Sunday: I SLEPT. It was glorious. I spent time with X and Kit while J was gaming, and Pablo came over and we all hung out for a while, and then J and I put Kit in the stroller and walked Pablo home (it's so cool that we can do that). We kind of wanted to cook, but the good market had closed by the time I got there—I wish they didn't close so early on Sundays—so we ended up ordering in Chinese food. Kit had a nightmare or something and woke up crying at 1 a.m. but X got them back to sleep quickly enough. I got totally caught up in researching interactions between Europeans and First Nations in early-19th-century Canada but eventually made myself buckle down and get work done. These 10 a.m. Monday deadlines that my new boss is so keen on are hard to get used to. But I got to bed before 6, so that's something.
Monday: I SLEPT AGAIN. Two days in a row of good sleep meant I woke up super perky. I was awake at 1:30, up by 2, and showered and dressed and fed by 2:45. I did some work and made some calls and was generally useful. Kit went right down for their post-daycare nap with minimal fuss, and I Skyped with Miriam for a bit, with the baby joining us after they woke up. They were teething hard, so I had to cut the call short and go ply them with books and Tylenol and milk and food and cuddles and crayons. Poor thing. We ordered in again because Mondays are no-cooking days. J took out the trash and recycling because my arms were pre-ouched and I didn't want to push them into being fully ouched, and then X and J went to bed and I found myself with no obligations other than needing to do some laundry, which mostly does itself. So I put my arm braces on and sat down with my protagonist journey outlines for Valour Advances
and reconciled them and made a timeline... and realized I forgot to put the romance in my romance novel. *sob* ( Writing blather )
And now the second load of laundry is done and I get to go to bed at only 3:30 a.m.! So early! Maybe I'll sleep well for the third night in a row! I sure hope so, because tomorrow's workload is looking pretty intense and it'd be nice to have both time and brains for it.
- thinking about:
behavior.foolishness, behavior.housework, behavior.parenting, behavior.planning, behavior.planning.agley, body.arms, experiences.socializing, experiences.work, people.kit, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
A thing I just wrote elsenet in response to someone who's ambivalent about parenthood and wanted to know how other people went from "no kids" to "yes kids":
I have a kid and I still don't know whether I would have, abstractly, in the absence of all other input, wanted kids. But no one lives abstractly, in the absence of all other input.
In my case, my partner X (who didn't live with me and J at the time) was very firm about having a kid and the only question for me and J was how involved to get. I felt very awkward around babies and was uncomfortable around kids in the abstract, though, like you, I had started to realize how much I enjoyed the company of my friends' and relatives' individual kids and was sort of rethinking that whole "not fond of kids" idea. I had absolute body horror around the idea of being pregnant, so I was never going to produce a child of my own. J and I certainly liked being double-income-no-kids and traveling internationally and doing a lot of evening and weekend social events, and we could have decided we liked it so much that we wanted to keep doing it while X single-parented. But when X crashed on our couch for a couple of months, we all liked living together and being a family so much that we decided to keep doing it, baby and all.
And now the three of us are all parents to an amazing 15-month-old and just yesterday a friend said that in every photo of me cuddling the baby, I have a huge smile that says "I GET TO CUDDLE A BABY". I could not have predicted this in one million billion years. I thought I was going to be uncomfortable and distant around the baby until they were able to speak coherent English. But nope, turns out that I am totally besotted by this baby. When they're sad and they crawl into my lap and bury their face in my shoulder and cry and fall asleep, that communicates love in ways that don't need words, and I'm genuinely honored to be so trusted by someone so small and vulnerable. There's something absolutely pure about our relationship right now, because they're too young to have emotional baggage. They just drench us in love (and drool). And I really get babies now, in a way that I didn't at all before, and am much more comfortable around other people's kids, though I'm still not going to leap to volunteer to babysit a baby. (Teenagers are different. Teenagers are amazing. Send all your teenagers to meeeeee.)
So if you're concerned that being ambivalent about parenthood means you will be ambivalent about your particular kid if you choose to have one, I am living proof that you can be uncertain right up to the moment of birth and even after—I spent most of Kit's first two weeks frantic because I hadn't bonded with the baby yet—and then fall madly in love and be ready to fight anyone who tries to get between you and your child.
I'm eager to get back to international travel and am entirely capable of discussing things that aren't bottles and diapers. I remember very clearly what it's like to not be a kid person, and I never inflict baby photos or anecdotes on people who'd really rather talk about anything else. But I'm 110% a my kid person, in ways that absolutely astonish me.
Parenthood should, in an ideal world, be a deliberate decision, but it's okay if you make that decision without feeling super-eagerly committed to it. You can say "Okay, I think having kids will be better than not having kids, probably, so let's do it and hope for the best" and that's a deliberate decision. A lot of people make the decision that way. There's nothing wrong with you for feeling like that about it.
I do workshops for struggling writers, and at the last one, someone asked, "How do I know whether to commit to being a writer?" I said that the question is not "Do I become a writer?" but "How am I a writer?". So perhaps a good question for you is, how would you be a parent? How would parenthood fit into your life, what would it mean to you, what would it give you and demand from you? What you imagine as you try to envision your possible parenthood life will help you see how it might work out for you, or not. When we were talking about having a child, I kept thinking of one-on-one bonding time with a small kid—making cookies, walking in the park and pointing out cool leaves and birds, explaining how plumbing works—and those visions filled me with joy. That hoped-for connection was my compass and was at the heart of why I said yes to being a parent. And I was right; bonding with my child, one on one, is the best part of parenthood for me. You know yourself and what you want from relationships—and parenthood is absolutely a relationship, first and foremost—so harness that knowledge to your imagination and see where it goes.
Porting two baby-related threads over from Twitter.Kid things I had no idea about, but that totally make sense now: a short list.
1) When you teach a toddler some sign language, they will babble with their hands. Eye contact, big hopeful smile, incomprehensible hand motion. "Does this gesture mean anything? What about this?"
2) They will also come up with their own meanings for signs. We're pretty sure Kit signs "milk" to mean "I want".
3) Kids wrestling with object permanence and separation anxiety will apply it to EVERYTHING, like the end of a story. When we close a book, Kit looks worried until we show them that the story is still there when we open it up again.
4) The eye-contact look that will soon be "I'm doing a naughty thing" starts out as "I'm doing a thing that makes me happy"—maybe more specifically as "Will you come be happy with me as I do this thing that makes me happy?". It's so hopeful. And I can clearly see the seeds of "You AREN'T going to be happy that I'm doing this thing that makes me happy" in it.
5) So many things we think of as obvious delimiters are invisible to children. Social, not physical. Like "draw on paper, not table". To a kid with a marker, every surface is a surface that can have marker on it. I was in awe the other day watching Kit very carefully draw a line across the paper, over the clipboard, and onto the table. One line, no hesitation. It wasn't a transgressive thing. It was just where they were making their art. No differentiation between media whatsoever.
They also don't readily perceive verbal delimiters. Sound, word, and phrase are all one concept to them. When J says "turn the page" or I say "clap your hands" Kit understands those as whole concepts, like spoken pictograms. If I said "clap your feet" they'd be puzzled because "clap" as a verb doesn't exist for them yet.
I remember oaknfell
saying that teaching a kid to read is one long process of apologizing for the English language. Pretty sure teaching Kit to talk is going to involve a round of that too.
I get the phonics thing now—the struggle to explain to children that "clap your hands" has spaces in it, that "clap" itself is "c l a p". If you only hear language, those divisions are in no way intuitive.An appallingly adorable baby anecdote
We have a blanket that has a hood. The hood has ears and a little bear face. It is very cute. Today X and I were curious about Kit's object permanence and had that blanket over them in the stroller, so we hid one of their hands in the hood.
"Kit, where's your hand? Where's your hand?" They didn't care. Too many other things to look at out in the world. So I tapped their right hand, which was on top of the blanket. "There's your right hand. Where's your other hand?"
They looked at the hood over their hand and immediately decided it was a NEW BEAR FRIEND.
They reached out with their right forefinger and booped its nose—I am not making this up, this really happened—and then they brought it to their face and face-hugged it. They were so happy. "The bear ate my hand and now I have a BEAR FRIEND HAND and everything is GREAT."
They did not appear concerned about their missing hand at all. Who cares when there is a fuzzy bear face to press your face against?
X and I could hardly walk for laughing. Kit happily hugged the bear friend all the way home.
I must get this child some hand puppets. It will be epic.
Kit's developing some separation anxiety (yes, only now, at nearly 14 months!) and started crying tonight when we began the bedtime routine because bedtime means saying goodnight and everyone going away. We still did what we always do: big family hug, two parents say night-night and leave, and the third reads stories and provides cuddles and puts the baby in the crib. They clung to all of us during goodnight hugs, glumly (and sleepily) submitted to storytime, and finally fell asleep after only a little more fussing. Then we all sat around feeling heartbroken because it is so hard to see the baby so sad.
Tonight's bedtime story was No Matter What, by sheer coincidence; I spotted it while Kit was demolishing their bookshelf (a favorite activity) and realized we hadn't read it in ages. I'm never sure how much Kit understands of the actual words we say, but I think the meaning was clear, especially with the way I kept kissing and hugging them as I read. And I think it helped.
They've started getting upset when books end, too. We always have to open the book again to reassure them that the story is still there and they can reread it whenever they want. Sometimes they flip through it to find a favorite page before reluctantly accepting that the book is done. When we let them turn pages, they turn them really fast, without waiting for us to finish reading any text; one long look at the images on the page and then it's on to the next. It's so very like the way I blaze through books and then feel disappointed when they're done that it makes me laugh every time.
Kit endured their first ear infection this week, poor thing, and has been taking amoxicillin for it. As soon as they started on the antibiotics, their fever went away entirely and their vigor and appetite returned. (Their first full day of betterness ended with them not being able to fall asleep until 11 p.m. because all the energy they'd lacked while ill came roaring back with a vengeance. Fortunately that was a one-time thing and they're back on their usual sleep schedule.) I'm so glad for our access to good medical care, and also extremely glad to have a baby who sucks obediently on medication syringes, even when they hate the taste of the medicine, and doesn't appear to have allergies to anything. We were all very relieved that they went back to daycare today, because five days in a row of sick (and then recovering) baby at home was very challenging for all of us, especially as we were dealing with another family crisis at the same time. As always, I have no idea how single and stay-at-home parents do it. No idea whatsoever.
