Thursday, February 28, 2013

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part v

Conception, Part IV (Part I, Part II, Part III)

TTC Month Five

I decided to buy an ovulation predictor kit this month. I had restrained myself from making the purchase earlier, at the advice of the OBGYN I was seeing when we first began trying to conceive. This was the same doctor who, during that same time, very casually suggested that I might have endometriosis, which could severely injure my ability to get pregnant. When I questioned her about the statement that she made in a very unsympathetic monotone, she brushed off my concern like it was no big deal. She continued on to tell me not to try to get pregnant. She told me not to pay attention to my cycles, or get caught up in the particulars or spend the money on an ovulation predictor kit. "Just wing it for a while," she said.

My mistake was listening to a woman that I didn’t even trust instead of listening to my own voice and knowing that I was in charge of my body (a lesson I have yet to forget since).

This OBGYN was a terrible doctor, but her advice about trying to conceive was not at all uncommon. You often hear, “don’t make it a big deal—just let things happen naturally” when you are trying to conceive. "Just have sex during the middle part of your cycle," you are told. "Don't worry until you’ve been trying for a year unsuccessfully" they insist. But, I’m not so sure there should be a one-size-fits-all approach to conceiving. 

It would be nice if baby making could be nothing but romance and exciting, spontaneous sex. It would be even better if none of us had to work hard to make it happen, and we could remain perfectly calm until we were successful. But, some of us worry. Some of us would like to have all the information—about our bodies, our health, the science behind conception—before we even begin so we can minimize the surprises and make intelligent decisions. Some of us cannot remain calm when we are shooting blindly in the dark. What about those people? What about me

Listening to a blanket statement is exactly what eventually led to my inability to let go and enjoy the process. Because I need information. I need to know when I ovulate and what signs to look for in my body just before I ovulate so I can have sex on the best days of the month. I don't do well with estimations and no plan. In effect, allowing myself to be completely neurotic about something gives me the power to remain calm and centered. Granted, other people may not operate like me, but I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to get pregnant quickly. And what is so wrong about wanting to have a baby? Why is it not okay to be involved and hands-on from the beginning instead of waiting until you are frustrated, emotionally exhausted and afraid? What is the harm, really, in buying an ovulation predictor kit on day one of TTC?

So, I bought an ovulation predictor kit. And I joined an online cycle tracking website (basically inputting your BBT and fertility signs every day so the website can analyze your data and tell you when to have sex). I took charge of my fertility (which I highly recommend over leaving it up to anyone else) and discovered that I was ovulating much earlier than the average woman. This was somewhat relieving, because it simply meant we were concentrating our efforts around the wrong days.


It was fairly obvious that Alex and I were failing to relax and take our minds off of all of the enormous life changes we were trying to force. My body knew that my life was in flux, and that I felt protective and unsettled given my current life circumstances and living situation. 

This was about the time I had the run-in with our next-door neighbor. While it was difficult to have a complete stranger accost me in the driveway and ask me questions about my sex life, it was far worse to know that I now had an audience while trying to conceive—an audience that slept across the hall from me, and was very doubtful in my ability to procreate. 

I myself was doubtful that I could get pregnant under the current circumstances of my life at that moment. I was suddenly very aware of what I had wanted to ignore the months before: it would take a miracle to conceive under such massive stress. When we started our TTC journey, the timing was perfect. But, after a few unexpected twists in our plan, the timing quickly became less than ideal.  

At this point, I knew that I needed peace and stability before a baby was a possibility.


I used the ovulation predictor kit, which helped me determine exactly when I was ovulating, but Alex and I were taking it easy this month. We planned to spend as much time out of the house as we could in order to focus on reconnecting and recalibrating. We decided to go ahead with our annual pilgrimage to my favorite yoga and meditation center, despite our need to save money for a house. It was the perfect place to center myself and get away from all we had been through the past five months.

We were deep in meditation and heavily lost in restorative yoga poses from sunrise to sunset. And I ovulated in the dead middle of my spiritual recharging. We missed our chance to capitalize on the perfect fertile moment, but I think we both let it pass by on a semi-subconscious level. If it had been one of the months before this, we probably would have found a tree to procreate behind in the middle of our guided nature walk, but not now. We needed a break.

Although we failed to conceive yet again, I felt more confident and at ease (even if only temporarily so) now that I was armed with the forbidden ovulation kit and the tracking website. I understood my body so well after all that I had been through, which renewed my faith a bit. And I had another road trip to look forward to next month, right around the time that I would be ovulating. It felt like a new beginning. 

