Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One month

Some moms who blog their baby stories do it in a letter format ("Dear Graham …"), which I think signals a rich connection between mom and baby, but it's something I can't do. I'm going to write about Graham rather than to him because I'm incapable of keeping anything completely snark-free, and when the snark starts flying (in the form of bad words, sarcasm, negativity), I don't want it to fly at Graham. I don't know how much better it is for the snark to fly all around rather than at him, but it makes me feel a little less guilty.

When I was pregnant I felt this immense and self-inflicted pressure to be especially nice to children. At eight months pregnant Aron and I took our furry son, Jeffery the dog, to a park for his kind called Wiggly Field. The park was packed with what seemed to be a human family reunion. Since Wiggly Field is a dog park it's unlikely that what we were witnessing was in fact a family reunion, though it certainly felt to Aron and me (Jeffery isn't as emotionally perceptive) that everyone other than us at the park knew each other intimately. Among the seeming family were two muddy and obnoxious human boys, about five years old, whose careless roughhousing nearly knocked me down twice during the park visit. Being exceptionally protective of my person, I was likewise exceptionally irked by these rude and dirty children. But lest I appear an unkind mom-to-be, I smiled at the boys' play as if I found it darling rather than potentially deadly. (My fear of bodily injury was rather exaggerated during this time. Car rides routinely made me feel on the verge of a panic attack.)

Another self-inflicted pressure I experienced during my pregnancy involved infants. It felt crucial to me that I be able to convincingly pretend to be aesthetically taken with every baby I encountered while pregnant, which was a considerable challenge because, well, infants' appearances range from goofy (on the good side) to horrifying (on the bad side). Cute and adorable babies strike me as such aberrations that the characterizations cute and adorable don't even belong on the infant appearance spectrum.

Strange, then, isn't it, that I find Graham both cute and adorable, as well as handsome and precious? He also has a great sense of humor and an already-emergent wonderful way with words (facts deduced from the expressions he makes in response to stand-up comedy clips on YouTube and to poetry). It's once I arrive at the claim that Graham's poop isn't stinky that I realize I may be afflicted with mom delusions. Or maybe he just has magical poop. 

It seems silly now that I put so much effort into smiling at and pretending to find adorable every child I encountered during my known pregnancy. It was practice. I thought I had to practice pretending to be taken with babies so I'd be good at pretending to be taken with my own, even when (it didn't seem a matter of "if") he came out looking grim as babies usually do. Everyone agrees that Graham is wonderful:  he has a wonderful personality and wonderful looks. That they're lying or pretending (as I did) is unthinkable. Clearly my kid is a knockout. 

Like I mentioned in my first blog entry, I find writing about Graham immensely intimidating, because the love I feel for him is deep and intense, and the deeper an emotion is, the more difficult it is to articulate. Love and appreciation, I've been in positions to learn lately, are the most overwhelmingly gratifying but also the most overwhelmingly frustrating emotions, because you want to release them onto their objects, but how can you? I cuddle, feed and gaze at Graham all day long; there's more love left over when the day ends than was there when it began. I've written thank-you notes to the incredibly kind and beautiful student midwife who delivered Graham; words express vexingly little of the gratitude I feel.

Still, I'll try to explain this mom love. I love Graham, but it's not a reasons-based love. Or rather, the reasons I love him are so particular to him that they'd never work for anyone else. I love him because he smiles when I tickle his cheeks. I love him because when I pick him up, he arches he back and curls his legs underneath him ("womb legs" is what I call them, and they're so sweet!). I love him because he falls asleep most easily when he's on my chest and stomach, and when he sleeps there, his arms fall to my sides and his hands grip my skin, making it feel like he's holding me at the same time I'm holding him. I love him because he looks into my eyes when he eats. I love him because he came from me and Aron, and I love us. I love him because he has a cleft in his chin and giant toes. Mostly I love him simply because I do. There's no way I couldn't. There's no way I wouldn't want to. And I'm sure I'll still love him when he's a dirty five-year-old roughhousing at the park, though I'll be sure to advise him to steer clear of moody and judgmental pregnant ladies.

I love Graham so much that I want, two years and eight months from now, to give him the gift of a little sister, whom we'll name Rosa Everly Hall, unless she turns out to be a brother instead. Graham's only sibling now is a bit stinky and likely lacks even the potential to learn to play hide-and-seek with him. He's a great dog, amazing really, but he is a dog. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

a Graham poem

Graham was born four weeks and one day ago, and everything is changed.

I guess I could continue to begin every blog post by saying how far from normal life is now, but it's probably truer that life is arriving at a new normal. I do hope that by the time sleeping only a few hours a night starts to feel normal I'll start having to readjust to sleeping six or seven. I'm normally (there's that word again!) a nine hour a night kind of girl. But if what's been the case for the past week is the new normal, then I'm newly-normally a four hour a night kind of girl, which I wholeheartedly prefer to our sleep pattern during Graham's first three weeks, when Aron and I were routinely permitted only two hours a night.

