Transition Lenses

tunnel_light

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” -Anatole France

Melancholy. That’s the feeling I’ve been trying to name.

I am not sad. I’m not unhappy, or disgruntled, or malcontent. I’m just, ever so occasionally, melancholy.

Several people who are further along in their parenting adventure told me that when your babe turns one year old, you begin to feel yourself again. As if the first anniversary is a magical switch that, once reached, will tilt the axis of your universe back to a more familiar (and less overwhelming) setting.

So as the fated date approched, I waited for a renewed sense of self. Some sort of assurance that I had gotten the hang of mum-hood while still retaining or regaining all the moving parts that made me the person I used to be.

And then September 2 came, and partied, and faded into September 3 and I felt no different than I had on the 1st of the month. Or on the 1st of August. Or July.

Don’t worry, I’m not sitting here all sad-sack thinking there’s something wrong with me. I believe that mothers, like babies, develop at their own pace. Just because other mothers have felt like life returned to some semblance of normality around the one year mark doesn’t mean that my sense of normal will behave the same way.

Maybe I feel this way, in part, because I waited awhile to have a child. My individual personhood (and couplehood with Bruce) was pretty well established for quite a few years. We had it down. And then, at 7am one Thursday morning, everything changed.

I changed.

And in the change, I lost myself.

It’s true that I’ve gained more in motherhood than I have lost. So much more. There are moments of wonder and joy that surpass anything I have ever known, that more than make up for the lack of sleep and the absence of time.

But that doesn’t negate the fact that the me who used to be is gone.

Sometimes I struggle with that. Sometimes I don’t know who, exactly, I am anymore.

After all, the learning curve is steep when you’re becoming someone new. You spend a lot of time admitting that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. You stumble around. You try and you fail. You get overly nostalgic about the old routine, because this new one is incredibly uncomfortable.

So it’s only natural and fitting that on the difficult days and often in the dead of night, you mourn the you who is lost. Because you knew how to be that version of yourself. You had the playbook, more or less.

Now that playbook is undergoing a complete and total revision. And in order to embrace the new world order, you have to say goodbye to the old.

But sometimes letting go takes awhile.

So while I’m cocooned in this transition phase, while I’m releasing and embracing and fumbling around, I’ve decided to let the more creative parts of myself go into hibernation. It’s the only way to survive, really.

If I tried to be as prolific as I was pre-baby, to write even as much as I did when I was pregnant, I think my skull would implode.

It’s not that I’m not writing at all. I’m here, obviously. Just not as often as I used to be. Weekly posts have been culled to monthly posts. If I’m lucky.

I’m also keeping a journal for Lucette, trying to record all the little moments that slip too easily into the ether.

But I’m not writing for myself. The poetry is dormant for now. I miss it. I miss that feeling when the words start to click and flow and fit into place. I miss the satisfaction of a well-placed line break.

And I miss charting out new ideas for cinepoems. (In fact, I have a gorgeous one percolating that involves me, Lu, and a pair of tiny hats.)

I miss the more simple, selfish things, too. Like having entire Saturday afternoons to read a novel. Or weed the flower beds. Or obsessively re-organize my closet. Or do nothing at all.

Someday the energy, the creative spark, will return. Someday I’ll pull the poems out from their hiding places and build them a home of paper and ink. But not today.

Today I am going to change a poopy diaper. And find the missing white cow for the Little People farm. And read the story about the Busy Horses. And read it again. And again.

And somewhere between the highchair and the crib, I’m going to learn something new about who this mother-me really is.

I think it’s going to be great.

-Lo, who thinks that a world without the Cheeks in it would be a truly miserable place.

Year One

baby-love

365

For the record, I didn’t really believe everything would change.
I imagined less time, of course, less sleep, less general air of sans souci
but not the entirety of life all upside down, and least of all me.

It seems after 52 weeks of daily miracles
I have become someone completely new.
I am milk maid and diaper genie and an utter fool for you.

Little Light of September Moon, all my selves were made to love you.

-Lo, whose entire world changed for good one year ago today.

With Flying Colors

airplane

By all accounts, Baby’s 1st Flight was a success.

