The post offices of Britain should be full of Wanted posters for women who lost themselves in their children and were never seen again. So when my two bounce on the body they sprang from shouting me, a voice within me keeps repeating, Me, me, me.


From The Home-Maker (1924) by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, from
Persephone Books:

Would it be possible for both of them to work, he and Eva? Other parents did sometimes. The idea was that with the extra money you made you hired somebody to take care of the children. If before his accident anyone had dreamed of Eva's natural gift for business, he would have thought the plan an excellent one. But it was only since the accident that he had had the faintest conception of what 'caring for the children' might mean. Now, now that he had lived with the children, now that he had seen how it took all of his attention to make even a beginning of understanding them, how it took all of his intelligence and love to try to give them what they needed, spiritually and mentally...no!

You could perhaps, if you were very lucky--thought it was unlikely in the extreme--it was conceivable that by paying a high cash price you might be able to hire a little intelligence, enough intelligence to give them good material care. But you could never hire intelligence sharpened by love. In other words you could not hire a parent. And children without parents were orphans.


I cannot recommend these books highly enough. I Don't Know How She Does It is billed primarily as a comedy, but I found it bitingly sad. Yes, there were some hilarious parts to it, but my favorite parts were like the passage above--when Pearson gave pen to the messy, ambivalent feelings that it doesn't feel OK to have, much less to admit.

The Home-Maker was written 75 years ago, but is shockingly timely. A stay-at-home mom drives herself and her kids crazy by pouring frustrated talent into being a stay-at-home mom. But when her husband has an accident and their roles are reversed, interesting things play out. The characters in this book are beautifully drawn, especially that of the youngest boy in the family.


posted by Mama Duck6:33 PM

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Some further thoughts on working versus staying at home


I may have erroneously made it sound like working and staying at home were either/or. And at the end of all the complexities in the middle, it actually may be.

When I went back to work when the duck was 14 weeks old, I went back part time--4 days a week on 80% salary. Even though the duck wasn't in daycare every day, we still paid for full time. So I was making less and we had more expenses, and daycare cost the same whether I worked 4 days or 5. I found that being home 3 days made parenting feel better. It made work, however, much more difficult. Gone were the days when I could do my job easily, when I could run errands over lunch, or chat with friends. Shifting to a 4 day week condensed everything. At 4 days I didn't accomplish what I would like. Going down to three days or having a job share with someone would be even worse. I'd seen and worked with women who did 4 and 3 day schedules, and I had hated to admit it about them, because I wanted to support them as women and as mothers, but they just weren't able to work at the same level as hard-working non-moms. And now I know why, because I feel the same way about myself--that my work performance went down. But when I look at what I accomplish at work, I take into account all the other factors that others don't see: lengthy physical recovery from birth, ongoing lack of sleep, constant baby sickness, breast pumping 2-3 times a day. The whole picture is a huge accomplishment, but work is just a part of that.

So I've found work plus motherhood is a raw deal. If I work full time, I miss out on being with the duck. If I work part time, then I struggle, get paid less and I sideline myself for career growth--about the best I can hope for is to keep status quo. (I have a mom friend at work who is there full time. She's up for a promotion, and I'm up for a lateral.) And if I stop work then I make it more difficult later to re-enter the work force, plus we halve our income as a family, while we add in baby expenses.

Overall, my company has a good record for working moms, but even so, there are ways to improve. If I do a job search again, I'll look for companies with on-site daycares. If my work had a benefit of sick-child care, then I might not be facing these questions. I know this isn't a common benefit, but I know so many other moms besides me for whom that this would make a huge difference.

One option suggested by my boss and another mom at work was to get a nanny. That way the duck probably wouldn't get as sick as he was getting in daycare, and if he did, then the nanny would still be there and I wouldn't have to miss work. Nannies cost about twice as much as daycare, though, and about equal to my take home pay. So I'd be working to pay a nanny. I'd have to love my job a lot and get a lot out of it for that to make sense. Additionally finding a nanny is hard, and once found there is no guarantee. Other moms had stories of merry-go-round nannies, and if they tried to share with someone else to manage the costs, then the complications were even worse. Then there are sad stories. One mom I know overheard her kid calling the nanny Mom. She found that when she got home at the end of the day the kids were tired and didn't want to talk to her--they'd done that after school with the nanny. If I had a job that was really important to me, then I'd consider a nanny. But I don't, and after much discussion with my husband, we feel that if the duck is going to have a single caregiver, it should be one of us.

