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Just a simple threadbare gypsy soul, wandering from blessing to blessing on this earth.

September 19, 2013

C-Team Parenting


My kid will be 5 months old next week. She’s adorable in pretty much every way, even though I have to routinely clean weird, mustardy poop out of her cloth diapers with a high pressure sprayer because that stuff is nigh impossible to eradicate. It’s like the pink from Dr. Suess’ The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  I spray it, and its aerosolized particles cling in a ring to the toilet bowl. I scrub the bowl with a long-handled scrub brush, and it’s stuck in the bristles. I rinse the bristles under the faucet, and now the poo-tation is chilling in the sink, which is way worse than having it in the toilet. (I mean, come on. I wash my face in there!) It’s a never-ending cycle of poo transfer. I don’t even want to think about what must be happening inside my washing machine!

I try not to worry about it too much, though I have no idea why it’s the vivid yellow of turmeric paste, nor what happens inside her little body to make it look like she’s swallowed a handful of sesame seeds whole. My physician friend says her body is just “figuring out her bacteria,” but I also don’t know what that means.

The trend with new motherhood, you see, is not knowing anything.

How to get the kid to sleep? How to make her stay asleep? If I don’t entertain her, will she become a sociopath?  But most of all, what am I supposed to do with her? I have no idea what I’m doing.
The Eyebrows of Judgment

Reaching and surpassing tangible goals is kinda my thang, but since motherhood has made it possible for me to fall short in more ways than I ever dreamed, my self-expectations have reached a new low. Daily Goal = “Keep Child Alive.” This means that my many mommy-fails (such as clipping her pacifier lanyard to flesh instead of clothing, or snipping off delicate fingertips rather than fingernails) don’t count against me. 

Everything in parenting seems to be a gamble, but when my choices make my kid constipated or bleed or cry, I feel pretty dang guilty. Even worse than blood, tears, or popped-forehead veins: my daughter’s Eyebrows of Judgment. I usually get these after doing something selfish, like propping her up so she can watch me peruse the Internet for goat cheese recipes.

Okay, I am officially a C-Team mother.

Reading is the problem. I have too much information to do anything effectively! (Yes, this is how I choose to project my mommy-guilt.) One book says I absolutely must do A, while another book says that A is completely wrong, and pediatricians everywhere recommend B, but B makes me feel bad because it makes my baby cry a lot, so I try C from another book, which works one time and never again, though that doesn’t stop me from repeating it maniacally in frantic hopes of magical surprise effectiveness.

Once, in my exhausted mania and frustration at being unable to “fix” my child’s wild-eyed fight against sleep, I booed in a low voice until my breath expired. No self-respecting book written by experienced doctors will ever suggest, “Why not try booing your child’s unattractive behavior?” But guess what? She closed her eyes and went to sleep. What in the world? Even weirder, this continues to work, so obviously I keep booing her, calmly and gently, to sleep. One hopes she does not grow up with severe lack of self-esteem.

The thing is, we’re all C-Team parents. We’re imperfect and selfish with our time and we get tired of cleaning the questionable fluids that come from literally every orifice of baby’s body. We’re all winging it in the sphere of parenthood. So learn a little lesson from this Type A Perfectionist: just keep trying. Nobody knows anything until they stumble across it accidentally. And press on with the knowledge that when the C-Team is the best anyone can do, well, then that’s the A Team, isn’t it? Win.

February 17, 2013

Kegel Like Bagel

There is no end to the interesting things that pregnant persons experience.

The 29 Week Belly
Now at thirty weeks of pregnancy, my mid-section has swelled to the size and shape of a basketball growing straight out of my abdomen, and maintains a similar firmness. This comes as a surprise to me. I am not sure what I expected, but something along the lines of Santa Claus’ “jiggling bowlful of jelly” fits.  I suppose that previous bouts of abdo-pudge were all I could use to imagine what a pregnant belly might actually resemble, which is certainly not the case.  The belly is fairly solid, neither bouncing nor jiggling, and does not slouch in muffin-top form when strapped into my seat belt or when I sit down. While running, the belly stays where it is supposed to, entering the world a foot ahead of me, making only two things different from my pre-pregnancy jogs:

1) My gait has changed from “Powerful woman conquers the miles” to “Here I come trying not to spill hot liquid,” and

2) Occasionally, a half-moon of flesh appears at my waistband, because my running shirts no longer adequately cover my burgeoning belly.

