Feeble Knees

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Five Minutes

Five minutes is hard to come by these days. I better type fast.

Bug is eight weeks old. He is smiling at us now, not just those gassy smiles, but real certifiable happy smiles. In What to Expect the First Year (I think that's the title, forgive me if I mangled it, I've only got five minutes) one of the developmental signs they say baby may be able to do by the end of the 2nd month is "squeal in delight". Well this morning I think I squealed - it was a loud spontaneous squeak of some sort, one that could be considered a squeal by some, so I'm going with it. He squealed in delight this morning. Thank goodness, because it's those few fleeting moments of joy and delight that keep me going the rest of the time.

Have I mentioned motherhood is much tougher than even I imagined? I thought I had a good set of realistic expectations. And I did. Things are going much as I expected, just a mite tougher. There are many wonderful indescribable joys too though, to counterbalance. Again, thankfully.

Bug is an absolute jewel with family and friends. He puts on his best behavior for his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Then he saves up all the ugly for his parents. That is not to say we don't get smiles and sweetness too, because we do. But this child absolutely never acts up or cries whenever there is company. It's amazing. He can be wet through three layers of clothes and blankets and he'll still keep making goo-goo eyes at his auntie. But as soon as she's gone boy, the party's o-vah baby.

Right now it's quiet, but that's because I'm breaking the number one cardinal rule of parenting infants, which is put baby to sleep on his back. That's right, I just put Bug down on his tummy. And guess what. After fussing and crying for twenty minutes on his back, two minutes on his tummy and he's out like a light. I feel a bit horrible about it, since the current medical thinking equates tummy sleeping with playing Russian Roulette with your child and SIDS. But sometimes it's the only thing that calms him down, other than holding him. So I've been indulging him here and there, and praying to God to keep us both.

He's on the verge of growing out of his newborn clothes. I am very surprised (and a little embarrassed) to admit this is rather emotional for me. I didn't think it would be. But I've come to realize that the first time the little knit hat they gave him at the hospital doesn't fit on his head any more, I'm going to lose it. On the one hand I want so much for him to grow and learn and mature. But saying goodbye to these sweet baby days (as hard as they've been) will be bittersweet.

Sometimes we sit together in the dark in our big chair and cradle his little head in my hands. His little tiny body is completely relaxed, curled into and around my chest, one little arm draped possesively over my breast. No words that currently exist in the English language can adequately describe the emotion of such a moment. Then I think of Michelangelo's Pieta, the statue of Mary cradling a crucified Jesus. No words can describe that either.

After seeing her on CNN and Fox News, I was intrigued and so decided to pick up Anne Rice's Christ the Lord. I'm only about two chapters into it, as it's difficult not only to find the time to read, but to hold and flip the pages of a hardcover book
with one hand. I'm curious. Haven't heard or read much of what the rest of Christendom thinks about such a book coming from the former atheist and so-called "Queen of the Damned". It seems to me, after listening to her, that she really has had a genuine life-changing encounter with Christ. I really, really hope so. I really do. So far I'm not a fan of her very long one-run-on-sentence paragraphs, but I'll continue to plow through it, if only out of curiosity.

Five minutes stretched to ten, but now time's up...

God bless,

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Growth Spurts

Seems as if Bug's right on time with that six week growth spurt thing. Whereas before he was rather casual about when he ate, now he's as demanding and unyielding as a boot camp drill sergeant.

I don't know but it's been said, a hungry Bug just must be fed!"

The last twenty four hours have been pretty surreal. Bug's wanting to eat every two hours. That means if he starts at 1, finishes at 2 (what with all the burping and changing in between and whatnot), he's smacking his lips and staring hungrily at me again by 3. Now I'm a multi-tasker from way back, but one hour is not a lot of time in which to accomplish anything significant when you're working with a rather large-ish sleep deficit.

So I don't have much to say or much time to say it. But this has me thinking that all these years I might have had the wrong idea about what it's like to grow in God. I used to think that the more wonderful things I did for Christ - ministries, devotions, etc. - that that was an indication that I was growing and maturing in God - because I could do more. That seemed to be the litmus test, particularly in the church circles I traveled. If you were still sitting in the pew, then obviously you were still milk-fed and weak in the church's eyes. And it seemed to make sense to me.

