The Responsibilty of Anatomy- Thursday December 29th

At first I was very smug about having avoided the baby blues.  I thought that the special circumstances of Hazel’s birth helped me bypass the hormone crash that causes weepiness and frustration and self pity.  That was before I found myself feeding Hazel in my room on Christmas day, sobbing so loudly I kept startling her.

I’m trying to write about how much having my daughter makes me miss my son, but every time I start a paragraph I feel like an asshole.  I know that this is all normal, and I know it will pass.  But the intellectualism doesn’t override the emotionalism.

Having Tom home with us until mid-January is a blessing and a gift.  It’s so nice to have him next to me as we try and figure out how to be the parents we want to be.  I just didn’t realize that my anatomy required so much responsibility- To can only do so much without having his owns set of boobs.  Because I’m still trying to feign patience with breastfeeding, I can’t be away from Hazel very long.  Actually, I don’t want to be away from her at all, but it’d be nice to have a few hours without her chewing on my nipples.  I hate that I hate breastfeeding, and every day I swear I’ll call a lactation consultant.  Then I let the day pass, consumed with feeding and changing and trying to do a few chores whenever she closes her eyes.

I wonder if I’m using the frustrations of breastfeeding to cover for the aimless sadness I feel.  It’s a more concrete notion of failure.

Apart from these moments of fear and sadness, most of my days are spent marveling at this new human.  Hazel isn’t just beautiful, she’s hilarious.  Tom and I laugh uproariously when she stretches and yawns and practices faces.  She dons a seemingly endless parade of outfits with enviable grace and patience.  This child wore tights on Christmas eve without a peep of complaint- a feat I’ve never managed in my life.  Granted, they weren’t control top, but still all tights are annoying.

This blog post is a mess.  I meant to write lightheartedly about missing my son and resenting the usefulness of my boobs, but it didn’t really work out that way.  So please, when you read this imagine you’re reading something very clever and entertaining.  In the meantime I’m going to take a quick nap.

Magic Baby- Someday December Somethingth

I think it’s Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  I just looked in the corner of my computer screen and learned it’s Thursday December 22th.  It’s the second best Thursday I’ve ever had in my life- the first being last Thursday.  Hazel and I are still getting to know each other but so far I’ve noticed that not only is she a beautiful creature, but she’s also magical.

Hazel is still in a womblike state of sleepiness and peeness and poopiness.  One of her magical qualities makes her pees and poops utterly charming, especially when she does them at the same time while naked and creates a pool of pee and poop that she splashes around in it like she’s at a day spa while her mom and dad rush around the room bumping heads and shouting “where are the diapers!” “where are the wipes!”  The rest of the time she practices making adorable faces and waving her arms and legs around.  Under Hazel’s spell, we alternatively gaze and smile at her, at each other, hug, kiss, sigh, and say “I can’t believe this is real.”

Most babies say “Wa Wa Wa” when they cry.  Magical babies say “La La La”.  This might not sound like a big difference, but that’s because as you read this you probably aren’t staring down a screaming baby.  If you were you’d understand that hearing a baby say La La La, even when red faced and chin quivering, makes it pretty hard not to laugh.  And when you and your partner are laughing it’s pretty hard to panic, especially when you know as soon as you get a diaper changed or boob out the baby will stop crying.  In fact, when Hazel starts LaLa-ing Tom and I like to join in and make a family chorus.  Hazel is the only one who isn’t off-key, but she never makes fun of us.

Magical babies absolve their mommies and daddies of feeling guilt for being so happy when their other child is in heaven.  Magical babies make their mommies barely notice their new weird body and only obsess a few minutes a day about how their nipples will soon be tough instead of cracked and scabby but they’ll never point upwards without a bra ever again.  Magical babies make you see how good and bright and lovely the world is, even when it’s 4 am and you’re watching a documentary about Heidi Fleiss and debating if it’s worth it to go to bed for the hour and a half you have left before the next feeding.

I know that it won’t always be like this.  Some days will be hard and scary and tiring.  Some days we’ll long for the awesome grown up life we had, when we traveled and ate and drank like yuppies.  But magical babies make you understand that one milligram of their love is more valuable than anything you ever had before they arrived.

Hazel Arrives! For the Week of Tuesday, December 13th

Hazel Nicole Guillen arrived on planet earth at 8:50 am on Tuesday December 13th.  I cried a lot before the surgery, I was gripped by fear and panic and it wasn’t until I heard my own thumping heartbeat echoing through the operating room that I took deep breaths and calmed down.  Tom was brought into the OR and sat at my side.  He never stopped talking to me, saying how proud he was of my bravery and what a good mom I already was.  But it wasn’t until they pulled Hazel out and I heard that first peep of life that I cried tears of joy.  ”She’s perfect!” a nurse exclaimed, and it was the first time I relieved for the first time in a year and a half.   I watched Tom hold her while they finished the surgery and despite the pain I couldn’t stop smiling.  When I finally got to hold her, I felt like she had built an addition to my heart so big I’d need a special permit to have it.

