I Am Not Sad About Weaning

From when JQ was six months old.
From when JQ was six months old.

The baby quit nursing three months ago and I don’t feel sad.

With my daughter, nursing was hard. We couldn’t find a rhythm. My nipples bled through my shirt. Every time she latched it felt like glass rubbing on my skin. I was told the pain would go away. But it never really did. So, at three months, when she quit for the bottle, I didn’t push it. I eagerly embraced that breast pump and my freedom. It’s weird to call pumping freedom, because it’s the opposite. It’s being attached to a giant white machine that makes a sound that your tired brain thinks could be BOB HOOOOPPPEE BOB HOOOOPPPEE over and over. It means always having it with you. Along with cold packs, refrigerator access and clean bottles. It means hiding away for 20-30 minutes 5-10 times a day. But at least I wasn’t bleeding. When she was nine months old, I got the stomach flu and lost my ability to juggle motherhood, a job, a baby and a pumping schedule. Or maybe, I just realized that motherhood doesn’t have to be martyrdom. So, I bought formula and packed the pump away. I had few regrets.*

When JQ was born, I freaked out. I had to make nursing work. There was no way I could parent a two-year-old and keep track of a baby while pumping. It was either nursing or formula. In the hospital, when I felt that familiar pain of cutting glass on my nipples and I thought, Oh no, here we go again, I began crying. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I said to Dave. He just gave me a hug. What else can you do when your wife is bleeding from her nipples?

When JQ was a week old, I got mastitis. I didn’t know it was mastitis. I just knew I was in pain. The lactation consultant had seen me that day and declared me fine as I peppered her with questions about latching and cuts and pain. “You’ll toughen up,” she said. Later that day, my mom came to visit and found me feverish on the floor of the living room. Sobbing, I lifted up my shirt. “Go to the doctor,” she said.

I didn’t toughen up. I got antibiotics. A friend gave me a cream that helped my cuts heal and I muddled through. Then, I was there. Nursing wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t searing pain either. I wasn’t yelling swear words while the baby ate and making my daughter cry. So, progress. I’d made it.

But then he wouldn’t take a bottle.  It’s a cosmically cruel joke to have one kid who won’t breastfeed and another who won’t take the bottle. It felt like punishment for whatever parenting sins I had made before. Nothing worked. I would leave the house to go grocery shopping and 30 minutes later get a call from Dave asking me, very politely when I thought I would be home. I could hear the baby screaming in the background. I did a lot of crying myself. I had quit my jobs so I could be with my kids. The cruel calculations of income and childcare didn’t pan out in my favor. And here I was, now, drowning in the sea of everyone’s needs. The baby wouldn’t let go of me. The toddler wouldn’t stop licking my shins.

Even my few stolen moments were short, because the baby would cry and the boobs would come out. Every part of me, mentally and physically, had been colonized by others. My hair wasn’t washed. No time between morning feedings and the toddler waking. My hands were dry and cracking from endless diaper changes and butt wipes. My knees were red from kneeling by the potty and they ached from the endless hours I sat cross-legged feeding the baby. Even my eyelashes, unadorned, seemed to be a product of someone else’s design.

JQ finally took a bottle around nine months. I left for a trip to Boston to visit a dear friend and I discovered that even my sleeping patterns had been overtaken by my children. I woke at 3am, every morning, completely unbidden. After the trip, JQ began to drop feedings. It happened fast and I didn’t fight it. His needs had met the limits of my abilities.

By a year, he dropped his final night feedings. That was three months ago. I’ve been waiting to feel a sadness or a sense of loss. Instead, I just feel relief. I’m happy that it doesn’t have to always be me. I’m happy I can hire a babysitter and we can go out for disappointing chicken wings and good beer. I’m happy that Dave can do bedtime and I can clean the kitchen or drink a beer, or just lay on the floor in a middle of detritus of our day and breathe–Cheerios, dust bunnies, blocks, crowns, necklaces, trucks, half-chewed apples.

And here it is, in black and white: I don’t like always being needed. I don’t like this model of parenting that takes the whole load for everything about our children on our shoulders. I don’t like having the entirety of my children’s world limited by my abilities. I don’t like falling down the rabbit hole of the deep and abiding needs of my children. I can’t be everything to them all the time. It’s wrong of me to try to be.