But this morning roughly around 4 am as Bug pigged out on his third repast of the day, I began to rethink this whole growing business. It's a very subtle thing. I know he's growing at a phenomenal rate, because that's what babies do. But day to day it's so subtle you can miss it. He still can't do very much, relative to a grown human. So you can't exactly gauge the progress of his daily growth based on what he can do. The only way I know now that he is having an accelerated period of growth is because he's eating more. His need is increased dramatically. His little cries are a bit more frequent and urgent and frantic.

So the thought struck me somewhere around 5 AM that perhaps we are growing most in God when we feel the greatest need of Him. These are not typically top-of-the-mountain times in our lives. These are the low-down-Oh-God-I-am-such-a-mess-I-need-you-desperately times. Times when our cries are a bit more frequent and urgent and frantic.

Yet we tend to think (at those particular moments) that we're that desperate because we're that messed up, or far from God, or exceedingly sinful. I know that's how it's been with me. But now I wonder. Those times I cried out all the more urgently really did end up being the biggest turning points in my life and faith. Rather than consider these moments times of weakness or failings, now I know these were the growth spurts in my relationship with Christ.

I really hope I remember this, you know, the next time I'm freaking out and crying out desperately for God. I need to remember this: He's there. He will provide, and by His grace I will continue to grow....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bug in a Sling

Good news, I think I might have found something that might make it possible for me to post again on a semi-regular basis. I've got Bug's butt in a sling!

A friend stopped by today to drop off her old baby sling. I'd been commiserating with her about how Bug is so very cuddly, which in itself is very wonderful, but not real conducive to getting anything done. This child would be happy being held in someone's arms 24/7. Usually that someone is me. And while I treasure much of the time we spend cuddling, there hasn't been much time or opportunity for me to do anything else. Yes I know, "we should just put him down". Well that works for about thirty seconds. Yes, I know, "we should just let him cry it out". Well, I'm not ashamed to admit right now that completely contrary to all I said or thought before, I'm not able to do that just yet. Maybe when he isn't quite so small and a little less helpless.

I wonder what we'd think if God just decided to let us "cry things out"? I think in some ways some times He does, but never with a brand new baby Christian. Those are the ones whose prayers get answered instantaneously it seems, because He knows they need to learn that when they cry out to Him, He's already there and taking care of them. Then older ones (myself included) eventually get to an age where He knows we can wait a bit. It's part of the whole maturing thing, right?

But I digress. Anyway...

So instead I have this big stretchy thing slung over one shoulder that holds bug snug up against my chest. Sure I look like a complete dork, but hey I'm a mobile dork. I'm a dork who can pour herself a glass of water, or eat her lunch within an hour of starting to prepare it. Or answer the phone. Check my email maybe once a day finally. You get the idea. Hey, I can sacrifice my self image for mobility. It's not a bad trade. This marsupial type arrangement has a definite plus side.

Though I just might have to start referring to him as my little papoose now.... :)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Soundtrack of My Mind

My brain has the habit of generating a background soundtrack to my life. Words, phrases, situations, and certain people seem to cue certain songs to loop through the back of my mind until they gradually make themselves heard in the forefront of my consciousness and I become aware of them.

I'm a little nervous about the collection of songs going round in the jukebox of my mind the last few days. On paper, it doesn't look very good...

Here they are, in the approximate order in which they manifested themselves in my poor tired head:

I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramones (enough said!)
Shattered - The Rolling Stones (This one was particularly common in the first few weeks during late night diaper changes. Sha-dooby, shattered, shattered!)
Tie Your Mother Down - Queen (first noticed this when Bug went down for a light nap at four in the afternoon and I was sprinting for the shower in the hopes that I might actually get a chance to really bathe for the first time in more than 36 hours).
Stay Up Late - Talking Heads ("Cute cute, little baby, don't you wanna make him stay up late?")
Helter Skelter - The Beatles (or U2's live version, whichever you prefer; this was added to the playlist at some point during an all night crying, peeing, pooping session that just wouldn't end.)

