maka

It looks like Bumby has weaned. Not to sound braggy, or jinx myself or anything, but our breastfeeding relationship was pretty much exactly what I wanted for us.  Although I think this was the right time for it to be over, I am still a bit sad.  This is how it went for us:

3 seconds in:  I haven’t really even processed yet that Bumby is born, and a boy, when he is flopped onto my bare chest.  He wiggles around.  Amazingly, he can lift up his own head. I think that he looks like a small turtle, lying there on his tummy with his head bobbing around. The first thing he does is nurse, before he even looks at me.

2 weeks in:  I literally hit my wife in the face for having the nerve to be SLEEPING, when some of us are trying to BREASTFEED, with tears streaming down my face from the pain. We weren’t doing it right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

4 weeks in:  I read the La Leche League book and find the forum.  I learn to let Bumby take the lead (i.e., I ignore the advice of the nurse in the hospital to force it) and it becomes more comfortable. I start to relax. It’s tolerable.  I think I will make it to 3 months, then quit.

6 weeks in:  I get thrush, which I have heard called  “athletes foot of the boob.” This is a pretty accurate description of what it feels like. There is no sleeping, and I have to go to some weird pharmacy on Long Island to get the specific ointment that my hippie OB has prescribed for us.  It works, and the thrush goes away, but not before I ignore, in an exhausted daze, the fact that a pipe has burst behind our house and we have a water bill over $1,000 because water has been pouring out inside of our back wall for days. Oops.

Five months in: I am still, magically, gloriously, on maternity leave. It is sunny and hot.  It is June.  We have gone to the farmer’s market, Bumby in the Ergo. We took the dog on a long nature trail walk, and go home.  I lie on the bed and nurse Bumby while simultaneously eating farmers market strawberries.  I think that having a baby is the greatest.  Being a mom is the greatest. This is just how it should be. We take a nap with the windows open and the warm breeze blowing.  He still won’t sleep unless he is on top of me, so I take full advantage of this and nap with him every single day.

A year in: He stops taking bottles.  I still pump religiously, but the amount he will drink drops and drops.  He has never wanted freezer milk, but would tolerate refrigerator milk until now. I finally taste it and realize it tastes AWFUL.  Probably I have high lipase or something, but Bumby is such a hungry guy that he just drank the bottles anyway while I was at work.  I continue to pump, even though I change jobs and have to go down to a weird little room because my office has glass walls. I dump the nasty tasting milk down the drain.  He stays nice and fat, nursing when I am home and eating food when I am not.

18 months in: We nurse only in the morning, at naptime if I am home, and at bedtime.  While I nurse him, I sing. His favorite is Baby Beluga.  He has learned to talk, and calls nursing, or breasts, or milk, or anything associated therewith “Maka.”  He says “Maka mama. That maka all done. Switch maka.  Maka maka moo moo moo.”  I tell him it’s not polite to insinuate that your mother is a cow.

Two years in:  We drop the bedtime nursing.  He doesn’t ask for a couple days, and I don’t offer. One night he says “Maka mama” at bedtime, and I say, “Sorry Bumbs. We don’t do maka at bedtime anymore. You can have maka in the morning.”  He says okay, and we sing and rock in the chair.  I am surprised that he doesn’t cry, but he doesn’t.

Two years, two months in: My grandfather is dying. I have never been away from Bumby overnight before, but I leave for Michigan without a thought. I learn that he is dying, and two hours later I am sitting on a flight.  Bumby only nurses in the morning now, but halfway through the 5 days I am in Michigan caring for my grandfather, I realize I am painfully engorged, although it has taken more than two full days to get here.  I take a hot shower and hand express. I am surprised how much milk there still is.  When I get home, I ask Bumby if Mommy took good care of him.  He frowns at me and says, “Mommy doesn’t know Baby Beluga.”  Otherwise, it seems things went just fine. I tell her she better listen to the Raffi album a bit more in case I need to travel again.

Two years, three months in: Bumby still nurses in the morning. Mommy gets him from his bed and he crawls in our bed with me, snuggles up, and says “Maka maka moo moo moo. PUH-LEEZE.”  He is working on being a “polite young man.”  If I happen to be up already when he wakes up, he is usually too distracted to nurse, but goes right back to it the next day.

