Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A New Regular* Blog Feature: A How-To You Actually Need

* And by regular, I mean whenever I remember it.

In this day and age, there is a plethora of information about things you need to know when raising a child.

Don't know which end the diaper goes on? No worries, there's a detailed account of how to do that on the Internet. How do you stay on the slippery newborn bath time rodeo for more than a minute? Never fear! There's a YouTube video to guide you through the soapy war zone.

But inevitably, you still come across tasks that leave you stumped.

I've found these are the tasks that directly impact me getting back into a normal life they are burning hot priorities for me to figure out.

YOU lucky folks are going to benefit from my distress and subsequent ingenuity in this new feature: "A How-To You Actually Need."

How-To #1: How To Go Shopping with a Newborn

I'm not talking about carousing the mall for the latest fashions. I hate clothes shopping with a white, fiery, burning passion and plan on rocking my maternity clothes until I am old enough to wear a mu mu in public without drawing too much attention.

This how-to deals directly with shopping which requires a cart.

My first trip to the grocery store after The Bean was born was an exciting day for me. Freedom and normalcy were in the air. I was actually leaving the house! I would be driving my car again! There would be actual adults around! People would coo at The Bean while I acted all aloof and like a well put together first-time mom going about her daily chores!

Once I arrived at the store though, I was quickly faced with a dilemma. (You can click on all the images to make them bigger to read)

I needed ingenuity quick!

Instead I ended up with this:

So I headed home defeated and hungry.

I convinced myself women in the past must have gone food shopping with a newborn, however I couldn't exactly recall ever seeing this take place and how it was managed.

Oh sure, I've seen this many times:

But putting The Bean in the child seat of the cart at her age would result in this:

I finally remembered I received a baby carrier as a gift. Aha! A hands-free baby carrying device. Exactly what I needed! Except when I put The Bean in and got myself situated, this happened:


Turns out, that piece of equipment wasn't made to carry little pygmy children.

And so we starved and all died.

Actually, I went to the great guru Google and asked him what the hell. And he was all, "Dude, haven't you heard of the Moby? All the cool, hippie moms are doing it. You can put little pipsqueak children in it and go buy diapers AND ice cream--at the same time!"

The Moby is intimidating at first. Mainly because it looks like a giant sheet roughly the size of a school bus that you must somehow origami around yourself so it safely holds your child.

Lucky for me, the people who write the instructions on how to wrap a Moby are the same people who write the manuals for furniture assembly (a language I am fluent, really). So on the first time out of the gate:

This is how I gained my freedom through a stupid piece of fabric.

I am a baby-wearing hippie and proud of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Month One

I was expecting this, but can now officially confirm: The first month of parenthood is exhilarating in a wildly boring way.

Even the scores of books, newsletters and baby websites I read to ensure we are raising a genius baby put me to sleep.

"This week your baby will sleep for 19 hours a day and might make noises in their sleep. Enjoy!"

Clearly, the baby books never met Michael.

Michael, bless his heart (yes, I mean that in the Southern way), is incapable of letting The Bean sleep when he is around.

As we know, stereotypes are created for a reason. It's safe to say we have a "Daddy's Little Girl" on our hands. I have officially moved down to the number three spot of "living things Michael loves." I fall behind The Bean and Baxter (our black lab). He is so smitten, he insists on waking The Bean up every time he sees her so the two of them can gaze adoringly at one another.

Well, until this week he would stare adoringly at her and she would stare blankly at the world around her while pooping with all the force, sounds and smells of a 68-year old truck driver who lives solely on three bean chili and cabbage. But even that's endearing because infants tend to smile when they're blowing ass. And smiling babies make your heart explode into unicorns and brownies topped with salted caramel ice cream.

But one of The Bean's tricks as we round out this first month is staring back.

So we spend a lot of time in the D-Zo household staring. Michael and I stare at The Bean wondering aloud how we managed to make such a cute child and she stares at us wondering if we're going to get any better at being parents and how she got stuck with such imbeciles.

That about sums up The Bean's list of tricks. That one item.

I nearly expanded the list to two items, but squawking like a wounded goose and breaking free of every swaddle in order to waves one's arms around like a drunken airplane signal controller are less tricks and more wildly annoying things keeping everyone up at night.

