Friday, March 31, 2006

The best gift ever

Of course, Bigfella's presence in my life is the best gift ever, but today's mail brought something that is a close second. I have had a couple entries swirling in my head for a few days, but they will have to wait. Today's gift is less about the material present, and more about the sentiment behind it.

We have received many beautiful and generous gifts to welcome Bigfella to the world, but today's was the first that made me cry. When I went to the mailbox this afternoon, I was worn out. I spent the morning trying to get my financial aid paperwork finalized, and then treated myself to a celebratory lunch. While out, I ran into two of my former colleagues and read an article about how much my former school has deteriorated this year. By the time I got home, and discovered that the neighbor's cherry tree had lost a limb across our driveway, I was very drained.

But I went to the mailbox, and pulled out a card that was addressed to both me and Dyke Two. I looked more closely, and saw that it was postmarked in Tulsa. My father's family is scattered throughout the midwest, so I assumed it was from one of them. I opened it, and found a sweet card with pictures of babies of all races on the front. Inside, there was a check for $36 (Jewish tradition calls for monetary gifts in multiples of 18, which is the number that represents "chai" or life). The card was sent by my great-aunt Gete, with a note welcoming Bigfella to the family.

Aunt Gete must be close to 90, if not older. She is one of the last of Bubbeh's generation still alive. She represents the family tradition, the values and history of our bloodline. I assumed that the nonagenarian set wouldn't be so keen on all that Bigfella brings to the table. I assumed that Bigfella, Dyke Two and I would forever be uncomfortable at family reunions, facing subtle ostracism and strained conversation. I never anticipated that they would be sending presents to welcome Bigfella into the family. It was the welcome into the family, which really was a welcome for both Bigfella and Dyke Two, that is the best gift ever.

Apparently, Aunt Gete is hipper than I originally gave her credit.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dreadlocks and patchouli

Bigfella and I had a big day today. We went to the library's used book sale, where Bigfella's picture was taken browsing from the baby bjorn and I bought five or so books. Mainly fiction, but I picked up a memoir of a white adoptive mother and the lessons she learned about race after adopting a black daughter. It looks like it will be a short read, but might be useful when discussing race with some of the more clueless folks in the world. The books I bought will be a nice counterbalance from the Jonathan Kozol book I bought over the weekend. Shame of the Nation does not look like a light read, but my brain is definitely ready to move beyond poop and nursing.

But, speaking of poop, can anyone help a girl out about what exactly diarrhea looks like in a breastfed baby? I keep wondering if Bigfella has a dairy sensitivity. His post-mom-binges-on-ice-cream poops are very mucusy and watery, but not bloody. The boy is clearly gaining weight (we put him on our bathroom scale over the weekend and he weighs 15 pounds) and is not screaming in pain, but the poop continues to baffle me. You would think that an Ivy League education and a master's degree would come in handy, but I still stare at the contents of his diaper like I am trying to read tea leaves...

And, speaking of nursing, the other excursion for our big day was a field trip back to the library where the book sale was for a La Leche League meeting. We were going to ask for advice about the whole latching/choking/screaming cycle. I had been warned that LLL meetings, here in the People's Republic of Smallcity, are heavily populated by white women with dreadlocks who wear patchouli and nurse their kindergartners. Except for the nursing kindergarteners, I would have felt like I was back in high school or college. Seriously, people, I see nothing wrong with patchouli, as long as it is not used instead of showers and deodorant. In addition to, not instead of. Alas, I didn't get to experience the olfactory sensation that is armpit mixed with patchouli, because when we went back to the library for the meeting, it turns out that it was cancelled due to the book sale. So, the vicious nursing cycle continues. Maybe the morning LLL will be helpful, though it isn't for another two weeks. (and thank you all for the advice that I have received. We have tried it all, and all of it helps some of the time. but, being the OCD anxiety ridden researcher that I am, I wanted more opinions. Or, maybe, I just wanted to smell the patchouli.)

So, Bigfella and I got back in the car and drove home, where I ate the rest of the box of girl scout cookies and finished the recommendations for one of my student teachers.

Big day, people, big day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

We went to dinner last weekend with some very good friends who drove into town to meet Bigfella. As we were driving across town, we have this conversation:

Dyke Two: Do you have any lip balm?

Me: No, but my lips are really chapped.

Dyke Two: Mine too. What's in the diaper bag?

Me: hand lotion, hand sanitizer, diaper wipes, and the butt salve.

Dyke Two: What's in the butt stuff?

Me (reading from the tin): olive oil, beeswax, chickweed, plantain, comfrey, and calendula.

Dyke Two: Can we put it on our lips?

Me: It says it can be used for dry skin. I guess we could.

Dyke Two: You can't tell anyone we did this.

