Saturday, January 19, 2008

Christmas Train

Monday, July 10, 2006

Baby Mobile

It's July 10th and Eliza's officially mobile. She's been flirting with crawling for weeks, on all fours with her little butt in the air, rocking away. About two weeks ago she made the move forward with her legs and I thought that was it. However, she didn't seem to know what to do with her hands so she'd move about an inch or so, then fall, get frustrated and look up at me with an expression of such pain I felt compelled to pick her up. Most of the time. Okay some of the time. Other times I left her there, hoping she'd get back up and try again. More often than not, she'd become distracted by a nearby magazine page or leg of furniture and that would lead to several minutes of grab and mouth.

Yesterday, a Sunday, exactly two weeks after her precrawling incident, Eliza crawled from the middle of the rug to greet me here at the computer. Covering a distance of about six feet, Eliza grabbed my foot, swatted at it a bit, then made the move for a portable file holder I have stashed under the desk. This file folder sports an enticing, shiny metal bar and Eliza couldn't resist grabbing the holder and pulling it towards herself repeatedly. Fearing birth certificates, bank statements and passports all over the floor I had to forfeit my place at the computer and sweep her into my arms with joy.

I started crawling at five and a half months so Eliza's two months behind me in this game. But right on the Murphy's Law schedule of parenting. Eliza will suffer her first long flight this week and her newfound mobility will probably be further cause to propel herself off the lap of whoever holds her through the seven or eight or who knows with the time change flight to Amsterdam. Last week I took a short hour and a half long bus ride with Eliza that felt kind of like my version of "No Exit." Eliza slept peacefully in her sling for about a half hour, then woke up and immediately started pushing herself away from my body with her sturdy little legs. I spent the remaining hour with both arms soar from the football clutch hold I had to adopt to keep her from firing herself like a cannon right onto the floor of the bus. I imagine she would have been quite happy if I'd unleashed her onto the bus aisle floor, her little body jerked back and forth and the driver pumped the brake and then slapped the gas pedal. Not wanting bruises all over her round little body, I struggled to keep her "safely" on my lap.

I might add that I'm not the best flyer under any circumstances. I have my phobias, usually requiring valium or at least half a bottle of cheap British Airways wine. This trip will be harder with my billion dollar baby bouncing right there on my lap. I admit it, I'm scared. I finally got to a moment in my life where I'm pretty satisfied with my lovely daughter and I don't want any of it taken away from me.

But off this morose topic for a moment here to celebrate some other fun stuff--not only Eliza crawling, she's regularly hoisting herself up against furniture. Last night as I shut off the shower to the accompaniment of some healthy Eliza screaming, I entered the bedroom to see her confidently standing while holding on to the side of the crib, her mouth seeming larger than her face. I summoned C for a peek, not only so show her warrior pose but how unlikely it is for Eliza to "go back to sleep on her own" when she looks ready for battle. C and I have an ongoing battle about night waking and crying. He's for the "cry it out" approach while I, perhaps more sensitive to the tenor of her cries, know better. Her tired, yes I might be able to fall asleep cry sounds far different from the screaming that only a good cuddle will calm down. Again, I digress.

She smiles, she smiles, she smiles. She's always been a smiley kid but now that smile seems destined to bust her face in half. After another horrid night of sleep for me (I probably topped out at 3 hours) I rejoiced in her smiles yesterday morning in bed while her father snored through the event. I envied his ability to sleep through her wakefulness but at the same time I celebrated my ability to share her excitement at the start of a new day. This is a concept I have to hold on to because I topped out around four hours or five last night and I'm definitely starting to hear the buzz in my ears and the trails of imaginary moving rodents while my eyes and state of mind succumb to my fatigue. Someday I'll get a good nights sleep again. Some day.

But not today. And probably not tonight.

She giggles uncontrollably sometimes now. Not often, perhaps only once a day but there's this great window when I can kiss her belly and neck and nibble on her chubby legs and she'll squeal and giggle delightedly as I drink her in and relish the moment. I can't believe how great this baby is, how much I can enjoy her simply by chewing on her little leg.

Of course there's a flip side--the crying at 4am isn't fun nor are are diaper changing wrestling sessions. Why would Eliza stay still while I try to unwrap and replace a diaper when she can roll over, stick her soiled but in the air and start showing off her newfound skills? You know what gets everywhere but even still, the sight of her naked butt in the air is so charming that if it wasn't me with you know what on my hands, this could be one of the greatest moments ever. But it isn't, especially when it repeats itself about seven times a day.

So that's my girl for today. Right now she's napping, I hope happily. I tried to join her but ended up here instead. Perhaps I shall curl up on the couch some more.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Night Waking

When you first bring that new baby home and you learn how to sleep in three hour shifts, you can expect lots of comments from friends who are already parents along the lines of "It gets easier." Those first few months pass in a blur of marathon breastfeeding sessions and fumbling for something on the nightstand when the baby wakes up at 2am, then 5:30 am. Then the baby starts feeding less frequently and starts sleeping for 5, 6 then 10 hour stretches and you expel a happy sigh of relief to have made it through the "hard part."

