Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yes, I kept you up all night.

But you always forget how annoying I was last night when you see my cute face in the morning, don't you?  Now go fix me some breakfast.

Ok Gwyneth, you win. You have the coolest life. Now stop rubbing it in.

I f-ing hate Gwyneth Paltrow.
I'm pretty sure as a result of some early karmic test, she swooped in and stole my life.

You know, karma. What goes around comes around. You get what you give. More expertly defined as the force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences, to determine the nature of the person's existence. 

It was 1979. I was in the first grade. My friends and I were playing our usual game of lunch time role play. On the bill that day- superheroes. We were all vying for which superhero we would embody. Tim Rush came running up to the group.
"I wanna be Wonder Woman!"
"You can't be Wonder Woman!"  I roared.  "You're a boy!"
Then I did the Wonder Woman twirl, and pushed him into the dirt.
"I'm Wonder Woman!"

On a parallel playground in Bel Air (or wherever Gwyneth grew up), a child walked up to her at lunchtime.
"I'll trade you my bruised banana for your Twinkie?"
Gwyneth, ever the congenial people-pleaser, grinned and said "Ok."

My fate was sealed. The Gods intervened. I failed my karmic test, and our paths were switched.  Gwyneth would be destined to become a gorgeous movie star and media mogul who gets to have sex with Brad Pitt (clearly my path), and I would become a 38-year-old bartender.
I'm pretty sure that's how it happened, but I digress.

Back to hating Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gwyneth has a blog called GOOP. Now, first of all, rich, beautiful people who have everything should not have a blog. I may be new to this whole blog thing, but I'm pretty sure the reason people like mine so much is because I'm more broke and screwed than they are, and probably fatter. Listen, I'm not being self deprecating here- I'm just stating a fact. No one wants to be made to feel like they can't measure up. 

For example, If say to you Hey, I did this great cleanse. I gave up coffee, alcohol, sugar, wheat, and dairy for 21 days and not only did I make it through it, but it made me feel great- and I lost 10 lbs!   Your response will likely be, Wow.  Maria is a total booze hound and she loves to eat- everything. If she can do it, I can do it! Thanks Maria, for the motivation- I'm gonna try it!  

Now, imagine Gwyneth telling you the same thing (which she did, in her blog last year, which is why I'm bringing it up).  Really. Picture Gwyneth before you read the next line.  Hey, I did this great cleanse. I gave up coffee, alcohol, sugar, wheat, and dairy for 21 days and not only did I make it through it, but it made me feel great- and I lost 10 lbs! Your response would likely be,   Screw off. Have you looked in a mirror lately?And there is no way that Tracy Anderson, that little psycho-gnome trainer that follows you and Madonna around wherever you go, would let you eat sugar, wheat and dairy on the regular. Stop lying.

She divides her blog into 6 sections:  Make, Go, Get, Do, Be, See.  If you don't want to punch her in the face after reading those ridiculous headers, stop reading this blog right now.  
I browsed through and decided to explore GET, due to a "Holiday Gift Ideas" headline.  I need those! Super. What should I buy my loved ones, Gwyneth?

Abernathy Road sells ultra-masculine leather goods made by Colonel Littleton of Tenessee. The majority of their pieces can be embossed or come with a personalized brass plate at no additional cost.  iPhone Pocket Journal - $372.  Saddlebag Briefcase - $610.  Grip Bag - $825   Leather Journal - $142.  Leather Flyswatter - $52.50.
No Additional cost! Great! Like I would give a shit about an additional cost if I had enough disposable income to buy a leather fly swatter and a $400 iPhone holder. Do you see? Her evil is passive aggressive. She's laughing at us. She knows we can't afford any of this stuff.  She smiles, she's super sweet, and she's BFF's with Jay-Z and Mario Batali - but her heart is black as night.

Or maybe she's just a very nice, likable woman, with really expensive taste. 

Karma is a bitch.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm googling how to raise my child. That can't be right.

    I took Lucien to the pediatrician last summer because he had this really weird rash under his arm that wouldn't go away.   The pediatrician looked at it for a minute, then left the room to "check something."  I heard tapping away on a keyboard.  She came back, visibly confused.
"You Googled it, didn't you?"  I asked.
"Um, well- what?"
"You Googled it.  My son's rash.  You Googled it."
"Well, uh...  Would you describe it as blotchy, or raised?"
"Just forget it."

Well, I do.

      There is virtually nothing that Google can't tell us.  Really.  Nothing.  There are no questions anymore.  Everything we need to know is at our fingertips.  Why is Monsanto evil?   Who was the President in 1904?  How many calories are in 8 Oreos?   Why can't you mix Bleach and 409?  How far is it from my house to the KFC on Atlantic Avenue- and can you give me the quickest route?  In a car.  Oh, and on foot.  Well, maybe we'll take the subway- give me those, too.