Let me just defend our actions a little bit:

1. We haven't actually had to put it on Bigfella yet, so it was a new, virgin tin of salve.

2. It really, really looks and feels like a tin of all-natural lip balm.

3. Breastfeeding has really dried me out. I mean really dried me out.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Our little boy is growing up...

...seriously, we went to the pediatrician for his four week appointment, and the little booger weighs 13 pounds 10 ounces. He was 24 inches long. The ped looked at him and said, "He sure is healthy. The size of a three month old, but healthy."

Apparently, the nursing is working. He still pops off the breast crying when he gets too much milk, but sometimes he is willing to let me nurse him side lying or with a recline. At this point, I figure if Bigfella isn't interested in the milk because too much is coming out, well, he'll eat when he's hungry. Clearly, even with the disrupted nursing sessions, he's getting enough to eat.

Now we're worried about where he is going to sleep. His bassinet has a 15 pound weight limit, which should mean that by next weekend, he needs to be sleeping somewhere else. We aren't ready for him to be in the crib since that makes it seem like he is so old and grown up. We're trying to avoid full time co-sleeping, though he does spend part of the night with us. The crib is inconvenient enough that I am sure we will end up co-sleeping full time if we try to transition to the crib.

Is there any reason he can't sleep in the bassinet bed of his stroller? (My lawyer brother gave us a bugaboo frog as a baby gift, so Bigfella is definitely styling. He rides around in the most expensive non-electronic item in the house.) It has a 19 pound weight limit, but my worry is that it doesn't have the mesh sides that the bassinet has to allow for air flow. Any suggestions?

If we decide not to go with the stroller-as-bed option, we are thinking of buying a Snugglenest. Unfortunately, our piece of crap Toys R Us/Babies R Us doesn't keep it in stock, and we are the type who likes to handle things before we buy them...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dr Crazyman Revisited

I went back to Dr. Crazyman yesterday for a follow up neurology appointment. We checked my depth perception and acuity, which were both back to normal. (Acuity had never changed). Then he did his whole shebang with lights and lasers and dilated pupils. I could actually see the lights this time, while last time I had a massive blindspot. Everything was back to normal. He sent me home with a final diagnosis of "pregnancy induced paralysis of the 6th cranial nerve." I don't need to see him again, ever, unless the headaches and/or double vision return.

I am thrilled that everything checked out well, since I have been very worried that it was some sort of viral reaction, and that Bigfella might have lingering side effects, but the doctor told me that is very unlikely.

This was also the first time I left Bigfella. I was gone for about 2 and a half hours. Dyke Two had Bigfella at home. She gave him a bottle, stripped him down to his diaper and t-shirt, and spent a lot of time bouncing him and singing to him. They were fine. I, however, was a little bit neurotic. She had told me to go to a coffeeshop and read the paper and drink a latte. I finished with the doctor, and immediately raced home. I justified it as needing to pump, but in reality, I felt like I was missing a part of myself since Bigfella was so far away from me.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

May her memory be a blessing

Yesterday, at about the time I was posting about my bubbeh's illness, she passed away.

Bubbeh was a kind and gentle soul, who spent hours singing and playing her organ. She loved to talk to everyone and anyone. Bubbeh grew up as one of 8 children, living on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. Her parents were traveling salespeople after immigrating from eastern Europe. When they found a small town in rural South Dakota that had no general store, they opened up shop there, settling in as the only Jewish family for at least 200 miles.

Years before her dementia struck, and years before her creaky, weakened knees landed her in a nursing home, she would, without fail, run through a long list of names of family members before correctly calling you by your given name. We laughed, and chalked it up to a bubbehism. It never bothered us, since the names were always names of people she loved and held near to her heart. It was almost like a verbal reminder of the long line of strong and wonderful people who were our history, and our place within the legacy that is our family.

One of the last times we went to a restaurant with Bubbeh was when she was about 89, and had been in the nursing home for a couple of months. When the waitress came to ask if anyone wanted dessert, my aunt and uncle immediately said, "We know Bubbeh does." Somehow, in all the years I had known my grandmother, I had never made the connection that my insatiable sweet tooth was inherited from her. Seriously, neither of my parents has that sweet tooth, my brother doesn't have it, but, me and Bubbeh, connected by our mutual love of chocolate. (Unfortunately, I also inherited those creaky, weak knees that were her ticket to the nursing home). We joked that evening that a balanced diet for us is one that involves snacking from all of the dessert groups in a given week (creamy, cold, chewy, crunchy, chocolate and fruity).

My favorite Bubbeh memory comes from her 90th birthday party. My dad's cousins run the nursing home where Bubbeh lived. All was well in the home until one of the cousins returned from her missionary work in Asia and took it upon herself to convert all of the non-Christian residents of the nursing home, including her jewish aunt. The day of Bubbeh's birthday party, the cousin took it upon herself to try and enlist my Christian sister-in-law in her efforts to save the souls of the Jewish side of the family. My Bubbeh sat at the other end of the table, and loudly and emphatically announced to the rest of us that her niece had stopped trying to convert her when Bubbeh politely told her, "I've made it 90 years without Jesus in my life, and if you're trying to make the world Christian, don't bother yourself with a stubborn old woman like me. I love you, but I am not going to find Jesus at this age."