Eliza started sleeping through the night at six weeks. This nightly act of sleeping fitfully for ten hours elicited envy, awestruck exclamations and sneaky glances at my boobs as other Moms wondered "what I had in there." She'd wake in the night maybe once or twice a week but the rest of the time, she was pretty predictable. Down at 10, up at six, C and I patted ourselves on the back and lifted our eyes towards a higher power in gratitude. I managed to tune out conversations about sleep training and crying it out.

At four months, Eliza began to wake once a night every night. After getting used to my fit little sleeper, this nightly interruption was greatly discombobulating. C and I started fighting, my hair started looking decidedly askew and my brain/mouth coordination went haywire. Suddenly, I'd say North Carolina when I meant South, right when I meant left, FU when I meant, hey great to see you. The adrenaline rush of the first few months was over and with four months of sleep deprivation, I found myself a shoe in for the lead in "Taming of the Shrew."

However, this night waking was soon corrected when Eliza started on cereal. With the simple introduction of solid food, my little night waker morphed right back into night sleeper. I rejoiced again at my success and took to going to bed earlier, close to when she did in case the problem returned.

Fast forward now to 7 and a half months and the night waking has returned what feels like a fever pitch. The bigger problem though is my ability to return to REM sleep has completely gone away. When she's up, I'm up and then some. Right now, I've got a happy sleepy apartment and I'm pounding away at a computer keyboard, terrified at what I'll be like tomorrow (today).

It started shortly before 7months. She was up for one long night and the following day I felt and certainly looked like an extra in a George Romero film. When a cold came, I figured this new sleep disturbance was caused by the cold and would go away with the cold. The cold lasted about ten days and so did the night waking. When she slept through the night for the first time, again I believed all would be well. Two nights later, the night waking started again, then a fever came on and I believed this was all due to a long sickness.

Finally this week, she slept through the night on Tuesday. Then Wednesday, then Thursday and even Friday. I, unfortunately, now accustomed to sleep interruptions, did not fare as well. I woke at four the first night, sort of waiting for her to wake up. As the minutes ticked by and still she didn't wake, I couldn't find that switch to turn off my mind and slide back into sleep. Wednesday night, the same thing happened though I did manage to squeeze in an extra hour or two before I woke. Thursday, I manged another extra hour. By Friday, I had worked my way up to almost 6 1/2 hours of sleep. I felt great Saturday, ready to celebrate, ready to maybe make it seven hours tonight.

Here it is, 3:27 am, technically it's Sunday and I'm wide awake. Eliza woke up shortly before 2, I nursed her back down (an activity frowned on at this age as an act that will scar your child with the inability to fall back asleep on her own) and then crept back to bed. I closed my eyes and found a comfortable position. I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I gave up. I wonder what kind of shrew I'll be tomorrow.

Ambien commercials are suddenly garnering the same kind of lust for me as images of Brad Pitt with his shirt off. I wonder what it's like to get a full 8-10 hours of sleep. I don't think I've had that since last October, before I got too big with Eliza and had to get up to pee three times a night. Suddenly conversations about sleep training pique my interest. I hear other Mom's tales of moving into the living room and I salivate with envy. A room seperate from my baby. I love her and love waking up to look at her in the morning, but oh how a room of my own seems like cloud. This past week I had the opportunity at my mother's to put her in a room downstairs and sleep upstairs. But every night, I couldn't do it afraid of not hearing her, afraid she'd wake up in this room she didn't really recognize and wonder where I'd gone.

In ten days Eliza will be eight months old. She's so happy now, loves the swings at the park, giggles uncontrollable when I chew on her chubby legs and sits forward in her stroller, excited to take in the world. Every day with her feels like a newsreel of great moments worth recording. And yet, I'm exhausted, frazzled, desperate for sleep and somehow unable to do so. One mother described this as the greatest endurance test she'd ever taken. Loving my daughter, that's the easy part. But when does the sleep thing, when does that end?

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Today it's going to be nothing but a sob story.

I worry too much about what's going to happen instead of waiting to see what will happen. It's a flaw of mine and one I'm working on but I can't say I'm having too much success. I love being a Mom and I love staying home and taking care of my girl. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

But I worry. I worry about whether or not my daughter will be happy. I worry about her going to good schools, having friends, experiencing so many of the hurts I went through as I grew up. But mostly I worry about exposing her to the tenuous situation she was conceived in.

C has his many good points and in a lot of ways, we have a good relationship. We laugh a lot together, we enjoy each other's company, we're good friends. He loves Eliza and is a good father to her. Patient, able to wake with her in the middle of the night and cuddle her. Or able to hold her while she screams without it bothering him in the slightest. He is a good person, a good father.

