Thursday, April 28, 2011

This is really disturbing and also kind of gross.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

This blog is not dead!

It's just resting! I think I put this baby to sleep on my behalf, because Mama is tired.

But we are reawakening and there will be more action in this space while I continue the wildly humorous attempt to ace the whole time-management thing, which, wish me luck!

Here are some things that happened during the nap:

1. Some folks found my blog by Googling "every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed with a mustache," "guy holds himself up on pole," "I love Britney's vagina," and "you're not circumcised?" I would like to meet all of these people.

2. I had a freakin' mammogram. I just had a baby and now I'm getting mammograms. I am old. Also, there was a framed photo of Bette Midler in the exam room.

3. My friend Mara threw the most awesome birthday party ever. She showed Can't Buy Me Love in the Tribeca Grand hotel's screening room. All who attended participated in the final cafeteria scene's slow-clap.

4. I met my niece, whose male-patterned baldness is growing in nicely and who wears a bathing suit with strawberries on it. She's sweet as sugar.

5. My family lost a beloved uncle, two great aunts, and a dog; we had to cancel Stefen's first birthday party; Josh spent five days in the hospital. Most of these things happened within six days of each other.

6. I have been walloped by an overbearing amount of stress that I anticipated but am not handling well. Josh and I have been hit hard by the economy and I am working all. the. freakin'. time, on top of momming and trying to keep all the necessary life balls in the air. (Heh. I said "life balls.") I am spread way too thin and it all feels like too much for one person.

7. One thing I have gladly, gladly added to my life, however, is Parentables. It's TLC's brand-new parenting blog, and yours truly is posting for them every Wednesday. Not only am I jazzed beyond belief that somebody is paying me to write, it's also allowing me to approach the whole momming thing more clearly. Writing about raising Stefen and all that entails is helping me to organize my muddled brain and move forward with intention. And it's challenging my most acute professional fear: that I'm not an ideas person. It's always been that if you give me an idea, I can run with it, but coming up with something original and valuable has never been my strong suit. It's time to think big, and this is a really great outlet for me. You can see what I've written so far here.

8. Smokey Robinson hugged me. Smokey Freakin' Robinson!

9. I won an argument with an insurance company, got out of jury duty for the next four years without even going to the courthouse to plead my case, and tracked down the ass in Glendale, California, who stole the number of my unspent Macy's gift certificate and got my money back. Take that, The System! And criminals!

10. I dressed my son as Gargamel for Halloween. I am determined to make my nostalgia Stefen's nostalgia.

I'll post pictures soon. The boy is growing like a weed and thinks it's hilarious when I drop things. I'm so exhausted and uncoordinated lately that the kid should be laughing his head off.

For those of you who are still here reading this long-dormant space, thanks for sticking around.

I'm very glad my alarm went off.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We Love the City

Here are things I've seen recently that should be noted for posterity.

(Also please note for posterity: Many of these photos were taken with my camera phone. I do not have one of those newfangled, high-tech "phones that have good cameras on them where you can actually tell what is in the picture." I basically have the Commodore 64 of phones. I've decided that the photo quality is not crappy; it is edgy and avant garde. Let's just go with that.)



1. This douchebag.

For those of us who were unclear on his identity as a hipster boner, he drove it home with his 1980s Casio calculator wristwatch. He could have gotten away with the wristwatch if he weren't otherwise outfitted as the Lone Ranger en route to picking up his cape from the dry cleaner. You have to hand it to him, though: If you get on the train already wearing a blindfold, nobody has to protect your identity when they post your photo on their blog.

2. In certain subway stations, a special someone draws curly moustaches on movie posters. The moustaches actually say moustache, and then they have curly ends, which give them a quality of both nefarious intent and whimsy. The artist wanted it to be known that this was not his work:

Because my camera is awesome, I'll help: It says "not moustache man". Moustache Man would never want the city to think he's an anti-Semitic fascist, which I think is a crucial quality in a graffiti artist. Wouldn't want all those curly, literal moustaches to be propaganda geared toward shutting down the masses.

3. One morning, a train pulled into my station (dirty!) completely empty except for about six firefighters gathered in the front of the first car. When things like this happen, it's confusing: You feel both safe to board the train and also crazy-stupid for boarding the train. We all boarded. I sat next to a man who reeked of scotch and cologne. I was then relieved the NYFD was on this train, for I was perched next to the most flammable human being in New York City.

4. Similarly, and sadly, I rode to work one morning with an old homeless woman who, for a good half hour, furiously scrubbed herself — her clothes, her skin, her hair — and her luggage with rubbing alcohol. The smell was stifling, but you could imagine that if you became homeless, especially if you were homeless for the length of time that this woman appeared to have been, and had been affected over that time, you would become a germophobe. It was heartbreaking.

