Friday, May 29, 2009

Child labor is fun!

In one of the more famous (and delightful) scenes in American literature, Tom Sawyer is charged by his Aunt Polly with the task of whitewashing her fence.  Through cunning and reverse psychology, he convinces his friends to do the job for him by planting the idea that it's a pleasure to do so, so much so that his friends barter their goodies -- an apple, a prized toy -- for a chance at whitewashing fun.

I doubt Jason has ever read any Mark Twain, but he (Jason) would have made a great Tom Sawyer.  

Last night when I got home from work after picking Zeke up from school, I was exhausted.  I've been sleeping somewhat better, but yesterday was one of those days when I felt like the Joey was just sucking all of the energy right out of my body.  I sat at work trying to stifle yawns and keep my eyes open.  So when I arrived home, Jason told me to get some rest and that he would entertain Zeke.  

I shed my work clothes and climbed into bed to read and relax.  But I could hear Jason and Zeke outside together.  I chuckled at Zeke answering "yah" to every question Jason asked.  This is one of his newer tricks (and one he totally gets from me).  Ask him anything -- "Zekey, are you hungry?"  "Do you want some water?"  "Does Daddy need a haircut?"  -- and the answer will be a determined "yah!"

Then they were walking around and chattering, playing with trucks, pointing out a passing firetruck ("aya-tuck!"), futzing about with things in the garage.  It was very cute.

I went back to my book.

I heard them go onto the back patio, which is terribly overgrown with weeds.
Jason:  Pull that one, buddy!  Right there!  Good boy!  Now put it in the bin.

Zeke:  Bin!  

Jason (clapping)  : Yayyyyy!

Zeke (also clapping his hands):  Yayy!

Jason:  OK, now go pull that other one.  Not there, over that way.  Good boy!

Zeke:  Yayyy!!
My first thought was, "he's using our toddler to do yardwork.  That's not right."

My second was, "maybe I can teach Zeke to massage my feet."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Better living through chemistry

I've written in the past about my family's penchant for pharmaceutical solutions to whatever ails you.  On a recent trip to Israel, my mother was delighted by this exchange with a pharmacist (delighted both with the attitude of the pharmacist, which was so quintessentially Israeli, and also with the substance of the discussion):
Mom:  I'm interested in getting some Ambien, some Retin-A, and a few other things.  Do I need a prescription?

Pharmacist:  Yes.

Mom:  What if I don't have one?

Pharmacist:  We'll give it to you anyway.
I tell this little story to provide some context vis-a-vis where I'm coming from, even as a pregnant person.  I have no compunctions about taking medications, even while pregnant, if it will make me more comfortable and the doctor says it's OK for the baby.

I get the sense that pregnant women these days tend to be a little nutso about every little thing they ingest, be it soft cheeses or caffeine or sushi or whatever.  They're all jacked up about natural childbirth and eating super-foods and blah blah blah.  

I think most of this is bullshit.  My philosophy is everything in moderation, and you'll be fine.  I don't smoke or do drugs, but I'll have a sip of Jason's beer or Kathleen's margarita, I'll have a bite of brie, I'll eat sushi if it's from a reputable place, and I'll definitely have my two cups of coffee in the morning.  I have no problem with getting an epidural (obviously) or doing whatever needs to be done to get the baby out safely, whether its by C-section or with suction or whatever.  Just get it done.

My feeling is that my OB is not used to this.  Because every time she suggests something that could be construed as even remotely aggressive or off the natural childbirth path, she tiptoes around the subject as if she's afraid of offending me.

Like early on, when I first started seeing her, she noted that I had a really long and difficult labor with Zeke, mostly because he was so big, and wanted to suggest monitoring the Joey's size late in the pregnancy and possibly inducing if it looked like she was getting too big.  But instead of just saying that, she hemmed and hawed and said, "well, there are things we can do, if you wouldn't be opposed to taking steps know... move the process along...if that's not a problem for you?"

I said, "what, you mean like inducing early?"


And I was all, "yeah, no problem.  Whatever."

She sighed, visibly relieved.  "OK, good.  Because that way we can make sure you're more comfortable and that you don't have such a difficult experience like last time."

"Right,"  I said.  "Plus, if we induce early, the baby will definitely make the October 1 school registration cut-off.  It would suck to have to pay for an extra year of daycare."

