Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Parenting Olympics

The whole world has Olympic Fever.

We're all standing united in our new-found love of synchronized diving, skeet shooting, and table tennis, sports I wasn't even aware were actual Olympic events.

As a brand new parent, my husband and I are developing impressive knowledge, speed and accuracy at some events of our own, and I am now inspired to propose the first-ever Parenting Olympics.

Events would be divided into two main categories, Indoor and Outdoor events.  Let's look at an early list of proposed areas of competition.

Indoor Events

Swaddling:  Athletes may choose to compete in either One-Handed or Two-Handed Swaddling.  Those opting for Two-Handed Swaddling will be working with a colicky, inconsolable infant, to level the playing field with the One-Handers.

Bottle Preparation:  Participants will be scored on Frozen Breast Milk Thawing, Bottle Washing, Matching Lids with Bottles, and (in an effort to remain inclusive) Powdered Formula Mixing.

Diapering:  Parents may choose to compete in either Cloth or Disposable categories.  Those competing in Cloth will be on the honor system and will be judging themselves, as most people don't know how that whole cloth system works, anyway.  Those competing in Disposable will be judged by the EPA.

Soothing:  Competitors will soothe a fussy baby for three full hours in the middle of the night, using only their own bodies and voices.  Special points will be given for Best Impromptu Rhyming in a Song, and for Smoothly Transferring Baby from Arms to Crib.

Outdoor Events

Baby Wearing:  In this mixed-gender competition, Moms and Dads will be required to safely secure their infant in a Moby wrap, without use of the instruction booklet.  (Note: Participants may be asked to sign a waiver for footage to be used on America's Funniest Home Videos.)

Subway Navigation:  Athletes with infants will be given a destination over two miles from the starting line, and must navigate the NYC subway system through no fewer than two train changes and stations with no elevators.  Athletes may not ask strangers for assistance with strollers.

Dining Out:  Participants will be required to eat a full, three-course meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) in a public restaurant with table service.  Competition must take place between 7pm and 9pm, during peak restaurant hours.  Points will be deducted for each restaurant patron that rolls his eyes at the participants.  Extra points will be awarded for finishing the meal without staining your own clothes or dropping hot food on the baby.

In this early stage of development, the Parenting Olympics is focused solely on infant care, but plans are in motion for the Parenting of Teenagers Olympics, the Parenting of Twins Olympics, and (in a special deal with Comedy Central) the Teenage Parents Olympics.  The Lifetime Network has expressed interest in the Single Parent Olympics, but participants deserve much more lucrative endorsements than are currently available, so those deals are stalled at this time.

The success of the Parenting Olympics depends on your input.  We can't do it without you.

I'd keep working on my list of potential events, but I've got to go pump.

(Look for Pumping to be added in 2016.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Betrayed by Modern Conveniences

When I was pregnant, my husband and I watched the documentary film, Babies.  It's a fascinating look at how four different babies are raised in four different parts of the world- Mongolia, Japan, Namibia, and San Francisco, California.  Each baby is followed for a year, and while there is no narration or any substantial dialogue, we found ourselves rooting for the little tykes, and admittedly, developed a favorite along the way.

By far, the happiest baby of the lot was the Namibian girl.  We watched as she and her siblings played games like "Rock"and "Stick."  They sat in the dirt, right next to the family dog.  Her mother handled her confidently, slinging the baby over her back as she worked, not appearing to be worried that the sun may be too hot on the baby's head, or that a fly was buzzing a little too close for comfort.  She played with her baby heartily, and the family laughed often.

The baby's mother didn't have a vibrating chair or a Boppy pillow, or stuffed animals that make soothing ocean sounds.  She had her own loving arms and strong legs and soft breasts, and with these tools alone, cared perfectly well for her baby.

I, too, have these things, and I've felt pretty darn good about my ability to soothe our son myself, without many "modern conveniences."  I bounce, rock, sway, sing, rub, pat, coo, feed, swaddle, and hold with skill; and usually, our baby responds beautifully- by dozing off or quieting down- safe in his mother's arms.

Until yesterday.

