Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Into the breach!

So you'll see in my tagline to your left that, like everyone else, I'm juggling numerous roles and finding it all a bit unnerving: Mimi-the-Mama, Professor Mimi, and Mrs. Mimi are but three that I toss up into the air daily. Sometimes the balls drop, and then, as George Costanza would have it, "Worlds collide!" Yesterday, teaching my night class, Mimi-the-Mama and Professor Mimi suffered a mid-toss collision. In this particular class I use a lot of computer projection, and I project from my own laptop, because I demo a lot of different kinds of software I can't be sure to find in a teaching computer (and also, well, I'm a Mac snob ;-) ). I'm very careful about desktop images and screen savers and such: usually, my screen saver is set to go off after about 2 hours on days when I'm teaching, and the desktop image visible when I'm hooked up to the projector is of a hibiscus flower. But, it being Monday and all, I guess I'd reset the screen saver to my last roll of digital shots on the weekend and not set it back. So there I am, writing down definitions and keywords on the white board, trying to make sure my behind isn't jiggling, when a collective 'Awwwwwww' arises from the 40 or so students in the class.

I turn around.

To this:

Lordy. Her little head is about five feet tall on the screen, and getting bigger as the photo 'approaches'. Everyone is ooh-ing and ahh-ing and I'm dashing over to the laptop to flap the lid down while I collect my thoughts. I make some sort of joke about the course material is not suitable for young children, and hurriedly reset the screen saver.

I hate this. But why? I guess I fear for my teacherly persona. I'm a good teacher, if I'm to judge from peer evaluation and student evaluations. I know that I'm competent in the material, that I do my best to make my courses relevant and useful. But I'm also tough, and rigorously intellectual in class--if students make the effort, I'm 100% charming; if they don't, well, poor grades are likely going to be the consequence. I'm not afraid to say, "no, that's not true," or, "I don't know that that's what the author was aiming at," as easily as I say "yes, that's right," or, "I had never thought of it like that, but I will now--great insight." It can be hard for female professors not to be the first ones that all students ask for extensions, to be taken seriously, to not be assumed to be the nurturer who wants to hear about problems in the dorm. Even harder when you're younger than most, and thin, and blonde, and, let's be honest, tending to try to enliven class with contemporary references and the occasional mild joke.

Many of my students this year know that I just had a baby--they took classes with me last year when I was enormously pregnant and couldn't use the whiteboard markers because the smell made me nauseated. The biological fact of it I don't mind being in the public domain. Indeed, I wrote a while ago about wanting to model being a professional, professor/mom. I guess what I mind is that this incident makes me look scatterbrained, first. Second, although I clearly have no qualms about broadcasting Miss Baby's image to you, oh momosphere, I don't want her on display in such a public way at the university. Third, I kind of don't want to engage my students on this personal level; I don't want them telling me how cute my baby is and how their best friend from high school is pregnant. With undergraduates, especially, this doesn't feel right. In short, it's just not professional, and professional is an adjective hard won by female faculty.

Fourth and most deeply, if I'm being perfectly candid, it's the hardest thing in the world for me to not spend all day talking about Miss Baby, showing people pictures of Miss Baby, charting all of Miss Baby's fascinating little personality quirks. When that picture flashed up on the screen I could feel the floodgates of my desire straining dangerously. I'm appalled that Professor Mimi really seems to want nothing more than to spend her time obsessing about her baby. Now that's unprofessional, surely--as unprofessional as it is perfectly natural.

I'd not really thought all this through until I started writing this post, and to be honest, I'm not actually upset about this anymore, but in parsing my immediate reaction from class last night, I'm surprised to discover the root of my discomfort lies, essentially, in my latent desire to shout shout shout my mommyhood from all available pulpits. And so into the abyss. I just hope those floodgates hold ...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Real Life Dilemma: Cartage

I'm always late for work, it seems. I shower, I dress, I eat, I fool around with Miss Baby, and give Pynchon numerous hugs. I feed the cat. I lint-brush myself. I know how long all this takes, and yet ...

The problem, so far as I can figure, is loading up and strapping on all the various bags, supplies, and devices I need to take with me if I'm leaving the house for eight-or-so hours. It's a logistical and ergonomic dilemma, and also ridiculous to watch in action. Let's see: extra sweater, coat, scarf, snow boots, mitts. Check! Kleenex and bus fare in coat pocket. Check! Oh wait, I should put the cell phone in my coat pocket too or I'll never hear it or be able to answer it. Oh-oh, it's not fully charged. Ok. Pack the charger too. Check! Now the professor bag, an ergonomic and capacious laptop backpack: computer, charger, dayplanner, bus-stop and coffee-shop book, lunch, office keys, house keys, wallet, lipstick. Check! Now the breastpump: get the fridge pack out of the freezer, load it into lunchbag with bottles, load lunchbag into pump bag. Zip all the accessories into place. Check!

(You have to imagine me darting around the house for 20 minutes, getting this all done, as the cellphone, wallet, lipstick, bottles, books, etc. seem to migrate out of the bag when I come home for work and thus must be first located and then reassembled in the morning.)

By the time I'm ready to leave, I'm bundled up to my eyeballs in winter outerwear, have a heavy pack on my back and another heavy pack in one hand. Pynchon usually opens the door for me, because, with my mitts on, I can't get a grip on the handle -- however, with the mitts off, I can't get my mitts back on when I leave the house, because my hands are full. Yeesh.

Mobility, I begin to believe, is overrated. All those devices intended to free me from anchorage to a particular location (phone, computer, breastpump) have turned me literally into a mobile office: I am the infrastructure, and the infrastructure is carried around under my own motive power. My office is heavy!

I've fallen prey, I think, to an insidious cult of portability: the laptop, much smaller and lighter than a desktop, demands to be carried from place to place, and indeed it is pleasant to work from Starbucks, or the library, rather than my office. But 7 pounds of computer is not an unnoticed load! The phone is smaller, obviously, but its tininess compels attention in different ways: where is it? is it charged? is it ringing? It occupies very little pocketspace, but a fair bit of mental real estate. The breastpump I've written about before, but now I want to indicate that it is the load that broke this pedestrian's back: I just can't walk to work anymore, my only real and greatly cherished exercise. There's just too much stuff, and lordy, I'm getting worn out just lifting it from place to place.

I'm an urban nomad, just like everyone else, carting my daily vital supplies with me as I roam my haunts and territories--it's just that, in this affluent and be-gizmoed age, nomads are hauling serious amounts of gear. And this, paradoxically, reduces our mobility. The nomad is burdened with stuff.