But like most of us, C comes with his baggage, his other two children. I like his other two children and before Eliza was born I enjoyed the time all of us spent together. But since Eliza's arrival in my life, my feelings for his other two children has shifted. I'm not sure it's Eliza's birth of the fact that C and I now live together that changed how I saw his children. Before I had my own home, my own space that was uncluttered by them. We'd spend the day together and then I'd return to my apartment and play my piano or walk around in my underwear singing into a hairbrush. Now, when they visit, all five of us are crammed into this one bedroom apartment. If the baby's asleep in the bedroom, I can hang out in the living room with everyone or I can go to bed myself. When the baby wakes up before his kids in the morning, C and I are stuck in the bedroom, trapped, like we're in lockup.

C's ex-wife and his kids are now making the move to New York City and, as with everything that concerns his ex, it's happening sooner than expected. They had to be out of their house at the end of this month but they're coming here two days before the end of the month, on Wednesday. I had the babysitter scheduled to come for the first time in two weeks on Friday so I could write, maybe excercise, but now I have two choices, to accompany C and his kids to his parents' beach house or stay here without him, with no partner or helper for four days, and have those few hours on Friday for myself.

It's not so bad, right? A family weekend at the beach, all of us together in house with more space. I didn't know for sure the kids were coming this weekend until yesterday, four days before they arrive. I was not asked how I felt about their coming on Wednesday, only given an estimate (usually wrong) as to which time they'd arrive.

I wasn't happy though I'm trying to accept that C has these kids, I knew them well before we had Eliza. I never considered their living in the same city but that doesn't mean it has to be a bad thing. Instead of his having to travel every weekend to see them, he'll be here. His son is great with Eliza and it will be fun seeing their relationship bloom and change on a regular basis.

However, I still feel overwhelmed with dread because like everything, I feel the control I once had over my life has slipped away. I realize control is really an illusion, none of us really controls our own lives. But before, my days had a routine, a predictibility about them I liked. Now, I will never know when his kids will be here or not. They'll be living with their mother of course, but as she is frequently not at home, I don't know how often they'll be here. I asked C this morning if he could not schedule their coming during two afternoons in July and this request was met by name calling, accusations of fight-picking, the usual dissolution of myself in tears. I'm not trying to be negative about his kids moving here, I'm just asking for some kind of schedule. I'm a routinized kind of person, I realize perhaps too much so, but I'd like to know that if I ask for this apt. as mine and mine only for a few hours it won't lead to an argument.

I'm not great at asking for things I want, I never have been. I suppose I often ask in a way that can be seen as nasty or hostile. I know some people who can always get what they want from the people they love simply by the way they ask. I wish I had that talent, that power. In truth, I don't want C's kids here but I know they belong here and I want to try. All I wanted to see was if we could create a way to work towards it together. If every time they come, I'm simply told a short while before they arrive, I'll be miserable. I guess I'm not good at working things out, finding solutions. My solution was to ask for some notice, for some days when, if his ex called and said she needed to drop the kids off, he'd ask her to wait a few hours. It was a hypothetical situation in the first place and I could have waited to see what would happen but I never know anything until the plans have already been set. I'm always told what's going to happen shortly before it happens with no question as to what I might have planned that day.

Oh my little baby, how much I love her and want to make her life work for her. She deserves to know her siblings and her father and I want her to have the safety and comfort of a family. If I could learn to embrace this all as a good thing instead of fighting so hard for my space, my routine, it could all go so much more smoothly. Instead, I sit here crying, wishing I hadn't screwed up, wishing C would see that it's so hard to live in a home when you yourself feel like a constant guest who has to make myself flexible to five people in two rooms at any given time.

My little one is sleeping now, her morning nap, her tiny head probably full of dreams of the future. And me, what kind of life can I give her now with no job, no security, a life trapped in a two room apartment where my vote is not an option. I needed those days to try to write, to try to do something postive with my life so I could feel like I was still me, still a person with a way to make a living so I don't have to feel like such a failure for not working. I like to write in my own home as opposed to pounding on a laptop in a cafe. But I could learn to pound on a laptop if I have to, I need to now for me, for my daughter. I want her to know me as a happy, satisfied person who still pursues what she wants. If I can't do it at home because C's kids are here, it's not that hard to find another way. For her, always for her.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Baby Love

Just a little post today on some baby love.

Yesterday, when my babysitter arrived, she brought up a box with that had been delivered to me earlier that morning. Thrilled to see it was my new sling, I couldn't wait to try it out with my beautiful babe. During the time that Kim had my darling daughter and the day grew from cloudy to sunny and absolute gorgeous, I counted off the hours until I could step out with my baby.

Finally five o:clock arrived and when Kim came in, promptly at five, I was thrilled to have my daughter back. I slid on my sling with it's blushing pink pattern and headed towards the park on Tenth Avenue. I hung out in the park with Eliza, noticing a good deal of the other park "patrons" were male. Perhaps they were men, recently home from work, relieving their wives of their day jobs. I walked around the park, Eliza against me and enjoyed looking at everyone. Eliza fell asleep and when I came home, I lay down on the bed, her still in the sling, and read a book. Reading is one of the "activities" I really miss and to do it with her next to me, happily asleep, was such a wonderful thing.

When she woke up and I removed her from the sling, I undressed her before I fed her. She was wearing a light colored outfits and I didn't want it stained with the bright orange butternut squash I planned to feed her.

