From October 2008

No More Swaddle, My Mother is a Witch, and Other Headlines.

NO MORE SWADDLE

Simone outgrew the Miracle Blanket. We knew this was coming: she’d been wriggling out of it a few times a night for a while now, but still, we pressed on. Scott’s baby-wrapping skills have never been as strong as mine, probably because of all those joints he didn’t roll in college, so eventually it became my sole responsibility to shoehorn Simone’s thrusting feet into the foot pocket and stretch the fabric around her fat, shimmying torso until tiny rips appeared in the seams. But as of last week or so no bonds of cotton can hold her, and so we decided to zip her into a sleep sack and call it a night.

…Only as it turns out, the swaddle was doing most of the work of putting her to sleep. We knew she had some issues with self-calming and regulation, as is common for preemies, but we didn’t realize just how ferociously she sucks at falling asleep until the first swaddle-free night, when she lay in her swing for over an hour looking at her arms as they floated slightly in front of her, UNBOUND, a sad, baffled, and not at all sleepy look on her face. Eventually she ended up in our bed where she smacked me in the mouth several times, scratched the inside of my nostril, and gave my hair a good pull before taking a quick 15-minute catnap. Then she repeated the smack-scratch-pull-catnap bit ad annoyum for the rest of the night.

After some trial and error, we settled on the following bedtime routine:
1. Nurse baby until she is drowsy but suspicious.
2. Holding baby parallel to floor, do 20 minutes of swaying torso twists until baby’s suspicions are allayed and she and your arms are asleep (incidentally, this also counts as your workout—congratulations!)
3. Place baby in swing for 15 minutes until deeper sleep is achieved
4. Transfer baby to crib

We do this at about 6:30, and Simone stays asleep until at least midnight. After that, all bets are off, and finally she’ll end up in our bed, smacking me happily and chatting with the crack in the ceiling plaster. Sometimes she laughs gaily (read: LOUDLY) at the mobile over her crib next to our bed—you know, the crib she’s not in. Apparently this mobile is much funnier seen from a distance.
I complain, but I do admit it is nice to have her next to me sometimes, all warm and milky-smelling and convenient for the odd is-she-still-breathing? poke.

Anyway, having barely begun to make progress on swaddle-less sleeping, we’ve decided its time to shake things up once again, by expanding her crib to its full size (we have it in the “bassinet” configuration currently). It will be an adventure, and not just because there is scarcely space for the crib in our room. SEE the baby’s confusion! HEAR the resultant wailing! LAUGH as the mother pours Prevacid into her coffee instead of into the bottle!

MY MOTHER IS A WITCH.

My mother is in town from Switzerland, and last night she offered to take care of Simone so that Scott and I could go out to dinner. We had a lovely meal, and only the untimely appearance of the waitress kept me from licking the residual salmon teriyaki molecules from my plate. After a rousing, pointless argument in the car (about videogames and their status as an art form), we returned home to find Simone dead asleep in her crib, where my mother had placed her without first utilizing the swing.

The woman just plopped my baby in her crib (already sleeping, as my mother has a sinisterly soporific effect on infants) and said baby STAYED there, ASLEEP, as in NOT SCREAMING. And yes, I checked the levels of the liquor bottles and counted my tranquilizers.
My mother fed Simone pears, and Simone didn’t simply spit them back out again. She also casually reported that she’d found time in the 90-minutes we were gone to work on her unassisted sitting (Simone’s unassisted sitting—my mother’s is already quite good) and read MULTIPLE bedtime stories. And of course she’d turned the pitcher of water in our fridge to wine, if we were thirsty.
Sometime in the middle of her improbable tale of a well-behaved baby and productive caretaker Scott and I began exchanging incredulous looks.
Witch,” I whispered, sidling up to him. I narrowed my eyes at my mother, trying to see whether she looked as if she weighed more or less than a duck. (About the same, I think).

OBSTRUENTS!