So the dilemma is this: I need my daily walk. The only time I can really find for this is in the commute to or from the office, a 35 minute jaunt--otherwise I miss out either on time with Miss Baby or my precious hour or so of quiet relaxation between her bedtime and mine. Currently, 35 minutes is the amount of time it takes me to get to the office by bus, if you factor in the wait and the walk to and from each bus stop. So switching from bus to walk has no consequence, schedule-wise. I just have to work out the question of the gear. I've already pared down the need-to-carry list by, for example, bringing bulk loads of snack and lunch foods in on the weekend, to last me a whole week, and by dedicating a filing drawer to all my 'indoor shoes'. So that's reduced what I have to carry around. But the boobie-pump and the computer, it seems, really do have to travel with me. If I'm going to do this, either Pynchon or I is likely going to have to make a special-purpose drive out to the university to pick up or drop at least one of these items daily, hardly the eco-friendly solution I'm looking for.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Stroller Down Memory Lane

Miss Baby took her first stroller ride when she was two days old. I could barely walk, but dammit, I was going around the block if it killed me. We had an enormous, gorgeous, bells-and-whistles carriage that I was eager to try out, and I was anxious also to start on what I imagined would be a wonderful summer of long walks with a slumbering baby, watching the pregnancy-pounds evaporate. Here's the photo: bear in mind that this is June.

Mommy, I'm too hot.

Please note that her eyes are open. Our baby is very alert.

Well, for the first six weeks, we were golden: the weather was nice, and not too too hot, and the baby was cooperative. Sure, she hollered when you put her into the car seat, but once the seat was hooked up to the carriage and the carriage started rolling ... zzzzzzzz. And she would stay asleep even if I stopped moving.

Wake me up when it's time to get crabby, ok?

However, by the end of July it was getting hotter and hotter and Miss Baby was getting crabbier and crabbier about the whole stroller thing. She wouldn't sleep; the sun made everything too bright and she would holler; she didn't like to have all the shades up and she would holler; it was too hot and she would holler; she hated the car seat angle and she would holler. We barely left the house all of August as a result. There are no photos, because I was not in a mood to take any on the rare occasions we ventured forth. (This was also the period of the most intense car screaming as well. I was stir crazy at home, but afraid to leave ... good combo.)

With the cooler weather of September, and Miss Baby's maturing eyes and brain, stroller rides became once more bearable for both of us. But only if she was going to sleep. This required careful timing and constant--CONSTANT!--motion. In fact, as this was the month where the nap strikes began, stroller rides were my nap of last resort, and more than once we made impromptu visits to The Dada's office, a good 45 minutes hike away (nice scenic walk, though). If she wasn't sleeping, she was hollering. This is the period that I call 'extreme strolling'--very long walks in constant terror of a wakeup. Here's an action shot: I didn't dare stop the stroller to take the picture, so I'm pushing with my belly while steadying the camera, and, in fact, you can see the camera strap in the photo. Stoller vérité.

Keep. It. Moving. The Mama!

All this is to say that I have been forced several times since Miss Baby's birth to downgrade my expectations with respect to long walks and fresh air and exercise and mother/baby bonding and all that. Mostly, Miss Baby has not really liked to stroll, and indeed spent most of her tiny-infancy in the sling, attached to either Pynchon or I. Which is nice in its way, but you can't, for example, nip out to get groceries and a 60 pack of diapers when the 12 pound baby is strapped to your body rather than to a nice wheeled carriage with a sturdy and capacious storage basket. I'm just sayin'.


The good news is, Miss Baby, in all her 7.5 month old wisdom, has decided she's now loving the carriage. Especially in airports and malls, but also, in a pinch, in the liquor store, down a snowy street, into the Starbucks, the grocery store, the Shoppers Drug Mart. I don't even care that it's deepest, grimmest winter. The Quinnysaurus bucks snowbanks nicely, and that's what snowsuits are for, right? I'm just so happy she's finally into this whole walking thing, that, January be damned, we're going out!

Are we going, or what, The Mama?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Winter coats

In 1994, my mother treated my sister and I to a pre-Christmas present: she bought us each a full-length wool winter coat, and a pair of leather winter boots, each of our choosing, but within the bounds of 'sensible' and 'adult'.

Mom had come to Toronto, where both my sister and I attended university, on business. S. and I took the bus to her airport hotel, had lunch in the hotel restaurant, and then headed downtown all together in a taxi--this all sticks out for its sheer extravagance (well, except the bus part. Journeys by TTC I was all too familiar with ...). We looked for coats at The Bay. I remember racks and racks and racks. We got our boots here too. I ended up with a long, slightly large black wool/cashmere London Fog coat, in a classic double-breasted cut, along with knee-high, fluff-lined, black leather boots. My sister got a blue wool coat in a slightly different cut, and brown leather, mid-calf boots.

I often think of that day we three spent together, and not just because, 13 years later, I'm still wearing both coat and boots. No. What really makes it vivid is my memory of the context, and how I keep reinterpreting that context in the light of my growing set of life experiences.

First -- what a thoughtful, thoughtful gift, a practical, timely gift, at a moment of transition. You have to imagine my sister and I in our prior winter gear: she in a ratty and not-warm-enough L. L. Bean forest green hunting jacket, lined with red and black plaid, paired usually with a bulky cardigan and a pair of Doc Marten ankle boots; me in a fall-weight tweed car coat handed down from my dad, that didn't do up to the neck and was supplemented by several undersweaters, while on my feet I usually had 14-hole steel-toed combat boots. These student ensembles were really neither practical nor stylish. Nor were they particularly adult. Now, we were poor students, tuition- and residence-subsidized by the 'rents (a real privilege, I realize), but subsisting on very little cash, day to day. Mom got us quality, grown-up winter wear that was warm and classy.

Second -- spending time with me was probably not easy for Mom. I was in the full throes of my vampire phase, and although I have nothing to apologize for (I was a straight-A student, near-teetotaller, monogamous, and a thank-you-note-writer--I loved my mother and craved her attention, and held pretty much to the values I was raised on, with a little black lipstick for dash), I can well imagine my mother's discomfort witnessing this bizarre transformation of her little blonde, blue-eyed cutie into a heavily eye-lined, black-haired, nose-pierced, lace-and-PVC wearing weirdo. Still, she bought me a black coat, in the hopes that its classiness and usefulness would outlast my 'phase'.

Third -- spending time with my sister was definitely not easy for Mom. My sister, at the time of this shopping expedition, was four months pregnant, recently dumped by her boyfriend, and making wrenching decisions about adoption versus parenting. She was starting to show. My mother was heartbroken and at a loss, terrified of what the future would hold for everyone. Still, she bought S. a coat and boots, in the hopes of a professional, well-clothed and well-shod future.

Mom probably spent a good $800-900 on us that day, an investment in our present and in our futures, a gift marking the transition from children to adults: our outerwear was no longer, really, her problem, and this shopping day, so much like our family hunts every fall of our childhoods for snowsuits and hats and mitts, really marked an ending. I was 21, my sister 20, and my mom has never bought us coats or hats or mitts since. Because we are on our own.

This was twelve years ago. A lot has come and gone in that time. My sister decided, over Christmas break, after feeling her unborn baby kicking up against her, to keep him for herself. We love him to bits, 'Gramma' especially. She graduated university a little behind schedule, ultimately marrying the then-absent boyfriend, and they've had a second child while they pursue professional careers. I think they're on house number 3 and cars number 4 and 5. For my part, I'm a blonde and blue-eyed cutie again, and did an MA and a PhD before moving back close to home for my professor gig. Now I'm married with a baby, too. My Mom has retired, sold the home we grew up in, moved to a new city and is renovating a new house on the water with my Dad.