I wish I could say I have hymns running through my mind, that in the quiet hours of darkness I am gently humming soothing refrains like "Yes Jesus Loves Me" to little Bug. I'd hoped I'd be that kind of Mommy, but perhaps I should have set my expectations more in line with the quirky person I know myself to be.

Mr. F suggested I put these together as an iTunes post-punk mommy playlist. I just might...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Too Hard to Write

I've been staring at this empty box not wanting to even write the words. Senior Kitty is gone.

I wrote about him here many months ago, when we first realized he was sick and nearing the end. He defied everyone's predictions and continued to soldier on and live a good life lo these many months. But this morning it became clear when yet another part of his body failed him that it was time to let him go.

Knowing it was coming, having prepared ourselves for this since last January doesn't make it any easier. Having to give him up just weeks after losing Little Kitty seems a bit much. We have no kitties now. No more kitties.

I knew Senior Kitty would hold out until after Bug was born. I knew he would. We wondered how he'd take to him, if he'd go running to hide whenever Bug started crying. The day we brought Bug home, we brought him over to Senior Kitty to sniff. Senior Kitty looked at Bug nonchalantly and walked on, as if to say, "Him? yeah, that's the guy I've been napping on, the one that's been in Food Lady's tummy the past few months. I know who he is!" We have a picture of Mr. F sitting on the couch with Bug and Senior Kitty. Senior Kitty is cuddled up close to Mr. F and Bug. Whenever Bug did cry, Senior Kitty would start howling as if to say "Hey! Somebody come and do something!" You've never heard a ruckus quite like the two of them yowling in concert!

This morning before we left for the vet, Mr. F picked up Senior Kitty and held him over Bug's crib, where he could see him. He was showing Bug his first kitty, the best kitty ever. I had to look away. Bug won't remember this day, and he won't remember Senior Kitty and that kills me. I wish he'd been able to grow up with Senior Kitty and love him as much as we do.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Who needs sleep?

Bug is sleeping, well, almost sleeping. Hoping I have a few minutes to post while he dozes...

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my obstetrician told me to "prepare to go into survival mode for the next four weeks". Well it's been about four weeks. He was right. I think I'm only just now starting to come out of the fog.

Bug's doing great, he is a wonderful little guy and has been pretty easy on us, all things considered. But I realized a couple days ago that it's not the pain of labor that I need to forget. The pain wouldn't put me off from having another child. But my recollection of caring for a newborn will have to get pretty fuzzy before I'll be ready to do this again.

It actually got easy once I realized that newborns are pretty simple. If they're crying, it's (usually) one of a finite set of causes:
1. They're wet
2. They're hungry
3. They're gassy

There are a couple of lesser causes like being too warm or cool, or their unfortunate talent for startling themselves awake. But for the most part, it's pretty simple. Bug would cry and I'd run down the list: "Hm, you just ate, you're dry, so bingo, you must be gassy - time to burp you!"

It sounds so simple. And it is in theory. The problem is when you have an unfortunate confluence of these things. Or when they happen successively, in such a way that it makes the baby uncomfortable (and therefore awake and screaming) for a longer than tolerable period of time, usually late at night.

The following collection of experiences illustrates my point:

Suppose Bug wakes up at 2 am hungry - I completely expect that, so that's no problem. I pick him up and we get into our cozy spot to nurse. I'm a little bleary eyed at this point, but reasonably awake and functioning. He feeds for quite a while, very content. By 2:45 am, he's extracted about all the milk his little tummy can hold. He has this goofy little look (one nurse described it as being "milk drunk") and a little dribble of milk running from the corner of his mouth to his little chin. He's full, he's quiet, life is wonderful. I'm starting to count the minutes 'til I can slip back into bed.

But we're not done. Not by a longshot.

I put him down in his little bassinet and slip into bed. The first thing I hear is the sound of the bink (a.k.a pacifier) popping out of Bug's mouth onto the crib mattress. Then there's a whimper. I reach over to assess the situation and realize he's soaked through his diaper, through his pajamas, all the way through his swaddling blanket. Oh no. It is just a matter of time before he realizes this and starts howling. A change is in order. I get up, grab Bug and off we go to the changing table.