That leads to another point. I may have sounded like I assumed that it should be me who stays home because of traditional gender roles. It's more practical than that. For now, the duck is still nursing, so it makes sense if one of us is to stay home to have it be me. Less alienation from the means of production for the duck. Also, my company is in transition, and his is stable. If I were at a more stable or better job, and if I had weaned the duck, we'd seriously consider having my husband stay home. I think he might be better at stay at home than me, anyway. He's more patient and he takes the duck's fretting less like a personal failure then do I.

I think the irony is that it seems like there are a lot of options. In the end, I think it comes down for a lot of people to either work or stay home because the compromises in the middle are just that--compromising.


posted by Mama Duck6:38 PM

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sick, again. No joke.


We got a message from daycare today that the duck had a fever and had to go home. This is the umpteenth time he's been sick and I believe life-changing decisions are about to commence.

There's a lot that's been written lately on moms who opt out and choose to stay at home. There's some stuff out there about how hard it is for moms who opt out to get back in. There's a lot out there about the futility of having it all--career and family--because so much of it falls to the mom even in very equal marriages, like my own. Once, women had to fight for the right to enter the workplace and advance in careers. Now they don't, or the struggle is at least less, but somebody's still gotta take care of the kid. If you want to read more about it,
Lisa Schmeiser's got some good commentary, though some of her links are subscriber only to the WSJ.

The draw of work is the intellectual challenge and the camaraderie of being around smart adults. The money and benefits don't hurt.

The draw of staying home is to take on parenthood full tilt. To be the one who's there when the duck hits the next milestone. To see the full range of his moods over the course of a day. To be the one there when he's got a fever, or a cold. To have him exposed to fewer viruses than in daycare. Not to have to be called that he's been bitten by another kid. Not to have to be called that he's sick again. Not to have to worry if he's really safe and well cared for there.

My mom stayed at home for about ten years with me and my two sisters, doing the Family Circle and Women's Day thing. Then one day she started working at church, and it seemed as if she vanished. She found a life outside of the home, and she was outta there. That was hard to handle as a ten year old. Not so hard to figure out as I grew up.

I'm now the age she was when she opted in. When I pointed this out to her, she noted that the difference was that she'd grown up sheltered, naive, not knowing what the options were. My sisters and I, she noted, had no such illusions.

And that's really what this is. It's no illusions--true ambivalence, being pulled in opposite directions, with each choice feeling like it negates the other. I have doubts as to my fitness to be a stay at home mom. But for myriad reasons, not being a stay at home mom has come to feel even less fitting.

If there's no right decision, doesn't that make all of them wrong?


posted by Mama Duck6:32 PM

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Should we stay or should we go?



Here is a fact: my husband, the duck and I live in a one bedroom condo of less than a thousand square feet.

When we bought it, we weren't sure we'd be starting a family. Now we have, and I think we've done a great job of managing in such a small space, but it was too small when he was little, and has gotten progressively more cramped as he has grown, gotten more mobile, and accumulated more stuff. Therefore, we need to move. That's about where the certainty ends.

Here are some other facts:

We have lost confidence in our daycare provider. Three of four staff have left within two months, and yesterday we got a call that he'd been bitten by another baby. Yeah, that stuff happens, but it happened twice, on his face, and I suspect that it might have been prevented with more attention. Therefore, we need to find new childcare.

We live far from our families. We live in MN, my folks live in OH, his folks live outside of Philly and one of my sisters just moved outside of Philly.

We moved out from Philly for my husband's job. After a merger, the job is no gem. My company is in flux. Once things settle, I may not have a job, or may not have a job I like, or may be working for a different company.

We both really like MN, and our friends here. It's a smart, progressive place to live. Good books, good restaurants. Good writing community. We don't mind winter and even enjoy it sometimes. We like lakes, and I love the North Shore and the Superior hiking trails. I believe that I'm happier and calmer here than I was living in Philly.