Oh. And,

3) Sometimes I have to make a detour under the bridge to pee, because that takes up 20% of my time these days.

“Hey honey,” I ask, belly revealing itself in pasty crescents while I hoist 15-pound barbells in a military press, “do I look like white trash?”

“Yup,” he answers, with zero hesitation.

Furthermore, nobody allows me to do so much as push a student desk into a corner, because of my “delicate condition.” I am advised not to go places or make long drives alone lest I suddenly become completely unable to control the workings of my body and spontaneously rupture my uterus, killing my infant. My breasts occasionally leave miniature sequins of colostrum crust inside my brassieres (none of which I’ve needed to replace with larger sizes, darn it all). I’m also getting used to strangers feeling entitled to touching my stomach, which is about as welcome as my random belching of gases that simultaneously taste of chocolate no-bake cookies and bacon, when I haven’t eaten either of those things. Yum.

Yet the most fascinating thing that has occurred during this pregnancy is the constancy with which people inquire whether I am “keeping up with my Kegels.”

To help you remember: Kegel like Bagel
“Umm… what?” I typically reply. “Do you really want to know that?”

“You know,” says Shere, the instructor of our Bradley birth class, “it’s not Kegel like eagle, as everyone seems to think. It’s Kegel like bagel.”  All I can think about is how the poor schmuck’s family members feel now that their surname legacy is tied up in the tightening and releasing of the pelvic floor.

Let’s be honest. I didn’t think Kegeling was necessary. After all, for what other purpose do I use that muscle besides preventing urination on the daily commute? I seem to do that a lot, especially these days, so I thought it was enough. But then, it happened.

I sneezed my typical, violent sneeze, scaring the bejeebers out of my husband, and . . .

“Oh no!” I cried from the kitchen.
“What?” he called.
“I just peed in my pants a little bit when I sneezed!”
“Ha ha ha ha!” he guffawed.


The same day, a friend posted a video on her Facebook page entitled “I’m Pregnant and I Know It,” featuring a very pregnant young woman dancing in a home-made music video, the lyrics of which listed the trials of pregnancy. It was pretty amusing, especially the following line: “I pee my pants when I sneeze, and I’m so afraid to blow it.” Oh how I laughed at that!  So true, I thought! Ha ha!

Then it happened to me again. W. . . T. . . F! 

“It’s not a big deal,” husband said. “I’m sure it’s normal.”

I asked my Birth & Wellness Center midwife about this in a text message, because I was too embarrassed to phone her and admit to it. (I’ll bet the message monitors at Sprint got a kick out of that one.) She agreed with husband, saying, “It is not all that uncommon in pregnancy.”

The problem was that it wasn’t normal for me. What if I sneezed at work, and didn’t have a change of clothes in the immediate vicinity? Would I be reduced to uncomfortably bunching up hand towels a la junior high females carried off by surprise on the crimson tide? Did I need to start carrying around a fresh pack of underpants for the rest of my pregnancy, everywhere I went?

So, I started Kegeling, beginning with the time between street signs and billboards on my morning commute. I joined a pre-natal yoga class during which the instructor tells us to “tighten” ourselves, bringing “the elevator from the basement up to floor one,” then two, then three, and so on, feeling our bodies “lift our babies up,” imagining our babies “are enjoying the ride,” and releasing on cue. I know my eyes are supposed to be closed, but I can’t help looking around. Yes, it’s weird. I’m sitting in a room full of women who are motionless and making only the sounds of deep breathing, yet we are all Kegeling.

With all this Kegel talk, one begins to wonder: Just how many People are Kegeling? Right now? Have you ever seen a person Kegeling? I bet you have, but you didn’t know it.  That’s because people who are Kegeling look like this:

And this:

And yes, even this:

That’s right. Men can Kegel. But I’ve been told they should be careful not to strain, because if they do, they too will wet their pants when their bodies endure physical stress. True story.

January 3, 2013

The Sinister Stick

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When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I cried. Sobbed, actually, into my husband’s firm shoulder, as he methodically rubbed my back. We were scrunched into the tiny sink alcove in our one-butt bathroom, me clutching the Sinister Stick with Damning Double Lines, my husband watching his freedom flutter out the door in the beak of a stork. 

