Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brace yourself...

In my life, I have made some decisions that I knew would be received with open arms and excitement by everyone I told. I chose to go to a highly-competitive liberal arts college in a beautiful part of the world that had a great reputation; family members kvelled, and high school friends supplied me amply with high-fives. I opted to stop dyeing my (apparently very pretty naturally blonde) hair bright red and grow it out; even my former allies in weird hair activity smiled and nodded their approval. Ryan and I decided to get married, and when he (finally) asked me formally, I said yes; if anyone disapproved of that, I've never heard a word because everyone we told seemed positively thrilled.

Then again, there have been some decisions that were clearly unpopular, even if few to no people flat-out opposed them. Rather than repair a sensible tan Honda Accord that I never particularly loved when it was going to cost over half of its value to repair, I traded it in and bought a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle; more than a few eyebrows were raised. Instead of going straight to graduate school after college, I decided to take a few years to "establish myself," which meant nose-diving into financial instability while working a series of crappy retail jobs; even I had some doubts about that. I took a job an hour from home in a school that I knew was struggling, in a position I was only qualified for on paper, with immediate coworkers who made a very questionable first impression; we know how that turned out.

I've found that as a parent, this middle ground no longer exists. If I make a decision, it is either unequivocally the right thing to do and I should never have even considered doing something else, or it is wrong-wrong-wrongity-wrong and I am damning myself and my family to a lifetime of pain and suffering by even considering the horrid choice in question. We are lucky not to live amongst people who are overly judgmental about fringe social issues. When I dress you in a blue onesie, no one close to us gets angry about the fact that we are reinforcing society-crippling, identity-molding gender stereotypes and forcing male social standards upon you (blue just happened to be the color of the onesie that was clean, and you can grow up to be whoever you damn please). I think some of that is our choice of the people with whom we associate, but I'd like to think that part of the acceptance our choices have received is owed to society growing up a little and accepting that there are actually different ways to do things. (Right?)

For the most part, I feel like we don't have anyone breathing down our necks about even more mainstream issues. For example, your stroller has been sitting in the backseat of my car for almost a month because we carry or wear you everywhere. No one has tried to convince us that you will be a helpless, spineless, eternally dependent Mama's boy who will forever live in our basement...just because we don't put you down often enough. I am, however, terrified about the reception of one choice that you have essentially made for us.

Since we got you home from the hospital, you basically haven't slept for longer than a few hours at a time. I think we can count the number of times you have been asleep for longer than three and a half hours straight on one hand, and the number of times you've stayed down for more than two and a half hours is only slightly less numerous. A normal night for us has you waking up about once an hour, sometimes every hour and a half. I love you, Hudson, I truly, madly, deeply do, but I'm pretty sure I contemplate putting you in a laundry basket and locking you in the bathroom at least once a night. A few weeks ago, your Dad and I started putting some serious work into making your crib a palatable place to be. Seriously: I wanted to crawl into this thing and sleep there instead of in our own bed. Still, you had no interest, and even though you still sleep only sporadic chunks at a time, you don't scream uncontrollably and panic when you wake up as long as you're in our bed.

Your Dad and I made the executive decision to just go with it. We're buying a king size bed, and moving the crib out of the room to make space for our upgrade. This way, you can sleep snuggled with me and we will all have space to be comfortable together. Hopefully this will lead to you actually sleeping, and if it doesn't, then at least your Dad and I get to be a little more comfortable despite our sleep deprivation. In the over three months that you have been sleeping in our full-sized bed with us, you have neither suffocated nor perished where does anyone get off telling us that you are sure to die if you share our bed?

I knew that as soon as I made it publicly known that we were getting a new bed that flak was going to fly our way. I was sure that one way or another, someone - close, distant, or stranger - would jump to the defense of innocent children everywhere by confirming the danger of our choice. Someone did. It wasn't rudely stated, aggressive, or even particularly wordy, but it was definitively disapproval. I wasn't prepared for how upset it made me. We have needed to make so many compromises and sacrifice so many choices that being judged for this one feels like a slap to the face. I am confident that you are in no danger, and that this is the right choice for our family. No one has the right to tell us how to take care of you.

Hudson, there will always be people who disagree with even the tamest, sanest decisions you make, and it is just a fact of life that you will sometimes be upset when they do. I hope you have the fortitude to politely ignore them, or the guts to tell them to shove off and keep their nose out of your business. I'm doing my best to do the former this time, because I'm just not ready to do the latter, but I will be quietly prepping myself for a civilized fight. It sucks that I need to, but I guess that's just the penalty of being even slightly public with one's choices.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fair warning?