5. You figure there are people on the planet who think they should look like Ke$ha. So there was a woman on the train with the appropriate ratty weave and patterned leggings. But what I really wondered about was the line of evenly spaced rhinestones adhered individually to her wrist. Does she have to do that every morning? Or once you glue them on, do they stick for a few days? She must have gotten up at 4 a.m. to get ready for her commute to her job at Whatever Company That Doesn't Have a Dress Code, but really, if my choice was to sleep in until sunup or glue rhinestones to my wrist, well, those better be some dazzling rhinestones. Those rhinestones better clean my house and make my kid his lunch, is all I'm saying.


6. This, tied high in a tree.

7. This, sitting underneath a tree.

8. While waiting in line at the pharmacy one night, I stood behind a Guy. He reached the front of the line, and:

GUY: Nathaniel Archibald.
ME: No way!

[awkward pause]

ME: I'm sorry. You must get that a lot.
GUY: Um. Yeah.

9. One of my very favorite restaurants in the city is called Zen Palate. It's a lovely Asian vegetarian restaurant with tasty dishes named things like Wheel of Dharma and Mushroom Forest. Until about three years ago, their Union Square location was one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city. It was three levels with interesting stairs, gorgeous wood beams, rich metallics, it was just an excellent place to eat. And in the grand tradition of capitalism, their landlord tripled their rent or something horrible like that and they closed. They just relocated a few blocks away. Here's what moved into the gorgeous space Zen Palate was forced to vacate:

Have you ever found yourself standing in the middle of a crowd and taking in your surroundings and just wanting to scream at the top of your lungs? I did not do that when I saw this. But my innards did.

10. On the corner of my street:

a) Four people, not together, all walking tiny lap dogs on leashes.
b) The four people and their lap dogs stood around an abandoned grocery cart, lying on its side under a tree.
c) Inside the shopping cart was a vacuum cleaner.
d) Nobody moved. They all stood there with their dogs, considering the vacuum cleaner, for at least five minutes.

It was like domestic performance art.

11. It was not a grocery store–themed restaurant so this seemed kind of random and kitschy for the sake of kitschiness (and the restaurant was not kitschy either), but even so, kinda cute:

12. Ugh. I have rage. ZPELLING, PLEEZE.

Note: The best Ben & Jerry's flavor is S'mores. Just fyi.

13. You may have heard that last week, New York City experienced some storm activity. Or, like, armageddon, which is really what it was. I missed the End of Days because I was at work, and in the cave of the Us Weekly offices, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man could explode in front of our building and we would know nothing other than the fact that it may have gotten darker outside. So by the time I left the office, the tornadoes had come and gone and I went on my way to the subway. When I got off the train in my neighborhood, though, I walked into ... nature. Branches everywhere. Leaves on the ground like November. That smell. But it was dark outside, so I walked home knowing there had been some damage but not really understanding how much. I didn't know how bad it was until I watched the news and heard a torndado had touched down in my neighborhood. When I left the apartment the next morning, it was The Day After.

I walked Stefen to day care mostly in the middle of the street because trees had fallen all over the sidewalks. They were leaning against the fronts of houses. It was beautiful and exciting and absolutely terrifying. When I got to work, I started watching YouTube videos of the storm and heard stories of skylights flying off the roofs of houses and a crucifix being ripped off the front of a church and landing on someone's SUV not far from where I live. During the following two days, Josh was stuck in his office because of a bomb scare on his block, and half the New York City Fire Department showed up at my building to put out my upstairs neighbor's dryer fire. All of this is to say, I'm going to stop leaving the house right about now.


14. Tommy Lee came to the office. I stood back and watched him from afar, which is probably a good thing because the entire time he was there, all I could think about was his crotch. I never saw the sex tape, but the entire time that very nice man was in our office, all I could think was, There is the man with the very large penis. My friend Colleen is His Biggest Fan, and he licked her face. That may have been one of the kindest gestures I've ever seen a celebrity offer to a fan.

15. Another visitor?


The staff went berserk. Everybody had a Hello, Dolly! story and Carol Channing listened to each one as if people had not been telling her their lame Hello, Dolly! stories through half her career. (Mine: At summer camp in eighth grade, we put on a production of the musical. I could act but not sing, and my bunkmate Ruthie could sing better than anybody at camp, so when it was down to the two of us for the part of Dolly, she got it. I told Carol Channing this story, and Carol Channing said to me, "Well, how do you know you can't sing?" I said, "From all the cringing?" She said, "They don't know what they were talking about. You can sing." I don't care that she has never heard me sing; she set me free. Carol Channing lifted my drama-geek spirit. Love.) Anyway, she was so gracious. Her husband was there, this tiny, lovely man wearing a bow tie. He told us that they were sweethearts when they were 12 or 13, then went their separate ways. After each of their spouses died, a mutual friend reunited them, and they got married seven years ago. I wanted them to stay in our offices forever, though I'm not sure they would appreciate being surrounded by the photos of Sarah Jessica Parker's underpants and Lil' Kim's pasties.