I don’t know when “mom” became this all-encompassing, die-to-self, loss of selfhood. But it’s a lie.

So, nursing is over. I am so happy.

 

*Sorry, I know a lot of this is review if you read my site. But I always feel weird being self-referential, because people have better things to do then remember details about how my babies fed.

Tome Club: Don Quixote 1

This is part of the ongoing #TomeClub series, where I and a few of you suckers decided to read Don Quixote together. I am not going to title these in a clever manner. I am sorry to disappoint you.

This might be a picture of Cervantes. No one knows for sure. Despite the imperious mug depicted, I think Cervantes knew how to party.
This might be a picture of Cervantes. No one knows for sure. Despite the imperious mug depicted, I think Cervantes knew how to party.

Have you started reading DQ yet? I started yesterday. I downloaded the $1.99 Kindle version. I don’t actually like reading books on electronic devices. In this way I am a Luddite. But this was the easiest option.

So, I felt like I should give you a sweeping overview of Cervantes, because I actually sometimes teach writing and books. And this is my modus operandi, to introduce the book, to make everyone care. To present a case for the book’s relevance! But it’s really an artificial way to read. No one picks up a Dennis Lehane book and says, “Before I read this, I must familiarize myself with Boston gang culture of the 1990s.” No one. You just pick it up and read it.

Some books, I think it is almost impossible just to read. One of my favorite books, The Sound and The Fury is almost inaccessible without some hand holding. My professor gave us a road map to the book and when I read it I had to make a chart to keep track of who was who and who was the narrator. I don’t know how I could have read it without that. But then again, I read  As I Lay Dying without hand-holding. So, who knows.

Most often, I just love to attack books the way the US conquers Middle East. No research and going in guns blazing. Maybe this is my bias. This is how I read most of my life. I was home schooled, so I would just pick a book off the shelf and read.  And in that way, I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Gone with the Wind and The Fountainhead and others. Sometimes I will pick up a book to read, get halfway through and then remember I’ve read it before, probably when I was nine. I’m not sure which is the better way to approach a book. We can’t all take master’s classes on the literature we read. And we shouldn’t have to. That shouldn’t be a requirement to read a book, any book, even a “classic” tome that people have OPINIONS about. But some books don’t transcend their time. Some books are only valuable and relevant by what they did in a specific time and place and to read them in a meaningful way you have to understand that or else you pick up the book and think, This is garbage. I’m looking at you, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But with a few exceptions, the very idea that a book is a “classic” is that it transcends time and place and has meaning beyond. *Gestures erratically into the air.* So, why is there such an emphasis placed on understanding their context?And I wonder if we wouldn’t read more of these “classic” books if we weren’t forced to interact with them in such an artificial way.

So, this is the other thing I want to bring up. When I do read a book like this. I skip the introduction by famous author and literary critic. Sorry, not sorry, Harold Bloom. I will go back and read it later, if I feel like I’m still missing pieces. But I just don’t like being told what I need to think about a book before I’ve actually read it.  Did you all read that introduction? I just skipped to the prologue. Which is hilarious. Let’s talk about that.

The prologue: I love how it’s a send up of snobbish writing. And the narrator is hand-wringing because he doesn’t have smart footnotes and literary allusions and his friend just says, “Meh, make them up!” So then, we get all those fake poems by famous people about how wonderful DQ is. I cackled. Then, of course, there is that great piece of writing advice:

…instead you should strive, in plain speech, with words that are straightforward, honest, and well-placed, to make your sentences and phrases sonorous and entertaining, and have them portray, as much as you can and as far it is possible, your intention, making your ideas clear without complicating and obscuring them. Another thing to strive for: reading your history should move the melancholy to laughter, increase the joy of the cheerful, not irritate the simple, fill the clever with admiration for its invention, not vie the serious reason to scorn it, and allow the prudent to praise it. (8)

And while we are talking about the narrator. How great is he? I have a weakness for a heavy-handed narrator. But his narration is so perfect. Like when DQ is musing about his decided upon love and his quest on page 25 and the narrator writes, “Then he resumed speaking as if he truly were in love.” Or the repeated insistence that this book is completely and utterly true always. The narrator is the straight man for DQ. He is the David Spade to DQ’s Chris Farley.