Simone can hear at least one thing: if you make a clicking noise with your tongue, she will usually turn to you. The witch My mother first discovered this last night, and I am finding it very useful when attempting to feed Simone solids in the presence of Lennie, who has expressed an interest in expanding his diet to include oatmeal, rice cereal, and fruit purees. Simone finds the cat much more interesting than food, but if I click at her she will turn long enough for me to wedge a bit of pear in her mouth. This makes me suspicious that perhaps she can hear, but is only interested enough to react to, by my count, three sounds: the word “eel,” a tongue click, and the phrase “Guten Morgen Meine Baby!” which is what I say to her every morning when we get up. She isn’t hearing impaired, she is simply difficult to impress! Or she can hear one frequency, the German/sea-creature/clicking frequency.

MOST VERSES HAVE ACCOMPANYING MOTIONS

Many of you claim to be fans of the original “Little Bar of Soap” song, so I thought I would graciously share some of the verses of “Oh I Wish I Were a Little ‘Lectric Eel”:

Oh I wish I were a little ‘lectric eel
Yes I wish I were a little ‘lectric eel
I’d go sparky sparky sparky, way down in the ocean dark-y
Oh I wish I were a little ‘lectric eel

Oh I wish I were a little hungry goat
Yes I wish I were a little hungry goat
I’d go munchy munchy munchy, right through everybody’s lunch-y
Oh I wish I were a little hungry goat

Oh I wish I were a little octopus
Yes I wish I were a little octopus
I’d go wave-y wave-y wave-y, to the sailors in the Navy
Oh I wish I were a little octopus

Oh I wish I were a little spotted cow
Yes I wish I were a little spotted cow
You’d get milk out of my udder, and you’d churn it into butter
Oh I wish I were a little spotted cow

Oh I wish I were a little bite-y shark
Yes I wish I were a little bite-y shark
I’d go swimmy swimmy swimmy, then I’d tear you limb from limb-y
Oh I wish I were a little bite-y shark

Oh I wish I were a little hanging bat
Yes I wish I were a little hanging bat
I’d go dangle dangle dangle, at a terrifying angle
Oh I wish I were a little hanging bat

Believe it or not, there are MORE, including one about a giant squid (winky winky winky, squirts you with its ink-y) and one about a pig (snuffle snuffle snuffle, finds for you a truffle), but I am tired, and should probably unload the dishwasher.

Next: Octopus!

My mood over the past week has swung wildly. One minute I am misty-eyed over the outpouring of support we have received and the wealth of resources available if Simone does have a hearing loss, and the next minute I am hit with a wall of fatigue at the mere thought of everything before us.
Come, experience my neurosis in real time!

12:00 p.m.: ASL is a beautiful language! Each sign is like a tiny visual poem! This is going to be SO MUCH FUN!

12:03 p.m.: IT IS ALL TOO MUCH TO BEAR.

12:05 p.m.:
I still remember how to sign the alphabet! And the word “shrimp!” The sign for “shrimp” is adorable!

12:06 p.m.: PANIC ATTACK.

12:12 p.m.: We’ll be able to mock people’s outfits right out in the open!

12:15 p.m.: Simone will think I can’t possibly understand her because I am hearing. Sayonara mother-daughter relationship.

12:16 p.m.: A teenaged YOU’LL-NEVER-UNDERSTAND-ME phase is a given, even if Simone can hear dog whistles and the flap of butterfly wings. I will woo her back with cash and my recipe for piecrust!

Keep in mind that for all I know, as I raced around researching Deaf culture and reading about the ototoxic drugs she was given in the NICU, Simone could hear every word I was muttering under my breath. But anyone who has been reading this site for any length of time is aware that I could teach my very own Community Ed class called Getting Ahead of Oneself: Advanced Proactive Anxiety Techniques ($40—bring your own paper bag to breathe into), so this is perfectly in character.

I have received so many wonderful comments and email messages from people involved in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and I have every confidence that Simone can grow up to be a wise, funny, amazing woman regardless of whether or not she can hear. I am frankly baffled as to why I reacted so strongly to something that, rationally, I know is FAR from disastrous, when in the past year I have frequently handled actual disaster with much less brouhaha. The only explanation I have come up with is something about a straw and a camel, and that after the long siege of the NICU and oxygen and everything else, I am just bone tired. That phrase has never seemed so perfectly apt.