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part IV

Conception, Part III (Part I, Part II)

TTC Month Four

In the midst of packing up our apartment, moving into the in-law's place, and beginning our housing search, my period was late. Very late and very abnormal for me. With the exception of a missed period, though, I didn’t feel pregnant. But, the days kept passing regardless. Alex constantly asked if I was feeling “different,” he patted my belly and hounded me to take a pregnancy test. Still mourning from the month before, I couldn't bear the thought of taking a pregnancy test, so I waited.

Though I doubted that my missed period meant I was pregnant, Alex’s excitement took hold of the part of me that so desperately wanted him to be right. I had gone a significant amount of time with no period in sight…which is why I began furiously scouring the Internet, looking for cases of other women who were symptomless and did not feel pregnant, but were

Eleven (long) days later, I got my period in the middle of viewing houses. When I began to bleed, I began to consider the possibility that I might never get pregnant. 

Rational or not, I could no longer keep my calm. Instead, I became obsessed with conceiving—reading hundreds of stories on message boards, studying every aspect of fertility and conception, monitoring every minute change that occurred in my body on a daily basis.

I had reached my threshold for being relaxed and letting things happen naturally. Four months may not seem like a long time, objectively speaking, but when you are trying to conceive, time is not the same "time" you are used to. When you are trying to conceive you go from believing you just need to have a bunch of sex all the time to knowing an egg must be fertilized within 12-24 hours of it being released or it will die…..along with your dreams of being a parent.

There is also a lot of waiting involved, and that further distorts time. First, you wait for that holy time of the month when you are fertile, then you wait two weeks (give or take) to either bleed or take a pregnancy test (or maybe both if you are like me and you don't even trust a period anymore, because what if it's implantation bleeding or you're one of those random people who still get a period, or or or?!). Then, if you fail to get pregnant that month, you start the waiting game all over again.

And again.

And again.

I used positive visualization and meditation to try to will it to happen. I painted paintings of pregnant bellies and babies. I imagined the moment I would see two lines appear on a white stick, probably several hundred times. I read books. I googled all things conception-related, reading the same material over and over, and researching new possible reasons for my lack of bun-in-oven status. I tried to make my body less acidic and more inhabitable for sperm. I tried glutting myself on full-fat dairy products because that can help protect against infertility. Alex and I had sex every day. Every other day. Every 36 hours, on the dot. I made an emergency appointment, sure that I had some sort of infection that was keeping me from getting pregnant, only to have a midwife swab my cervix, put my cells under a microscope in the same room and report that the only thing living inside me was a very abundant population of sperm, which was equal parts relieving, embarrassing, and semi-gross.

I wanted to step outside of the body I had been living in all my life, because it was empty and not doing its job. I would stare at women carrying their babies in slings in the grocery store, wondering why they were able to do what I could not. The sight of swollen bellies was almost too painful for me to bear. Yet I was constantly looking for signs of pregnancy. 

My skin is breaking out. I must be pregnant! I'm feeling crampy. It's got to be fertilization! I'm tired. It must be the teeny, tiny baby in me sucking all my energy away! 

Then there were the pregnancy tests. I went through so many boxes of them, I'm fairly certain I ended up making money on them given all the rebates and coupons I collected over the months. I never trusted the results, or maybe I didn't want to believe the results, so I rarely took just one. Regardless of the frequency of my test taking, though, the suspense existed each and every time. Those moments before you pee on a stick are the safe zone. It's the window of time after you've already done everything you could that month to conceive, but before the timer goes off and you have to actually look at the test and know whether you succeeded or failed. Every month, the anticipation became incrementally more intense during that window, and the subsequent disappointment of one line compounded by all the months of one line that had come before it.

There was the all-too-familiar hug that Alex would be waiting with outside the bathroom door. I'd silently bury my head in his shoulder, a few tears falling from my eyes, and he'd tell me that everything was fine and that we'd have a baby soon.

I tried talking to friends who had children to find perspective. There were the friends who tried for years, rather than months, before they conceived, but their stories didn't erase the impatience and fear. Consequently, there were the friends who got pregnant after only two months yet they cried and feared and 100% lost it during the entirety of those two months. Every couple had a different story, and a different emotional reaction to the process. As much as I wanted to find some sort of solace in it all, I knew that none of it could predict what would happen to me.


