This was our night:

7:00 pm - Ryan puts Chicken to bed. Buster wakes up. Commence bouncing/shushing/nursing/rocking.
8:00 pm - Buster falls asleep.
8:05 pm - Buster wakes up as soon as we try to swaddle him and put him down. Commence bouncing/shushing/nursing/rocking.
9:30 pm - Buster falls asleep. Successful transfer to rock'n'play. Pop a cold one and turn on the HBO Go! We're FREEEEEEEE!
9:45 pm - Buster wakes up. Commence operation YOU WILL TAKE THIS BINKY SO HELP ME GOD. Total operational failure. Commence bouncing/shushing/nursing/rocking.
10:30 pm - Buster falls asleep. Successful transfer to rock'n'play. Pop in your retainers and turn on the white noise. We have to go to sleep RIGHT the fuck NOW.
12:00 am - Buster wakes up. 
12:30 am - Buster falls asleep.
1:30 am - Buster wakes up.
2:15 am - Buster falls asleep.
3:00 am - Buster wakes up.
3:15 am - Buster falls asleep.
4:15 am - Buster wakes up.
4:45 am - Buster falls asleep.
6:00 am - Buster wakes up.

Somewhere in there I made a choice.

No, I don't believe I am going to make a memory out of this night, a-thankyouverymuchsir.

Nope, I'm pretty sure I'm just gonna not remember really any of this. At all. 

This night? It's gone. Not only will I never have to relive it (as discussed here) but as far as my memory is concerned, it never even happened. 

How do I know?

Because weirdly, nights like these are in my muscle memory. Baby cries, I roll over, haul my body out of bed, stagger to his bassinet, sink into the chair, and slump over the Boppy as he slurps away at his first of as-many-as-he-wants midnight snacks. I don't choose to do any of these things. I don't have to think about it.

It's all in my bones. But it's not in my brain. 

I don't remember any single night of doing this with Chicken. There were more than 365 of them, and I don't remember ONE. That's God's best gift to mothers of infants: the blissful amnesia of a career hockey player/Dory the fish.

So Buster, do your worst. I'm Eternal Sunshine-ing you. 

Last night? What about it? Did something happen? 
I heard this theory that we all only have about 20 thoughts, and we just scroll through them all day long. Pretty depressing, no? The author argues that this deadeningly repetitive internal life is the reason people need to travel, have a diverse population of friends and acquaintances, read books, and generally be in the world.

In short, we all need to get out of our heads a little bit before we drive ourselves insane.

Here are my 20 thoughts... I think... it's really hard to ask yourself what you think all day long.
I know for sure I think each of these things daily, and most multiple times a day.

1. Check the to-do list to see if today is going well.
2. I should eat fruit.
3. I want cake.
4. I should do laundry.
5. What is Chicken going to eat for (insert next meal here.)
6. What am I forgetting right now?
7. I'm so fucking good at my job!!!
8. I'm so fucking terrible at my job.
9. Am I a good wife?
10. Am I a good friend?
11. Fuck. What was I just going to do?
12. I'm tired.
13. I'm about to lose it.
14. Easy girl. Everything is going to be okay.
15. Am I pretty?
16. Oh shit, we need (insert one grocery item here.)
17. I feel guilty because (insert thing I messed up here.)
18. Am I fooling everyone?
19. Well... this is pretty much as good as it's going to get. (While looking in a mirror.)

Ugh. I am apparently a total downer. And apparently also super uncertain, insecure, and guilty. AND, worst of all, boring. I mean, if you're going to be an insecure downer, at least commit to it. At least go 110% insecure downer.

"My soul is as cold as the dirty brown fursicles on a polar bear's hamstrings."
"Danny's not here right now Mrs. Torrance. RED RUM."
"Where am I going to bury the hobo's ear?"

But no, I'm like a 65% committed, totally shallow downer.

Am I pretty? Seriously? Is that what I'm dedicating mental energy to multiple times every day? A question that doesn't even really have an answer, and whose answer couldn't matter less in the grand scheme of things?

I can't tell you how disappointed I am in myself, and how guilty I feel about letting down all the teachers and directors and editors who did their damnedest to instill some interest in solving, or at least recognizing the unique puzzles of the world and the human experience. Nope. Not me. If I counted up the minutes, I'm betting I spend years of my waking life thinking about if I'm pretty. Yeah, that's definitely a great use of my limited time on Earth. Instead of, say, planning to start a non-profit, or writing a novel or learning Mandarin.

Seriously, this list reads like a high school girl's generic anti-affirmation loop. OK, a teen mom's anti-affirmation loop. I imagine putting on headphones and listening to myself saying this aloud on repeat all day every day. It makes me sad. Because it's so boring. And because the person who thinks these thoughts has forgotten to pull her head out of her ass and be in the damn world.

That being said...

I don't want to deus ex machina myself here, but you might have noticed that there were only 19 thoughts on that list.

There is a 20th thought that I think all day, every day. It's the first thought that came to my mind when I asked myself what I think about all day long.

It's also not a thought that can really be verbalized.

It's "happy."

And "love."

And "wonder."

And "moved."

It's when Chicken comes into the dim, quiet bedroom while I'm rocking Buster. He has his plastic red chair in one hand, bumping along the ground, and a book in the other hand. "Mommy read dis? Pweese?" I shift Buster to make some room, pull Chicken into my lap and read to him. He says "read dis 'gain, pweese? Mommy?" He lays his head on my chest.

happylovewondermoved.

It's when Ryan and I have both the boys in the car and they're serenading us with a perfectly cacophonous duet of screamy whine cries, and Ryan reaches out to take my hand. I look at him and we're laughing because we're both thinking, "we've made a huge mistake," and that shit has GOT to be funny so we just hold on tight to each other and laugh and listen to our boys stretch their lungs.

happylovewondermoved.

It's when Buster smiles in his sleep. When Ryan strokes his cheek and whispers, "all of your skin is as soft as an eyelid." When Chicken says "thank you mommy," without being prompted, or spins in a circle until he falls down. It's curling into Ryan for our 90 minutes of sleep and knowing it feels as good for him to be the papa spoon as it does for me to be the mama spoon.

happylovewondermoved.

I might not be in the world, but I am in a place so profoundly good no words can do it justice, a place so profoundly perfect I can't help but want to use all the words I can to tell you about it, to invite you to join me there.

It's happylovewondermoved and safewarmlighthomemyheartdelightcomplete, and fallonyourknees and agoodcry and worthit. Come on in. You're welcome here.

So 19 of my 20 thoughts are neurotic, dull, and shallow. 19 of my 20 thoughts are pedestrian and depressing. But #20... If I counted up the minutes I'm betting I spend decades of my waking life in this wordless state of total happiness. Yeah, that is definitely a great use of my limited time on this Earth.

"Honey? Remember the bread drawer? Well, now it's the chocolate milk, beer, and wine drawer."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"That's fucking brilliant. Why didn't we do this years ago??"

"I KNOW!"


Here's some funny/happy/silly for your Saturday evening:

Good on ya, Amy Adams!

Who knew Gene Simmons was so practical?

Peace. Love. Family. Kidnapping.


This Forever:

Absolutely Necessary Disclaimer of Nonjudgment!
I am not a doctor. 
But I do play one on TV.
Just kidding, I don't play a doctor on TV. 
Unless you count that time in Reggie's basement with the video recorder... 
HAHAHA just kidding Mom!
I'm not, in any way, a doctor. Or a doula, midwife, or birth professional.
These books are ones I personally read about pregnancy, labor, and birth.
I have friends who agreed with me. 
I have friends who didn't.
Actually, if I'm being perfectly honest, I HAD friends who didn't agree with me. 
But they were obviously illiterate ass holes, so I cut them out of my life with surgical precision. 
Because I'm actually a doctor.*

*I am not a doctor.

When it comes to babies, labor, birth, and parenting, there's a lot of literary noise out there.

These are the books I read while pregnant, about being pregnant and preparing for a medication-free birth (the first time around because I wanted a home birth, the second time around because I lived in terror of not having enough time to get my epidural.)

Pregnancy Books

1. A Child is Born by Lennart Nilssen


Pro: An inside look at what the fuck is going on inside your belly while you're knocked up. A literal inside look. Gorgeous photographs.

Con: Reads like a textbook. That didn't bother me but if you're looking for a spunky narrative this ain't it.

This one is my favorite pregnancy book, and the one I'm most likely to share with girlfriends who are pregnant for the first time. I feel like 90% of the pregnancy-book market is made up of pithy, contemporary tomes with gross/hilarious anecdotes and lists of foods you should avoid. They deal mainly with what's happening TO you while you're pregnant. And that's important, sure. But this book discusses what's happening INSIDE you while you're pregnant, what's happening to the baby.

I also really enjoyed the bit about how pregnancy actually works - the miraculous journey of the little swimmer that could and the egg who traveled a thousand miles. It's been a long time since 7th-grade sex ed, and I'd forgotten the number of ways that conception can go wrong. I'd forgotten the intricate sequence of events that all have to go exactly right in order for a women to get knocked up and stay that way for 40 weeks. Guys, seriously, we are miraculous machines.