We're all quite convinced that Kit has psychic powers that only activate when they're asleep. Whenever X goes to bed—which doesn't happen at the same time every night—Kit sleep-fusses just enough to set off the monitor. Just now I returned to writing this entry after a while of doing other things, and Kit promptly made a few tiny noises. So I'm thinking at them as hard as I can: See, silly baby, I told you that we think of you even when you're not right in front of us. Rest now. No one is too far away, and we'll always be there when you need us.
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.
I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for holiday_wishes
, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.
One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking
) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for
all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!
I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:It's good to see you here again.
A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.
I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.
Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.
I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.
There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia
. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.
I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.
I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty
sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.
Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have
half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.
Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.
Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.arms, food, food.candy, livejournal, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.dreamwidth, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, projects.crafts, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.gifts, words.letters
Hilarious 3 a.m. baby anecdote time!
Kit's been really into clapping their hands lately. When they're sad they clap to cheer themself up. It is amazing. They've learned that when they clap the adults all clap back, and they get DRUNK WITH POWER and lead call-and-response clapping for quite a long time. Sometimes if you say "clap" they clap but that's not consistent yet.
Tonight they woke up just as I was going to bed. X is back on overnight duty (which is why I can go to bed at 3, which feels like absolute luxury) and got up to cuddle the baby back to sleep. I finished my nighttime ablutions and went into Kit's room for a quick snuggle. I had been reading a parenting book that was interesting and useful but also contained anecdotes about kids younger than Kit who can do things Kit can't do yet, and some part of my brain always freaks out about those comparisons. The best cure is to spend time with the actual baby and marvel at what a wonderful tiny person they are. I had been hoping they would wake up precisely so I could do this, even just for a moment.
Kit was sleepy but happy, and indeed, seeing them was an instant balm on my poor anxious brain. I kissed their forehead, tucked the fuzzy go-to-sleep blanket around them, and told X that I had finished all my chores and was going to bed. X held up their hand and we high-fived.
Kit looked interested. "That's a high-five. It's like clapping but with someone else's hand," I said. They had their right hand out of the blanket, so I gently tapped my palm against theirs. "See? Like that. High-five."
X high-fived them, and I high-fived them, and then they pulled their left hand out of the blanket. I held my hand up near their left hand. "High-five?"
They tried and missed.
It was the tiniest, funniest little limp-wristed attempt at a high-five that I have ever seen. X and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Kit laughed along with us because people who are laughing are also funny, at least if you're a baby.
When we all recovered, I gave Kit a few more gentle high-fives, and then we all clapped for a bit because it's fun. Then I said goodnights and left the world's best and most hilarious baby to fall back asleep on X's lap, puzzled but pleased. And now I can go to bed suffused with joy at my child's accomplishments and eagerness to learn new things... even if it takes a few tries.
You are one year old today. It has been a very eventful year with lots of ups and downs for our family. Through it all, you have warmed my heart (and my lap) and made all the hard things feel bearable and all the good things feel even better. Your smile lights up my life. Your hard work and perseverance in the face of frustration inspire me. Your unstinting love and trust make me melt.
No offense to other kids, but every time I meet another child I think how lucky we are to have you. Of all possible children, I can't imagine one better suited to our family. You are goofy and ridiculous, opinionated when it matters, amiable when it doesn't, generous with demonstrations of affection, serious about self-improvement, vocal about your needs and easily satisfied, fascinated by the world. When people ask whether we're planning to have another child, we tell them honestly that it would be unfair to our second child to have to put up with having such a purely wonderful older sibling. Besides, we only ever wanted one baby. I'm so glad that baby turned out to be you, my best Kit. So glad.
I don't at all want you to feel pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection. You are perfect just as you are. You're perfect when you're clumsy and you're perfect when you're cranky and you're perfect when you lick the couch pillows with your mouth still half full of milk. (You will also be perfect when you're old enough to do your own laundry. The couch pillow covers are washed on cold and hung up to dry.) Don't ever think that I love or appreciate you "despite" some part of you. I love every single bit of you.
Sometimes I joke that you're my littlest roommate. Before you were born I occasionally worried that when you got older we'd have trouble living together; in the past it's sometimes been hard for me to share space with other people. But I love living with you, and I think we'll have a pretty easy time of it even when you're bigger and more actively making use of the house. You're already really good at showing us when you're hungry or tired or desperate to go outside, and I'm sure you'll only get better at understanding what you need and asking for it, whether that's time to yourself or quiet together time or shared activities. And an advantage of three parents is that there's almost certainly always going to be someone who wants to hang out with you if you're in a hanging-out mood.
I worry about you sometimes, but it's because I'm the worrying sort. By any objective measure you are a sturdy, healthy child. You rarely get sick and get over it quickly. When you fall down you complain for a bit (quite reasonably) and then get up again like nothing happened. You are so generous with your smiles that we never have to wonder whether you're happy. And you even snore just a little when you're asleep so I can hear it on the monitor and don't have to turn the camera on to make sure you're breathing. Every anxious parent should have such a reassuring baby.
The next year is going to bring us some exciting things. You'll learn more about moving your body the way you want to. You'll get better at crawling and then leave it behind in favor of walking. You'll learn to use some words and signs to communicate; I can't wait to hear you say our names. Maybe this will be the year you start to sometimes want one particular parent and not just whichever one is handy. The next time your birthday comes around, you'll probably want to eat the cake and not just stick your fingers in the frosting. And I bet you'll make friends with all the street cats in the neighborhood.
To quote a very kind and wonderful man, Mr. Fred Rogers, whose work I hope to introduce you to someday soon: "You are growing so well inside and out. I'm proud of how you are growing, and I hope you are too."
Endless love, my little bean. Thank you for being such excellent company for the past twelve months. I can't wait to see who you become this year, and beyond.
Kit happenings today:
1) Our crib mattress board has three height options. It's been on the middle one since Kit was born; we got a thick mattress and a crib bumper that meant the top setting was never quite workable. Today they were sitting in the crib and pulled up to standing without any help, and I realized that the crib rail came up to only slightly higher than their waist. I promptly took them out of the crib and lowered the mattress to the lowest setting for safety. As soon as I put them back in, they figured out how to pull up to standing again, which is good—I really didn't want to respond to their accomplishment by making it harder for them to accomplish things. They generally seem quite happy with the change. Such an amiable child.
2) X pointed out that Kit really likes our laptops and phones because they see us using them so much, and suggested that we do more non-digital things with the baby. So this evening Kit and I cuddled up on the couch and read books together. We probably spent most of an hour like that, me reading an advance copy of Daniel José Older's Battle Hill Bolero (very good), Kit playing with and drooling on That's Not My Owl (they adore that whole series of books). Occasionally I'd take pictures or answer a text, and while my hands were occupied Kit would steal my book. They liked turning it upside down and tugging at the cover and opening it to the middle and attempting to eat it. I encouraged all these things except the last one. It was one of the best hours of my life.
This morning I got to bed late because the baby had woken up and all I wanted to do was spend time with them, and then I barely got any work done because the baby was home from daycare (J's parents were here in the morning and early afternoon) and all I wanted to do was spend more time with them. Right now they're fast asleep and I'm resisting the urge to go into their room and scoop them up; it's great that they're sleeping so well lately but it means we don't get our mid-night cuddle time and I miss it. I just can't get enough of this happy cuddly squeaky squealy serious hard-working baby.
Aw, they just woke up babbling happily and I could totally justify going in to cuddle them. But I don't want to go in because we're trying to encourage them to go back to sleep on their own when they wake up. Nnnngh. I knew parenting would take willpower but was not aware it would take this particular kind of willpower!
EDIT: They started to get fussy so I indulged in some cuddling. Such a good snuggly baby.
This userpic has never felt so apropos.
Our plan for Election Day included a plan to make sure we ate dinner, and I am very glad for that, because I haven't managed to eat a full meal since. Maybe I'll be able to eat tomorrow.
I haven't cried. I guess I'm not shocked enough to cry. Or maybe I wasn't personally invested in Clinton enough to be devastated when she lost. I don't know. But whatever it is that's making people cry, I'm not experiencing it. I've been anxious all day in a sort of abstract way, and now I've talked to both my parents—the Clinton voter and the Trump voter—and somehow both those conversations calmed me way down. I can't explain why that's as true of talking to my father as it is of talking to my mother. Maybe because he couldn't actually bring himself to tell me he'd voted for Trump. He said, "Each of us knows how the other voted, so let's just leave it at that." My father's never shied away from a political conversation over a long lifetime of holding contrarian and often outrageous opinions. If even he feels abashed about this vote, maybe there's a little hope yet.
My mother, with six decades of leftist activism under her belt, assured me that this, too, shall pass. I needed to hear that, and hear the sincerity in her voice.
I've been glad to see so many people posting to LJ/DW today. We need spaces like this to get all our many thoughts and feelings out.
I called in sick to work—I am actually sick with a dreadful head cold that just will not go away, which is the other part of why I'm not sleeping or eating well—and spent the day activisting on Twitter. Replicating some of that here just to get the various words out:
I'm really pleased to see so many white cishet people saying "We need to step up". Step 1: LISTEN TO THOSE WHO WERE ALREADY DOING THE WORK. Don't let your guilt or eagerness or habituation to privilege con you into thinking you lead this movement. The movement against white supremacy did not just begin today. It has been around for decades. Respect and follow those who are already in the know. Educate yourselves. This thread
points to a major area where white people need to do the work: talking with our white relatives. I will personally add the caveat that I know there's significant overlap between "my relatives who hold different political views" and "my relatives who are so toxic I can't safely interact with them" and I continue to support people in not interacting with relatives who are not safe to interact with. But if you can have those conversations without significant harm to yourself, do.
I guess it comes back to, again: if you are less vulnerable and marginalized, you need to do more of the work on behalf of those who can't. Challenge your Trump voter dad on behalf of the trans teen who can't safely come out to their Trump voter dad. Speak up in your Trump voter cousin's Facebook comments on behalf of the queer cousin who doesn't read Facebook anymore. If nothing else, you're telling the queer cousin who does still read Facebook (but never comments) that you're an ally for them.
