Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blop, blop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is

16,200 words (give or take) later, it's over.

What I learned from this daily grind--other than that I could do it

  • A favorite playwright of mine observed that people generally don't have that much to say, that 90 percent of the time people spend together, they spend in silence. "If you're going to put characters on stage and make them talk for two hours, you have to give them motivation to do that--they have to be on drugs or under pressure--or nobody's going to believe it." I've learned that while I can type words every day, I'm not sure that I have that much to say.
  • Having a daily writing assignment during a month with a major holiday that involves cross-country travel is either a special challenge or a sadist twist, depending on your perspective. Especially when you're traveling with a four-month old.
  • It's possible to create a blog entry on a phone while stopped in traffic.
  • While it's all about the journey, not the destination, nobody remembers Moses for all the miserable, flea-ridden, sandstorm-scoured campsites along the way--they remember the arrival to the promised land. I imagine that Moses remembers the arrival most fondly as well. So, should I choose to take a journey like this again, I think that I'd like to select a destination before embarking.
While we return home to Barky, who is being spoiled rotten--as he deserves--by his Auntie Bananarama, I'm going to take a day or so off. When I return, I'll have an inside tip for a Christmakwanzukkah gift that's going to be hotter--and easier to get--than bootleg Elmo TMXs.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A full night's sleep in 20 minutes

I’ve spent the day engrossed in such fascinating topics as DAM, CMS, and DRM. While I’m sure that most of what I heard would put most of you to sleep, it was fascinating and engaged me for several hours. None of it was nearly as rewarding as what happened on my lunch break, however.

After collecting my generic grilled vegetable wrap lunch, I headed up to our room to see if 3B, Mama, and Mama’s mom were still around. It’s a gray day here in Boston, which made me think that maybe they’d be in the room rather than out running around. That’s in part because while 3B’s cold cleared up a bit during the day yesterday—seems that he got more rest on the car ride than his squawking marathon led us to believe—his nose was pretty congested last night and this morning.

Sure enough, the little sniffler was there with his Mama and Grammy. He was sporting one of the cute new outfits that his Grammy brought for him, laughing up a storm, practicing standing, and generally enjoying hanging out with the big kids—which, of course, means staying up all day, without naps. So 3B was a little punchy, and Mama and Grammy were a little hungry, so I bundled him up in a blanket and sung "Forever Young" while I swayed him to sleep as they headed down to grab a bite.

Once 3B was asleep, I lay down with him on my chest, and finished up the final 30 or so pages of St. Albans Fire. Those 20 minutes or so, with 3B slumbering peacefully, head tucked against my neck, arms draped across my chest, with hands loosely curled in the folds of my sweater, were the most rewarding moments of my day by far. When I slid him into Mama’s arms and got up to return to the conference, I was more relaxed, happier, and thinking more clearly than after a full night of sleep.

Or at least how I remember feeling after a full night of sleep.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Don't You (Forget About Me)

We survived the drive, getting here just before midnight last night, which meant that morning came far too early, especially the part where the booby trap alarm clock sounded off at 5:30 a.m., a full two hours before my wake-up call.

I did manage to get a shower and some coffee before shuffling downstairs to the conference, where, despite this being Boston and it being the last week in November, the air conditioners were blowing hard, keeping the temperature in the session rooms hovering around 30 below. That kept me awake for the first five minutes, after which I fell into a hypothermic catatonic stupor, until I came up to the room during lunch to steal the eiderdown from the bed to wrap up in for the afternoon sessions.

After the day's sessions were over, I returned to the room to find that Mama and her mom had found a cute way to payback 3B for the seven hours of crying in the car yesterday. He loves it now, but the payback comes when he brings those prospective girlfriends or boyfriends over and we bust out these adorable pictures--and if you think this is the only one of him in this hat, you underestimate me.

"Yes, that's a dog on his head. Isn't he cute? Don't you just love the little dog ears hanging down over his ears? Aren't they adorable?"

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Monday, November 27, 2006

It's a long way to Tipperary

And longer to Boston at this speed with a screaming, crying 3B in the back seat.

No we weren't in our driveway when I shot that picture; we were on 95, as we still are.

Pray for us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jiggety jig

When I was younger, I would wander the house, collecting possessions like keys, wallet, coat, backpack and shoes before heading out the door. After I had assembled myself, I would head for the door, announcing loud enough for anyone at home to hear, "I'm off." To which Mom would inevitably reply dryly, "I know."

Now that we've been home for a whopping 24 hours, it's almost time to turn the place and the dog over to Auntie Banana for another week and head out the door to a conference in Boston. Mama and 3B are coming along and Mama's mom will be heading down from Maine to visit with us for a few days. It's all going to be great fun--well, maybe my conference of geeks isn't everyone's idea of a good time, but I'll have some fun--but I'm still feeling a bit off.

There are plenty of reasons for that:

  • spending our first Thanksgiving without Mom
  • spending the rest of the week living in and going through my childhood home, beginning the work on her estate
  • spending two weeks away from home and Barky
  • shifting gears from a working vacation and a work trip
  • shifting gears from spending all day with Mama and 3B to spending all day at work
  • spending most of today sleeping, eating, or napping
The cause of that last one is likely a bug that I figure I picked up on our last trip, and which I may be sharing with 3B. I've been feeling a bit drained, perhaps mildly feverish, congested, and somewhat scratchy throated. So either I'm coming down with something, or I've been stressed out and traveling.

3B's symptoms seem to confirm that it's probably a bug, since he's been a bit congested--although we haven't had to resort to sucking his brain out through his nose with the big blue snot sucker--and developed an occasional dry cough. If he does have a bug, it would be his first. Not as exciting a milestone as first teeth or first steps, but a milestone.

I guess if he was more congested, we would have heard about it on the flight home, during which he was more active than on the way out west--or perhaps we just noticed more since the flight coming back was too full for him to have his own seat, so we were holding him the whole way. Also, I figure that if he was draining more that his cough would be more productive. As it is, we're performing our "this is not an ear infection developing" ceremony every 20 minutes, just to be on the safe side. Or just because we're off.

On a trip, that is--I meant "Or just because we're off on a trip."

Never mind.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

I can't help it if I'm lucky

We're winging home today, so I thought that I'd share this video that I shot on the plane on our way out to California. It's not really fair to the other parents who were on our flight on the way out that 3B was on the same flight. His calm demeanor through the entire six-hour flight made it seem as though they were doing something wrong for having a baby that cried occasionally, which isn't the case. And while it may have made us look like good parents, let me be the first to say that we have had nothing to do with the ease with which he flies. He just came that way.

If we could control how much he cries in a particular mode of transport, we wouldn't be so terrified of our upcoming drive to Boston, which will be fun if he treats it like another plane ride. However, if he treats it like another car ride, it will be like eight hours in the Psycho shower scene, and it will be one car trip that Barky will be glad he passed on to chill on his Auntie Banana's couch.

The nice grandmotherly woman who sat behind us knew what the deal was. As we were getting off the plane, she said, "What a nice baby--so pleasant. You're so lucky."

Let's just hope that our luck holds.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

3B's first Thanksgiving

My guess is that 3B was thankful that his parents weren't all up in his grill with their camera all day long. To ensure that we wouldn't have time to be fluttering shutterbugs, he kept us busy by puking or pooping his way through at least three complete outfits between noon and dinner time.

I'm sure that he was also thankful for all of his cousins, who took better care of him than we ever have, giving him all kinds of love and all kinds of lessons in DVD players, GameBoys, and IMing, to give him a good technological head start on his parents. Mama and I owe them all a huge thank you for making his visit so much fun and for making our vacation so much more relaxing.