She just laughed.  But I was very deliberate in trying to explain that I am the opposite of a natural-childbirth Nazi.  I flat-out told her, "whatever you think is best is fine with me.  I have no problems with drugs, epidurals, a C-section if it's required, whatever.  I trust you.  I just want a healthy baby.  I don't care how I get it out of me."

But I guess it's been a couple of months since we had that conversation, because yesterday, I was in her office for my regular check-up, and mentioned that I had been having a terrible time sleeping.  And that in all likelihood, in addition to the normal discomfort and difficulty sleeping that many women have during pregnancy, my problems were compounded by my history of depression.  I've been feeling fine and off the medication for over a year, but the one symptom I've never truly been able to shake is insomnia.

And the OB said, "now, I don't want you to think I'm trying to be a drug pusher, but would you be opposed to maybe going back on some antidepressants?"  She sort of backed up, as if she was afraid of a negative reaction.

I chuckled at her caution and said, "not at all.  What do you suggest?"

And so we talked about it and decided that I would try Zoloft.

"Do you want something to help you sleep as well?" she asked.

"Sure.  I would love a short-term Ambien prescription, just to get me back on track.  But I thought Ambien wasn't good to take during pregnancy."

"Oh, no, it's fine.  I'll write you a scrip for it.  It's only for 20, but if you want more I'm happy to refill it."


So last night, for the first time in I don't remember how long, I went to sleep and stayed asleep and woke up feeling refreshed.  I don't feel groggy or drugged out, like Tylenol PM or over the counter stuff makes me feel.  I just feel rested.  It's an amazing feeling.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pregnancy hormones strike again

I'm driving to work this morning, minding my own business, listening to Morning Edition on NPR.  They have this feature called "StoryCorp," in which people record stories about themselves or their lives, and the recordings are then archived at the Library of Congress.  This morning's StoryCorp feature was about a guy whose son died in Iraq.  After his son's death, he went to Washington on Memorial Day for a special service at the Vietnam Memorial.  In an unbelievable stroke of coincidence, while he was at the Wall, he met the Army trauma nurse who was part of the team that treated his son when he died.  

And as I'm listening to this story, I burst into tears.  

In the meantime, sitting on the passenger seat is a little picture of Zeke that the teachers at his school made for Mother's Day.  It's on a string, like it's supposed to be an ornament or something, and I didn't really know what to do with it so I figured I'd bring it to work and hang it on my wall.  
It's not even a very good picture of him.  But I keep listening to this poor father talk about his dead son, and I keep looking at this picture of my beautiful little son, whom I had last seen as he waved goodbye to me and blew me kisses out of the back window of Jason's car (J takes him to school in the mornings, and I pick him up in the afternoons), and I just cry and cry.  I have to sit in the car in the parking lot at work for a couple of minutes, so I can compose myself.  

I think the story would have floored me under the best of circumstances.  But today, with my belly getting bigger, and the kicks of my unborn daughter pushing against the wall of my abdomen, and pregnancy hormones surging through my body, I never had a fucking chance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The benefits of living with a happy toddler

It's been a weird couple of days.  I've had some heavy shit on my mind, and I've been busy at work, and I'm sleeping like crap (nothing new there), and the physical aspects of pregnancy are starting to take their toll.

Like, my boobs have gone completely insane and I can't fit into any of my bras any more.  Well, there's one, a sports bra, and its stretchy.  So I can jam the girls in there in a pinch.  But being a sports bra, it tends to give me a uniboob, which is not a look that I go for, fashion-wise.  So the other day, I went to Target to try to find some big girl bras to tide me over until I give birth and lose weight.  

I tried on every single bra for heavy girls, large-breasted girls, what-have-you, in the entire store.  And I am absolutely not making this up when I tell you that there was not a single bra in the entire Glendale Target -- a SuperTarget, mind you, which happens to be the busiest and highest grossing Target in the entire U.S. of A. -- that could contain my breasts.   

And I'm just feeling gross and massive generally.  Jason is so sweet, and he tells me that I look great and that I'm glowing and that I'm not fat, I'm pregnant.  And intellectually, I know this. But then I look in the mirror or at recent pictures taken of myself, and I just feel like I look like a heifer.  My face looks fat, my arms look pudgy, and I feel like it'll be an impossible task to get back to my fighting weight once the Joey is born.  

And again, intellectually, I know it's not true.  I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to sticking with an exercise program.  I know I can do it.  But I was always in pretty good shape and never really worried about how I looked, and now I just feel yucky.  