16. Whenever I'm out of the office, a freelancer sits at my desk to help out my boss. When I returned to work after Rosh Hashana, there was a blue plastic water bottle on my desk, still filled about a third of the way. My friend Josh has the same bottle, so when he came in that afternoon, I brought it back to him, but alas, it wasn't his. So I sent an e-mail to the staff, you know, the whole, "If this is yours, please come and claim it." And nothing. Nobody came by, not a bite. People usually pick up their detritus; when an editor left what appeared to be a urine sample on my desk, he came to get it and explained that the Poland Spring bottle was actually his lemon Crystal Light, "but I know what you're thinking." So I put the blue bottle on our giveaway table, these long counters where everybody leaves freebies and food for anyone who wants them. This was two weeks ago. I believe it's still there. Also: A couple hours after I put the bottle there, someone had emptied the water that was left in it and then put the bottle back in the exact same spot. So weird. It's psychological-study weird.


17. My mother-in-law is always looking out for things that we might like. Whenever we see each other, she always has a bag of whozits and whatnots that she collects or sees that she wants to run past us. Sometimes they're very useful (hangers for baby clothes) and sometimes they're random (a decorative washcloth). Here's a random one:

It's a key chain. She thought that because it's a fuzzy little duck, even if it's an Aflac duck, we might want it for Stefen to play with. But here's the thing: It's an Aflac duck, which means that when you squeeze it, Gilbert Gottfried screeches and you want to remove your own head. I told my mother-in-law thank you, but I just didn't think the ideal toy for my son is one that squawks the voice of the most annoying comedian since Jackie Mason.

18. This lovely fella.

Here's the thing about that hat: I LOVE THAT HAT. I love that hat so much that I risked the lives of myself and my progeny to save it. Because it's shockingly hard to find the perfect hat for an infant. And this hat fits his head perfectly and shades his eyes perfectly and it's reversible and I bought it on sale for $2.83. So while we were walking to his six-month doctor appointment last week, it blew off his head and flew directly into traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Now, you might experience something like that and think, Wow, that sucks. I loved that hat. Too bad. I did not think that. I thought, Must run into traffic. So I did. I was actually glad I had Stefen in the front-carrier instead of in his stroller because it made it easier to dodge oncoming cars. Once someone honked, I hung back on the curb and watched the hat with an intense focus I never knew I had, shuddering as it was hit by a car. The second there was a red light, I went straight for it; it was lying on the lane-divider paint in between two cars, both drivers looking at me like I lost my fool mind. (They were correct.) I was just glad it hadn't landed underneath a vehicle, because then I'd have to figure out how to crawl under a random car with my baby strapped to my front. Let's all be grateful for small favors.

This weekend we're going to outlet shops. I'm bringing my good camera for this one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Iced Iced. Baby.

This morning, I left my apartment building to take Stefen to daycare and came upon this:

I got iced!

I'm not a bro so I didn't take a knee (!!!), but Stefen's a bro, so I was all, "Um, he can't hold himself up independently." My friend Noelle Who Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro says that babies don't really have knees, so he's exempt. I looked around for the person who may have iced us, saw nobody, took some photos, and headed to daycare. When I returned a half hour later, the bottle was gone, and when I went inside and checked the Bros Icing Bros website, it was down because Smirnoff has no sense of humor.

Later, at work, my friend Chris asked me if I'd heard of vodka eyeballing. I was stupid enough to say, "No! What is it?" Here's what vodka eyeballing is:

Say you're drunk to the point where you've lost any good judgment but not drunk enough that you've lost all your coordination, and you want to be drunker. So, naturally, you take a shot of vodka and POUR IT INTO YOUR EYE SO IT GOES STRAIGHT TO YOUR BRAIN.

"It can cause instantaneous blindness," said Chris. "Seizures. Like, grand mal seizures. It's the most horrible of things. But it's the new trend in frat douchery."


What the fuck?

I've done several stupid things while drunk. I kissed many boys I oughtn't have. I sat on a giant rock and cried for two hours. I threw a glass of water in my friend's face when she got upset after seeing her ex-boyfriend with this girl we knew who was wack-a-doo and not just a little bit of a slut. I fell asleep in a bathtub. I took a picture with a dude who had — tops — four teeth in his entire head and the ones that were left were metal-ish, and I looked like it was the happiest day of my life. I did these things. I went to a Big 10 school.

But these are mild things. I have not played Century Club (take one shot every minute, trying to get to 100). Nobody has held me upside down in order to experience beer. I've never shotgunned anything because I do not enjoy when liquid of any kind comes out my nose. I know that people do these things, and perhaps I'm boring or sheltered or, I don't know, not enough of a giant ass in the head to pour booze into my eye, but I just don't understand people who think it's a rite of passage to escape alcohol-induced blindness. Graduating college: That's a rite of passage. My bat mitzvah was a rite of passage and our bar bill was only $75 (somebody put two trees in front of the bar and nobody saw it; also, my ragin' party was on a Sunday afternoon, and Jews don't drink before 6 p.m. [in public, anyway]).

