Archive for the ‘taking it personally’ Category

birth story

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Burns Day 2012, January 25th, I was drumming my metaphorical fingers on all the desks I could find. My due date had been the 19th; another day or two, and they wouldn’t let me give birth at the Birth Center anymore. This risking out business was annoying! But that was where the bureaucracy won, and I was going to play along whether I liked it or not.

I was giddy with impatient anticipation. Felt like an amazon. Wanted haggis. Molly and I briefly fantasized about going to get the really good stuff somewhere in Jersey, but that wasn’t in the cards. I had itchy feet, though, and Molly is the platonic ideal of my traveling companion.

“Wanna go have dinner in Maine?” Do I!

Duckfat. I’d heard about it, but had never been to the Portland place with amazing-sounding fries. Two hours away is far enough to be a road trip, but totally close enough to get back if, you know.

This was it. Last chance to kick start labor and probably avoid a hospital setting. Mid-afternoon, I went to the store and got blue and black cohosh drops. I took some while parked outside of Molly’s workplace in Cambridge, waiting for her to come down.

At a gas station half an hour out of town, I went to the bathroom and stared at a tiny wet spot on my jeans. Slight incontinence is a common travel companion in late pregnancy, but this felt different.

Getting back, I said, “I think my water just broke.”

Molly stared at me. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure. There wasn’t a dramatic gush or anything, but yeah.”

“…Is it bad that my main thought is, drive faster?” We laughed.

“Bad, no! It’s why I love you.”

So we went on to Portland. I hadn’t thought to bring pads with me, and further didn’t even think to buy any at the gas station. So the moment we were seated at Duckfat, I said to our waitress: “So… My water broke, and I’m in labor! I’m totally fine, or we wouldn’t be here. But I need a pad. I don’t suppose you have any here?”

Her eyes got momentarily wider, but she kept her cool. “Congratulations, wow. Uh… *I* don’t have any, and the rest of the staff are dudes. Let me take a look in our first aid kit.” Moments later she was back with a big packet of gauze. “Best I can do.” It was good enough for the moment.

Dinner was delicious. Creamy soups, duckfat poutine (!!), duck rillettes, salad with duck confit. I had a blood orange and lemon curd shake that left me speechless. We texted Mark, who was at a company party. Molly posted pictures of our food, one of them captioned: “Tomato-fennel-basil, cream of onion, PS Vika’s water broke.” Our local internet erupted in good wishes.

The contractions started very slowly, sometime over dinner. After, we drove to a pharmacy and got real pads. The cashier at the pharmacy walked with me to show me where the bathrooms were. On the way there she suddenly called out, “Whoo! Hot flash!” I laughed and explained to her why I needed pads and a bathroom. We shared a sweet moment.

I drove us home. I wanted to see how far I could get, driving through mild contractions, and it turned out–all the way! Molly livetweeted, of course. We chatted about everything. We’ve had some great conversations over the years, but that evening’s was one of the best.

Got home in a beautiful dusting of snow, sometime between 11 and midnight. Mark was parked by my place, and we handed me off. Molly walked home, just down the hill. Mark and I went inside, puttered a bit, prepared things to take to the birth center when the time came. He snapped some pictures. We went to bed around midnight.

I got up at 2:30am with stronger contractions, and here things get hazy. The intensity of the contractions increased pretty rapidly. I tried to keep hydrated with water and tart juices (can’t stomach sports drinks), but couldn’t keep any of that down. Over the next hour I proceeded to get mildly dehydrated, which worsened the contractions and pushed them closer together, though I didn’t draw the connection then.

Around 4am we went to the birth center. The midwife on duty there, Laurie, wasn’t anyone I’d met before, and had easily the worst bedside manner I’d encountered in that place. She was displeased that we’d come, despite the fact that Mark had been on the phone with the center and we’d been told to come. She gave me an internal exam and used a speculum, which hurt like a mofo, and the entire time she was as gently disposed as sandpaper.

I wasn’t dilated enough, she said. A few centimeters. A non stress test showed no reason for worry, and an ultrasound confirmed that baby was head down. We should go and keep laboring at home. And, oh, drink lots more fluids.

Arrrrgh. Everything they tell you about how much it sucks to ride in a car while having contractions is true. And the pavement quality on Beacon Street between my house and the birth center is infamous with local bicyclists for its potholes. I felt every one, plus all the cracks in the road.