And still, the coats and the boots.

My coat has been my gear-of-first-resort ever since its purchase. In Toronto, with my army boots and a fake-fur black scarf, I was both cool and warm. In frigid frigid Edmonton, I could layer a polar fleece jacket under the coat, and with my knee-high boots to complete the look, make the 30 minute walk from apartment to campus in relative comfort. On the academic job market, layered over a suit, the coat made me look quasi-professional and gave me confidence. I'm still wearing it, because even though I have a newer and cuter red wool/cashmere car coat, it doesn't match, say, my green cords, and it's not appropriate with skirts or evening wear.

This week, as I shook the coat off and onto a table in the room where I teach my graduate seminar, I noticed that the heavy satin lining has torn along the seams under the arms. I already knew the the lining was wearing through at the wrists and the bottoms. The threadbare state of the arms and neck, too, was well-known to me. It's probably time to throw it out: really, it's seen 12 years of constant use and is literally wearing out. But I'd miss that little reminder, every time I put it on, of my family. Because every time I slip it off the hanger (or pull it off the table), a little version of this post flashes through my mind.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Flexible, More Firm

NotSoSage left a comment on my last post that really got me thinking:

I am constantly torn by my belief that "it takes a village" to raise a child and my feeling of (for lack of a better word) ownership over how she is raised. I might feel a lot less of the ownership if I felt that people in our families agreed with and respected the way we were raising her, but I digress... Parents really do fare better with help and having a break now and then, but it's hard to balance that with allowing people with such different beliefs and values to have a hand in your child's development.
Are you reading my mind, NotSoSage? [note! I'm not reading NSS's mind, and whatever I write below is all about my neuroses and not a commentary on her commentary!] I've been formulating a post about this in my head for a while now, since Christmas, actually, because it was at Christmas time that our little universe of three was both penetrated by extended family on the homefront, and thrust into family on the road. Both cases made very clear to me the dilemma this comment expresses.

On the one hand, I'm very new to parenting. My baby is seven months old. Obviously, my own parents, Pynchon's parents, and pretty much everyone on earth has more experience with babies than we do. On the other hand, I am the world's foremost expert in Miss Baby. No one has spent more time with her than I have. No one is more attuned to her rhythms or her quirks.

The problem is that I need help from whoever is kind enough to offer it, but at the same time, I want to direct that help to do things my way, advice not always followed or even really respected. Ultimately, I think sometimes that's okay. But sometimes it's not.

Here are a couple of examples. As you know from my last post, Miss Baby is not a good car traveller. If you time it perfectly (ie, after 2-2.5 hours of wakefulness), she will nap for about 40 minutes in the car, without yelling too long before falling asleep. So that means we have to leave the house at a particular time, then leave our destination again within 2.5 hours of arriving. Otherwise, believe me, all hell broke loose. So I arranged a visit to my grandparents, with my parents who were already here visiting; Mom and Dad were on board with the schedule, and I clearly laid out for my parents that we would arrive for lunch, and then have to leave again within 2.5 hours. I tried to make it as convenient as possible for everyone, because I know it's a pain to be hostage to a baby like this. Still, after our 2.5 hours were up, and Miss Baby was squirmy and angry and yawning and whining and rubbing her eyes, Grandma tells me I'm spoiling her and she doesn't need a nap, and there's no need for us to leave. She pours more tea. I insist we really must be going. She tells me she doesn't mind a little crying. Mom and Dad look uncomfortable as I still politely insist that, as per the plan, we need to go home, because the baby is clearly exhausted and melting down. We leave about 30 minutes too late, and Miss Baby lets loose a major fit in the car in the driveway because Grandma will still not let us get away. She ultimately screams her head off for about 20 minutes, before having a 20 minute nap.

Here's Miss Baby after my sister free-styled naptime one afternoon when she came by to let Pynchon and I go to a movie: Miss Baby started off with her head to the left and feet to the right. She should be tightly swaddled, and, well, asleep. But my sister figured I was too precise and controlling in my instructions and winged it. No nap, but no real harm done here. Still, wouldn't it be easier if she had listened to me? I see that I'm sounding whiny and controlling, but there's lots I'm willing to let go: at our dinner party, that same sister was fingertip-feeding Miss Baby some berry pie filling, even though we really don't want to be introducing sugar and junk into Miss Baby's diet. But it's berry pie filling, and it's a dinner party. Beh. Let it go.

The good news is, that in a lot of ways, becoming a mother has really forced me to relax: relax my standards for myself, and consequently and empathetically, relax them for others as well. I am happy to get some sort of balance in my life, to go with the flow, to aim for 'good enough' rather than, as before, 'enviable.' Competimommy I am not. My baby is nearly eight months old and doesn't sit up by herself--I'm sure she'll get there eventually and in her own time. The sheets on the guest bed need washing--I'm sure it'll get done before the next set of guests arrive. In short, I am more flexible.

However, becoming the mother, as one does, of a newborn infant, I have also become more firm. No, you cannot hold the baby if you've been smoking. Yes, I must insist that we head home now because baby is tired. No, do not give her that soother. Yes, she is just fine on a breastmilk-only diet.

This is a strange co-incidence: a laissez-faire attitude toward much of what really only might bother me, and a strong enforcement of boundaries and rules with respect to what happens to or near Miss Baby. I'm still trying to balance my recognition of the wide variety of experiences that life--and her extended family--will spring on Miss Baby against my hard-won knowledge of what will make the screaming stop, what will put the baby to sleep, what I believe to be her needs. I'm trying, also, to balance my innate control-freak nature against the good will of people who do things differently from me. And again, my sense that how we care for our baby is consequential on a day to day basis with my recognition that she's preverbal and that these incidents are short and infrequent.

I just wanna be a good mommy without being a bitch about it.

Prunes? I wanted pie.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sleep, and love/like, and help


Having read all about WonderBaby's nocturnal activities of late, and of the toll they are taking on her bleary parents, I didn't want to jinx my own run of good fortune by telling you all that Miss Baby had gone about 10 nights straight with not night-time wakeups. You will of course notice the past tense in that last sentence. Jinx need no more be feared. Last night, after going peaceably to bed at 8:30, Miss Baby did her town-crier routine at: 4:00 (boobie), 4:24 (Dada), 5:05 (boobie once more), and 6:12 (grumpy and confused Dada). She then got up at her usual and accustomed hour of 8:30, ready to cheerfully greet the day. Now, the last time she pulled this routine, we felt like we were going to die. But today it was okay, because, I think ...

Love / Like

I am starting to like my daughter. Now, of course, I have loved her since the get-go (and before) even if sometimes this love felt more like guilt and sometimes more like hormones and sometimes more like social pressure. But she's turning ever more into a little person, one who finds stairs terribly amusing, who likes to be spun at great speeds, who looks surprised when addressed in French, and who enjoys talking to all the photos of little babies taped up above her change table. She looks pleased to see me in the morning. She can be calmed by voice. She can be distracted and amused. She reaches for me. She is starting to lose that look of being completely knocked over by the wash of stimulus that is the world; she is beginning to process this world. She's erecting her own little breakwater of expectation, personality, and self-hood against this onslaught. Consequently, she's not so easily rattled, and she enjoys her interactions with the world more. She's becoming a little bit self-aware (to coyly but deliberately expose and hide her neck to my tickles, for example) and a lot more social (tipping her head to flirt with strangers).