All of my sanctimony, though, and my 14-week-old child has already participated in his first drinking game. He would be so popular at Michigan State.


Did you know that some mothers refer to their children as their "precious gifts"? If you were stuck in a conversation with one of these women, what would you even say? I don't know that I would say anything. She would be all, "Hello! Are you a new mommy? Isn't your little boy your most precious gift?" And I would just snap her bra and run away.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Blog After My Own Heart

If anybody wants to know what occupies my thoughts and actions all day long, this is amazing. The perfect blend of grammar obsession, pop culture snark and unapologetic atheism. I'm so in agreement over the "god" thing.


Saturday, June 12, 2010


While I was waiting for the train last Tuesday, my first day back at work from maternity leave, I turned on my iPod. The first song it played was Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place":

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb — born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's OK, I know nothing's wrong ... nothing

Related tangent, and I'll get to the point in a second:

A couple weeks ago, I got a haircut. My hairdresser is in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood known widely as being a hipster Mecca that is as inconveniently located from my own Brooklyn neighborhood as a place can be. It's actually more direct to fly to Detroit than to go from Park Slope to Williamsburg. Anyway, it was a gorgeous, cloudless day. Sixty-seven degrees. In true Williamsburg form, I walked past a busker in the subway playing Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting" on the pan flute. A woman sitting on the sidewalk next to a bed sheet covered with old shoes for sale was strumming a ukulele. While I was buying an iced coffee and a marble muffin (first of all: yum), a permanently assfaced woman standing behind me with her giant iced coffee was bitching to her unfortunate and unamused companion about somebody else's coffee habits: "If you're going to do that, just go to Starbucks. GAH. They're a giant corporation. UGH. Um, can I have a separate shot of wheatgrass?" On the way back to the train, I followed a person of indeterminate gender wearing a prison-issue jumpsuit. Dark blue, not orange. I wondered how s/he got it out of the joint. So all in all, amazing people-watching. And getting my hair cut felt fabulous. It was the first time I'd felt normal in more than two months. All the stringiness and cumbersome length that grew on my head since having a baby were left on the floor. Josh had told me to take the afternoon for myself and enjoy the day on my own terms, but I high-tailed it back to Park Slope.

Like a codependent cliché, all I wanted to do was go home to my boys.

On March 9, at 5:14 a.m., I gave birth to Stefen Robert Garfield Banks. He was three weeks early. I was so unprepared that I didn't have my cellphone charger with me. I didn't have a camera. Nothing. I went to work and came home with a baby.

Basically, here's how it went down:

March 7 was Oscar night, a.k.a. the last time anybody thought Jesse James seemed like a good guy. It never matters how horrible or long the show has gotten; for me, it is a holy night of observance. This year, though, the boredom was crippling. So boring, Oscars; you have gotten so boring. I think that's when my water broke — it probably did so to pass the time, or maybe my body started crying — but because I'm an idiot, I didn't know my water had broken. So I kept watching the Oscars, went to bed around 1, couldn't sleep at all, and after what was basically a two-hour nap, woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Monday the 8th to go to work. Every Oscar Monday, I have to be at work at 7:30, but I get to go home early. I scheduled a crew to come to the apartment the next morning — Tuesday — to do a deep clean to prepare the place for the baby, who was due March 26. The apartment had just been painted, patched, fixed and improved, and things were coming together for the arrival of Comfy.

Here's the deal with not knowing your water has broken, because I promise that I may be dim sometimes, but I'm really not as stupid as this all sounds:

When you're pregnant, all kinds of klassy things happen to your body. One of these things can be a change in the characteristics of your body fluids. About a month before, I ended up in the hospital because I thought my water had broken, and it just turned out to be regular, garden-variety fluids that had gotten ... leaky. Great. Sweet. Awesome. Hot. Whatever. The doctors said that that would be my new normal, that until I had the baby, I'd be leaky and if it got heavier, I should see my OB. So, fine. I went about my life.

While I was watching the Oscars, it did get a little bit heavier but not enough to be alarming. By the next morning, though, it was heavier, and by the time I got to work, I was beginning to panic. I was underslept, hormonal, and stressed. I closed the early page I was working on around noon, went to the bathroom, saw a tiny pinpoint of blood, and just burst into tears. But it still never occurred to me that it would have been my water breaking. I don't know if it was denial or shock or brain-freeze. We're all led to believe that when your water breaks, it's a torrential gush that soaks your Manolos and you immediately launch into contractions and while you're huffing and puffing, somebody puts you in a cab and the driver panics and while he's speeding you to the hospital, you have a near-miss with a baby carriage that's actually filled with soda cans and you careen around a solemnly strolling group of nuns, because that's what happens in movies and on TV and everything in movies and on TV is true. Reality: Sometimes when your water breaks, it's a trickle and that's it. And you don't always go into labor afterward. Nothing is self-explanatory in pregnancy except the fatness, and even that isn't self-explanatory because I didn't get fat(ter) until my seventh month. Go figure.