Sure, there were a few bouts of excessive wiggling accompanied by the occasional ear-splitting devilish squeal. And there were also a few crankypants cries when Miss Cheeks was trying to nap and not able to get as comfy (e.g. flat on her face) as she would have liked.

goodie-bagBut those goodie bags did the trick with garnering the goodwill of nearly all of our airborne neighbors, excluding the sourpuss elderly couple who clearly were too good to be sitting back with all us riffraff in coach.

They certainly charmed the 3 teenage boys who sat behind us on the flight home. They received their bags o’ sugar with exclamations of: “No way!” “For real?!” “Awesome.” And my personal favorite, “Dude. I’m totally tweeting this!”

When we landed at O’Hare, I had a few bags left and passed them out to the flight attendants and pilot on our way off the plane.

 Turns out that was an excellent decision, because the day after we arrived home, a special FedEx package arrived for Lucette. aa-letter

The letter reads:
“Dear Lucette,
I received a phone call from the crew on your recent flight from San Francisco to Chicago. They were all so impressed with your grace and gentle spirit on your first flight.

On behalf of American Airlines, it is an honor to include you among our loyal customers.

We wish you a lifetime of safe travel and joy discovering the world.”

The package included a “My First Flight” certificate complete with AA wings and a gold pendant for a necklace.

I admit, I got a little verklempt over that one. Such a nice gesture, and completely unexpected.

Lu’s first trip to her Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois was quite eventful.

pizza

First, though, we had to stop at Lou Malnati’s and introduce her to real Chicago pizza.

Safe to say she’s a fan. (And she made her daddy proud with the amount of pie she put away.)

 The week that followed was full of hot July weather, lots of swimming, lap chickens, meeting horses,horse mooing at guernsey cows and winning over a black lab named Charlie, who became Lucette’s devoted servant after noticing the copious amounts of food that were tossed over the side of her high chair.

Even though she’s too little to remember, I showed her the house I grew up in out on Palmyra Road and introduced her to many of the places that were the landmarks of my childhood.

We’ll do it again when she’s older, I’m sure. But this time, her first time, will stick in my mind.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, a business idea for Public Relations Plane Kits for Babies is in the works, thanks to my entrepreneurial sister. I’ll keep you posted.

welcome-to-farm
-Lo, who says that a lap chicken is a chicken who sits in your lap, of course.

Public Relations, Baby Style

plane-bags

The countdown is on for Baby’s First Plane Ride.

Lucette is 10 months old and has yet to meet her Great-Grandma Ruth. In a few days, we’re going to fix that. But the meet and greet requires an airplane.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve got some bad plane karma coming my way. In my younger–and much more arrogant–days, I lobbed quite a few hairy eyeballs in the direction of fellow plane passengers who were less than 3 feet high.

To be fair, a couple of them were kicking the back of my seat. Or trying to crawl under it. Or standing on the seat behind me, holding onto my headrest and also a clump of my hair.

So, at the time, I felt my dirty looks and loud sighs were completely justified. (And I still think that if you’re old enough to kick the seat in front of you, you’re old enough to be told to knock it off.)

But here’s the thing that I didn’t understand very well when I was a solo flyer: The only thing worse than a crying baby in the row behind you is being the parent of said crying baby.

I had my own Great Awakening to that fact when I started flying with my sister and nephew, who was then 6 months old. My sister was nearly nauseous with fear as we boarded the flight. Not because she’s a phobic flyer, but because she was so worried about how her baby would handle the flight… and how our fellow passengers would treat him if he handled it with screeches and squeals.

She needn’t have worried, that time. For a 6-month-old, a plane is a giant white noise and jiggle machine, and he nodded off to sleep like a bitty angel.

That was when I first began to understand just how hard it is to travel with kids. Because you’re not just dealing with all the extra stuff required… the bottles and snacks and diapers and toys and blankets.

You’re also dealing with all the unpredictable aspects of air travel (delays, cancellations, lost baggage, endless waits on the runway) and its affect on the sleeping, eating and pooping habits of a tiny human who can’t understand why they’re not allowed to get down and crawl up the aisle.

