Thursday, June 02, 2011

Oh Baby!

Today I thought I would write about babies. And if you're sick of hearing about them, I don't want to hear about it, because I'm pretty sure I've got you beat.

From February 2009-January 2010, in just 11 months I welcomed Zoe, Laurel, Lila, Tessla, Lindley, and Arianna into my life. And those kids came to my closest friends. That doesn't include Cane, the Bauer twins, Frannie, Annajean, Win, Edward, Noah, or Marylin most of whose birth annoucements or Christmas cards decorate my fridge. Neither does it include Dillon, Carly, Corbin, Everett, Ace, Roxie or James who were born in the year after that. And neither does it include the two babies my therapist had in the two years I was seeing her. I started off making each kid a photo album on Facebook, but that quickly digressed to a "Babies album" as I just couldn't keep up.In 2010, before I quit my job, one of the steps I took to make sure I was emotionally healthy (because I was not very healthy at that time) was to swear of all baby showers. Cause I mean seriously people, who attends 18 baby showers in two years? That's ridiculous. And if you add in wedding and bridal showers, I was attending a shower for some joyous occasion once or twice a month. That's just too much happiness for one single girl to bear.

And that's the thing about babies and weddings, everyone wants you to be happy for them. And somewhere inside, you probably are.

But truthfully, it gets old.

Imagine 18 of your friends buy a Honda Hybrid. By the time 11, 12, and 13 roll into the driveway, it's old news. You're tired of saying congratulations, and tired of still climbing behind the wheel of your Toyota Corolla. Add to that society's stigma against unwed non-moms suggesting that women are only fulfilled when they're married and bearing children, and suddenly, you've got a single un-mother in her thirties who's a little confused in the head.

Now I know what you're thinking. Statistics say it's the norm now to get married in your thirties. But guess what friends, those statistics came out of New York, and I live in Texas. And while adopting babies from Haiti are all the rage among conservatives (thank you earthquake mission trips) and adopting babies from China are all the rage among rich people (thank you Sex and the City), there's still a stigma attached to adoption. "They must have had problems getting pregnant..." "Well, I heard she..." Virtually no one adopts just because they want to adopt.

Except me. And I'm dating a man who wants to have (or have his wife have) kids because of his own personal experiences with adoption. Great. But that's a post for another time.

So back to the babies.

I didn't mean for this post to be a diatribe against child-bearing adults or their prodginy. I wanted to talk about Tessla, my nanny charge and some of the other beloved babies in my life. But talking about her requires first admitting a few other things.

Truthfully, now, I'm doing a lot better with the whole baby thing. If I get invited to a shower (and of course, I've got one to attend next weekend), I no longer break out in hives. But some people are so ignorant of the way society talks about women and child-bearing, it drives me crazy! For example, here's a conversation a friend of mine had with her supervisor five months after her daughter was born. In their monthly meeting, the supervisor asked my friend, "So, has being a mother changed the way you view counseling or the way you relate to your patients?"

"No," she said.

Awesome. "Thank god," was my response. Thank God it didn't change the way she does her job because to say so suggests a certain enlightenment or change in perspective or fulfillment afforded women who have children. Furthermore, it denotes a level of inadequacy in women who don't have children.

Like: because I'm not a mom, I somehow can't relate to the world in my full potential.

And it's not that I don't think having a baby should change you. It should. But everything you experience in life should change you (hopefully for the better, or at least for a wider-
worldview). The idea that women are only really complete or cognizant or edified or illumined or whatever once they've had children has got to go.

But again, I've digressed, so let me try a third time.

Disclaimer: for those of you who aren't moms, I am not writing this blog to be a smug-pseudo-mother. And if you're as fed up with the baby talk as I was, you have my blessing to stop reading now. (However, the BEST smug pregnant woman song/skit can be found here written by two comedians in LA who've also appeared on shows like Gilmore Girls, Pushing Daisies, Scrubs, and Million Dollar Baby. It's awesome. And you've got to see it. But don't watch it if you're pregnant and emotional or if you have no sense of humor). Again, I am not writing this blog to be a smug-pseudo-mother. I'm writing this blog about the babies in my life and about my job, and I am currently employed part-time (32-40 hours a week) as a nanny. And I want to write about how ridiculously delightful my little charge is. But we must start at the beginning...