Once I saw the blood, I went to the doctor. I figured I'd be back at the office within two hours, so I left my computer on, didn't really say goodbye to anyone, and hopped into a cab. I was still crying, I could not stop no matter how hard I tried, so I called Josh and asked him to meet me at my OB's office — something I never do. I just couldn't calm down, and I was so angry and embarrassed that I'd cried at work. I was convinced this whole thing was nothing, and I was pissed at my hormones for making me all histrionic. Josh left his bag at work, grabbed his wallet and his phone and headed uptown to my doctor's office. Between the two of us, we did not have a whole phone's worth of battery power — and no charger.

When I got out of the cab, I looked across the street. My doctor's office faces the Museum of Natural History, my favorite building in New York, and on a bench in front of the side entrance sat Glenn Close filming an episode of Damages. I'm still convinced that means something. So there I am, crying, with godknowswhat running down my leg, and I walked up to a production assistant, all, "What are they filming?" I actually contemplated waiting around to watch Glenn Close act. Because I am stupid. But you would do the same thing because Glenn Close is awesome.

Within five minutes of walking into the exam room, the doctor (not my own; as luck would have it, my doctor was on call at the hospital) told me I'd ruptured and they were sending me to the hospital. I was all, "Um, I wasn't planning on having a baby today." She laughed, of course, because to people who don't go to work and end up in labor three weeks early, this is funny and charming. I dried off my legs, got dressed, and paced the hallway until Josh arrived.

After that, everything moved quickly. At around 1 p.m., we got to the hospital, where my doctor told me they estimated that my water had been broken for 12 hours, maybe longer, so they wanted to induce labor to avoid infection. (Once your water has broken, the baby's barrier from germs in the outside world is gone.) Around then I started feeling movement and light cramping; at 3:30, they put me on Pitocin, the drug that induces labor; at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, I finally decided not to be a hero with the pain and asked for the epidural; and I fell asleep until 3:30 a.m. My doctor checked on me then, I still had not dilated past 3 centimeters, the baby had not dropped, and the cord was loosely wrapped around the neck. They decided to do a c-section, and at around 5 a.m., I was wheeled in. In the meantime, my dad was in a car en route to New York from Detroit and my mother landed in New York in a hot second, insisting she'd stay at my apartment on Tuesday so I didn't have to cancel the cleaning crew ("That baby has to come home to a clean apartment!").

Three things:

1. This sounds certifiable, but I wanted to go as long as possible without the epidural because it was important to me to know what labor feels like. I had a good nine hours of considerable pain, and once I could no longer concentrate on my breathing or get distracted, that shot could not show up fast enough. You wait and wait and wait to ask for it, and the second you do, you are beside yourself that it hasn't happened yesterday. The most uncomfortable part of getting the epidural is putting yourself into position for the shot. You have to drop your shoulders just so, jut out your back just so, and you still have a baby in your body who's trying to get out and you're having contractions. It is a feat. And then you go numb and fall asleep.

2. Despite all predictions to the contrary in my previous post, I did not wig during labor. I actually did most of it pretty quietly while Josh dozed in a chair beside the bed. I didn't want to wake him because I figured we had a long, long night ahead of us and someone should be allowed to get some sleep. For the most part, I worked through the contractions on my own without too much drama. When I finally needed help focusing, I woke Josh up and he talked to me and squeezed my ankles to redirect the pain. He later said, "Your labor wasn't too bad, huh? I didn't hear you at all." I said, "Just because you didn't hear me doesn't mean it didn't hurt." I have to say, I was awesome.

3. I don't know why this was surprising to me, but when you have a c-section, you are drugged out of your tree. You're awake but numb from the chest down. Which means you're groggy. Which means that during the birth of your child, you are pretty much guaranteed to fall asleep. I remember asking the doctors, "Am I seriously going to fall asleep during the birth of my baby?" I was so out of it that, when the anesthesiologist asked Josh if I was sleeping and all I heard him say was, "Oh, yeah, she's out," my eyes flew open and I yelled, "WE HAVE A GIRL?!?"

At 5:14, I felt some shaking, heard a cry, and then ... nobody told me what flavor the baby was. I kept asking, but, naturally, everyone was focused on the kid. Finally, my doctor said, "Josh, do you want to tell her what you have?" He said, "Oh, yeah. Uh, it's a boy." I paused and asked, totally bewildered, "Really?" I was so convinced we were having a girl. Worst maternal instincts ever.