2. The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vicky Iovine



Pro: Spunky narrative. Informative about what a pregnant lady can expect. Made me laugh out loud numerous times. 

Con: The author, like most women who have written books like these, has a strong point of view about the "right" way to do things, and it's the way she did it. Feel free to disagree with her. 

This one is accessible, not too hysterical/panicky, informative, and casual. My one sticking point with this book was that the author advises that pregnant women don't bother working out while pregnant. I couldn't disagree more. I think her point is that you're going to gain weight no matter what, so don't go to the gym to try to stay hot while your body is actively sabotaging you. But there's a lot more to exercise than stunning features and chiseled abs. There's stress relief and mood stabilization, cardiovascular health, and maintaining baseline strength so you can recover from labor and delivery more quickly. It's good for you.

3. What to Expect When You're Expecting by Chicken Little (THE SKY IS FALLING AND IT'S YOUR FAULT THE BABY IS IN DANGER RUN RUN RUN BUT NOT TOO FAST AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T BE AROUND ANY CHEMICALS OR CATS OR CAFFEINE OR HUMANITY ITSELF!)



Pro: Lots of information. It's the one your aunts are most likely to give you, and you can find it for 50 cents in literally every Goodwill store in the country.

Con: This whole book is like one big red phone that never stops ringing. It's panicky and never misses an opportunity to tell you about this one time that something awful happened to one person and here's how you can avoid it: For the love of God don't wear blue shoes in weeks 32-35.

Sure, everyone reads this one. But you really don't have to. All of this information can be had from other, calmer, less screamy resources, or, say, your doctor. Pregnancy can be fraught and scary enough without reading books that plant worst-case-nightmare-scenarios in your head and then tell you how you can avoid them. The problem with that outlook is that, by stating that these scenarios are avoidable, the book is placing responsibility on the mother's shoulders. There's a lot of shit that can go wrong in a pregnancy, and almost no way to know if that shit was avoidable, and we are all just doing our fucking best, so butt out, What to Expect.

4. From the Hips by Rebecca Odes



Pro: Makes a point to represent a lot of points of view about pregnancy, labor, and parenting. You hear from tons of different moms who made different choices. It's also a good bathroom book - bright, quick blurbs, well-organized.

Con: It's not as fact-heavy as many other books. Deals mostly with subjective choices rather than black-and-white, so if you're looking for clarity and a roadmap, this one may not be what you're looking for. OR it might be exactly what you need to decide what YOUR roadmap is going to look like. 

This book is the paper version of a PEPS group. PEPS, for those of you not in Washington, stands for Program for Early Parenthood Support. New parents can sign up for a support group, and will get matched with other parents who live nearby, and who have children about the same age. The groups meet with a facilitator for a number of weeks to have structured meetings and discussions, and then have the choice to continue meeting more casually.

The best part about PEPS is that you get to meet a lot of people who are in the same boat, but who are steering that boat differently. You know 8 or 10 other families who are dealing with the same issues keeping you up and on BabyCenter all night long. You can ask questions and offer tips. That's what this book does. It gives you a breadth of solutions and options for your pregnancy and early parenthood.



Labor/Birth Books

1. Birthing from Within by Pam England



Pro: it is incredibly comforting, inspiring and encouraging to read other women's stories, and to feel like a member of the sisterhood.

Con: if you're a sarcastic smartass, you'll be eye-rolling so hard your face might get stuck that way.

We read this book in preparation for Chicken's birth, so while it might not technically be a "home birth manual," that's how I think about it. There's a lot of misty-woo-woo sacred rite of passage universal sisterhood stuff in here.

But if you're of the snark tribe, please hold up. There's a lot of good practical information in this book. FOR EXAMPLE! When you squeeze your partner's hand through a contraction, make sure you only take 2 or 3 fingers and not the whole hand. That's how fingers get broken. YOU'RE WELCOME.

2. Birth Book #1 by Sarah Blight



Pro: The last chapter has a good concise list of pain management techniques for non-medicated labor, and you can borrow this book for free in the Amazon Prime lending library if you have Prime.

Con: Every other chapter is judgmental and narrow and potentially hurtful to pregnant women who are vulnerable to feeling guilty about the choices they are making for their birth (PS that's all pregnant women at some point, by the way.)

I actually hated this book. I hated it. I found it absurdly one-sided. Thank God I didn't have to pay for it.

This book defined a "normal" birth as an intervention-free birth. So what, that makes me abnormal? Lucky for YOU I've been abnormal my entire life and I think it looks pretty good on me, thank you very much.

If you're a first-timer please don't let this crap in your kitchen. Please, please, please. Just don't even read it.

Hear this. There is no perfect way to bring a baby into the world. Or, wait, sorry, I meant to say that there are infinite perfect ways to bring a baby into the world: as long as you and the baby are both healthy and alive at the end of the day, you did it PERFECTLY.

So I hated this book. That being said, skip the first chapters - interviews with medical practitioners who subscribe to the author's theory that elective interventions are basically child abuse - and go right to the pain management chapter at the end. There were a number of useful tips there that I used during my labor.

3. Laboring Well by Elizabeth Allen



Pro: Insights from the point of view of an experienced Labor and Delivery nurse, tons of great information about the mechanics of birth as well as natural pain management techniques, and a measured perspective on what makes a birth successful.

Con: It's a self-published e-book, and grammatical errors abound. I found them wildly distracting until I reminded myself that the author is a medical expert and not a writer, and I'm reading this for information and not style. Kind of like a Dan Brown book, if Dan Brown were an expert in, well, anything really.

I think this one was my favorite birth book. Once I got over the misplaced modifiers and the the fact that the author is on permanent apostrophe safari, I found this book to be compassionate, thoughtful, and very informative. It's also quick read.

The best part of this book was the reminder that birth is more about product than process. The trend today seems to be focusing on the process of birth. We determine whether or not the birth was successful based on how closely the birth process stuck to whatever birth expectations we had going in.  This nurse has a more clinical approach to defining a successful birth: is the mother healthy? Is the baby healthy? Wheeeee! Success!

While I think it's completely fair for pregnant women to have requests, ideas, and hopes for their births, I also think it's so incredibly sad for women to berate themselves for changing horses in mid-stream, so to speak - thinking on their feet and changing the plan in mid-labor to address an unforeseen issue. We all make the choices we need to make in the moments we need to make them. Don't feel bad. You did great. You're going to do great. Just remember: product, not process.


Did you read something that helped you? Did you read something that really completely sucked? Feel free to comment and share!
OK so it's bedtime. My first bedtime without Ryan.

Right here is where I become a woman.

Buster is in Chicken's crib, lying on the Boppy, wrapped in a blanket. He's sound asleep.

I have lured Chicken into the bedroom with the siren call of "It's binky time."

I got this. Buster will stay asleep. Chicken gets a diaper, jammies, 3 stories, and a soothing rendition of "Baa Baa Black Sheep." I'll take the still-sleeping Buster out of the crib, lay him on the floor, put Chicken in the crib, give him a kiss, tuck him in, collect Buster from the floor, and lights out. Boom.

Oh yeah. I got this.

Why is Chicken's butt damp? Oh. It's poop juice. Chicken has a blowout.
And oh. The diaper genie is full.

Buster starts to whimper.

If I try to cram the diaper into the full diaper genie I will just get shit all over my hands. FOOL ME ONCE, diaper genie. So the shitty diaper goes on top of the diaper genie. Close enough.

Buster starts crying.

Chicken is trying to roll over on the shit-smeared diaper changing pad. I am holding him down using my actual muscles and not caring that using actual muscles to restrain a 2-year-old might make me a child abuser in some states.

I croon "Baby Beluga" while wiping poop juice off of Chicken's back, legs, and feet. Note to self: no more grapes for a little while.

Buster is now wailing.

"I HEAR YOU BUSTER!" I coo over the sound of his screams. "I HEAR YOU SWEET BOY! I HAVE TO FINISH CLEANING SHIT OFF YOUR BROTHER AND THEN I'LL BE RIGHT THERE!"

Chicken: "Shit? Brother?"

Me: "YEP! Shit brother. Did I stutter?"

Buster: WWAAAAAAAH!

Chicken: "Shit? Stutter?"

Buster: WWAAAAAAAAAH!

Me: "Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea..."

I get Chicken's pajamas on and set him down on the ground. "Go pick a book for mommy to read, sweetheart!" I say, making a leap across the room to plug Buster with a binky. Aaaaah. Silence.

Whoops, he spat it out.

OK, back in. Aaah. Silence.

Shit, back out again.

Seriously, it's amazing how well this binky works! It's back in and he's quiet as a--

SON OF A!

Now I am standing over a 2-week-old using my actual hand muscles to hold a binky in his mouth while he makes the stinkiest of all stink faces. "I KNOW you want Boob Milk but I have to give Chicken some attention right now or... wait... what is Chicken doing?"