For that, we're thankful to 3B's cousins. For all the pictures that he took of 3B while we were cleaning up after 3B, we're thankful to Brother #2. Head on over to his blog to take a gander at how 3B's first Thanksgiving (and the days before that) looked.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

What we're thankful for right now

We've had much to be thankful for this year. At the top of our list, of course, is the arrival of 3B.

However, rather than tiring you with a litany of all those people and events that we have to be thankful for from the entire year, I thought I'd give a shout out briefly to those things that we're thankful for right now:

I walk, Ergo he sleeps
Our Ergo carrier. We love it; we're thankful for it--all three of us.

California Dreamin'
All the leaves were brown and the sky was gray when we left NoVa. Out here, the sky is still gray in the mornings--burning off to beautiful, warm, sun-soaked days, but the leaves out here that aren't still green are displaying spectacular autumn colors, and the Mexican food is authentic. And big.

And for that, we're thankful.

However, Barky is thankful that we didn't box him up and pitch him into the luggage hold of a plane . . .
Walking through Whole Foods, we found this, which Barky would be thankful for, if only he were with us. Instead, he's chillin' with Auntie Banana back home.

And no, this doesn't mean we're going to start calling him Mister Barky. Or making him wear a Panama Jack hat fergoodnessake.

However, we'd be thankful if they'd recognize that Barky was the model for their product and start paying those residuals that he's due.

Mr. Barky

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just in time for Thanksgiving

Here in the States, Colonies, Estados Unidos, we're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, which we Bradsteins celebrate traditionally, gathering for a festive family dinner where we eat enough food to pop a few buttons, which we hope don't fly across the room and put someone's eye out.

Just in time for that happy cacophony, we've started 3B on solid food. Those of you who are parents know that "solid" part refers to the few rice flakes that are suspended in the several tablespoons of water in the bowl. These meals are solid as much as his solid waste is solid at this point, although much less green. Oh sorry, were you eating?

Anyway, just like it takes a village to raise a child and a nation to raise enough money for a political campaign, it takes a family to feed a child. What you can't see in this picture is the crowd gathered around 3B, restraining and soothing him while I scraped the spoon across his top gum, causing the thin gruel to run across the roof of his mouth in a beeline to his gag reflex center, causing him to pitch forward and spit the entire spoonful back out onto his chin, from where I scraped it back over his lower lip into his mouth. There was at least one aunt, two parents, and one cousin participating with another aunt documenting the event and several other relatives gathered around for moral support.

And of course, 3B was there. As you can see from his pleading expression in the picture, he enjoyed every minute of it. So while he's not quite ready to hoist a turkey leg tomorrow night, as a vegetarian, his menu doesn't include the tryptophan trip anyway. If we didn't have him on this milk and gruel regimen, 3B would be getting acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, harvest couscous, ginger snap peas, and sesame tofu.

Maybe we'll let him off the hook for one day, and then he can be thankful for the same thing that you all are: nobody's going to gag you with a spoonful of gruel. Or maybe we'll feed 3B and be thankful for the eight hours of sleep during which he doesn't move at all that result from his sating himself on a few thimblefuls of gruel.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 4

This is part 4, the final part, of the midwifery diaries. It's the original email that Mama's midwife friend sent out that inspired me to ask her if I could share her birth stories here. Unlike the previous posts, which were homebirth stories, it's a clear window into the world of a midwife working in a busy urban hospital, and I think that it's a good reminder that being a midwife doesn't only involve delivery of healthy babies to happy parents. There's a lot more to it than that.

I've gotten some comments and messages about various readers' experiences with midwives. Some of us have had good experiences, some of us have had bad experiences, and some of us have had both kinds in the same day. Each of us has gotten something different from these moments; from our experience, I was reminded that just because someone is a midwife doesn't mean that she'll automatically have a great bedside manner or a personality that's compatible to mine or Mama's.

These glimpses into the life of a midwife also remind me just how much a midwife is dealing with and prepared for when she steps into the room--be it a bedroom in a mother's house or a labor and delivery room in a hospital. Being a midwife takes compassion, perserverance, and tremendous strength, and these entries from Mama's friend has demonstrated that she has all of these characteristics as well as great courage.

In this week of thanks (here in the U.S.), I'm thankful to her for sharing this view from the other end of the bed with us, and I'm thankful that she's working as a midwife, because she's exactly the kind of person who I would want to catch our baby as he or she came into this life with us.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

I'm back from my first call at the hospital--which is where I do triage, labor, delivery, and post-partum care. It's totally different than working the health clinics doing prenatal visits--so it felt like a whole new world today--with an entirely different set of rules, parameters, clinical skills, and people to meet. Gah, I'm exhausted.

Just a little update, though--to share a little of my life as a midwife.

I did a 12-hour shift--to ease me in, as I'll normally do 24 hour shifts. I worked with another midwife (Michelle) as I will during my 2+ months of orientation. We moved nonstop from 8-3pm--not a break or moment to decompress, breathe, or eat--then got a little space, then kept moving again until I left at 8pm.

Amazingly, it was considered slow there, as we were doing lots of paperwork stuff, consults, management, pager calls. Still--for me it was intense and not slow at all.

My first woman was 21 weeks pregnant, diagnosed with a closed myelomeningocele, a neural tube defect--NTD (which can cause paralysis and lots of other problems--can be genetic or due to low folic acid consumption at conception), and was terminating the pregnancy. The fetus had already received a potassium chloride injection, which stopped its heart--and then she was receiving medication to dilate her cervix. When I got there, I checked her cervix and she was almost completely ready to push. Immediately after her water broke, Michelle and I came into the room to do the delivery; the woman pushed while we were setting up the cart, out came the fetus, which was wrapped up and taken away.

The client seemed okay--not very emotional, but I think that's more cultural expression than anything (at least from my own experience with West African culture--she's from West Africa)--and she was given some IV pain meds right before delivery--so she was also pretty out of it when things were happening. As for me, I've delivered an intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD) before--but never so early in pregnancy--so I was learning as I went along. It felt super overwhelming--but Michelle and the nurse got me through the skills and helped me when I needed help. We later examined the fetus, and it was intense to see the NTD, already obvious in its pathology at such early fetal development.

After this experience, we did rounds in post-partum and discharged a woman. We then spent a lot of time consulting on another woman I saw yesterday in the clinic--who has high blood pressure and could possibly develop preeclampsia. After much back and forth, we transferred her to our high risk docs for care.

Another woman came in at 16 weeks pregnant, bleeding profusely from her vagina--passing clots, as well. She still had a viable fetus with heart tones, and no obvious etiology for the bleeding--as she wasn't cramping or contracting, making us think she might be having a miscarriage. I did a speculum exam, saw tons of blood in the vaginal vault, and blood coming from the cervical os (the opening of the cervix). I then did a digital vaginal exam, but found her cervix to only be open a fingertip. When we ran her blood work, she was shown to be severely anemic. we consulted again with the high risk docs and transferred her to their care for a blood transfusion and to continue managing the bleeding. Still not sure what was happening--but at that point, if she were to miscarry, there was nothing we could do to stop it, so it was a lot of expectant management regarding the pregnancy.