As if that all weren’t enough to frazzle your overly-exhausted nerves, you also have to deal with the disapproval–and often the outright disgust–of your fellow travelers. The muttering, eye rolling and exasperated sighing will begin as soon as they set eyes on your and your bundle of joy.

And even when you do your best to ignore it, even when you make superhuman efforts to keep your babe from bawling, even when you aren’t some oblivious,entitled parent-type who believes the entire universe revolves around little AshleyCaitlinLouise, even then, it still sucks to be treated like a pariah just because you had the audacity to both breed and travel.

(And for those prickly solo passengers who claim there’s never a good reason to take babies on a plane, consider this: My grandmother is pushing 90. She has bad knees and a bad heart. She can’t fly, take a train, or sit in a car for 3 days to come and visit her newest great-granddaughter in California. And she has been sending me letters for months saying, “Am I going to get to meet that baby before I die?!” Sometimes there are very good reasons to take a baby on a plane.)

So here we are, with the big day is almost upon us. Bruce and I have been planning for it as if it were a Seal Team Six operation, while at the same time remaining fully aware that babies tend to scoff at your plans. And then barf on them.

We’ve both been anxious about how this whole adventure will go. I have begun repeating to myself a daily mantra that goes something like this: “I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care…”single-bag

Bruce, being a more practical person, had a better idea.

Bribery.

It’s beautifully simple. We’re handing out bags of candy to all the passengers sitting near us.

 The bags are cellophane, so you can see all the tasty treats inside them and not wonder why this stranger is suddenly shoving a mysterious package in your face.

And they don’t just hold candy, no. That’s where the brilliance comes in. These bags? They contain ear plugs.

cimg2724

Each bag also comes labeled with a little tag which has a picture of Lucette (standing in a cardboard box and waving) on one side.

And the other side has a message that reads:cimg2731

“Hi! My name is Lucette.
I’m 10 months old and this is my first plane ride.
I am going to meet my 89-year-old Great Grandma
because she is too ill to fly to CA to see me.
I will try very hard to be quiet, but let’s be honest,
I’m not very good at it yet.
So I apologize in advance for any squeals, growls, wails
or endlessly repeated vowel sounds that might annoy you.”

I figure that half the battle of not annoying someone is to make yourself more human to them. To say: Hey, we used to be you. Flying all solo and fancy-free. We know you would rather not be sitting by our kid. But hopefully giving that wee growling kid an actual name and story will make a difference. As will the sugar. And most of all, the ear plugs.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

-Lo, working the Baby PR.

Sleep is the new crack.

tired

I have a confession of intolerance.

Whenever I hear someone complain, “OMG, I’m, like, soooooooo tired today!” I roll my eyes.

I know you had a late night at the movies or clubbing or studying or sitting on the couch like a lump watching infomercials or writing your screenplay or breaking up with your boyfriend, again.

I used to have those nights, too. Especially in my early 20s.

I’d straggle in to work on Monday morning, hair still smelling of cigarette smoke and stage fog, and whine blearily about how I exhausted I was after a weekend of staying out until 4am dancing blisters onto my soles at The Dome Room.

But then I’d get home from work, pull on some PJs, hunker down on the couch for a sitcom or three and then toddle off to bed early. By Tuesday morning I was all caught up.

So I get it. You didn’t catch your standard amount of Zs and you’re a little crusty-eyed today. I get it, but I don’t feel sorry for you.

Because, I promise you, you have absolutely no understanding of what exhausted really means. Not until you’re a new parent.

Once that baby comes out, you become intimately acquainted with all the hours of the night, all jumbled up and out of order. You never know when you’ll actually get to sleep or when you’ll wake up, jerked unceremoniously out of dreamland by the wail of a tiny crib-bound creature who needs you, and needs you NOW.

Everyone smiles at new mothers indulgently and says, “Awwww. Enjoy it! Newborns sleep all the time.”

Which is only partially true. Yes. Newborns sleep alot. But they also eat alot. As in every 2 hours. Round the clock. And when you’re the one with the boobs, that means that you don’t sleep more than an hour and a half at any one stretch.

“Yeah, but it gets better,” you say. Yes. You’re right. It gets better. Your little one eventually learns that daytime is playtime and night time is sleep time.