Two years, four months in:  Bumby gets a double ear infection.  He naps longer during the day, fusses all night, and sleeps in, while we battle his 105 fever. We can’t let it spike, or we risk another seizure and another trip to the ER.  We set our alarm and alternate Tylenol, Motrin, Tylenol, Motrin, all day and all night.  Even though I feel like a zombie, I am always awake before him in the morning, and he doesn’t nurse those days. One day, before his nap, we sit down to sing in the rocking chair, and he says, “Maka mama. Naptime maka.”  I say okay, and it takes me longer to sing Baby Beluga than it takes him to nurse. A few days later, he is well again, and up before me.  He snuggles into bed and says, “Maka maka moo moo moo.  Please.”  He tries to nurse, then frowns at me and says, “That maka all gone. Let’s go downstairs and PLAY!”  He doesn’t ask again.

 

Productive

I have barely any time to write. In 11 minutes, I have to let the nanny go and my wife will be home, and I still have work I am desperately trying to wrap up.  Today, the nanny took Bumbs to the zoo in the morning. They looked at animals, ate a sandwich on a bench, and rode the bug-go-round. They came home and had a snack, then Bumby took a nap while the nanny folded one load of laundry. She took a break, then tidied the kitchen a bit. Then she took Bumby to the playground, and home for a bath. Right now I can hear them belting BABYYYYY BELUUUUUUUGA over the monitor as he gets his jammies on.

Her list of accomplishments for the day:  fun activities with a small thing, one load of laundry folded, multiple snacks, and about 4 dishes loaded into the dishwasher. And yet, I feel like she did a great job today.

If I had that list of accomplishments, I would think I had slacked off. Why didn’t I get some errands done while I was out, instead of going to the zoo AND the playground? Why was I taking a break during nap instead of sending out some work emails, or ordering groceries, or trimming the hedges, or putting in a couple more loads of laundry, or paying bills?

Perhaps I should re-think what it means to be productive on the days I am home with my son.

stomp stomp stomp

I had never been away from Bumby overnight before, until a few weeks ago.  My grandfather, who is (was – I keep forgetting to say was) extremely old, had fallen particularly ill and was not expected to live more than a day or so. I rushed home to Michigan without a thought. Alone.

While I was there, my grandfather rebounded a bit, and we put him on home hospice care. Three nights, one panic attack and a good deal of ordering around the senior generation of my family later, I flew home.  My wife had a work dinner the following night, so I headed up to put Bumby to bed on my own.

“I want stomp stomp stomp.”

WHAT?  “Is that a book?”

“Yes. Stomp stomp stomp!”

Hm. I wonder what the fuck we’re talking about.  “What book is stomp stomp stomp, sweetie?  Is it a big book or a small book?”

<looks at me like I’m an idiot> “It’s STOMP STOMP STOMP.  It goes STOMP STOMP STOMP.  STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

Oh god, 3 nights away and I don’t even know his favorite book anymore.  “Does it have dinosaurs in it?”

“No.”

“Animals?”

“Mmmm. Not REALLY.  It has STOMP STOMP STOMP.  And hairplane.” (Yes, this is how he pronounces it.)

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  It has an airplane.  “Does it have other machines? Is it the big book with all the cars and planes?”

“NO.  IT’S STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

Etc.  I finally learned that Stomp Stomp Stomp is this book:

stomp stomp stomp

Not because I figured it out, but because he found it on his shelf.  Apparently, when my wife reads it, she yells “STAMP STAMP STAMP” at one point when postman number 2 is stamping the letters. Even though this does not appear anywhere in the book. There are some farm animals at the back of the book  (so it’s not really about animals, but it has some in it) and an airplane transports the mail. Sheesh.  It also apparently has a mama and a mommy, even though I tried to tell Bumby that the pictures he thought were the boy’s mama and mommy were actually two other children. Oh well.