Oh. He's taking all of the books and putting them in the laundry hamper.
I actually have no problem with that.
The library looks like a clear-cut. Five shelves, and there's only one book left.
You only need one.
I grab it and start reading at warp speed, side-eyeing Buster as the binky bobbles precariously on his-- FUCK me it's out again.

WAAAAAAAH!

I read three of the shortest books we own because Chicken won't actually pick a book for me to read.

Seriously, one is a baby color book that has one picture and one word on each page.

This is me:
(picture of a duck) "YELLOW."
(picture of a fire truck) "RED."
(picture of a frog) "GREEN. Okay, the end, good night."

I get Buster out of the crib and put him on my boob. Chicken is demanding one more story and to be fair, that last one was pretty thin plot-wise. So I get one more book, sit back against the crib with Buster on my boob literally sucking the life out of my body, and hold up the book over my head so Chicken can see the pictures while lying in his crib. (I have never been more aware of the fact that I do not belong to myself anymore.)

Buster pops off the boob.

WAAAAAAAH!

Chicken: "Shit? Brother?"

Me: I can neither confirm nor deny... wait... Chicken, what is on your pajamas?

Chicken: Chicken? Poop?

Me: Are you saying that you pooped on the front of your pajama shirt?

Chicken: Yeah! Ketchup poop!

Me: Is it poop or ketchup?

Chicken: Yeah!

I check his diaper. He is lying. He has not pooped. And there is no ketchup in Chicken's room. That I know of.

But that doesn't solve the mystery of what the holy hell is on his pajamas. It totally looks like poop and oh right he did just roll around in the soggy mess of his own feces, and is it possible that I missed a nook or cranny while I was wiping him down with seriously no less than 30 wipes? Not just possible but damn fucking likely, I'd say.

I check his hands and feet. I check his legs and chest. No poop.
I check Buster's hands and feet. No poop.
I wipe the crib bars down with my bare hands to see if a phantom poop has been secreted by a new poltergeist in our haunted Graco Lauren crib. Nothing.

So okay. The working theory here is that he did in fact poop... buuuuuut he pooped just a little, through his nipples and/or belly button onto the front of his pajama shirt.

Or... ketchup.

Yep, I can live with that.

WAAAAAAAH!

Whatever. I pop Buster back on the boob and finish the book. I sing Baa Baa Black Sheep like four times, bouncing up and down to soothe Buster, then I turn off the light and go to the door, trying to plug a still-fussing Buster with his binky as he stink-faces me and wails. Chicken is crying as I close the door behind me.

OK so to recap:

Massive drippy shit on no less than 3 surfaces in Chicken's room.
Screaming infant.
Library denuded.
Mystery shit-and-or-ketchup-like substance on pajamas that nope, I sure didn't change.
Crying toddler.

And the moral of the story is:

That's why you never
ever
even in your own head
say that you got this. 

And also, beer. 
And brownies.

As a general rule, I've decided to treat this time of my life (newborn + 2-year-old) like finals week.
I'll be drinking a lot of coffee.
I'll be sleeping a lot less than I want to.
I'll be living in yoga pants and messy ponytails.
I'll be running on a cocktail of sugar, adrenaline, and momentum.
Then it will end, and I'll be grateful to have my life back, and proud of how scrappy I was.

But since I'm two weeks in, and therefore a total fucking boss*, I want to share some of my tactics to get through this finals week/year of guerilla parenting.

- if you want to get dressed, do it before your kids wake up. 
It's not that you won't have time after they wake up. It's that you will have to make the choice between taking care of your kids and getting dressed. And let's be real.

Pajamas + cutting up grapes > jeans + toddler whining "graaaaaaaapes! Mooooommmmmyyyyy!"

- if you want to eat breakfast, do it before your kids wake up. See above.

- if you want to do anything in the bathroom, do it before your kids wake up. See above.

- do not attempt any arts and crafts projects involving glue, glitter, paint, or markers. 
Stickers are okay.
Maybe.

- in the words of a delightful friend, lean in. 
Lean into Dora.
Lean into crunchy snacks.
Lean into juice.
Lean into saying, "sure, okay, why not?"
Lean into binkies.

- shelve your pride. 
When friends text you and say, "we'd love to bring you dinner sometime!" Respond, "Monday is open. See you at 5:30. I don't eat pork. Xoxo."

- shelve your guilt. 
Guilty about letting your toddler play alone? Don't be.
Teaching your child to enjoy the pleasure of his own company is the greatest gift you can give him.

Guilty about bothering the pediatrician about that toenail thing? Don't be.
That's the pediatrician's job. To deal with the toenail thing.

Guilty about snacks from a box or dinners from the microwave? Don't be.
Your kids don't care if the peaches were peeled and sliced or dumped from a can - either way your own two hands put food on the table. 

- be crystal fucking clear with your partner about what you need to maintain your sanity.
Don't say, "I'd like to take a shower at some point tonight."
Say, "I need you to hold the baby right now so I can shower while drinking a beer and listening to an audiobook. I smell like I have been Occupying Wall Street and if I don't get a chance to bathe, drink, and escape my life for 15 minutes, I will go insane and I will take everyone with me." 

- accept that nap time may be classically productive, or it may be new-normal productive.
Examples of classically productive nap time activities: laundry, dishes, making a meal, making a bed, writing emails, banking, exercising.
Examples of new-normal productive nap time activities: staring, drinking water, peeing, checking Facebook, watching Orange is the New Black.

- drink water, and drink it hard.
The baby is sucking you dry and you have to hydrate but (sassy voice) ain't no new mama got time for sipping! This ain't no spa day at the Bellaggio! Bottoms up, bitches!

- drink beer, and drink it slow.
Or wine. Or milkshakes. Whatever. Mama gets a treat.

- be grateful.
For a few minutes to yourself.
For a friend who ordered you a pizza in the middle of the afternoon. From Texas.
For health.
For sunshine.
For that ice-cold beer.

- use whatcha got.
Ergo. Bouncy chair. Swing. Rock'n'play. Bassinet. Car seat. Boppy. USE IT.

- pick the most important thing from your old life, the thing you miss the most. Keep it.
There's no reason you have to give up everything. Don't get me wrong, you're going to give up a lot. Most of it. Almost everything. And the things you want to keep you'll have to fight for. But you can fight for them, and you can win. So what do you miss? Spinning class? Going out to drinks with your friends once a week? Date night? Going to the movies? Book club?
Schedule it.
Make it a priority.
Keep it.


Anyone else have a total fucking boss newborn survival tactic to share with my 12-14 readers from the continental US, and 1 guy from Russia?

*total fucking boss is code for blindly groping borderline psychotic, FYI.
First of all, you're welcome for getting this awesome Gotye song stuck in your head. 2012 called and wants its quirky international pop sensation back, am I right?

Second, and more to the point, I was telling a story today when I realized that I'm a stranger in my own skin.

"I had this friend from college come to town unexpectedly. We had this amazing, 6-hour dinner. 5 bottles of wine. We tasted almost the entire menu. By the end of the night we'd talked about our careers, our exes, our future dream lives, great parties we'd been to, vacations we'd taken or dreamed of taking. We were friends with our server, with the pastry chef who we'd watched prepping fresh fruit tarts from our kitchenside seats at the bar. It was the kind of dinner that's completely unplanned. You think, you're just going to grab dinner. And before you know it hours have passed. You haven't checked your phone. You didn't notice the night fade in, how many of the tables around you have been occupied, vacated, occupied again. It was just one of those magic nights with an old friend. It was a gift."

My friend sighed. "God I miss 6-hour dinners."

This friend, like me, has a 2-year-old and a few-week-old.

What can I say, great minds breed alike.

So we're two young women, formerly hip, formerly "of the world." We were the kind of girls who would have caught up over happy hour cocktails and charcuterie plates. We would have worn eyeliner. But now we are two mothers of two getting our chat on in the living room while our toddlers push blocks off of high shelves and newborns drowsily gum at our boobs. We stop mid-conversation to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or blow someone's nose for them against their will.

We've had a lot of 6-hour dinners. We both miss them badly.

But a 6-hour dinner tonight would not be the gift that it was 2 years ago.

First of all, 5 bottles of wine? When I KNOW for a fact that I'll be needing to wake up at dawn tomorrow and sing the diaper song to Chicken to make him forget that he's actually having his diaper changed? When I'll need to prepare and present his breakfast with the zeal and flourish of a Las Vegas magician's assistant? When I have been sleeping at most 4 hours at a stretch for the last who knows how long? Right now when my husband sees me having a glass of wine he says, "so you're getting ready for bed then?" I can't even drink enough to turn my tongue purple.

Also, my boobs would turn into furious trembling milk grenades after about 2 hours. So what, I go to the bathroom and hand express? That's super hip. And in no way disrupts the flow of a hip evening. "Oh my gosh, hold that thought, I really want to hear about your threesome with the Somali pirate king and the Sea World whistleblower. But I have to go boob-jizz into a paper towel real quick. Be back in... I'm not sure how long it'll take to let down in there... maybe 10?"