They cleaned him off, closed me up, and moved me into recovery, where I finally saw him. My son was ...

... totally busted.

I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if people would admit when their babies are ugly. Most newborns are shriveled and purple and swollen, and babies born vaginally have coneheads. But c-section babies can be quite pretty. My nephew, Alex, was the most beautiful newborn I'd ever seen, but then again, at more than 9 pounds and four days late, he was basically a full-grown adult.

Stefen was not that. Stefen was 6 pounds, 2 ounces, 21 inches long, and all lips and nose. Seriously, the lip-to-nose ratio, it was not good. He was hairy. (Babies in the womb are covered with protective hair called lanugo that falls out if not soon before birth, then soon after. Stefen was early, so he was a little ... tufty.) He just wasn't done cooking, is all. But I was terrified that when I sent the e-mail announcing his birth, people would forward the photo to their friends saying, "Oh my god, you have to see this picture. My coworker had the ugliest baby." I mean, he wasn't ugly ugly, but basically, he looked like an old Jewish man. I started calling him Irving, and Irving goes to Battery Park to play chess with his pal from the war Morty, and they wear their pants really high and feed pigeons and Morty always cheats at chess but Irving lets him because of what went on during the war. There's no pal like Morty.

And it's not that he wasn't beautiful. The kid had some great angles; he just needed to grow into his face, which he did, and a week later, he was a total looker.

Ultimately, you're lying there in recovery and someone hands you a baby — your baby — and it's the most surreal moment of your life. And you try to figure out how this person is part of you, and Stefen looked nothing like me or like any baby I thought I'd have because when you picture your baby, you picture you as a baby, so I couldn't identify at all. He's the spitting image of Josh, who is a gorgeous adult but his adult face does not belong on an infant. Stefen looked so much like Josh that I might as well have not had any part in the creation of this boy. It was so surreal and scary and wonderful, but I was too tired to feel happy or excited or anything other than just ... mesmerized and overwhelmed.

He was in an incubator for a day and a half to correct jaundice, so I was able to go into the nursery and feed him alone in a storage closet. I loved that time. In our storage closet. He was so little, and the only responsibility I had right then was to feed my son, study his long fingers and his face, and try to understand him. In the following weeks, I mourned the lost weeks of my pregnancy — I really loved being pregnant but only showed for a short time and then I delivered early, so I had to grapple with losing part of that experience — and just adjusted while going from feeding to feeding, walks around the block, and trying to remember appropriate songs to sing to him at 3 a.m. I found that very few songs aren't totally sadistic or depressing. Lullabies are violent, the only song I sing on key is "Do That to Me One More Time" by Captain & Tennille, and camp songs are insane. Here's one from summer camp that kept popping into my head but I refused to sing:

A Tamarack goat
Was feeling fine
Ate three red shirts
Right off the line
A boy named Jack
Gave him a whack
And tied him to
A railroad track
And when that train
Came roarin' by
That Tamarack goat
Was doomed to die
He gave three shrieks
Of awful pain
Coughed up those shirts
And flagged the train
The train didn't stop

Just like anybody else, before I got pregnant, I was terrified I didn't have what it takes to take care of a baby. I was 10 when Lauren was born, but I didn't raise her. I thought I wouldn't be able to handle the sleeplessness or the constant activity or the keeping on top of things. It was never automatic for me that I wanted children, so I didn't know what kind of instinct I'd have. But it's so true that the things you have to do you just do. It's automatic. And now, with very little guidance from me, my son is smiling and grabbing my hair. He laughs at his own poop. He rubs his eyes when he's tired. He has more than doubled in size.

He holds his head up. He grins in his sleep. He launches himself over pillows and propels himself around in circles on the floor. He sleeps through the night. He pushes his face into the wind and sunshine. He has a few super-cool pals who we met during the post-fog weeks of my maternity leave, and we all have a standing date to meet at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens every Tuesday (I don't work on Tuesdays) until the rest of the moms go back to work because it's dreamy there and we all really like each other. And he just started going to daycare. Josh and I are in a basically permanent state of shock, but we're doing it. The past 13 weeks have been the absolute fastest of my life — to the point where I feel like I left work pregnant and came back the next day no different other than I am minus an occupant — but I'm glad to be at the office even though I miss my son every second. I now understand why parents put so many pictures of their kids on their desks.

I miss maternity leave.

Spring is the best time on the planet to have a kid, but all the change can be disarming. The first time I left the apartment after bringing him home was the first time I'd left the apartment since going to work the morning I went into labor. Which means on March 8, it was chilly, I was pregnant, there were gloves and a hat in my bag. A week later, it was warm, I was no longer pregnant, and I was somebody's mother.

The amount of laundry that has to be done is staggering.