If you can't or won't reach out to that Trump supporter in your family or social circle, maybe you can reach out to their kids. Tell the marginalized teens you know that you're there for them. Tell them directly and plainly. "I see you. I've got your back." If you suspect a conservative's kid is queer or trans, never EVER put them at risk—but do show them extra love. If you're a white parent, put your kid in the least segregated school you can find, and fight de facto school segregation in your city/town. Write letters in support of prosocial children's television. Tell Nickelodeon how much you love those gay dads on The Loud House
. Buy #ownvoices children's and YA books and donate them to school libraries. And join campaigns against whitewashed, queerphobic, and transphobic children's media.
Organizations that are doing useful things:https://our100.org/
and its various signatorieshttps://www.hias.org/http://www.bendthearc.us/https://www.plannedparenthood.org/https://www.cair-ny.org/https://www.lambdalegal.org
Donate if you can. If you can't, sign up for mailing lists and click every one of those petition links when they come through.
Some people are talking about writing to electors in swing states and urging them to break faith and vote for Clinton. I don't see the harm in attempting this, but it's important to remember that electors are ordinary citizens, not public officials, and that hunting down their home addresses or calling them is a really terrible idea and certain to be counterproductive. I think the best way to write to them would be via the state GOP office.
has good info on taking care of your mental health right now.This
is a useful illustrated guide to bystander intervention if you see someone being harassed in a public space.This post
has some interesting post-election thoughts. Not sure I agree with all of them, but I think they're worth reading.The #TransLawHelp hashtag
connects trans people with legal help if they'd like to get name or gender changes before Trump takes office. I've seen recommendations to prioritize getting a passport with the correct gender marker, as that's usually faster and easier than a name change and the passport can be updated with the new name later. Good info on that is here
from someone in the U.K. is lovely and kind.Some wise words
is collecting suggestions on activism for introverts
I picked up Kit from daycare. Their daycare teacher (a Black woman) and I just stared at the babies with teary eyes for a bit. I told Kit, "Reagan was elected when I was two and I got through it. We'll get you through this."
"Really?" the teacher said. "I liked Reagan. I remember my grandma had Reagan things all over the house."
"I was in Greenwich Village," I said. "People had AIDS. No one was a Reagan fan."
And we looked at each other like "nothing's ever simple, huh?" and then talked about how we're going to take care of our kids.
It's horrible but true that there are people who didn't survive Nixon and Reagan and GWB, and there are people who won't survive Trump. All we can do is try to keep our communities together, to support our most vulnerable. Pay one another's bills when we have to. As an EMT once told me, you can't save them all. But you don't stop trying to save the ones you can. And we will keep making art and arguing ideas and having children and otherwise creating things that will live on after we're gone.
I put a post up on Story Hospital about writing goals and deadlines in a time of strong emotions
. It's nominally about NaNoWriMo, since I had a NaNo post to do and I think people doing NaNo are going to feel particularly stressed by the combination of deadline pressure and election fuckery, but it's pretty broadly applicable. I hope it helps someone.
I wish I felt up to writing tonight. I suspect Nathaniel and Algernon would be talking about the raid on the White Swan
This, too, shall pass. Let's do everything we can to make it pass faster and with minimal harm.
Today Kit had their first real playdate! ( It went great! )
Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. ( But don't worry, everyone is fine )
I am trying really hard not to think about the election. Really really hard. I have plenty of other things to think about. But it intrudes constantly.
I have phonebanked and texted and done everything I can to get the vote out for Clinton. I will do a little more tomorrow and Tuesday. I have researched all the down-ballot candidates (including the one who's on the judicial ballot by mistake
). I have a plan to vote
. I just need to remember to wear white
I will be so glad when it's Wednesday and we can at least stop waiting for the results, whatever those results are.
The Brooks Brothers shopping trip consisted of me walking into Brooks Brothers, saying "I don't belong here", and bursting into tears. The way Brooks Brothers does masculinity is really not the way I do it, for all sorts of reasons. Also, I couldn't bear the idea of letting their tailors anywhere near my body. On the way to the store I'd gotten really tense trying to figure out how to project the "right" sort of masculinity and when I realized that was impossible the tension kind of went boom. So we walked out again, and J will find some way to sell the gift card, and then we'll spend the money at Bindle & Keep or on getting good tailoring for the shirts I already have. In the meantime, I went to Express and got some really nice curve-hugging turtleneck sweaters in gorgeous colors. And then I ordered more sweaters from the Express website and a couple other things from H&M (they were on sale!) so now I have a fall femme wardrobe and am very pleased about that.
Ever since I decided not to go on T, I've been feeling very femme. I don't think it's coincidence.
I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.parenting, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.disaster, experiences.dst, experiences.hospitals, ideas.politics, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Kit's getting over a cold, poor bean. They've held up very well through it but have endured a lot of snuffling and coughing. Last night they technically slept ten hours straight, but there was pretty frequent sleep-coughing and sleep-fussing. (I don't know what other people mean when they refer to babies as "fussing". We use it as an all-purpose term for any brief vocal complaint, the baby equivalent of "Ugh" or "This is bullshit!".)
Tonight I put them to bed as I usually do, and about five hours later they woke up and complained for a while. I waited to see whether they'd fall back asleep on their own, but instead they started coughing, which went on for a bit, so I went in and scooped them up and cuddled them under the fuzzy blanket that's one of our signals for "time to sleep". They tried to gnaw on my knuckle, so I gave them a pacifier; we've been mostly avoiding those while they're sick, because they have trouble breathing through their nose and the extra saliva makes them cough more, but sometimes they just need it to fall asleep. Once they'd settled back to drowsiness, I put them back in the crib and asked them to try falling asleep on their own.
This whole self-soothing thing is still relatively new. When they have trouble settling, I stroke their back and the back of their head (they insist on sleeping face down, stuffy nose be damned) to help ease the transition. Tonight they shifted around a bit and grumbled, so I stroked their back for a bit and then stepped quietly away—avoiding the creaky floorboard next to the crib is an art we are all gradually mastering—and waited to see whether they'd relax.
They reached a hand back and stroked their own head. Several times. Very gently. And then they tucked their hand under their face and fell asleep.
Hi. It's been a while.
J's job rather unexpectedly ended at the beginning of October, and he's been pounding the pavement looking for a new one (and getting lots of interviews because he's awesome). I was sick for a week with a horrid intestinal thing and then had to put my annual best books lists together, which is always quite an undertaking. X has been in work crunch as well, and has been bringing their new boss up to speed. The baby has been absolutely lovely but also, well, a baby—and teething a lot, poor thing, which is no fun for anyone. The cats all needed their annual checkups and so did we, because last October was when we did the whirlwind round of all our doctors to get it out of the way before the baby arrived. I've barely been finding time to breathe, let alone chronicle all the busyness. But October is nearly over, and we're in the calm before the winter storm of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.
The Story Hospital patron drive was a smashing success. I'm at 54 patrons, and it's not even the end of October yet! So I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo posts and am very excited about it. I love this project so much. It just brings me pure joy.
I'm having one of those precious evenings where everyone is asleep and the washing machine is chugging away and there's nothing I need to do except keep an ear out for the baby. I could even go to bed early for a change, except that X has been fighting off the 24-hour cold virus I had on Thursday—it quite literally hit at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was gone by 4:30 p.m. Friday—and really needs a full night's sleep. So I'll stay up until J gets up, just like old times.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Boston with emilytheslayer
. It was my first time away from the baby. And I slept
. Oh, how I slept. I entirely ignored the deadline looming over me. I hung out with my hosts, we went shopping at Goodwill for fall femmewear (a previously unnoticed deficit in my wardrobe), I did some knitting, I phonebanked a bit, and I slept. The second night there, I ran out of things to do around 1 a.m., so I decided to start getting ready for bed. I was in bed with the lights out by 2:30. And then I slept until nearly noon. It was magnificent.
Of course then I came home and stayed up until 10 a.m. meeting my deadline. (I am very pleased with my selections
.) And since then there have been a few up-until-6 nights. But I think it's gradually getting better. It was so good to be reassured that I can
still go to bed that early. Apparently I'm much less anxious about needing to be awake in case something baby something something when I'm a few hundred miles away from the baby. And the baby was perfectly fine while I was away (though my spouses were extremely happy to have me come back and resume my share of babycare duties). So on those nights when I feel the anxious urge to stay awake, I remind myself that if I were in Boston everything would be fine, and therefore I can sleep.
I joked today that six months from now I'll be writing a clickbait article called "How Sleep-Training My Baby Cured My Sleep Disorder". It's kind of true, though. Every time I say things like "Your bed is a nice place to sleep" and "It feels good to rest" and "The clock says it's sleep time now" I feel like I'm talking to myself. I've also been feeling a lot of regressive urges to have someone tuck me in or cuddle me to sleep. Maybe it's time to finally replace my dear departed teddy bear, which the cats kneaded into threadlessness. I try not to entirely indulge my parenthood-induced regressions—and incidentally I am so glad
my therapist warned me to prepare for those, because otherwise I'd be totally baffled by what seem like random bouts of feeling like a little kid—but when they don't require anything from anyone else or do me any harm, why not?
On the more adult front, I have killed an unexpected amount of time contemplating tomorrow's long-awaited shopping trip to Brooks Brothers. I'd been meaning to get a suit, and have a $900 gift card that will very nearly suffice for that purpose. (Brooks Brothers suits: not cheap.) But I hardly ever have a reason to wear a suit, and for $900 I could get a sport coat, a waistcoat, a pair of very nice trousers, and two or three shirts, all tailored to fit me, all of which I would wear frequently. I already have a sport coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and shirts, but they're nearly all secondhand and the fit is far from perfect, so upgrading is not a bad idea. I'm also undecided as to whether to present as my indefinable self or as a trans guy. Probably won't wear a binder, but probably will bring one with me, though the very wise ifthenelsa
pointed out that a shirt or jacket that fits me at my bustiest will also fit me if I'm binding, whereas the reverse is not true. And I should bring my elevator shoes, because if I get a suit I will want the trousers tailored for the 3" lift. So many factors to factor in!
The thought of hauling around my elevator shoes (which are somewhat heavy) is enough to put me off of getting a suit, actually. I guess that tells me where my priorities are. And when I was wandering around the Brooks Brothers site, I liked the look of the sport coats and trousers much more than the low-end suits. (I also started coveting a $300 skirt, but I can get skirts anywhere.) Okay then, waistcoats and shirts and sport coat, and maybe trousers if I find some I really like. No binder, no lifts.