First off, there was Zoe.
When I met Zoe, the first words out of my mouth were sung: "Welcome outside of your mother's womb, I know it is frightening but now there's more room." (from "Welcome" by Lori Chaffer off her album 1Beginning) My acquaintances and friends had been having babies off and on since college, but this was the first one to really come into my inner circle, to change the lives of two people I called my best friends. And like Adam did when he saw the wonder of Eve, so did I upon holding Zoe Hilel: I sang. Her father, Peter, watched me and said it couldn't have been a more appropriate response.

Then came Laurel. Literally, out of her mother's vajayjay and onto the bed. I saw it. I was there.
I was supposed to be there for her mother who wanted women surrounding her at her daughter's birth. I was there as her friend, her sister was to take pictures, and her mom was to gush at her first grandbabby. However, Michelle's laboring went so quickly and she was such a champ that she talked herself out of believing she was really in labor for like 6 hours (the only time I will ever know more than Michelle when it comes to childbirth was that day. I knew she was in labor and that baby was coming, and when the doulah finally arrived she confirmed my suspicion and whisked Michelle off to the midwife clinic immediately). So when she finally got to the birthing center, that baby was out in like 20 minutes. Her sister missed it, her mom missed it. So there I was, trying to capture the crowning of the head on camera. I was watching Michelle push so hard that tears came out of her eyes, though I wouldn't say she was crying, I was watching the birth of a baby, something I've feared for years and it was going so quickly and so seamlessly that when Michelle sort of burped that baby out onto the bed, (the actual move from the birth canal out into the bedroom is very fast) I thought for several months afterwards that hell, I could do that too someday!

I changed my mind after Lila came into the world. Somewhere in there I acquired the reputation of being a baby photographer, so when the first couple I ever married asked me to be there for their daughter's birth, I said sure! Laurel's birth was wonderful and exciting and I'll never forget it. This woman who feared giving birth more than the boogieman suddenly heard herself saying, I'd love to help out at the birth. And good thing too. For while Patrick and Angela also chose to give birth at a birthing center, it was a much longer and more painful process.

Fortunately, I'd been at all of Chris and Michelle's meetings with their doulah (not sure how that happened except I practically lived at their house over at 5209). So as 9 o'clock became midnight and midnight turned to 2am, and their midwife just sat there watching from a chair, I began to take as active a role in helping that baby get out as Patrick did. "Let's try squatting," I suggested. "How about the shower?" "Tie this cloth over the door, close the door, hold on and hang from it. Let your body relax." "Let's try the tub now," anything I could remember Chris and Michelle's doulah telling them, I offered to Angela. She was in so much pain and was so tired. I finally napped somewhere in the wee hours of the morning so that when the pushing began around 4 or 5, I was the only one refreshed enough to get through it. Angela fell asleep in the 30 seconds she had between every contraction. Patrick looked exhausted and just lay on the bed beside her. And the midwife crouched down near her feet poking and proding and doing whatever they do to make sure the baby is okay. I saw things I was never meant to see that night and decided then and there that my first intuition about adopting had been correct. I was not designed to bear children. How in the world we got that little alien out of Angela's stomach is beyond my comprehension, but I now knew I would not be getting myself in the same predicament.
Because then I had to go home, get dressed and preach a sermon in big church.

Now that was a night.