After she had eaten and it was time for her to get in the bath and ready for bed, I remembered I wanted to purchase a New York Sun newspaper from one of those boxes on Tenth Avenue. Not wanting to dress Eliza, I slid her into the sling in nothing but her diaper.

Walking the long block from Ninth to Tenth Avenue, Eliza looked like naked baby and everyone seemed to enjoy looking at her. She bounced against my body, a no no according the sling manufacturer and I was grateful my hands were free in case she ejected herself from my body. As I walked passed an older couple in front of one of the buildings, the man said, "Now that is what I call a great outfit."

"Best accessory I ever had!" I shouted back to him. Eliza grinned and bounced against me, seeming happy to enjoy the evening walk. I sang to her as the sun set, a silly little song C had made up about the sun. Eliza looked at me, her face splitting into a smile so happy, I felt there was no greater joy that what she was experiencing at the moment. I continued to sing and she continued to bounce and smile happily.

Suddenly I felt the full power of making a human being that happy with nothing, just a silly song and it was the greatest power I've ever felt. In the lobby, under the admiring gaze of my neighbors and doormen, I could only savor the beauty of something as simple as stepping out to get a newspaper. The notion that your presence, coupled with some rather bad singing, could make some one else giddy with happiness was completely alient to me. And now here it was, right in front of me, making me happy, making me feel whole.

Baby love, it's this thing bigger than me and too much for me to describe. Tonight I went out and didn't get to tuck Eliza in before bedtime. As I walked home, I'd hoped she still be awake, so I could walk her on the city streets on a beautiful night, singing about Mr. Golden Sun and reveling in how much exileration a simple song could bring.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Something Old, Something New

I want this blog to also act as a record of the things that change from month to month in the first year of Eliza's life. I remember Eliza's brother said, when looking at the baby book, "Isn't it funny how one month is like a year in the life of a baby." I always found this to be an astute observation from a nine year old and I can't agree with him more. Sometimes the months have felt like years, other times they've flown by and I can't believe my wonderful daughter is already six and a half months old. I remember going to the Mom and Me group and seeing five month old and six month old babies and thinking they seemed so much older, similar in the way 30 seemed so old when I was ten.

So what's new in the life of Eliza--she stood up in her crib for the first time the other day. I propped her into a seated position with her little hands clutching the side of the crib for support and right in front of my eyes, grunting and straining, she pulled herself up into a standing position. She was hunched over chewing on the side of the crib so I didn't get to view the full scope of her height but I was suitably amazed. Two days later she did it again, two times in a row, like it was nothing. That night I assigned C to the task of lowering the crib mattress. Now I have to reach down much lower to take my little darling out of her crib.

She's fascinated by her hands now. This past week I visited my friend Jill, the mother of six kids. During dinner Eliza sat in a high chair at the head of the table and waved her right hand throughout the entire meal. Her fingers were splayed and she slowly waved the hand in a gesture that reminded me of a pinwheel. The following day when Jill and I took her to a nearby park, I was surprised when I walked to the back seat to find Eliza in her car seat, wide awake, staring at her waving hand. She also claps her hands now, sort of. She doesn't make much of a sound and it doesn't seem to be in appreciation of any fabulous backflip I'm doing. Rather she seems amazed that she can bring her two little hands together.

For the past two weeks, she's made this raspy kind of screeching sound that sounds like a cross between a giggling child and Linda Blair in the exorcist. Tonight, C said the raspy screech has replaced the snorting Eliza did in her first 2-4 months of life. I'm not sure exactly when the snorting disappeared but it's completely gone now. I do miss it along with the side to side shark frenzy head shake she did before she latched on during nursing. The little savage baby that fixed to my nipple and fed like a feeding pirahna now smiles or falls asleep when attached to the boob.

The superman pose is gone. Every now and then it does reappear but for the most part it's gone. She favors sleeping on her stomach now with her little butt in the air, a side affect of the pre-crawling rock on hands and knees she's doing. I'll often find her pressed to the top most corner of the crib, her hands in little fists near the side of her face, her little butt in the air.

She really reaches for me now, will grab onto my shirt when I prop her up in her crib and often will shift her bodytowards me when C walks by holding her. Tonight, in the Johnny Jump Up, she turned to watch me walk into the bedroom and reached for me as I came out. Oh how I love this baby, oh how I love everything about her.

She sits up in the crib now and loves playing with her little stuffed walrus in the bathtub. She still likes to nurse before sleep and often falls asleep in my arms, an activity I relish. The other day she did it during breakfast with other Moms and several of them commented on how their babies don't do that anymore. I was pleased and proud my little baby still acts like my little baby, some of the time.

Today, C and I took her to Macy's while he purchased some much needed new clothes and shoes for himself. While C was in the fitting room and I sat outside waiting, Eliza flirted with a nearby man and a young girl. I played with her feet and her giggles brought forth laughs from her newly admiring crowd. She did great on her first long shopping excursion, didn't lose it until it was time to go. I pulled her out of the stroller and walked about six blocks with her in my arms. It was scary with the masses of people, all swarming around Macy's and Penn Station, to be carrying a little babe against my body with no bjorn, no harness. But Eliza loved it, her head whipping around to take in the chaos around her. This child is every inch an urban baby.