Anyway, babies are mysterious. After the initial appointment, there was a lot of surreptitious clapping and squealing and dropping things to see how Simone would—or wouldn’t—respond, and the results of this VERY SCIENTIFIC testing were inconclusive. Once, Simone startled to a clap, but the elephant noises made by her bouncer, the sound of a mooing cow keychain, rattles—all left her cold. The bouncer incident came during my lowest point. We have had this contraption for ages, but no batteries for it, so on Friday we got some and Scott set it off. A great deal of infant-pleasing noise, meant to sound like a rainforest haunted by a mad xylophone, ensued. Any baby would have turned to see what was making all the ruckus—any baby but Simone, who didn’t notice it at all. I reacted poorly.

BUT. Simone has a favorite song, one I made up because I couldn’t remember the words to Oh I Wish I Were a Little Bar of Soap (Why WOULD someone wish to be a little bar of soap? Hence the unmemorableness of the lyrics, I suppose). Our song—Oh I Wish I Were a Little ‘Lectric Eel—has many, many verses, but Simone likes the first one best. I tried pretending to sing it, complete with animated facial expressions, and got no reaction, while an actual performance elicited a wide smile at the first instance of the word “eel,” just as it always does. So who knows. Until the 5th, my daughter remains a puzzle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in succulent baby flesh.

In the meantime, I’ve taught myself the sign for “eel.” Added to the sign for “shrimp,” I am assembling a nice complement of language relating to marine life.

She Who is Inappropriately Named.

Simone can’t hear.

I thought maybe typing that right at the beginning, getting it out of the way, would make this easier to write about, but guess what? No.

Yesterday was Simone’s big five-month developmental assessment at the NICU follow-up clinic. The appointment consists of visits with a neonatologist and nurse practitioner; a check-up; and a standardized test called the Bayley, administered by an occupational therapist. I might as well admit that I was feeling confident, going in. I knew Simone might have trouble with her fine motor skills, and maybe sitting, but I was wasn’t expecting anything but praise for how fine and fat she is growing, and what a strong, smart baby she has become. She is seen only once a month by Early Intervention, because after her evaluation in early September they decided she was doing too well to require more frequent visits. Though front-to-back still eludes her, she has started rolling back-to-front. Besides, each baby develops at her own pace: insert story about a friend-of-a-friend who didn’t talk until the eighth grade and is now a Rhodes Scholar, reminder that every child is a unique snowflake, et cetera, et cetera.

The evaluation started well. Simone is slightly above her adjusted age for cognitive skills, and a whole month above for expressive language. Her motor skills need some work, partly because I didn’t know she was supposed to be sitting at a tabletop to play with things (What does a baby need with a tabletop? A place to write? To hold tiny mock U.N. debates?), but her delay is relatively minor and not due to any physical limitation—she just needs practice.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point the therapist began to look concerned. She asked whether Simone responds to her name. No, she doesn’t. Other words? Well…no. Does she turn toward noise? I hadn’t noticed, excellent and observant parent that I am.

Then, standing behind Simone, the therapist rang a metal handbell—LOUDLY. Loudly enough that my own ears were ringing. And Simone didn’t so much as flinch.

It was chilling, to watch Simone burbling obliviously in my face, while behind her gongs sounded and noisemakers shrilled. We tried rattles, crumpled paper, sudden clapping—nothing. I felt sick and panicked and unspeakably sad for my baby. And, I confess, weak with guilt. How did I miss this? How do you miss the fact that your baby can’t hear? Simone is very responsive to me, but it has now been demonstrated that she is responding to my facial expressions. She gets excited when Scott comes home from work, but not until she sees him. Her visual perception of her environment, it was noted, is especially keen, probably compensating for the fact that SHE CAN’T HEAR A DAMN THING.
After the Miracle Worker routine of bells and whistles and desperate cries of Helen!, the specialists conferred and then filed back in, looking grim. Because of what seems to be a hearing loss, Simone’s receptive language is at a two-month level. Examination of Simone’s ears reveals no wax or obvious fluid. She hasn’t had a fever or infection. She passed her newborn hearing exam, and because she learned a few months ago to mimic the intonation of “hello” (which, come to think of it, she hasn’t done in a long time), I am wondering whether she may have been able to hear at one point and now cannot. The neonatologist pulled some strings to get us a November 5th appointment with an ENT. November 5th seems terribly far away.