The baby woke up just now and needed to be cuddled back to sleep, and that is beautifully simple. I nearly fell asleep myself as they snored on my lap. The need to teach Kit good sleep habits (and to spare my neck the ache from sleeping in the rocking chair) won out over the urge to stay like that until dawn, but it was a close call.
I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.work, ideas.gender, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
Tonight my therapist made me cry in a good way. I was talking about the cycle of "I gotta do the work/chores" "but I don't wanna" "but I gotta" "but I don't wanna". He said, "That's the cranky kid and the authoritarian parent, but where's the third voice? The compassionate parent?"
"Oh," I said. "That's the one I call my wife." (I've decided I'm not going to poke at why my wife is still my wife even though I'm NB-identified now. It's just how it is.)
"...I forget to look for her."
"Well, try inviting her into these conversations."
Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.
So, some things my brain is telling me lately, and things I can say back to it with kindness and compassion:
I don't want to do work right now.
"I'm sorry it's hard. It needs to get done, even though it's hard. And once you start it will be easier and go faster than you think, and then you'll be free of the burden of needing to do it."
I have so much to do and I don't want to do any of it because there is so much.
"It sounds like you're tired and need to go to bed. When you're rested you'll be more confident, more efficient, and better able to prioritize."
I can't go to bed. I have too much to do.
"Right now, while you're as awake as you're going to get, do anything that has a real serious deadline between now and noon tomorrow. Then go to bed. You can do the rest after you get some sleep."
I can't sleep. Something bad might happen to the baby.
"You're not on duty overnight anymore. X has the monitor on and reliably wakes up when the baby makes noise. J is getting up in a few hours. The baby is very healthy and will be totally fine. Also, it needs to be normal and okay for you to sleep while Kit is sleeping instead of hovering over them and fretting. Let's practice that tonight--just do it once to see how it goes. Remember that the last time you went to sleep before J got up, everything was fine."
I don't think you understand. SOMETHING BAD might HAPPEN to the BABY.
"The vanishingly unlikely worst-case scenario is that J wakes up, discovers something is wrong, and wakes you and lets you know. And that would be horrible, but you have survived other horrible things and you would survive that too."
There was another two-voice scenario that should be three. When I'm getting things done during the day, I feel like "This is very challenging and I'm totally on top of it!", but when I'm flopped on the couch after dinner, all I can think is "There's so much to do and I feel it on top of me like a weight". The third voice there isn't agitated or despondent but calm and relaxed, both capable of doing things that need doing and fully present for times of rest and fun. I'm not sure what to do to get there, though. Having less to do would help, but isn't going to happen anytime soon. I will think more on that.
In the meantime, I'm going to pet my cat (I've been home from the office for three hours and she just came into my room yelling WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN because she is oblivious) and then talk myself into going to bed. Maybe even before J wakes up.
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.love, behavior.parenting, behavior.procrastination, behavior.responsibility, behavior.self-care, body.sleep, experiences.love, experiences.therapy, experiences.work, mind.feelings.compassion, mind.feelings.stress, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.negotiation, people.my wife
Here is some advice on road trips with babies!Driving
* A friend recommended putting the baby in overnight diapers to prevent rashes from lots of sitting and keep the baby from complaining between stops. We ended up not doing this because Kit doesn't really complain about wet/dirty diapers; we just stopped every two hours to give them a break from the car seat (which is very important to do) and changed them then. That said, they did start to get a bit of diaper rash redness by the end of the trip, so if you don't use super-absorbent diapers, I recommend applying diaper rash ointment proactively/preventively.
* If possible, stop at restaurants rather than highway rest stops. It's so much easier and nicer to change the baby in a restaurant bathroom than in a noisy, crowded rest stop bathroom where a dozen high-velocity hand dryers make a horrible noise that makes the baby scream, and restaurant food is better and tastier than rest stop fast food. Second-best option for a quick change: stop at a Babies R Us or similar baby supply store, which is guaranteed to have a well-appointed changing room.
* Expect each stop to somehow take at least 30 minutes even if all you're doing is changing the baby and giving them a little wriggle time. (Pack a picnic blanket you can lay out on a table or a bench or that little strip of sorry grass next to the parking lot.)
* Bring a few extra layers of clothing for the baby so you don't feel any urge to drape a blanket over the car seat even if you're cranking up the air conditioning in the car.
* If your kid isn't yet weaned, you may want a policy of only feeding liquids in the car so you don't have any concerns about choking hazards. Obviously you should NEVER EVER breastfeed in the car. Apparently this is a thing people do? Don't do it. Bottle-feed in motion, or breastfeed at a rest stop.
* Pack your regular diaper bag with everything you'd need for a day trip and have it handy for rest stops. If someone's sitting in the back seat with the baby (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) they can also dip into it for toys, pacifiers, etc. en route. You won't need many toys with a young baby; they'll mostly want to look around and sleep. (And you'll mostly want them to sleep.)
* Have a prepared playlist of music that's soothing for the baby but not soporific for the driver. Ella Fitzgerald singing heartbreak songs was perfect for putting Kit to sleep while I stayed alert.
* If no one's in the back seat, consider getting a car seat mirror so you can occasionally glance back and make sure all's well. But they can be major distractions, so use with caution.
* Don't be afraid of side roads and alternate routes, even if they slow you down a bit. It's more soothing for the baby if you drive steadily at 40 MPH than if you sit in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate.
* We got these cling-on window shades
and they worked perfectly: easy to put on when it was sunny and take down in the evening, effective at shading the baby. They're great for rental cars and safe in accidents (unlike shades with metal edges).
* Consider a car seat protector
to keep the area under and around the car seat clean. It's especially useful if your kid is at the Cheerios-scattering age, or if you're worried about damage to car upholstery. Waterproof car seat liners
are vital for kids prone to spit-up, diaper leakage, or toilet training accidents. Get two so if the one in the car seat is soiled mid-trip, you can swap it out.Overnight stays
* If you're staying in a hotel and storing breast milk or pre-made formula in the room's mini-fridge, bring a fridge thermometer to make sure the fridge is at an adequately cold temperature. Remember to pack a little travel bottle of dish detergent and a bottle brush for washing bottles.
* Graco Pack 'n' Play travel cribs are the awesome. They're easy to set up and take down, and they work as playpens and/or changing stations during the day as well as cribs at night. Kit's regular crib at home is a mini crib, so we bring their mattress and sheets along. If that's not an option for you, get a thin mini-crib mattress (takes up barely any space) and some mini-crib sheets and mattress pads that you launder a few times to give them that familiar smell; your baby will sleep much better surrounded by the scents of home.
* Get a travel humidifier for use in hotel rooms, which always have extremely dry air.
* Expect to have two duffel bags worth of stuff for the baby even just for a weekend. Diapers take up a lot of space, especially cloth (disposables have the advantage of not coming home with you). So does bedding, and you'll want extra in case of spit-up. Kit's very drooly right now because of teething and we went through two bibs and four to six burp cloths a day. Bring a laundry bag to make it easy to tell what's clean and what's not.
* Traveling with cloth diapers is a challenge. We used a Planet Wise hanging wet/dry bag
for Kit's cloth diapers and it was fantastic--there was no smell leakage at all, even after days on the road, so we could just throw it in the trunk of the car with the suitcases. A smaller wet/dry bag with five diapers went in the diaper bag and was equally useful.
* Don't forget to bring a stroller or carrier for toting the baby around outside the car. A car seat frame may seem tempting, but your kid's already spending a lot of time in the car seat, and it's better for them if you can change it up a bit.
* Pack a first aid kit that includes gas drops, your antihistamine of choice, Tylenol, saline spray/drops and a snot-sucker, and a thermometer. If your kid gets a cold or has an allergic reaction mid-trip, you'll want all your vital supplies on hand. Calamine lotion is great if you're anticipating bug bites.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I am happy to answer questions about anything I missed!
I was weeping on J and X tonight about how hard it is having my empathy cranked to maximum so I can try to understand what the baby wants/needs and do the right thing. J pointed out that the consequences of guessing wrong are really pretty minor. Oh no, I fed the baby even though they weren't all that hungry! I put them down when they wanted to be held! So what?
Then he said, "But you have a hard time around people who aren't in control."
X and I both whipped our heads up.
People who aren't in control. People who are volatile. Worrying about doing the wrong thing and not making their distress go away. Staying attuned to the tiniest shift in their behavior and leaping into action. Telling myself stories about what they're thinking. Oh yes, I know exactly how that one goes.
Kit's had a cold for the past few days and I've been a total wreck. When they get sick, my anxiety goes through the roof. I think this is part of why. They need something I can't provide, and in an abusive situation, that's doom forever. And I begin to see the illness as the abuser that I desperately need to appease or it will take the person I love away from me. It doesn't matter that all Kit has is a very minor cold and they're in zero danger. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the healing along. The fear is bigger than reason. It's big enough to swallow the sun. My world has been very dark recently. I can't stop hovering over the crib, can't make myself sleep, can barely eat--the moment I stop being vigilant is the moment something bad will happen, I just know it. And I berate myself for my deficiency, my anxiety, my lack of cheerful calm (my lack of a protective mask, my failure to protect Kit from my feelings), my failure to make everything perfect, while hardly realizing whose voices I hear those words in.
Not the baby's voice, though. The baby can't say those things and doesn't think those things. The baby is maybe thinking something like "I don't like the way my body feels" or maybe just "Blaaaarh". The baby doesn't blame me; they don't even have the concept of cause and effect yet. And what baby hasn't been cried on by a parent at one time or another? "If running out of cope makes you a bad parent," X told me tonight, "there are no good parents."
So I figured I'd post this for other parents who have also been in abusive relationships and might find this dynamic familiar. Because as soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I realized I could stop doing it. The baby can't hurt me. They're a baby. I have all the power in the relationship. I have to behave responsibly, but for moral reasons, not because I'm scared. If I try to do the right thing and sometimes get it wrong, the baby won't rage at me, or punch the wall, or spit cruel words, or shut me out. They won't take my wrongness as a sign of my deficiency or think I don't love them anymore. They'll just do their best to communicate that they still have unmet needs, and when I figure out the right thing to do, they'll go right back to smiling at me and trying to grab my glasses.