Elrod's paternal grandparents have come to town for a visit, and his schedule is a little off from his typical day.  He was cranky at unusual times, and nothing helped.  He screamed and screamed, and then- when my back was turned- he magically hushed.  I turned around to see what had happened- was someone trying a new hold?  A new way of baby-joggling I'd not yet learned?


There in his mouth was a bright blue pacifier.  And he seemed to love it.  He happily sucked away, soothing himself and falling asleep, as if someone had pushed a button.  Or given him a lot of Benadryl.

Now, don't get me wrong- I have pacifiers in our home.  I registered for them and even picked up a couple myself.  I'd yet to use them, as I was waiting to master the art of breast feeding before introducing them, but I'd not put up any signs alerting others to this possibly neurotic, new mommy decision.

So I did what any new mother would do.  I hid them.  Should anyone ask where they are, I'll say, "Hmmm, they were here the other day."  And that will be the end of it.

Only it wasn't.

Later, as the family tried to sit down to dinner, little Elrod was once again unhappy- loudly unhappy- and someone had the idea to put him in the automatic swing.  The one we registered for.  The one, like the pacifier, we'd yet to use.  And again, he loved it.  He fell right asleep.

And I fell apart a tiny bit inside.

This freaking swing had pushed me aside.  It did my job- swinging my baby to sleep- better than I did it myself.  It was a cold, robotic substitute for warm, flesh-and-blood, Me.  The pacifier was replacing my breast, and now this swing was mocking me with its chirping bird music, and its little animal mobile above my fascinated baby's face.  I hated Swing.  Swing could suck it.

But then I realized (or was it rationalized?), I need to take care of Me.  I had surgery three weeks ago, I still tire easily, and I deserve a meal and a rest and a deep breath now and then.  My husband and I deserve, and need, time with each other, even if it's only for 15 minutes over reheated leftovers.

And if Pacifier and Swing are the ones to give me those things, then maybe there is a place for them in our home right now after all.  Maybe Swing isn't mocking me.  Maybe Pacifier is just misunderstood.

It's still early- our son is just a little over three weeks old.  In time, these "modern conveniences" will likely have a more prominent place in our home. But for now, when they make their rare appearance, I'll try to remember that they could never replace a mother's loving arms, strong legs, and soft breasts.

It'll be nice to remember that.  Because I can't remember where I hid the pacifier.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leaving the Apartment- Was it Worth It?

Two days ago, I wrestled with the Ergo baby carrier, our infant son successfully secured inside, and I headed out to walk our dog.  It marked the first time I've left the house on my own with the baby, and it felt great.  Although we only went around the block, I felt free, and I liked feeling a whisper of my former, pre-pregnancy, independent self.

As I turned the corner to head home, my phone rang.  In some serendipitous turn of events, my agent was calling with an audition.  Could I make it to a 4:30 appointment the next day?

What, and miss an opportunity to speak in a grown-up voice in a public place?  Of course I would be there.

So yesterday, I planned it all out.  I modeled "Casual, Fun-Loving, Mom" audition outfits for my husband.  I showered, washed, dried, and styled my hair.  I put on makeup, even foundation.  I updated my resumé, and printed it on the back of my smiling, commercial, "Buy this Car/Detergent/Peanut Butter from Me" headshot.

Fearing that the humidity would wreak havoc on my freshly styled, Real Person hair, I took a cab downtown, rather than take the train, which turned out to be a good call.  Did you see the national news story about the weather that day?  The piece with shots of the Empire State Building being struck by lightning?  It was raining sideways.  There was hail.  And the center of the torrential storm seemed to be hovering over 60 Madison Avenue, where I had just gotten out of the cab- only on the wrong side of the street from my destination.

Sure, I'm always prepared, and I had a tiny umbrella in my purse.  A flimsy, rickety, tired old thing that would sooner be inside out that be open at all.  An umbrella in the loosest sense of the word.  This storm gave my umbrella the finger.

I arrived at the audition with squishing shoes, curling, frizzing hair, and running makeup.  My skinny jeans felt like they'd taken on a gallon of water. Throughout my audition, thunder boomed and lightning cracked outside the studio windows, drowning out my lines.  Still, I was thrilled to be out of the house, doing what I love to do.