The best-case scenario, and the one I am fervently hoping for, is that there is fluid somewhere deep in Simone’s ears, and that all she will need is tubes put in to keep it draining and then therapy to make up the language acquisition skills lost by the months of deafness. The worst-case scenario is permanent, profound hearing loss. It can have a delayed onset, which I didn’t know, and Simone has several of the risk factors.
Believe me, I’m aware that as worst-case scenarios go this is a relatively cushy one; there are other, more devastating disabilities. But allow me to wallow for a moment. Simone has had PDA ligation surgery, multiple transfusions, severe jaundice, an infection, two bouts of acute renal failure, Retinopathy of prematurity, a small IVH, an aortic clot, osteopenia resulting in broken ribs, severe Bronchopulmonary dysplasia…the list goes on. She was doing so well, finally. And yet here we are, back in this place again.

This morning I was standing in the kitchen staring out the window when I remembered that the name Simone means “She who hears.”
You have to laugh, really. Well, I do, anyway, and I did, standing there with a bottle of formula in my hand. A possibly deaf baby named Simone. If I believed in god, I would think this was a slightly cruel divine joke. If my life were a short story I was editing, I would say this was a heavy-handed stylistic device and recommend the author stop trying to be so clever.

You have to laugh. People say that all the time, but I really do believe it. I think it is probably as close to a life’s philosophy as I get. Anyway, nothing is really any different than it was yesterday. I still love my Simone to distraction, she still needs to be fed and changed and nibbled on. We won’t know any more until her ENT appointment, and if the news is going to be bad, nothing we can do will stop it from coming. It’s business as usual around here. Except, I suppose, that we can now swear in front of the baby with impunity. I guess it’s true what they say about silver linings.
Standing

Hyperbole Productions Presents: FACTORY OF DEATH.

Friday morning I flew to North Dakota to spend the weekend carousing with family, so it was late afternoon before I saw Heather’s link to my most recent post. I was flattered, and a little flustered, as if I had opened the door in my housecoat to find Andre Leon Talley and a Vogue photographer, camera at the ready.
The comments here remained quite civil, save a few, my favorite being the one referring to me as a FACTORY OF DEATH. Factory of death! I sound so forbidding. I am thinking of adopting it as my middle name: Alexa “FACTORY OF DEATH” Stevenson. Children will avoid my house, the yard of which will become littered with unretrieved baseballs.

The comments over at Heather’s were markedly shriller. She is a strong woman, to withstand the baffling quantity of ire directed at her. I believe it would drive me to drink. Most confounding, to me, was the fact that so many people felt passionately enough about the issue to write long, vituperative comments, but not passionately enough to actually CLICK ON THE PROVIDED LINK and read the entirety of my post. For instance: apparently my guilt “shone through” in my writing. I tried to remember what I was supposed to feel guilty about, but confess I was flummoxed. And then—upon closer reading of the comments—I realized that I had, in fact, terminated my pregnancy!
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE.
Creatures
{Fig. 1: Victim of late-term abortion}

For the record, however, if I had not managed to stay pregnant until 25 weeks and deliver Simone, if my infection had worsened pre-viability and I had made the decision to terminate my pregnancy, I would have felt fear and blackest, bottomless sorrow, but I would not have felt guilt for my decision. And this wouldn’t be for lack of understanding, the sort of thing that could be remedied by a few pithy facts about how far after conception the heart begins to beat, et cetera: as the parent of a 25-weeker who was less developed than expected for her gestation, I am more aware than many of the murky ethical waters of later-term abortion. Allow me to assure the government that women are perfectly capable of making decisions about their own health, complicated or not.