    Obviously, I also use advice from the all-knowing Google to parent my child.  I mean really, who the hell else would I trust?  No one is as smart as Google.  Except maybe Wikipedia, but I don't want to have to read that much.  Parenting books may be the obvious choice, but have you seen those things?  I bought one called "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child."  It was 544 pages long.  Um, my child isn't sleeping.  I haven't even had the time to shave my legs in 3 months.  And I'm so sleep deprived I don't even have the attention span to get through an episode of TMZ.  Do you honestly think I can make it through your napping opus?  The answer is no, I can't.  Thanks for nothing.

    That is why Google is so perfect.  It is instant gratification and information.  When Lucien was 6 months old he had a weird cough.  I actually Googled "Baby 6 months weird cough"  and every scenario and home remedy I could possibly want was immediately at my fingertips.  Awesome.  I can confidently assert that I have become a baby-rearing genius, all on the merits of my proficiency at Googling.  

     The only downfall that I can think of is that I am really starting to annoy the shit out of my husband.  I'd like to say that I'm not sure why, but it's probably because I  am constantly giving him tips and correcting his parenting.  Don't let Lucien fall asleep with the bottle in his mouth!  Google image 'bottle rot.'  It's disgusting.  Make sure it's in quotes.  Don't say no all the time, it will lose its meaning.  Its really just negative attention, and he can't differentiate between negative attention and positive attention yet.  He just craves attention. Just ignore him.  Google says around 15 months they go down to one nap a day.  That's why he's waking up every night at 3 am for about 3 hours.  It's totally normal.  Don't give him honey yet.  He'll get botulism. 

     Last week he got sick of my nagging.  I knew the day would come.
     "Maria, I raised my two baby sisters and a daughter, remember?"
     "Yeah, but you didn't have Google then, so how could you possibly know if you were doing it right?"

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Isn't it AMAZING? No. It's not.

    I really wanted a natural childbirth.

    We took hypnobirthing classes.  We went to midwives.  I watched all the right documentaries.  No early cord cutting for me!  No pitocin! Definitely no epidural.  No painkillers!  I am woman- I can do this!
    Then Lucien pooped all over himself in the womb, went into distress, his heart rate dropped- DRAMATICALLY- and I ended up with an emergency C-section.  I know a lot of women who end up with C-sections- heck, a lot of women even  opt for them.  But I wasn't prepared for how horribly I would react to it.  I was not prepared for having to recover from a major surgery.  In fact, I wasn't prepared for anything less than what I had imagined would be my perfect birth.  I wasn't ready for how I would feel after Lucien was born.
     A couple of days after the birth, the obligatory congratulations started pouring in.  From my friends without kids, the responses were benign enough.  "Congratulations!" "Good job Momma!"  "Way to go!"  The responses from my friends with kids went something like this:
     "Did you ever think you could love something so much?"
     "You'll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow!"
     "Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life!"


    Why didn't I feel this way?  What was wrong with me?  Was I like one of those animals in the wild who eats their young?  After years of trying to become pregnant, was I actually not maternal? Looking into Luciens's eyes, all I saw was a little creature who I wasn't sure liked me, who I couldn't seem to satisfy, and who I was going to be responsible for keeping happy for a loooong time.  And, he was ruining my boobs.  What the hell?  I started crying.  And crying.  Pretty much every day.  This was definitely not how it was supposed to be.  I had always wanted a child.  Why wasn't I happy?

    A few weeks after the birth, the fog cleared, I stopped crying every day, and eventually slipped out of my depression.   When I talked to mothers about what I had experienced, many of them said they had felt the same exact way after the birth of their children.  The first thing I thought, was "Why?"  Not why had I been depressed, but why hadn't anyone warned me it might happen?  I always thought postpartum depression made you crazy.  I wasn't on the verge of slitting my wrists or drowning my baby, so it never occurred to me that I should talk to someone about it.  I didn't realized that not everyone was blissfully happy after having a child.  Some women are really overwhelmed.  And that is normal.  What a revelation.

     There only seems to exist two stories for a new mom.  She's a glowingly happy maternal queen who can fancy a Moby Wrap into an origami swan, or she's a danger to herself and her baby.  But there are so many shades of gray in between.  And expecting mothers should be told about them!  I mean, I get it.  Pregnant women are overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified- nobody wants to scare the shit out of them.   We treat a pregnant lady with kid gloves,  but  guess what- a new mom is still overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified- and now she has a little being depending on her for ALL OF IT'S EARTHLY NEEDS.  I think it would help all of us to practice a little honesty toward expecting moms.   Tell them what they're in for!  For the sisterhood!