And then they learn to roll over. Or sit up. Or crawl. Or stand in the crib and jump up and down and scream like they’re being chased by large hairy beasties.

Or they grow a tooth. Or three. Or they get sick. Or they had a bad day and didn’t take enough naps and now they’re cranky and pissed off and overtired.

Ask any parent what it means when their kid is overtired. (Be prepared that said parent might burst into tears when they answer.) Overtired babies are terrifying.

And speaking of terrifying, as a new parent, you’re a hot mess most of the time. You’ve got scads of wackadoo hormones, none of your pants fit, and by the time you walk over to your to-do list and grab a pen, you can’t remember what it was you were going to remind yourself to do.

You’re afraid to look at your stretch marks straight on in the mirror because then you might have to face the fact that your bikini days are really and truly over. Your hair is falling out in clumps, but it doesn’t matter because you never have time to run a comb through it, anyway. And if you did, baby would yank the hairs you have left straight out of your scalp. So you just rubberband that mop into a knob on the back of your skull and try to remind yourself to wash it before it smells.

But most of all, as a new parent, you wake up every day to the realization that you have created a person. A tiny, awe-inspiring little human being who shits up her own back and can’t pull up her own pants and opens her mouth and squawks for you to feed her like a wee naked hatchling.

And you are simultaneously crushed by the weight of your overwhelming love for this creature and by the responsibility to raise and nuture and teach this brand new person how to be an individual and a good citizen and how to balance a checkbook and drive a car (and a motorcycle) and love herself for who she is and be confident but not arrogant and be kind without being a pushover.

Start adding up all this new parent angst and haphazard snatches of sleep caught here and there over the weeks and months and then factor in 3rd trimester discomfort, tiny bladder syndrome and the inability to roll over into the equation and suddenly you realize that you haven’t really slept a whole night through in OVER A YEAR. (A guy I work with has 3 kids and says he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in 6 years.)

That, my friends, is what being tired really is. That is actual sleep deprivation. It makes you, by turns, a drooling zombie stumbling through the day and asking your spouse a question 6 times over because you don’t remember what he said, and an over-caffeinated, frantic-eyed energizer bunny who is freakishly motivated to fold the laundry. At 2 am.

Ten years ago, five years ago, 12 months ago, I wouldn’t have really gotten it either. I would have nodded and tried to sympathize. I would have quite sincerely said, “Oh man, that must be really hard.”

And I would have giggled at Go the Fuck to Sleep and thought it was clever. But I would not have guffawed until I cried.

I get it now. And you know what? You can keep your Saturdays of sleeping in until noon. I wouldn’t trade places with you for any goddamn thing in the world.

But maybe that’s just the caffeine talking.

-Lo, who will sleep when she’s dead.

Bye Bye Baby

bye-bye

About 12 hours from now, I’ll be driving south with my mug of tea, and I’m pretty close to certain I will be bawling my eyes out.

I go back to work tomorrow.

And although I like my job and I fully realize I am lucky to have a job, I don’t know how I’m going to walk out on that sweet baby face in the morning.

These last three months have been some of the best days of my life, hanging around the house with Bruce & Lulu, strolling to the beach, running the washing machine at least once a day to keep up with all those essential wee baby articles that inevitably get covered in spit-up and poo.

Back when I was pregnant, back in my other life, I thought that after nearly four months of wearing sweat pants and rubber-band hair, I’d welcome the chance to jump back into the workaday routine.

I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Every day is a small new miracle. Every day I fall in love a little bit more. Every day is filled with a thousand tiny things that speed the hours along faster than ever before.

I don’t want to miss out on anything. A toothless smile. A new, drooly consonant. A gravity-defying poop. I want to see it all.

In the more rational moments, I talk sense into myself. I remind myself that we want Lucette to grow up here, in this amazing city of San Francisco. In this amazing, expensive city of San Francisco. And in order for her to build a life here, off to work I must go.

I remind myself that we’re lucky in so many ways… Bruce can stay home with Lucette most days, so she’ll have quality daddy-daughter time. And when he can’t be home, we have two lovely friends who have volunteered for nanny duty. She won’t be shuffled off to strangers.

But tonight, on the eve of my return to my other life, all of this common sense is cold comfort.