Another recurring theme of the comments seemed to be that I am simply naïve, and do not realize that while some women might treat these decisions with appropriate gravity, many are blithely sandwiching D&Xs between appointments to have tiny sunsets airbrushed onto their acrylic nails. These recreational baby-killers spoil it for the rest of us, you see, in the way that one paste-eating kindergartener nets a cessation of craft privileges for the entire class. Only in place of “craft privileges” put “potentially life-saving medical treatment.”
Now (bearing in mind that my legal education comes mostly courtesy of Sam Waterston), it is my understanding that this is entirely antithetical to the values upon which our legal system was founded. Our court system substantially favors the rights of the accused, under the assumption that it is better that ten guilty men go free than that one innocent man be unjustly punished. We do not get to apply laws unequally, and in general, our citizens are given the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I believe it is this principle that underscores much of our constitution.
We are given the benefit of the doubt that we are intelligent enough to form opinions on our own, with access to art, literature, and journalism regardless of how potentially inflammatory or threatening to the state. We are given the benefit of the doubt that we are informed enough to vote: ALL of us, not just the most educated, privileged, or agreeable. The belief in a right to privacy indicates a trust granted to citizens of our democracy that I believe was intended to be a step away from the paternalism of some other forms of government. Do people abuse their rights? I am certain that some do, but we protect these rights for everyone, even those with whom we vehemently disagree. If there does exist some mythical capricious aborter, it may be regrettable, but we do not legislate merely for her, we legislate for all of us.

While I am unequivocally opposed to McCain’s policies, my most strenuous objection is to his apparent thoughtlessness regarding them, and his obvious disdain for my judgment. If compassion were more for him than an expedient political buzzword, perhaps he would not be so quick to dismiss the notion that women and their doctors are as able as he to navigate the painful and complicated issues surrounding abortion.

-FIN-

More Wounded than Eloquent, I’m Afraid.

Last night, when John McCain dismissively couched his reference to a “health of the mother” exception to the late-term abortion ban in AIR QUOTES, I had an unexpected reaction. I had expected to be angry, and I was, angry at his cavalier treatment of the subject, at the inane and misleadingly benign phrase “culture of life” (whereas the rest of us, if not actually invested in a culture of DEATH, are merely “meh” on the concept of life. Life? Oh I can take it or leave it!). I was angry at his use of the term “pro-abortion,” a term that could only be coined by someone who has never had to contemplate such a procedure, or watched a loved one do the same. But what I wasn’t expecting last night was to feel my eyes suddenly hot and teary, to feel so profoundly hurt.

Ames died at 22 weeks. I was lucky—if anyone can be said to be lucky in these circumstances—that his water did not break for another two weeks, and lucky that IV antibiotics and hospital bedrest kept the infection in his amniotic fluid more-or-less contained for twelve days after that. But his water could just as easily have broken two days rather than two weeks after his death, and the infection could have been more virulent, spread faster, and reached critical mass much sooner—say when Simone was pre-viability, or on the very cusp of viability. Say 23 weeks instead of 25.

It is my understanding that McCain believes late-term abortion should be outlawed except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. But when do you make that determination? When does “health of the mother” turn into “life of the mother,” anyway? What organs would the infection have to spread to and shut down before I would be permitted to terminate my pregnancy? Would they wait until I was on a ventilator, or merely until my lungs were beginning to fill with fluid?
At this juncture, many want to get down to the nitty gritty, and talk procedure. Some would ban various methods of dilation and extraction, but would graciously allow for the induction of labor or a C-section. Well, allow me to remind you that a C-section for a severely infected patient—as I would be if they had waited until the distinction between health and life became clear enough—is extremely risky. As for inducing labor, I had been IN labor for 16 hours when Simone—who was breech—was delivered by C-section. Again, how long would they have me labor while the infection spread? After all, it is not as if doctors could terminate my pregnancy once death was sufficiently imminent and then turn the infection off with some magical infection switch. Has McCain never seen an episode of House? Once infection has gotten a powerful foothold, once sespis has set in and organs are shutting down, the process is sometimes impossible to stop. I am talking primarily about infection here only because this was my particular situation, but these same arguments apply to other conditions, such as preeclampsia and HELLP.