     "When are you due?"
     "Mid February."
     "Go the the movies.  I haven't been to a movie theater since Lucien was born.  Go out to dinner with your husband.  Oh, and sleep- a lot.  Like 18 hours a day, or more if you can.  Start using lotion on your nipples now, because after about 24 hours of breastfeeding they are going to be chapped and cracking.  Get a pedicure.  A manicure.  A haircut.  Have sex, for sure, because you won't be doing that for a LONG time.  Do you have a picture of your belly, pre-pregnancy?  I hope so because from now on you're going to have this little extra flap of skin that you'll have no idea what to do with.  Yea, it's gross.  Watch a lot of TV- and swear constantly.  You won't be able to do either of these things after the baby's born for fear it will cause irreparable damage to baby's brain and temperament.  Have your husband touch your boobs- a lot.  You're not going to want him to go near them after your child's been feeding off them for a year.  Oh, and no one's gonna get up for you on the subway anymore, so you should just ride it for a few hours- maybe to Queens?"

     Oh Jesus.  Maybe that's not the solution either.  But we can be  a little more forthcoming about what it is to be a new mom.  It's terrifying, isolating,  and also great.  It's confusing and totally worth it.  And if you are a brand new mom reading this post- go easy on yourself.  You made a person.  That is really hard!  Good job!  Way to go!  Did you ever think you could love something so much?  You'll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow!  Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life!

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I'm not on your side.

     I gave birth to the most perfect specimen that ever lived, is living, or will live.

     It is hard for me to put into the words the indescribable joy I feel in the morning, when he wakes up smiling.  Or while he is eating when he uses his perfect little fingers and with surgeon-like precision places each pea, individually, into his mouth.
     I could spend every minute, of every day, just staring at his little perfect face.
     Until the moment, when I can't stare at his perfect little face anymore. 

     He is amazing and beautiful, and all the reasons why the world is perfect when it manages to be.  But I am a human being, still, and I need some ME time, damn it.  And I don't think that makes me a bad Mom.
     When I need this me time, sometimes I like to go somewhere where there is no "Goodnight Moon" to be read, where I won't trip over a Batmobile replica, where Yo Gabba Gabba isn't playing in the distance.  Somewhere so absolutely adult, that it is unlawful for children to be there.  Yes, I'm talking about a bar. 

     Remember when bars where child-free zones?

     Living in Brooklyn, it is amazing what a stir a BAR that won't allow children  causes.  Yes, you are hearing me correctly.  A Bar.  The last safe haven for adults.  May I also add, as someone who has worked in the bar business for a looooong time, not the safest place for a toddler.  Look at any Brooklyn blog that touches on parenting, and this issue will definitely have been raised.  One bar in Park Slope, a family friendly section of Brooklyn, stopped allowing strollers.  Man, oh man did that piss the mommies off.  "How will I be able to appropriately handle my martini if Brynne isn't securely fastened to her seat?"  Holy shit.  Is it me- or is this ridiculous?
     The really funny thing is, if these people recognize me from the park and realize I am a fellow parent, when their child acts up they give me that little knowing eye, like, "Hey you!  Hi!  You're a parent, too.  You know how it is when you're trying to get your drink on and everyone is looking at you and your child, all judgey and annoyed?  What is up with them?  I'm so glad you're here, fellow breeder, to support me in my plight!"

Um, no.

     If I need to get away from the sounds of my own child,  whom I carried for nine months and had sliced from my womb,  whom I love more than anything on this planet- do you really think i want to hear yours?  The answer is no.  Take your child to the park.  Come back later without her and we can talk about something other than our children for a few minutes, in this safe haven-  this child-free zone.

And until you realize this don't look to me for the understanding eye contact.  It ain't happening.

Friday, January 27, 2012

My baby is alive! Amazing parenting, or dumb luck?

     When Lucien was 2 days old, the hospital pediatrician made a special visit to my bedside - as I'm sure is the practice to do for all new mothers - to let me know if I brought Lucien in bed with us, I would roll over on top of him and smother him to death in his sleep.
      "Just don't do it.  Awful things that I won't even mention could happen."
      More awful than smothering him to death in his sleep?  Jesus.

      And so it began.  The sheer terror of motherhood.