Our sex life began to change drastically once we moved into mom's place. There was no more baby making on the kitchen floor, it was much trickier to have sex at the specific time intervals suggested by my OBGYN, and there was the total awkwardness of having sex in your mother/mother-in-law's house. Sure, it used to be fun to occasionally do it in her guest room, but that was when we were visiting, not living there.

Long gone were the days of romantic, exciting, fun procreation. Now, the reality was mom walking by our bedroom door, or coming home in the middle of the day when she had told us she'd be out late. It looked a little something like…

“It’s time.”


“I read that I should be lying perfectly flat while we do it so just….no….that's not good….”

“Wait….move this….no….I mean….WHAT do you want me to do?!!”




Perhaps the joy would have been slowly sucked out of the process at some point even if we had been doing it under our own roof. I don't know. But, it was happening now. We were stressed out, feeling a little creeped out about our sex life at mom's, and not sleeping at night on account of the insanely bright city street lights, transparent blinds, and bus line that ran all night outside our window. This is when the fighting began.

Not having a job or home was overwhelmingly stressful for Alex, but moving in with his mother was somehow a much greater challenge. He had always had a combative relationship with her, and found it difficult to remain calm in her presence. 

We were both on edge and uncomfortable in our "home" and it became difficult for us to connect. Connecting had always been the easiest thing in the world for us to do, but we were suddenly living in a PDA-free zone, feeling awkward or unable to express our love or talk privately. Our weekly dates and summer road trips were a thing of the past now that we had to save money for a house. And other than having sex, the only time we spent alone was when we took our morning walks through the park, during which we mostly vented about our living situation.

Despite the fighting and regular bad moods, we were still committed to having a baby. We began following my OBGYN's recommendation to have sex every 36 hours, rather than the somewhat lax approach to that rule we took earlier on. We set up a calendar in our bedroom that marked the days and times we were scheduled to get it on. Though this was far from the romantic daydreams we had had about conceiving a child, we were getting nervous. What if something was wrong with one or both of us? All the books and doctors and well-intentioned friends told us not to worry until we had been trying for a year, but that seemed like such a long time. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part III

Conception, Part II (Part I)

TTC Month Two 

Alex and I were still relatively relaxed about baby making, though we had anticipated it happening right away. After believing I had to work very hard to not get pregnant all my sexually active years, I felt as if eliminating all those efforts would immediately result in a baby. I had also been pumped full of confidence and hype from all angles. Doctors were telling me my body was the picture of health. OBGYNs were telling me that my uterus was screaming to get pregnant. Friends told me I was the ultimate mother goddess, born to conceive. I pretty much felt like all I had to do was hold hands with Alex and boom! I'd be with child.

Outside the bedroom, we planned to move out of the city to the quiet country. Alex began applying for boarding school positions, which would provide us free housing as we grew our family (and our savings). We were open to moving anywhere in New England, upstate New York, and a few states out west. To us, that felt like a wide enough territory to ensure our perfect plan would unfold with ease. So, we waited for the job offers to trickle in, like they had the last time Alex had applied for a new position.

This is when the economy fucked us.

TTC Month Three 

I was certain I was pregnant this month. I felt a rush of joy and was consumed by a knowing feeling that I was pregnant while waiting the obligatory few weeks before taking a test. But, just a few days after my period was due to arrive, I started to bleed. The bleeding was much heavier than usual, and painful. I felt mournful as I walked to the bathroom every hour or so. Though it could just as easily be written off as a bad period, I recognized this feeling from years before. I felt like I had lost something….or someone.

So, there we were—still no baby. Meanwhile, panic began to set in as Alex had only been offered one job, which he passed on, because of the location. Yet, we only had a month left on our apartment lease. We needed to find temporary (and free) housing given our impending homelessness so we decided to move in with my mother-in-law for the summer (or longer if it came to that).

While we were moving into a very lovely home in a very nice suburban neighborhood, and we were going to enjoy being bill-free for at least three months, we couldn't ignore the facts: in our 30's, married, trying to get pregnant, and moving in with mom.

Three weeks before we moved in with mom for the summer, Alex was offered two more jobs. Neither of the jobs was at a boarding school, though, which meant we had to find our own housing for the coming school year, and pay for it (something we had not planned for). To complicate things even further, the location we ended up choosing was a very rural area with no rental market so we were now on the market for a house…and we had two months to find one, go through the bidding process, and close. 