We went home at 6am, and the next several hours are a haze of pain and further dehydration. I might have slept a little bit. Throughout the night and morning, Mark was wonderfully supportive, but I don’t remember interacting much around the actual contractions — that seems to have been something I felt the need to deal with on my own.

He timed them, though. Things progressed, too slowly. There was a lot of pain. We talked to the birth center once or twice more, and were encouraged to stay the course. But at some point I couldn’t. Sometime close to noon I told him we were going in. He didn’t argue.

We got in around 12:15, and discovered that they couldn’t admit me unless they checked me again, and I was so dehydrated that they couldn’t check me until I rehydrated. So for the next hour and a half I lay on the thin narrow couch in the “family room,” a sort of tiny interstitial room, hooked up to an IV saline drip and trying with varying degrees of success to roll with it. Mark intermittently held my hands and made sympathetic noises, and was a generalized rock-solid loving presence. The contractions got bad enough that at some point I remember telling him, “I don’t know if I can do this. I’m close to giving up.” I was afraid, and later decided that this was the beginning of transition into the final stages of labor: often that time is marked by fear. But in the moment, of course, I didn’t remember that, and concentrated on my loved one and the kind nurse encouraging me to get through the rehydrating stage and find out where we really are, because what if we’ve progressed a lot? Would be a shame to check into the hospital with no need, since that’s a thing I wanted to avoid if possible.

Fair point, and the baby was doing just fine, so I kept on breathing.

Two liters of saline later they took me to get checked out. I actually started crying at the thought of another speculum exam. “No speculum,” the midwife on duty promised. I’d never met her either, but she was different from Ms. Mousy Sandpaper. She was solid and reassuring and full of warmth, and she helped me breathe more easily in the midst of labor. So when she mentioned a student midwife and asked me if it would be ok to have her along, I didn’t think twice. I love student medical practitioners. They’re sweet and brave and interested. And let me tell you: Kate ended up taking over the entire thing including my postpartum visits, and was amazing.

But that was later. For now, the senior midwife (whose name I no longer remember) checked me without a speculum. “Oh! You’re at 7.5 centimeters.”

Holy crap! Turns out my body had been laboring hard and productively. “Does this mean I get admitted?” Oh yes. Ohhh thank all the deities.

They took me to an honest-to-goodness laboring room. With a BATHTUB. I got to float in the warm water, easily the best thing to happen all day up to that point. My birth-center-provided doula was summoned (did I mention I loved my experience at the Cambridge Birth Center?), and spent some intense time with me getting to full dilation without pushing. She had to really work on me, there. The urge to push was strong with this one.

This whole time Mark was with me, being a rock star, best birthing companion I could’ve wished for. Later I heard that when he finally left us the next day, he sat in Molly’s kitchen and ate peanut butter straight from the jar for a while, recharging and staring off into space. Plenty deserved.

The midwife was covering both the birth center and the hospital delivery ward next door, so we spent some time waiting for her to come back and check me again. Ages later she came back, checked me quickly, and pronounced me fully dilated. But, surprise! The warm tub water was too cool for the baby to be delivered into, so they wanted me to come out.

I just looked at them all in disbelief. I remember feeling flickers of rage, but the whole thing was so preposterous—I mean, couldn’t they just turn on the damn hot water faucet?—that there had to be something I didn’t know. I couldn’t use words at that point, so I turned to Mark, who proceeded to be my lungs and mouth. Couldn’t we turn on the hot water? They answered him as they were hustling me out, so I didn’t catch the answer, but he told me later: no, they said. There wasn’t time. This baby was coming too fast.

Whee! Everything’s a blur. Here’s what I remember: they got me on the bed and put down some disposable towels. I think I pushed in earnest a total of four times. Then I had a baby.

I’d been admitted sometime around 2pm on January 26th. By 3:50 he was out. I was on all fours, and they put him on the bed under me. We stared at each other. He screamed with shock and indignation. I cried and laughed. Mark cried.

Everything they tell you about the pain disappearing into a haze on account of the endorphins is true. It was the best, cleanest high I ever expect to experience. Someone helped me turn around and sit, reclined, on the bed. They cleaned up my baby and put him on my belly. Sometime in there I delivered the gorgeous root structure of the placenta, which I had no interest in keeping but was fascinating to see. I had a tiny tear that didn’t need any stitches. They cleaned me up. Everything got a lot more quiet.