Another woman came in with abdominal pain at 34 weeks--turns out she's an uncontrolled gestational diabetic who had been missing appointments and came late to prenatal care. Another doc consult . . . as well as my doing an exam to see if she was in pain from labor. No contractions, no bleeding, cervix was open a little, which--while not great--can be normal if she's had a baby before (which she had). She was transferred out of our care as well. I did a lot of discharge teaching her her and her husband before she left--trying to strike a fine balance between trying to create more compliance regarding her care, and not being patronizing, of the "I know what's good for you and you don't" variety.

Finally--a 23 year old came in for induction of labor due to being past her due date. she was all alone--no longer involved with the father of the baby, and didn't want any other family/friend support. Her cervix was super ripe and ready for induction--so we got that started and she responded with great contractions. All seemed well with her when I left--her last cervical exam showing good progress. Just sad to see her all alone, comforted by an epidural and the television. That's an enormous part of my job--working with people who have so little support in their lives. It's hard to not want to work miracles . . .

So, anyway--that was the day in a nutshell. Not to mention a bunch of pages to return, so many new details--where to get billing forms, how to use the computer, where the charts are kept, room codes, where the cafeteria is located, new names and faces, new politics. There were moments when I felt like melting down and just asking if I could go home--that I was done learning for the day. Other moments, when I was singing my midwife song--just so amazed that I was there, and no longer a student.

Anyway--so here i am, a midwife.

The incredible thing is how unique each day will be. Today was heavy on the abnormal--lots of high risk, and my only "birth" an IUFD. Friday (my next call) may be 5 births in a row--all lower risk, all within the realm of "normal" that I believe pregnancy and birth to be. Or maybe something i've never seen before. Who knows.

Much love.

I'm a midwife!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 3

This is part 3 of the midwifery diaries. You can read the beginning of this diary entry in part 2.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

Overall, AK and her husband were really happy. AK felt great about the birth--which made me really happy--especially given how intense she is, but I'm very upset with myself from when I was checking her vagina for tears.

She was really uncomfortable and asked me to stop. I'm so used to women being uncomfortable during that stage, that I kept going for another second just to get it over with--and her husband put his hand up and said really forcefully (and protectively) STOP! I did immediately--and then was completely mortified that I hadn't stopped a second sooner.

One of my main goals as a practitioner is to allow women to feel empowered and in control of their healthcare. I had been so focused on getting it over with that I hadn't listened to what she really needed and had disrespected her because of it. I felt totally totally awful and apologized profusely and then gave her all the time she needed. I was really aware of it afterwards and was trying to be sensitive toward AK's and her husband's interactions towards me. I wanted to ensure that they still felt comfortable--which they seemed to--so I didn't bring it up again.

I did, however, talk about it with Sally later--because it was still really bothering me. She suggested that I apologize when we went for the postpartum visit. I was worried about bringing it up again--and also about making it about my need to be forgiven, versus her need to talk about it. However, when we went, it felt right to say something. So, I said, "I just want to say that I'm sorry that I didn't listen to you completely when you asked to stop. I didn't mean to disrespect you in any way and I should have stopped when you asked me to." Her eyes got a little moist and she thanked me for apologizing and said that she didn't feel any trauma from it--and had actually really appreciated how protective her husband had been of her at that moment. She forgave me.

I was so glad I said something. I'm still angry at myself about it--because it violates everything I believe about women's healthcare. But, I'm definitely using it as a learning experience.

Part 3

The next birth was the next day – and was a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) at the hospital. No real long story from it – except that the baby was 9#12 and she didn't need stitches and she had been sectioned in the past as a prime (first baby) for malpositioned twins--so she essentially VBAC'ed a 9#12 baby as a primip without needing a repair and without any meds. I kept saying afterwards, "YOU'RE A VBAC!" And we would high five and she'd say how psyched she was to add to the statistic of women who had had VBACs. It was a fun, inspiring birth with a very beloved client. A lot of fun.

So, that was my week. Intense and long and tiring--but great and a lot of learning. I also had two days of office visits--and got do to a Spanish visit with a 70 year Peruvian woman. I'm really missing using my languages and working with immigrants and the cross-cultural piece.

Find out what a day in a busy urban hospital is like for a midwife tomorrow . . .

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 2

This is part 2 of the midwifery diaries, a series that started yesterday.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

Sally slipped the lip and AG quickly thereafter had her baby, which I caught. Beautiful, healthy, no repair. Very smooth and easy. Her whole family came it for it--and everyone was celebrating. AG, being a multip and a supermom, was quick to get up, shower, eat, and then settle down in the living room on the couch to be around everyone. She was already tandem nursing within the first 1⁄2 hour. In the meantime, her father was cooking a huge meal in the kitchen and everyone was milling around, taking it all in. I was loving all of it--having come from a large family, too--and was so excited about the upcoming meal and the festivities of the evening. I was hanging out, talking with people, soaking it in for about a half hour. And then it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't doing any work. I was totally caught up and had forgotten I was the midwife and had to do this whole postpartum thing--and that we weren't staying for dinner--we were leaving so they could HAVE dinner. It was quite a blow--and made the postpartum period a little disorganized for everyone, because I took so long to get my act together. It made me laugh, though--and certainly made me super organized with every PP after that.

That night we had another birth--which again went smoothly. Another multip (a woman who has had a baby before), at 9cm when we checked, and no problems.

The next night, I was called for another multip birth. This woman was fairly new to the practice--having just moved to the area. She (HT) is very intense and vibey. Everything has meaning to her--and her needs are very specific. I was sort of dreading her birth--only because I worried about how intense it would be for her and for us. When I got there, Sally and I gathered around her and the three of us supported her for awhile through what appeared to be an early labor.

Finally, after about an hour--she asked to be checked, though again was nervous as to what she would be. Sally and I talked about it right before I did the exam and we both agreed that it would be a blessing if she was 6cm. She had just been LCP at the office and her contractions still seemed pretty mild. So--I did the exam in the tub and felt nothing but head. I was totally put off by this--expecting her to be half that. Given the story that Sally had just told and the confusion I felt at AG's birth--I was so nervous to say she was fully. Not to mention, she is such an intense person and I DID NOT want to ruin her vibe. So, I said that I thought she was fully, but felt unsure and did Sally want to recheck? Sally said no--let's wait and see.

HT said she felt like that was higher than she expected. But then immediately after the exam her labor got super intense and she started to panic. I worried that my ambiguous exam was affecting her and tried to get her to focus on being in the present again – letting the exam go. But things had kicked up so much--and she was definitely FD, with a baby on the way. She had been laying in the tub, but got frantic as the head descended and grabbed onto us to squat.

The head came down fast and was huge when it was born. We tried to help her stay calm as much as possible--by guiding the head with her hands and by reminding her again and again that everything was normal. She was moving around a lot and I noticed that the head came out of the water for a half second before being submerged again for the birth of the body. The baby--possibly from this--was pretty stunned.

When he was born, he didn't come to right away. We got HT out of the tub immediately and onto the bed--then cut the cord and worked on stimulation. Sally then grabbed the oxygen tank and started to bag and mask the baby. It only took a few puffs--but the baby was definitely slow to come around and to get color. It was a lot of stimulation, bulb suction, then bag and mask, then stim, bulb suction, etc. But finally he came to--and then regulated without problem. It was the first homebirth resuscitation I had seen--and I learned a lot from it. I was sort of frustrated that Sally hadn't let me do more--but I also understood that you have to move fast and she wasn't thinking a lot of teaching at that moment.

Overall, AK and her husband were really happy. AK felt great about the birth--which made me really happy--especially given how intense she is, but I'm very upset with myself from when I was checking her vagina for tears.