So what on earth will we do? Stay in MN? Move back to Philly? New daycare? Nanny? New jobs? For one of us? Both of us? Stay at home mom? Stay at home dad?

We need to move and we need to find different care for the duck. What that means is completely ambiguous, and the uncertainty feels maddening, frightening and wretched just now.


posted by Mama Duck5:00 PM

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I've included three emails I was forwarded for mother's day. They're on the treacly side, but each of them had something in them that made me nod, smile or tear up. I wonder how I would have reacted a year ago, when pregnant? Two years ago, when not?


posted by Mama Duck6:01 PM

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Yet another forwarded mother's day email



POSITION:
Mother, Mom, Mama, Mommy, Ma

JOB DESCRIPTION:
Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an, often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES:
The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION:
Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE:
None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION:
Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS:
While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.


posted by Mama Duck5:37 PM

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Another forwarded Mother's Day email


(I've edited out the beginning and the end, which were exhortations to forward this, for it to make it around the world--how would one tell?--and to pray. This one seems to have made the rounds--it has a lot of Google hits.)

This is for the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It's okay honey, Mommy's here." Who have sat in rocking chairs for hours on end soothing crying babies who can't be comforted. This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse. For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the mothers who DON'T. This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes. This is for the mothers whose priceless art collections are hanging on their refrigerator doors. And for all the mothers who froze their buns on metal bleachers at football or soccer games instead of watching from the warmth of their cars. And who, when their kids asked, "Did you see me, Mom?" could say, "Of course, I wouldn't have missed it for the world." And mean it. This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair when they stomp their feet and scream for ice cream before dinner. And for all the mothers who count to ten instead, but realize how child abuse happens. This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the (grand)mothers who wanted to, but just couldn't find the words. This is for all the mothers who go hungry, so their children can eat. For all the mothers who read "Goodnight, Moon" twice a night for a year. And then read it again. "Just one more time." This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead. This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot. This is for every mother whose head turns automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home--or even away at college. This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to school with stomach aches, assuring them they'd be just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from the school nurse an hour later asking them to please pick them up. Right away. This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can't find the words to reach them. For all the mothers who bite their lips until they bleed when their 14 year olds dye their hair green. For all the mothers of the victims of recent school shootings, and the mothers of those who did the shooting. For the mothers of the survivors, and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, hugging their child who just came home from school, safely. This is for all the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful, and now pray they come home safely from a war.

What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? Is it the ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time? Or is it in her heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time? The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 A.M. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby? The panic, years later, that comes again at 2 A.M. when you just want to hear their key in the door and know they are safe again in your home? Or the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a child dying?

The emotions of motherhood are universal and so our thoughts are for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers learning to let go. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.
This is for you all. For all of us. Hang in there. In the end we can only do the best we can with the light we have at the time.


posted by Mama Duck5:33 PM

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A Mother's Day forwarded email


This was purportedly written by Anna Quindlen

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the blackbutton eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin. All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past. Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete.

Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit- up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes weremade. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for
preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons... What was I thinking? But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.

There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.


posted by Mama Duck5:27 PM

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Monday, May 10, 2004
Hey, everybody! For mother's day I got a comments feature. Plus some really good chocolate. Sadly, no sleep. Maybe next year.


posted by Mama Duck8:21 PM

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Weather here today was beautiful. Took the duck out on the lawn in the courtyard of our building. He was very suspicious of grass and would not crawl on it. We saw two baby bunnies, then goslings later on a walk. He is quite difficult to look after in the apartment, now. He no longer cares for his toys. Instead, his favorite things are electical cords, purses, wooden furniture, and grown up books--all desirable teething surfaces for him. He pulled the following books off the shelf today at various points: Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman, Daredevil by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkewiecz, Wise Children by Angela Carter, The Liar by Stephen Fry, and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. He obviously has a thing for British writers. I kept having to pull him away. Very tiring.

I have taken the advice that dirt is good for babies and haven't dusted. When the duck manages to get his gums and four sharp little teeth onto a wooden surface, the result isn't pretty. The dirt mixes with the snot from his nose and the copious drool from his mouth to form a grey gunge.