And, oh, that whole being-completely-present-and-not-even-wondering-what-time-it-is-or-who-has-called-you thing? Try my-phone-is-face-up-on-the-table-in-case-the-babysitter-calls-or-maybe-I've-stashed-it-in-my-bra-on-vibrate-but-that-means-I-have-to-check-it-every-time-it-buzzes-to-make-sure-my-children-are-still-breathing-and-even-if-the-babysitter-doesn't-call-the-silence-could-mean-a-carbon-monoxide-leak-has-silently-killed-them-all-in-their-sleep-I'd-better-check-in-excuse-me-for-a-minute.

Remember how we used to talk about the rosy past and the limitless future? Okay. The past is still rosy, but I'm so tired I am having a hard time recalling the word "spoon." (Excuse me, would you mind bringing me a... you know, a (scooping gesture), oh shit, you know, it's a (stirring gesture), not a knife, but a...) The limitless future? My future is still limitless, but it's limitless in like a ten-degree-wide field. Instead of dreaming about who I'll be with, where I'll be, what kind of job I'll have, the endless permutations and combinations of life elements, my dreams are like, "OK, here's the big dream: you'll be with your husband and your children, raising your children, with your husband, in your home. Just like right now. Only there will be a NANNY. And a WINE FRIDGE."

I've tried returning to the gloriously footloose days of childlessness. Ryan and I spent a week in New York this spring. Chicken was home in Seattle. We had late dinners, drinks. We saw a play. We walked. We wandered. We were not bound by nap time, nor snack time. I had no binkies in my handbag. There were no tantrums to defuse, no shitty diapers to change in the middle of Central Park. We were, for all intents and purposes, childless.

Except we weren't.

Everywhere we went, we wondered what Chicken would think, or say, or do there. We laughed at his imagined shenanigans at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We talked about raising children in the city. We reminisced about how hard our life had been when we lived there, and how hard our life would be should we return with 2 kids in tow. I stopped in every toy store to see if there was something Chicken would love.

We were only two-thirds present. We were literally missing our last third.

When we weren't looking, the pie of our family had been re-sliced, and though we returned to New York without the physical presence of our child, we couldn't stop missing him. We carried him up and down that island in our jokes, our use of his Chickenese slang, in the photos from home that we swiped through on the train uptown.

We tried on our old life to discover that it no longer fit.

So 6-hour dinners. Those were amazing. Maybe we'll have them again. Someday.

For now, I'll settle for a quick burger and a brewski on a sticky table, two high chairs crammed in on the two-top. For now, I'll stop my conversation to shush Buster back to sleep, to remind Chicken that ketchup is for dipping, not finger painting, even as Ryan and I grin at each other to watch our son carving out patterns in the sweet red sauce. For now, I'll have to take some time to get to know my new life, to redefine what, exactly, is a gift.
Absolutely Necessary Disclaimer of Nonjudgment: 
This blog post is about my personal experiences. 
I am not a medical expert. 
I have a degree in theater, navel-gazing, self-importance, and seeing eternity in a grain of sand. 
I don't really know what I'm talking about, particularly when it comes to other people's lives and choices. You may disagree with me. Please do not take our divergent choices as a condemnation of your magical journey into motherhood, or a rejection of any kind. I'm just doing me here. 

Packing for the hospital

What worked:

- Use a wheelie suitcase. Easier to roll on the way out when you might be "smuggling" (term for walking as though you are smuggling a baguette-sized quantity of drugs in your rectum. See also: how women walk after pooping out a baby.)

- Black pants only. You will likely be wanting some camouflage for your massive Depends diaper.

- I put an index card in a gallon Ziploc baggie. The index card had a list of all the things we shouldn't forget before leaving for the hospital - cell chargers, glasses, contacts, etc. The gallon Ziploc baggie made it harder to lose the card, and then we could just put all that stuff in the baggie at go time. BONUS: When you're packing to go home, you still have your index card with the list of all that really important shit you need, so you can make sure you are coming home with your chargers and glasses and retainers and whatnot.

- There are about a thousand websites with lists of what you should take to the hospital. Check one of those for a comprehensive list.

But here's the list of shit I actually used:

- Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, contact solution & contact rewetting drops, face wipes, bath towel
- Cell phone, cell phone charger, iPad
- Photo of Chicken, Baby book, pen (I wrote the basics of the birth day before they faded - nothing poetic, just strict stats.)
- Nursing pads, hair tie, bobby pins, chapstick
- Nursing bra (I like this one because it's both practical and super slutty)
- Baby outfit to come home (I packed both a NB outfit and a 3 mo outfit. I didn't know how big this boy was going to be. We ended up using the 3-monther. Yeeeeah boyeeee.)
- Flip Flops
- Black yoga pants, black tank top with shelf bra, hoodie (to wear home)


Here's the list of shit I packed and did not use:

- Flannel pajamas. I got a really cute pair of DKNY PJ's and a matching cami. I thought "damn girl. You gon' be sexy up in that hospital room!" If only I'd remembered that I was going to be giving birth in June. And I'd be up in that hospital room lying in bed with my own personal 98.6-degree chest-warmer. If I could go back I'd go with something much lighter. I ended up in a hospital-issue floral frilly-necked housedress that unsnapped down the front. I looked like Tony Soprano's mom.
- Kindle
- Arrested Development Season 2 on DVD


Here's the list of shit I wish I'd packed:

- Boppy pillow. Breastfeeding, especially for the first time, is hard enough without having to prop baby up on 9 of those flat plastic hospital pillows that slip out from underneath each other and somehow defy the laws of physics and seem to bring the baby farther away the more pillows you use... it seems like a big bulky thing to bring to the hospital but you'll be so much more comfortable if you bring it, I promise you.


Feel free to comment if you have any other do's/don'ts you'd like to pass along to my booming readership of 10-12 people per day.

THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW!

Never compare your insides with someone else's outsides. 

It's easy to look around and think everyone else has all their shit together.
Don't worry.
Everyone else's shit is flying all over the place, just like yours is.
They just found a bobby pin in their cup holder and managed to make themselves look put together.
Check your cup holder. You can do it too.
___


How easy can this be? How easy can you make it?

One time in yoga class we were all struggling to hold a difficult pose - I think it was half moon. (Shakes fist at sky) HALF MOON!
The teacher was float-walking around the room, like they do, and he said, "wow, guys, you're all working reeeeeeally hard on this. Let's come out of it for a second and try something new on the other side. Instead of working so, so hard, why don't you try to make this easy. Let's see how easy we can make this pose."
After my initial knee-jerk response of "fuck off with your 'make it easy' fuckery," I gave it a shot.
It was easier.
How many challenges in our lives can be simpler, lighter, easier to bear, if we just decide they are?
___


You can meet crazy with crazy, or you can meet crazy with calm.

Another yoga-ism. Shit gets crazy sometimes. And you can either meet that crazy with a rich crazy flavor of your own, and make it a crazy swirl of craziness...
OR
you can meet the world's crazy with calm.
"Sure seems like you're fuckin crazy, world. How about a nice cool lemon drink?"
___

Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

Anytime you feel the need to comment on a friend's opposing political views on Facebook.
Anytime you believe it's your responsibility to tell your Wonder-bread-loving cousin that high fructose corn syrup is reeeally bad for her.
Anytime you see someone over-salting the pasta salad.
At every family reunion.
Repeat after me.
Not my circus. Not my monkeys.
When you load up that new baby in the back of the car and the rolling suitcase tips into the trunk and you ease your sore body into the passenger seat and your husband closes the door behind you with a car-door thunk...  

Take a moment to notice, as you pull out of the parking garage, all the other cars on the road. A landscaper's truck. An SUV with a parking sticker on the window and a Trinity College bumper sticker. Every other car is a Subaru. These cars, just like your car, are all full of people on their way somewhere - work, the pharmacy, the vet, to see a lawyer, to go to the gym, to meet up with an old flame, to bring home the new baby.

The drivers might notice you, your blue sedan. They might notice how carefully you're making turns, the extra-long following distance. They probably won't.

Take a moment to recognize that the world inside your car is permanently distinct from the world you left as you waddled into the hospital days ago. 

Take a moment and relish the fact that nobody else knows. Nobody knows what you just gained, what you just lost. You're just another driver, passenger, car seat combo. Nobody knows you're an hours-old parent. Nobody knows the strangeness and preciousness of your cargo.

In a minute you will re-enter the world. You will merge with the traffic and be just another vehicle on its way somewhere. 

But take just a moment and sit with this. While you might look like just another car on the road, humming homeward, you are more now than you ever were before. And nobody knows. 

I don't know if there's a larger point here. I will just always remember this moment, the thunderclap of how profoundly my life had changed, and how profoundly the appearance of my life had remained the same. How quickly and quietly that canyon had been carved between my insides and outsides. How many moments like that do we get in this life?
Louis CK has a great bit about getting older.



I laughed the first time I saw it. I nodded soberly the second time. The difference? The second time I saw this standup, I had just become a mom of two. 