And then I began to make my way home.

Since it was monsoon season outside, getting another cab would be impossible, so I headed to the nearest subway stop.

If you've ever been in the subway in the middle of summer, you are aware of the many smells one may encounter there.  People have varying standards of personal hygiene.  They may be eating Doritos.  Perhaps they've just come from doing a Shakespeare performance in period costumes in the hot, hot sun.  As a woman of 5'4", I was unhappy to be reminded that my nose is armpit height with most taller people, particularly when they grab onto the overhead bar to steady themselves.  Everyone around me was coated with a thin layer of wetness.  Was it rain?  Was it sweat?  Who could tell?  All I knew was that the minute I got home, I was sponging off my arms and face, and scrubbing the skin off my subway-tainted hands before going anywhere near my baby.

As I emerged from the 72nd street station, the rain was still pouring, as was what was left of my makeup.  I'd given up attempts at keeping my snakeskin flats dry, and instead sloshed through puddles and mini-rivers as I walked the 4 blocks home.

I was beginning to question whether or not making the trip out of the apartment had been worth it.  I'd ruined some shoes, made a questionable first impression on a busy casting director, and was experiencing some strange, unfamiliar feelings.  Was it...longing?  Could it be that, in the two hours I'd been away from him, I was missing my baby?

Vowing to myself that auditions could wait, telling myself I'd been foolish to think I could pop right back in to my former routine so soon after having a baby, something else serendipitous happened.

There, right off the corner of Amsterdam and 74th, was Levain Bakery.  There was no line, and the light from inside was warm and welcoming.  Smiling adults worked behind the counter, baking the most delicious cookies you've ever tasted.  It smelled of heaven and (someone else's) home, and I plopped down my $8 and took home two walnut-chocolate chip cookies to share with my husband.

Yes, it rained.  No, I didn't get a callback.  But was it worth it?

Yes.  To be reminded that auditions and trains and cabs and the city will all still be there when I'm really ready...that was worth it.

And the cookies were pretty good, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week One Discoveries- The Abridged Version

We had a baby last weekend, and now he lives with us.  His name is Elrod, he makes hilarious faces, and he's a very good eater.

I could go on and on about his birth and our feelings, and about how our lives will never be the same, but there are other blogs for that- blogs written by people who have had more than two showers in 8 days, probably.

But honestly, time is of the essence here.  Elrod is peacefully napping, I just ate actual food, and the laptop has a decent charge.  So I'll strike while the iron is hot and share some quick and dirty discoveries from Week One of Parenthood.

1.  After a caesarean birth (a TOTALLY different blog post), one's feet swell so much, they look like two balls of rising dough.  It takes exactly 8 days for them to return to their former, slimmer shape.  This will be the only slim thing on my body for a very long time.

2.  Babies poop in Technicolor.

3.  My birth plan has become a work of comedic fiction.  The only thing on that list that went our way was my desire to avoid an episiotomy- a procedure rendered completely unnecessary in a caesarean birth.  Oh, irony.

4.  I have become a lot less particular about how much baby urine it takes to render my clothes unwearable.

5.  The contraption I wear to pump my breast milk makes me look like a Fembot from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  

6.  Dogs will lap up spilled breast milk before you can bend over to clean it up yourself.

7.  Our child goes through 3-4 outfits a day.  It's like a Diana Ross concert around here.

8.  "Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps" is advice coming from people with no babies living with them.

9.  Communication with my husband has begun to break down into a series of hand gestures and sentences containing little more than a subject and a verb.  "You go."  "We eat."  "He sleeps."  It's like Clan of the Cave Bear.

10.  Newborn babies have the same far-off, dreamy look in their eyes as that dancing bear in Madagascar 3.

I could go on.  I could talk about the doctors' appointments we've gone to, the visit from Grandma, the sleepless days and nights, the lactation consultant, baby gear, you name it.

But instead, I think I'll try and take a nap.

You know, because my baby is sleeping.