Our simple life plan was growing exponentially more complicated by the day. We were changing every aspect of our life, and the pressure and unsettling stress of it all began to take its toll…

To be continued…

Monday, February 25, 2013

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part II

Conception, Part I

It was July, and after four months of trying to conceive, I was not pregnant. Alex and I were pulling up to the front of his mother’s Connecticut home, where we were living that summer. Before we even stepped out of the car, the middle-aged woman who lived next door was waving frantically and approaching us. We had never met, yet immediately upon introducing herself to me, she launched into a very personal conversation about my sex life. I stood bewildered and sweating in the 100 degree heat on the sidewalk as she explained that she was an OBGYN and that my mother-in-law had come to her looking for help.

Alex and I had intentionally kept our TTC (trying to conceive) status to ourselves, but somehow his mother had not only found out, but she had also decided we were infertile. And she was on a one-woman quest to “help” us get pregnant. 

This is not what I expected on my road to expectant, but it is my story…

TTC Month One

After six months of (therapy-free, medication-free) marriage, Alex and I were  more obsessed and in love with one another than ever. We came home from our honeymoon unable to physically or spiritually detach—our fingers always intertwined, a hand on the other's knee, goodbye kisses when we were only leaving the room for a moment. Knowing we were joined for life only compelled us to want even more. It was the perfect time to craft a five-year plan, and nestled sweetly at the beginning of that plan was procreation.


At first, trying to conceive was fun. It brought a fresh, new energy to our sex life. We tried to restrain ourselves from our usual high-frequency sexcapades in order to give Alex's baby juice time to recover to a potent level, but being told (by my doctor) that we should take little breaks only gave us a rule to break. So, we broke it. On the sofa. On the kitchen counter. Against the vanity in the bathroom. We were both lifelong overachievers, and man, we were going to get this right. We were going to make. this. baby.

I would lie in bed for a half hour after we had sex, with two pillows under my hips and my legs in the air (in an attempt to usher the sperm to their final destination). I'd get bored and call Alex in to chat, but he couldn't have a serious conversation with me in that position. So, he'd mock me a little, and then I'd ask him for a magazine to bide my time. Afterwards, I'd mark the box for "yes, I had sex today!" on my basal body temperature chart.

I don't even remember where I heard about charting your basal body temperature, but now I could give a lecture on the subject. Seriously. It started out as a way to track my body's progress as I adjusted to life sans birth control….which, by the way, was like having the worst nightmare PMS for months! But, it would later turn into an obsession.

Meanwhile, I was reading everything I could find in books and online about conceiving a child, while monitoring everything that Alex and I were doing with our bodies. I exercised daily, took prenatal vitamins, put fertility-boosting maca powder in my oatmeal, ate an obscene amount of produce, stopped drinking, quit coffee, practiced yoga for relaxation, and regarded Alex's junk as a personal possession. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

pushing myself until it's uncomfortable

Writer Print

I started a series over a month ago—Marriage and Baby: Not for the Weak. I was really excited about it, mostly because it pushed me as a writer. The series is personal and intimate—it covers topics I haven't delved into in my writing before and a level of honesty that far surpasses my already TMI style. My decision to write about my struggles with anxiety, commitment, childhood trauma, the dark hours of my relationship with my husband, trying to conceive (which automatically means talking about sex), pregnancy, and childrearing makes sense to me. Yes, I feel exposed and anxious about putting it all out there for the world to react to. But, this is exactly what drives me as a person. 

I am excited by and drawn towards the things that scare me most. I always have been. The place where those two emotions intersect (excitement and fear) is where life happens. That is the place that changes you, enriches your experience, lights you up, and propels you forward. That is the place where I am uncomfortable, but need to live.

And I am writer. I have been a writer since the day my most beloved High School English teacher, Mr. Diamond, kept me after class to tell me that he had been moved to tears by something I wrote and he began referring to me as a "writer." He also confessed that he had been passing my essays around the teacher's lounge, because he thought I had a message and a beauty that needed to be shared and he hoped that I'd understand why he did this. I wasn't upset, I was honored. I was intrigued by my ability to affect someone outside myself. I had felt so powerless and unimportant in my life. Always. I felt like no one really knew me…my truth was unseen and unheard.  

Writing was a solution—it was healing and empowering. And I loved it. So, I kept doing it. And I kept sharing. Sharing my work was always scary, especially for a shy, introverted girl like me. I tested the waters by sharing my essays with my father. He cried every time he read them. When I went off to college, I began to share my writing with my peers. From there, my passion grew and though I've tried, in numerous ways, to be something other than a writer (and photographer, because that began the very same year), I can only be who I am.