We rested. Babe-a-licious got checked out and pronounced perfect (7lbs 9.9oz, 21.5 inches). Nobody once suggested taking him out of the room: there was no need. I think I had toast and tea, courtesy of the lovely doula lady. We tried to get him to latch on with some success. Mark snapped some photos. We got a visit from Molly, ate sushi for dinner, drank a vodka toast to his arrival and a long and wonderful life, and picked out his name. Nico Alexander Zafrin. I called my mom. There was another exam (his blood is B+, by the way), and then we napped the nap of the smugly accomplished.

They don’t let you stick around for long at the birth center, and I didn’t feel like transferring to the hospital without true need. Around midnight we went home in a dusting of fresh snow.


newsletter: month ten

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

Last week you turned 300 days old. Today, you’re ten.

When do we get to claim you’re walking? When it’s unsupported, I guess. You wobble clear across a room holding on to grownup hands, and still no interest in crawling. I’ll get a photo of that sometime, but it’s hard when both my hands are occupied.

We went to the Aquarium this month, and I’d like to apologize for not letting you swim with the big fish and rays. We didn’t have a swimming suit with us, and it’s too cold to swim, and anyway they won’t let us swim in that pool. Sorry. We did see a bunch of fish, though, and then went and ate fish, because that’s just the kind of awesome we are.


Perhaps your most startling effect on the world thus far: you’ve prompted me to take up knitting. This is something others tried hard to accomplish for years, without success. Maybe their downfall was the reasoning? You’re a girl, you have to know how to knit. No thanks, I’d rather climb a tree. Then, one shiny mamahood day, I was bit hard by the need to make you a scarf. So supplies were got, and then videos were watched, and then it got started and finished. You’re welcome. And: whoa.

We read books. We play with a ball. We dance around, and I think you’re singing. You like Ziggy Marley and Mika and Kris Delmhorst. And drums! We were late to meet a friend one day because you noticed the djembe on the way out, and demanded to play it. Who was I to refuse?

Then babushka came back from vacation with a NAZ-sized drum. This is the BEST THING.

drumming with babushka

Best thing, that is, if you don’t count curtains, cats, playing cards (delicious), clapping, standing, light switches, pull cords, or your stuffed sheep.

We road tripped again, to New York for Thanksgiving. You road warrior, you. Slept like a champ, then hung out for 60-90 minutes at a time watching the world roll by. That’s huge, man. It says things about how you pay attention and perceive time.


That trip, it was unreal. You were the platonic ideal of happy baby pretty much the entire time. It took, like, ten minutes to put you to bed each night. Aside from your being sick for part of it, that’s how the month has felt. Just living. No big drama. Lots of laughter.



ps More pix, and a lemon video.

newsletter: month nine

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Dear Nico,

I’m writing this as you sleep through a hurricane. Her eye is a couple of states away. Although the wind is high and there’s flooding elsewhere in Massachusetts, and several of our local friends are without power, we’ve been lucky with electricity so far. So I can sit here and type, and fret about your aunt and uncle in New York, which is being pummeled way worse than we are. Let’s hope they don’t float away into the sunrise on the rearing back of the Hudson.

This letter is three days late. You’ve been busy growing, and I’ve been busy keeping my work and the house from descending into chaos. So this month, bullet points. More photos (and a video!) over there.

You like:

  • roasted beets with goat cheese; roasted vegetables of all sorts; my admittedly fantastic beef stew; apple season; paneer; sweet potatoes; squash; in short, all the foods I’ve thrown at you… er, given to you—you throw them just fine on your own
  • the cats, and the dog at Michel’s, for all of whom you have a single word resembling “ack”
  • standing, which you’re content to do until your leg muscles tremble from the strain
  • the big drum & dance, as predicted

You don’t like:

  • having a play thing taken from you, particularly if it’s at all stick-like or a wash cloth
  • …um, ok, so this isn’t much of a list. You’re pretty much convinced the world is out to delight you.