Hazel had a lot of visitors that day.  She slept and cooed and waved her little limbs in the air.  I felt her little brother in the room with us, loving his sister and reassuring Tom and I that this wasn’t all a dream.

Wednesday, December 14th.  The day after the surgery was the most painful, but taking care of my daughter was more healing than any medicine.  I got out of bed for her, I stood up for her, I walked for her.  She and I both passed our blood sugar tests and we started trying to breast feed.  I knew that breast feeding would be can challenge, but you really don’t know what that means until you’re trying to stuff a giant breast into the mouth of a tiny wailing infant.  My sister-in-law and best friend were there keeping me company while Tom ran some errands, and we all sat mutely horrified as the nurse helping me looked like she was choking Hazel with my boob.  Hazel impressed us with her protests, and the nurse gave up long before I did.  ”Try and calm her down, then push her head against your nipple” she called over her shoulder as she walked out of the room.  When I called her later to help me try again she gave me a really helpful response:

“You know what I suggest?”  she said “You should try it yourself”.  Motherhood and my daze of happiness doesn’t not seem to have affected my ability to make sarcastic comments.

Thursday, December 15th:  Tom left early in the morning to take a law school final.  I assured him that Hazel and I would be fine, and that I would take my pain medication and call the nurses for help whenever I needed it.    We both forgot that while I am pretty assertive in my real life, in the presence of a medical professional I turn into a wilted flower of passivity.  So despite the obvious lack of logic in my thought process, I decided to try and spend the morning taking care of the baby and ignoring the effects of my major abdominal surgery.  Hazel and I had a crying contest that only ended when some visitors stopped by and we agreed to act like we could totally manage without Daddy.  Hazel’s acting skills are much better than mine.

Tom came back in great spirits after his test and went to get us a special meal of spaghetti and meatballs.  We felt like a real family.  When Tom got devastating news about the health of a beloved Uncle, we learned that the loving energy of a baby can sooth a broken heart and tamp down the panic of being far away from a loved one.

Friday, December 16th:  My original personality continued to peak through the sleepy bliss of caring for an infant.  We spent the day making jokes about how our stay at Prentice was a lot like staying at a nice hotel where the staff just quit their jobs as assembly line workers and decided to become nurses.  We used humor to mask our annoyance and surprise at how different the level of care was this time compared to when we had Tommy.  We thought that the attention and love we felt on the Sad Mom floor (they put moms who aren’t with their babies on a special floor at Prentice so you don’t have to be further tortured by the cries of healthy babies) was the standard at Prentice.  It turns out that on the Happy Mom floor the standard is more like that at the Holiday Inn Express.  But with nicer amenities.  It was also a surprise to learn that buzzing a nurse and being told “I’ll be right there” actually meant “I’ll be there within the next one to two hours then give you shit for asking for two pain killers instead of one” and “I’m taking your baby to the nursery for a test we’ll be back in twenty minutes” meant “I’ll take your baby for two hours and when you go to look for her your find her lying in the nursery and I won’t be anywhere to be found”.  We considered leaving early but knew the best thing for Hazel would be to stay and just be pushy about what we need from the nurses.

Saturday, December 17th:  We drove Hazel home and started our new life.  It was so strange to be freed from the tiny hospital room and feel like parents instead of patients.  After a family nap and feeding, we settled right in.

It’s Almost Time – Sunday December 11th

It’s almost baby time and I’m going through that emotion where you’re mourning for something that you still have.  Like the last couple days of a vacation or your old pet…you just want to enjoy those last precious moments but you’re already consumed by what happens next.  And the thing that happens next is bitter sweet: I’m excited to meet this baby but can’t help be heartsick over the idea of going back to the hospital and having the same surgery I had when Tommy Jr was born.

I still wonder why I didn’t just go to the hospital that day, instead of hemming and hawing and then going to the doctor’s office where they made me wait for god-knows-how-long before realizing I had to go to labor and delivery.  What would my life be like now if I had gone straight to the hospital and they could have stopped the labor?  I worry that I’ll never stop asking myself that.

I keep trying to look at the photos that were taken the day we said goodbye. The next set of baby pictures will be so joyful and while I should feel happy, I just keep tearing up.  I know that with this new beginning comes the end of something that has informed my life for two years.  Grief won’t have the same place in my heart and mind when I’m caring for a new baby.  That’s the natural order of things, that’s how life is supposed to go: you don’t leave your grief behind, you let it grow your heart bigger to accommodate more joy.  But that’s just me trying to be positive.

The truth is I feel like the arrival of my daughter means the departure of my little ghost.

I know he’ll always be with us, but it won’t be the same.  We won’t have the same capacity to keep him near.  That’s one of the reasons why when people keep asking me if I’m excited I can’t just say “OH YES I’M SO EXCITED”.  And I can’t readily explain why it all feels so complicated.  People would rather think that everything is fine now- we made it and all that sadness is behind us.

I’m rambling now.  It took me so long to just write this post that I’m reluctant to end it.  I am excited to meet my daughter, I am excited to learn how to be a mom to a living child.  I just miss my boy.

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