Her Bad Mother

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Look At Me Not Sleeping

Update below.

I haven't slept in four nights.

Which, you know, isn't totally bad, considering that until about four weeks ago, I'd gone nearly five months averaging only three or four hours sleep a night, every night. New mothers don't sleep. That's just a fact.

But when you've passed that 'fourth trimester' grace period - wherein, it seems, Nature gives you a pass on needing sleep and proper nutrition and enables you to function like a superhero, leaping over the newborn weeks in a single bound, fueled by the nitro-force of a wicked hormone buzz - when you hit the wall, somewhere around week 13, the lack of sleep catches up with you and no amount of cinnamon rolls and double-shot espressos will set you to right. So you set about pursing sleep with a vengeance (so appropriate, that idiom - you chase sleep hoping to tackle it and wrestle it and punish it for so cruelly withholding its gifts) and when you finally get some (oh yeah) through some combination of spousal support and anti-anxiety medication you cling to it desperately, desperately, determined to never let it slip your grasp again.

And then when it does slip your grasp, you go to pieces.

Four nights it's been; four nights of wrestling a vibrating baby who is development-spurting at the speed of light and spending his nights rolling and crawling oh god help me around his crib - or, when the victory squawking has become too much, in our bed - in pursuit of some invisible gold ring that I assume hovers magically just beyond his reach. Four nights of spending hours trying to get him to just be still, to just chill out, to save the gymnastics and the glee-clubbing until the morning, please oh god please, only to have him settle into something approximating a sleepy calm at the precise moment that the preschooler wakes up coughing and hollering about her nose hurting.

I'm so tired that I can't see straight. And I just can't see any solution. Crying it out doesn't work because he seems to have an infinite capacity for wakefulness and so can outcry, outsquawk, outholler, outlast us with little effort. Bringing him into bed with us doesn't work because although he's more likely to take a few sleep breaks from his gymnastics practice when he can crawl up tight against my breast, he never actually stills, and so even though he snoozes while he's cuddled up against me he also kicks me in the ribs and/or punches me in the head every few minutes and that's, you know, not conducive to sleep.

The husband does all of the actual getting up, the hovering over the crib, the delivery of child to my side when it seems there's nothing left to do, but still: I can hear it all, I can feel it all, and not even the Ativan helps when your body is shouting at you to tend to your baby. So what's next? Do I just check into a hotel for a night or two - seriously, we talked about that last night - to catch up on sleep? Or do I just ride it out? How long can I go without sleep? How crazy will I get?

Mama said knock her out.

(And, and... how long can I go on just barely coping? I have an out-of-control inbox - I am seriously weeks behind in responding to e-mails - and an ever-lengthening to-do list and - worst - a backlog of things that I need/want to write about - my frustrations searching for my long-lost brother, my ongoing struggle to figure out how not to be dominated completely by my nearly three-year old daughter, some thoughts on raising children under the condition of post-modern capitalism, an anecdote or two about politesse as it pertains to penises, etc, etc. My brain is backlogged and cramped and sore and all this sleeplessness is making it worse. Is it possible for one's brain to simply explode?)

Seriously. If my husband were to bring up the issue of vasectomies right this minute? I'd give him one myself.

Update: Last night (Friday night), he slept over eight hours straight. EIGHT HOURS. No idea why. Things we did differently: kept him up a bit more in the day, so that he had two longer naps rather than multiple shorter ones, put darker curtains on his nursery window to block more light, and put him to sleep in a snuggle (modified, arms-free swaddle) blanket. Will repeat these steps today and see if it works again. Whatever it is: AM SO ABSURDLY, MANICALLY GRATEFUL.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good Luck, America

What are you reading this for? Go on, get out of here, VOTE.

I don't want to have to put you all up if, you know, things go tits up and you all need to move to Canada. So just make sure that doesn't happen, because I just don't have the room. Unless you don't mind sleeping on the floor and/or tenting in the backyard and you're willing to bring me shit from Target, in which case, you're all welcome.

But I'd kinda rather you just get it all sorted out down there, so that I can come visit you. So, go: VOTE.

We're cheering you on from here.


Monday, November 3, 2008

The Future By Thirds

"What would you think," my husband asked, "if I got a vasectomy?"

I put down my magazine and stared out the window. "I think," I said carefully, "that I wouldn't know what to think."

"We're done, though, right?"

"I think so."

"But you don't want to get pregnant again, right?"

"I don't want to be pregnant again, no. Or at least, I don't think so. I think. No. I don't know."

That wasn't entirely true. I do know. I don't want to be pregnant again. And I certainly don't want to go through childbirth again. And I could do without ever going through another exhausted-depressed-anxious-boobchafed tour-de-newborn again. But do I want to ensure that I never get pregnant again, that I never have another child? I don't know. I don't think that those questions are the same. Do you want (or not want) to go through the process of having another child? is a different question from do you want (or not want) to have another child? in the same way that do you like the work of motherhood? is a different question from do you like being a mother? or do you love being mother to your children?

I don't like pregnancy. I don't like childbirth. I'm not super crazy about the work of motherhood, and I'm especially not crazy about the 24-7 boot camp nightmare that is the work of being a brand new mother to a brand new baby who stays up all night and chomps boobs and shits everywhere. But I love my children. I adore my children. They are the most precious, most delightful, most amazing things in my life. So if you ask me, do I want more mother-work, the fast and firm answer is no. But if you were to ask me whether I'd want another one of these incredible little beings, I would say that I can't bring myself to say, firmly and finally, no. And if you were to ask me whether I'd accept further burden of mother-work in order to have another one of these little beings, I'd have to say, I just don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know.

All I know is that I don't want to say no. Not with any kind of finality. Not in a way that closes off any possibility of yes. Or even, oops. (Because oops is a yes of a sort, is it not?)

(yes is a world/and in this world of/yes live/(skilfully curled)/all worlds)

(feel free to roll your eyes at me here)

My hands are full. Emilia is hell on wheels, a brilliant and beautiful tempest that blasts her way through every day, wreaking full havoc and leaving us, her parents, stunned and enchanted and weary in her wake. Jasper is a great, hulking, grinning cherub of a baby, big and strong and determined to catch up to his speedster-demon of a sister. They thrill and delight and exhaust me. I adore them more than I thought it possible to adore any other living beings, but they keep me at the very razor's edge of my wits. I don't know that it would be humanly possible for me to manage another child. Ever.

But the idea of closing off any possibility of that third child... that seems, somehow, inexplicably, wrong. I'm not a big believer in destiny - that is, I don't think that I am - but if there's a future for us in which a third child figures, do I want to refuse that future? I think of those friends of mine for whom the third (or fourth) was unexpected, a shock even, and I know that if they had it to do over, they would not want to turn back the clock and refuse. But turning back the clock to change the past, and settling upon certain choices for the future are two different things, of course. I have already made innumerable choices that have closed off innumerable futures; I do not, for the most part, mourn the loss of these futures. They just simply are not to be.

Am I ready, though, to close off entirely the possibility of this future, of a future in which our two are our three, in which we four who once were we three become we five?

I don't know. I just don't know.

(How did you know? DO you know?)

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