Anyhow, we would have expected a bad day today following such a craptacular night. But no. She was cheery and charming and played independently and ate happily and laughed at and with her bleary parents. Who were cheered and charmed and forgave. She even made a happy addition to a dinner party at my godparents' tonight, a feat of adaptability heretofore nearly unknown from her little self. Which leads me to ...


We brought Miss Baby to my godparents' for dinner tonight. They live one town over, an insurmountable distance for those months when Miss Baby could and would scream the entire 20 minute car ride. The evening was remarkable first because we can now travel by car for these kinds of distances without anyone bursting into tears. Second, it was an evening in which we had help with babycare. My godparents love children: they have eight grandchildren (two of whom they were watching for the evening) and are godparents to my sister's two sons as well. They are happy to hold and play with Miss Baby. My sister and her husband and their two sons love babies as well, with my sister falling all over herself in her rush to volunteer to give Miss Baby her evening squash and peaches. My nephews like to entertain their new cousin: the five year old likes to hand her toys and make her laugh, and the 11 year old will prop her up between his legs to play, catching her when she tips over. There were six adults and five children, and it was happy and fun and a little noisy, but everyone got to eat supper, no one freaked out, and all the adults got to talk to each other for more than 30 seconds at a time. In these extended family groupings, kids play with each other, and babies get passed around, and everyone pitches in, and it's all just so. much. easier. than going it alone, like we do every other day.

It made me think how, generally, we all do so so much without any kind of help at all, which really tends to exacerbate any tension on the sleep or the like/love fronts. More hands on deck to help means a more even keel as we navigate these choppy choppy waters of early infancy. And junior parenthood.

So now we're home, and Miss Baby (stimulated to within an inch of her life by cousins and aunts and uncles and godparents) went gratefully and quietly to bed, and Pynchon and I can chew over the conversations we each participated in. And, of course, pray that tonight's sleep is a little less fragmented than last night's.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words

Pictures, that is.

I've been killing you all with massively long and tortuous posts of late. Time for something short, if not necessarily sweet: a photo-intensive history of my marriage, in feet.

Yup. Feet. Hold on: here we go!

Photo the first: feet getting married, lounging oceanside in Jamaica, one fine early morning in April 2005. The feet got married at 10:30 in the morning, were drunk by 11, and had consummated the union by lunchtime. No family. No guests. We were 'footloose' if you will allow the pun.

Photo the second: pregnant feet, up on my desk at work, in May of 2006, three weeks before Miss Baby's birth. Yes, they are hugely swollen. By this point I could only wear flip flops, and, yes again, you clever reader! those are flip-flop indentations in the foot swelling. It all happened so gradually I really wondered why suddenly none of my shoes fit and everyone was pointing and grimacing.

Photo the third: mommy feet. Never far from the Crocs, which I only wear indoors, because they really saved my arches from oblivion, and now I let Miss Baby chew on them as much as she likes. She likes. And against her little chompy teeth, the resin makes a noise like squeaky bedsprings in the heat of the moment. That's hot!

Photo the fourth: civilian feet. I love beautiful or quirky or fancy shoes. I used to buy a lot of them. Now I live the dream in retrospect. So here's me at work once more, wearing all the shoes that didn't fit last year. I took this photo today! And there's that blasted breast pump in the background!

So there you have it! A foot history, from newlywed, to knocked up, to SAHM, to working-woman pretending to be cool!

Hope you enjoyed it ;-)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Out of sync

"Head over heels, how could I know / Can't stop myself, out of control / Head over heels, no time to think / It's like the whole world's out of sync"

(Everyone needs a little Go-Go's now and then, non?)

Breastfeeding is a culturally loaded practice: to boob or not to boob, when and where, for how long, if and how come (or why not), covered or uncovered, how much and how often. These are just some of the questions that swirl around the topic, and Mad Hatter has eloquently shared her own fraught experiences. Ambivalence abounds. My own Mom tried to breastfeed me, but she had no support and I was jaundiced and had to stay in the hospital so she gave up for lack of help and direction. My sister breastfed her second son, but not her first: the second time around, she was an adult, in a stable relationship, and better educated on the whole business of mommydom. Only since I had Miss Baby has she confided that when she weaned her constant-snacker cold turkey at 5 months, she suffered a pretty serious depression all the while feeling relieved that her husband could now share the burden.

For me, breastfeeding has been really, really easy. My 34H cups runneth over (quite literally ... sigh) daily, and I never worried about supply, but sometimes about choking my poor little newborn. Miss Baby had a good latch from the get-go, and a wondrous combination of strong appetite and a capacity to sleep unfed for long stretches at night. For a while, though, she was unwilling to sleep or nap without a boobin' and so I was becoming pretty anxious both for sleep-training and for the introduction of boobie-milk-in-a-bottle. But still, I'm very thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that breast is best, and any threat to the breastfeeding relationship sees me go into momma-bear mode. I have expressed (har-har) some of my reservations about pumping elsewhere on this blog, while still noting my relief and gratitude for The Dada and the Medela Pump-'n'-Style.

The electric, daily-use breastpump is an engineering and a cultural marvel: this portable, dependable, discreet machine allows me to work outside my home without having to wean my daughter. I carry it around in a little backpack, and store little containers of mommy-goodness in a cooler pack. A marvel, I tell you! But lately, I'm feeling a little out of sync, just like those chirpy Go-Go's.

It's possible I'm overthinking this. But hear me out.

Breastfeeding is satisfying in part because of the synchronicity it fosters between mother and baby. In the early days, milk supply is determined partly by suckling, but largely by hormones. Full boobies are sore boobies, and to latch the little milk vampire on is to experience sweet sweet relief. Mommy needs it and baby is learning to need it. Later on, milk supply responds directly to baby's hunger: more sucking means more milk. Bodies adjust, and it was a real wonder to me to notice that I got fuller during the day than I did at night. How do the Magic Boobies know that Miss Baby sleeps at night and eats during the day? Can they tell time? The milk was always there when she needed it, and not there when she didn't--or at least not there in quantities enough to cause me lumps, leaks, and discomfort. The breastfeeding relationship is interactive--each party influencing the other--and symbiotic. She needs to eat, and I need to Make The Throbbing Stop.

But. The boobies have gone haywire this past week, and I blame that interloper into the relationship, the Medela Pump-'n'-Style. And I'm going into momma-bear mode. I'm teaching again, in three-hour blocks that interrupt my pumping schedule. Last week, we travelled two time zones away where I had work obligations that seriously disrupted the pumping schedule. So Miss Baby was eating at all the same time, but I was pumping at really different times--say, right after giving her her morning or bedtime feed, in the middle of my own lunch, after a long highway commute and before a meeting, etc. And the boobies are protesting: producing more on one side than on the other, producing lots in the middle of the night, spontaneously letting down at odd moments, going dry at others. ("The Mama? Are you done? I'm hungry!")