I had just taken a hard look at myself and said, "Oh my God. I'm not sure I can do this. Can I do this?!"

Reality check, Louis CK style.

Having a kid (or in this case, a second kid) is like having a shitty ankle. There's no going back. There's no "treatment" to return to a previous state. That's just how it is now. You have to stretch your shitty ankle every day. That's a thing you do now, and after you do it every day for the rest of your life, you'll still have a shitty ankle.

I have 2 kids now. I'll never be not-a-mother-of-two-kids ever again. I have to scoop myself an extra 15-45 minutes every time I want to leave the house. There is no "running into the store real quick for one clove of garlic." We're just not having garlic on our garlic bread tonight. We're having butter toast. Wait, we're out of butter. We're having hot, dry bread with our dinner and that's going to be just dandy. 

Can I do this?

This question is a luxury. It's also spectacularly beside the point.

Does it matter if you think you can do this? This is your life now. This is how you fucking ROLL now, with a car seat on one arm and a frisky Chicken tugging on the other.

Can I do this? 

Um, that kind of philosophical query would have been appropriate 9.5 months ago, mama. But ya did it, and now you're fucking doing it. 

There. Is. No. Door. Number. Two.

Put it another, slightly cheerier way:

Yes. 
You can do this. 
In fact, you already are. 
Did you wake up at 5 this morning, feed your baby, read a story to your toddler, and take a shit load of deep, deep breaths when it was time to get in/out of the car? 
The sun hasn't exploded, right?
Everything that was alive in your house yesterday is still alive today, right? 
OK, great. 
You're doing it. 

Stop asking if you "can" do it, because, obviously, you can. I think what you really mean when you ask that question is "can I do this PERFECTLY?"

That's the meanest, most mean-girl mean question you could ask yourself. "Can I be perfect?" Seriously? No. Nope. Nyet. Not at all, not even for a minute, never. Nobody else in the world would ever ask that of you. Get okay with your imperfections. They are what make you the mom you are - quirky and crazy, surprising and delightful and real. They are why your children love you, specifically YOU, with their whole hearts.

Instead of "can I do this?" how about we go with something a little more like:  

God as my witness, this shit is getting done. Let's figure out how.

You know how when you're watching a movie about making movies, and the director yells cut, and then a bell rings, and then all the effects guys swoop in with their utility belts and plumber cracks, and the wardrobe lady and the makeup team flutters around the actors, changing bloody shirts or fixing a shiny nose, and the assistant director speaks intensely with the director for a minute and then claps several times, whirls a finger around up in the air and says, "OK guys we are going again! Reset!"

That's basically what happens in my house during Chicken's nap time.

The milk cup is stuffed between 2 couch cushions. Upside down. The puzzle pieces are in the train box. The trains are in the stuffed animal basket. The stuffed animals are in the bath tub. I have no idea where the bath toys are.

Oh. In my bed. Under the blankets. Still weeping last night's bath water. Props! We are gonna need a sheet change! 

Makeup! There's jam in mom's hair. (At no point today did Chicken have access to jam.)

Sometimes I wonder if I should just let the train box be the puzzle piece home, and let the stuffed animal basket be the train home. I figure he will cycle every toy grouping through every potential vessel, and at some point in the next few years, shit will go back to where it was originally. 

But I'm not zen enough to wait.

Reset! We are going again!




... when people try to make parents feel lame or hysterical for looking out for their kids.

We've heard a lot about slut-shaming lately. This post is about safety-shaming.

I can't tell you how many comments I've heard that are designed to safety-shame - from strangers, from "friends," and sometimes, most bafflingly, from other parents.

It starts when you're pregnant, and you make choices to protect your fetus.

Are you seriously not having coffee? People have been drinking coffee forever and we're still here...
I'm going to be the coolest pregnant lady. I'm totally going to have wine...
Crackheads have babies. You can eat some soft cheese for God's sake...

It only gets worse when people observe you actually safeguarding your child.

You're so funny that you worry about that...
Seriously? I have to wash my hands before touching the baby? Okaaaaay...
When I was raising my kids, we never worried about...
You won't worry so much when you've had your second...

I guess if I were a COOL mom I'd be like, "YEAH Chicken, chew on those rusty nails! It's good for your immune system," or "there's only one way he's going to learn not to run in the street. And that's by spending 14 months in a full body cast," or "has anyone seen Chicken? No? Well, he'll find his way home when he gets hungry."

But apparently I'm not a cool mom. Because I hold Chicken's hand when he climbs stairs since he's still a little drunky-stair-climby and those stairs are made of fucking rock, which tends to disagree with Chicken's tenders.

Because I don't let him wander off unattended in a public park, or a mall, or even someone else's house, as much out of concern for that house and it's nice things as out of fear for my son's safety.

Because I care what he eats and drinks. Because I care how I talk to him, and how other people talk to him.

Confirmed.

I'm not cool.

No shocker there, at least to anyone who ever knew me as "the girl who reads wizard books during class pizza parties." True story. I'd post photographic evidence but nobody takes pictures of a girl sitting at a table alone reading wizard books during class pizza parties.

On behalf of moms who've been labeled hysterical, silly, picky, high-maintenance, naive worrywarts, I'm asking a favor.

Stop suggesting that our parenting is a product of hysterical judgment or watching too much local news.

Stop treating our choices like they're a cute phase we'll grow out of when we get a lick of sense.

Stop belittling our fears. They are real to us even if you think they're silly or unlikely to ever happen. If we fail to do everything in our power to protect our children, the potential consequences are unthinkable.

If we change our minds, or loosen a previously stringent standard, resist the urge to say "I told you so." If you say anything resembling "I told you so," we reserve the right to swiftly and mercilessly cut you and all your descendants out of our lives forever. We will wipe you away etch-a-sketch style.

Recognize that we spend every day wondering if we're doing this right.

Understand that we know how hard, fast, and dangerous this world is.

Sympathize that it's scary to send our tiny, innocent, downy little chicks out into the fray.

Oh. And one more thing.

How about if you just do you.

I said it. You do you.

Good night.

People keep saying, "oh, you've got this. You've already done this once. You've got tons of experience. You're PROS."

Let me ask you something real quick.

At what skill or activity does one become a "pro" after having done it once before, two years ago, while under the morphine-like haze of severe sleep deprivation?

I mean, we're not rookies anymore. We know how to take a rectal temperature and what noise a newborn makes when he's trying to poop versus trying to burp. We know what diaper cream we like and how much to slather on and where. Huh. Now that I think about it I guess a lot of our expertise is butt-related.

But there's this whole universe of newborn care that you haven't done in years. YEARS! And the first time you were practically comatose! And when you weren't comatose you were manic after reading BabyCenter user comments warning about the dangers of ever having any electronics near your child EVER including a dishwasher! (Hint: BRAIN DAMAGE. They all get brain damage.)

My whole day is a record, scratching on repeat, of the following two words:

"Oh. Right."

Oh. Right. Every diaper is a shit.

Oh. Right. Swaddling.

Oh. Right. Pumping. So THIS is a part of my life again...

Oh. Right. Showers now take 15-45 seconds, gulag style. I'm talking we don't WAIT for the hot water to come on, 2-in-1 shampoo AND condition AT THE SAME TIME lightning speed. We don't even bother with the delousing powder anymore.

Oh. Right. The umbilical cord stump smells like a homeless guy on the A train.

Oh. Right. He's cross-eyed. That's a phase. I think.

Oh. Right. He scratched his face with his long, narrow, purple vampire fingernails.

Oh. Right. He needs to be ON ME.

Oh. Right. Vitamin D drops. Son of a!

Oh. Right. Burp cloths need to be stashed next to every possible nursing location, at key points around the house.

There's something to be said for the fact that so much of my day is deja-vu, a revisiting, the days of my future past, so to speak. And there's something to be said for the fact that as Chicken got older, I realized how easy the LAST phase had been. I thought having a newborn was hard until he started crawling. I thought crawling was hard until he started pulling up. Everything is harder than the last thing - and better, and WAY more fun.

So we have perspective. We have more patience. We have a living breathing Chicken reminder that shit gets both harder and infinitely better.

But pros?

That's a dangerous mindset to adopt.. because oh. Right. Anytime you start to think, "I've got this," buckle up, buttercup. That kid is about to throw up some wacky sci-fi Exorcist corn-mush insanity IN YOUR HAIR, and all of a sudden you'll realize: oh shit, this is the next thing. You might have been a pro yesterday, but guess what?

You've never done THIS before. Neither have I, for that matter. Not with this kid. Not in a house with a toddler.

What's a mama to do?

Take a guess.
Trust your gut.
Call your doctor.
Call your mom.
For the love of Christ, do not read user comments on BabyCenter.

So at least we know that.

Poor Chicken.

I imagine he feels like Woody from Toy Story. There he is, gliding along, cuddled up with his favorite people who love him with their full focus. And all of a sudden... BOOM. A little pink chubby Buzz Lightyear lands on his head. His world is knocked off its orbit. Pictures of Buzz, newer, still glossy, start to crowd pictures of Woody.