Some of it may be a function of pregnancy hormones.  I don't have big mood swings, but every once in a while, like when I'm even more tired than normal, I'll just lose my shit and cry for awhile.  Last night I didn't cry, but I just felt mean.  Really mean.  Everything annoyed me.  Jason had done nothing wrong, but I wanted to claw his eyes out.  The dog had done nothing wrong, and I wanted to kick him.*  

And to add insult to injury, I had to watch the Nuggets blow a big lead and lose in the last seconds of the basketball game to the fucking Lakers. I hate the Lakers. I hate Kobe Bryant. Grrrr. 

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling somewhat less hateful.  Getting some sleep (even if it's just a little) does make things a little better.  I lay there in my bed, watching Zeke sleep. He had woken up crying at 4:30 in the morning, so I let him come into bed with us.  He was lying there, with his head on my pillow, butt up in the air.  He's so gorgeous, with his little rosebud mouth and his little chubby cheeks and his long eyelashes.  

And all of a sudden, he laughed, in his sleep.  And the laugh woke him up, and he opened his eyes and smiled at me.

"Mama!"  Big smile, more giggles.

"Hi, monkey.  Did you have a funny dream?"

"Mama!"  And he leaned over and put his mouth on my cheek and said, "mwah," and gave me a kiss.  Then he buried his face in my neck.  "Mama," he sighed.

He jumped up and started running around the bed, giving Jason kisses, giving me kisses, and generally smiling and giggling and having a ball.

And just like that, I felt better.
 * Zeke was asleep, so he was spared my wrath.  And for the record, I neither clawed Jason's eyes out nor kicked the dog.  I just sat on the couch and glowered.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pain is a Reliable Signal

From the title of this post, one would think this is a continuation of yesterday's depressing musings. But actually, today I'm playing the role of proud older sister.

Remember last month when I went to New York for my brother Sam's gig? It was his CD release party for his new album, Pain is a Reliable Signal. He records under the name "The Flying Change" -- the name is inspired by the poetry of Henry Taylor, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who happened to be our dad's roommate at the University of Virginia.

Today the album drops nationally. He's been doing tons of press for it, sending the album out to indie rock and college radio stations all over the country. So this post is my way of plugging the album and doing a bit of bragging about my little bro, who I think is super cool.

And not just because I think the album is really, really good. But because Sam loves making music and was brave enough to do something about it. He's a terrific songwriter, but rather than writing songs and keeping them in a notebook, he hooked up with an acclaimed songwriter, producer, and award-winning composer, Paul Brill. He and Paul worked on editing the songs and then got them recorded by a collection of incredible musicians -- people that had played with bands like Radiohead and The Black Crowes and They Might Be Giants and The Saturday Night Live Band.

So my pride, and really, the pride of our whole family (nachas, to use a Yiddishism), stems not just from the fact that the album was made by the baby of the family, this quirky, funny kid who grew into a whip-smart, intense, creative man (who also happens to be one of the most interesting people I know). That pride also stems from the fact that he has undertaken this incredible project in a serious and determined way -- with high production values, professional publicity, and sell-out gigs. All while holding down a full-time job in New York's financial sector.

(Sam, looking all angst-y in his publicity photo)

As for the album itself, I would describe it as alternative pop-rock, inspired by everything from Tom Petty to Wilco. The album was inspired by the experiences Sam and his wife, Erica, had dealing with her chronic pain, including two unsuccessful surgeries and a stint at The Mayo Clinic's pain management center. The experiences were not good, hence the song Dirty White Coats, about the arrogance of unfeeling doctors, or The Mayo Clinic, about, um, The Mayo Clinic.

I'm not a music reviewer -- I'm not good at creating a verbal explanation of music, which to me is more of a visceral experience than something than I can intellectualize or describe in a way that feels accurate. I'm also an amateur musician and a singer, and I experience music in my gut. I like a strong beat, bluesy riffs, strong melodies, and that ever-elusive hook. And I like interesting musical arrangements -- instrumental choices that are surprising, harmonies that dig into my brain with their unexpected perfection, themes or phrases (musical or lyrical) that work their way into my psyche and don't let go.

Pain is a Reliable Signal has all of that. One of my favorites is If You See Something, taken from an MTA anti-terrorism slogan seen around New York's subways and buses. The song has an undeniably hook-y chorus, and in a touch of irony, belying its lamenting of the promotion of an almost Big Brother-esque suspicion of one's fellow man, throws in a cheerful mandolin intro and then later introduces trumpets and exuberant harmonies and back-up vocals that remind me of The Beatles' Ob-la-di Ob-la-da. I can't stop humming it. And I never cease to marvel at how beautifully the song is arranged.