I have been holding the baby and whispering "I've got you, you're safe" a lot. Maybe I needed to tell myself too.
There's a closet in Kit's room that we use for storing winter coats and things. They've never seen it open. Today X was holding them and opened the closet.
They spent the next several minutes looking around the room like "What the fuck ELSE is a door? Are there magic portals just fucking everywhere? Have you been keeping this from me this entire time?"
They looked at the ceiling. "Is THAT a door?"
X, helpfully: "Well, actually that part there slides open so you can get to the attic--"
R: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
J comes in. We explain what happened. Kit is still looking around, astonished and suspicious.
J: "Aw, they're looking at the ceiling wondering if there's a door there too. Actually, there is the entrance to the attic--"
R and X: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
Many things about fairy tales, Narnia, and the TARDIS suddenly become clear.
I first posted this on Twitter, where lots of people have shared very kind replies. I'm posting it here too, in part so I can find that thread when I need a boost but in part because I am having a pretty hard time and will take all the support I can get right now.
I have been hiding for a while. Posting less here, and locking a lot of posts. Locking my "public" Twitter account. Staying quiet about a lot of things that I might once have been loud about. Hiding feels safest right now. But it also means I feel invisible, unseen, even by those who I would like to see me.
It's the nature of editing that my work mostly goes unnoticed. It's the nature of being non-binary, being biethnic, that no one who looks at me knows what they're seeing. It's the nature of being new parents that we are all too tired to perform our usual small acts of noticing and gratitude to one another. But all of this making perfect sense doesn't make it easier to feel myself vanishing.
One person who replied on Twitter said that parenting is very isolating. I keep thinking none of this is related to becoming a parent, because that's been so easy in so many ways. But then I think about how much more I hide myself in order to keep my child safe, and the connection becomes clearer.
I've been very visible and loud my whole life, and on the whole I've liked it and benefited from it. (Loudness is a different kind of survival tactic.) Now I get one taste of it every year at Readercon, and the rest of the time... I'm invisible.
If I've done a thing that touched you, that made me real to you, please tell me. It would help a lot right now. Thank you.
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.
* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door
, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk
. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand
, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.
* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.
* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.
* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.
* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.
* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.
* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.
What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)
I am getting really tired of people asking "Boy or girl?" and "Is this your first?" and "How are you sleeping?" and have also been caught without suitable alternatives when meeting other people's babies. So here, have two lists of useful, appropriate, non-intrusive things to say when someone (EDIT: by which I meant someone you don't know well--apologies for not making that clear!) tells you they have a baby, introduces you to the baby, or shows you pictures of the baby. If you feel totally lost when confronted with babies, memorize these lists and you will come off like the world's #1 baby fan.
1) Statements. Statements are great! They make no assumptions at all--they don't even assume that the parent is the biological parent, or is happy to be a parent (that day or at all)--and don't require the parent to give you information that might turn out to be way more personal than you (or they) want. Statements can also be made directly to the baby, which further reduces the risk of asking accidentally inappropriate questions or hearing discomfiting anecdotes from parents given to TMI.
- "Congratulations/mazel tov/that's wonderful!"
- "What a cutie!"
- "Oh gosh, so adorable!"
- "That's a great outfit!"
- "Look at all that hair/that bald little head!"
- "Look at those smishable cheeks!"
- "What long fingers/toes!"
- "ELBOW DIMPLES OMG" (Seriously, you are permitted and encouraged to be loudly impressed by any visible part of the baby, because literally every part of a baby is, by definition, cute.)
- "Aw, you're getting sleepy."
- "Aw, you're a little shy. That's okay, kiddo, you're not required to make friends."
- "Wow, what a smile!"
- "You're making noises with your mouth! That's so cool!"
- "You just cooed/farted/grabbed that toy! Yes you did!" (This sort of babble sounds like nonsense but it really is part of how babies learn to identify objects and actions.)
- "Who's the cutest baby in the immediate vicinity? It's you!" (Asking and answering rhetorical questions teaches babies the patterns of conversation. I'm not making this up.)
- "What a strong grip! Ha ha, guess you want to take my finger home with you!" (You washed your hands before touching the baby, right? Good.)
In essence, you are agreeing that the baby is a baby, and approving of the baby's baby-like qualities. You really can't go wrong with this.
2) Minimally invasive questions. Any question is going to put the parent on the spot a bit, but these at least avoid the possibility of answers involving infertility, miscarriage, life-threatening labor complications, and the like.
- "What's the baby's name?"
- "When was the baby born/how old is the baby?" (Do not follow this up with a comment on the baby being big or small for their age, or on expected milestones.)
- "What's the latest exciting thing the baby learned to do?"
- "Can I do anything for you?"
- "I'd love to give you a present for the baby--is there anything you especially want or need?"
- "I've/we've got a baby on the way--any advice or recommendations?"
- "May I come over and babysit sometime?"
Topics to avoid, unless you are a close personal friend of the parent and they have indicated that such topics are fair game (because obviously these aren't things that one may never
talk about, but they need to be handled with some care and context matters a lot):
- The baby's health (including eating, sleeping, and digestion), size, personality, intelligence, or well-being.
- The parents' health, weight/size (yes, people make comments about the bodies of people who've given birth, it's terrible and disgusting), age, mood, parenting skills, or well-being.
- Labor and delivery. Even if you've given birth yourself and are well equipped to offer support and sympathy over a hard labor, hesitate before asking someone to recall what may have been a traumatic experience.
- The process of procreation, including plans for any frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos.
- The process of adoption, guardianship, or fostering, or anything regarding the baby's birth family.
- Existing or future siblings.
- The baby's assigned gender or genital anatomy.
- The baby's race, citizenship, or ethnic heritage.
- The baby's intelligence or achievements.
- Comparing the baby with their age cohort or with any other individual child in any way.
- Plans for the baby's education.
- Plans for the baby's religious upbringing/education or lack thereof.
- Plans for childcare.
- The baby's future profession or accomplishments.
Folks with kids, feel free to let me know what you think I should add to any of these lists!
X and J and I all have separate bedrooms and keep different schedules. This has led to us being the most well-rested parents of a newborn in the history of ever (other than those who have 24/7 nannies, I suppose). J naturally wakes up around 7 a.m. and I naturally go to bed around 3 a.m., so we shifted our schedules two hours each and met in the middle, doing a shift change at 5; our bodies didn't entirely love it, but we at least got decent rest for six or seven hours a night/day. Once X stopped having to get up in the middle of the night to pump breastmilk, they got to sleep their natural hours, which was really important for C-section recovery.
Four and a half months later, Kit is now consistently sleeping through the night. There's been a bit of four-month sleep regression
waking (or maybe a growth spurt? They've also been super hungry and eating huge meals) over the last couple of nights, but mostly they can self-soothe back to sleep when they wake up. (This is a skill they taught themself; we can claim no credit at all for sleep training.) We've nudged their bedtime from 7 to 8 so they have a better chance of sleeping until 6. And X is pretty well recovered from the surgery. So as of tonight, I go to bed when I want to and J gets up when he wants to, and in between, X sleeps with the monitor on. Specifically, I tiptoe into their room and turn it on when I go to bed, and J tiptoes in and turns it off when he gets up, so that X isn't woken by baby-fussing when someone else is already awake to handle it. X is a very sound sleeper and falls back asleep easily once woken, so this should work pretty well.
I really appreciate that X immediately said "Yes, I'm totally happy to take my turn being at risk for sleep disruption" as soon as I suggested the change. Yay for good partnership and load-sharing. 💞
The only downside for me is that I won't get to see sleepy J in the mornings. But since he's not getting up at 5 anymore, I'll get to see much more awake J for longer in the evenings, which will be stellar.
I don't even know what to do with all this freedom! I'll be able to have noon lunch dates again! I could go to bed at 2 and get up at 10! I could get most of my work done during daylight hours! I only just finalized a schedule last week, and tonight I spent a couple of hours revising it and putting it into Gcal. But I'm really happy with where it is now, and especially with the lovely long stretch between 01:30 and 12:00 that contains getting ready for bed, eight hours of sleep, and two hours of time to myself (as distinct from work time) that I can enjoy before and/or after sleep, as I choose
. And never going to bed later than 4. *happy dance*
It'll probably be a little while before my body clock (such as it is) gets used to this, but oh, I can't wait
to be used to it.
I had a total meltdown tonight over needing to be the perfect parent so that the baby will love me and believe I love them--so that I can make up for my lack of biological link to them. Kit has a cold (the first time they've ever been ill) and has been so snuffly and feverish and sad. If Kit is sad and I don't fix it, what the hell kind of parent am I? And that triggers the doubts and fears about being no kind of parent at all.
This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)
I vented on Twitter, as I do, and oh_also
sent me to First Time Second Time
, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto
is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?
This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.
I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack
of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.
I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.
It has been a long time since a Kit update! Mostly because this has been the week of no sleep, for baby-unrelated reasons having to do with stress and illness and other sucky things. But! here is what's going on with our absurdly long baby.
Kit started daycare on Monday, at age 11 weeks exactly. It's gone pretty well.( Baaaaaaby stuff )
It's strange having the house empty when I wake up. I've been feeling very lonely this week. I'm used to having X and the baby at home, and instead X is at work and the baby's at daycare and I'm all by myself. I have been getting a fair amount of work and housework done, especially tidying things in Kit's room, but it's hard. This has been compounded by all the stress and illness; having panic attacks is even less fun when there are no partners around to hug you and there's no baby around to cuddle. But we'll adjust.
There's a Twitter meme going around of "for every person who likes/faves this tweet, I will post one thing that makes me happy". I got 61 likes and added the 62nd myself. :) My list:
1) Dozing on the rocking chair with the baby asleep on me.
2) The first post-travel snuggle with Sam after she's forgiven me for abandoning her.
3) Sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate at 1 a.m. when the dishwasher and washing machine are humming in the quiet house.
4) When I come into the nursery and Kit carefully sizes me up, checks the inner roster of favorite people, and then gives me a huge smile.
5) Walking in the Botanic Gardens and Prospect Park today, watching spring reclaim the frozen earth from winter.
6) Reading a wonderful book with a powerful, satisfying ending.
7) My regular Skype dates with beloved friends who live far away.
8) Animated conversations with J and X where our ideas and desires are all in perfect harmony.