I’m only on page 50 right now. So, I’d love to hear what you all think so far. Are you finding it funny? Do you like the narrator? Did you giggle at the image of DQ trying to eat with his pasteboard helmet? Is this really boring for you?

I recognize that the book is supposed to be a send up of the romantic hero. Someone I think we are all familiar with due to, well, life. Right? This hero is everywhere still. He is Superman. He is Batman. He’s freaking Christopher Columbus. He is everyone we idolize with a savior complex.

So, I keep thinking if Cervantes lived now, which genre of “hero” would he lampoon? The hardened cop with a white man’s burden to save us all from our sins? The image of the soldier? The foreign policy wonk insisting everyone needs American interference?

If you haven’t started reading yet, you can just chime in and tell us why not.

Also, a lot of people are freaking out about which version to read or that they haven’t started yet. Calm yourselves. We’re all friends here. Just friends, trying to navigate a sea of semicolons and obscure jokes about Spanish knights.

In this way, I end my rambling thoughts. Your turn.

Your Kid Is A Jerk, And I Love It

crying jude

I am not a cruel person. Or at least, I don’t think I am. But I always find myself a little pleased when someone’s kids are mean to mine. When another kid hits, pees their pants, snatches a toy, or shrieks at my child, I smile. I feel a huge burden being lifted off my shoulders and I think, “Thank god, it’s not just my kids.”

No matter who you are. No matter how you parent, you will inevitably face a moment when your child completely humiliates you in public. Children will depants, bite, or poop at the most inconvenient times. The only way to avoid this parenting truth is to stay indoors from the age of newborn until they are 18 and you are not legally responsible anymore.

A few weeks ago, on the way home from a trip to Omaha, we stopped at a McDonalds for dinner. My daughter was exhausted, but she insisted on playing in the playplace. Once she got up to the highest tunnel, she froze and began whimpering that she was trapped in a tower. A little two-year-old boy tried to shove past and she pushed him back. “No, dis too scary!” He began crying. She started wailing.

I climbed into the tunnel and wretched her free. As I did she began kicking and beating her fists against me. “I want to go back to my castle!” She wailed. “I want to go back to my castle!”

“We will go home,” I assured her. Instead of calming her, my words enraged her.

“It’s not a home, it’s a castle!” She was red-faced, screaming at the top of her lungs. “CASTLE!”

I hauled her over my shoulder, shoved a nugget in my mouth, and gave Dave the look that said, “I hope you got the baby, because I’m taking crazy here out to the car.” He nodded. As I walked out the door, I apologized to the family of the little boy.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “We have few excuses.”

“It’s okay,” the mom said completely blase. She was at a table surrounded by three other boys. “The littlest one cut a baby with a play knife the other day.”

I smiled my best, “we’re in it together sister” smile and hauled the three-year-old back to the castle.

A few days later, a friend’s daughter mooned me and I was overjoyed to be able to say to her, “It’s okay, my kid showed the Target cashier her princess undies.” And in that way, I believe I paid it forward.

And if you fundamentally disagree with this post and think “my kid would never!” well then, you either live in deep denial, or your kid is a serial killer. Good luck raising little Jeffery. I’m sure The Green River Killer’s mother would be glad to offer some reassurances. “Oh, I know, my son killed five cats before he was four. I feel your pain.”

This column originally appeared in some really old media, it’s called a newspaper. On that note: I just realized that I can republish my Gazette columns on this site, because they don’t appear online. So, I think I’ll make Friday’s my column repost day. If that’s okay. I’m sorry if you subscribe to the paper and now you feel disappointed. In all fairness, I might not repost all of them. Because some of them aren’t that great. Which reminds me, one time, I got some hate mail for my column which read. “Your columns used to be good. When will they be good again?”

I replied. “Never.”

Tome Club: Don Quixote

640px-Don_Quijote_and_Sancho_Panza

So, a few days ago, I asked people on Facebook if they’d be willing to join with me in my annual tackling of the classics and a few of you seemed like you hate yourselves enough to join in, so here we are.

Just some background: for the past few years, I’ve been going back and reading/re-reading some classic books that I pretend I’ve read, but never actually have gotten through. So far, I’ve conquered The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Mis, Great Expectations, Middlemarch (this was a reread) and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was thinking of reading Moby Dick, but I guess no one has that much self-loathing. (Whatever, you are all just prolonging my misery. I will read about white men and their large, beastly, hungry, phallic symbols and you can’t stop me.)