You have the following new, mad skillz:

  • supported forward-wobble stand
  • an explosion of emphatic babbling
  • transport of food into your mouth using a fork
  • spontaneous laughter unprovoked by any obvious external event
  • rolling the ball to me, though you would admittedly rather eat it
  • leading imitation games, often involving the sticking out of tongues and/or a repeated emphatic TA TA TTTAAAAAA

You just keep doing what you do, ok, baby? And maybe the constant sleepy exhaustion will lift, and this month I’ll remember to take notes.

newsletter: month eight

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

A couple of weeks ago Mark and I took you to a drum and dance. It was your first—on the outside. I was hoping that all the drumming I did while you were swimming around in your own personal sea world had programmed you to like this sort of thing. And you did! You stayed up all evening, well past your 7:30ish bedtime. You grinned like a fool, dancing there with Mark who was kind enough to wrangle an admittedly delightful you so I could drum some. You were mesmerized by the other drummers. You didn’t miss a thing.

And that was a tiny event, just a few people. I should really take you to Amherst next.

In the meantime, you’re not wasting a minute. You’ve had a, like, month-long growth spurt. People are asking whether you’re a year old. I have no idea how heavy you are at this point, but the speed with which you’re gaining weight has outstripped my body’s ability to build up muscle. Which I need in order to keep throwing you in the air, one of your favorite activities. So, you know, slow down a little.

On the recommendation of your pediatrician, also known as my adored primary physician of many years, I’ve been reading The Scientist in the Crib. You’ll be surprised to know that in the early 21st century, we’re still in the infancy of our understanding what the hell goes on in your rapidly developing mind-body. But we do know a substantial number of interesting things, and by golly, they’re all right in that book, well written and everything. I was already convinced, mostly from memories of early childhood, that babies have insanely rich inner lives. But TSitC has given me an even greater appreciation for every new skill you acquire:

  • passing stuff from hand to hand: isn’t it heady, how you can manipulate (heh) TWO HANDS at the SAME TIME?
  • scooting backwards would totally be crawling forwards if you could, but you’re still building up the power
  • you can throw your body around in the high chair and propel it on its little wheels—unless I put the brakes on them, preventing you from getting to the fun kitchen drawer
  • you have A TOOTH and use it on every food you can get your mouth on, including oatmeal, bell peppers, apples, beef stew, ice cream, tomatoes, daikon-like radishes in hot pot soup, Russian sauerkraut dumplings, bread, cucumber, and a million other things I’ve now lost track of
  • oh, and you might be beginning to wean yourself, though I would request that you not be in a hurry on that one
  • when you’re sleepy but can’t find a comfortable position, you’d really rather be left to your own devices, thanks, and not “helped” because sheesh you can get comfortable on your own

…You know, life. I try to pay attention and write things down, but there’s just so much. We play with the hallway light pull string. You open your eyes a little wider to take in the brilliant yellow goldenrod flowers growing along the Esplanade on the Charles River. You’re into contours—containers, borders, shadows. You like Jon Stewart and Doctor Who. You’re living every moment.

I’ve had two dreams in succession in which you spoke. In full sentences. In one dream you demanded ginger tea. Can hardly wait to have teatime conversations with you, babe.

-Mama (who, as usual, has placed more visual evidence here)

newsletter: month seven

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Dear Nico,

The seven-months newsletter is two whole days late. I’m sorry, baby, but mold waits for no one. Particularly when it’s mold trying to eat half a bushel of green beans.

Just so you know, half a bushel of green beans is a LOT of green beans. And maybe August in Boston isn’t the best time to leave them sitting there for even only a day, but what could I do? Gods know I don’t have space for 25lbs of beans in my fridge, and there was Back Yard Burning Man, and a housewarming, and…

Anyway. They’re gorgeously brined now, the two-thirds that I saved from a moldy death, and the house is back to a liveable shape.

You spent your seven-month birthday weekend in the arms of well over a dozen people at three different parties. They were charmed and powerlessas you telepathically compelled them to throw you in the air, let you pull on cheeks and beards and dark safety goggles, hold you up as you bounced, make faces as you lolled on a picnic blanket, feed you bits of food…

FOOD, oh my goodness. You like, in no particular order: Os cereal, which you often eat by putting your mouth on the high chair tray; beef stew; soaked prunes; peaches; tomatoes; avocado; a tiny bit of ice cream; and whatever is on my plate. You also think wooden spoons and plastic spatulas are mighty tasty. So tasty that you bit off a little piece of a spatula with your gums. When you have teeth, no bendy spatula for you.