Because when I went on leave back in August, I didn’t really take into account the development of Mommy Brain. I knew life would change, sure, but I didn’t fathom, I couldn’t really understand, how very much I would change.

And I didn’t realize how delusional it was to think that three months would be enough.

So tomorrow I will set off to earn a living, to pay for this wonderful life that we have. And all I will be thinking about is, “When will it be time to go home?!”

-Lo, who has plans to start buying a regular lotto ticket.

The Speed of Light

spped-of-light

The clock is a tyrant who will stay his hand for no one,
not even you, whose smile should stop time
as it stops this heart of mine.

Each day flies faster than the last,
mornings blur too soon to evening,
every minute closer to the day you take your leaving.

I wish for moments that last a thousand years.

-Lo, mourning the impending end of maternity leave.

Post Partum

mood: quiet | drinking: water

pumpkin2

With the exception of one poem called “Good Dog,” written shortly after LeeLoo’s death, all the poems I’ve written in the last nine months have been all about this change, this life, brewing inside of me.

That includes a series of 13 poems titled after fruits and vegetables, starting with “Kidney Bean” and ending with “Pumpkin”… the idea being that the size of the titular piece of produce corresponded with the size of the little one in my womb.

Someday I’ll publish all 13, but I thought now was a good time to post the final poem in the series. So here you are…

Pumpkin

early
I bare my toes to the ocean
and wait for the waves,
salty and cool against my skin
steady and measured inside my womb.

active
There are women
who proudly tell stories
of profanity in the labor room,
of squeezing fingers to pulp, of
screaming fault lines
at the nearest person
possessed of a penis,
of blood, chaos and drama.

But in Room 203 I am falling in love,
knowing we have never been together
quite like we are on this night.

push
They tell me to push just one more time
and I find his eyes and bear down
quivering with effort.

“That’s great, now do it again,”
they say, and I do and I do and I do
and I think “This will never end.”

But it does, in a rush, and you slide
purple and wailing from that world
to this.

He sees you before I do, and turns to me,
eyes welling with the wonder
of having finally met
the person you made
and finding her utterly perfect.

post partum
I am halfway to the drugstore
when I remember
you are no longer with me.

After 10 months of cohabitation
the shock of your absence
is devastating.

A song comes on the radio
that has nothing to do with us

but I weep nonetheless
for the sorrow of solitude
and the joy of delivery.

***

(written September 1st and 2nd, technically weeks 40 & 41)

-Lo, with a little less writing time on my hands.

This Little Light of Mine

mood: transformed | drinking: cranberry juice

lulu_day2

She’s finally here.

Lucette de Luna was born at 7:58 am on Thursday, September 2nd. She weighed 7lbs, 5oz and was 20 inches long.

Her first name means “little light” in French, and her second name means “of the moon” in spanish and italian. So (very) roughly translated, her name is “little light of the moon”. (She’s very multicultural that way.)

Of course, there will be nicknames. We’re getting a head start on those by calling her Luci and Lulu.

mom1Labor lasted 27 hours, and if you told me that going into it, I would have been completely freaked out. But we just took it one contraction at a time and we all made it through just fine.

Of course, it helped that the first 12 hours (from 5:30 am Wednesday morning until 6pm Wednesday night) were spent at home. It was gorgeous in San Francisco that day, so we actually spent a couple of hours at the beach, with me standing ankle-deep in the ocean, waiting for contractions and watching the waves come in. Not a bad way to be in labor, really.

I’m writing this from our hospital room. We’ll go home soon, but for now the three of us are in a little cocoon of post-delivery joy.

dad1Bruce (I should call him Bruce on this blog now, not Boy. No need for subterfuge, right?) was an amazing partner, not only throughout labor and delivery, but through my entire pregnancy. Scratch that, through my entire life. He’s just pretty much the most kick-assingest person I know.

We’re both just beginning to find our way into parenthood, but so far Lulu is making that easy. She’s beautiful and sweet and the top of her head smells like heaven.

I know I have thousands of unknown days ahead, full of their own terrors and joys. But right now, at this moment, I couldn’t be happier or more peaceful.

Lucette’s here, and that’s all that matters for today.

-Lo, from babyland.