There are a number of things that new parents are not told, and I'm beginning to wonder why. Hudson, don't let yourself think for a moment that I feel anything but the deepest, most profound, earth-shaking love for you...but right this moment, I kind of want to put you in a Rubbermaid storage container and leave you in a corner for a few hours so I can get some goddamned sleep. Much like how no one can really describe the pain of labor, I don't think anyone could have accurately described this terrible blend of love, frustration, guilt for feeling frustrated, and general exhaustion before I experienced it myself. Sleep deprivation is just the tip of the iceberg.

1. Acne that would put the worst of prom photos to shame. Your sweet little face has been kind of gross since roughly three months of age. I mean, come on...aren't babies supposed to have this soft, beautiful, porcelain skin? Shouldn't I just want to kiss and snuggle your adorable face without fear of popping one of your zits? It's gross, and baby photographers definitely do a lot of editing.

2. Violent, borderline sociopathic kicking and punching. So far, you haven't caused any real damage, but I feel like it's just a matter of time. When falling asleep, you've taken to basically attacking whichever parent is trying to lovingly snuggle you down. When you're playing, the punching has recently started to blend with open-palm slapping, which I guess is an improvement...?

3. Sudden jackknife-style body stretches that nearly fling you off my lap. Or the couch. Or out of your high chair. Or off the bed. I don't know why doctors don't scream this at new parents every chance they get, so here I go: "Your child will regularly appear to attempt suicide. He or she will do so with voracity, enthusiasm, and a shameless disregard for your desire not to scream and panic every time."

4. "Helping" with your chubby, not-yet-well-coordinated little hands in such a fashion as to threaten to shove a bottle up your nose, rice cereal into your eye sockets, or any number of toys into any other orifice you can get near. Babies in movies and on TV reach hesitantly for a toy, then gently grasp it in their chubby, cute little fingers while cracking a satisfied smile. In reality, you grab frantically for quite literally anything that you think you might possibly be able to grab. This results in a number of messes, especially while we're attempting to get solid food into you, but especially when you decide to grab something you really shouldn't have, and WE make a mess trying to stop you.

5. Nipple attack. Okay, given that I'm not breastfeeding, one might think that this is a moot point, but you have actually threatened more damage to your Dad's nips than mine, and that's not to say you haven't been rough as hell on me. You seem to take genuine pleasure in the act of grabbing and twisting at, shall we say, the most protuberant part of the chest, which is certainly your favorite thing to fall asleep on, but there is no way of stopping you. It's like your hands are furious little magnets.

6. Teething: A Crappy Thing That Lasts Forever. According to a number of medical professionals, you have been "teething" for upwards of six months now. Yes, there are two little chompers in there now, but those made their appearance when you were seven months old, and we've been waiting for teeth to pop out "any day now!" since you were just about two months old. The drooling is non-stop, your discomfort is persistent, and while it's still adorable when you try to nom on my fingers, sooner rather than later it is going to get messy.

7. Clothing labels are complete and utter fantasy constructed by "the man" to trick you into feeling weirdly bad about your baby either being too skinny or too fat. Right now, you are wearing clothes meant (according to the labels) for a three month old AND for a nine month old. A few days ago, you even wore something intended for an eighteen month old. I just assumed that having a bunch of clothes in different sizes (according to the labels) would mean that we had enough clothes to get you through those ages. Not only did you outgrow most everything almost instantly, but...

8. No one can accurately describe how much stuff comes out of a baby's body. Sometimes it's poo. Sometimes it's pee. Sometimes it's some icky combination of half-digested food and not-digested formula. Sometimes it's a charming melange of all of the above. I was not prepared for the volume and frequency of what your little system can produce. Still...

9. I more or less completely accept all of it. Yeah, I have pants that might have some coffee spilled on them...or possibly pee...and I still wear them to school. Our kitchen floor would probably send the CDC into a panic, but I still just brush off spoons that fall on it and go back to eating whatever I was eating. Sometimes you pee absolutely all over me. That's just a thing that happens. Whatever.

10. I've kind of turned into one of "those people." Sometimes I tell horror stories and offer unsolicited, vaguely pushy advice. Damn it, I even make biased statements at experienced parents that somehow suggest that I am an authority based solely on the fact that I'm a parent. I don't even know when this started to happen; maybe I can blame hospital culture for instilling in me a compulsive need to over-share with anyone who sits still long enough for me to make eye contact?

Hudson, I know parenting advice is a far-flung need for you. Hell, it might even be completely moot, but this is just as much for me as for you. Apparently number eleven on this list is "You forget humongous chunks of things, bad and good, and eventually decide to do it again because by age two or so your kid is adorable AND he sleeps enough for you to stay sane." Let's hope that is true - at least the last part - and that I heed my own advice.