What's he supposed to do? Sit quietly and wait his turn? He's two for fuck's sake. His version of sit quietly and wait his turn looks like Will Ferrell trapped in a glass case of emotion meets a bipolar circus monkey on speed.

He's clearing shelves with karate-chop action. He's piling pointy things on Buster's face. He's trying to put stuffed animals in the diaper genie. Any time we attempt to prevent him from doing any of these things he goes glass case of emotion on us.

And I have precisely zero spare energy to dedicate to creative problem solving or trying to empathize with his emotional turmoil.

So when a month ago I would have made up a silly song about how stuffed animals don't like to frolic in shitty diapers (it's a work in progress), today I say "CHICKEN. NO. Chicken! Look at me! No! I said NO!" (God, I hate the sound of my voice when I'm saying this crap to my kid.)

The worst part is that "no" doesn't even fucking work.

He cares about me saying "no" exactly as much as I care about him saying "no" when I am prying his spider monkey fingers off of my iPhone as he stands over the toilet.  

"I hear that you're saying 'no,' and I'm sorry you don't like this, but I HAVE TO DO IT," we both seem to be saying to each other.

Because he does HAVE to do these things.

He has a voice in his head all day long screaming, "try that! Taste this! Throw all the things! The iPad belongs in the sink take it there now! Stuff washcloths in the potty! Hit! Throw! Run! Rinse! Repeat! Fall to the floor and howl like a Civil War amputee!"

I love, love, love that voice. Truly. It makes him the pony every kid wants to ride- the spirited one with flinty eyes and a heart of gold. The one whose nuzzles are rare, precious, hard-won. That's my boy. He's tough and focused and a little cray cray. 

I love my Chicken. I LOVE my Chicken. I love him so much I cannot let him become a hitter. I love him so much I refuse to permit him to play in his own shit. 

I just have to figure out how to say that in Chickenese.


When Chicken was about a week old I looked at him and thought, "oh my god, what have I done?"

It's not the kind of thought you want stitched on a pillow or hand-lettered on some driftwood hanging over the baby's crib. But I think a lot of parents of newborns feel where I'm coming from.

This shit is not undo-able. It isn't a cat you found out you're allergic to. When you have a baby and discover how incompatible said baby is with the life you used to have... Tough shit. Pull up your big girl yoga pants and get your ass in gear, mama. 

Today Chicken fought with all his 2-year-old might against getting in his car seat. He wanted to drive. 

Ryan put Buster in his seat as I attempted to both bend and turn my toddler's rigid, flailing body, while hunched over at a 90-degree angle into the backseat door of the car. 

With Ryan here I can do this. 

But he goes back to work next week.

it's impossible not to think it:

I've made a huge mistake.
I will never have to do last night. Not ever, ever again.

I will never look at the clock at 3:45 am, nodding off over a 3-day-old baby that's been nursing nonstop since midnight. It will never be just like this again. 

Some nights will be surprisingly restful and some will be hellishly long. I will feel exhausted, headachy, short-tempered and anxious some days. Some days I will cry when trying to get a sheet of Saran Wrap over a plate. But some days I'll get everything checked off my list and teach Chicken a new song and come up with something funny to write on my blog, and I'll think the whole world is beautiful and I'm so lucky to be alive.

Some day we will all sleep through the night again.

All of that lies ahead. You know what doesn't? You know what's DONE?

Last night. It's over. We made it.

Cross it off your calendar, mamas. One down.

Note to self.

The next time Chicken is in his room whining and howling because he has thrown all the binkies out of his crib and you've already gone in there once to tell him it is time to sleep and he needs to lie down and keep his binkies in the crib and he just looked up at you and laughed when you handed his binkies back to him and you know he has just in his mind invented the best new game on earth called "no naps just screaming" aka "mommy get my binkies now oops I threw them again" and everywhere you go in the house you can feel Chicken whining as if his whine were a dentist drill on your rage cortex and the cat who peed on your favorite sweatshirt yesterday is slinking around in your bedroom again with a shifty bastard face and you're holding Buster who doesn't have any bones yet while trying to kick the cat out of the bedroom before he pisses on something else and Chicken had taken his voice to a new higher whine pitch and is now just screaming "out! Out! Out!" 

... Next time this is your life, maybe don't try to figure out a Moby wrap for the first time.

Good tip.
There's something awesome about a friend who doesn't immediately love your kid just for existing and being both chubby and short.

"Yep. It's a baby. Why is its head shaped like that?"

Tell this friend about the baby's milestones, and you'll hear courteous appreciation and a healthy dose of perspective.

"So... she's 'tracking.' She has eyes that function as eyes. No, I mean, hey, that's a good skill, if you're gonna, you know, live in the world."

THAT is refreshing.

Thanks, friend-who-isn't-a-baby-person, for not faking it.

Thanks for the reminder that we did not, ourselves, invent babies, and that there's a whole world out there, just waiting to talk and think about something other than babies.

But mostly, thanks for saying aloud what every parent has thought about his/her own baby:
"the world thinks you're cute, but you're killing me, Smalls."
said "oh my gosh your baby is sooooo cute!"

The new baby, who we will call Buster from here on, is perfect in my eyes. He's perfect in Ryan's eyes and our parents' eyes. But outside of that golden circle, let's be real... he looks like something that just crawled out from under a rock in a lagoon.

Because he DID just crawl out from under a rock in a lagoon. Through a tunnel that squished and mashed his skull, into a world that he doesn't yet have the skeletal integrity to navigate.

He's floppy, wrinkly, and his fingers splay out at odd angles. He's blotchy and makes cranky frog faces with all of his 14 chins. He's gorgeous. Everything he is delights me.

But. Come on, little girl. You don't know me. You don't have to lie. Empirically, this kid is not cute. Yet.

She asked me how old he was.

I had to think. I haven't slept that much.

"He's... one day old."

Holy shit.

OK so on one hand I really want to tell the story of the birth.

On the other hand... UUUUUGGGGGHHHH BIRTH STORIES...

I'm going to compromise and tell the story of the birth... but hopefully pretty quickly, without too many horrifying bloody nobody-tells-you-that-about-birth details, and without making any reference at any time to anything sacred feminine.

OK, here we go.

OK, before we go, I'm just going to abandon all hope that this will be short. It's still fresh, and I don't yet know which details will resonate with me for the rest of my life. For example. I still remember the meal we ate the night before we went into labor with Chicken. I also remember exactly what the OB said when he was finally born - "Oh, he's going to cry." But there are a shit load of other details that are gone to me now. I kind of wish I'd taken the time to write out the whole 9 yards. This post is likely going to be super long and pretty boring. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday

We had an 8 am appointment at the hospital for an elective induction. At 6 we called the hospital to confirm that they had space for us, and they did not, in fact, have space for us. It sounded like they were popping babies out by the dozen like batches of peanut butter cookies at Mrs. Fields. They told us to call back in a couple of hours.

Labor Day Pancakes. X-Men First Class. A trip to the park.

We called back in a couple of hours. I'm not sure what they said exactly, but the pitch of the charge nurse's screams told me they were probably still pretty busy. Okay, we'll try again tomorrow.

We ate amazing Mexican food, followed by an early-birthday carrot cake. Ryan and I took a walk and I said, "you know, I wish we'd done this today, but I'm also totally cool waiting one more day to have my hoo-ha to' up. It's nice to take a walk." We watched some Curb your Enthusiasm. The one where Larry kills the swan on the golf course.

Monday

We called at 8. Nope.

Apparently everybody gets busy in September. We're slutty for school supplies in Seattle. They told us to call back at 6 pm, but you could tell the way they said it that they were just trying to give us something to do. You'll never have this baby, they seemed to say. Not until your husband is getting on an airport shuttle in Newark.

So my mom, who flew out to Seattle on the first day of her family vacation, joined Chicken and me at the park. I called my midwives to see if they could strip my membranes. They said yes, in 10 minutes. So we hopped in the car and I waddled with some urgency to the midwives' office. Where I sat for 45 minutes waiting for the midwife on call to strip my membranes. I guess she (quotation fingers) HAD TO HELP WITH A CESAREAN SECTION or whatever, so I got bumped to 3 pm.

Oh, also, it was my birthday. Don't talk to me about a Dirty Thirty.

So Ryan and I got a burger and took a short walk. We watched an Orange is the New Black. The one with Taystee's backstory. I like her.

I took a shower and we went to the hospital for a good old fashioned Birthday Membrane Strip.

It actually wasn't that bad. I was at 3 cm already, and the midwife said she could feel the baby's head through the opening.

After, Ryan and I went to Target. We ran into some friends we haven't seen since they had their baby 3 months ago. We looked into their eyes and saw both our past and future selves. Then we bought a small flashlight for my mom, and a DVD of Catch Me if You Can. Good movie.

Oh my God I'm sorry this is the most boring blog post ever.