I want to be clear: if McCain had his so-called “culture of life,” and if my condition had progressed just a bit earlier, I would at least have lost my uterus, and I might very well be dead. All this in the interest of a baby who could not possibly have lived, because while an extremely few 23-weekers do survive, a by-then-severely-infected 23-weeker would certainly not. “Culture of life,” indeed.

McCain states that he would deal with the issue of abortion with “courage and compassion.” I quote: “the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby.” As if terminating my pregnancy would be the easy way out, the way not requiring his precious “courage.” As if dictating my medical care based upon his religious beliefs is compassionate. And I find it interesting to note that his “compassion” for this newborn does not extend to guaranteeing it health insurance.

I have long suspected that McCain does not think much of women. First because of what I regarded as his rather uncouth treatment of the women in his personal life, and later when he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. But his words last night, and the tone in which he spoke them, show such a terrible and deep disregard for our personhood that they left me shocked and speechless. I have never felt so powerfully disenfranchised as when hearing McCain insinuate that women—us crafty minxes—are not above using trickery to get a (much-coveted, apparently) late-term abortion. How dare he. How dare he imply that women are either too stupid or immoral to be trusted to wrestle with ethical issues on their own. How dare he insult my intelligence, my character, and my commitment to my babies, to my much wanted and years-in-the-making pregnancy, by implying that he is better equipped than myself and my doctors to weigh my child’s life against my health. Women may have the vote, but we do not have the respect of a frighteningly vast segment of our government, and I am sickened and saddened to see it.

Thoroughly Trivial Tuesday!

Today, allow me to show you a treasured family heirloom. It is a photograph of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather on their wedding day, and I think, when you see it, you will understand why it is so dear to me:
Wedding Picture
The bride is Verena Michel, originally of Weisen, Switzerland. The man she is marrying is Carl Yahnke. It is November 21st, 1904, and obviously an occasion of great pomp and ceremo—huh.
Wait a minute.
Is that…?
Is her dress open?
Oops.
I have seen hundreds of staged turn-of-the-century photographs, at garage sales and antique stores. But I have never seen one quite like this, which is what makes it so delightful.
Mischief
You have to wonder what they were up to just before the picture was taken.

New Tuesday Thing!

I have been attempting, with limited success, to weed through my belongings in order to Reduce Clutter. I am finding all sorts of things in the process: old pictures, journals from Junior High, bizarre trinkets of all kinds. Because Scott is becoming increasingly intolerant of my shoving random items under his nose and entreating him to “LOOK! IT’S A ONE-ARMED JAPANESE STATUE I GOT IN FOURTH GRADE, JUST BEFORE A HUMILIATING BOUT OF LICE! LET ME TELL YOU OF ITS HISTORY!” I have decided to start a new feature here at Flotsam. It seems fitting, in a way, as one of the dictionary definitions of “Flotsam” is “discarded odds and ends.” Of course these odds and ends haven’t been discarded, but only because I have the habit of keeping my odds and ends and growing inappropriately attached to them.
As I decide what stays and what goes, I have also had an opportunity to notice the things that I keep not in one of my several black-hole-like boxes of ephemera, but out in use or on display, items I love, and I may showcase a few of those as well—sort of like Dooce’s “Daily Style” section, only without the style. And not daily, because that would be too much work.
So once a week, I will show you a treasured object or a half-forgotten photograph or a note from my freshman year of highschool. Sometimes there will be a story that goes along with this object, sometimes not.