A lot of you wanted Jane Eyre (like I believe you haven’t read it before, please, it’s your Bible, I know you!). My friend Matt, who has known me since I was in 6th grade, so he knows my weaknesses, suggested instead we read Don Quixote and I was intrigued (Low blow, Matt!). It’s a low blow, because Milan Kundera is one of my favorite authors. In his book The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, he wrote, “When Don Quixote went out into the world, that world turned into a mystery before his eyes. That is the legacy of the first European novel to the entire subsequent history of the novel. The novel teaches us to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude.”

He calls Cervantes the writer that all novelists must grapple with. In an essay titled “The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes,” Kundera argues that the landscape of the novel is turning from adventure inward to the adventure of the soul. Which is kind of a dick thing to complain about. Especially since, I think this is a complaint leveled against traditionally “female” novels and “female” themes. That they are involved in “small worlds.” I think when we fold inward we find a universe entire of itself, just as rich and complicated as the adventures of Don Quixote. But it wouldn’t be fair to delineate that entire essay into that one point, because his bigger fight is against the kitsch of easy answers and easy morals.

He wrote in the essay: “The novel’s spirit is the spirit of complexity.  Every novel says to the reader:  ‘Things are not as simple as you think.’  That is the novel’s eternal truth, but it grows steadily harder to hear amid the din of easy, quick answers that come faster than the question and block it off.  In the spirit of our time, it’s either Anna or Karenin who is right, and the ancient wisdom of Cervantes, telling us about the difficulty of knowing and the elusiveness of truth, seems cumbersome and useless. ”

This is true. Despite all of Kundera’s old-man haranguing about the death of the novel (which he does a lot in that essay), he is right in that we often grasp the low-hanging fruit of easy answers instead of wallowing in mystery. If you’ve shared an Upworthy video, you are part of the problem. (Don’t worry, I’m not throwing stones. I live that glass house too.)

So, all of this in one complex novel. And I’ve never read DQ, and I imagine many of you haven’t either.

So, let’s start reading DQ on Monday, October 6. That gives you enough time to get it from the library where it is no doubt moldering on the shelves. I’ll start every week by posting an update about DQ, and leave the comments open for us to complain about semicolons or the fact that The Wire is more interesting. I don’t care. Maybe if you say more interesting things than me, I’ll turn the reins over to someone else for a post or two (I can’t pay but in coffee gift cards, maybe that’s enough?) Maybe we can chat on Twitter about it, should we feel so compelled. How about let’s use the hashtag #tomeclub? Because I think I’m going to call it Tome Club. This is why I was fired from my marketing job.

Now, let’s take a moment and revel in the fact that I just made up a hashtag for something three people on the internet are going to do. Is that narcissism or am I just a victim of my delusions of grandeur, like Don Quixote? DO YOU SEE HOW I DID THAT?

Once I Had a Little Church

keystone

I once had a little church. Did I ever tell you about it? Dave and I and three other families started it four years ago. Dave and I were coming out of a church where we had seen leadership do some pretty disheartening things–treat women with blatant disrespect, mug for the camera inside the house of someone poorer, because look, we’re doing it for Jesus. And of course, when we tried to talk about those things we were met with a stonewall. For example, the leader we approached told me that none of these concerns had been raised before. When I said I knew they had. He vehemently denied it and asked that I out anyone who said anything to the contrary. I wouldn’t. That’s when Dave stepped in and said, “Look, we aren’t outing anyone. We know they are telling the truth.” And with those words, the leader caved. He apologized to Dave for lying. He apologized to Dave repeatedly.

We left.

We were tired. We had been to so many churches in town and either found ourselves unwelcomed or in a place where we didn’t feel comfortable. We left one church after the Pastor blasted The Da Vinci Code from the pulpit as “ungodly and evil.” We left to go see the movie. Afterwards, Dave said, “He should have just told us not to see it because it was bad.”

One church sent elders to our home at 9am on a Saturday. This was before we had children, so I answered the door in my pajamas. I was asked if the “Man of the house was home.” I told him, I was as man as they get and shut the door. They prayer walked around our home for fifteen minutes. Presumably, casting out the demon. The demon stayed. [Read more...]

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