I gotta say: removed from the immediate and undeniable stimulus of a hungry baby daughter, I don't hold up my end of the partnership as consistently as I ought to. I pump when it's convenient (or, to be fair, simply possible in this crazy, oversheduled week). So now I wake up at 4am with rock-solid breasts. Or I fruitlessly pump at 11am.

As they say, it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and as it's been work and lunch and travel and commuting that's been squeaking loudest this week, I've been neglecting scheduled maintenance on my breastfeeding relationship.

My mom, when I was complaining to her about having to take the breast pump as carry on on our flight to Edmonton, told me to not feel bad about giving up breastfeeding. I was offended that she thought I was a quitter. But that's not what she meant: she meant to say that just because it was theoretically possible to do it all, didn't mean I was obligated to do so. Certainly, the very existence of daily-use breast pumps seems to imply that you are required to pump daily and for some time. The machine, that is, is at once an enabler of a particular relationship to my child, and a reproach against the termination of that relationship: there is a pump, you should pump, if you don't pump, that's your (poor) choice. God bless my Mom for recognizing the pressure, and for excusing me from it.

For now, though, I'm going to try to get back on track. I really do love nursing Miss Baby, and if that means rescheduling some meetings to get my groove back, so be it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why I love my job

I was going to write tonight about how I'm actually starting to like Miss Baby for her own wee charms (following Bub and Pie's insightful post), but I changed my mind.

I'm going to write about something I've liked for longer: my job.

I am truly truly lucky to be among the quite-small-percentage of people who really love their jobs. I'm a professor in the humanities, full-time and headed for tenure, in a city I quite like, teaching courses that stimulate my brain to students who work hard. My colleagues are pleasant, as well as intelligent and hardworking, without being pretentious or competitive. Basically I read books and talk about books and write about books for a living. My sense of my own privilege is keen: when I was in graduate school, a rhetoric of scarcity suffused the classrooms. Too many PhD's ... no jobs ... too many PhD's ... no jobs ... unless you are a superstar, drop out ... drop out ... drop out ... So sharp was the competition for these very few jobs, so high were the hurdles to job security, that people seemed willingly to give up everything except breathing to gain access to the profession. So, of course, I'm grateful simply to have this chance to do work that I love.

Even better, I find I've not had to give up everything except breathing to do so. And, in this post-second-wave of feminism, that is what feels like the real victory to me. Not that I can train for the job, or get the job, or even be promoted in the job. It's that I don't have to give up everything else that life has to offer in order to do so.

As a career, academia is oddly weighted: it is largely compelled by the drive for tenure, which basically amounts to job security, and is attained, or not, in the first six or so years of employment. The try for tenure is a one-shot deal: you get it, or you don't. And if you don't, you are generally released from employment. It's job-for-life, or out-on-yer-arse. So the first six years are, in this very tangible material way, the most important. They also, I'm not the first to note, coincide with the peak and the end of the peak of most women's reproductive years. From what I gather from my own experiences, what I've read, and what I've heard, through most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, this co-incidence has resulted in a lot of women choosing, effectively, to not have children, by choosing to not try for children until after tenure. That is, until they are in their late 30s. Now, many many people are still fertile at that age. But many are not. I could cite you chapter and verse on the studies showing that marriage and children advance the careers of young male academics ... and impede the progress of their similarly positioned female colleagues. I could cite you report after report on female academics' unhappy choices to delay childbearing or to abandon it altogether. Or, the reverse, the chronicles of their decisions to leave the academy altogether to keep dreams of a family life alive. But I won't, because I want this to be a happy story.

And the happy story is this. My university, in a bid to attract and retain female faculty, has developed working policies to support women as faculty members, and women as people. And this is why I love my job more than ever before. Because I can waddle through a pregnancy, take a leave to spend at home with Miss Baby, and return to my job with very little worry as to whether having a baby means I can't have this particular career. I can tell you about these policies (income topups, a system of merit-pay increases for faculty on leave, clear provisions for assessment, and a stopping of the tenure clock) if you're interested. But I can easily and happily tell you the effects of these policies: three untenured junior female faculty in my department all having babies in the span of three years, not fearing for their jobs, not resented by their colleagues.

When I took up my faculty position right after convocation, I thought I had the best job in the world. And then I had Miss Baby, took a generously provisioned and graciously handled maternity leave, and knew I had the best job in the world.

Many of you are not so lucky. And I am incensed that it should be considered luck to work in a family-friendly workplace, to feel able to blend motherhood and professional life, to be your best self in both worlds, unapologetic. I want my experience to be the norm. I want to work for this balance, to show that treating mommies well means having loyal and productive workers. I'm not sure how best to do this, but I'm making a start by modeling balance and whole-life-living to my graduate and undergraduate students: I want to show that I can be a mommy and a professor, a nurturer and a researcher. And that it is my right--their right--to expect this to be a normal thing. I'm not going to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove myself. I'm going to work just as hard. I'm not going to make horrible sacrifices of family and personal life for a job, no matter how great a job: I'm going to do my work but I'm also going to live my life. Fully. Happily. I am aware how much my own experience is based on very expensive programs, hard won by my faculty association, and which mark my own position as a very very privileged mommy indeed. But I don't think stable income, job security, flex-time arrangements, and social supports in the workplace shoud be a privilege.

So these the reasons I love my job more than ever, why I bound into the office with glad heart, ready to give it everything for however many hours I'm in. I hope you love your jobs too, be it staying home with your children, or blending a career with your family life.

Monday, January 15, 2007

On the frontier


Not dead or given up blogging or having a fit of pique. Flew to Alberta for work and visit with in-laws with Pynchon and Miss Baby. Into a blizzard on Wednesday, and back into an ice storm goddawful late last night. More soon. Time-adjusting and baby-adjusting and gotta-teach-today adjusting.

Better if I say we give her Twizzlers? Or that we let her play with plastic bags?

Thanks for all your lovely comments on massive meme post. We will now resume regular, unscheduled programming.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Navel gazing, and at great length

First, I'd like to thank everyone who commented on yesterday's post on sleeping: I was so scared to write about what was going on, and you were all so kind and careful and understanding, and, ultimately, I feel a little stronger in my own choices now. And Miss Baby slept through the night again, and woke up happy--with a giant poopie fouling up the air on the whole second floor. Yikes. Tonight, she went down with no crying.

Second, Mad Hatter tagged me for a meme, a blogging-about-blogging sorta exercise, and she knows what she's getting into: in My Off-Blog Life, I am a theorist of new media, and um, just wrote a book chapter on blogging for a big-deal reference book. So it's like worlds colliding to blog about what blogging is about. Shiver. Slap me if I get pedantic.

1. Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?

I love polka dots (as do, apparently, Mad Hatter and Kittenpie, at the very least), so I like this Blogger template, but I was sad to browse the Interweb and discover I'm not the only one who uses it :-)

As for the contents, well, sometimes I really like what I've written, and sometimes I'm not happy. No matter what I do, I second-guess myself: should have more/less baby, be more/less funny, more/less intellectual, more/less grammatically abstruse ...