But, I get bored sometimes. And when I am bored it usually means that I need to dig deeper, I need to grow or I've lost my direction. Because to be a good writer you have to push yourself to a place that feels less than comfortable (at least I think so). Honesty has many layers, as I've discovered so intensely over the past few years. Every time I think I'm writing from a place of total honesty and exposure, there always seems to be another layer underneath that I hadn't seen before. 

So, I started this mini-series as a way to push myself and to share something even more personal than my usual repertoire. I turned the first post of the series out almost immediately upon hatching the idea in my brain. And I began writing the next post shortly thereafter. But. I've been holding it hostage for over a month now. The topic was conception, and surprisingly it was much harder to write about than I anticipated. I've rewritten that piece so many times that I've now lost track of how many versions I've gone through. The truth is, I'm entirely uncomfortable with the whole thing—the quality of what I've written, the story itself, the exposure. So, I've decided to just stop holding back and put it out there. That might sound crazy, but it is my way of remaining committed to myself, and honoring the passion and path I have been given. What other choice do I have? Personally, I cannot live a life of turning my back on myself. Not anymore, at least. So, I'm going to trek forward….

Come back Monday for the very overdue Marriage and Baby: Not for the Weak sequel! The topic of this next post turned out to be much meatier than I anticipated. So, I will be breaking up the story by posting a chunk of it every day next week. Get ready for TMI multiplied! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a lifetime of mama bear pain

Emerson had her first real accident on Saturday—of the scary, heart-stopping variety, complete with a bloody face and piercing screams. Though I realize accidents and injuries are totally normal and unavoidable, I can't help but secretly hope there is some sort of childhood loophole my baby can step through so she never gets really hurt. That silly hope is my way of coping with the (still new) reality of parenthood.

I've had to process and accept my role as a mama, bit by bit, since the day Emerson was born. It would be far too overwhelming, otherwise. One of the most difficult realities for me to accept, by far, has been the fact that my child will get hurt, physically and emotionally, sometimes terribly so. It started with having blood drawn from the sole of her tiny, tender foot when she was two days old. I hated every minute of that. Emerson was terrified and sobbing (though she was in my arms) and I wanted to punch the man who was doing it to her. The next stage began when Emerson was four-months-old and learned how to sit up on her own, meaning she began to fall and get hurt on a regular basis. I couldn't stand watching her head smack into the floor, over and over, but eventually we both became more resilient and less upset about her bonkers (as we call them in our house). This weekend, though, we moved past bonkers and into the realm of accidents and injuries, and I would be lying if I said I was okay with any of it. 

Then there's Alex. He has been able to maintain an even-keel about all of this for the majority of Emerson's life. He doesn't get wrapped up in overwrought emotion when Emerson gets hurt, as I tend to do. He sees the big picture, and tries to remind me that every human being gets hurt, and feels afraid as a result. He reminds me that Emerson will be better, stronger, more resilient and complex for having experienced and dealt with pain. He asks me if I think I'd be the same person if I had remained miraculously unscathed by life. And I can't deny any of his points, I can't fault him for believing our child will be fine even after he's seen her face bloody and covered in mud. But, I am a mama bear.

I am a mama bear, and every instinct inside of me says, "protect this child, soothe this child, scoop this child up and unleash your claws in the direction of anyone, or anything that threatens her." I am a mama bear, and it took me hours to calm down after Emerson's accident. I could not stop replaying it in my head, nor could I stop myself from having a highly emotional reaction every time I looked at my baby's scrapped up face. I am a mama bear, and it will require time and practice to be able to let go while knowing that my child is a human being who will grow into an autonomous adult and will meet her fair share of bumps and bruises, heartache and rejection, roadblocks and failures along the way. 

The most difficult part of all of this, for me, is that I thought I knew pain before I became a mother. But, my child's pain feels more painful than any of my own. My pain was dulled with that one last excruciating push that gave way to a new life nine months ago. And now I must watch as my heart begins to wander farther and farther away from me until I no longer know its exact location on the globe each and every day. 