Find out what upset her so much tomorrow . . .

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

This just in...if he feeds, it leads

3B gets the news about ZB

Last time we flew to California, I had no good news to report, except that 3B was a rock star on all of our flights. He's laughing (and now sleeping) his way back to Cali, but this time I think his good mood has been helped by the happy news that he's got a new friend--Zbaby was just born to his happy, kind, and loving parents, Zygote Daddy and Dear Wife. Although we've never met, I've gotten to know both ZD and DW through their pregnancy and ours, and they are compassionate, supportive, and creative. Zbaby is as lucky to have them as they are to have him.

All three Z's appear to be doing well, with Zbaby and Dear Wife snoozing as they should be and Z Daddy having enough time during labor and delivery to whip up a whole new blog template. Head on over and congratulate all three of them:
(I'd embed the link, but I'm sending this post in from the phone, which is why I'm a little late with the news, since we've spent all day on the go or in the air.)

We're all waiting to hear how it went and how it's going, and 3B's anxious to know how soon we can meet for a cross-country playdate.

Midwifery diaries, part 1

In late August, I wrote:

It's been a busy week for all of us for various reasons. I went back to work for the first time since 3B was born, although for only three days. On Thursday, we all took a day trip to Philadelphia to help out a friend of Mama's who is a midwife, which was our first time traveling more than five miles from our house since 3B was born.
. . .and then life intervened and I never finished the post. I was going to write about how strong and wonderful Mama's friend is, but I haven't had the chance until now. I feel that this is an appropriate time to get around to it, however, since (here in the U.S.) we're going into the week of Thanksgiving, when we traditionally look around us to find those favors, large and small, that have come into our life that we're thankful for.

Mama and I, of course, continue to be thankful for everything that 3B has brought us. Sure, appreciate the grinning good morning greetings more than the lake-of-fire diapers, but we are genuinely thankful for all of it. Of course, we wouldn't have made it this far without plenty of help, starting even before he was born. Back then, in what Dad-to-Be calls the "ante-natal" days, which we call the "prenatal" days here in the colonies, also referred to as "back when I had a brain," we wrung every bit of information we could out of our midwives.

And when it came time for birth, we had one dud midwife, but the rest of them were wonderful partners. Although she wasn't with us for 3B's birth, Mama's midwife friend is just such a person, and then some. We're thankful to have her in our lives, and that we get to visit with her the week after Thanksgiving. We'd love it if you all could meet her, but we figured it would be bad manners to invite you to come with us to her house, so I'm going to do the next best thing and invite you into her world--the world of a midwife.

The world of mommyblogs and dadblogs is full of birth stories, including my unfinished tale, but I found it fascinating to read birth stories told from the other end of the bed, from a midwife's perspective. After her first day at work in a hospital, Mama's friend sent out an account of her whole 12 hour shift. Just reading it exhausted me. I immediately asked her if I could share part or all of it here and she thoughtfully replied
My only concern is that most people who aren't familiar with birth tend to pathologize the process and rely on medical interventions very heavily, rather than trusting that it's a normal process that can deviate from normal more rarely than is seen and discussed in this culture. So--my concern is that my email was from a day that was heavy on pathology and light on normal labor and birth.
She offered to share some journal entries from some of her more normal, pre-hospital days, when she was in midwife school. I'm going to start with those, so you can get a sense of what normal days are like for a midwife before moving on to the hospital day, which as she says, was full of "many non-birth related things," but which also showed just how much midwives have to be prepared for--not just, as she says, normal labor and birth.

I'll spread these out over a few days, so it's not so much reading all at once, and I'll pass along any comments to her, since I think she's probably still too busy to read our blog regularly. I hope that you enjoy this visit to the world of a midwife, and that you parents out there remember to give thanks this week to all those who supported you during pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

It was one hell of a week--four births in three days and I am tired. They were all fabulous births, however. The first made me laugh--not because of the birth, but because of the postpartum period. The woman (AG) laboring is so fabulous and sweet and I have been really looking forward to supporting her during her birth. She has this incredible family--one of her sisters also had a homebirth with Kathy and Sally, her other sister was going to a birth center, but had a precip birth and AG caught her baby at home for her. AG does childbirth education. She embodies kindness and love, as does her husband. Her whole family was planning on being at her birth and it just sounded like fun (for us, anyway).

She had a long latent phase (about 2 days of irregular contractions) and finally hit a point where she needed us there. When we arrived, she was just getting out of the tub and it was obvious that she was well into active phase and soon to deliver. She was nervous about being checked because she didn't want it to be a discouragement, but after a time, she felt like she wanted to know where she was. It was interesting, because Sally was heading into the other room and I asked her if she wanted to be there while I checked her and she said, no, she knew I could do it. I said, yeah, it's not hard. Then I put my fingers inside her and had no idea what I was feeling. Well, not exactly--but I couldn't immediately find her cervix and, intuitively, I knew that she could not be long, closed, and posterior (LCP) from the way she was laboring. I didn't want to dig around looking for it--because her own childbirth education knowledge would tell her she wasn't dilated. I didn't want to say she was LCP because it sounded so awful and discouraging. But, her cervix wasn't immediately obvious to me--which was distressing.

So, I took my hand out and said I wasn't sure what I was feeling and I wanted Sally to check instead. So, Sally did and she was fully dilated (FD) with a bulging bag of water (BBOW) and a slight lateral lip. What I thought was anterior vaginal wall was the BBOW and I hadn't recognized it. AG broke into tears she was so excited and I sort of burned up with embarrassment. I couldn't believe I didn't recognize that--especially after I had been so confident about it to Sally only minutes earlier. Later--when we talked about it--Sally was really supportive, telling me it was great that I recognized that I didn't know and asked for help. She recounted a story about a student who checked a woman and said she was FD and encouraged her to push. Quite awhile later--after no apparent progress/descent--the student checked again and turned bright red in the face. Apparently her first check had been wrong and her cervix was only 6cm dilated. I suppose this made me feel better--but it is still awful to make mistakes and to be so unsure--especially in such intense moments as labor and during such invasive things as a cervical check. I know I'm allowed mistakes--but it doesn't make them feel any better when they happen. And--ugh--LCP versus FD? Seems pretty obvious, no?

Anyway--that wasn't the part that made me laugh (obviously).

Find out what made her laugh tomorrow . . .

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Don't Kick the Bouncy Seat--Sparring with 3B

What cosleeping is like . . . except in the Bradstein household, where
you'd have to replace that man with Mama. She's the black belt.

We didn't start off cosleeping, but that's how we've ended up, although after nights like last night, we wonder if it's the best way to go. Last night nobody except 3B got enough sleep, although we're not sure how he managed to sleep through the Tae-Bo workout he was throwing down. Mama said it feels like she went 15 rounds with him, and as a second-dan, she knows what she's talking about.

Last night started typically and innocently enough, with 3B getting sleepy and a little fussy while we ate dinner. Then Mama took a shower and started drawing a bath for him while I entertained him to keep him from a full meltdown. (Note: Bouncing an 18-pound baby on your stomach has its effects--but you won't feel them if you don't need to sit up, bend over, stand upright, or breathe during the following 24-hour period.) 3B was fine through the bath and as I dressed and swaddled him for bed and then while Mama nursed him to sleep as I answered email and pecked out a blog post on the sloooow laptop in the living room.