When Lindley was born, I got to spend lots of time with her considering she lives in Nashville. I flew out to see her when she was 2 months or so and spitting up more than any creature I'd ever seen. Then again on my 32nd birthday, I was in Nashville for the Festival of Homiletics (a preaching convention) and appropriately so, she's the first baby I ever took with me to a conference. And like a child after my own heart, she cried when the organ played and quietly listened during the sermons. Her parents met as worship leader and pastor at a camp some seven years prior and her mother and I had been best friends (and cohorts in crime) at seminary, so I felt an obligation to introduce her to the theology of Tom Long, Lauren Winner, A.J. Levine and Will Willimon. Plus, her parents needed a babysitter that day.
I admit, by the time Tessla was born, I was getting a little tired of the babies. Plus, I was worried about how my poorer friends were gonna pay for those little monsters... diapers, baby wipes, cheerios, clothes they outgrow in two weeks. They're expensive little suckers. But Tessla was sweet just like the others and her parents seemed happy.
Then when she turned three months old, the shit hit the fan and everything changed. Her mother got lymphoma and went through chemo-therapy and lost all her hair and got sick but got well and finally everyone relaxed. Then I quit my job and she asked me if I wanted to nanny for Tessla for a while, so I agreed. And then, when Tessla was eleven months old, we found out the cancer came back.

But I've written about all that before. And this blog isn't about mamas, it's about babies, so let me tell you about Tessla.

First of all, she's way smarter than me.

She knows a ton of sign language. Now, some of this I taught her and some of it she learned from Baby Einstein, but check out her vocab: eat, more, please, thank you, milk, water, juice, cereal, all done, mommy, daddy, Aunt Heather, Uncle Marcus, Ann (and she made up the sign for me!!), baby, help, ball, story, library, garden, shoes, cat, dog, bird, fish, tree, play, bath, sleep, pacifier (she made that sign up too) and... I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

She can even make sentences. One day we were playing at Chris and Michelle's house, and their daughter Laurel, who is almost two now, began crying and throwing a fit. Tessla looked at me with wide eyes and made two signs one right after the other: "baby" and "asleep." I interpreted her to mean "the baby is sleepy," or perhaps "the baby needs to go to sleep." Either way, I was pretty proud of that first sentence.

And she can verbally say lots of words with her mouth too. I think her first words were dirt (her father is a landscape architech), cat, dog (which both her parents, aunt & uncle, and I all have), da da, shoes, roar (she loves lions), yellow, uh oh (she got that one from me), yeah, no, apple, banana (which she says by sticking her tongue out the side of her mouth and saying yayaya), pickle and mama. Those are the big ones. Now she blabbers all the time, and I just pretend to understand her. Sometimes she talks to me and looks at me like I should be able to understand her, and other times she talks to herself, laughing at her own jokes and having a grand old time.

She smiles and sometimes laughs when it's time to take a nap and I (finally) put her in her crib. She's a child of routine and when I put her down for a nap I change her diaper, close the bedroom curtains (this is when she recognizes what's coming next and begins to giggle), hand her the pacifier, place her in the crib, lay the blanket on top of her, turn on the sound machine, say goodnight, and close the door. She loves it. All my mommy friends hate me. Even at my house if she's ready for a nap and I don't seem inclined to put her down anytime in the near future, she'll walk to the bedroom that she sleeps in and bang on the door until I go open it for her and ask if she's ready to go to sleep.

She's a hoot. And I could seriously post a thousand pictures of her on here, but I'll spare you. Again, I don't want to be a smug nanny.

But I did want to tell you a little about my life and my job and the babies in my life. And tell you I'm happy and healthy and hoping all my patience won't get used up on Tessla and the others in case I do ever get to adopt my own children someday. And I want to apologize if I skipped your baby shower at some point over the last two years. But trust me, you wouldn't have wanted this old hag there anyway. I'm a cat lady. I smell funny.


jenA said...

Please tell Michelle she had the birth I really wanted (speedwise)! And I totally get the sick-of-babies thing. Ps I've got a husband, a baby, two dogs and a house and I'm still unfulfilled :)

Anonymous said...

I thought this was great. 18 baby showers in 2 years. Shoot me now. And it is shitty we celebrate and give gifts only when women marry or get pregnant. There are other things in life too. Of course, I am one of them feminist liberals ruining the world (so to speak), so, you know. Take it with a grain of salt.