As difficult as this reality is for me to come to terms with, my husband is right (and somewhere he's gasping and wondering if I can print this sentence on a banner so we will always remember the day that I said it). Great things can originate from pain. Take Emerson's life—it began in the midst of pain. Pushing her out of my body was the most physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually challenging experience of my life. It was also the most significant, enriching, beautiful, and unbelievably exhilarating experience of my life. And I wouldn't change anything about it. I wouldn't change the fact that I had to wait three (uncomfortable) weeks longer than I thought I would to give birth. I wouldn't change the fact that I labored for three days, or pushed for three hours, or had to change my plan. I wouldn't change that I had to re-experience my childhood traumas in order to birth my baby. And I wouldn't change that I endured great physical pain. Because, all of that is mine and it deeply changed me in ways that I am grateful for. Given the choice, I would not want to be the person I was before I experienced all that pain. 

So then, would I want to deny my daughter the moments that will ultimately define her? 


Here's what happened: Emerson fell from a moderately high height down onto her head, splitting open her face on our stone steps. The snow outside had been melting in the sun all morning, giving way to a thick layer of mud underneath it, which ended up completely covering her face.  I leapt after her as soon as she fell, but by the time she was in my arms there was blood streaming from her nose, lips and mouth. As scary as this was for us, I realize that this may not be a life-defining moment, but it meant something to me. Processing it has felt like a nod, from me to the Universe, saying, "okay, I understand my role and know I can't stop the inevitable." 

I'm not saying that I want Emerson to get hurt, or that it will EVER be easy to watch. But, philosophically speaking, I know that it's not going to break her.

And so, I will think about how proud I am of my already strong, resilient girl as I apply Neosporin to her wounds. I will remember how well she handled herself in what was the scariest moment of her life thus far. I will smile knowing she has two supportive parents who will be there when she needs us. And, little by little, I will continue to let her go.

too much life happening around these parts

I have about ten posts sitting here, all of which are three quarters of the way complete. It's maddening. The past few weeks have just felt a little too jam-packed with life, if you know what I mean. There have been blizzards and broken appliances, tax appointments and a baby who fights sleep, car shopping and a husband who has had to work past bedtime. I'm not sure what is going on in the Universe, but I'm hoping things will mellow soon. Regardless, I promise I will complete some of my posts this week! Stay tuned….

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

nine months of emerson

Emerson is only three months away from being a 1-year-old. How can that be?! She has also now been on this earth just as long as she existed inside my body, which is a strange realization that, of course, makes me feel kind of sad. It's as if time now marks her paces away from me. And quite literally, she's been taking paces away from me. She took her first steps a week ago, and I've got to say that the excitement was very quickly muddied by sadness. I felt my baaaabbby, my first born, my precious tiny being, slipping away into the annals of long, long ago. Long ago that will only become even longer ago, until it's all fuzzy and I'm waiting by the phone for Emerson to call and catch me up on her life. 

It's also occurred to me that nothing can ever erase the slight sting of my baby not being a baby anymore. I've always heard that somewhere around 18-months mamas begin aching to have another child. But, that's a new child, a new baby. And while I can enjoy a new baby's infancy, it won't be Emerson's. That time is gone forever, encased in gold and magic with all the things that I hold most sacred to my heart.

But, we've moved onto a new phase of Emerson. This new phase will involve teeth that can chew birthday cakes and bubble gum, hair that can be braided and adorned with flowers, legs that can run into salty oceans or dance on the hot pavement in a rainstorm, a voice that speaks of dreams and love. I have been consumed with nurturing my babe thus far, but now I get to watch her emerge. I get to discover her as she discovers herself.

Right now, Emerson is also discovering how things work. Or, more aptly put, how she can make things work. Her favorite pastime is giving our radiators a tune-up, which mostly involves her banging on them with blocks and turning the dials all the way up to five. This has led to my new pastime, which is compulsively checking the heat settings on all the radiators, because while Emerson enjoys the heat at a nice toasty five, her parents can afford about a two. Emerson is adamant that those radiators belong at five, though. As soon as I turn the dial down, she crawls right over, appalled that I have been touching her radiator, and she readjusts it. It's seriously an ongoing battle.

I have lamented Emerson's intense "curiosity" and how much she's grown. I've also mentioned that Emerson now loves to dance. Here's a quick clip of her dancing (it's so impossible to capture her doing anything, because she freezes when she sees the camera and/or crawls over and tries to grab it. Sigh):

My serious little bambino...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

this is our life: a trip to the bathroom

Emerson is getting pretty tough to corral these days. Little by little we've baby-proofed or removed (many) items from every room of our house. But, our efforts always end up feeling like a failed attempt to make things safer for Emerson while minimizing the exhausting, frustrating, perpetual battle of keeping things away from her mitts o' destruction. That girl still finds a way to hurt herself, and destroy or damage several items a day.