Why the sleep talk in a post that purports to present a Graham poem? Well, for starters, I was sleep deprived when I wrote it. Graham fell asleep at midnight last "night," woke two hours later to eat and was sweet enough to fall back asleep almost immediately after. From 2:20 until 2:28 I wrote a short prose poem for him. Like I keep saying, Graham is here and everything is changed:  I sleep significantly less, and I'm brave enough to share a poem. It's a very strange bravery, akin to the bravery I have to show off the video of Graham being born to anyone who wants to see it, which, so far, has only been one person (my sister, who was more willing than eager to watch and, to be honest, not all that willing). Normally (this word has almost completely run out of relevance), no one sees my vagina, not even Aron, because mood lighting to me is the near absence of lighting:  I'm shy and full of body shame, so getting turned on requires most lights be turned off. But new-normally, I have to resist the urge to ask my friends and family, "Wanna watch the video of Graham coming out of my vagina?"

The Graham poem figures in because I'm normally very shy about my writing. (Strange claim from a person with a blog, but it's true.) I'm especially guarded about creative writing attempts for two principal and deeply related reasons: 1. I really want to be good at it; and 2. I'm thoroughly and unalerterably certain that I'm not. The Graham poem is undeniably simplistic and full of flaws:  childish rhymes, non-rhymes pretending to be rhymes, redundancies and (I think) at least one misused word. So why publish and publicize writing that I'm convinced is objectively shit? Partly because its inspiration is flawless, which of course doesn't automatically impart flawlessness to the poem, but I do think Graham's being the poem's inspiration inevitably lends the poem a large degree of likability to me, his mother, a medium degree of likability to our family, and a small degree of likability to anyone who rightly thinks that babies are amazing. Well, here it goes.

He, of course, sleeps through his dreams with ease. They only wake me, these whimpering, bewildering infant dreams. How unfathomable they seem. Sometimes he smiles. The wakefulness is most worthwhile when he smiles. I want to share wakefulness with him but instead, while he dreams, I watch and I wait, and when it's his time to wake his eyes are a bright, beautiful, and bewildered delight. I so hope he finds morning as nice as the dreamy darkness of his nights, and when he wakes, again I wait, hoping to watch him smile at daytime's sight. 

Among the already-mentioned flaws the poem has, it has the additional and maybe more considerable flaw of being untrue, or at least misleading. Although I wrote the poem a few minutes after watching Graham dream, the truth is that his sleep cycles are rarely long enough to include dreams. But like I said, I'm hoping that will change soon.

And since this is a poetry post, I'll share one of my new favorite poems. It's by Jennifer Michael Hecht and it's called "Love Explained." At my and Aron's wedding both of our moms read a piece on love. I wanted my mom to read "Love Explained," but she and I both worried about it being unconventional and too easy to misunderstand (which is not to say that I actually understand the poem). She instead read "I loved you first: but afterwards your love" by Christina Rossetti, which is a good poem and all but kind of, well, almost vapid in a sense. Anyway, here's the poem I actually like:  Love Explained by Jennifer Michael Hecht : The Poetry Foundation

Sunday, November 20, 2011

3 weeks

Graham Lorenzo was born three weeks ago, and everything is changed.

I've both been wanting to tell and hoping to resist telling Graham's birth story. When I was pregnant, women everywhere and always bored, annoyed or frightened me with their labor tales. Every woman tells the story of her labor as if she's the only one who has ever given birth. Memories of their stories make me think I should keep mine to myself. But equally as strong as my desire to avoid boring, annoying or frightening anyone with the story of the most typical event in human history is my personal urge to purge. I've always kept a journal and I've often had a blog. This is just what I do:  I blab, publicly and privately. So it's not so much a question of whether to be silent or to storytell. It's just a question of where I'll do my storytelling.

Women are probably so eager to tell their birth stories because nothing crazier than a human coming out of a human routinely happens to a human. It's bizarre. Formerly, the most existentially weird thing to happen to me was when I tried to register amelia.hall as an email address at Gmail and was unable to because the address already exists. It used to blow my mind not just that another Amelia Hall exists but that she is sufficiently similar to me to want a simple email address. Having a baby, I think, is way stranger.

My friend Mary says this about birth stories:  "When you tell it, you feel it." Maybe that's why women want to tell their stories:  because it takes them back to the best experience of their lives.

I'll start my birth story with a grammatical quandary, because I'm generally more interested in grammar than I am in birth. Graham Lorenzo arrived two weeks and two days late. At two weeks past his due date, what was continually referred to as "induction of labor" began. Everyone everywhere calls this procedure "induction." Look at the index of pregnancy books and you'll see an entry for "induction." But induction is the noun form of the verb induct, and certainly my labor wasn't inducted. It was induced, and inducement is the noun form of the verb induce. My inducement lasted more than a day. Graham arrived on October 30, 2011 at 12:17am. I can't believe they let me hold him, because I was so tired, but I'm so glad they did.

None of this amounts to a birth story. I'd say I'm saving the birth story for the personal journals, but I think the truth is just that even attempting to relate the events leading to the birth of my baby intimidates me. It's ineffable, and I can't do it justice, so I'll just present a picture of the baby instead. 

"Love of my life" is a group of words people commonly use, but I don't understand how they could apply to anyone else but your own baby.