Josh and my big idea to spell Stefen's name phonetically so nobody would mispronounce it failed like a big fat fucking fat failure. It's Steff-in, not Steff-ahn. Not Steven. IT'S STEFEN, PEOPLE. Also, Stefen was the only name Josh and I could agree on. (He's named after my grandfather Sidney.) We decided Stefen Banks sounds Scandinavian, which we are not, so we loved it. It suits him.

I am a much more relaxed mother than I ever thought I'd be. I think it's because I'm old.

This whole thing has shown me how really on-the-same-page (to overuse an overused term) Josh and I are. I think it's because we're equally clueless.

If you paint your apartment before you have a baby, make sure you use washable paint. If you have a boy, he will pee on the wall.

All the anal-retentive research was worth it.

Josh's and my parents have been amazing, We haven't had to worry about food, childcare, anything, for three months.

When I had this baby, I did not have a change of clothes, juice in my phone, a camera, or a pediatrician lined up. But things do work out anyway. People make it so.

I'm still waiting for this boy's parents to come pick him up. It was so nice of them to let us take care of their lovely son for so long.

My problem with Miley Cyrus prancing around half-naked isn't that she's a teenager, it's that she's fug.

The Betty White episode of Saturday Night Live was epic.

The 15 minutes between the time Josh took Stefen to daycare yesterday and the time I left for work was the first time I'd been in the apartment alone in three months.

I still think those women who say parenthood is "the most important work we do," meaning women as a whole, are insufferable. It belittles other important work, and it discounts people who don't have children. Parenthood is a choice, and we're not saving the world, we're actually overpopulating it. When it comes down to it, Josh and I wanted to make a family and it worked out for us. It's not any kind of higher plane. It's not unimportant, of course, but it's pretty much important only to us and the people closest to us (regardless of what the length of this post might convey; it certainly appears I think this baby should be monumentally important to you too). Raising Stefen is the most important thing to me, yes. I'm madly in love with him. I chose to have this baby and I chose to take on the responsibility of raising a good person. But I don't like the idea that just because I have a child now, I have a greater role on the planet. Maybe it's too much pressure on him. I just think that, like anything important to you, you just want to do a good job, be happy, and make the people you love happy.

So far, so good.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Blah Blah Blah Pregnancy Blah Conversation Hearts

I really need to get over this whole Not Wanting to Blah Blah Blah About the Pregnancy on This Blog thing. Because you know what? When you're pregnant, the only thing you can think about is the pregnancy. Even if you try not to. Even if you're hell-bent on not being That Woman. Because the second your mind rests (if it rests), the baby kicks you. Or rolls onto a nerve and gives you sciatica. Or you drop something onto the floor and you spend 10 minutes staring at it, hoping it will levitate because you can no longer bend over to pick it up. Or you get an e-mail reminding you that your fetus is the size of a rutabaga or, oh yeah, now's the time to find a pediatrician, and then you completely freak out because Oh my god, how did I get to the point in my life when I have to find a pediatrician?!? Because I haven't wanted to be That Woman Who Only Talks About the Baby, just like how I didn't want to be That Woman Who Only Talks About Her Wedding, I haven't been writing, and I don't want to do that either. So I'm just going to get it out of the way.

This whole experience is just weird.

About eight weeks ago or so, Josh and I were lying in bed. I looked up and asked him:

"How do you think I'll handle labor? Be honest."

He paused, his face desperately trying to go blank.

"Be honest."

He sucked in a breath. "Honestly? I see you wigging."


"You told me to be honest!"

"OK, OK. Wigging."

"You know, you're not always very good with stress. I really think you should get the epidural."

"Well, how do you think you're going to be when I'm in labor?"

"I'll be supportive and I'll be there for you."


So I vowed at that moment that I would show him. I would labor in a calm, stoic way, utilizing all my strength and womanly power, using my body in the way only a woman can (or, women and the Pregnant Man can) to bring my child into the world.

And then a week later, I found out that (TMI alert!) the placenta was covering the top of my cervix, thereby leaving no way for the baby to get out, and not only would I need a c-section, I wouldn't even be allowed to go into labor at all because contractions would cause excessive bleeding.

And there I'd been, thinking I had any control over any of this science project. Silly, naive little girl.

I was distraught. I really wanted to know what labor felt like, even if I did end up taking the epidural. And complications from the condition, called placenta previa, range from mild bleeding to hemorrhaging, which can lead to bed rest and early delivery. I was told I couldn't lift anything heavy, stress my body in any way with too much physical or emotional activity, or have sex.

"It sucks," my doctor told me. "I know, it sucks."

"You're not kidding," said my vagina.