This is best illustrated by taking a snapshot—one room, fifteen minutes. So, here we go...  

It's mid-morning, the dreaded time of day when I have to would like to attend to some of my needs for just fifteen minutes. I've been holding my pee (and possibly other things, as well) for hours. My breath is rank with tea and decaying bacteria, and far too many hours without brushing. I need to wash up. I'd like to run a comb through my unwashed hair. Meanwhile, this is the time of day when Emerson is raring to go. She wants nothing to do with being restrained or stuck in the smallest room of the house, which is part of why I've waited so long to attempt this. Fifty percent of the time, I'm lucky to get Emerson buckled into her bouncy seat while I do my thing. But, this is not one of those times. 

My only option is to let the creature roam free while I try to attend to my declining personal hygiene. 

I start to brush my teeth, and Emerson finds the garbage can, which is lined with an enticing plastic bag. She grabs a fistful of bag and immediately lights up when she hears the sweet crinkle of plastic in her hands, one of her most beloved of illicit substances. She stuffs it in her mouth, while I try to pry it out of the insane grip she's got on it with those four sharp teeth of hers. But, as soon as I get her to release her jaw using the technique I learned when I took my dog to obedience school as a child, she discovers the huge pile of pretty awesome items inside the garbage can that us adults were silly enough to deem unusable. She's pulling things out, one after the other, faster than I can retrieve them from her mouth. Oh my god, that q-tip in her mouth has so much ear wax on it!! Really, the tissue I just blew my nose into?! Come on, not the dirty diaper, puhleeeeeaaase! F*&%#K@, that one touched Alex's ass! How am I going to kiss that mouth of yours ever again, little girl?!! 

Meanwhile, I was trying to hold my electric toothbrush (still on) clenched between my teeth while attending to the disaster before me, but it buzzed itself right out of my mouth splattering toothpaste all over my face and Emerson's head.

The garbage can now lives in the bathroom closet.

While I try to clean up the toothpaste explosion, Emerson discovers her next obsession. The removal of the garbage can revealed the hole in the floor that the garbage can was previously hiding. This hole was the displeasing side effect of removing our ancient radiators when we installed a new heating system. It also happens to be the right size to get a small hand stuck, and possibly cut with questionable metal and jagged sub-flooring from the 1940's. I really need to use the toilet, which is going to make it more difficult to head off Emerson's next move, which I'm fairly certain will be that hole. So, I grab Emerson, run to the office, dig around until I find some packing tape, then head back to the bathroom and cover the hole with a few layers of said tape. Ahhhh. Better. 

I attack the mess on my head that used to resemble hair with a brush, while Emerson gets down on her belly and proceeds to lick the tape on the floor while intermittently smacking it. She's absolutely tickled by this. Lick, smack, lick, smack. This goes on for a few minutes. Then she gets bored and heads over to the sink where I'm doing my hair. She pushes her way between my legs and tries to open the cabinet underneath the sink (I'm assuming so she can consume all of its contents). She immediately finds nine million items housed in or made of plastic so I throw a hair band around the knobs on the cabinet doors to keep her out (I keep putting off the 45 minute drive to Babies R' Us to purchase a baby lock for the one and only cabinet in our house). Emerson quickly voices her opinion on my makeshift lock, holding on to the knobs while violently pulling the doors back and forth, like an inmate loudly protesting her imprisonment. This inevitably leads to one of her fingers getting crushed in the crack of the door.

Shhhhh. Shhhhh. You're okay, baby. I know it hurt. Awwww. Shhhh.

Back on the floor.

I finish up at the sink while Emerson discovers the toilet paper. I was hoping I'd somehow bypass the toilet paper craze with my child, but that was just silly thinking on my part. Emerson sits down and begins to unroll the entire jumbo 3-ply roll while simultaneously stuffing it in her mouth. She has a genuine taste for paper-related materials, so I'm not altogether surprised by this. But, I'm a little puzzled when she starts to shove the toilet paper into her mouth with greater intensity than usual. She has a look of guilt on her face that seems to be saying I-must-have-this-or-I'll-die-oh-please-don't-let-mama-find-meeee! I try to teach Emerson that eating toilet paper is icky….it's a losing battle. I once more use the dog-jaw technique and relegate the toilet paper roll to the back of the toilet tank. Awesome. One more thing that takes this place one step closer to resembling a frat house rather than a family home. Of course, this strategy will only work until Emerson grows another inch and can reach the top of the tank. Then what? Suspend the TP from the ceiling on a dangling hook? Actually….that isn't a bad idea. I've got to check Pinterest for something like this.