It took a long time for her to fall asleep tonight. It was hard, listening to her cry at full volume for about 25 minutes that felt like an eternity. I kept going into the room and popping the pacifier in her mouth but she kept spitting it out. Her eyes were half open and I knew she was tired but still it was hard to listen to her cry like that. Finally I gave in and lifted her out of the crib. Two minutes with her pressed to my body, she belched and her eyes slowly closed. She still fought sleep for a few minutes after that but I knew it was coming, knew my baby was okay.

Every day ushers in something new and perhaps the remnants of something that's passed. And with that passing, the joy in the new things and the sadness for the little babe who grows and morphs and thrives into this joyous little person I feel so privileged to have in my life.

Nursing Mom

I've had several friends who were "unable" to nurse so even before Eliza was born, I worried I wouldn't be able to do this thing that should come naturally. Problems my friends had encountered ranged from low milk supply to a baby that simply turned away from an engorged boob. Being that I'm a little weirdly competitive with C's ex-wife, who I know had the ability to nurse, I was especially concerned I wouldn't be able to measure up to C's first experience as a father. It was stupid on my part and as C's ex is wildly successful at whatever she does, C's reminded me many times no one should trouble themselves to compete with her because "everyone is going to lose."

Ex-wife aside, I felt strongly about nursing and hoped I'd be able to do it. It seemed easier than heating up a bottle in the middle of the night, was certainly more economical, and since it was a natural occurrence, I felt healthier for the baby. People who'd suggested nursing as a way to lose the baby weight added more fuel to my nursing desire. I took a breastfeeding class shortly before my due date and hoped all would go well.

When the nurse brought Eliza to me for the first time and showed me how to attach her to my breast, I was very pleased to see my little darling latch on right away. In lactation circles, the "latch" is everything and since my baby seemed to be a champion latcher, it looked like I was going to be okay. As a C-section mom, I had a longer stint in the hospital and I used my time to make sure every nurse showed me her own technique to help make Eliza's nursing experience easier. Despite their impressed assurance that Eliza had a "good latch" I still worried incessently about my milk supply. Since I'd been told in the breastfeeding class and in the books that nursing didn't hurt unless the baby didn't have a good latch, I worried Eliza wasn't getting enough to eat. The books say without a good latch, the baby won't get enough to eat.

However, at Eliza's early pediatrician appointments, the doctor seemed impressed with Eliza's weight gain and eased my fears. Once my initial blisters (and yes you get them and they're painful and ugly) healed and the nursing continued to hurt, I worried about her latch, that I had an infection or thrush. I finally broke down and called a lactation consultant. $200 bucks later she'd seemed to narrow the problem down to Eliza's stingy mouth opening but couldn't offer any concrete method for getting Eliza to open her mouth wider. I remember one nurse at the hospital saying, "If she doesn't open wider don't give it to her" but I wasn't about to starve my child. Around 2 months, the nursing magically stopped hurting and I realized it probably had something to do with my baby's mouth growing.

Much to my relief, Eliza gained more than the required amount of weight in the first two weeks and I felt pleased to save us all the cost of formula. In order to keep some semblence of my life before child, I'd arranged to have a part-time babysitter come about 8 hours a week after the baby was born so I could go to the pool and get rid of the baby weight. All I'd need was to pump enough for two bottles a week and we'd be set.

The nursing's relative ease was matched by the hassle and frustration of pumping. It doesn't really hurt my body, but it's affected me emotionally and pushed me to the point of extreme exhaustion. First I bought a $30 hand pump just in case the nursing didn't work out. It took me a few tries to get the thing to work but imagine my surprise that night I woke up in the middle of the night engorged to watch the pump actually express milk from my body. I was impressed by my body's functionality and kept pumping but could only draw out less than two ounces. Eliza already required at least four ounces a bottle. I pumped again the following day but only extracted about an ounce. Finally, I realized it would take about three pumping sessions to come up with enough for one bottle. Factor in a baby that didn't let me put her down and the 20 minutes it took to sterilize the pump parts after each session and you can get how difficult a task this was.

Determined not the plunk down the $260 for the double electric pump that had become the Successful New York Mom standard, I purchased a small single electric pump. C had suggested it was the kind his ex-wife used and "she'd never had a problem with it." Unfortunately, not only did this pump sound like a small UFO landing in my living room, it seemed to extract even less than the manual pump. Books recommend staring at the baby's photo or pumping while the baby nurses on the other breast (a physical impossibly for me due to the way I held Eliza while nursing), none of which worked. But still I soldiered on, lamenting how the simple act of hiring a babysitter forced me to use what free time I had trying to get the proverbial blood from a stone.

Finally, even though I hadn't planned on going back to work, I decided it was time to suck it up and purchase the $260 pump. C had bought me ballet tickets as a Christmas present and on the day we were scheduled to go and his brother would come buy to babysit, I went to Buy Buy Baby (I've certainly taken their advice) and splurged on the double electric pump. I came home, put Eliza in her crib, and put the pump together.