2-Does your family know about your blog?

Nope! It's a big secret. Just me and Pynchon (well, and you, gentle reader) know about the blog. 'Mimi' is a kind of me that I choose to construct and reveal in the blogosphere, and while it shares a life and set of experiences with the Real World Me, the information is portioned out differently: not everything I write here is fit for family consumption (cf, post about alcoholic dads) in the sense that I'm reflecting on my family with my friends/readers. So in a way there's more of me here than I generally care to make known.

3-Can you tell your friends about your blog?

Don't wanna. I don't mind if my friends find me online: that would mean they were invested in the momosphere, were likely bloggers themselves, and interested in the topic and genre. However, I would feel weird inviting them online to see me.

I think blogging takes a certain commitment, mentally and emotionally, and the real benefit for me comes from the relationships and interactions I am developing within this space: there is reciprocity, or at least a clear set of expectations, in only-blogger or otherwise-a-stranger audiences. I write, and if you're interested, you read. We build from there. Offline friends come with history and other kinds of expectations. I would feel at once like I was hogging their attention but also making myself very vulnerable to them.

I am careful, though, to write as though they might find me: nothing mean or unfair or very private about anyone who hasn't consented (Miss Baby excepted, of course). I protect my anonymity but poorly (pictures of my living room, many incriminating details about myself, a pretty clear Sitemeter-identifiable address), so I figure I'd better post as though the world I know were listening.

I was on an 'expert panel' on blogging at a book fair in September, and I was asked if I had a blog. I said "Sure I do. It's a mommyblog, but I'm not going to tell you where it is, because that's a different part of my life from this. If you ever find it in the course of your travels though, I'm happy for you to read it." Does that separation make sense?

4-Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog?

I would say it's about half and half. I keep finding great blogs in other people's blogrolls, and then read them voraciously, and then forget the names. Gotta make me a blogroll. I do get kinda sad when I find a blog I really like, try to make some interesting comments, and never even get a visit from the blogger ... I want writers I like to come and like my writing too! Those who comment on my blog are at the top of my visit-while-pumping-breastmilk-at-my-desk list. Pretty selfish, eh?

I read probably 15 or so mommyblogs nearly daily, and another 15 or so sporadically in my blogroll travels. Then I read three or four other kinds of blogs: one on language use and abuse, one by a professor on the tenure track, an interesting one in my own field. I never comment on any of these.

5-Did your blog positively affect your mind?

Yes, yes, yes. I feel saner and calmer and better about myself for participating in this mom community. I was feeling very isolated before. Also, I'm a writer, and this forum allows me to write ... in addition to providing me with social interaction, free baby advice, lots of laughs, and something to do while I'm pumping at work.

6-What does the number of visitors to your blog mean?

It means you like me, you really like me. (JOKE!) Or you were Google-searching for: "lamposts", "cousin eddie tight pants", or "Bombay Sapphire gift pak".

On the one hand, frequent and repeat visitors mean I am more likely to post regularly. On the other hand, I am wary of defining myself by the audience I pull in: far far fewer readers than those my readers seem to pull in, judging by comments.

7-Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?

Maybe I'm synaesthetic, but I imagine bloggers as a combination of personality characterisics based on the content of their writings, of course, but also their site design, and banner. So I don't see 'people' but I see an aura. Then you put up pictures of yourselves, and I'm always surprised.

I told you I love polka dots

8-Do you think blogging has any real benefit?

Real-shmeal. What does that mean? For me the benefit is the enjoyment I derive from reading and writing. Is that enough? I know others have been more involved in the Just Post business, and Her Bad Auction, and that's great. But I don't think we should underestimate the real attraction of blogging in and of itself.

9-Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?

Ha! Well I guess for me it mostly is, as my blog is secret. But then no, because I talk about you guys all the time (in glowing terms of course) to Pynchon, and sometimes to other new moms.

10-Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?

No, and yes. I read a lot of these when researching my book chapter, and when supervising an undergraduate thesis last year. The attraction of blogging for political partisans is that they can be as partisan as they like: there is no need to aim for 'fair and balanced' outside of revenue-chasing mass media, and so like congregates with like, and the tone can get really heated and such. I'm just not interested. I'd rather read the newspaper.

Of course, over here, we are also as partisan as we like, and like congregate with like. We should ask political blogs if they're scared of the momosphere!

11-Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?

No. It's like this friend I have, with whom I speak in French -- she's a French professor, and her spoken and written language kicks my ass in every possible way. But she never corrects me. Because even if my grammar/gender/idiom are not perfect, she still can understand what I'm trying to say. And isn't that better than awkward interruptions for lectures?

12-Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog in case you died?

Oh geez. Not until now ...

13-Which blogger had the greatest impression on you?

Uh-oh. I am impressed and impressed and impressed all the more with more and more bloggers the longer I am online (copout!).

But the greatest impression, I guess, would have to be Her Bad Mother, because it was through her blog (mentionned in a Globe and Mail article on mommyhood being boring) that I found the momosphere at all. And what a great way in! Another angsty longwinded insecure but rebellious and independent woman academic with an infant (this is a compliment, if you're reading this HBM)! I thought from that reading experience that maybe I could get into this whole blogging thing.

14-Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?

Urrrr, I actually don't know. I seem to share common ground with most people who comment here, and whom I read.

15-Name a song you want to listen to?

I want to hear the Tom Waits version of 'I don't wanna grow up' because I can't get a really crappy/sappy version done by Holly Cole out of my head. I loves me some Tom Waits.

Phew! If you stuck with me this long, thank you for your patience! I think I'm not going to tag anyone, cause I just sent a meme around last week, and this one is blazing through the web.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Curtain Number One? Or Curtain Number Two?

Remember how I was complaining about Miss Baby's new before-the-newspaper delivery wakeup time? How things change. For a week, she was sleeping about 10.5 hours a night, and waking up at least once, then getting up at 6am. This past week, she's gotten up between 8:30 and 9:15 am, after sleeping 12.5 to 14 hours, with one or zero ten-minute wakeups in the night.

I'm well-rested!

(Please don't throw shoes at me. I'm setting up a mental exercise, not bragging. I swear I don't drug the baby ...)

Sleep, with Miss Baby, is a zero-sum game. So if she sleeps more at night, then ... she. doesn't. sleep. during. the. day. Barely at all. Saturday, she had three naps, of 15, 24, and 22 minutes duration. (Yes, I track these things. I'm a control freak.)

And. We've discovered by trial and error, and then more trial (some very trying trials indeed) that she sleeps best and soundest at night if left to her own devices after her nighttime wind-down routine. That's right. The dreaded CIO. And C she does. The IO can take from 5 to 45 minutes. Minutes of agony and indecision for her parents.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to pose some dilemmas ... the kind of thing I think about during the pre-sleep hollering, the middle of the night feedings, the long and short naps. I wonder what you think.

Dilemma 1:
* if you could lengthen your baby's night-time sleep, but only at the expense of daytime naps, would you? So, in this scenario, you trade a 10 hour night and three 30-40 minute naps for a 12-13 hour night and two or three 15-20 minutes naps. In both scenarios, baby is a little grumpy from tiredness by suppertime. Notice that option 'b' sees baby closing in on a daily 14 hours of sleep, a milestone rarely achieved in option 'a'.