So, a child who can speak is a double edged sword. On the one hand, they can explain things to you and (theoretically, at least) follow simple instructions. On the other hand, sometimes they make no sense.  To us, anyway.

who says you can’t go home? (or: listen to your gut)

Back in March of last year, one of the partners I did about half of my work for quit my law firm and went to another firm. I was in the middle of dealing with a move and Bumby having pneumonia. I totally couldn’t deal.  When I emerged from the fog just a bit, I lawyered the problem. I did a pros and cons list for each firm.  I made a five year plan.  When I stepped back and looked at it, I came to the conclusion that I needed to move to the new firm.  There were lots of reasons, which all looked very good on my lists.

The problem, however, was that my gut was screaming “DON’T DO IT” the entire time I was analyzing it.  The partner who was remaining at my old firm was a guy I just like much better than almost anyone I have ever worked with, although he is close to retirement age.  I had friends at my old firm. I was pushing myself to view “no female partners” at the new firm as a good thing because I knew it meant they would love to make a female partner, but it still felt like such a red flag, even though everyone I met was very nice and did not seem particularly sexist (you know, any more than usual guys you work with).  I cried every day from the day I gave notice until I started at my new firm, which was right after Memorial Day.

Anyway, not that surprisingly, I have regretted my decision pretty consistently for the last 8 months.  I could go into the reasons, but the bottom line is just that I was miserable. I work for two reasons (other than the paying-the-mortgage type reasons). One is because I actually really like being a lawyer. The other is because I am a happier person when I talk to people other than my wife and kids.  The work at the new firm was boring, and I had no friends. And I had no idea how to go about getting better work, and no way to make friends, because the associates were super unfriendly. So I went through about a three month process of pining for my old job before I finally took a page out of Bumby’s book.  When he gets into stuff, he comes right up to me and says, “I made a big mess. I need help!”  Well, I had made a big mess, and I needed help, too.  It strikes me over and over again how simply he views the world, and how often that is the best approach. He doesn’t lie. He asks for what he needs. He tries to do it himself but has no shame in admitting he needs help.  When he’s hurt, he cries and reaches for someone to hug. He says “I love you” all the time.  Sometimes, things are not that complicated. My two year old pretty much has it all figured out.

So I scheduled lunch with the guy I liked so much from my old firm, and asked for my job back. He said he would need a few days to talk to other partners at the firm and see if they thought they could keep me busy and what the reception was in general. Less than 24 hours later, he called me and said they’d be delighted to have me. Less than two weeks after that, I had cleared conflicts and had an offer letter in hand. When I gave notice, my boss at my new firm said that he actually thought going back was going to be a good move for me, after hearing my complaints about the new firm.

I start on Tuesday at my new/old job. I am looking forward to female mentors, friends in the office, and work that I find interesting again. My gut is feeling much better about this job move than the last one.

we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

Which is of course about Trump, right? It’s all we read about, think about, talk about. What will the madman do next?  How will we get through it?  Nevertheless, I am here to interrupt this newsfeed with something else entirely.

Bumby is TWO.  On his birthday, we went to the American Museum of Natural History. I don’t know why I never remember that Bumby does not actually like outings that last more than 2 hours, but I don’t. Anyway, my parents were in town, and my sister came, and Mala came (that is what he calls my mother-in-law) and all of our millions of children. We had two cars full. Which means of course we left at 10:30 instead of 9 am.  I wanted to leave at 9, so that we could maximize our time there before nap. Wellllll yeah no. Not with that many people.

The dinosaur bones were boring, but Bumby liked running up and down the small inclines between the rooms, and he liked all the taxidermy animals, which I weirdly did too until I realized that in order to have a stuffed baby gorilla you had to have killed a baby gorilla.  Then they all made me feel a little sick. Anyway, Bumby doesn’t know about killing of baby gorillas, so he loved them of course. He ran up to each one and said, “Hey, monkey! Come on out! No jumpin on the bed!” and then searched around in vain for a handle or a door or some way to open the glass case and free the monkeys (which were, of course, not actually monkeys, but gorillas and lemurs and other such things).  Here is a blurry photo as an example:


After doing this for a while, we moved on to the Native American exhibits, where he pointed out “This one’s a mama, and this one’s a mommy.”  Haha to my wife, all the “mommy” ones were actually men.  She is not masculine, by the way, at all.  Then he spotted a fellow toddler and raced over, screaming “NEW FRIEND.” He aggressively hugged him until I pulled him off, because the parents looked vaguely horrified and the kid was about to cry.