After nursing 3B on one side, Mama came out, enjoyed a brownie with me, settled in on the couch next to me, had a nice conversation, leaned over for a kiss . . . and that's when the fussing started. For the next hour or so, I tried to comfort 3B by lying next to him, walking with him, swaying him, bouncing him, singing, not singing, laying him on my chest, laying him down by himself, all to the not so soothing accompaniment of his mewling, squirming, and--for brief intervals--crying.

Eventually, Mama came in and tried nursing him on the other side. Usually this knocks him out and he then lays, tightly and safely swaddled, between us during the night. We have a king size bed so there's plenty of room and no risk of rolling over on the little bean.

When we first brought him home, Mama would do this--nursing him in bed--then we would try transferring him to his bassinet next to the bed, but that movement was always just enough to wake him up. Nothing seemed to work to prevent awakening him--we had him swaddled, we kept the room quiet, we didn't jostle him, we lay him down as slowly and carefully as our lower back muscles would allow, we would hover over him so he could feel us still holding him as he lay in his bassinet . . . and he would wake every time.

OK, and there was the one time when we got him down and as we were leaving the room, I warned Mama to "be sure not to kick the bouncy seat," then proceeded to smack into our desk chair, which slapped against our keyboard, toppling the crap stack on the edge of our desk into our empty plastic garbage can--the whole Goldberg cacophony being topped off by Mama's Blackberry slapping down on the only patch of our wooden floor not covered by carpet in our whole room. Now, whenever I caution her about something or give her unsolicited advice, she just glares at me and says, "Don't kick the bouncy seat."

Eventually, we gave up on moving him to his bassinet so that we could get some sleep, and after doing some reading on cosleeping to ensure that we weren't putting him in some sort of peril, we decided to continue cosleeping. Last night was no exception, but after nursing and drifting off, 3B never stopped bucking, kicking, and punching, even when swaddled. Mama eventually evacuated to the bed in his room so I could get some sleep before work today. It seems that we'll need to get the boy some little sparring gloves and booties and add sparring pads to our nighttime wardrobe if we're going to keep cosleeping.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Natty Bumbo

In his new seat, 3B feels almost as grown up
as the original (sort of) Natty Bumpo.

3B just got this early Hanukkah gift--a Bumbo seat. You think he likes it?

We also just got the Ergo Carrier that we ordered, which comes with a DVD that looks like it was designed by Uli from Project Runway, with its teal and turquoise and Bondi blue and gold sparkles, and directed by Christopher Guest. I've only worn it briefly, but it's so comfortable, I think that I might use it to carry Barky on walks. Really, it's that good. And really, at almost 18 pounds at 15 weeks, 3B weighs almost as much as Barky.

And, according to the scenes shown on the DVD, it's great for doing all kinds of things with your baby strapped to your ass--uh--back:
  • dancing in the surf
  • long, barefoot walks on the beach
  • standing under waterfalls
  • practicing spinning hook kicks in your kitchen
  • going to the local co-op with your crocheted hemp bag to buy organic, hand-pressed tofu
  • dressing up like a druid and roaming the earth like Caine from Kung Fu (whoever designed that shapeless blob of cloth should be pelted with pincushions hurled by Tim Gunn)
Even if the Ergo Carrier sucked, I would still tell you to get it, just to see the DVD, but it's such a comfortable, easy-to-use carrier, you should get it and consider the DVD a bonus entertainment feature.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hump Day Quickies

A 404 is slower than the 405
This is one of the reasons I switched to the new Blogger Beta this week, which unfortunately means that I can't comment on Blogger blogs that haven't switched to the Beta version (although they say that capability is coming real soon):

Lettuce Entertain You
All the world is a stage, as a few someones have observed. This is most true for The Rock since we got him his shiny new winter palace, which features an elevated stage (although it lacks a rotating turntable, like the Circle Star had):

OK, it's not a complete winter palace, but we also didn't have to get our mug shots taken to buy it, so I figure that we've come out ahead. It is smaller than his summer mansion, which we keep on the balcony and which we used to bring inside in the winter. But we don't have room for the summer manse inside anymore, however, with the 63 bouncy seats, exercise mats, and swings that we have scattered throughout the house. Although it lacks a heated driveway, the winter palace is a split-level. So far, The Rock has set up the top level for dining and the bottom as his bedroom with a built in swimming pool. We're still working on the shag carpeting.

Rapacious Vultures
Speaking of carpeting, here's another business that is set up to prey on survivors of the recently deceased. Unlike the source of the previous solicitation, they do offer an opt-out clause and this does seem to be a legitimate business with accoutrements like a proofreader, an office, and a website. But just because they are legitimate doesn't mean that I don't consider them to be rapacious vultures, and just because they have a small website doesn't mean that they're not a big enough target for some Google carpetbombing.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You don't need a weatherman. . .

My grief lies all within,
And these external manners of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.
There lies the substance.
King Richard, in Richard II, act 4, sc. 1, l. 295-9.
--William Shakespeare
Grief is formless, ever-changing, and ephemeral, like the wind. But it is also solid, like the wind. And just as a steady wind can wear a hole in the ground, so can grief wear away at a person's flesh until there's nothing left but a heart rattling around in a cage of bones, bumping out its rhythm, inaudible under the whistling of the wind. It appears nowhere in my life, but it presses against me at every turn, fatiguing me in every motion, making me labor to complete the simplest of tasks.

I haven't really wanted to write much about it here, and I still don't. I don't want to get bogged down in it. I want to--need to--get on with my life. If I can keep moving, I know that eventually grief will tire of the chase, although the escape will exhaust me until then. And this time I'm not scared to lose the grief; I'm not scared that if I'm no longer sad, I'll no longer remember Mom; I know that as soon as I lose the grief, I'll be free to see her as I did when she was alive, unencumbered by melancholy.

To avoid the quicksand of melancholy, I remind myself of all the small favors for which I have to be thankful--that she lived so long, so full, so happy a life; that I got to share with her my greatest joys and know her comfort in my deepest sorrows; and that she is so deeply rooted in me that she will never leave me, wherever I may roam. I also have 3B to pull me back from the gaping maw of bleak, self-pitying contemplation--he needs me here to hold him, talk to him, and sway him to sleep. He needs me here so that he can, as Mom would say, "get on with his life," which reminds me to get on with my life--to not let the shrieking winds of grief push me, running, before them, but to turn my tiller and tack against them, beating into the formless currents that whistle around me and slice across my skin.

And so, as he creates his own life with each soft, shallow breath, 3B also breathes life into me, giving me strength and direction--and that's no small favor.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Who do you love?

If you can't be with the one you love . . .

He's short, fat, and mostly bald; he poops, pees, and barfs on us; he kicks our stomachs and punches our faces when we try to sleep; he screams like a banshee with a paper cut on its lip for no apparent reason; in spite of all of that, we love 3B.

Last night we thought that he was returning that love by gazing lovingly in our direction from his bouncy seat as we ate dinner at the coffee table. We've been eating there more often because the dining room table is frequently taken over by his new portable swing (California, here we come!), piles of laundry, dying houseplants, and so on. It has the added benefit of allowing us turn on the TV for three and a half minutes to see if the world outside our condo still exists. Sure, we can always look at the window and confirm that the local mall of disrepute, home to the wreath that ate Cincinnati and an As Seen on TV store, is still standing, but did Montana secede from the Union after waking up and discovering that they'd elected a Democrat? (I picture the entire state screaming, "It was just supposed to be just for one night!")

Yes, the As Seen on TV store still carries the BeDazzler--and now, Urine Gone!