Dilemma 2:
* if you could get your baby to sleep through the night, but only by letting her cry it out for 0-45 minutes every single night, would? In this scenario, you trade a peaceful (if physically taxing and drawn-out) bedtime with 2 night-time wakeups for an earsplitting and heartrending bedtime with zero night-time wakeups. In both scenarios, baby wakes up in the morning giggling.

Dilemma 3:
* do you dare tell anyone you let your baby cry it out? Especially if you believe, for the most part, in attachment parenting? Even if she seems to cry cry cry at bedtime regardless of whether she's being actively soothed or left to her own devices? Even if getting away from the screaming keeps you from getting overwhelmed, bitter, angry, and desperate? Even if baby always greets you with a smile and a wiggle in the morning?

Seems like everyone is thinking and writing about sleep lately. I've read so many books on sleep, I can spout chapter and verse of everyone from CIO-Weisbluth to PU/PD-'Baby Whisperer'. Some things work, or work for a time, or don't work, or feel too awful or too hard or too silly. For the record, Miss Baby is lullabied and patted to no-cry sleep for all her naps. And midnight feedings see her breastfed for 10 minutes and deposited without fuss or protest back into her crib. But nothing seems to really do the trick at bedtime--and yes, she's tired but not overtired when we bathe, and massage, and cuddle, and breastfeed her before the inevitable screaming (mixed with whining, sighing, cooing, and halloo-ing) commences.

Dilemmas. What do you think?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Late Night at the Starbucks

Tomorrow is my morning to sleep through the first shift, so tonight, after Miss Baby was well and truly down for the night, I went out. Sensible bedtime be damned! I walked to the local Starbucks (about three blocks away), had a decaf-grande-nonfat-latte and a peanut-butter-chocolate bar, read a couple of chapters out of the book I'm working through, and came home.

Not a terribly exciting story, eh? But it was kind of a special experience, actually.

First, the whole thing sort of reminded me of another time in my life, when I was single and trying to fill the hours hours hours between wake up and fall asleep. I used to walk to the local Chapters/Starbucks (about three blocks away) sometime in the grim after-supper period, order a tea (I was poor then), read a couple of articles for classes I was taking or teaching, and go home. As this time recedes further from the life I live now, I am tending to become mistily nostalgic for it. So it was nice to feel like that younger, more carefree me ... only without the crippling loneliness and self doubt, and with a better income.

Second, coffeeshops are entirely different places at night, and I have forgotten how much I enjoy that whole scene of steamed-up windows opening on lit-up streetscapes, vivacious couples, brooding singles, and night-time 'characters'. It's noisier and somehow more urgent at night, and I find it soothing to curl up with a book and just observe what's going on.

So third, the observations. Three ten- or eleven-year-old girls, picking up tall-extra-whip hot chocolates at the bar, and being embarrassed that the male barista is wishing them a good evening as though they were regular people, and not kids on a sleepover. They sit at two small tables, their fourth a Dad on chaperone duty. Next, brooding intellectual guy. He's clearly a university student (God, they're all starting to look so young to me!). He sits at the bar very near to me, and underneath his blue pea coat, he's in white shirt and (cheap) black pants. Very minimalist. Nevertheless, while he sips his grande tea, he places under the seat the four-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade he has just purchased from the LCBO next door. Guess he's not managed to cultivate his taste for Scotch yet. So young ... There are three or four couples--all are in the dating stage, as opposed to the relationship stage, and I'm wondering how I can be so sure. Is it the intensity with which they look at each other, or, otherwise, try not to look at each other? The way their body language seems to indicate separateness? The way the women look down coyly and fiddle with their straws? I start to wonder how Pynchon and I look to others when we frequent the Starbucks, but the answer is immediate: we look like a young married couple with a baby, because if the two of us go anywhere together, she of necessity makes a third to our party. Hard to look like you're on a first date when you're out at 10am, playing rock-paper-scissors for who has to change the poopie, swiftly and competently exchanging a toy from the diaper bag for the one that's just fallen on the floor. Anyhow. I notice Tony Bennett's duets album playing. I see the Board of Health notices on the bar fridge, watch the baristas wash dishes and sort bagged coffee. I sit. I look. I read.

These are pedestrian enough kinds of observations, to be sure. But what was so nice (fourth!) was having the leisure simply to linger and to observe. To be quiet and attentive. Reflective. Dreamy. To be out at night, among grownups, mistress of my own solo adventure. I spent my hour lollygagging, and walked home. At the only set of lights on my return, I slowed deliberately to miss a yellow: with Miss Baby, I always rush through the intersection, as she's no fan of an immobile carriage. So why not flaunt my freedom and just stand here, looking around and sniffing the night air?

Earlier this week, Beck wrote a post that dealt in part with the idea that hanging out with little children is not the bee-all and the end-all of a woman's life; she referenced this article that claims that having children reduces the overall stock of happiness in parents' lives. I don't think so (and neither did Beck, incidentally). As with my experience tonight, the sense of contrast between my time with Miss Baby and my other interactions with the world leave me grateful for both, and more attuned to whatever moment I happen to be in. While big chunks of my day-to-day life are blurred with fatigue or repetition, even these moments are sharpened by my little escapes, small parcels of time where I can recollect myself. Happy.

Friday, January 05, 2007


My parents stayed with us for nearly a week at Christmas, and I was surprised at Miss Baby's lack of ... regard for them. Actually, she made strange. She warmed quickly enough to Grampa, rewarding him with smiles for his efforts at goofy-facery, but not enough to let him soothe her from a fright, or calm her from a fit of tired pique. For Gramma, she largely maintained a poker face, a wary acceptance of her presence, but an acceptance that nonetheless required careful watchfulness. This shouldn't be surprising, because Miss Baby is nearly seven months old, primed for separation anxiety, and, besides, spends almost all of her time with either The Dada or The Mama.

It appeared that Miss Baby prefers us to all others, even if the only evidence of this seemed to be negative; that is, demonstrated by her rejection of others rather than a clear endorsement of us. Interesting to note, but not particularly heartwarming.

Yesterday, though, as I staggered around the house in my sickness fog, trailing used Kleenexes, moaning, and occasionally lying down on the floor, the most amazing thing happened. Miss Baby reached for me.

Here's what happened. Feeling guilty that Pynchon was having to take care of both of us, in a moment of Tylenol-fueled lucidity I offered to take Miss Baby from his arms so that he could eat, a luxury he'd been denied in the bustle of day. As I put out my arms in the characteristic pass-me-the-baby gesture, Miss Baby herself turned toward me and extended her arms.

She'd never done that before. My heart broke into a million little pieces. It's one thing to know your baby prefers you to others because she will only stop screaming when you are the one to soothe her. It's another thing entirely when a perfectly content baby raises her arms to you in a gesture of simple love and desire: "The Mama, I would like very much if you were to hold me in your arms."

I have loved her since before she was born, and express my love as warmly and as often as I can. Yesterday, I started to get a little of that back.