2:55 am: The change has been completed. A fresh diaper is on, fresh pajamas, and he's been tightly swaddled in a new comfy blanket. The application of a cold wet baby wipe brought him out of his nice quiet sleepy state, and though he's now clean and dry, he's a little miffed about the whole experience. Hey, I'd be too if someone wiped my privates with a cold wet cloth while I'm trying to sleep at 3 in the morning. I'd be more than a little cranky.

2:56 am: Upon picking Bug up from the changing table, I realize to my horror that he's wet through again. Oh no. You've got to be kidding me.

3:00 am: The pajamas are off. The wet diaper is off. I am in the process of wiping him down (again) when he poops into my hand. While trying to grab another wipe to handle the output, he commences projectile pooping; the wall, the changing table and a nearby lampshade are all hit with a veritable barrage of the brown stuff. I am crying. I am laughing. I am getting a bit delirious. In the next room Mr. F awakens and listens and tries to gauge whether his assistance is needed. My sobs are now camouflaged by paroxysms of laughter. Hearing my guffaws from the other room, Mr. F assumes the situation is under control and goes back to sleep. Meanwhile, I'd call for help but I'm laughing too hard to draw a breath. Better to laugh than cry...

3:15 am: Bug is once again freshly diapered, pajama'd and swaddled. He is content but very awake, staring up at me with his big deep and wondrous blue eyes. I've wiped down the walls, the changing table and various other casualties of the poop storm. The lampshade is permanently stained and will have to be replaced, but for now I just turn the nasty part to face the wall. No one has to know...

3:17 am: We are en route to the crib. I am walking the floor with Bug and bouncing him slightly, willing him to nod off. His little eyes droop, his breathing gets deeper. I can almost feel the warmth of my flannel sheets on my skin. My body is aching for sleep. Just a little sleep. Steps away from his little crib, there is a sound in the dark: "Hiccup!"

3:25 am: Bug is now wailing inconsolably, complete with that devastating lip/chin quivering maneuver. It's Defcon 2. I am coming unglued. The hiccups continue. I try to burp him in the hopes that a big gas bubble will come up and put an end to the hics, but he continues to try to wriggle out of burping position. He hates being burped. There is no alternative but to nurse again.

3:27 am: Back in our cozy spot, Bug looks up at me contentedly while happily nursing through his hiccups. We nurse and wait and hope they'll stop soon.

3:39 am: My head snaps back as I nod off. Bleary eyed I look at the clock. Bug too is starting to nod off. If only I could just put him down now. But he must be burped...

3:50 am: Still no burps, and he's wide awake again. Boy does he hate everything about being burped. I wonder if I should just put him down, but I know that within the hour he'll be miserable if I do. We persevere. He's not happy, but hey, where's he going to go, right?

4:00 am: Finally having extracted one big burp, and confirming that we're still dry, we head for bed. Hallelujah.

4:05 am: We're all tucked in, Bug in his bassinet by the bed, and me in my comfy flannel sheets. My poor cotton-stuffed brain begins to slip into sweet repose.

4:06 am: From the direction of Bug's bassinet, an outrageously loud farty, squirty noise shatters the silence, followed by another. And another. One more and we'll be dealing with fallout from critical diaper failure. HAZMAT suits may be necessary.


Oh Bug, no! No! NoooooOOOoooo!

* * *

There were a few consecutive nights like this, nights where we'd awaken for a middle-of-the-night feeding that turned into two to three hours of dealing with both input and output. But it's getting better, bit by bit, day by day. Bug's sleeping in longer stretches, and wetting through less. I'm getting better at being able to anticipate what he's going to do when. We're getting into a bit of a rhythm and figuring each other out. Bug's learning to trust that when something makes him uncomfortable, Mum or Dad will be right there to make things all better. We're learning that he really only cries when he has something to cry about, and we're getting better and smarter about how to respond.

Saturday will be five weeks, but the weeks haven't felt like the units of time as I've previously experienced them. Rather it's been one long unrelenting, unending, undefined blur of the space-time continuum in some other dimension.

We're surviving. He's thriving. I think we might all just make it...