Another one that I can't get out of my head is a ballad called Hold My Heartache. It's harmonies are beautiful and aching. Same with Broken Bow. And Dirty White Coats is deceptively simple -- just a couple of chords -- but it's message is haunting. (Sam explains it much better than I could).

Basically, the entire album is excellent -- high production values, beautiful arrangements, and a cohesive theme. It's melancholy but not maudlin. As one reviewer remarked, it's "part folk, part rock, part electronica, all parts bloody brilliant."

I couldn't agree more.

Click here for The Flying Change website, where you can listen to the album, purchase the album, and read Sam's blog about music, the business of music, and the songwriting process (including the songs on Pain is a Reliable Signal).  It is also available on Amazon, Itunes and CD Baby.

Enjoy. I know I do.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Suicide is not painless

I had all kinds of things percolating in my head for a post today.

I could have written about how nice it was to go out for some grownup time on Friday night with Rich and Kathleen.  We left the kids with a sitter at their house, and walked down to a local music store to see Steve Earle do an in-store performance promoting his new album, Townes.*  We went out for a nice Italian dinner, and when we got back to Kathleen's house, Zeke was asleep, cuddled up in bed with Kathleen's 5-year-old daughter, who had an arm protectively draped over him.  It was seriously one of the cutest things I've ever seen.

Or I could have written about how much fun we had participating with some friends in a kids' pick-up soccer league at the local city park.  Pablo brought a big bag of soccer balls and some little collapsible goals, and showed the kids how to kick and pass.  When they scored a goal, there was the obligatory running around the field, arms held out like an airplane, yelling "GOOOOOOOOOAALL!!"  (Pablo is Argentine, after all).  The kids played and had fun and wore themselves out, and we made some new friends, and it was a beautiful day.  Afterwards we went to this awesome little Mexican dive of a restaurant to get tacos, served with the most delicious homemade tortilla chips I have ever eaten in my life.

I could have also written about how lovely it was to play Magical Present Fairy to my son yesterday.  We had been at the park, and he was salivating over another little kid's wagon.  The kid's dad let him play with it, and Zeke was entertaining himself opening the door, stepping in, sitting down, standing up, opening the door, stepping out, closing the door.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  When it was time for the kid and his wagon to go home, Zeke seriously lost his shit.  Partly because he really wanted to continue playing with the wagon, and partly because it was nap-time and he was exhausted.  So we got him home and got him to sleep, and while he napped, I found the identical wagon on Craigslist, called the owner, went and picked it up, and brought it home, all before Zeke woke up from his nap.  We had been planning on getting one anyway -- they're so handy for going to the park with balls and snacks and water bottles, so it seemed like an opportune time.  When he woke up and saw the wagon, he was ecstatic.  We took a walk around the neighborhood, with Zeke riding in the wagon with a huge smile of joy on his face, stopping every 10 feet or so for Zeke to open the door, step out, close the door, open the door, step in, and sit down again.

I could have written about any of those things.  But instead, I feel compelled to focus on something else, something that is really none of my business and I probably shouldn't be writing about, at least not yet, but I can't help it.  I can't stop thinking about it.  

This past weekend, the father of a friend of mine committed suicide.  He's suffered from crushing depression for a long time and has made a number of suicide attempts over the past few years, including as recently as a month ago.  This time, he was successful.  And in addition to dealing with the general agony of losing a parent, my friend has to deal with the fact that her dad left willingly.   

To top it all off, she's 6 months pregnant.  

Dealing with suicide is so much different from dealing with other kinds of death.  When a person dies of disease, or in a car accident or something, there's shock and sadness and dismay and a terrible feeling of loss.  A reminder of the fragility of life, and the need to live to the fullest, to the extent that the mundane details of every day life allow you to do so.  But with suicide, there's the added knowledge that the person wanted to leave, that they couldn't stand to be in the world anymore.  And that maybe you could have done something to help them.

I remember when my friend Kristin killed herself a couple of years ago, how sad but also how betrayed and angry I and so many of our friends felt.  She was about to be married to a guy who adored her, and was developing a close relationship with her 8-year-old stepson-to-be.  She had friends and parents and siblings that loved and cared about her.  

