Thursday, July 29, 2010

Now We Are Six

Wherever I am there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well that's very odd 'cos I was too.
"Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, we were at some social gathering recently and the subject of potty training came up. "Bella was easy," shrugged Mr. ABF. Which elicited one of those "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?" stares from me.

"HA!" I snorted. And I took a swig of whatever was in my hand and got my lips all ready to humorously and graphically detail what an extracted affair it was getting Bella to use the toilet when I suddenly realized . . .

I forget. I forget it all. I have absolutely no idea. I have this vague sense that it was horrible and miserable, and I really do remember hitting the wall at some point and deciding: you know what? Just buy new undies and throw those out. I recall an accident at the zoo where I dutifully pulled out the lysol wipes and sanitized the seat she had been on and then hustled her to the car where from she rode home naked. I have a vague recollection of awarding stickers, but not prizes. I think the stickers were the prizes. I know by the time she ran into preschool (at age 3 years and one month) ahead of me without nary a backward glance she was in underwear.

I don't know what I did, I don't know how I started, I don't know why I started when I did. Was it quick? Slow? Usual?

Is forgetting a hellish childhood period (filled with excrement nonetheless) a typical parental quirk?

Bella potty trained while I was in my fog of grief. I remember so much pain, and yet I remember very little about her. There's about a year there where I'm also without the help of photographic evidence (thank god for the blog or Christmas would be a blur as well).

I missed a year of short six year life. Almost a whole year, because I was distracted by another child. A child who isn't even earthbound and lives only in photos and in my imagination and heart. I'm not big on regrets, but I am sorry -- truly sorry -- that I missed a year of Bella's life. It's probably why I'm overcompensating this year, with another child at my breast, by hosting a tie-dye party. What in god's name was I thinking, not outsourcing a party when I'm barely alert and feel a bit like a bobblehead most days? I thought enough in advance to hire her baby sitter to join us and help us out. And ordered a barbie cake where the cake is her skirt -- tie dye, of course. I'm more excited about it than she is. I'm not missing anything this time around, and am going to photograph and remember every technicolor detail.


Bella, self portrait.

The baby is bringing Bella into relief. Bella is LOUD. Bella is not subtle. At all. Bella isn't horribly gentle with fragile things (this trait is backed up by watching her with neighbor's kittens). She is ready to roughhouse, now.

Bella is big. She has a toothless, slightly crooked grin now that makes her look like a Norman Rockwell. I noticed on Memorial Day that her tummy was pooching out in her swim suit and thought, "here it comes, a growth spurt." Three weeks later she seemed three inches taller. The pooch was gone, and her legs shot out spindly like from her now too-short shorts. Her hair is long (and unwashed and uncombed. Thus starts a post for September which hopefully ends with me taking her screaming and kicking to the salon for a crop).

And I look at the baby and it all floods back -- her crooked smile, her brilliant blue eyes, her intense silence. Geez, remember that? (And for the record, I'll take a screamer who sleeps over a silent non-sleeper any day of the week.)

A few moments with the baby can set off my internal photo album. I can remember things Bella wore when she was an infant -- in fact, when she asked me a bit about our neighbors in our old 'hood, I could not remember her babysitter's name but I could remember in staggering grotesque detail the pink outfit that the babysitter's mother gave her when she was born. It helps that her little brother is wearing a fair amount of hand-me downs (though not the pepto-bismol outfit), but there are other glimpses of past seeping through. The Christmas we all got violently ill and it was warm as heck out. The adorable velvet handme-down dress. The first week in December '04 when she didn't even cat nap for five straight days. Actually going to one of those pre-Christmas sales at 5 a.m. because we were up.

And then the album stops. And it picks up again and here we are, dissing the Hanna Anderssen catalog as "boring," and capturing her mother's heart by reading mystery chapter books. Her interest in sewing puts me to shame, and she can mix a batch of cookies while I hold a baby and give instructions. She can roll her eyes and huff like the best thirteen-year old (causing me to sternly use all three of her names), and linger in a pre-off-to-camp hug. She wants a(nother) dog, she wants a stuffed animal marketed to a two-year old. She wants a DS, an iPhone and a laptop. (Spoiler: She is not getting any of those.) She can bat a ball better than I ever could at any age, and just got her deep water badge at the pool. She whines way, way too much.

I'm half-wondering what happens when the baby turns two; do I get to experience that year in all it's glory, sans mind-altering prescription drugs? (Will I decide I liked it better the other way?) Will I remember anything about Bella that was previously lost?


'What's twice eleven?' I said to Pooh,
('Twice what?' said Pooh to Me)
' I think it ought to be twenty-two.'
'Just what I think my self,' said Pooh.
'It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is,' said Pooh, said he.
'That's what it is,' said Pooh.

Mr. ABF and I lengthened our extremely brief wedding ceremony (which we purposefully wrote so as not to say anything more than "I do") in order to add a couple of readings, one of which was "Us Two" by A. A. Milne. There was something so primal, so fundamental about that feeling of finding another that goes with you everywhere, including dragged down the stairs feet first. The other whose mere existence helps you solve problems, and reaffirms your very being.