So there we were, watching a recorded episode of The Office or something, when we noticed 3B's gummy grin and adoring gaze shining in our direction. Our gaze had been drawn by the silence--his devotion was so complete that he was almost completely still, setting off none of the boop-boop, beep-beep, zoop-zoop sounds in his bouncy seat that react to his every stomp and flail. We marvelled at how cute he was, how adoring he was, how he didn't react to our smiles at all . . . hey, waitaminnit . . .

I got up and looked at the scene from his perspective. Turns out 3B was transfixed by the photo of Rachel Ray on the back of the Triscuits box. Just to check, I picked up the box and moved it around the room; he followed it with his gaze everywhere I took it. So, take your pick . . .

3B has learned to
  • recognize two-dimensional images
  • develop attachments to objects
  • objectify women

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The shyster survives

"Shyster" is one of Mama's favorite names for Barky, which has turned out to be appropriate this weekend, although "pisser" is more appropriate of late.

Thanks to everyone for your concern, questions, and tips about Barky's recent adventure. They were chocolate brownies, and Mama did call the vet first thing. The vet asked the standard questions--this isn't our first parade--for chocolate poisoning, such as his weight, how much he ate, and so forth and said that he'll be OK. We would just need to make sure that he got a bland diet and plenty of water through the weekend, which we've done.

This isn't new to us. The first time we went through it--when we panicked, not only calling the vet, but Googling our brains out before deciding that he'd live--was on tax day a few years back, when the little shyster got into a package of chocolate cookies, which had a much higher sugar content than the brownies, apparently. After we dropped off our taxes at the post office at midnight, we stood in the dog park for an hour trying to stay awake while Barky sprinted laps around the perimeter of the park.

When he finally came down enough to trot over to get some water and see if we were still there, we clicked him into his leash and dragged his happy ass home, where he sat up all night, watching the Animal Planet, Lassie reruns, and our entire DVD collection of old Snoopy TV specials. When he wasn't outside scheissing, that is. It was strange living with a perky beagle for a few days, and strange to buy chicken to boil for his bland diet. Boiling it took me back to the days when I would parboil chicken in beer before barbequeing it--a trick I learned from my friend's dad in high school. It made for some tasty chicken, but when I was boiling chicken for Barky, after years of being a vegetarian, all I noticed was what a nasty mess chicken made everywhere it went.

This time we just mixed the rice in with his dog food, being too lazy and not being concerned enough about his survival to buy chicken. Before you carnivores out there get your knickers in a twist about how rough the mutt must have it in a veggie household, rest assured that his food is full of meat--or what passes for meat in dog food, anyway--and that his favorite treats are rawhides. Like brownies, rawhides make him into a water-chugging shyster, but unlike brownies, they aren't toxic.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Brothers in letters

A little housekeeping is way overdue here at the Bradstein Household blog (and in our actual household, although Mama did vacuum, brush Barky, clean the bathroom and kitchen, and run 68 loads of laundry, but that's another issue).

It dates back to 3B's birthday, when I pecked out a few hurried posts along the way as we went from contractions to labor to delivery and on into shameless cooing, ogling, and bragging. Unbeknownst to us, being a bit distracted at the time, there were those among you loyal six readers who spread the news farther and wider than we could imagine by posting updates, announcements, and congratulations to your readers.

In fact, because we've been a bit too busy to read all the blog posts that we missed around the time of 3B's birthday, that was unbeknownst to us until a little while ago, when I was signing up for Technorati (I know . . . welcome to the 20th century, Papa), and I found some of these posts.

First, I want to say that we're touched by your supportive words. Second, I want to offer my apologies for not reading more closely and finding these earlier. Third, let me offer a few explanations to my cousin, who I'm sure we disappointed by not posting more frequently. It wasn't for lack of trying, it was for lack of a steady cell signal at most times that we wanted to post, and for lack of Blogger working at the other times.

He wrote that he was in front of his computer, refreshing frequently to find out when the baby was born, but I can't imagine that's entirely true, he's far too busy with scout troops, fishing boats, and programming for that.

We've become much busier ourselves since 3B's arrival, which is perhaps why I didn't notice these posts until recently. In spite of that, I find myself checking a few blogs here in the U.S. and abroad regularly for updates so I don't miss the transition from expectant parent to parent, as I recently did while we were in California, when a particular sprog arrived a bit early.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Barky attempts death by chocolate

For those of you who aren't reading all the mom, dad, and expert parenting advice blogs, you might not be aware of the recent surge in coverage--uh, so to speak--of the diaper free baby movement. The premise of this movement is that

As a culture we have been taught to ignore the signals babies give when they need to eliminate.
This has led us to need diapers, and has caused all of the ecological horror that is entailed in their use. If we would just pay close attention to our children, we could avoid the use of diapers and relieve the world of tons of trash.

Mama, when she first heard of this, was enthralled with the idea right up until I asked if she was willing to set the kid loose, bare-assed, at her Grandma's house. Not so much. (To be fair, it turns out that even the most devout DFB proponents use diapers in certain circumstances.)

As we looked more closely at DFB, we found that there are, as Emily Bazelon points out, other ramifications of this seemingly simple technique:

Diapers are crucial labor-savers. They save time—chiefly women's time. A child who wears disposable diapers is a child whose diapers need not be washed, rinsed, or soaked. More radically, she is a child who can be easily handed off to someone else. Changing diapers is no one's favorite thing, but it's fast, unfussy, and part of the job description of most nannies and many day-care teachers.

Taking off a baby's diapers, on the other hand, means taking a giant step in the opposite direction.
However, that's not to say that there aren't excellent reasons for raising diaper-free babies in various places. DFB proponents note that in many countries, babies run around either bare from the waist down or with split pants that open when they squat down. This allows them to quickly do their business over any nearby hole in the ground. Such holes are, apparently, a feature common to many of the villages that these babies live in.

Not so much here in Northern Virginia, especially not up here on the seventh floor of our building, where we live. I'm pretty sure the folks on the sixth floor are glad about that.

Another issue about DFB that didn't occur to us until after 3B arrived was the fluid nature of his diaper contents. While the photos on the DFB websites all show glowing women cradling grinning babies over sparkling white bowls, I'm pretty sure those are all Before photos. Having had the misfortune of witnessing firsthand one of 3B's bowel movements while he was uncovered during a diaper change, I'd be surprised if anybody is smiling or clean in the Aftermath photos, because when the shit hit the pan, it would go everywhere.

OK, if you've made it this far, I think it's time to get to the subject at hand . . . Did someone mention loose stools? the hickory-licorice squirts? the skitters? Oh, I did. How convenient, because that's what Barky's filling our weekend with after attempting death by chocolate yesterday.

Mama had spent a nice afternoon in DC, having lunch with her ex-boss, when she returned home and found an empty 8 x 8 glass baking pan in the middle of the living room and this in the kitchen:

She ran through the house to find Barky waking up on our bed--fortunately, since that empty pan she found had been on the butcher block counter, full of brownies when she left. And that footstool? It had been over in our dining room when she left.

Yes, Barky pushed it into the kitchen, over the threshold between the two rooms, up against the counter, so he could pull that pan down. So now, even though 3B is sleeping through most of the night, we have been taking our clever beagle outside every two hours for the last 24 hours to do that which a pan of brownies causes him to do. Here I am, out walking after midnight . . .

All of this has led me to stop laughing so hard at this product:

It's not quite a hole in the floor, but maybe we could get a two-for-one bonus if we could get 3B to use it too. Hey, before you call me that, think of all the diapers we'll save.