Unfortunately, Eliza wasn't going to make the process easier by napping. As I unwrapped piece after piece from tightly packed plastic bags, Eliza wailed with the athleticism of a long distance runner. I had to sift through a rather large instruction book and skim past the silly instructions like "get a glass of water and sit in a comfortable chair looking at your baby" for the actual advice on how to use the thing. With Eliza still screaming, I pressed the breast shields to me and turned the thing on. It was a good deal quieter than the other electric pump so in that vein it was worth it. But my boobs just sat there, filling the shields. As I'd had some experience with two other pumps, it didn't take long for me to realize there was no suction. I put all the pieces back together, followed the trouble shooting instructions and still nothing happened. Eliza screamed louder and louder and finally I had to give up and accept that my non-refundable $260 investment didn't work. It was after five, C's brother set to arrive about 6:45. I would not be able to produce a bottle for my daughter.

In my bathrobe, I pushed the pump aside and pressed Eliza to me. After she was done nursing and in her crib napping, I called C and told him I couldn't go to the ballet, I could never go out, I had to stay home in my bathrobe and nurse all day. He suggested calling the manufacturer, stop the pity party, etc. but I had hit bottom, the full impact of my new responsibility finally hitting me. Nursing Moms don't get a lot of breaks and I didn't even know what kind of formula to buy, all the choices were too overwhelming. So many books suggest against supplementing early on (Eliza was about 8 weeks now) as it can interfere with your milk supply. In fact, the books really pressure you to do every feeding or pump like crazy if you miss a feeding because skipping a feeding triggers your body to cut back on it's supply. In my dark and hormonal state, I was convinced that a single bottle of formula could end breastfeeding for good. After spending so much money on breast pumps, I hated to cop to the cost of dinner in a jar as well.

So I hung up with C, turned out the light and decided I'd have to spend the rest of Eliza's nursing months isolated, bathrobed and ready to let down. He came home about 20 minutes later and ordered me to get out of bed. Again I refused, saying we couldn't go out and leave the baby with no milk. He said he'd go downstairs and get formula but I protested, feeling that kind of purchase was a massive defeat. Finally, the fact that he came home from work early or just his caring insistence convinced me to get out of bed and get dressed. We had formula we'd been given when we left the hospital and C prepared the bottle while I got ready. His brother arrived and I walked him through the evening.

When we got to the ballet I realized I really had been depressed and this evening out was something I'd needed.

"Thank you," I said to C during intermission. "You did a good thing tonight."

Unfortunately, when we called home to see how Eliza was doing, his brother said she'd refused the formula. Terrified of starving my child, I insisted we go home despite the fact that she was now asleep. When I got home, she didn't wake up right away to feed. So the four of us hung out for a bit, Eliza on my lap for at least an hour.

The next day I called the breast pump manufacturer and they did help me get the thing to work. The double pump made a big difference. Suddenly I could pump 3-4 ounces instead of 1-2. However, as Eliza already required more than four ounces, it still took several pumping sessions a week to come up with two bottles. Any night C babysit while I went out with friends, thus requiring a third bottle, were tortuous. I finally found that the best way to get the most from my pumping was to wake up in the wee morning hours while everyone was still sleeping and pump. I did this frequently and built up a small stash in the freezer.

However at four months, Eliza started cereal increasing the demand for breast milk. At six months, the doctor told me to elevate her cereal feedings from one a day to two. Now I need to produce at least two bottles a week plus enough for two bowls of cereal per day. I've been getting up before she does to pump but last week I decided to give it a rest. It's time to throw in the towel and start giving her formula.

It's sad as Eliza does prefer my milk to the powdered kind, not only in taste but in digestion. Being a nursing Mom is a real committment and though I've come to love and celebrate that committment, being a pumping Mom is hell. Just putting the thing together takes at least five minutes, as does taking it apart. Then there's the added grief of the sterilizing and drying. I love my daughter, and I'm happy to keep up the nursing but I can't pump anymore.

But I do celebrate how well the nursing has gone and without the pressure of pumping, I find I really enjoy nursing. It's our time, my time to be with her and hold her while she lies against me and closes her eyes. Often, she still falls asleep while nursing and though the books suggest against this, in favor of teaching a baby to fall asleep "on her own" it's so nice to hold her in my arms and pretend she's still my tiny little baby, the newborn who wouldn't let me put her down. There's so many ways to love a child and nursing feels like one of the best ways to me. I dread the day I stop nursing as it still is such a reliable way to calm her down. I wonder what other tactics will soothe her when the boob closes up shop. On the plus side, I look forward to wearing clothes without hidden slits around the boobs that aren't stained with baby puke.

In the end, nursing is very draining yet tremendously rewarding and wonderful. I am so grateful my daughter latched on "like a pirahna" and we've been able to share this experience together.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Baptism, Part Deux

To ease us back into the grace of the Baptism I'd hoped to start off with some information about the beauty of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, after several hours of googling St. Stephen's Church in Pittsburgh, I didn't learn the name of the architect or the history behinds it's tall, regal, columns or who oversaw the creation of the long, colorful stained glass windows.