We got home, where Ryan and my mom made sausage, green beans, and salad for dinner. Chicken helped us snap the beans and tear the lettuce. I love cooking with that kid. He gets so Iron Chef. He snaps green beans like visigoths snapped the collarbones of disobedient children.

At 6 I called the hospital, fully prepared to hear, "Again? Seriously? Um, it's not you it's us?"

But lo! They said they could have us in at 7:30 that night! Fuckin a! We are doing this!

So we ate dinner, talked about what needed doing before Ryan and I left for the hospital. Ryan did the dishes. I packed my glasses and cell charger in the hospital bag. My mom gave Chicken a bath. We went into his room to say good-night. He was fresh out of the bath, sweet, clean, pink-cheeked, and refusing to both give and receive hugs and/or kisses.

We went to the hospital. We could not believe how much more pleasant this trip was, compared to our arrival when I was 8 cm dilated with Chicken. Quick side-by-side comparison:

2012: 8 cm dilated
2014: 3 cm dilated

2012: vomiting on the ground
2014: taking a selfie in the parking garage

2012: 25 minutes and 7 contractions between the car and the childbirth center
2014: 3 minutes. Because there was a guy on crutches getting on the elevator

We walked into the childbirth center, rolling a little red suitcase, laughing, me walking upright, and one of the nurses said, "You must be Katie." I said "Sure am! How could you tell that we're here to be induced?" They all clapped and cheered and said "finally! We got you in!" I could hear the theme song from Cheers in my head... Where everybody knows your naaaame... and the status of your cervical softeniiiiiing...

They checked us into our room, started fetal monitoring, did my admit paperwork, and the midwife came in to break my water.

A word about my midwife: She's the kind of person who saunters everywhere she goes. She takes her time. She's the definition of steady. She's also no bullshit. I love her. Side story: When we were interviewing midwives, we heard a lot of moose caca about our midwives wanting us to know that "we're all sisters in this process," and "birth is a divine right bestowed upon all women, an opportunity to become the inner warrior that all woman can be." (eye roll) (buzzer sound) (bitch please)

Our midwife would never say shit like that to us. So she broke my water using what Ryan described as a "plastic Harry Potter wand."

OK, now a word about breaking water: all pregnant women want labor to start with water breaking. No guesswork, no ambiguity, no timing of contractions, no waiting until your contractions are extraordinarily uncomfortable AND frequent before getting in the car to go to the hospital. Boom. You're in labor. No doubt, those are all legit pluses.

But here's the thing about an involuntary gush or trickle of fluid down your legs. It really feels like you're peeing your pants. And as a potty-trained adult, you have a natural shame reaction to peeing your pants. Even though you know you're not peeing, and even though it's completely out of your control, you have this socially ingrained impulse to not make a piddle on the floor.

First-world problem, I know.

But at 9:11 pm they broke my water, and it was a gusher, and then she handed me some stretchy drawers and a pad, but every time I tried to sit up to put the drawers on, I gushed more, and I kept looking down at the hardwood floor thinking about the massive puddle of fluid I was going to drop there, and whether or not they were going to have to call housekeeping to mop that shit up and put a CUIDADO PISO MOJADO tent sign up next to my hospital bed.

OK, so, a blue waterproof pad on the floor solved that problem. I was able to stand up, gush a little more, and get my drawers on.

My contractions started in earnest almost immediately. What do labor contractions feel like, you ask? They feel like everything. Early contractions, for me, were a one-two punch: a tightening of the abdominal muscles, like I've just been tazed in the gut, plus the wave of hot, crampy cramps low in my belly and lower back that make me feel like it's the first day of summer camp the summer I was 14 and, well, let's just say those khakis only got one wear.

I didn't want to sit in the bed, not least because sitting down and standing up both sent little trickles and gushes of amniotic fluid down my legs. So I stood up and walked around the room. I turned on my Mellow Labor Mix, a mix of singer-wongwriter, bluesy modern folk music, and Simon & Garfunkel.

At about 10:00 we texted our birth photographer to let her know that we'd been having contractions every 5 minutes for an hour, and that she should come to the hospital.

I stood at the foot of the bed and draped my body over pillows, until my lower back started to seize.

I stood and leaned back against Ryan, and swayed against him while he squeezed my shoulders. There's something about someone squeezing you really tight that makes you want to just melt into a puddle on the floor, which, as it turns out, is exactly what you need to do to get through contractions. He also breathed next to my ears to remind me to take long breaths. He also moaned with me, low keening sounds, because someone once told me that high-pitched screaming makes you panic but low moans are soothing.

And then I sat in the glider. Mercy me, the glory of the glider. Something about the repetitive rocking motion, the pillow supporting my back, and Ryan sitting next to me in another chair, ready to lean in and squeeze my shoulders and breathe next to my ears with every contraction. Also, "Wagon Wheel" came on, and there was something so beautiful about rocking in labor while listening to someone croon "hey mama rock me." Maybe a little Grey's Anatomy, but still. Beautiful.

The birth photographer arrived and I realized I'd been in the chair for 45 minutes.

There is no such thing as time in labor, except the time you're contracting, and the time you're not contracting.

I said, "I should probably get out of this chair. I read a book that said you should get up and move around, try something new every 30 minutes, even if what you're doing is working." The birth photographer agreed. I stood up.

Remember how I said that early labor contractions were like a one-two punch? OK, so really intense active labor contractions are like a one-two-nut-punch-with-barbed-wire-on-your-knuckles. I imagine. I don't have nuts.

You still start with the tightening and the hot cramping. And then UNDER that cramping, in a deeper, downer, more inside place, there is a pinch. Not like a flu shot pinch. Like a spinal tap pinch. It's like half a dozen of the needles you have nightmares about, the cartoonish gallon syringes with the foot-long needles, are all being slowly inserted, and then twisted, inside your low belly.

That's the really sinister part, that last bit. Your body has you all distracted by these building-up discomforts, pressure and waves of pain that you can feel building, and you can prepare for, and wait to recede. And then your body drops the hammer, with this sharp, eye-popping, strikes-like-a-cobra pain. And you've got nothing left but your panic to feed it.

At least that was how I felt with Chicken's labor. This time around, I knew that the one-two punch wasn't the end of the story. I kept thinking, "Okay, that was a strong one, but until I cannot stay on my feet, I'm throwing up in a Target bag, and shaking uncontrollably, I haven't really hit my stride."

I didn't panic, but I did say "I think now is a good time to think about getting that epidural started."

Or something to that effect.

Likely more along the lines of, "call... nurse... drugs... now..."

The midwife came in, saw me on the ground spitting in a trash can, and said, "oh hey. Look at you."

Told you. Love her.

She got down on my level and rubbed my shoulder. She told me that the anesthesiologist would be in shortly. And I returned to my safe haven: the glider. The glider of peace. The glider that heals all wounds.

The anesthesiologist came in and moved me to the bed. She praised me on my vertebral spacing. That minx.

Once the epidural went in (which, I have to tell you, is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING compared to the pain of a true labor contraction, so you can just skip the chapter in the book about being afraid of how much putting in your epidural is going to hurt. Seriously. That's like having the choice between eating a raw almond or a pile of shattered Polish pottery shards) the contractions started to ease in intensity. I was still nauseated and shaking, and I could still feel the tightening of the contractions and some rolling cramps, as well as mounting pressure down south, but man oh man. That's the best birthday present I ever got.

Tuesday

They told us I was at 7 cm and I should go to sleep.

I would have. Except I was in labor and I had a bad case of the shivers. Uncontrollable shaking is pretty common once you get close to transition (8 cm). I'd start to nod off and realize that my shoulders were up by my ears because I was trying so hard to NOT SHAKE. So I'd try to relax my shoulders and then I'd shake even harder.

It wasn't awesome. But again, raw almond. Not shattered glass.

At this point it felt like someone was trying to blow up a balloon in my butt. Sorry to be blunt, but that's the sensation of the pressure. During a contraction there's like a dude blowing as hard as he can to inflate a balloon inside your butt. And then when the contraction eases, he takes a break.

At about 5 the midwife came in and checked me. Usually they have to get all up in your business with a gloved hand to "check you." She kind of took a peek and said, "oh. Hello baby." Then she told the nurse to go ahead and gear up.

Love her.

She asked me to give a little push. I tried a little push.

She said, "Okay, any time you're ready to give me a little push." I said, "I'm pushing now."

She said, "So we're going to need to teach you how to push then." I laughed for a really long time on that one. It was just so perfect. "You're really not, but hey, we'll work on it."

Love her.

She helped me roll onto my back and told me that with the next contraction, I should grab the backs of my knees and pull them toward my armpits. I should curl my body up around the baby, take a deep breath, and hold it while I pushed. Then I should take a quick breath when I needed one, and keep pushing through the whole contraction.

I tried it like that. I felt the pressure change.

She said, "There's a baby head."

I pushed a little more, and she stood up to get her gloves and gown on, and lay out the garbage bag or whatever to catch all the baby juices.