      Of course, he ended up in bed with us.  I was breastfeeding.   He was eating every hour and a half for forty-five minutes.  Invariably and uncontrollably, I would fall asleep during said feedings.  It was probably just for a few short minutes, but would I always wake in a frenzy- visions of that awful pediatrician floating over my head.
Lucien would be happily nuzzled at my boob - fast asleep - and totally breathing.

     When he was 4 months old, we moved to a brownstone - in the middle of winter - that had no heat.  OK, there was some negligible heat, but it was freezing in that house.  The fear of him freezing to death in his crib trumped the fear of one of us smothering him to death in his sleep, so he began to share our bed.
     This is where my nightly terrors moved from, I'm going to roll over onto him, to my husband is going to smother him with a pillow.  "Never, ever, ever let a baby sleep next to anyone but a breastfeeding mother!  A breastfeeding mother is the only being in tune with the baby enough not to roll over onto it and kill it in its sleep."  I shouldn't be using quotes here, because I am totally paraphrasing- but you get the picture.  Parenting books are awful.
     Well, being the in-tune breastfeeding mother that I was, I managed to hear him ruffling around and woke up to find Lucien under my husband's pillow.  Husband fast asleep.  Almost killed the baby guilt ensues.  I don't sleep for the rest of the night.

     The next day I decide to take a Silkwood-style shower to wash off the bad parenting guilt.  You know what?  No one tells you how impossible it is to shower when you have a newborn.  Or use the bathroom.  Or make breakfast.  Or do anything that doesn't involve being right next to that little human whom you are sure requires 100% of your attention at all times, lest he slip into an abyss and become fodder for a tragic parenting horror story.
     "That poor baby.  If only that awful mother didn't have to go to the bathroom.  How selfish."
     Back then he was still small enough to constantly nap in his car seat.  He loved that thing.  We never had any problems keeping him in it, and we could use the adjustment strap in the front of it to rock him to sleep.  I'll repeat here - we never had any problems keeping him in it.  Zero.  Not one.
     I wait for him to fall asleep in his seat, and I sprint to the bathroom to shower.  About a minute into it, my mommy spidey senses go off and I jump out of the shower and run through the apartment - naked and dripping - to find Lucien has kicked his way out of the car seat.  But not all the way out.  His legs and torso are dangling over the front, just enough to buckle his chin into his chest - basically choking himself.
     Holy Shit.
     That makes two times in 24 hours that I have almost killed my child.
     Teenagers have babies and manage to keep them alive.  Did you see the movie Babies?  The Mongolian Nomads tie their toddler to a bedpost with a long string, and leave him to watch over their infant while they are gone for the day- and that infant stays alive.
What the hell is wrong with me? 

     It was then that I realized that the pediatrician in the hospital wasn't evil.  She was just instilling a necessary dose of terror.  I mean how better to describe the horror of being responsible for keeping another being alive, than by implying that you may actually kill it yourself - in your sleep.  Never mind the countless waking hours of keeping this little human happy and fed and thriving - you may actually kill it in your sleep.  Hooray!  Welcome to motherhood!

     That's enough for today.  I think I just saw Lucien put a quarter in his mouth.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Supermom... or just really dumb.

Why am I doing this?

It's not like I can really give any useful advice to anyone.  I've blatantly ignored all of the "how to raise a functional child" books.  Cry it out?  Nope.  Breastfeed for a whole year!  Nope.  Playgroup?  Nope.  Bi-lingual Nanny?  Nope.  Babywearer!  Nope.

I'm a 38 year old bartender, raising a toddler in the most expensive neighborhood in Brooklyn with no family in state, no nanny, and no savings account to speak of.  I've managed to keep said baby happy and alive for 15 months.  I haven't strangled my common law husband (a.k.a babydaddy), and I haven't filed bankruptcy.  Woot! Woot!

But recently I have developed a bout of insomnia.  I wake up around 3 am and realize that I am a 38 year old bartender, raising a toddler in the most expensive neighborhood in Brooklyn with no family in state, no nanny, and no savings account to speak of.  Oh shit. 

It was in the throes of one of these bouts, that I realized this would be a hell of a lot easier if I had a network of equally fucked moms with whom I could trade survival tips.  Idealistic visions of hippy-style passing down of toys and clothes, sharing of babysitters, play dates in the park... all interrupted by one glaring obstacle.

I have nothing, and I mean actually zero in common with all of the mom's that I meet.  I mean really, if you tell me your 13 month old is bilingual one more time I'm gonna stab you in the face.  And, no, I do not want a play date with your nanny.  And I won't be signing up for 'playgroup' because it will get me on the good side of the 'most competitive preschool in the neighborhood.'

There's got to be some Moms who have been scared into hiding by the milestone police and bugaboo squad, who are just as screwed as I am, and need a network.