And she gave it all up because she fucked something up at work and couldn't deal with the shame.  I'm still a little bit bitter about it, as are a number of my friends.

But Kristin wasn't my parent or my sister.  That just takes things to a whole new level.  With my friend's dad, the reality is, he was desperately unhappy for a long, long time, and so maybe now he's found the peace he so obviously needed and couldn't find on this earth.  And I know she doesn't feel any sense of responsibility, like there was something she could have done -- as she herself has said, if there was ever a situation in which someone could be kept alive by the sheer force of other peoples' will, this was it -- she and her mother have done their damndest to try to help him.  But when someone is determined to go, they will find a way.  

And the survivors are left to pick up the pieces and somehow go on with their lives.

Years ago, my mom's college roommate went out into her backyard, crawled under a bush, and blew her brains out with a gun.  She had been in an unhappy marriage, but she also had young children.  I was only about 9 or so at the time, but I remember my mom remarking at what an aggressive act it was.  How clearly, this was directed at the husband and was a giant "fuck you" that would stick with him for the rest of his life.  But all I could think about were the kids.  How do you deal with the fact that your mommy can't stand to stick around for you?

At least my friend is older and has the maturity and perspective to recognize that her dad wasn't trying to abandon her or the rest of his family.  Her dad loved her, I know she believes that.  But still.  How do you deal?

I tend to view most suicides with a jaundiced eye.  It's an act of supreme selfishness.  How dare they do that to their loved ones?  But I don't feel as harshly about my friend's dad.  He was obviously in so much pain.  I don't condone what he did, but I understand it just a little bit.

I've suffered from clinical depression.  In the depths of it, I've felt that cold heaviness in my gut, that physical manifestation that depression takes, when you feel pulled down into the depths of despair. When the idea of getting up and going through life feels so incredibly exhausting that the alternative -- that unspoken alternative -- seems so tempting.  I've been at the precipice and stared down into the abyss.  But thank goodness, something always pulled me back.  And I've been healthy and off the medication for over a year, and all is well.  But the knowledge that I could start another downward spiral is always in the back of my mind, so I'm incredibly vigilant in taking stock of my mental and emotional state, ready to head off to a doctor at the first sign of that sinking feeling.

I'm rambling, I know.  I don't know what point I'm trying to make.  But this is what's on my mind.  

I'm just so sad for my friend.

*I love Steve Earle.  I was playing a lot of bluegrass in Atlanta around the time he released The Mountain, his bluegrass collaboration with The Del McCoury Band, and it's an album I still find captivating -- in my opinion, a bluegrass masterpiece.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No longer enchanted by the novelty, just settling in for the long haul

About 10 years ago I ran a marathon. I remember the different phases of the race very distinctly. And when I woke up this morning and thought, "gee, I'm 20 weeks pregnant today," my reaction to that thought reminded me of what it was like to go through the different stages of a marathon.


When the marathon started, I was excited. I was about to do something huge and difficult and exciting, and I was pumped full of adrenalin. That feeling carried me for about 10 miles. I felt great, like I could run forever.

This is similar to the first trimester of pregnancy.

You pee on the stick, and the second line turns blue (or in my case, the digital readout announces "PREGNANT" with a smiley face next to it). You feel a bit of shock, but also a flush of happiness (assuming the pregnancy was planned or not otherwise unwelcome). You tell your babydaddy, and the two of you share a moment that's a mixture of "whee!" "wow!" and "wha??" Plus a lot of "awwww!" and "woohoo!" You go for that first OB appointment, and cry a little bit when the ultrasound reveals that your tiny 7 week blob of an embryo has a nice strong little heartbeat. You get all focused on making sure you're taking your prenatal vitamins, eating the right foods, conspicuously announcing that you can't have that glass of wine you're offered, stocking up on maternity clothes, and lamenting how tight your pants are when secretly you're psyched to be developing a bit of a belly bump. You tell your friends and relatives when the time feels right, and go through the "whee" "wow" "wha" "aww" "woohoo" all over again, only this time with your peeps.

So really, there's too much newness and emotion during the first trimester to focus very much on the fact that it's going to take you 10 months* to grow a person inside you, and that 10 months is a long time. You're just all "happy to be here, hope I can help the ballclub" at this point.