I tried for perhaps the final time to get him to eat spinach/potato baby food. I alternated it with pear yogurt, something new, but he was not impressed with either. I finished both portions, and I can't blame him on the veggies. I love spinach, but that stuff was gag-inducing. The pear yogurt, though, was great, so perhaps the problem was its juxtaposition with the yucky spinach.

When my husband got home from work the three of us went back out to the courtyard and lounged about on a blanket. We coaxed the duck onto the grass, then I played airplane with the duck on my knees. He burst out laughing every time I brought him in for a kiss.


posted by Mama Duck8:01 PM

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Happy mothers day


Hey, did you know that mothers day came from England, not Hallmark? It was originally a Sunday called "mothering day". Domestic servants were given the day off to go visit their mums.

My day? The baby woke at 12:30 a.m. My husband gave him a bottle so I didn't have to get up. But over the next hour the baby wouldn't go to sleep, so I got up at 1:30 and nursed him in the hope that he just needed the extra nudge of a live boob. No dice. He continued to cry for at least another half hour, at which point I put him in the crib to cry it out--difficult to endure since the crib is next to my side of the bed--and at some point all three of us fell asleep.

The baby woke at 6, I nursed him again, and though he fell asleep in my arms, woke as soon as I put him in the crib. My husband got up with him between 6:30 and 8, then went to bed while I played with him between 8 and 9:30 before dashing out to yoga class. We changed at least 3 diapers with hard-looking poop between 2 and 8, so I think intestinal distress was a likely culprit. The rest of the day he had a runny nose and one cheek with a bright red rash, and was either very happy or very fussy.

I did make it to yoga, though, and in the afternoon we went out to
my favorite place for ice cream; I got a triple scoop of banana, sour cream and dark chocolate. After dinner I had chocolate again--my husband had gotten me a selection by my favorite local chocolatier.

My mother's day wasn't that different from any other mom day: little sleep and baby with a virus. There was actually more crying than usual. But I also had more chocolate than usual, so I think I'll be all right.


posted by Mama Duck4:57 AM

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Ah, motherhood


A non-Hallmark moment: this morning, I noticed that I once again had clogged ducts in one breast. I tried to nurse the duck, but he couldn't summon the enthusiasm to move things along. Normal procedure is to hop in a very hot shower. This morning? No time. I skipped the hot shower, and went straight to the sterilized needle, picking at plugged nipple pores then hand expressing milk into the bathroom sink until I'd moved the clog. I felt like a fucking cow.

I stopped by daycare at lunch, and the duck was in the midst of a screaming fit. Much mommy guilt ensued. He did calm when I got there and I was able to feed him most of the rest of a bottle.

His new pattern? He falls asleep between 6:15 and 7 p.m. He'll wake a few times, say around 10 and midnight, but can be calmed by pats on the back. Then he'll wake around 3:30, demand to be fed, and not fall back asleep unless Dad walks him. So he's asleep again about 4, after both of us have been up, and he wakes about 4:45 and is up. Hi, hi, hi! Then he falls asleep around 6 and wakes around 7 a.m. I take comfort in the knowledge that he's never been the same a whole week in a row. While this sucks, it's probably going to change. It better change.

Yesterday when he woke at 7, his eyes were wide and bright, and his smile was as huge as I've ever seen it. He was so happy it was almost blinding.


posted by Mama Duck5:37 PM

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004
I was reading a passage in the Sears baby book where Martha notes that when she reads her baby Matthew's cues correctly that he's much more calm. I started feeling guilty about how bad I feel I am at reading the duck's cues.

Then I remembered that Matthew was something like her sixth baby. She'd had plenty of practice.

Instead, I think I'll look on cue-reading like a batting average--I just want to increase it. It's not all or nothing.


posted by Mama Duck5:27 PM

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Baby sizes, ha!


As all parents know, and many non-parents don't, the size of baby clothes is stupid, annoying and wrong.

Most baby clothes are identified by age in months: Newborn, 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9. This is where most "baby" clothes stop and force you to move into the section for older kids. There is the strangely rare 9-12 size, then 12-18 and 18-24, and beyond that I'm a bit murky, though I think it's 2T, 3T and 4T.