At the next contraction, she told me to push again, and I felt stretching. I asked, "Is this what people call the ring of fire?" The nurse said "yes," and I said, "I can feel that. Not in a bad way. But I can feel it." My epidural was truly perfect. I could feel the baby moving through my body in the way you can feel a manicurist working on your fingernails. There's the sensation of touch without the agony of nerves.

Ryan said, "I can see his head." I said, "hair?" He said, "yes there's hair." Why this was my first question I don't know. I guess that's just the only thing you can really talk about when you're meeting someone dome-first. At least for most people. But this is why I love my husband.

Ryan said, "his head is wrinkly like a puppy face."

Swoon.

One more push, and he was out. Ryan said he started crying before his body was even fully delivered, a watery wail, the best sound ever because it chases away all kinds of nightmarish midnight fears. He landed on my body, someone put him there, and he was this big, healthy, rosy baby. Chicken, when he was born, was purple. Like true Willy Wonka purple. But this guy was already human colored. He had a sprinkling of short, slightly curly, downy brown hair on his head. He would cry, and then stop to wait, as if taking things in, taking a breather. Then cry. Then wait.

Ryan cut the cord.

The midwife said, "I feel like I just pulled a toddler out of you. He's a big baby."

An hour later, after a great first latch and a nice 45 minute feed, the scale confirmed it:

9 pounds. 9 ounces. 21 3/4" long. My baby's a bruiser.

The sun rose at 5:11 that day, and he was born at 5:22. I briefly considered completely changing our baby name list to include only names that mean "dawn," but a slap in the face and a shot of bourbon set me right. The only cultures that have names for boys that mean "dawn" are cultures that neither Ryan nor I would never be mistaken for belonging to, and I'm just a little too square to be like, "this is my son Ra." Or Phoebus. Or Aroon. Or my personal fave, Zoran.

I sent Ryan out to go get himself a coffee and some breakfast. I ordered some room service for myself. I held onto Zoran until breakfast arrived, at which point I reevaluated my priorities and the sleeping baby, bearer of my heritage and tiny creature for which I would unhesitatingly give my life, got demoted to the valley on the hospital bed between my knees.

At 7 I got a tray bearing 2 buttermilk pancakes, scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, applesauce, a fruit cup, and orange juice.

At 7:02 the tray was clean.

At some point I tried to sleep a little. Zoran was conked out, and I was running on 24 hours of awake, but I felt like the nurses would yell at me if they came in and saw him sleeping between my legs, not really swaddled, on his side... I don't know. I worry about weird shit sometimes.

But my new awesome nurse came in, saw my empty tray and the kid asleep, and said, "that's an experienced parent right there." I guess because I was gazing lovingly at my iPhone, reading well-wishes and blissfully unaware of some scrambled eggs in my hair, rather than caressing the velvety cheek of my precious, newly-pooped-out miracle baby, I am an experienced parent. I'm not gonna lie, I'm cool with that.

We moved to a postpartum room 2 floors below L&D. It was hot, stuffy, and the bed was fucking possessed. Any time it was plugged in, something was moving on it. I am not at all exaggerating. As soon as you plugged it in, there was this mechanical whirring whining sound, and the back would start to lift, just a little, just slowly enough that you think you might be losing your mind, just fast enough that you want to scream I'M NOT CRAZY THIS BED IS FUCKING ALIVE. And then your seat starts to sink and all of a sudden you're sitting in a hole, but then the knees start to life, just a little... dude. It was whack. So we had to crawl around to plug and unplug the bed anytime we wanted to adjust it a little.

We decorated the hospital room for Chicken's first meeting with Zoran. We put up balloons, streamers, and a Sesame Street Happy Birthday banner. Chicken arrived, wearing a "big bro" shirt. He could not have given less of a shit about the baby sleeping in the bassinet in the corner, which is just how I wanted it. The longer he can ignore this kid, the better, as far as I'm concerned. After about 20 minutes he noticed that there was a baby in the room and wanted to see him. That's what we thought he was saying. Actually, he wanted someone to take the baby out of the awesome wheeling bassinet so he could sit in it. My kid is the bomb.

He ate a chocolate doughnut. Ryan's mom arrived to meet the baby and play with Chicken. My friend came and took pictures. Ryan, his mom, and Chicken left. My mom and I stayed with Zoran. I took a shower. I took a short nap. Ryan came back. (Sorry, this is boring again.)

Ryan had the idea that since the baby's doing great, I was up and about, the L&D ward was slammed with women in labor again, and our room was the kind of place where people go to be broken, we might ask if we could go home that night instead of the next morning. We had to jump through a few hoops, get lucky with being able to rush some necessary tests, but we did it.

We walked, or I should say, waddled, into the hospital wheeling a red suitcase at 7:30 pm on Monday.

We walked, or I should say, smuggled (I asked Ryan how he would describe the walk of a woman who had just delivered a baby, and he said, "It's the same walk as someone who is trying to smuggle drugs in their butthole. So "smuggle" is now a verb describing that very specific gait, FYI.) out of the hospital carrying a 9.5-pound baby at 6:45 pm on Tuesday, a little less than 24 hours after checking in, a little more than 12 hours after the birth.

We went home and got takeout for dinner. Ryan and I read Chicken his bedtime stories and put him to bed.

I'm not bragging. I'm grateful.

I'm grateful for the anesthesiologist for reading my chart carefully and caring about my wishes to have a lower dose of meds this time.

I'm grateful for the midwife for being calm and compassionate, for her sly humor, for walking out with us.

I'm grateful for the nurse who cracked jokes and rushed us through the necessary evaluations to get out of the hospital so we didn't have to spend a hellish night in that institutional sweatbox of misery.

I'm incredibly grateful for my birth photographer, Jessica, an absolutely warm and unwavering presence of support, with the uncanny ability to vanish into the background and be a silent witness to a life-changing event. I will always remember the first push, when I heard her murmur "there you go!" With Chicken we pushed for three hours and they ended up pulling him out with the vacuum because the epidural was so heavy. Jessica's three little words did so much to make me feel like a rock star.

I'm so grateful for my husband, who was by turns a silent rock for me to lean on, and an unapologetic advocate for our family. I'm grateful for the incredible memory of him and me, working together nearly silently, to bring baby Zoran closer, inch by inch, to life. I'm grateful for the feeling that we can do anything together, Ryan and I.

I'm grateful for a labor experience free from fear and panic, to know what a birth really feels like, but from a safe enough distance not to be scarred by it.

I'm grateful for a healthy baby.

I'm grateful for the family who has held us up and told us we could go take a nap or write a really long birth story blog post.

I'm grateful for buttermilk pancakes.

I'm going to drink a chocolate banana milkshake now.
You winked at me and said "you look beautiful." Um, I did not look beautiful. I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I was wearing leggings, granny panties, and sneakers. I was sweaty like an attic push-up champion. Thank you for your mercy. Bless you, sir.

___

You reached across the aisle in the airplane to rub my back. I had been rocking and shushing a screaming 8-month-old Chicken for almost half an hour. He was so tired but couldn't fall asleep, fighting like a warrior poet to stay awake so he could KEEP SCREAMING. You said, "it's only loud to you. You're doing great." I have remembered and passed on your words many times since. Bless you, madam.

___

You had just gotten your 5-year-old situated in the airplane chair at the kids' salon. I came in with Chicken for his 10:30 haircut, and the receptionist told me they'd had us down for 10:00. I showed her my appointment card, which said 10:30, and she said she was sorry but everyone was working, and I could come back at 2. You cut in and said, "Why don't you take the airplane chair. We are wide open today, and we don't have to work around naps like you do. We can come back at 2." You collected your son out of the airplane chair. He'd already had his spa cape clipped on. That was uncommonly kind and thoughtful of you. Bless you, madam.

___

In art class, Chicken put two heaping handfuls of neon green Gak in his hair and rubbed it in like shampoo. (Gak is like 15 parts Elmer's glue and 1 part Borax and should be on a WMD list somewhere.) You ran to your bag and brought me a fine-tooth comb. I spent the next 30 minutes combing Gak out of Chicken's hair, racing against the slowly-hardening-not-of-God's-creation-is-it-liquid-or-is-it-solid-I-DON'T-CARE-JUST-GET-IT-OUT Gak clock. Your comb looked like the Ghostbusters slime monster had pooped on it, but Chicken's hair was Gak-free. You complimented ME on my quick thinking. Thank you for volunteering a comb to give the last full measure of devotion. Bless you, madam.
I've gained 50 pounds this pregnancy. I weigh more than Ryan, and have for the last 3 or 4 months. It might have something to do with the fact that I eat dessert. After every meal. And snack.

I've drunk at least one glass of wine every week since I entered the second trimester.

Okay, at least 3 glasses of wine every week.

I support every mother's right to make whatever breastfeeding choice makes sense for her and her family. But personally, it totally freaks me out to see a 4-year-old on the nip.

My first thought when I see a friend I haven't seen in awhile and she's gained a lot of weight is, "ooooh noooo."
My second thought is, "I wonder if she's okay."
My third thought is, "I hope none of my friends are assholes like I am."