I did, however, find out an interesting fact about the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh. Hazelwood is the neighborhood my grandparents settled in, once a haven of Italina, Irish and Scotch immigrants. Fifty years ago, it was a thriving nexus of languages and culture, steel mills and local business. St. Stephens's Church, on Second Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Hazelwood, was completed in 1910 with a rectory built nine years later. Second Avenue was the commercial business district and also housed the Hazelwood Dairy, Cook and Parsons Lumber, Jones and Stiefel Pharmacists and a large J&L Steel plant along the Monongahela River. Now, only St. Stephen's remains. The mill closed up shop about six years ago and is almost completely dismantled. But when I lived in Pittsburgh during college, the mill was still operating. A torch reached high into the sky and you could see it from my grandparent's back porch. Ironically, you could see this same torch from my 11th floor dorm window. I'd stand in my window late at night, staring at the flame feeling an odd connection to my grandparents. We might be living worlds away, they in their a neighborhood that was decaying and me in a thriving college town, but somehow that torch united us.

In trying to find some St. Stephen's history, I found that this particular steel mill, located in what was then called the Scotch Bottom section of Hazelwood, was called the Eliza plant. The Eliza plant is gone, it's buildings dismantled and the area mostly a gaping space with train tracks covered in weeds. But one day in May, a little girl bearing the same name would return to her roots and be christened in a church just down the Street.

St. Stephen's is a beautiful church with an enormous front facade done in tan-colored stone. The church seems impossibly small inside, the large facade putting it on the level of some medium sized churches in Italy or France. Inside, the three aisles are lined with massive columns and long, arched stained glass windows line both sides of the building. As a child, I used to attend midnight mass with my parents, grandparents and whatever cousins were visiting that year. Now I sat in the second pew from the front, C beside me, holding our daughter. Another family, christening their daughter Autumn sat in the pew behind us.

Other family members started to filter in. My mother arrived with her sister, cousin and my grandfather. One of the big productions of the weekend was my grandfather's untimely loss of his hearing aid. This caused my grandmother, convinced he'd somehow done this on purpose, much consternation. My grandfather arrived and sat with my mother and her sister. My grandmother requested he sit beside her and my Aunt screamed across the church, "Daddy, she wants you to sit next to her." "

This went on for a few moments before my grandfather realized he should take his rightful place beside my grandmother. I held Eliza up so my Aunt could see she was wearing the booties she'd knit and sent after Eliza's birth. "Those will stay on," my aunt said before she and my mother sat a few pews back, near the side door so they could sneak out after communion and make sure the caterer had set up brunch properly.

Next came my father with C's parents, strutting in like a group of children on a family vacation. My father, who still loves my mother's parents as his own, raced over to say hello to them.

"Who's that?" my grandmother said as soon as they were out of earshot.

"Dat's Bill," I heard my grandfather say.

"Bill who?"

"---'s father," he said.

"I didn't know he was coming," she said. I'd told her many times he would be there but the woman's 91, it's okay if her mind takes a siesta every now and then.

Finally the Priest, Father Neil, came out and handed out prayer books. We said a few prayers renouncing Satan and welcoming God into the heart of our daughter. I felt a little humble agreeing to believe in the whole God thing and I peered at C sheepishly to see if he felt the same but he kept his eyes fixed on the Priest. The Priest told us he'd summon us all up in the middle of the service, the parents, baby and Godparents. After Father Neil walked away and the church continued to fill up, C looked through the prayer book and said, "Basically he'll ask us a couple questions and we say 'I do'. Oh yeah and we have to say 'it is' a few times and then an amen."

It reminded me of that scene in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" when some one tells Hugh Grant to say "I do" whenever some one asks him a question. Then a middle-aged man sat at the piano at the front of the church and suddenly a prerecorded choir kicked in.

"Turn to page 40," Father Neil said.

"Showtime," I said.

To my surprise, C opened the song book and started singing along. I looked at him in shock but his mouth was opened wide in song. The night before, when he'd said something about how fake it would all feel in the church, I told him perhaps in the moment, I'd feel it was all real. Now it looked like he was feeling something and I felt fully aware of the hypocrites we'd become. The song ended and Father Neil began the Mass. C held Eliza, who squiggled against him but was relatively quiet. Autumn Lynn, the other baby, squawked a lot louder.

This dialogue is how I remember it, perhaps not exactly as it was.

"We have two babies to be baptized today. One named Autumn Lynn." He then went on to name her parents and "sponsors" or Godparents.

"And all the way from New York we have Elizabeth Camille ----, daughter of ------- and ------, sponsored by -------- and ------. There's a special reason Elizabeth travelled from New York today. Elizabeth's mother is the granddaughter of ------ and ------- who've been members of this church most of their lives."