9) Learning new things, especially new skills and techniques.
10) When something works the way it's supposed to, the very first time I try it.
11) Homemade food I can just enjoy without having to wonder whether it's safe for me to eat.
12) Having the perfect outfit in my closet for whatever my gender is today.
13) Helping teenagers feel good about themselves.
14) Being called on my shit by my honest, loving friends.
15) Feeling good today because I was awesome with self-care yesterday.
16) Rereading an old favorite book and finding that it's still terrific. Take that, Suck Fairy!
17) Making a tight deadline.
18) Living in NYC.
19) Feeling that good post-exercise muscle burn.
20) Walking into an event where lots of people are happy to see me.
21) The fierceness of marginalized people reclaiming the center.
22) The unbearable cuteness of baby-size versions of adult clothes.
23) Having just enough alcohol to get a nice gentle buzz.
24) Having just enough caffeine to be really productive.
25) Catching our usually argumentative cats hanging out together or even snuggling.
26) Family cuddles with the baby.
27) Driving on my own and knowing that I could go anywhere.
28) Steph Curry Vines.
29) Being a parent.
30) The way the top of Kit's head sometimes smells like whiskey.
You know I could easily have made all 30 of these about the baby. I feel I have been very restrained.
31) Pictures of turtles.
32) Being a generally healthy, financially independent adult in charge of my own life.
33) My very different but equally wonderful date nights with X and J.
34) Freshly baked or toasted bread with butter and jam.
35) The kindness and support of other parents and kid-carers as we figure out this parenting thing. You're all wonderful.
36) Eating ice cream outside while it's snowing. I haven't gotten to do this in 2015/2016--maybe on Friday, if the promised snow happens.
37) The number 37. I just like it. I like 17 too, and powers of 2.
Conveniently, I'm 37. And not old.
38) Imagining Kit at different ages.
39) When I wake up and open the curtain and light floods in.
40) Potato chips.
41) Hot showers.
42) The diligence and persistence of people trying to make fandom and conventions safer and more welcoming and more accessible.
43) The times when my brain tries to have anxiety dreams and I make them have happy endings.
"Oh, I left all my luggage on the train? My traveling companion was on the train and must have brought it to our hotel."
44) Beaches in winter.
45) My sturdy little basil plant that started out as stems supertailz
brought me from the grocery store months and months ago.
46) Tax refunds.
47) Our awesome little ungentrified corner of Crown Heights.
48) Friends who are diligent about protecting our baby from their germs. <3
49) Medium-rare steak frites at Les Halles.
50) Our awesome landlords, who are also our awesome downstairs neighbors.
51) All our silly nicknames for Kit.
52) The way I look in my gorgeous Frye boots.
53) Balancing our checkbook every month and feeling all the numbers click into place.
's goal-driven persistence.
57) The vast improvement to our kitchen vibe just from moving one baker's rack. Can't wait to complete our rearrangement!
58) Watching our friends build the lives they want.
59) The scent of petrichor after a summer thunderstorm.
60) Mole de pavo.
61) My cat's tiny squeaky meow. vine.co/v/iWuOWtelEI3
62) Spending a whole day thinking about things that make me happy! Thank you all for the faves. 💕
(I had NO IDEA I could put emoji in LJ/DW posts. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.)
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.parenting, experiences.driving, experiences.joy, experiences.kindness, experiences.reading, food, mind.dreamtime, people.cats, people.friends, people.groups.fandom, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, places.us.ny.new york, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn, stuff.clothes, stuff.money
Kit is two months old today.
They're starting daycare in two weeks, when X goes back to work, so I wrote up an unnecessarily long letter for the daycare staff. I really like it as a snapshot (or 2.3 snapshots, since it's about 2300 words) of who we all are right now.
=====( Seriously, unnecessarily long )
Of course none of this says anything about how the three of us will cope with Kit being in daycare, but I think it'll be fine once we all adjust a bit. It's only three blocks from home and they have a very generous drop-in policy. And this is a great encouragement to develop a more solid daily routine for Kit, which I think will be good for everyone. And we get to order super cute clothing and bottle name labels with tiny foxes on them
Also, let's be honest, I am REALLY looking forward to having the house to myself for a few hours every day. It will be weird for Kit's room to not have Kit in it, but I'll keep the door closed and take taurine and/or call the daycare if I get fretful.
It's been a really good two months and I feel like we're ready for what comes next. We've been talking a lot about plans to rearrange the main room of the house, have more friends over, do more things out in the world (Kit really loves going out, which helps). After the wild upheaval of pregnancy and new baby, we've found our footing, not in the sense of thinking we have it all figured out--because of course things will keep changing as Kit grows, and who knows what other changes will happen in the rest of our lives--but in the sense of having a stable stance. I have been watching a lot of videos of virtuoso basketball player Steph Curry
, and it's easy to get caught up in watching his arms, or watching the ball go right where he puts it. But I watch his feet, because that's where the shot begins. With your feet under you, you can handle whatever comes at you. We're getting there. It's good.
Tuesday evening I went out to see Laura Miller interview Peter Straub (which was delightful) and when I got home the baby was bigger. It's so surreal when this happens. It's not just illusion, either. Kit has a favorite onesie (well, it's our favorite; the baby doesn't care) that only has snaps on one leg, and suddenly getting the other leg on is a lot more difficult than it used to be. I think we've got another couple of weeks left in these three-month clothes and then it's on to six-month ones.( Babbystuffs )
On Wednesday night, X watched Kit while J and I had a date. Tonight J watched Kit while X and I had a date. I'll do the same for them next Wednesday. This is yet another reason to be grateful to be in a three-parent household.
We all seem to be "hooray, a few hours off from babycare" parents rather than "miss the baby even if just for a few hours" parents. I'm relieved that there's no mismatch there; it would be very awkward if one of us was trying to talk about work or movies or whatever while the other one pined and tried to log into the babycam from their phone. We all love Kit and love spending time with Kit and also are very glad to get breaks.
J and I went to Dassara Ramen for our date, a favorite of ours. They had their wonderful lamb ramen on the menu, so of course I got that, and we split an order of shishito peppers that made us miss Japan. We mostly talked about J's work and workplace stuff, and my theories about how there should be way more film and television adaptations of romance novels. The night was drizzly and cool, and we walked up Smith to Fulton and then over to Nevins to get the subway home. I got dairy-free ice cream at the vegan juice bar around the corner--there are two kinds of Brooklyn vegan juice bars, the hipster kind and the Rastafarian kind, and this one is the Rasta kind, so the ice cream came in a plastic half-pint deli container but only cost $4--and then we snuggled and smooched for a good long while. It was really really nice.
X and I trekked into Manhattan to go to Senza Gluten, since all the Brooklyn GF restaurants we might want to go to are actually less convenient to get to. X had their first postpartum beer, a bitter-sharp IPA that made me make the sucked-a-lemon face. We joked a lot with the server, who was so nice that X left them a thank-you note. I had lamb again, come to think of it, in a ragù over cavatelli. We walked up to Union Square in the bitter cold. In the station, we tipped some human-statue buskers who repaid us with some very talented dancing; we just missed our train while watching them, but that was fine because we were enjoying being together. Down on the platform we kept having tender sincere moments interrupted by blaring announcements, but that's what we get for having tender sincere moments on a subway platform. It was really really nice.
When I was growing up in a family of four, it often split into factions: two against two, or three against one. I don't ever want my family to be that way. But I love that we can divide and reunite, in all our various configurations, because all of our twosomes deserve time together.
When you have a baby (or are about to have a baby and are reading up on babies), you start to see the word "colic" everywhere. It's rarely defined but always made out as something dreadful, or at least extremely unpleasant--and worse, it's portrayed as incurable and inescapable. Some babies are just "colicky" and nothing can be done about it.
This turns out to be not at all true. As far as I can tell from doing a whole lot of reading on the topic, there seem to be two kinds of colic: indigestion, and emotional meltdowns. Kit's had both, and we were able to identify them pretty quickly and treat them pretty straightforwardly. Kit is a very easy-going and good-natured kid, so that may be a factor, but hopefully this info will still be useful for other parents whose babies are not quite so chill.
1) Indigestion. "Our baby screams a lot and arches in pain when fed breast milk or standard formula," we said. "Well, some babies are colicky after feeding," our pediatrician said. Aha!
, we thought. "Colicky" means "is upset about digestion pain".
And indeed, when we stopped feeding Kit breast milk and regular formula and started using a super-digestible formula (from Honest Co.
, and we recommend it very highly--Kit spits it up even less than the supposedly ultra-gentle Similac Alimentum, and it's half the price), and made sure not to feed Kit more than their tiny stomach could hold, the colic went away. Kit still fusses a bit about 10 minutes after eating, and then farts a couple of times and settles right down. If we give a teaspoon or two of Colic-Ease
every day, there's no fussing at all.
The pediatrician pointed out that since Kit wasn't vomiting up the meals, we could keep feeding breast milk (and the immunity benefits thereof) as long as we had a high tolerance for the screaming, until Kit got to be about three months old and the stomach developed enough to be able to digest the milk more easily. He did this in a very neutral way, which I appreciated--matter-of-fact, not pushing us one direction or the other. X and I stared at him with identical expressions of horror. It's not the screaming itself, but the idea of causing our child preventable pain, several times a day, for months. We considered dosing Kit with antacids, but our pediatrician shares our hesitation to put a very young baby on daily medication when there are non-medical options to pursue. So we switched to formula with some wistfulness but no regrets. That said, even if you're very dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding, there are ways of treating indigestion-type colic, and anyone (especially anyone not your doctor) who tells you that it's full-stop untreatable is probably wrong--any given attack of indigestion colic may just have to run its course, but a lot of those attacks can be prevented. Kit's always been an expert belcher and farter, so gas build-up isn't an issue, but if it were we could use simethicone drops and the Windi
. Some babies have allergies to things the breastfeeding parent is eating, and a change in diet can help. There are lots of things to try.
2) Emotional meltdowns. T. Berry Brazelton defines this type of colic very clearly in his Touchpoints: Birth to Three
, which is an excellent book that I think all new parents should keep on hand. Brazelton identifies it as coming from overstimulation during the day, which is why it reliably occurs in the evening. Since it doesn't have a physical cause, physical treatments (feeding, changing, gas drops, etc.) don't work, and soothing techniques like swaddling and pacifiers are of limited use. other_alice
pointed me to a site about "the PURPLE crying period"
, which looks like much the same thing.