He then gave himself a time out. When he was a little younger we noticed he would get over-stimulated and bite his siblings, so we started taking him aside for a time out when this would happen. Now he gives himself a time out when the stimulation is too much.  After about 5 time outs, we decided he needed to just go.  Everyone except my sister and I left to get a table at the pizza place, and my sister and I went to get the coats. We went through the ocean exhibit, where he was fascinated by the “big baby beluga” which was actually a blue whale. We waited in line for coats, and he blew his nose on my face (my grossest parenting moment yet, actually).

After going home and taking a nap, some friends came over and we drank wine and ate cake and everyone gave him presents except for us, because ours were ordered from Amazon Prime and were late (of course). He still does not have them, because we’re trying to space the new toys out a little. And that was that – a day off from the chaos that is swirling around us on a daily basis. A little reprieve, courtesy of the boy who taught me to slow down and take a break in the first place.

 

what democracy looks like

This weekend, my wife and I joined in the New York march with Bumby and Boo. I don’t need to tell you that it was empowering and overwhelming and yes, at times even a little boring as we stood still for hours on the streets of midtown that were for once gridlocked with humans, instead of cars. 

At one point, Boo and her friends joined a chant of “build a fence around Mike Pence.” After it died down, I heard the man behind her say, “That was clever! Let’s give these girls credit for starting it even if they didn’t. Who doesn’t love cute little girls?” The “cute little girls” ranged in age from 13-18 and yes, were cute, but were also extremely pissed off. Which they told him. It’s like some people are trying to miss the point, right?

So it was Boo’s first march, and Bumby’s first march, and it was also my wife’s first march. She never really felt called to participate in political action before. She didn’t even vote in some past presidential elections (in fairness, she was in the hospital after giving birth 4 weeks early, but still….). It was a big day for the family.  It was the start of our resistance to what the Republican agenda and the Trump administration are trying to do to our country. 

 I don’t have much to say in this moment except solidarity, sisters. They may take us down but they will take us down fighting.   

gentle

Yesterday, my wife and I woke up grouchy. We were trying to pack away a million Christmas decorations and do approximately 950 loads of laundry and had to shovel the walks and it was cold out. Also, I wanted coffee and Bumby insisted on helping me make it which of course meant half the water was dumped in the coffee part and half the coffee grounds were on the floor. When my wife came in from walking the dog, she snarked about the likely-gross Bumby coffee. I snarked back about something, I don’t know what. And this continued for a bit until I got a little mean and made my wife cry. She went upstairs. I thought I would give her some space, but really it is more likely I didn’t want to admit I had been an asshole. 

But Bumby. Nothing gets by him.”Mommy crying.” 

“Yes. Mommy’s crying.”

“Nap?” 

“Well, no. I mean, she might want a nap. But she’s crying because I hurt her feelings.”

He hopped down off the couch and grabbed my hand. He started dragging me toward the stairs. “Mama. I’m sorry, Mommy. Gentle gentle. I’m sorry.”

This is what we tell him when he hits or scratches or otherwise attempts to injure us or his siblings when he is frustrated. You say you’re sorry, and show the person you know how to be gentle in your touching. So, right. Also with feelings. 

We walk upstairs and find Mommy at the computer reading about Trump. (Hard to see how this would make her feel better, but to each her own, right?)

“Sorry, Mommy,” says Bumby. 

“No no. You didn’t do it. I hurt Mommy, not you. You are fine.” He looks at me expectantly. So I say to her, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” She looks at me a bit skeptically but gives me a hug. 

“Gentle,” prompts Bumby. 

“Yes, gentle. I will be gentle with them.” The hug becomes real, and we go downstairs. 

