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.

 

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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.

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.   

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.”

the lonelies

At the end of May, I started a new job. I did not want to. I liked my old one just fine, thank you. But on the day I learned Bumby had pneumonia, after a morning of urine and blood tests and chest x-rays, while talking to the inspector at my soon-to-be new house, my office called to tell me my boss had quit. And just like that, I was offered a job at the new firm and off I went. 

There must be something about blogging that appeals to people with social anxiety, because approximately 100% of the bloggers I read have it. Also, the person who writes this blog has it. The new job and the new house and the sick baby, well, it was quite a lot, really. So I hunkered down and did my best, and then picked my head up with a start to realize one day that it had been nearly six months since I had socially interacted with anyone outside my family during the daytime hours. 

At my old job, I had friends. I had people I knew by virtue of billing 110 hours a week with them while 8 months pregnant, and people I knew because I was a woman and hadn’t quit yet and they wanted to know how I managed that. I had people I knew because I was sassy and they thought it was funny, and people I knew because I was sassy and they thought that meant I was smart. 

At my new place, I know 2 people and one lives in Chicago. They are both men, and both my bosses. They are both very nice, but we talk mostly by email and not often about our personal lives (like almost never). I do not have friends, or even acquaintances. I don’t even like my secretary. No one even knows I am sassy. At my old place, a couple of peer-level women took me to lunch when I was new, and stopped by to walk me to the associates committee meeting with them. No one does that at my new place. So I go alone, and sit alone, or I don’t go at all because it’s too hard. 

A lot of women I know like to work because they get their fix of “adult time” while they are at work. Today I said about 25 words out loud, for real. The whole day. It’s the loneliest place I have ever worked and I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t think it’s like this for everyone. Other people who have been there longer or work full time seem to have “integrated,” but I just can’t. I don’t know why. 

There is a work social event on Thursday  night. It’s a women’s poker party. I should go and meet people. I like poker and wine. But I am terrified to walk in alone. Where will I sit? Who will I talk to? Whose fake money will I take? 

At the same time as all of this, I met a lesbian mom at Bumby’s music class. She asked me out on a play date to the playground. She drives a Subaru and her wife is also a lawyer. I love her for being the first non-family adult I spoke to during the day since I can remember. I love her for taking the bold step of asking me to hang out. It makes me want to be a SAHM just to avoid the horribleness that is my male-dominated, antisocial workplace. 

So all of these things make it so hard to get up, put on my heels, and go to the office. But I do, because I do. I want Bumby to know that Mama works and is good at her job. I want other women to know that you can love your son desperately and also be kickass at being a lawyer. I want myself to know that I can do this and be ok. I want my girls to know that you can cobble together a life that makes you happy, as a professional and as a mom. But fucking hell if it isn’t hard sometimes. 

love and marriage

Today is my fourth wedding anniversary with my wife.  We have been together nine years.

That sounds so long to me, and it feels so short. This last year in our life and marriage have been hard.  No sleep, four kids, a new job, a new house. Stress and demands from every angle. A sick, sick baby that we can’t stop worrying about.

Sometimes, we were not that kind to each other. Sometimes, we used each other as a receptacle for all of the BS we could not hold inside anymore.  Sometimes, we fell asleep, exhausted, without a kiss or even a goodnight. Sometimes, we yelled.  I think sometimes that I will look back and this will be one of the hard years of our marriage.

Last night, at 1:48 am, I was trying to fall asleep. I could not, because I was honestly just waiting for the part of the night when Bumby shrieks for me and I go sleep on his floor. And my wife was snoring, just a little, and I was looking at her, and I thought:

This would be hard no matter what. At least we are in it together. At least there is someone to yell at who loves me anyway, and someone I can be a sounding board for when it’s all too much, someone I still love desperately, nine years later.  At least we have each other.

And that, I think, is what the hard years of marriage are all about.

eighteen months

So Bumby is 18 months, nearly 19 months by the time I am writing this.  I kind of can’t believe it.

He still does not sleep through the night (sorry, new mamas). Well, he doesn’t anymore. He did, fairly consistently, for a while, but now he has super-sized separation anxiety and also words. Which means he begs me “Mama, don’t go away” and “STAY. STAY.” each night at bedtime. It is heart-wrenching. We have a lot of travel over the next couple of weeks, but once school starts (HALLELUJAH) we are going to have to make a concerted effort to get him to fall asleep on his own in there, because right now I am falling asleep on his floor all the time. I agree to stay, then I lie on the floor to show my commitment to staying. An hour later, my wife wakes me up and I come back downstairs, groggy and grumpy. I spend some time with her or the rest of the family, then can’t fall asleep at bedtime, having taken the edge off. Sometime between 3 and 5 am, he will cry, and I will go up. He begs me to stay, I fall asleep on the floor again until morning. It’s miserable, but not as miserable as listening to him cry and scream, and nowhere near as miserable as having him in our bed, sleeping on my face and kicking my wife in the stomach all night long.  So we are riding this out for now, and secretly I hope that when the schedule normalizes a bit, he goes back to his old sleeping habits.

He nurses now about 3 times a day. He says “mahk” for milk, which is adorable. He also reaches his hands inside my shirt and rummages around for the goodies, which is slightly less adorable. He likes mahk at bedtime, and also on a boat. Don’t ask me why, but every single time we are on a boat or a ferry, the kid wants his mahk.  I do not want to wean him, ever.  He still uses a pacifier too, and I am unsure whether it’s better to wean him first, and use the pacifier as a transition, or to get rid of the pacifier first, then wean.  Either way, I am not weaning until after age 2 unless he drops it on his own, which seems entirely unlikely at this point.

He has been talking a blue streak lately, getting new words every day. To the big kids’ delight, he learns tricks like a dog. He can whip, and nay-nay. He shouts “NUTS” if you say “dese” (thanks to the brother for that one). He high fives, and fist bumps. He says “wet” or “stinky” if he needs his diaper changed. He loves to kiss people.  He pats your face and says “gentle” if you are crying.  He also bites when he’s mad, then points at the spot and says “Bite. No.” and gives a kiss or a gentle pat to show how sorry he is.

I thought I would be so sad to have a toddler instead of a baby, but I love it. I love the way he says “Mama” when I come home from work, and I love that going to lunch with him no longer feels like going to lunch alone.  I love how sweet and affectionate he is. My big boy.