Ten years ago today we listened to this poem, and the silly short words we wrote, and then we went forth as a couple to hunt dragons. Little did we know the dragons were real, and breathed fire and almost burned down the toybox. But we continued on, always reaching out for that soft, stubby, love-worn hand in hopes it would still be there.

So far, so good.

'Let's look for dragons,' I said to Pooh.
'Yes, let's,' said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few--
'Yes, these are dragons all right,' said Pooh.
'As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are,' said Pooh, said he.
'That's what they are,' said Pooh.


It's amazing how much can be encapsulated in a day. Here we thought on our wedding day, listening about a stuffed bear, that today would always be ours. (Ours and Princess Di & Prince Charles'. And Brad and Jennifer's. Auspicious, huh.) And four years later in a delivery room, we realized today would forever cease to be about us, just as our lives would cease to be about "us two" from this moment forward.

Ferdinand's day is today too, and he reminds us that it's not even "us three" (or five as the case may be), but Us here and there, those we can touch and those we grasp for in our mind's eye and in our dreams.

To say sharing this day with Ferdinand makes me more appreciative of the life today celebrates (the life which is currently screaming and throwing a ball around with her new lacrosse stick, jeebus watch that window) is a gross understatement: it makes me touch it, and hold it, and inhale it and her chlorine-scented hair, and find some small, quiet amount of thanks for that which I am blessed with.

Every snarled, dirty-faced, leave-socks-on-the-coffee-table, remind-she's-too-young-to-paint-her-fingernails inch of it.

Here's to remembering, and looking forward. Looking forwards and backwards, all at once, all in the same day.

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
'What would I do?' I said to Pooh,
'If it wasn't for you,' and Pooh said:
it isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together,' says Pooh, says he.
'That's how it is,' says Pooh.


Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.

Happy Birthday, Bella.

Happy Anniversary, Us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dream Weaver

Recently I wondered why my bouts of indigestion and gas seem to be worse now that I'm no longer pregnant. I wondered this out loud, standing at the kitchen counter, while sucking down my lunch in 90 seconds next to a screaming baby. I then chugged an ice-cold glass of water. I further pondered my bloatedness while scarfing a hamburger on the one minute walk home from a neighborhood barbecue with a screaming baby in a sling. Hmm.


Had a dream last week where I was in the airport with the baby and my flight was delayed for something crazy like six hours. And I looked at the baby and said to myself, well, you're comfortable and cool here (we're going through a heatwave here on the east coast) and you're past security so I'm sure you'll be safe, so I'm going to leave a go home for a few. And I did. Without the baby.

Analysis and Interpretation: a) HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, because isn't that just so sensical and typical -- leaving the fussy kid to fend for himself in the international wing while mommy cools her heels in the quiet comfort of home with a martini? Funny stuff. b) ZOMFG, WHAT THE HELL? FOR SERIOUS, SUBCONSCIOUS? I remember while dreaming this that my sub-sub conscious was sorta uncomfy watching dream self mill about the house, but really what the fuck? As if I would purposefully leave my child behind somewhere! (Note purposefully. I know of many wonderful, sane, competent moms who have accidentally left stores and realized once in the parking lot that they came to said store with more than what they were leaving with. I haven't done this yet, for the record.) c) Ok, deep breaths, this isn't really about leaving my cherubic fusspot behind somewhere, is it. Oh no. Let's go Jungian, shall we, where everyone in the dream is really me and what the dream is trying to say on some level is that *I* feel abandoned. I feel abandoned? Because of the baby? Am I in some way abandoning myself on this journey? (Dum dum dum!) Is the baby to blame for this self-identity abandonment? What am I really trying to say about airport coffee?

Hey, at least the baby appeared in my dream! I took that as serious progress that I'm accepting that he's here.


Had a dream last night that we -- Me, Mr. ABF, Bella, and Baby -- were at Children's. And I couldn't figure out why, because both kids looked healthy. Something to do with Maddy? (In a footnote, Charlie Sheen wandered through this dream. I don't even like Charlie Sheen.) This was followed by a dream where after just putting down a happy infant, my mother came carrying him to me asking where the baby aspirin was because his temperature was 108.

This is more like it.


I was invited to a baby shower for one of the umpteen babies arrived/set to arrive in my neighborhood. Which is nice, not feeling like the neighborhood vampire at which pregnant people shake garlic in front of to ward off my cloud of evil and doom. But it's my first since Maddy and I must confess I find the whole thing so fucking weird.

My lovely neighbors just threw me a baby shower a few weeks ago and it was kinda awkward and kinda awesome and really overwhelming. All these women who were apparently dying (no pun intended) to bestow their good wishes and future funtime projections and take bets on size and birthdays and do silly things with toilet paper had to stifle their optimism while I pursed my lips and reminded everyone that there were no guarantees here. And like a geyser, emotions were released in a cloud of adorable onesies, homemade burp cloths, and beautiful books (many of my neighbors are graphic design people which I discovered makes for an incredibly tasteful and beautiful shower).