Huge month developmentally. Huge. You’re clearly remembering things better from day to day. Stuffed toys with floppy limbs hold your attention for minutes, and I predict that later on you’ll be loving to cuddle with the downy-soft elephant that Mary from New Hampshire gave you. Or did she give you the lamb? That one is marginally less cuddly, but happens to be delicious. Cats are a little bit like stuffed toys, but they’ll walk away if you’re not gentle. They’re still way fun to watch, though. The foam tile flooring we got from a neighborhood mom is fun to bang on, and the jigsaw edges are fascinating.

Oh, and you’re sitting. On the bed, on the floor, with and without the boppy around you for support. In a special little seat in the bathtub.

And any day now, you’ll either crawl or straight-up walk. (See what I did there? Straight-up… never mind.)

I should probably attach those bookshelves to the wall. Holy sh…arks.

Baths are way more fun in the big bathtub. You can make waves! The splashing is way more awesome! You have floaty toys that squirt water! You never smile during bathtime, though—it’s too serious a business. Your usual devotion to exploring the edges of shadows goes all haywire in the big water. SO MUCH to look at, who has time for smiling?

Speaking of the big water, we went to Walden Pond, and the same scene repeated itself there. Sunshine in shallow little waves, oh goodness. You won’t remember this, but we were there with a friend who proceeded to give birth on your seven-month birthday, and with some other friends who just moved here from California. Our social circle keeps getting bigger.

A tiny fraction of the things that have amused you this month: books (this and this and this); bending your fingers (nice isolation work there!); making raspberries and silly sounds and syllables with your tongue (tatatatatatata); having secrets whispered in your ear (it must feel nice); doing that upper-lip-over-lower thing and watching me melt; patting my back as I pat yours, helping you get the air out after a feeding.

Every time I see your naked little body when you’re trying to crawl, the muscles are more defined. Working, working. Sometime in the beginning of the month, I barely recognized your arms—they were so slender in the night. Toddler arms soon.

Even with all the changes, you’re still a small mammal. Putting my arm on your sleeping body creates a feedback hum. We cuddle at night. In fact, what am I doing up? Time to go join you, for tomorrow is another crazy, unbelievable day at work, and quality time is sometimes unconscious.


P.S. <a href=””>More pix, as usual.</a>

newsletter: month six

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

Now you are six. Months old.

Yeah, I don’t know either.

A month ago I was in a pretty bleary state when I wrote in my notes for this post: “4am, tiny mammal nestled against my elbow.” Since then, you’ve become about a million times cuddlier. I often sleep with my arm around you now. This is new—until recently I was somehow unsure of how comfortable you were with the weight of my arm on your torso. As of this writing, you weigh a hair over 19.5lbs, so it’s not like my relaxed arm is going to hold you hostage. Ohhh no, you’re scooting all over the place with your butt high in the air and a gleeful expression on your face. Doomy doomy doom.

The sunny disposition that goes along with your cuddliness served you in good stead when we went to Germany last week. That’s right: Baby NAZ, international baby of mystery. You charmed at least half of Hamburg, and a great most of DH 2012. You didn’t even seem to notice the time change—that is, until we came back to the States. Then you crashed hard. But that’s way easier to deal with.

Your first baby-food-in-a-jar experience was in Germany. Aunt Jo bought you some at the fancy little supermarket around the corner from our hotel. When I came back from that day’s conferencing, she showed me the two jars and said: “So… this jar is definitely carrots. And this other one… I think it’s chestnuts?” I took a look; seemed plausible. Just in case, though, we looked it up online. Nope. Beef. Poof! You are omnivorous.

And you like it, too. But mostly you’ll need teeth for that, and this month you’ve been teething like crazy. But no teeth yet. Here’s a pro tip: fast teething is probably better teething. I don’t think your baby teeth got that memo. I’ve now drugged you several times with homeopathic remedies (which did bupkis, as mostly expected, but I wanted to try) and baby Tylenol (which mostly works).

But never mind that you don’t have actual teeth yet. Solid foods are fun for both of us. Not that you’re losing interest in mama milk. Any day now, you’ll be feeding that to yourself from the bottle.

It’s been the month of limbs and lips. You can operate all four of your limbs with purpose and relative grace. Grabby-motor control is developing fast: you’re probably a week or two away from the pincer grip. We’ll see about speeding up that bit of training by getting you Os cereal. For now, you continue to examine your hands, and now also your feet, from every angle daily.