Grr! I love you, dammit!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Random thoughts ... glah.

Things are grim when the nurse at the doctor's office takes one look at you and says, "Whew! I guess I don't have to ask how you're feeling!"

I won't complain about that though: I'm lucky enough to have a doctor at all, much less one I can call at 8:00am and book an appointment for 2:10pm the same day. There's something about having a family doctor, one I share with Pynchon and Miss Baby, that just makes me feel so so responsible, and also like this new town is becoming our town. We're in a family health centre practice, too, so that means access to goodies like a dietician, of whose services we will be availing ourselves next week, as Miss Baby is being raised by a vegetarian (me) and a non-cook (Pynchon). All we had to do to luck into such a situation was get knocked up, and then follow-up on a timely tip from the midwives. And here, there are more than 10,000 people in the region who rely on walk-in clinics and Emergency. It shouldn't be like winning the lottery to get decent health care.


Pynchon made me call the doctor this morning as my head cold is getting steadily worse. I'm just glad I was able to make it (-ish) through my first day of teaching yesterday before collapsing in a puddle of snot today. (Sorry.)

I don't care if they laugh at me, as long as they help. So the verdict is: sinus infection PLUS chest infection. With $100 antibiotics. Boy, when I get sick, I do it right :-)

I was going to attach a cute baby picture here. But Blogger won't let me. Grr. And also, I've just discovered that my document full of blog-topic gold has mysteriously disappeared from my computer. So now I'm bummed out, and feeling dumb. Hooray.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Little bit pregnant

In late September of 2005, Pynchon and I had just discovered my pregnancy. It's a funny story, actually: we had weekend guests and were planning to cook a nice dinner for them after a trip to the local farmers market. It was all a question of wine. Pynchon and I were trying to get pregnant, and so there was a possibility that I might have conceived but of course a possibility that I hadn't. If not, my period would be arriving momentarily most likely right after I had teetotalled through the party, and rather than deny myself an evening of wine with our friends, I thought I would take a pregnancy test to settle the question. Yes, that's right, I peed on the little stick that Saturday morning in order to confirm that I was not pregnant, so that I could drink with impunity that night.

You can therefore imagine my surprise when the little line turned pink.

I had convinced myself that I wasn't pregnant. I had no symptoms! I didn't have 'a feeling'. I wasn't glowing, or barfing, or shrieking, or tired. Pynchon's first reaction, too, bordered on disbelief. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Let me see the test." Even the test seemed ambiguous: shouldn't that little line be darker? More pronounced? We both stared at the little pink line, the only tangible evidence of this ostensible pregnancy. Indeed, I kept that pee-stick on my bedside table for the next several weeks. It just did not seem probable or even possible that I had gone from not-pregnant, to pregnant, after one fateful early-morning, concentrated-hormone pee. (I do understand that it's the not the peeing that made me pregnant. I'm just trying to capture a mood here ...)

The saying 'that's like being a little bit pregnant' is a joking way of indicating that the addressee is shading grey a question that admits only of black and white: you either are, or you aren't, is the implication. The next week, Pynchon and I headed out to the local Prenatal Health Fair after work. I wandered around the sea of big bellies feeling like a fraud. Everyone was round and glowing, or had little babies in tow. Women were wearing maternity clothes and sweating like crazy while their partners carried the heavy things. By contrast, I was shivering in my regular old clothes, a tight blouse and some low-riders, definitely not of this tribe surrounding me. I hardly felt we had the right to be there. As we slowed past one booth, on prenatal nutrition, its attendant called out, "Are you pregnant?" and I could only just force out a weak "Well, I'm a just a little bit pregnant." She laughed right in my face: "No such thing, honey! You either are or you aren't."

little bit pregnant.

But a little bit pregnant is what I was, and I only came to throw out the pregnancy test stick once my breasts became incredibly sore--and then, whenever I wasn't feeling quite pregnant enough for my liking, I would surreptitiously give them a squeeze to make sure they were still sore. I wanted more and more symptoms, to be more reassuringly, actually, pregnant. To be a real member of the club, with a kicking fetus and swollen ankles and a swaying walk. As the pregnancy progressed I felt more and more comfortable with the state even as I felt less and less comfortable physically. I came to appreciate the degrees of pregnancy.

A great deal pregnant

I'm thinking about this now not because I'm a little bit pregnant again (dear God! No! Not yet!) but because I'm a little bit pregnant still.

After Miss Baby was born, I was surprised to become unpregnant in the same way that I had become pregnant: by degrees and gradually. There was the matter of the poochy, still-inflated uterus that only shrank slowly back to its regular size; the pregnancy weight; the sore boobs; the hormone swings; the swelling. I have been surprised at just how long the linea nigra has lasted, this hormonal inscription of pregnancy on my belly, still here lo these seven months later. The gradual de-pregnancy has been, in a way, comforting: I don't know that I was quite ready to part with who I was when pregnant, or quite ready to be who I was to become as a mother. Obviously, I would have like to drop the whole 50 pounds immediately, and not just the baby-plus-placenta. And the swollen feet were not something I really relished enough to desire the continuance of. But still. If I'm honest, I have to say I am still letting go of my pregnant self as the traces of pregnancy on my body fade at about the same pace.

What has really prompted this reflection, though, is that I'm still a little bit pregnant in the sense that I. CAN'T. TAKE. ANY. DRUGS. FOR. THIS. GODDAMNED. HEAD. COLD. because I'm still breastfeeding.


Monday, January 01, 2007

A Meme for Mimi

I was just over reading Jeze Whiz (a fave, of which I've gobbled up the archives) and found a call-to-meme:

"The meme goes like this:
Find the nearest book. Name the Author & title. Turn to page 123. Post sentences 6-8. Tag three more people."

Jezer says her readers ought to consider themselves tagged, so here goes.

The nearest book is to my left, under the can of pens on my desk. It's a library book: The Lonely Crowd: A study of the changing American character, by David Riesman. I notice now that it's an abridged version. This is a pretty famous book actually, first out in 1950. It's kind of like the non-fiction companion, if you will, to a novel like The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.

Here's sentences 6-8 of page 123:

"In the fairly tale the protagonist is frequently an underdog figure, a younger child, an ugly duckling, a commoner, while the villain is frequently an authroity figure, a king, a giant, a stepmother. In the comics the protagonist is apt to be an invulnerable or near invulnerable adult who is equipped, if not with supernatural powers, at least with two guns and a tall, terrific physique. Magical aid comes to the underdog--who remains a peripheral character--only through the mediation of this figure."

Um, ok. This is from a section on the development of social character in children, entitled "The mass media in the stage of other-direction: The child market." 'Other-direction' is a social orientation whereby people (in this case, children) gain their sense of self and well-being from the tacit or explicit approval of others, of the peer-group, a situation the author marks in contrast to the prior prevailing code that we might call self-reliance, or individualism, or 'character'.

Oh dear. I hope I'm not as boring as this sounds, but actually I'm finding the book fascinating.

Now I wanna know what Alpha Dogma, Ewe are Here, and Beck are reading ... Tag!