You think that Grandma will let us set one up in her living room?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Père, qui ne dort pas

This past Sunday's New York Times Travel section has an article on photographers who focused on Paris, which includes this caption: "Avenue des Gobelins" (1925) by Eugene Atget, who documented city shops."

"Documented city shops"? That's akin to saying Ansel Adams documented big rocks.

The article doesn't say much more about Atget, other than that he liked photographing doorways. Perhaps I'm biased because I live in the U.S., where Atget's photos were initially presented as art rather than mere documentation, which is how they were viewed in his native France, but I think that the omission of his influence on surrealists and filmmakers ignores the legacy of Atget's work.

It's arguable that his photos inspired the cinematography of Paris qui Dort, one of my favorite films, and possibly even that of Chris Marker's La Jetee, which is the film and story that Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys is based on. Atget's sublime photos are beautiful for their multilayered view of a scene: the still life of the mannequins within the store; the still life of the vacant street reflected in the window glass; the shining, still surface of the window glass itself--which mirrors the glass plates that Atget used to capture whole these scenes, trapping them to reproduce at a later time, when the mannequins had been moved and the street had filled with bustling crowds.

While I cannot say that Atget's photos have inspired me to great works, they do float half-submerged through the waters of my memory. They lead me to see the world around me in a different light and to reflect on scenes of urban desolation as enlightening, ephemeral, enchanting wonderlands that reflect us, their inhabitants, most clearly in the brief midnight moments when we are gone.

Atget Lanes

At times, I foolishly try to capture parts of that feeling in images--the emptiness and simplicity
that fill those times and places that nobody inhabits, such as the streets around here before dawn, when I'm out walking Barky.

Three Blind Mice

During the day, we could have to wait five minutes to cross the busy streets, but when we're out in the morning, we could walk down the center of the street for five minutes and never see a soul.


Any attempt of mine to capture those feelings is a fool's errand, however, because it inevitably ends with a series of frames that does nothing more than document the locations that I pass through, rather than capture the feelings of those places and transport them through space and time, as do Atget's photos.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beans with garlic, porcupines with splinters

A little while back, Laid-Off Dad, that bucolic slacker, shared some good advice from E. B. White for fathers. It got me to thinking about my favorite advice from poets, and some of my favorite poets, and then it got me to thinking about my Dad, who might well be responsible for this blog, even though he died over 20 years ago.

When I was younger, I didn't even know that poets existed. I didn't really understand that there were writers. All I knew is that there were words in books, and that I wanted more than anything to understand the stories that they told. I would read anything. Often, I got lost in books. When I started to look up one subject in our World Book encyclopedia set, I would follow every "See" and "See also" reference until I would have half the set off the shelf, open in front of me, and I would be skipping between volumes, piecing together the solutions to the great mysteries of life.

I was young, so I didn't realize that someone, or several someones, had written all of those words, in addition to all the stories that I would devour at any time I could. But that all changed one afternoon in the local library when I found the complete written works of Bob Dylan.

Suddenly, I knew that people wrote all of those words, and that those people were real, three-dimensional, living, breathing, yearning, aching, loving, failing, laughing people. And I knew that I wanted to be like them. I went home that night and I spun out two perfect--or so I thought at the time--poems that spread over several pages. They got a somewhat tepid reaction . . . from others, that is.

Me, I was hooked. All through high school and college I spent hours writing. Mostly poetry, some plays, and even some short film scripts for some art school students. None of it was that good, but it filled my needs.

All that time, I continued reading most anything that I could find, with the possible exception of most of the books assigned in my classes, as my instructors will surely attest to. Something about reading being assigned caused it to lose its lustre, as did many things did after my Dad died in my junior year of high school. I found solace in my writing, and one day I discovered why, while reading Bukowski.

His poem "Beans with Garlic" is the clearest explanation I can find of why I write. That last line--"get this down"--is the best advice I've ever gotten about writing. Now that I'm a bit older, and I've realized the value of an editor, I might amend that to "get this down, then have someone look over it."

This is why I quickly chose "Beans with Garlic" when I received an assignment to read a certain number of lines of great poetry in a poetry writing course, but I was still a few lines short. Digging through my books, I found a tiny volume entitled "Beastly Poetry." It was a collection of Ogden Nash poems about animals that I had gotten as a birthday present from my Dad at some point.

A late birthday present, apparently, since the envelope that it came in was inscribed with his sprawling, southpaw cursive, "H.B. (late)." Inside the cover, he inscribed my name, then signed his. Next to his signature, Mom added hers. Usually, it was vice versa, with Dad adding his signature. This was clearly a gift from Dad, as Mom confirmed later. Turns out Dad loved Ogden Nash, which makes sense. Dad loved good writing, loved reading, and loved a good laugh.

As I flipped through the thin volume to pick a poem to close out my assignment, I began to wonder when I had gotten this gift. There's no date anywhere on it, not even in the copyright notice. I must have been fairly young, because I have no recollection of receiving it. This made me wonder, was this the seed from which my desire to write poetry later sprung? Had my Dad planted the seed that led me to live in a world of words? Or, depending on your perspective, doomed me to a life of confusion?

There's certainly no way to tell now if it was he who pushed me off the cliff, or if I jumped all by myself, or if perhaps he saw me plummeting, and gave me this small parachute.

Whatever it was that inspired him to get it for me, I'm grateful that he did. If he had never given it, I might have never known what made him laugh, but now every time I open it, I feel like I have a new opportunity to know him again. Sometimes it's hard for me to read it, because I'm confronted anew by my loss, like tonight when I read the Porcupine:

Any hound a porcupine nudges
Can't be blamed for harboring grudges.
I know one hound that laughed all winter
At a porcupine that sat on a splinter.
I wanted to call him and laugh about Barky's latest exploits. Fortunately, none of them involve porcupines, but the little hound does do some funny things. Of course, I couldn't.

But I can still clearly recall the sound of Dad's laughter ringing out, as I imagine it did when he read these poems. And that's a gift that I'll never lose or forget.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rock and roll, kootchie koo

3B, waiting for Papa to leave, so he can roll onto his back again

Is there anything that MetroDad doesn't know?

Apparently not.

After I wrote about 3B rolling over for the first time, MD wrote
Watch out. From here on in, all those physical milestones will be happening very quickly. Exciting times.
So true, so true, MD. Yesterday, 3B rolled from his stomach to his back for the first time, so now he can roll himself from back to front and back again as he wishes. Just like the first time he rolled from his back to his stomach, he only went from his stomach to his back once, but we can see that he's practicing, building up skills to locomote around the house like a runaway log on a 22-degree slope.

I suppose this means that we'd better get some closet doors sometime soon, eh? Or, maybe we should just move all the WMDs up one shelf?

I'd post some video of the amazing event, but the kid always seems to wait for me to walk out of the room to make it to these milestones, and then never repeats them while I'm looking. I should expect as much, since Mama is still clearly the favorite parent. He tolerates me fairly well, although if I want to get a smile for a picture, I still have to call in the ringer. As soon as Mama walks into the room and says something--anything, it could be "Ack. Gah. Thhppbbbt."--3B busts out the gummy grin.

There are some things I can do to amuse him, however, like swing him back and forth, singing "Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock." in my best Barry Gibb falsetto. Being his dad, and loving to see him laugh, I do this until my arms have the strength of wet noodles and my shoulders feel like they've been stretched on the rack. Tonight when I was at that point, Mama came in the room and said, "Do it again. I want to see." Sure, my rotator cuffs felt like they'd been through a wood chipper, but I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to prove that I, too, could make our son laugh, so up he went, into the air. Back and forth, forth and back--"Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock." Nothing.