My list of tricks at one month post pregnancy is also one deep. I grew EVEN LARGER BOOBS THAN BEFORE. They are bigger than The Bean.

I alone will solve world hunger.

Despite the lack of exciting marketable skills The Bean has developed at this point, we're going to keep her around for at least another month. She seems to like me well enough (as evidenced by her tendency to stop screaming when I pick her up) and that's a quality I really value in a child.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To the Pain

Babies cry.

Within a week or two, you learn to distinguish between the fussy "hey where did you go" cry and the "OH MY GOD someone is tearing my face off with a paperclip" cry.

Michael and I are particularly attuned to this distinction as we spent the first two weeks of The Bean's life bringing her to the doctor's office where they immediately clipped her heels to draw blood.

In case you were wondering, babies do not enjoy this.

At all.

A person passing by in the hallway would have heard the following:

[Snip. As the nurse takes what looks like a stapler remover to my child's heel to get the blood flowing.]


Michael: Oh my baby!! Your mommy made this happen to you. I wanted to take you for some ice cream. [faints dead away]

Jennifer: Don't listen to your father. It will be OK. [tears forming in eyes] This is so we can make sure you are getting better. [heaving, uncontrollable sobs] It's OK. See. It's almost done. I promise we will never do this to you again...until tomorrow.

We would all emerge from the doctor's office as snot-riddled, puffy-eyed beasts. A charming family photo op for sure.

So imagine my horror the other day when The Bean who was supposed to be in her rocker soundly sleeping so Mama could get laundry done lets loose with the blood-curdling "my ears were just torn from my head and eaten by a pack of wolves" cry.

I run to the rocker and immediately assess the situation.

Looks like just a crying baby, right?


Let me break this down for you.

Newborns have all of two or three reflexes when they are born. One of these reflexes is grabbing.

Sorry to break it to you, but when a baby wraps their fingers around yours it is not because they have sniffed you out as a kindred spirit and will love you to the end of time. Nope, they likely think you are tree branch and holding onto you will prevent them from crashing to their death.

While in the rocker, The Bean managed to get a death grip on her quarter-inch long hair.

Her screams were an APB to let me know that some horrible person had a hold of her hair and was trying to rip it out of her precious head. And why the hell weren't they stopping because it was super painful. And who does this sort of thing to a newborn anyway. Especially one who was sleeping soundly and having a dream about gripping fingers and pooping.

I released her fingers from her hair (no small feat) and immediately picked her up to soothe her. The second I had calmed her down, she shot me an unmistakable look.

"This is your fault Mama. I'm pretty sure you're not a good person and the verdict is out on this whole living thing. So far it seems to be sucking."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wherein The Bean Graces Us with Her Presence (The Birth Story: Part III)

Part I
Part II

My default coping mechanism for any situation is to appear calm and act as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Some people get passive aggressive, go into denial or regress. If I get really nervous, I overcompensate with good manners and polite conversation.

Rest assured if the world is under attack by man-eating snails and about to burst into a giant fireball, I'll offer you tea and scones and ask about your mother's health.

So as they rolled me into the operating room for the c-section, I channeled my inner Donna Reed and introduced myself to everyone in the room, asked how their days were going and apologized for needing a c-section so close to the shift change.

Because it's important to be polite to the people who are about to disassemble you.

Actually, I had no idea I was about to be disassembled (there's that whole 'should've gone to birth class' thought again). I thought a c-section was simply:

  1. Slice open woman

  2. Open up uterus

  3. Pull out baby

  4. Stitch up new mama

  5. Take a shot of vodka

  6. Call it a job well done

After waiting fifteen hours (oh, and nine months) to meet The Bean, I was starting to get a little antsy. According to my calculations, this whole procedure should take roughly ten minutes; not the billionty hours it felt like it was taking.

Since an anatomy class was not a requisite course for those majoring in theater, I forgot about little things like my organs. Apparently they are in the way of simply pulling the baby out and stapling me shut so I can begin my stint as mother.