But to acknowledge something that's not done yet? Oddly, I'm able to see positive outcomes for other people, just not myself. While still pregnant I got news that a family member was expecting this fall, and I immediately could see their wonderful outcome, but still not my own.

Putting me in the situation, however, to congratulate and celebrate something still undone is really anathema to me. It's like throwing a victory parade while the game is in the 5th inning; awarding the prize money before the experiment is run. The horse isn't out of the gate, and here we're hanging the wreath of roses. You get the point.

I don't count chickens. I'm very squeamy about attending and pasting on a smile and handing out a bag of our favorite baby goodies. Because . . .

well, I won't go there. I know the if. I know what happens. I'm not into bad mojo or jinxing or hexing and lordy, if this bunch was they certainly wouldn't have invited me. And yet I'm just so uneasy. What's an appropriate gift from the hesitant and realistic pessimist?


We've settled into a rhythm, which involves a fair amount of nighttime sleep for me so I'm not complaining! Just stating! And a whole ton of up time in the day, which over the course of the day devolves as someone gets more and more tired and refuses to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time. Until he's purple with tears, or maybe it's me who's purple, and then we take a bath which he just loves and settles down, and we eat and read with big sister and fall asleep and do it all over again. But it means for much of the day, he-who-shall-not-be-put-down-or-away-from-paternal-contact is in our arms or in a sling and while this enables us to have some mobility, it does not allow for much. And when the heat index is 100 and you have a little heater pasted to your front and hormones raging through your body? It does not feel so very nice come 5 p.m. We have eaten cold cereal as a dinnertime main course.

But we do it, and I can make him giggle now, and he's got a double chin and knee folds, and hey -- he's here.

You know what's weird, I realized while emailing back and forth with Angie, is that I don't use his name much. And I'd like to blame the blog (damn you for making me anonymous! And suspicious! And paranoid!) but geez, I've only posted a handful of times so I really don't think that's it. No, I think it's something else. I love his name, I love hearing other people use it and the plethora of nicknames that break from it, but I don't use it much. When I write or talk I tend to stick with "baby," or the universal "Him/He," and when I'm talking to him directly I find myself splurting out something a bit stupid like "Muffin Man" or similar.

I'm thinking this is all part of the accepting process. You know how most normal people get excited when they're pregnant? And they start planning and thinking and anticipating so when the baby actual arrives they're already kinda in full swing with those emotions? And part of this is rolling baby names off the tongue, and maybe sheepishly out-loud when you're home alone, just to get a feel for them? It's like I'm in the first trimester here, just sorta feeling my way around the general idea. Like he's here, but not really, and hey -- wouldn't that be a great name?


I was on a run yesterday . . . wait, back up: Kids, I'm Running! Have been, actually. This time around I'm being overly cautious and ramping up incrementally slowly using interval training so as not to blow out my foot again. So far, so good.

So anyway, running. Or wishing I could. I actually feel like I'm in good shape -- I ran through about 32w until I had to move to the elliptical and kept that up through about 36w -- but I put the Maserati in 1st gear and just take my time because I don't want a repeat of therapy and cortisone. Yesterday was just a delicious day, with a morning in the 60s. I had my tunes plugged in and my running app keeping count of my intervals. I was humming along to whomever . . . Cake? The Killers?, feeling pretty fucking happy about my weight loss and the cute red-headed dude waiting for me at home, and


The grief cloud hit with a sudden rage, and within a second I was brushing off tears.

I was happy. And I was sad. I was sad because I was happy. How fucked is that.

I'm not a "I feel guilty because I feel happy and I should feel sad" or "Happiness means I'm forgetting Maddy" person; no, I'm much more of a "Well it's about fucking time I feel happy" person, but I think what got me was the odd sense of deja vu.

Because I was right here, right here on this square of sidewalk, before. With my tunes in, and the sun shining, trying to shed some baby weight.

And it was so unbelievably, cosmically different. Like Freak Deja Vu, where it's the exact same except everything that was scorching blinding white is now filled in with cool black lines. Everything upside down to the point it made me nauseous, is now right-side up. The Poseidon Adventure, except now standing on your head so in some peculiar way it makes sense. All the songs that made me sob are replaced with tunes that make me run faster. The running wasn't desperate. The sidewalk doesn't lead to a gaping empty hole, it takes me back to where I want to be.

It's upsetting, for some reason. I suppose because all stories should be like this, not like that. And because it's not a peculiar otherworldly sense I'm picking up on, some eerie rustle through the trees. Uh uh. It happened. It's still there, scarred into my brain, and a faint ache in my foot.

And she'll never be there when I come home in need of a shower.

One big huge slurpy sniff at the traffic light, and it was past. The thundercloud moved on.

It sill always be like this, won't it.