So! Today I would like to present something I found in one of my boxes:
Fetish
You know that big bazaar-like pavilion by Grand Central Station, the one filled with little souvenir kiosks? I got this there, at a stand selling all manner of orthodox icons and painted boxes and such. I am not religious, but I liked the colors, and more especially, I was intrigued by this:
Foot
Gaze upon the Most Holy Foot! See how it glows! It died for your sins, and was reborn again!
Now, I am sure there is some explanation, some reason that Mary and a midget-y man-child Jesus are rising above a glowing orange foot set upon a grassy plateau. Something about Leprosy? Or WALKING through the valley of the shadow of death? Or washing the FEET of the poor—the aching, red, feet of the poor? But honestly, I have no interest in hearing said explanation, whatever it is, because it might spoil my nice Most Holy Foot Icon for me.

Questing.

You all must have been much better prepared for motherhood than I, because only three people responded to my request for questions-you-were-too-embarrassed-or-forgetful-to-ask-your-pediatrician. However I did get many assurances that I am unlikely to accidentally give Simone Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is a relief, particularly assuming that this information also applies to her Jumperoo, which has been the subject of many a terrifying daydream wherein my baby bounces herself into a brain injury and I am unfairly blamed and not only lose custody but am summarily jailed. And anyone who has seen Law & Order knows that inmates are not especially kind to their child-abusing compatriots, so even if I were eventually cleared, I would likely be by then a haunted-eyed shell of my former self, prone to terrifying jailhouse flashbacks. I have such lovely daydreams. Actually, my daydreams don’t hold a candle to my regular dreams, which Scott has long mocked me for, so uniformly horrifying are they. A recent example? A dream in which I was at some odd, Chinoiserie themed party in a New York hotel, and then went down in the elevator and couldn’t convince the doorman to let me back in, at which point several buildings collapsed, a la 9/11, and corpses began raining from the sky. I was forced to enter a Wal-Mart and choose a pair of sweatpants for the journey ahead and then trek across a corpsey post-apocalyptic landscape to another hotel where I would be helping with some corpse-related task, and then it turned out that the floor of the hotel I was sent to was actually the inside of a toilet. Oh! And I had been carrying some book of jokes by Bill Maher on my trek and bequeathed it to someone with a lecture about comedy being the only way through disaster. This lecture occurring, naturally, around a campfire, while I was wearing my new Wal-Mart sweatpants and surveying the blackened, burning, smoke clogged landscape. I should write children’s books, don’t you think?

One question a few of you had for ME was how I get such lovely pictures of Simone, which inquiry I found both flattering and hilarious. Believe me, if you got a glimpse of everything I have in iPhoto, you wouldn’t be asking me for any tips. The truth is that I take about 75 pictures for every one that is nice enough to post, and my photography advice is brief:
1. Buy a better camera. I have a Nikon D40, for which I paid $500. I wish I had bought it earlier. I have almost no usable pictures from the NICU because Simone couldn’t tolerate the flash (and it made her look awful anyway) and my old point-and-shoot was terrible in low-light situations. It had such a lag between pressing the button and the actual picture being taken that I almost NEVER got anything in focus—babies are twitchy, you know. I use the D40 exactly like I used the old camera—on the automatic-but-no-flash setting—but get vastly better results.
2. Don’t use the in-camera flash. At some point I might buy of those fancy flashes that you can point upwards, away from the subject, but for now I just open the shades all the way and put Simone by a window. Much better.
3. Take a million pictures. The delightful thing about a digital camera is that you aren’t wasting film by clicking manically away in the hopes that you will get something pretty. I have a big memory card I got for $50, so I never run out of room.

And that’s it. I am too impatient to learn Photoshop—I pull my pictures into Picnik on Flickr and crop them, press the “automatically fix exposure” button, and fiddle with the saturation and temperature a little because Flickr does a funny thing to color profiles.
I have a hell of a time getting pictures of Simone smiling, because she is too busy looking at the camera to notice me waving my hand at her in an amusing fashion. I finally got one yesterday by getting her SO excited by waggling my ponytail around that she was still smiling when I raised the camera and snapped it at her. Still, most of those pictures were terribly out of focus because she was bobbing her head around with glee.