The actual "delivery" was very surreal. Your head and body are separated by a curtain so you can't look inside the giant, gaping hole in your midsection and die from shock. Instead you get to work yourself into a frenzy by creating the most horrifically, dramatic stories possible by deciphering the clues your other under-utilized senses are giving you.

"Why haven't they brought Michael in yet? Did they forget about him? Is something wrong and they don't want him to see?"

"I felt a tug. Did all of my intestines just fall onto the floor?"

"People are whispering. Clearly they are trying to figure out how to tell me I'm about to die."

Just about the moment I've convinced myself that everything has gone to shit and they are seconds from telling me how they can't find The Bean and asking if I am sure I'm pregnant, you hear the cry. The cry you have been waiting to hear since the second they rolled you into the operating room.

The second you hear them cry, you no longer care about yourself anymore. As long as she's out safe, they can go ahead and drop your liver into the trash for all you care.

Michael had been fairly quiet throughout the actual surgery. I can only imagine it's slightly unnerving to have the woman you love chopped into pieces in front of you while you are waiting for your child to be safely born into the world. But once he heard The Bean, he peeked over the curtain to get the first look at our daughter.

And my kidneys.

I was jealous that he was already taking her in while I was strapped to the table shivering and making small talk with the anaesthesiologist. But once Michael told me all my organs were piled up on a table NEXT.TO.MY.BODY. I allowed for some leeway in my timeline. I've grown accustomed to my organs and figured I'd be a better mother if I had them inside of me again.

Michael and I have one golden rule in our relationship: always go for the funny. No matter what.

The birth of The Bean was no exception.

Mike: Babe, when did you have sex with Gollum?

Jen: And this is how we ended up divorced on the day I gave birth to our daughter.

So that pretty much wraps up the birth story.

But wait! As an added bonus, Michael has claimed he is going to write a post about the birth from his perspective. Which will pretty much be awesome. He's funnier than me...and cuter too.

I'll warn you though, since he is the world's most awesome husband and father (works all day, stays up until the wee hours so I can get some shut eye, deals with three neglected dogs, and so on...), his post will likely go up sometime around The Bean's 16th birthday.

Obligatory photo montage:

Welcome home Bean. We love you very much.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Lack of Preparation Paid Off (The Birth Story: Part II)

(Part I can be found here)

You know the powers that be have a strange sense of humor when they allow you to confuse something as important as giving birth with needing to go to the bathroom.

Perhaps attending a childbirth class would have clued me in...a thought I found myself contemplating once or three thousand times throughout the labor.

My birth plan was wildly elaborate: get baby out of me.

Secretly in the back of my mind, I had lofty visions of being able to laugh in the face of contractions and birth pains. If only so I could write a post about how I totally made labor my bitch and everyone can reverently laud me. Which is what pregnancy and labor should be all about.

Being in labor is reminiscent of being in a cartoon. You know the scene: Wile E. Coyote runs off the side of the cliff, but doesn't fall until he looks down to see there is no ground underneath him.

Once I realized that I was going to pass a child and not a giant poop, I went from dealing with the pain and annoyance to "make this pain and annoyance stop. NOW. Because I know you can!" It didn't help that it was awful o'clock in the morning and the doctors were predicting a late afternoon delivery time--you know, FIFTEEN HOURS away. A few pain pills to help me get some sleep seemed in order.

And now I see how people become drug addicts.

They gave me a sleeping pill and some uber-strength Tylenol and I felt awesome and slept. But then I woke up and was in pain again because it turns out I didn't give birth in my sleep like I had hoped.

Everything was a bit hazy over the next billion hours. Michael went home and earned rockstar status by cleaning the house, dealing with the dogs, grabbing the 800 important things I left at home because I only packed completely useless items (childbirth class comes to mind again) and getting himself some shut eye so he wouldn't pass out from exhaustion during the actual birth.

Since I was on the road to junkie hell by having taken drugs already during the labor, we opted to go ahead and get the epidural at some point.

Then I divorced Michael and married the anesthesiologist.

Suddenly (like fifteen hours later), it was time to start pushing.

Let me back up for a moment.

Throughout my time of lying in a drug-induced cloud the doctor would frequently "check my progression" (read: shove her arm up inside me, tickle my tonsils and rattle off a random number that was never ten--the only number pregnant women want to hear).