Consonants are the source of this month’s greatest entertainment for you and me both. Maybe next month I’ll sign you up for the Thpfft Championship. That is, if I can distract you from communing with the cats with the newly unabashed glee of conscious recognition.

Oh, what am I saying. You’re still as distractable as ever.


P.S. moar pix!

newsletter: month five

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

Congratulations, my child! You have survived your fifth month and your first fall off a bed. It was bound to happen, or so They tell me; apparently it takes on average four of these before you start remembering they ever happened. And hey, by the sixth you start forgetting again!

Surviving is hard work, though most days it’s hard to tell from the way you look all cheerful and gregarious. One day I walked into Carolyn’s house after work, and there you were, holding court amid four grownups and two toddlers, squealing with laughter on Michel’s lap. That evening, you continued shrieking for a good hour and a half in a row—as far as I could tell, because it’s fun to shriek. Michel calls this your pterodactyl noise.

This joie de vivre characterizes most of the past month, though not all. To wit: while writing the above two paragraphs yesterday, I went into the bedroom twice to soothe your crying. You were teething hard all day. Physical pain is such a surprise to you every time that I often catch you smiling up at me through tears and quivering lips. The next moment, you register confusion: how can it be that you’re feeling all these different things at once? Welcome to the human condition, little dude.

Lots of big news items this month. Locomotion! Well, sorta. Certainly movement in space—see above re falling off the bed. You roll all the way over. You do that thing where your butt goes way high up and you scoot your legs under you and lurch forward with your upper body. My adorable inchworm zombie. Your back muscles are more defined. You can sit with your back supported for more than seconds at a time, without falling over sideways. You sit in a Bumbo and in a high chair, too.

You talk a lot. When it’s not pterodactyl-moon-language, it’s often an exploration of your own tongue. You make shapes with it and then vocalize. You do this for minutes, often while staring at your hands. Being a baby is some good drugs.

When you’re not working on your development, you’re often sleeping with your butt high in the air. Remember that conversation we were having about having you sleep more than two hours at a time? Well, you’re doing that, mostly. I’m convinced that the frequent-waking pattern is related to the outside weather. This is both fascinating and kind of a bummer, since there’s nothing I can do about it. No matter what the room temperature is, or how humid or dry it is, you follow the weather gods. Maybe I shoulda named you Storm or somesuch. (No. But maybe.)

Or maybe it’s your little body processing the SOLID FOODS you’ve been ingesting. Kid, I’ve been waiting for this for longer than you’ve been alive. Here’s what we know so far:

  • sweet potatoes are awright
  • prunes are undiluted awesome… no really, please, god, don’t dilute them—certainly not with breastmilk, because that combination is vile
  • beets are tasty enough, even though they get your face all screwed up in an I’m-not-sure-about-this way every time you eat them
  • jury’s still out on avocado, but then, you’ve only had it once

It’s getting late, baby, so I’m going to say goodnight to the internet and go sleep. Life is full of work and commuting and books and dishes and blog updates and nonstop craziness and even a little TV, but sometimes you just gotta say forget it all, and get some sleep.


P.S. more pix here.

newsletter: month four

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

Happy four months, baby! Let’s talk about health. It’s possibly the most important thing we have, you and I. So your Mother’s Day gift to me of a bad sinus cold, though astonishingly thoughtful given your young age, might have been… a little misguided.

Getting rid of a cold when you can’t sleep it off is HARD. For the first time ever, I lamented not having a full-time co-parent, someone who had signed on for the germs in advance. Both of us being sick, I couldn’t bring myself to ask any of our friends and loved ones to come and be with you while I slept; I wouldn’t have wished this cold on anyone, and nothing was dire, just hard and sleepy and discontent.

We did it, though. We got rid of it. It took a sick day (note to self: next time, take two) and a lot of early bedtime, but we’re healthy once again. Let’s try to stay that way, please.

Somerville Open Studios

Taken by Molly Tomlinson at Somerville Open Studios, May 5

It’s WARM! It’s SPRING! You are sleeping longer stretches. Oh, the incomparable joy of it! I credit a combination of warm weather and the breastmilk-in-the-nose trick I remembered to try. Worked like a charm to relieve your congestion. This stuff is magic. Let’s hope I don’t forget it when you get your first pinkeye.