He then told the congregation that my grandfather would be turning 100 years old this coming August. I knew my Grandmother would be pleased to hear her name called out in her favorite place. Eliza showed her appreciation for her moment in the spotlight by becoming more vocal. The Priest then went into the sermon which was amusing though I have no idea what the gist of it was. With two Christenings, he knew he had a full house and it was obvious his sermon had been prepared with care. It had something to do with two Irish guys in Washington DC and about how no one wants to go to DC because it's always hot and sticky and you might get mugged. I laughed accordingly but started to feel the discomfort of the pew and those old wishes for a something, anything to read returned.

Eliza squealed louder and M helped me prepare a bottle for her. As soon as Eliza saw the bottle her face changed and she quieted down. M and I laughed quietly at my smart little baby who's mood changed when a bottle was whipped out. C took the bottle and started to feed her while Autumn fussed in the pew behind us. I looked around and saw my mother, my father, my grandparents in front of me, C's family, C and M on either side of me and I realized, practically everyone I loved was in this room. I remember one of my friends saying that's why she started to cry as she came down the aisle on her wedding day. She realized everyone she loved was there.

Half a Tolstoy novel later, Eliza now with just one bootie on, the Priest called us up to the alter. The two families with Godparents shuffled up to the three steps and Father Neil told us to take our place by a large stone basin shaped like a Marie Antionette champaign flute.

"Whoever's holding the baby stand here," Father Neil said. C moved into position with Eliza. "Mom stand here and the sponsors behind you."

The Priest then handed me a towel and told me I got to dry her off. C propped Eliza over the basin. C's mother moved beside my grandparents with her Kodak disposable camera. Since we hadn't finished dressing Eliza until the church, these would be the only photos of Eliza in her Christening gown.

Father Neil said a few prayers, then gently poured water onto Eliza's head from a silver pitcher. Eliza tilted her head back to look at the Priest and seemed to enjoy the feeling of the cool water.

"You can dry her off now, Mom," Father Neil said and I dabbed her head with the towel. Autumn Lynn took her place at the basin and the four of us clustered awkwardly on the alter. I looked out into the church and saw my mother, now at the near end of pew, smiling. She was wearing pink with a pretty print scarf her friend Sylvia had given her. When Autumn Lynn was done drying off, the Priest gathered in front of all of us.

The Priest then asked myself and the other Mom if we promised to be good mothers and serve our children well. We both said "I do." Then he turned to the fathers and asked "Do you promise to be a good father, a good husband and a good provider." I looked at C, his face impassive as he looked at the father, Eliza content in his arms and suddenly I felt it, the power of this moment. C and I aren't married, have never taken vows to each other. This might be as close as we get and suddenly the sweep of it all felt overwhelming. We were making vows to each other, to our daughter in front of the entire congregation. We could not turn back now.

Father Neil handed candles to the Godfathers to light, then asked us to step down from the alter. I turned to C and asked to hold Eliza. He handed her to me and we stood in front of the congregation.

"Let's welcome the newest member of the Catholic Faith," the Priest said. Everyone in the church applauded and I stood there, my daughter against me, my father clapping, my mother clapping. Eliza grinned and squiggled, enjoying her moment.

"Let's present the newest members to the church."

The Priest then grabbed the other baby and instructed me to walk with Eliza alongside him. "Don't be shy," he said and I rushed to catch up. I held Eliza facing out, my hand between her legs. She kicked the leg that had lost her bootie slowly. We walked from pew to pew as the Priest presented the other baby and then I presented mine. People waved, made baby talk, reached for her little hands. My mother pressed her hand to her chest and said, "Hi baby, she's smiling, she's smiling!" I can say with absolute truthfulness this was one of the most satisfying moments of my life to date.

We came around to the front of the church and the Priest presented the other baby to my grandfather. My grandfather smiled and took that baby's hand. Then I came up and my grandfather looked confused.

"Who dat baby?" He said, and not quietly I might add.

"That's her baby, Joe," my grandmother said.

"Oh," Pap said. "Dat's your baby."

Realizing the Priest had presented the wrong baby, I shrunk back into my pew. The rest of the mass passed in a blur. I shook hands with Michelle and everyone around me. Eliza cuddled against me, tired from the festivities. She dug into my shoulder, hoping to nurse.

The mass ended, the recorded choir kicked in, and the Priest made his ceremonial processional through the church. Friends of my grandparents came up to say hello and people I've never met and probably won't see again complimented my baby and my dress. In the car, on the way to the brunch, Eliza fell asleep. I brought her up in the stroller, fast asleep. When she woke and wanted to nurse, I took her to my grandmother's apartment and changed her into a fuschia sundress. It was only when I was done I realized I hadn't taken one photo of her in the little christening gown I had worn. Perhaps, someday soon, we'll go to my Aunt's and dress her, just so I can have a photo of my little one in her white gown.

It was a beautiful day and I was so happy to share my daughter with the world. Perhaps I don't believe in God, but I do believe in the love of family and the importance of being together to celebrate that love. Maybe Eliza will gather with all of us in a church again, maybe she won't want to. But I feel more complete now, having that day to hold her and present her to the world and in a way, say to everyone "Look what I have! Thank you! Thank you so much for this wonderful little gift!"