Brazelton advises making sure there are no physical problems to address and then leaving the baby alone in the crib to scream out their feelings, self-soothe, decompress, and sleep without further stimulation; in his experience, this can reduce the average duration of a colic attack by half. The "PURPLE crying period" site mentions a study
in which babies cried less if their parents carried them around more often, as part of everyday life, rather than only picking them up when they were crying. So as with many things, the appropriate approach depends on you and your baby and your parenting style.
On Tuesday night, Kit had an emotional meltdown colic attack. It was pretty awful. But I realized that it reminded me of panic attacks, and then I knew what to do, because I have had many panic attacks and gotten pretty good at dealing with them. I held Kit gently and warmly, turned the lights down (installing dimmable LED bulbs and a dimmer switch in the baby's room is one of the best decisions I've ever made), rocked slowly in the rocking chair, and murmured quiet soothing things in a voice full of sympathy. I didn't try to offer a pacifier or stop Kit from screaming or thrashing, though I did loosely confine Kit's arms to keep either of us from getting punched in the face (and because Kit seems to find that sort of swaddling-by-hand very soothing, despite not liking actual swaddles). After a few minutes, the screaming and thrashing stopped and the baby fell asleep. Maybe ten minutes later, the cycle repeated once. And... that was that. All better. Pretty much the same thing happened when X was watching Kit Wednesday night while J and I were on our date night, and X did similar things and they were similarly effective. The key was that we both understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed and need to flail and yell, so we could stay calm and supportive while Kit vented. And we both know that while panic attacks feel
like they're going to last forever, they do eventually end, and then everything is okay for at least a little while; so we could hold on to that knowledge instead of falling into our own panic and ending up trapped with the baby in a feedback loop of distress.
Apparently some colic attacks can last for hours. We're very lucky not to have seen that yet. At that point I probably would put the baby in the crib just to give myself a break from being up close with the screaming for all that time. But I'm hoping that gentle soothing and sincere sympathy will be enough to help Kit escape the multi-hour misery cycle.
Obviously this is all our personal experience; I'm not prescribing anything. Do what's best for you and your child. Just remember, this too shall pass--possibly with some gas. :)
Inspired by yhlee
's post here
, ten things that make me happy:
* Cuddling the baby. Which I am doing right now. (After every feeding we need to prop Kit up for better digestion, and the easiest way to do that is in one's lap, so I have developed a way of arranging pillow and legs and baby and table and laptop such that I can type while Kit snoozes.) Having the baby in my lap makes the world infinitely better. I don't even know why. I mean, yes, oxytocin, but that's not all there is to it. It's just warm and cozy and wonderful.
* How well the three of us work together as parents. I'm especially glad that we've been making time for family snuggles, even when we're all so tired that we can barely stay awake to enjoy them. This week we start having date nights again, which is such an amazing thought I don't even know what to do with it.
* The warm welcome back I got from my colleagues and reviewers when I returned to work. It's so nice to be appreciated.
* Cooking, and homemade food. This weekend J and I made pot roast and roast beef, and X and I baked bread in the bread machine (such magic!). Fresh bread with homemade pot roast gravy, oh YES.
* Thoughtful family members who give us wonderfully appropriate baby gifts.
* Delightful friends. Today we introduced Kit to vschanoes
and her son and godchildren, and spent a lovely few hours hanging out at their house. I can't wait for the babies to get old enough to properly enjoy spending time together.
* Getting the dermatologist's approval to take baths, now that my lipoma removal incision has fully healed up. I CAN TAKE A BATH. I just need to find the time. Maybe this weekend.
* I got to read books for fun while I was on leave! That was great! I'd missed just reading for fun. I mostly reread old favorites, with one new-to-me book for variety.
* I bought sleeping caps from headcovers.com and now my head isn't cold at night.
* The heartstopping adorableness
of Kit yawning, and the little squeaking noise at the end of the yawn. Someday I will get video of this but of course it's hard to anticipate. It's just devastating
If you decide to make your own post of ten things that make you happy, leave me a link. :)
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.health, body.skin, experiences.reading, experiences.surgery, experiences.work, food, food.baking, food.baking.bread, food.cooking, food.cooking.beef, people.family, people.friends, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Back in May 2014, I was having a very hard time around baby things, and certain no one would ever see me as a "real" parent. I wrote about it a little bit here
. To counter this feeling, X and I went shopping for baby clothes. We got some pretty random stuff in random sizes--whatever looked cute. We got some frilly things and some butch things. We got a little stuffed dragon to guard the hoard. (We named him Beauregard.) We tucked the clothes away under X's desk.
Today I put one of those outfits on Kit, and X took photos of us together. (If you follow subtlekid
, you can see them at http://pic.twitter.com/EECFpN0qcV
. One of them also became the userpic on this entry.) They are pretty terrific photos, even if the outfit is still a wee bit big for the baby. :) But I've waited nearly two years for this and didn't want to wait any longer.Dear past me: I feel entirely like a real parent, and no one gets to tell me I'm not one. It'll all be okay. I promise.
I can't wait until Kit is old enough to play with Beauregard, and learn how he kept our dreams safe until they came true.
Our demon troll baby turned two weeks old on Monday. How time flies!
Kit has been having some issues with reflux. Our wonderful pediatrician recommended a super-gentle extra-hydrolyzed formula and it's working pretty well so far: still some spitting up, but much less arched-back screaming. We're also under instructions not to feed the baby too much or too frequently. This is awkward because the baby wants to eat basically all the time. I am rapidly becoming an expert in pacifier deployment. Fortunately pacifier + rocking cradle or cuddling = soothed baby at least 50% of the time, and I will totally take those odds right now.
Yesterday flailing little Kit was OUTRAGED that I DARED to offer a pacifier, spat it out repeatedly, then sucked three times on my pinky finger and fell completely asleep. This sort of thing is where we get the nickname "demon troll baby", which we use with all affection. The three of us don't have many personality traits in common, but a delight in trollery is one of them, and we were pretty much resigned to being trolled by our baby from day one.
Today I learned the difference between the reflux yell and the tension release yell:
R: *tries pacifier, pinky finger, holding, rocking, tummy rub, diaper change, everything*
R: Do you need me to just be present and witness your cry of outrage?
K: WAA*falls asleep, sleeps deeply for an hour and a half*
Kit's weight gain has been good and diapers are being dirtied at the expected pace, so at least we don't have to worry that the reflux is getting in the way of nutrition or hydration. I asked whether we should do weigh-ins at home if the reflux continues, and Dr. A said "Not every day or you'll flip out every time the baby happens to lose an ounce!". I am deeply glad we have a doctor who understands new parent anxiety and is sympathetic and helpful without being patronizing.
(I noticed that the doctor and his staff all seem to use "he" for all the babies, as what amounts to a gender-neutral pronoun--it's clearly used in the sense of "with the diaper on I can't tell the gender and it's not relevant anyway". I don't think I've encountered that before.)
J went back to work yesterday. X is barely even taking ibuprofen for what remains of the C-section pain, and is able to bend down well enough to load the dishwasher and feed the cats. I read a collection of three stories by Tanya Huff, set in her Quarters universe
, and started rereading Five Children and It
--the first fiction I've read since Kit was born. We're all getting a pretty surprising amount of sleep given that we're new parents; yay for taking shifts. Slowly life returns to normal.
Return of the granddaughter of the next generation of the five questions meme! From ivy
:1. Is being a parent roughly like you thought it was going to be?
I had no idea what to expect of this stage of parenthood, but some part of me was stubbornly certain that it was going to be just like our life only with a baby in it, no matter how many people told me that babies change everything. And as it turns out, our life is just like our life only with a baby in it. We haven't suddenly become different people. We haven't lost our other interests or our needs or our quirks and foibles. We're still us, caring for a baby in our own inimitable fashion.
I'm still shaky on identifying as "a parent" but that's gradually coming along.2. What is the best thing you've read lately? What made it so good?T. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints: Birth to Three
(revised edition) is an extremely soothing and reassuring book about early child development. I read each chapter as we approach the stage it discusses, so that I don't overwhelm myself with info that I can't use yet. The chapter on babies two to three weeks old says things like "it takes work and time to bond (form attachment) with the baby, so don't worry if it doesn't happen right away" and "this is what an overstimulated baby looks like; if you see this then it's time to leave them alone for 10 to 15 minutes to recover". It's the antidote to scaremongering Dr. Google. Reading it is like breathing a giant sigh of relief.3. What artist or spokesperson would you give a wider audience, if you could?
The most obscure brilliant artist I know is photographer Zoée Nuage
, whose images of gender ambiguity and transition changed my life. I'd love to see those photos reach more people who are just starting to have thoughts about their own genders. Somewhat to my surprise, Zoée has moved on from photography and is now making needle-felted jewelry
that's tiny and beautiful.
Less obscure but also brilliant is Thích Nhất Hạnh
. I recommend his writings on mindfulness in daily life to anyone who's ever been stymied by the (false) notion that meditation and mindfulness require a rigorous practice of setting time aside for sitting still in a quiet room. I genuinely feel like the world would be a much better place if everyone attempted some sort of mindfulness practice--we don't all have to be Zen masters, but paying a little more attention and moving a little more slowly goes a long, long way.4. What are your thoughts about education for kids? Do you have a preferred method of schooling?
I'm firmly in the "whatever's best for that particular child" camp. Some kids need a lot of socializing and others need time alone. Some need to be self-directed and others need structure and coaching. Some learn by listening and some by doing. What matters is that they get lots of options and opportunities to find what works for them, the support and attention they need from compassionate instructors, consistent rules and discipline without punishment, and a safe, encouraging space in which to learn.5. If your whole household could be instantly and collectively fluent in another language, which one would you pick? Why that one?
I wouldn't dream of picking unilaterally--that's a decision we should all make together. And if "collectively" means the baby learns it too, that's a different decision from the three adults picking a language in which to discuss things that we don't want Kit to know about. :)
My personal suggestion would be Japanese, since becoming fluent in it the hard way is really super hard, and it's genuinely useful for us (J's stepfather is Japanese and we love traveling in Japan).
If you want five questions from me, leave a comment, and I will do my best to think of something to ask beyond "Can you come over and watch the baby?". :)
Today: a day without crying or panic attacks! Therefore a good day!