Last night, Dyke Two and I were talking about Bubbeh, and she asked if I was sad that she never met Bigfella. In reality, since Bubbeh began to deteriorate when I was in college, I never knew her as an adult. We never discussed my sexuality, she never met Dyke Two, and quite frankly, issues of race were never talked about. I told Dyke Two that I was a little sad that there would be no pictures of Bigfella and his Jewish great-grandparents, but that I had no idea what Bubbeh would have thought of a great-grandson who was bi-racial and being raised by his two moms.

Maybe it is best that my memories of Bubbeh are preserved as my kind and loving grandmother, and were never marred by the harsh reality of one generation challenging the historical legacy of previous generations.

Friday, March 10, 2006

On death and boobies...

So, we think my grandmother is dying. She is almost 97, and has been in a nursing home for 8 years. Apparently, a flu outbreak hit the nursing home, and she caught it. She has been basically unresponsive for 8 months (long before the flu) and now is not eating, drinking or turning toward her caregivers. The doctors at the hospital she was transferred to said that this is either the end, or she will recover to her old unresponsive, but eating, state and might live for another 5 years.

My father and uncle are devastated, but realistic. I am sad to think that she might die, but just as sad to think that she might continue to live in this semi-alert state indefinitely. She was always such a talker, she sang throughout the day, and loved to visit with friends and family. To think that she is alive, but not herself is worse than thinking that she might die. In reality, she left us long ago....

But, this brings up the issue of traveling for her funeral. She lives outside Chicago, a two day drive for me, or a two-plane flight from me. I wouldn't leave Bigfella at home with Dyke Two, and she can't take more time off right now to travel with me, and we can't envision putting a 3-4 week old baby on a plane. When you add in the fact that Judaism requires burial in 24 hours (unless the death occurs over Shabbat) the logistics are extremely difficult.

I told my father last night that I didn't see how I could possibly travel for a funeral right now. He agreed, and said that the absolute worst thing that could happen would be if Bigfella and I came to the funeral, and Bigfella ended up sick with an upper respiratory infection from the plane travel.

Thankfully, my father and uncle are planning a small, private burial with a larger memorial service at the time of the headstone unveiling, which can be scheduled this summer. As long as the rabbi agrees with this, the burial will probably only be attended by the required 10 people to make a minyan.

I know I talk a lot about the cycle of life, and birth and death being so closely related, but it is still really hard...

...and what does this have to do with boobies?

Not all that much, in reality, except that since I am breastfeeding, that makes the leaving of Bigfella a little more complicated. Also, since I am breastfeeding, everything is about boobies...

ugh. daytime is going so well with Bigfella. Nighttime, not so much...

It isn't the lack of sleep that is bothering me. It seems like my milk is stronger and more present at night, so Bigfella and I are not jelling with the middle of the night feedings. He will go on the breast, clamp down and then splutter and cough, pop off the breast, and cry and cry and cry.

Then, he ends up way gassy and uncomfortable.

So my nipples hurt from him chomping on them to slow down the milkflow, he cries and chokes from too much milk, and I cry because of his anger.

Then, once we both stop crying, he begins to fuss because of the gas from all the air he swallows while gulping down milk. His eyes get big and his face turns a little red.

Seriously, he looks and acts like a frat boy in a beer-chugging contest.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

So how do we handle the fame?

For years, one of my favorite columns in the Sunday paper has been the birth announcements. I read them to find out which of my former students have become parents, which of my friends and classmates from high school have kids, and, of course, to laugh at some of the ridiculous names new parents decide to saddle their kids with.

In all the years of reading this column, and it has now been close to a 10-year obsession, I have never seen a same-sex couple listed. Many of our lesbian friends have been listed as single mothers, so we assumed it was a policy of the newspaper not to publish anything but what was on the birth certificate. When the press liaison from the hospital came into the room with the form after Bigfella was born, I idly asked her if she knew the policy.

"The newspaper prints exactly what you write on the form."

"Really? If I put Dyke Two down as the father, they'll print it?"

"Oh, honey, don't do that."

"Why not?"

"That's not fair to her. Just cross off mother and father and write in parents."

So we did.

And then today, there in the paper:

February 16th To Dyke One and Dyke Two, of smallcity, a son, Bigfella.

Dyke Two and I were so happy this afternoon. Seriously, we almost cried.

Isn't it sad how happy we were to be thrown a few crumbs? Imagine our reaction if the legislature were to pass an adoption bill...