Okay, I've got to use the bathroom or I'm going to need a diaper. Things look pretty secure. What else is there? I sit down very tentatively. Emerson is sitting on the floor chewing on actual teething toys. Clean ones. Oh, wait. She chucks them at the wall and stares at them with disgust. She moves on to the bathtub. First she finds a couple of dirty, wet wash cloths to suck on….the ones I used yesterday to scrub her bum. After tossing them in the tub and not being able to retrieve them, she attempts to eat the shower liner. She quickly tires of this, though, and I think thank goodness, that's literally everything she could possibly attack in this room. But, she's bored now that she's attacked everything in the room. What is left to entertain her? Mama, of course. 

Emerson crawls over and lurks beneath my feet while I'm sitting on the toilet. What the hell is she going to do?! She caresses the now empty toilet paper holder, looking at me scornfully. She then shimmies her way into the small crevice between the wall and the toilet and proceeds to smack the toilet seat. She then attempts to stick her hands in the bowl while my ass is mere millimeters away from her face. I scream. This cannot happen. This is not okay. Emersonnnnn!!! I pull her out and put her back on the ground beneath me. 

I guess I better wrap this up, ready or not. Emerson decides to pull herself up by holding onto the drawstring of my pants while I do some sort of crazy back bend in an attempt to stabilize her and grab the toilet paper off the back of the the toilet tank simultaneously. I hurriedly try to get some TP off the roll before it is ripped from my hands and ingested. I pull my pants up.

This is our life.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

feel the beat

Emerson has become pretty uninterested in toys lately. From the time she began to crawl, at six-months, her attention has been increasingly focused on exploring the world and finding a way to be a part of whatever mama is doing. This makes entertaining her, keeping her safe, and being able to get anything done…well….a challenge. To makes things even more challenging, there is no hope of getting outdoors here in the zero degree winter. Every day I gear up for a possible walk outside, I pray for sunny skies and temperatures above 30. Without fail, by the time Emerson has been fed, pooped, napped and I have a zillion layers of clothes laid out….the sky turns grey and it begins to snow….or rain….or sleet….or the wind howls furiously. 

Enter, dance party.

I turned on some dance music the other day out of desperation, and a need to move my body (and warm up!). As I bounced around the living room, Emerson followed suit. For weeks I had been wondering why she had been moving her head and neck around at random. I freaked out about it one night and asked Alex if he thought she had some terrible debilitating disease. Turns out, she was dancing. She was mimicking the way I dance with just my head while listening to music or singing her a song. And, as I discovered, if I put on music while she's on the floor, she will head over to a piece of furniture, pull herself up and start to shake her booty. So adorable, and a great way for both of us to let off some steam.

There are also the mama-only dance parties. Emerson, that lucky scamp, gets to enjoy thrilling performances while being fed in her highchair most days. I was born with an aching to be the frontman of a rock band, but without enough passion/talent to ever be anything close to one. That does not stop me from squealing and stomping around my kitchen like Robert Plant while feeding my baby. Or getting my groove on like James Brown in between bites. Or laying down the rhymes like Mos Def while washing the peas off Emerson's face. Sometimes Emerson laughs uncontrollably. Sometimes she looks stunned and confused. Sometimes she bobs her head back and forth with me. 

So, I thought that I'd try posting the soundtrack of this crazy life of ours. I've mentioned before that I have a soundtrack growing in my head as I journey through motherhood (here, and here). We'll see how far I go with this thought.

Up first was yesterday's pick. I've always loved the first verse of this Mos Def track. I'm not exactly writing rhymes over here (although, I used to…shout out to all y'all that remember my Rap Attack Pratt days), but I'm still feeling his words….
Speech is my hammer, bang the world into shape
Now let it fall…
My restlessness is my nemesis
It's hard to really chill and sit still,
Committed to page, write rhymes
Sometimes won't finish for days
Scrutinize my literature, from the large to the miniature
I mathematically add-minister
Subtract the whack.

I love that Emerson was bobbing her head exactly to the beat of this one…