On a totally unrelated note, those of you with reflux-y preemies who used Danny Slings and elevated crib mattresses: when did you stop? Simone still has reflux, but I am wondering if it is time to put the crib mattress down and retire the Danny Sling, as her reflux is no longer of the constant terrifying threat of apnea variety, more of the all that extra laundry is a nuisance sort—in other words, probably no worse than many regular babies, who are probably NOT sleeping with elevated crib mattresses and Danny Slings. They discharged us from the apnea program months ago and said we would “just know” when it was time to stop the reflux precautions. Well, this is yet another thing that I do NOT, in fact, “just know.” Do you? Also “sitting unassisted”: how does this happen? Do I just prop Simone up over and over until she stays that way? Will she somehow sit up on her own? The child isn’t even rolling over yet, people. I feel like there is something I should be doing that I’m not—tiny baby obstacle courses, maybe?

Inner Space.

lol

The insertion was better than expected, possibly because I took a double dose of Klonopin beforehand: I was more than relaxed, I was hearing Harpers Bizarre in my head on the ride to the clinic. In the end (HA!), I would say that being Mirena’d was slightly less excruciating than my Hysterosalpingogram. The doctor couldn’t get her device in the first time and had to “try the other side” (which I found alarming, because do cervices have sides?), but the process was mercifully brief and in no time I was at home on my couch watching Tivo’d Gossip Girl* while Scott took care of Simone. The rest of the day was painful, much worse than the insertion itself, but by the day after, the discomfort had been downgraded from “Morphine, STAT!” to “stick-on heating pad, when you get around to it.”
My only remaining issue is with the “strings.” I put “strings” in quotes because the term SHOULD be “wires.” The doctor said she likes to leave them a bit long at first and then trim if needed at my follow up appointment. I readily agreed, because at the time she was mid-insertion and as far as I was concerned she could do whatever she wanted with the damn “strings”—leave them long, cut them short, hell, French braid them for all I care, just GET OUT OF MY VAGINA ALREADY.
But this morning I noticed a…poking sensation. A prickly poking sensation in a place where no girl wants to be poked—well, not by something sharp, anyway. And so I tentatively ventured forth and OH MY GOD the pointy ends of the “strings” are RIGHT THERE, effectively acting as their own none-shall-pass-without-puncture-wounds form of birth control. So yes. That will have to be dealt with.

My last entry, about my obliviousness regarding Simone’s readiness for solids, reminded me of something. Am I the only person who is completely unable to remember any of my questions once I am actually in the pediatrician’s office? And because they’re not exactly emergencies, but rather things-I-suspect-I-should-just-know-but-somehow-don’t, I’m not about to call the clinic after I remember them, either. There seem to be a lot of things in the world of babies that I feel ought to be common sense, but sadly, are not. At least not for me. Par example: Where is the line between the Dr. Karp endorsed soothing jiggle babies seem so fond of and Shaken Baby Syndrome? How often do babies really need to be bathed? Do other parents change their refluxy spawn after they spit up all over themselves, or is it okay to mop them off with a rag and call it a day? What about watching television while breastfeeding? Some experts say it violates the “no TV before age two” rule, but am I really supposed to sit gazing adoringly at my baby during EVERY nursing session when there are perfectly good episodes of Law & Order to watch? If a baby spits up after being given her medicine, should I give it again? I have been told to scrape cradle cap off with a comb, but what if I puncture my poor moppet’s soft spot? It’s so SQUISHY! And what about waxy ears? Q-tips are verboten, I know, but should I be cleaning them somehow? If you have to introduce foods slowly to avoid allergies, why isn’t my baby having allergic reactions to the shellfish and peanuts and wine fruit in my breastmilk?

Humor me—what questions have you failed to ask your pediatrician, either because you forgot or because you were too embarrassed to do so?

*Totally unrelated sidenote: Does it drive anyone else MAD when they say “your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” at the beginning of every episode? “Source INTO?” “Source INTO?” Why not “window into” or “source for information about?” “Source into” makes my teeth itch.