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.
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.”
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.
I work part time. Mostly, I feel like this is a nice balance. But the word “balance” is a little misleading. It’s more like a seesaw than a tightrope. Over the summer, I was slow at work. I had lots of time to get stuff done around the house, and lots of time with the kids (including Bumby). I was able to take time off when he was sick, deal with the sleep deprivation caused by his weird clingy phase, and meet him at the pool when I could get out early. I forced the older kids off the couch and into engaging activities (like looking at their phone by the pool, rather than on the couch.) I was killing it on the mom front. But work was suffering. I wasn’t busy enough to feel like I was involved, I had just switched to a new job and didn’t know anyone, and my boss was irritated with me a few times.
The last month, things have gotten much better at work. I got a bunch of great feedback from a new partner I had not worked with before. My hours were high, and I was really engaged on a couple of interesting projects. I was killing it. But I was totally disengaged as a parent. I often had to plop Bumby on the floor with a toy and hope he would stay quiet while I tried to revise an email, and I worked frantically every time he went down for his nap. Sometimes, I would hear him wake up and be so frustrated, because if he had just slept a little longer, I could get a document out. I was late getting home, so on my in-office days I would sometimes spend only 15 minutes with him before he went to bed. Once, he fell off a rock because I was trying to take a conference call while also helping him climb the rock (because if he couldn’t climb the rock, he would scream, and I would be busted). Also, I left my 11 year old at football practice for a half hour (at 8pm, at the field by the freeway) because I was stretched too thin and messed up the carpool schedule. My non-work hours were getting totally swallowed up by work, and Bumby and the other kids were suffering for it.
So I dug in. I refused to work over the weekend, other than when Bumby was napping. I watched the debates and edited a document at the same time so didn’t have to miss them (and the chance to provide color-commentary to the older kids while we watched). I declined invites for two calls this morning, and took Bumby to music class and on a bike ride to the park instead. We had a great morning, and I did not yell and he did not cry, not even once. He did not fall off of anything high or play with any sharp objects. I cleaned the kitchen and scheduled some home maintenance work during his nap instead of working. And then, when the babysitter got here and my scheduled work hours started, I sat down at my desk to discover I had made an embarrassing mistake in the document I worked on last night, and the partner who gave me the good feedback before said he thought the work I did over the weekend was sort of… not as good as some other stuff I had done in the past. Sort of like I rushed it a bit, I guess.
So that’s it. I kill it here, and it kills me there. Up and down, down and up.
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.
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.
Now that back-to-school days are upon us, my FB feed has been full of promoted articles about “life-hacks” or “parenting hacks” aimed at making our lives as parents easier. These inevitably involve things like how to more quickly cut your kid’s cheese into the shape of a flower, or how to pack apple slices without them turning brown.
Here’s an idea. Cut the cheese into a fucking square. Put the whole apple into the lunch bag without cutting it up.
It has been ages since I have written anything. Isn’t that one of the cruel ironies of blogging, that when you have time to write, nothing is going on and you have nothing to say. When ALL OF THE THINGS are happening and requiring much thought and analysis, you don’t have even a few minutes to write anything.
Accordingly, you are owed one of those omnibus update type posts. This is not that. This is the post where I write about one very bad thing that has happened.
The Bumby is very sick, again.
On Friday he started to seem out of sorts. No appetite, a desire for extra napping, that kind of thing. We had planned to go out to Fire Island, where we have a beach house, and so we did. Friday night, he felt warm. This kid kind of gets fevers at the drop of a hat, so we gave him some Tylenol and went to dinner. He perked up and ate some bread, and charmed the waiter by saying Thank You every time he brought something to our table. It was all very uneventful.
Saturday morning, he was still warm. We don’t have a thermometer at our beach house, so I don’t really know how warm is warm, but he was… you know. Warm. We gave him some more Tylenol and discussed our plan. We decided to take him down to the beach because it is actually cooler than the house, and he could play in the water. Even for having a fever he was behaving pretty normally. He was energetic, and happy. Plus he kept saying “Walk, walk. Beach, beach.” So off to the beach we went, promising ourselves we would stay only an hour. He played. He tried to eat small crustaceans. He filled a bucket with sand, dumped it out, and filled it again. He drank “wa-wa” the entire time. Then he crawled up into my lap and asked for milk, so I nursed him. And he fell asleep, just as our designated beach time was up.