Enough about illness, let’s talk about the adorable. There’s plenty of that. Take the sounds of you sucking on your entire fist in the back seat of the car. Or your extra-fuzzy, velvety head with a lot more hair than last month. Or the way you’re discovering toys—just yesterday Michel reported that you have learned to crinkle the wings of the little stuffed bee.

Speaking of Michel, you have the best caretakers. Three of them, over the four days a week that you’re in “daycare.” You love going to Vanessa’s and hanging out with her and tiny Alex, who is only a month older than you. (I can’t wait until you two start entertaining each other, hopefully in a few months.) You love going to Carolyn’s, who has been packing and unpacking moving boxes and has all the smiles in the world for you. And Michel’s, well. There’s a grownup AND a six-year-old AND a teenager AND a huuuuuge dog who are all fond of you. Pici the great dane, easily seven times your size, likes to lick your hands.


I haven’t even mentioned all our other friends besides the weekday caretakers. I hope that hanging out with all these different people will mean no separation anxiety. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just avoid that altogether?

Your hand-eye coordination is improving. Fingers are tricky to get control of, but darned if you’re not tryin’. A favorite exercise is holding on to my shirt as I put you in the carrier: you’ve discovered that you can keep yourself from falling over to the side. The power! The control! It’s heady.

You’ve definitively found your toes, and are studiously working on holding on to them. Watching you do this, it occurred to me that it’s quite an advanced skill: you have to control your arm and your leg at the same time. I imagine this can get frustrating. But you’re pretty chill about it, and we’ve been talking about practicing.

You’re definitely practicing. Given your increasing love for mouthing everything, most especially your own fingers and my forearm when I’m changing your diapers, it’s only a matter of time until you bring those feet all the way up to your mouth.

Most of your exploration is accompanied these days by a sort of aaaaaohhhhhh. Sounds are fun, even if they’re all vowels so far. An accidental consonant here and there doesn’t count for syllables, but it is cute to practically hear your brain gears turning.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'

Some of the most entertaining things in the world are: practicing your standing, supported, on top of a grownup’s belly; Baby in the Mirror; the doorway bouncer (you can hang out in that thing for half an hour); having your belly, feet, hands or head nibbled; having me sing to you. Gosh, baby, I hope you continue to be as appreciative an audience as you’re being these days. It may be the best ego trip I’ve ever had.

Speaking of feelings, yours might be growing even faster than your body, which is damn impressive given that during the days when I’m at work you’re eating all the milk I can pump and then some. Thank goodness we had a reserve; it’s depleted enough that I’ve brought the pump home so that hopefully we can build it back up a little. You feel huge to me, though the internet tells me that your weight is average for your age. So when you have FEELINGS, well. It’s a good thing we have a fierce cuddling relationship.

Today, on your four-month birthday, we went out to lunch at a Chinese buffet with babushka, Vlad, and a bunch of their friends—mostly to celebrate my mom’s and a friend’s birthdays now that everyone’s back in town from various travels. You charmed everyone, men and women. I’m told you do this about a hundred percent of the time, no matter where you go. Hang on to your gregariousness, my love. It alone won’t get you many places, but it sure helps to genuinely like other people, and have them like you back.

I like you so much that sometimes, when I have to choose a quiet bedtime for you over an evening with friends, I feel that the consolation prize is way worth it.

Is this how you crawl?



newsletter: month three

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

You are three months old, and I don’t even know where to begin. This is a bigger problem than might seem, because I have about four and a half functioning brain cells. Welcome to the new world order! This week I’m back to work from maternity leave.

gettin' around

Ask me sometime for my thoughts on how much paid time women get with their infants in this country. Since the answer is none (there’s unpaid time, and even then twelve weeks is WAY too little), I’d prefer that you ask me when you and I can have this conversation over big-girl drinks.

But actually, although I’ve got righteous feminist rage on the topic, you and I are just fine with this. You’re thriving and getting some social time away from me, and I get to exercise my big brain and later regale you with stories of digital librarianship. Everybody wins. (As long as you start eating more from the bottle. Pretty please?)

Your social skillz are MAD. You smile at everyone who engages with you. You look at everything in looking range, and some things beyond it. You do this trembly-chin thing that older people sometimes do when they’re cold, but for you it’s a precursor to speech. Or so I imagine—because you only do it when babbling at your many fans.