The coffee was not ruined after all. We ate toast and cleaned house and played outside and watched the Steelers pommel the Dolphins. It was a really good, tiring day.   Sometimes when you hurt someone, it’s best to apologize like a toddler, to just say you’re sorry and promise to do better, without explaining your side or making a lot of excuses or discussing who started it. 

sleeping like a baby

Life has been particularly hard these days. My mom, who has MS, slipped in the shower on Monday and knocked herself unconscious.  There is some debate over whether she in fact slipped, or whether she actually had some kind of neurological event (like a mini-stroke) which caused her to be unconscious in the shower.  My mom is a fantastic denier and tried to tell me later that day that she was “fine now” because her speech was only a little slurred (the S’s were  fine, just the W’s were still giving her trouble) and she could use her right arm again, just not her right leg. Uh huh.  The same day, I found out my 91 year old grandfather was having surgery and had been in the hospital all weekend. Also, Christmas with 4 kids, and working, and having new windows installed this week. Also, my mother in law broke her wrist ice skating with our big kids on Thanksgiving weekend, and lived with us for a week until she acclimated to life in a cast. Then, last week, she had skin cancer removed from her leg and stayed with us for another few days since she could not walk her dog.  Etc., etc.  Ii have been stretched as taut as a wire, ready to snap at the slightest additional force. 
Bumby has been feeling it, I think, and his naps have been all over the map lately. Some days he does not nap at all. Some days, he does not nap until after 4pm. Some days, he naps at 9:30 am and then again at 1pm. Once, he was awake from 1-3 am.  I begged my nanny today to tell me that he pleasepleaseplease was not going to be one of those kids who drops his nap all together at like  2 1/2. She promised he would not.
You may recall that when Bumby was born, he wouldn’t sleep anywhere except on me. I held him about 23.5 hours a day and was totally fine with that, for a while. By about 6 months, I desperately wanted him to sleep on his own. I felt trapped under him every time he would nap, and was itching to get up and do other things all the time. Plus, his sleep was in very short little bursts, because he would often be awakened by his reflux.  I wanted to roll over at night instead of spending 8 hours in the exact same position because there was a little nugget (and by little, I mean like 20 lbs) who was sleeping on my chest.  I wanted him to sleep more than 90 minutes in a row. Anything, to have a little break.
Now, he’s almost two, and sleeps in his own bed. Normally I nurse him and rock him in the rocking chair until he is sleepy, then he goes in his crib with his moose and kitty cat and that’s that. Today, I heard him on the monitor at nap time saying “Mama help you with nap.” You know, to himself, so that I would come up and help him. So I did. I came up and nursed him again, and rocked him in the chair. He fell asleep on top of me for the first time in months. I tell you what, if I had any confidence that he would have stayed asleep in the awkward position he was in, I would have spent however long he would sleep trapped under that kid. I so miss being trapped under a baby, with nothing to do for 90 minutes at a time other than smell his head and stare at his face with those squishy sleeping baby lips.

the morning after

This morning, I got out of bed because Bumby needed me to. He needed a diaper change and he wanted to play cars.

When I was watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, which was moving and eloquent and a message of unity and hope, just like her campaign has been, I burst into tears (again). I could not handle that this perfectly qualified, brave, strong, powerful woman was not going to be our President, and I could not stand the fact that (almost) half of the country hated what was different more than it loved what brought us together. Bumby looked up from his cars and ran over.

“Mama,” he said, and threw his fat little arms around my neck.  “Kiss.” He gave me an open-mouth kiss with too many teeth, and squeezed me hard. “All done!” he said, wiping my tears.

Okay, Bumbs, all done for now. But for the first time in weeks, he wanted me to hold him in my arms and rock him until he fell asleep for nap. That was fine with me.

names

People have asked us what Bumby calls each of my wife and me, how he distinguishes us. We tend to refer to my wife as Mommy and me as Mama, but I always figured he would sort it out on his own. For example, Boo’s friends used to call us “Nice Hair Mom” and “Crazy Hair Mom.” I was fine with this, since I was Nice Hair Mom. 

Sure enough, Bumby has come up with his own names for us. Monday I worked from home. It was Halloween, and I didn’t want to get stuck at the office for Bumby’s first trick-or-treat. I came down for lunch, and he climbed onto my lap. He wrapped his fat little arms around my neck and buried his face in my hair. “Miss you. Miss you,” he whispered in my ear. 

“Oh Bumbs. I miss you too,” I answered. 

He looked into my eyes. “Miss you, Stinky Mama.”