Then much straining, and then boredom again. And then me, desperate to make him laugh, with the glass-shattering falsetto "Did you poop? Did you pee?"

Aha! At that second question, a spark of recognition and a twinge of a grin, so I ask again, "Did you pee?" The grin becomes a smile. "Did you pee? Did you pee? Did you pee? Pee? Pee?" At this point, Barky is looking for a pillow to bury his ears under to escape my Barry Gibb on helium screech, but 3B is laughing up a storm, and I'm having the time of my life making him laugh.

It's only when we're done that I realize I've spent half an hour singing, "Pee. Pee. Pee. Pee. Pee. Pee." to 3B. Exciting times, indeed.

And when is it that the parents start to reach some developmental milestones?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Yellow Fever

It's fall, which reminds me of the beautiful aspens in Colorado, painting whole landscapes a brilliant yellow. Yellow reminds me of all the mornings we spent on the U Street Metro platform in the first year or so that we lived in this area, waiting for our train--the Green Line, which shares a track with the Yellow Line at that point--and singing, "Yeah, they were all yellow."

Here in the condo gulch on the west end of suburbia, I was out walking Barky, remembering Brewfest in Colorado and Ben's Chili Bowl dinners in our first home in this area. It's not exactly like either Colorado or DC here, but it's still all yellow.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Surviving babysitting, naps, and Poopapalooza

I'm glad to report that everything went well with the babysitting--from our perspective, anyway. We didn't feel the least bit nervous, likely due to our complete trust in our friends, D&D. Mama and I had a great time at the symphony--although neither of us were too taken with the Chopin, we loved the Prokofiev and the Ellington--and came home to a happy baby and good friends.

Our good friends D&D, seem to have had a good time with 3B, although he was as much of a mystery to them as he often is to us: do you want your bouncy seat? swing? exercise mat? someone to hold you? a clean diaper? some food? They all seem to have gotten on quite well, however, which isn't surprising since D&D brought a guitar and serenaded him with a medley of hits like his recent favorite, "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

I know, I know, but lemme explain . . . 3B doesn't actually like the recorded version of the song itself, but he does like the tagline when we sing it to him--specifically, the "woof, woof, woof, woof" part. Actually, only that part. And for the record, we don't ever listen to it, but we do sing it to Barky on a somewhat regular basis, and at some point we noticed 3B cracking up at the "woof, woof, woof, woof" part. Either 3B already has lousy taste in music, or he's already laughing at ours.

Other than driving us to the symphony, however, I appear to have done little this weekend. While Mama has--in addition to caring for 3B--cleaned the entire house--including the bathroom and kitchen, vacuumed everything except the dog, and washed-dried-folded untold loads of laundry, I have

  • taken two long midday naps
  • retrieved the Sunday NYTimes and fallen asleep reading it
  • survived Poopapalooza (final tally: one onesie, one pair pants, one changing table pad cover, one poopy foot, three poopy hands--two of them mine, a handful of burp diapers, untold wipes, and--somehow--only two diapers)
  • discovered dried poop on my hand half an hour later
  • written this blog post
If you ever hear me refer to myself as a "working parent," slap me.

p.s. To s@bd--we called home at intermission too. You know, just in case they had any questions.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

We're leaving 3B

What was it, you ask? One too many diapers filled with pungent, viscous, green goo? One too many stomps on Papa's squishy bits while standing on his lap? The shift from random grasping to conscious depilatory digital attacks on the back of the neck, the chest, and the head--where Papa has precious little to give up?

It was none of those. It's our night to go to the symphony, so our good friends D&D are coming over to look after the little bean. We're hoping that he doesn't display the aforementioned behaviors too often in the few short hours that he'll be with them. We're also hoping that we can tear ourselves away from 3B, since the only other time we've both been separated from him was during my reunion--yes, I know that I still owe you a post about that--when we handed him off to my sister, who has two kids of her own.

My fear isn't for what D&D will do, but for what 3B will do while they're here. With my sister, I pretty much knew that whatever he could dream up, she would have seen, dealt with, or at least heard about--as it was, he sacked out on her chest on the couch--but D&D are in pretty much the same boat that we were in a few short months ago. You know, back when we thought there was no way that sleep would actually come only in two-hour increments, or that we would actually be able to function for weeks at a time on nothing more than extended catnaps interspersed with screaming poopfests. You know, back when the thought of our beautiful little boy peeing all over his own face would have startled us. Now we just keep that coffee flowing for ourselves and wipe off his face and give him a big smile because we know that he not only doesn't know where the pee came from and what it is, but also he won't remember it happening as soon as he starts smiling.

Yeah, we're now bad parents. No biscuit.

But back to D&D . . . what do we warn them about? What don't we dare tell them about? How do we get ourselves away from the baby and out the door?

Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Mulligan--Not the Mike and his steam shovel kind

One of my favorite books as a kid--OK, it's probably still in my top 25--was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, which may be the reason that I liked The Lost Language of Cranes so much, but this isn't about that kind of mulligan.

This is about the golf kind of mulligan--the second chance. I'm announcing that I'm giving myself a second chance at something that I told nobody I was trying and that I failed at after only 48 hours: blopping.

I don't have anything to lose by failing, since I didn't enter my name and URL for all the prizes they're giving away. I didn't want the prizes, I just wanted to see if I could do it. The answer, after two days: No. No, I can't do it.

And here's why . . .

To help 3B sleep better and more regularly, we've been trying to follow a pattern every night, so he knows when it's time to go to sleep. We were thinking of going with bath-book-boob-bed, but we've never gotten book worked in quite right, so it's pretty much bath-boob-bed, and last night was no exception.

Mama nursed him to sleep in our bed, then left him lying there as she snuck out to the living room, in hopes that we could maybe eat some ice cream and have a laugh or two before we both crashed. After about fifteen minutes, however, before we could get started on our plans, 3B was startled awake by something: a burp, a fart, a dream . . . who knows? He let us know that this displeased him by escalating immediately to a sustained shriek, skipping right past pitiful sobs.

By this time, however, Mama was in the midst of a few things in the kitchen, and she hadn't gotten her ice cream yet, so even though I was about two lines away from finishing the post that made half of my six loyal readers hate me, I hustled back to the little screaming bean. I was anxious to get him back to sleep since he hadn't slept all day, even though he'd been busy with a trip to see his newborn friend Luther. I curled up next to him, rolling him on his side to face me with his head on my bicep so he could suck on the shoulder of my shirt, which soothes him. I draped my hand over his back to keep him up against me, on his side, facing me, for warmth and comfort, then I started watching the screen saver flip through our photo collection.

After a few minutes of this, 3B was sound asleep again and I was starting to drift off. I struggled to stay awake, thinking about how I had to finish my post to successfully blop, how I really wanted some ice cream, and how Mama and I have so little time to talk to each other every day, which makes me enjoy our evenings alone together even more. And then I looked down at little 3B, who I had rolled onto his back, slightly away from me, but with his head still on my arm.

I knew that if I pulled my arm away, no matter how carefully, there was about a 50 percent chance that he'd wake up and I'd have to start the whole process again. Looking at him, I started to compare the importance of those other tasks with the importance of 3B: successful blopping or a happy, well-rested 3B? So I turned my gaze back to our screen saver and drifted off. And when I woke up this morning and saw Mama and 3B still slumbering, I knew that I was an unsuccessful blopper, but a satisfied father.

And that's why I'm giving myself a mulligan.

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