No syllables yet; any day now. In the meantime you say a whole lot by using only vowels with the occasional (and I think accidental) consonant thrown in. That said, you do this adorable mirror neuron thing that closely approximates saying “hi,” only you say hhhhaaaaoooiiii, usually accompanied by a gummy grin.

You started sleeping longer stretches of three, sometimes even four hours at night… and then got congested again. So we’re back to waking up every two hours, sometimes even more. It might be allergies, it might be the weather doing its crazy New England thing, it might be a bona fide cold. Who knows? Not I, but I DO want you to sleep more, please.

Then again, maybe if I weren’t spending precious nighttime minutes staring at you while you sleep with little smiles playing on your cherubic face, I might also be spending less time running on fumes.

I’ve been reading to you. I hear that your brain is particularly spongy where languages are concerned, right now, so we’ve drawn on Pushkin and Rodari in addition to anglophone fare. The cultcha doesn’t stop there, oh no: baby’s first trip to the ICA was… well, actually, you slept through that. But don’t worry. We’ll go again. I think you’ll like it: there’s a lot of bold color there, and you’ve already shown art appreciation by staring at the pictures on our walls. You particularly like Sherdeb Akadan’s dolphins and Rachel Mello’s Learning to Let Go. Good choices, if I do say so myself.

the lower-lip dance of intense concentration

Your tiny body is so radiantly, so desperately alive. When you wake up, your head turns back and forth, and your legs fly out straight at 45-degree angles, it’s the cutest thing. You’re wasting no time dialing all your worldly activities up to eleven: for example, you’re distract-o-baby when you nurse, looking everywhichway and wasting not a second and clearly thinking deep thoughts about the world. You sleep just as passionately. The utter trust as you slump in my hands, letting me burp you as you sink into dreamland, almost gives me hope in a month when Wisconsin repeals the Equal Pay Act and election-year spite gains power again.

Meanwhile, you visit farm chickens and smell Arboretum lilacs. You’re loved and cuddled by your extensive fan club. You have a proto-giggle that turns your eyes into sparkling upturned half-moons. And I take occasional breaks from writing this to stare at you snoozing nearby. Life’s all right, baby.



P.S. more photos

like kale chips, but different

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I’ve loved kale chips ever since I found out how ridiculously easy they are to make. You take a bunch of kale, wash it, tear it up leaving aside the stems, dry it really really well, pour a bit of olive oil and some salt on it, mash it up with your hands such that it’s thoroughly coated in oil, put it on cookie sheets in a single layer, and throw it into a 350°F oven for ten minutes. Stir halfway through and watch it so it doesn’t burn. What comes out are lovely, crispy chips made of kale. Easiest way by far to make leafy greens disappear in children’s and grown-ups’ mouths.

Commercially available kale chips are also delicious, and different, in that they have flavors. I like the “vegan cheese” ones, not because I’m a vegan OR because they in any way resemble cheesy chips. Just because they’re tasty. But they’re also really expensive, so I took a look at the ingredients lists and tried to replicate them. SUCCESS!

The catch: I did this with my food dehydrator. I love this thing, and think it was well worth the investment. Mostly I’ve used it for drying farm share vegetables when overwhelmed with the quantities, and making jerky. But there are other uses too. Anyway, I set it at 125°F, and most household ovens only go down to 170, so I don’t know whether this would work in an oven. But it might, if you leave it open a crack and/or check frequently to make sure the kale is not burning. Here’s the recipe (note that I roasted the red bell peppers the previous evening, so it didn’t feel like it took much time):

5 red bell peppers, roasted, cleaned
3T lemon juice
0.5c nutritional yeast
1.5c cashews
1t salt
1 big bunch kale

Put everything but the kale into a food processor, wet ingredients first. Process until smooth, scraping down with a spatula a few times. Wash and tear up the kale, and dry it but don’t go nuts — it’s not as crucial to get all the water out as it is for the regular oiled/baked chips.

I took handfuls of kale and mashed them up right in my hands with the cashew stuff, spreading them single-layer on dehydrator sheets. I suspect one can also do it all at once in a big bowl, but do use your hands; that’s the only way to get the kale well coated. Stick in dehydrator for 5-6 hours at 125°F. Try not to eat all of it at once.

If you succeed at making these in the oven, please comment and let me knowhow you did it, and how long it took!