The age of the clothes, though, bears little relation to the age of the actual baby. Some clothes offer a bit more information and give a weight range. If the child is like the duck, however, and is taller than he is fat, then the weight isn't much more help than the age. It's the length that will tell me if it's going to fit, and very few brands and labels list the length.

So far, though, the duck has been pretty consistent in how he matches up with the clothing sizes. Every six weeks he outgrew another three month stretch of sizing. At six weeks he outgrew newborn clothes, at 12 weeks he outgrew 3 months, at 18 weeks he outgrew 6 months, at 24 weeks he outgrew 9 months and most baby clothes, at 30 weeks he outgrew the year size and as he hit 36 weeks this week he is outgrowing the 18 month size. So you see the difference at the beginning was not too far off but it's gotten progressively more ridiculous. He's not even 9 months old and has outgrown clothes for 18 months.

I am always quite grateful for the clothing brands that list height on their tags. Carter's sometimes does it, Target never does it, the Gap does it.

Because really, what are you going to do? Have the baby try on the clothes to see if they fit? Ha! It's hard enough to get them in one outfit a day. Right now he's so squirmy and fussy on the changing table I'm ready to let him go naked and without diapers like those crazy people Jennifer Weiner mentions on her blog.

I don't think that'll fly at daycare, though.


posted by Mama Duck5:52 AM

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Sunday, May 02, 2004
Tonight I made baby food for the duck. We roasted sweet potatoes and beets last night, and I set aside one of each then I pureed them tonight. I was unable to locate beets in any approved food list for kids under 9 months, though, so I held those back. When I served him the pureed sweet potato, he had some trouble, so I thought it might be too thick. I added water, and he still didn't like it, so I had to backpedal with pears and oatmeal.

So right now I'm eating pureed sweet potatoes and beets. I have all the evidence I need that I never need to make baby food again. Hurrah!


posted by Mama Duck6:14 PM

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Saturday, May 01, 2004

Re-thinking the birth experience


One of the midwives laughed when I asked at a pre-natal appointment about birth plans I'd seen on the internet. She noted that those plans were put out there about ten years ago or even more, which is how long it's been since things like shaving and enemas have been part of the birth experience. Then she gave us a list of what the midwife birth philosophy was, and told us to add anything to it if we needed. We didn't.

I had an interesting and thought-provoking thing happen last month. I talked to a friend whose birth story started almost exactly like mine did, with water breaking at onset after midnight, and contractions that didn't progress. She had a different ending, though: baby born at 6 p.m. and not a lot of stitches. The differences? She went into the hospital right away, I waited (as instructed) 12 hours, and she started Pitocin right away, while I put it off till 18 hours, trying to go the natural route.

I understand that there can be no apple to apple comparison, and there is one key difference that she was at 36 weeks, and not 40 as I was. But it's made me wonder if the books and birth class I took made too strong a case for a natural birth, and didn't provide a balanced enough argument for early interventions given factors I had such as water breaking at onset, fatigue, non-progressing contractions and inability to eat/drink.

I read The Birth Book by Sears, and my husband read The Birth Partner by Simkin. We took a 6 week class through the hospital as well.

The further along I get into actual parenthood, the more I take Dr. Sears with a grain of salt. When I read the Birth Book, I was appropriately disbelieving of Martha's birth experiences: three hour labors, no drugs, and contractions that didn't hurt much. Clearly, the woman is a birthing machine. This book and our class led me to believe that if I just hung in there, I'd be able to have a straightforward, natural birth. I hung in there, but I think I just delayed the inevitable and perhaps made things harder for myself.

Those two books, though, along with our birthing class, made us feel very prepared for everything during the birth. We knew exactly what the choices were, what their pros and cons were, and when and why they were being offered. We had no surprises.

One thing I did want that I found rather hard in practice, though, was to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby right after the birth. They bathed him and swaddled him and gave him to me to hold, but I was in a gown and he was in a blankie, so stripping us both down was awkward. I wish I'd been a bit more firm about the naked cuddling.


posted by Mama Duck5:16 PM

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