I remember miles 10 through 20 as another distinctive section of the marathon. The excitement and adrenalin of the beginning was gone, and then it was just a slog. It was boring. It was tedious. I had already run a long way, but still had a long, long way left to go, and it felt like the race was never going to end. I was still feeling OK physically, noticing a bit of tiredness but cognizant of the need to maintain my form and preserve energy and continue to pace myself. Nothing to do but settle in for the long haul.

The middle part wasn't all bad. As I said, I still felt pretty good physically. Plus, things took a huge turn for the better at around mile 18. Much of the middle of the race was run through woodsy, rocky trails in the hills behind Anchorage, Alaska, and at mile 18 we descended out of the hills and back into the city. So in addition to being back on pavement and thus not having to constantly watch the ground to avoid turning my ankles on rocks and logs, I got a nice downhill stretch to make me feel lighter and faster and more energetic. Also, back in town, there were people by the side of the race route cheering us on again. Someone handed me an orange popsicle that I sucked on while I ran. It was heavenly.

This parallels the second trimester, in which I am currently firmly ensconced. I feel fine physically. I notice myself getting tired a bit more easily, but nothing terrible. My belly has definitely popped, but it's not too uncomfortable yet. The ultrasounds are so cool, revealing a creature that looks like an actual baby, rather than the mere yolk sac or amorphous blob that you see in the earlier stages. I finally look pregnant rather than fat, so that's nice.

And I'm feeling kicks and flutters, which is awesome. Truly the most magical part of pregnancy. My friend Lisa likens the baby's kicks to always feeling like you have company. And it's true. When I feel a little thump, I'll think, "hi, honey!" and give my belly a pat. My little girl and I are forming a connection.

But at the same time, I've still got a long way to go. I feel bulky and have to sit a certain way or my breathing feels restricted. It's harder to chase Zeke around. I want my body back, but with another 4 1/2 months ahead of me, there's nothing to do but hunker down and get ready for ...


The final stretch of the marathon was brutal. My legs felt like leaden stumps. I was tired and sore. The only way I got through it was to focus on the music coming through my headphones, and to tell myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Adding insult to injury were the people lining the race route for the last mile or so. They were so sweet and encouraging, cheering and clapping and saying things like, "you're almost there! Just a little ways further!"

What they don't realize is that at that point in a marathon, you don't want to hear it. Amazingly, every single person I ran with felt the same way. Rather than feeling buoyed by the cheering crowds, the universal reaction seemed to be thoughts along the line of, "ach, fuck off already. Don't tell me how close I am. If you had any idea how long this last half a mile feels, you wouldn't tell me I'm almost done. You'd just shut your freakin' pie hole and let me get on with it."

Same with pregnancy, if memory serves. You're exhausted, huge, cumbersome, uncomfortable, dealing with heartburn and hemorrhoids, and feeling like the last 6 weeks take 6 months. Everyone wants to call and talk about it and be all excited with you, which is lovely, but really, you just want to be left alone to deal with it on your own, because talking about it makes you grumpy.**

So, Yay! 20 weeks!

And Ugh! 20 more weeks.

*Yeah, yeah, I know pregnancy is supposed to be 9 months. But actually, it's 40 weeks, which is closer to 10 months.

**I wrote this blog post 4 days before going into labor with Zeke.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bump pictures

I know I promised pictures of the belly bump, and I've posted a bunch on Facebook, but not everyone here is on Facebook. So here are pics from weeks 17 and 19.

Friday, May 08, 2009


(The Joey at 18 weeks)

I guess I'm not as savvy or clairvoyant or clued-in to the inner workings of my uterus as I thought.

The Joey is a girl. When we saw the (exceedingly clear) image on the ultrasound, Jason burst into tears of happiness. I said, "huh. How about that."

(There's a lady in my office who's pregnant, but who doesn't know what she's having because during the ultrasound, every time they got close to getting a good shot of what was between the baby's legs, the baby moved or pulled up its legs so that there was no way to tell the sex. Not so much with The Joey. She was like the drunk secretary at the Christmas party sitting panty-less on the copy machine.)

I was convinced we were having another boy, for a number of reasons. The fact that going back about three or four generations, the men in Jason's family have managed to sire exactly one girl (Jason's half-sister). The fact that, according to all of my ultrasounds, the baby was measuring bigger than its actual gestational age, which suggested to me early (in the cycle) conception, which suggested a boy, because boy sperm are faster swimmers than girl sperm.