I did feel one anxiety wave hitting me late this evening, but it was clearly caused by hunger and I was already in the process of making food, so I finished cooking (without injuring myself!) and ate a great deal of food and asked X to bring me taurine, and 20 minutes later I was fine. I feel this somehow balances out my panic of... yesterday? the day before? It all blurs a bit.
Today is the first day without any "firsts" to note in the baby book. Kit continues to be Kit, and doing all the expected baby things. We're still learning how to deal with the eager gulping feedings that lead to spit-ups and discomfort. Dr. Brazelton recommends letting the baby recline at 30 degrees for 20 minutes after eating and before burping, so that the burp doesn't bring milk up with it; I'll try that at the next feeding.
I'm the on-call babyminder for the next four hours. I should probably spend them sleeping in my bed with the baby monitor on, rather than sleeping in the baby's room, but I can't quite bring myself to take that step yet. It requires trusting the monitor app, which is sound-activated, and it's never let us down but I'm nervous anyway. On Monday J will go to his office and get all the packages that have been piling up there, including a tablet stand that will let us set up the tablet right over the crib to give video as well as more sensitive audio than it currently gets from a few feet away. That should help. If it doesn't, I'll switch from the sound-activated monitor to Skype or something.
Today was a milestone day for the baby in several ways:
1) The umbilical stump fell off. X and J each independently said, "You're not going to keep that and put it in the baby book, are you?" I may have been somewhat obsessively updating the baby book. (I did not keep it, or even take a picture of it.) Kit's navel looks fine and healthy. Yay for our lovely healthy baby.
2) Kit managed to spit up through the nose as I was in the middle of changing a diaper. This was quite alarming for several reasons. First, I thought the sudden sneezing and drippiness was the first sign of a cold, and freaked out at the thought of our 10-day-old baby being ill and having trouble breathing. Second, babies generally breathe through the nose; Kit was very agitated at not being able to do this, and began screaming. Fortunately I had stocked our medicine cabinet with a Nosefrida nasal aspirator, and I kept a handle on myself long enough to direct X to grab it for me so I could suck out the milk-snot. J called the pediatrician, who said to clear out the nose with a couple of drops of saline solution and more aspiration, so we did that--I'd also stocked the medicine cabinet with saline and told X exactly where it was--and once it became clear that the nose wasn't runny and it was just a onetime thing, I handed the baby to someone and went off to sob.
I am very embarrassed that I reacted that way. I'm generally calm in a crisis. I keep reminding myself that I did all the right things and that I was able to identify the tools to use and tell people where to find them and make use of them. I didn't let the panic get in the way of responding quickly and correctly. And I know it's normal for new parents to be easily agitated about anything that might be the slightest bit wrong with the baby, especially when we're underfed/underslept. But still, I panicked, and I don't like that I panicked.
3) Kit drank four ounces of milk in one go. Turns out this is way too much for a ten-day-old baby. To my surprise, it all stayed down, but I spent about an hour doing tummy rubs and bicycle legs and diaper changes while Kit flailed around and strained and looked very uncomfortable. Poor wee thing. I finally induced sleep with a lightly swaddling sleep sack--it's warm enough in here that Kit was just wearing a shirt and a diaper, but apparently the baby has already formed the impression that that is daytime clothing and nighttime requires pajamas--and a bit of pacifier-sucking. (Apparently bedtime pacifier use significantly reduces SIDS risk
, including for low-risk babies. I'd been avoiding it because weaning babies off of a pacifier can be very difficult, but I shall avoid it no more. Kit has literally zero identifiable risk factors for SIDS, which is a very reassuring thing to know, but why take chances?)
Lesson learned: if Kit chugs three ounces and claims to want more, give a pacifier instead and wait for digestion to happen. Everyone will be happier.
So far so good. Kit's out of the precautionary NICU and done with the precautionary antibiotics (there was no actual infection, yay); they're eating and sleeping and making messes and having loud opinions like a champ. X's bandage was taken off today (a day late, and the OB had a look in his eye that suggested yesterday's PA was going to receive a serious talking-to for not doing it yesterday), and the C-section incision looks great. With sufficient pain medication, they were able to walk down the hall to the shower and even stand while showering. The one-flight walkup at our place is going to be a challenge, but then they can just stay home for a couple of weeks while they recover.
J and I are trading nights at home, so we alternate being well-rested. Tomorrow everyone will be home and everything will be great.
Updates continue to be mostly on Twitter. Sorry, non-Twitter folks.
I really want separate pronouns for "gender unknown" and "this person explicitly identifies as nonbinary". Using "they" for Kit is the least bad option but I don't want to imply that we're putting a nonbinary identity on them, especially in the context of using the same pronoun for me and X. We're just keeping their gender private until they figure out what it is and decide to be public about it.
I need to update my tags and userpic keywords. Tomorrow, maybe.
X's water broke and they went into labor at 5:15 a.m. Eleven hours later, we're at the hospital, epidural's in, they're napping and waiting for the pitocin to work its magic. Everything's going swimmingly. :D Updates are happening on Twitter for the most part but I will try to update here too when I can. Assume no news is good news.
21:49: So far so good. :)
00:28: 6 cm dilated, 80% effaced, baby's head at position 0. Epidurals are amazing and the nurse anesthetist is going to get the world's biggest fruit basket.
01:12: X is, miraculously, asleep. J and I are also going to nap while the fabulous doula beetiger
08:21: Habemus babby! Born by C-section. Baby is in the NICU as a standard precaution; X is being stitched up and should be out shortly. We are all extremely tired.
In real life, the other day, I woke up too tired to go to a planned lunch with a friend, so I emailed her to cancel and went back to sleep. Then I dreamed that we had lunch and I bored her so much that she fell asleep!
I also had another weird pregnancy dream last night. We had done IVF and picked out the embryo we wanted, but X wasn't able to carry the baby for whatever reason, so we regretfully put our frozen embryo in an envelope and tacked it to a bulletin board in hopes that someone who wanted a baby would find it and be able to use it. A little while later I realized that the embryo would probably thaw out before someone came along to take it and I got very distressed. We got back in the car and started the long drive back to where the bulletin board was in hopes that we could retrieve the embryo in time. Then I woke up.
Clearly I have been thinking a lot about what to do with the embryos we don't plan to use; I don't think the bulletin board route is the way to go, though.
Everyone is completely fine.( A fun trip to the ER )
I should probably eat something--I've barely eaten anything at all today--and then go try to sleep some more. If I'm lucky this whole thing will have reset my sleep schedule back to where it should be. Not the way I would have chosen to do that, but I'll take what I can get.
- thinking about:
behavior.love, behavior.parenting, body.body clock, body.sleep, events.cons, events.cons.world fantasy, experiences.disaster, experiences.kindness, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina
Here's our inventory of baby clothes acquired thus far. Parents, how insufficient is this? :) I'm including the stuff for bigger kids for the sake of completion, but mostly I want to make sure we're stocked up on newborn/0-3 things and 3-6 things. Our baby's weight is at something like 70th percentile right now, so I expect them to size out of newborn clothes pretty quickly; we're also planning to try cloth diapering, which may mean getting leggings a size larger than we otherwise would. We have a washing machine, and I already do laundry several times a week (three adults generate a lot of laundry), if that helps with estimating how much we need to have in stock; I don't plan to let pee-soaked things sit around. Fortunate we're getting the diapers from a service and don't have to factor those into the washload.( It seems like a lot but isn't really )
I am deeply indebted to vschanoes
, and d_aulnoy
(and their babies, who conveniently predate ours by six to twelve months) for the many many hand-me-downs they have already given us and will undoubtedly provide more of in the near future. We also received many baby shower gifts of nice neutral white, gray, beige, and yellow baby clothes. Meanwhile, when X and I go out and buy baby clothes, we go straight for the gendered things, e.g., the button-down shirt and sparkly purple shoes, which I bet will look awesome together. It's nice to have options.
Ugh, got hit with a massive wave of insecurity today. I keep picturing the three of us out in the world with FutureKid, and everyone assuming that J and X are "Dad" and "Mom" and I'm a friend or something. Realistically I know that X and I will immediately look like the classic Brooklyn lesbians-with-baby couple (you should have seen us the day we showed up at the cat shelter in Park Slope and realized we were wearing matching rainbow jewelry... gayest moment of my life, and that's saying something) and people will probably assume that J is the "friend". Or because J and I are the chatty extraverts, we'll look like a couple and X will look like the third wheel. Or who cares what strangers think anyway. But I'm not going to be a biological parent, and we have to fight the state and jump through absurd hoops to get me recognized as a legal parent, and all of X's pre-IUI appointments are at 8 a.m. (so they can do same-day bloodwork) and I'm on a West Coast schedule that makes that feel like 5 a.m. for me and I really can't be there for them, and right now I just feel so disconnected from the whole thing and it hurts and I'm sad. And desperately, desperately insecure. Which is triggering my dysphoria too, because why only care that strangers won't see me as part of my family or as the parent of my child when I could also care that they get my gender wrong? Bah.
X promised me that on Saturday we'll go shopping for baby things together (not a whole lot, since they aren't actually pregnant yet, but just some onesies or something) and that will help. Unless I sit down on the floor of Old Navy and burst into tears. You'd think I was the one getting all hormonal.
I would really appreciate any words of support from non-bio parents and parents-to-be out there! Not just "once the baby comes you will absolutely feel like a parent" but sympathy/empathy from people who've been in an emotional place like this. Fellow-feeling. You know.
Bonus: I had a total foot-in-mouth day on Twitter (I think I managed to piss off four separate people, mostly without meaning to), and meanwhile Daniel has been totally splendid and fierce and eloquent, and so the insecurity says that he's the visible "parent" of Long Hidden and I'm relegated to a dark dusty corner or something. And I'm white and that cancels out all my queerness and transness and polyness so really who am I to talk about being marginalized anyway. And augh brain shut. up.
I haven't had to deal with insecurity this bad in ages. I have no idea how to deal, other than by maybe having a good cry (why couldn't I have cried while everyone else was awake? I hate crying alone) and going to sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.being wrong, behavior.being wrong.on the internet, behavior.foolishness, behavior.parenting, ideas.race, mind.feelings.insecurity, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.body image, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit
- feeling:my own worst enemy