And then five weeks after the diagnosis — after I'd accepted what was happening in my innards and that, hey, scheduling a c-section is pretty convenient because I'll know when my last day of work will be and I can get my nails done and have dinner with my husband and then walk into the hospital where they'll remove my baby and boom! I'll become a mother — I went in for another ultrasound, and it looks like the placenta moved away from the cervix and I'm no longer at-risk and can have a natural delivery. This is actually rather common, the placenta does move in most cases, but my doctor didn't think mine would and I was told pretty much not to hold my breath. So I was shocked and thrilled. But, of course, after a moment of, "Yay! I can go into labor!" I have since felt, "Oh, shit, I have to go into labor."

I am terrified.

Josh and I took a childbirthing class. It was great, but oh my gosh, I am freaking out. Wigging, as my dear husband would say. My dear husband who was right. I'm wigging.

It's all part and parcel of all the things that have been occupying my time for the past three months. See, when you find out you're gestating, you don't do anything. You can't believe it's happening, you can't feel anything, you don't look different, you just sort get really annoyed that the apple you just ate made you puke on the subway platform (I don't want to talk about it). And then, all of a sudden, it's your third trimester and you panic because you have no idea how to shop for a crib and you swear you're so unprepared that your newborn is going to end up sleeping in the sink.

So you research.

And research.

And research.

Because you have no idea what you're doing. And you want to make sure that whatever you're doing, you're doing it right, because you think that doing it wrong could be the difference between a beautiful bonding experience and a Consumer Product Safety Commission recall.

You just go mental. But now we're through with the "stuff" stuff. We've done the class and put ourselves on day-care wait lists and registered for all the doodads and picked out Comfy's stroller. All we have left to do, really, is wait — wait for the furniture to arrive, wait for the baby to arrive, and hope we calm down in the process. Of course, while all of this has been happening, we've had contractors in the apartment painting the joint, replacing the bathroom ceiling, hanging fans and a patched-up kitchen cabinet door, regrouting the tub, blah blah blah. The apartment is completely torn apart and everything is coated in dust, but man, is this cathartic. The paint is fabulous! We're reorganizing everything! For years, I've been visualizing all porn-like the revamping of this place, and man, I am sa. tis. fied. Although I did have a moment last week when Josh and I went to sleep in our freshly painted blue bedroom and I looked at the walls, all dreamy and undersea, and said, "In eight weeks, a baby is going to be in here. What are we going to do with this baby?"

My problem is is that I've had too much time to think about all of this. Ultimately, there's no way to know how things will go. There's no way to know what we'll really need. There's no way to know who this baby is going to be and how we'll all relate to each other. And painting the bedroom walls blue isn't going to make for a well-adjusted child, and spending a month researching organic mattresses won't make my baby sleep through the night any sooner. We just have to go with it. So I've just been sitting back and feeling the kicks and the hiccups and watching my sweaters thump back and forth with the motions of my occupant. In the past couple days, Comfy has taken up residence in my ribs, which is not the most comfortable feeling but it's kind of amazing to think, "That thing that's preventing me from hunching over? That's a foot." When I tried to move Comfy the other day, I felt a body part for the first time — an elbow or a knee — and it was so little, and for the first time, I really felt excited more than scared or overwhelmed. Also, since you have to do everything they do in movies because movies are always an accurate portrayal of major life changes, I put some headphones on my belly and let my iPod shuffle do some magic. The result? The kid loves the Supremes. Which makes sense, being half-Detroit and all. Makin' mama proud.

(That said, I have not recharged my iPod in three weeks because I only remember to do it at work, and the electrical outlet for my charger is under my desk, and I can no longer bend over to reach it.)

The one thing that has totally, completely, knock-me-over-with-a-boulder shocked me is that I'm now eight months pregnant and I haven't gained a single pound. Not one. I only bought my first maternity clothes last week. I've been heavy my entire life and I was certain I would be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man by the fourth month. I have had no food cravings, I get full in two seconds, and so as I've been losing weight, Comfy is gaining nicely and I'm just evening out. My body is literally converting into baby. It's not that I'm not eating; it's just different. My body is making all these decisions for me. And this is without extra exercise because I'd stopped doing everything when I was diagnosed with previa; Josh would barely even let me lift my toothbrush. And now I'm just too tired to move. But who the hell gets pregnant and it ends up being the best weight-loss plan they ever knew? So weird. My body long ago ceased to be my own, but this is ridiculous.

(That said, the cleaning lady at work on Monday night asked me how I was feeling, then told me that she couldn't tell from the front I was pregnant, "but I could tell from the back. You have nice, big baby!" I'm sure in some Eastern Bloc countries this is a compliment, and I'm going to choose to take it that way. Even though right now, Comfy's weight is at the 52nd percentile. I have a perfectly average-sized little chicken in there.)

In other news (what? there's other news?), I ate a box of Conversation Hearts the other day that were all misstamped, with whatever legible letters there were hanging onto the bottoms and along the sides of the candy. One said UL TE and another said PPY VE. Such mixed messages, in a box of what is meant to be a sure-thing expression of affection, were so unsettling. Love, you offer no clarity. CK FF.

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