And I was kind of hoping for another boy. Zeke could grow up with a brother, and they could play and rough-house and go through boy stuff together. I've got mountains and mountains of boy clothes and baby accoutrement. I'm familiar with the boy parts, diaper-changing-wise.

Plus, I'm afraid of girls. Or at least, afraid of raising one.

I worry about our hyper-sexualized society, and the pressure on women (and girls) to be skinny and hot and sexually available. I worry about being able to raise a girl with enough confidence and self-esteem to know that she doesn't have to give in to that pressure.

And to be honest, girls kind of scare me.

They're so much more emotionally manipulative and volatile than most boys. I know it's a long way off, but I dread the early teen years. I know what a bitch I was.*

(A 4-D shot in which you can see her face. She's already grinning manaically as she thinks of all the ways she's going to torment her mother when she's older.)

But as I've had a few days to think about it, I've grown accustomed to the idea of having a daughter, and the feelings of happiness and excitement are creeping in and edging out the feelings of doubt and uncertainty. I have such a wonderful relationship with my mother, and have for most of my life, and I'm hopeful that Joey and I can have that as well.

And as my mom pointed out, having a boy and a girl means that they won't be in competition quite the same way that same sex siblings are. Boys tend to constantly compare each others' accomplishments in sports and the like. Girls fight over clothes and who's prettier.

Or maybe I'm just engaging in massive stereotyping on the whole thing.

The truth is, she'll be who'll she'll be. All I can do is hope that she's sweet and smart and funny and happy -- all the same hopes I had for Zeke before he was born. And that turned out pretty well.

So I guess I should stop worrying.

*My torment of my dear mother was relatively short-lived -- I grew out of my monster phase by the time I was about 16 or so. But still. It wasn't pleasant for her while it lasted, the moodiness and crying and general teenage-girl-ness that was my 13- and 14-year-old self.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Trying to understand the mind of a child

At some point, I will need to consult with a child psychologist to understand the lock that Elmo has on the toddler psyche.  

Not that I don't think Elmo is cute.  I think he's a perfectly fine Sesame Street character, funny, kind of endearing and all that.  But why Elmo as opposed to, say, Telly?  Or Zoe?*  

Or why not the old school characters that dominated the story lines when I watched Sesame Street as a kid, like Oscar or Bert & Ernie or Grover?  Or Kermit? I loved those guys.  But they've sort of faded into the background on the show, only occasionally popping up in the odd sketch.

But for whatever reason, there is something about Elmo.  Zeke is seriously obsessed.  

It started when Jason started recording the daily episodes of Sesame Street on PBS, so that Zeke could have something age-appropriate to watch while he chilled out before bedtime.  And before long, Zeke was referring to the show as "Elmo."  And when Elmo wasn't on the screen, he would look at me or Jason and say, "Elmo? Elmo?" until we fast-forwarded the recording to a sketch in which Elmo was prominently featured.  

And now, when Elmo finally shows up, Zeke's face will light up and he'll point and yell "Elmo!"  with such joy in his voice and in his countenance that it's almost unbearably sweet.  Elmo just makes him so fucking happy, he can hardly stand it.  He'll watch the show, and if Elmo sings or dances, Zeke will bop around dancing and smiling.  And all is right with the world.

I knew Zeke was deeply smitten (or in deep smit, as my friend Karen likes to say) when my mom and I went to Target to do some shopping and brought Zeke with us.  We headed over to the toy section and found an Elmo stuffed animal/puppet for Zeke.  I took it out of the box and handed it to him, and it was like he had died and gone to heaven.

"Elmo!" he said, his voice filled with love.  And he gave Elmo a hug and a kiss and sighed deeply.  He rode around in the shopping cart, unable to contain his glee.  He kept saying, "Elmo," over and over, and smiling and hugging his new doll to his chest.  

Seriously, if he's as affectionate and sweet with future girlfriends as he is with his Elmo, I will feel I have done a good job of teaching him to treat women with love and respect.

(Zeke shows Elmo the love)

There's a part of me that feels like I should bristle against his fixation on this overly commercialized character.  Like we're both being manipulated by the evil geniuses that create and produce Sesame Street.  

But then I look at my son's smiling face, and I think, "ah, who cares?  The kid's happy."  

That's good enough for me.

*At least it's not Baby Bear that he's fixated on.  That character, with it's cloying lisp, seriously bugs.  And I hate the fact that children who are learning how to speak and pronounce words are subjected to extended story lines involving a character that says things like "pawot" for "parrot."