From her very first tour of my insides, the doctor was skeptical about my ability to have a vaginal (sorry no way around using that word) birth. Despite my hips being about as wide as a football field, my pelvic bones are narrow and were showing no signs of separating.

Driven by the fear of being judged by every woman to ever walk the earth (whether they've given birth or not), I was determined to at least try the whole pushing a baby out through my loins thing. So the doctor respected my wishes and we pushed.

For one and a half hours.

And nothing happened.

The only thing I gave birth to was my own asshole (Hi Mr. Hemorrhoid, how I missed you).

By this point I was secretly cursing everyone in the room and was wondering why the hell no one was talking about a c-section. I knew things weren't progressing and I didn't feel like having my entire rectum end up on the labor table.

But instead I continued to contort into bizarre positions, hang from the monkey bars they installed on the bed and push.

By hour two the doctor gently suggested that we might need to go to "option 2."

I think I stunned the hell out of her when I was all "let's go, wheel me to the OR, let's get this baby thing out and move on." Clearly I should have been a little more vocal about my willingness to have a c-section. My butt would have been spared.

My one shining moment of pride came when they were prepping me for the OR. My impeccable grooming skills meant they didn't have to prep me for the surgery.

These are the things you latch on to with absurd pride after you have been beached in a bed for fifteen hours with only a hemorrhoid to show for all your troubles.

OK...disco baby is squawking at me which means the milk factory is needed. We'll wrap this story up before the end of the week. I think.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pardon This Interruption While I Actually Write a Post

You may have noticed I've been missing lately.

Despite what you may believe, this has nothing to do with with the trials and tribulations of becoming a new mom. Instead, it has everything to do with the trials and tribulations of becoming not pregnant.

As many of you know, I flew under the radar for my entire pregnancy. My biggest complaint being my hips hurt sometimes.

Well apparently once one actually gives birth, the secret society dedicated to protecting the integrity of women takes notice and in my case they said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. We can't have this one going around telling everyone pregnancy is a breeze. It gives the rest of us a bad name."

And so I've been in a shit storm since June 27th.

I promise to finish up the actual birth story at some point, but I wanted to let you all know what is going on.

Here's the Reader's Digest version:

Two days after giving birth, my blood pressure spiked to some scary levels...and not because I was obsessing over whether or not I would ever be able to poop again.

After two days of consults with specialists, a battery of tests and general poking and prodding, it was determined one of my kidneys was enlarged because Miss Bean had been using my urethra as a jump rope for her boot camp workouts in the womb.

The general consensus is my organs will sort themselves out and I will likely live until next week at the least.

Just around the time we were solving my issues, The Bean decided to be cutting-edge and make yellow the new pink in baby skin color trends (also known as developing jaundice). So she spent a lot of time being disco super fly:

Naturally, this wasn't all as straightforward as I'm making it sound.

While the medical gurus were trying to figure out my issues, The Bean was discharged from the hospital. As in, no longer their patient. But I still was. And I'm breastfeeding. Luckily the nurses and doctors working with me were beyond awesome and we had The Bean stay with me while they figured out my problems (it may or may not have helped having a total post-pregnancy hormonal meltdown).

Then (!) as we finally got myself sorted out, The Bean developed jaundice and was readmitted into the hospital. Which would be awesome, if I hadn't been discharged.

Once again, the nurses and doctors went above and beyond and managed to get The Bean and I both discharged as long as we came into the hospital on a daily basis for jaundice level tests.

So a week after giving birth, we BOTH finally get discharged from the hospital. Which had its own issues including me and The Bean getting into the wheelchair to escape only to be told she couldn't leave...TWICE.

This is the part where things basically level off for us. We get into a mini-routine of hospital day trips, wrapping The Bean in her disco light blanket at home and getting used to being around one another.


Oh yes, there's an except.

Michael got sick. So he's practically incapacitated and we need to sterilize the entire house with bleach. Which is tons of fun when one is recuperating from a c-section (we'll get to that when I resume the birth story).

The moral of the story: Being pregnant=awesome. Being not pregnant=suck fest.