After much hemming and hawing, we decided he needed the sleep and it would be a disaster to take him home and risk waking him up and ruining his nap when he obviously needed one, because he was a bit sick. I put a towel over us to keep the sun off of him. It wasn’t hot under the towel, honestly. I swear. I get hot very easily, and I was comfortable. After 20 minutes or so, Bumby made a meowing sound and picked his head up. He looked at me, and he was terrified. His eyes were all wide and his mouth was open. Just then, his arms started shaking and he collapsed down onto my chest. “Something is wrong with Bumby!”
I was too afraid. I handed him to my wife so she could look at him, and he went totally limp. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he was completely non-responsive. We started running to the boardwalk to take him to the clinic in our town. As we got off the beach, he stopped breathing and started turning blue. I ran ahead to get the doctor, and our friend called 911 while my wife ran behind me, holding the limp and non-responsive Bumby. I thought he was dying. I was actually fairly sure that he was dying.
By the time she caught up with me at the doctor’s office, Bumby was responsive, the proper color for a baby, and wet. My wife had a guy watering his plants hose down Bumby. Apparently, what happened was a febrile seizure. This is a harmless event and happens to some kids when their fever shoots up too fast. Frankly, I don’t care if it’s not unusual, and I don’t care if it’s harmless. I never, ever want to see it happen to my little guy again. It was terrifying. Regardless, we were med-evac’ed off the island and rushed to the ER.
Even though he was hot, and feverish, we were told not to give him water in case he had another seizure and threw it up and aspirated. After no less than five attempts, they decided they could not give Bumby an IV to re-hydrate him. He is too small, too fat, and his veins are too little. Five times, I held down my screaming baby and let them stick him with needles for no reason. Finally, hours later, I was allowed to nurse him and give him water and apple juice. It took several hours to collect urine from him because he was so dehydrated at this point. His fever hovered around 104. Which I know, because they shoved a thermometer up his ass on an hourly basis. He refused the Tylenol, so guess what they did? Yep, they held him down and forced it. He was choking and spluttering the whole time, and after they were done he promptly vomited up not only the Tylenol but the potato chips and 4 oz of water I had convinced him to eat and drink. So then they gave him the Tylenol by suppository. It was a total nightmare, and in the end they did nothing for him. I hated the hospital, all of the nurses, and one of the doctors. There was a PA that I liked, and she was the only thing that made the visit even remotely bearable (that, and the fact that the EMT liked Bumby’s real name so much that she and her wife are going to name their soon-to-be son after him).
He is still sick. He has had antibiotics for an ear infection, which maybe caused the super high fever, but maybe did not. In addition to the ER visit, he got a trip to the pediatric urgent care and his regular pediatrician. They can’t find anything wrong other than the ear infection, but it’s been six days now and his fever is still in the 101 range (I have been calling him the Heatmeiser, because he’s Mr. Hundred-and-one).
So, what’s wrong with Bumby? No one knows. Did this happen because we stupidly took a feverish baby to the beach? No one knows. In any event, I am partly glad we made the decisions that we did, because if we had gone home or not gone to the beach in the first place, he would have been napping in his crib. Which means he in all likelihood he would have had the seizure anyway, only he would have been alone instead of in my arms. I might not have even known it happened, because the whole thing was basically silent. This realization has caused us to sleep with Bumby for each of the last five nights, so that we can be sure he is breathing and alive at all times. So far, so good.
We are supposed to go back to the beach this weekend with some friends. Obviously, if Bumby has even the hint of a fever, we are not doing that. But if he doesn’t have a fever… I still don’t know. I am scared to have him someplace where we can’t easily get to a good hospital. I am just sort of scared in general. I haven’t gone into work all week because I am afraid that he will take a turn for the worse and I will be an hour away. If I knew what was wrong with him I might be able to deal, but I don’t and I might not ever. He might just be a kid who gets scary-high fevers from nothing or anything.
Anyway, that’s it. That’s the very bad thing that has happened. Is happening, whatever.
Babies napping in a diaper with the fan blowing.
Long afternoons at the pool.
Dirty bare feet.
Late night sunsets while sipping rose.
Days at the beach getting sunburned shoulders and ears.
Teenagers in pajamas at 3 pm.
Bored, bored children who one week ago couldn’t wait to have nothing to do.
Early wake ups with an early sunrise.
“Outside? Outside? Please?” when we all know there are dishes to do and things to unpack and worker men in the basement with 100 questions.
Sweaty back, and face, and neck after biking to the train station in a suit.
And yet, I will take the bad with the good any day of the week. A crappy summer day beats a perfect snowstorm, if you ask me.