The "Tell Our Families Via Text Message" method of avoidance.
Seen here, apt images of our immediate responses to the Sinister Stick.
Comic made using the PhotoComic app for iPhone.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012

Nobody thinks pregnancy will be upon her with a single shot, despite the fact that the plight of thousands of teenagers can’t be a hoax. In a loving, stable, and financially secure marriage, there is no shame attached to surprise pregnancy. With a husband like mine, gentle, generous, selfless, and kind, there is no reason to fear. But I was afraid, and the guilt of the Sinister Stick was piling on.

In my age demographic, women fall into two groups: 1) they are either desperately trying to find everlasting love; or, 2) they are desperately trying to conceive. The latter (and sometimes the former, as well) are de-romancing the sex act with timetables, thermometers, ovulation schedules, and shots. They are visiting specialists and enduring multiple invasive tests and treatments. Their hopes of ever becoming biological parents would shatter but for the cryogenic frozenness that keeps everything dead-but-alive, waiting, like Snow White in her glass coffin.  The stress of being unable to bear children weighs heavily on them; they feel responsible for their husband’s lost chances at being a father to a child born of the wife he cherishes. They see babies everywhere but in their own homes, and they start to lose their faith, asking God with broken hearts that omnipresent and unanswerable question, “Why me?” I, having lost myself once to wild-eyed ardor in the wake of a grand romantic gesture by my wonderful husband, knew eleven days later that an actual human was forming in my body. Instant bulls-eye! Or, as my father said when we made the telephone call, “Nice shot. Good work knocking up my daughter.” I didn’t have to try at all, and that makes me feel guilty.

But the guilt brought on by the Sinister Stick doesn’t end there; it multiplies and expands until it covers the entirety of life in a greasy film that is repulsive to touch but cannot be escaped. 

The actual photo announcement at 18 weeks.
"Bump Ahead" idea shamelessly stolen from Pintrest.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012
First, it’s, “When can I tell all my friends?” But you’re not ready to appreciate the limelight that comes from being the first or the last in your family to have children, or to tell all your friends that yes, you are finally going to have babies. You’re trying to wrap your own brain around the boggling knowledge that you are going to be a parent. That you have to prepare yourself to raise a real, live being into a person. A good person. A person that neither sucks nor loathes you. 

Not wanting a large audience in the event of any negative outcome before baby is born, you hold off on making the announcement, which leads to: “This pregnancy isn’t just your news to share!”  Yet once the announcement is made, an exponential increase of guilt explodes in your face, and you carry its offal with you wherever you go. Should I talk about my pregnancy with this person who has lost three babies to miscarriage, or to this person who has been trying to conceive for five years?  

The 20-week non-existent Baby Bump.
Pregnancy clearly isn’t much of a choice. It happens, or it doesn’t, and whether it does is largely out of our control. How it does is also out of our control. I don’t have any hideous stories to share. I haven’t been nauseous a single day – never spent the morning with my head in the toilet, or wildly sent my husband on a midnight quest for buffalo burgers and tinned cranberry sauce.  I don’t want to vomit when I smell certain things, and no part of my body is experiencing any discomfort. I can still wear all my own clothes. I am on no more of an emotional rollercoaster than is typical for a Type A woman married to a Type Z man. I don’t fit into the club, and that makes me feel guilty.

Further, others’ expectations of your body and pregnancy experience cause you to be assailed by nonsensical fears. Someone thinks the photo of my partially formed baby looks like an undressed Christmas turkey, and should I be worried? I’m already halfway done; why am I not showing a bump yet? I’ve only gained six pounds in five months; am I starving my baby? I just wolfed down an entire plate of cheese fries; have I condemned my child to a life of unhealthy habits and obesity? My resolve just crumbled and I drank a Coke; is my baby’s sweet face getting eaten away by acid?
3-D ultrasound image of our miracle of life.
S/he was moving too fast to get a clear image of everything but the face.
Photo credit to the fabulous ultrasound techs at SLUCare.

Oh, the Sinister Stick. I’m told that the guilt gets even worse once baby is born. Things like what type of diaper you choose, whether you breast-feed or not, and whether you choose to stay home or go back to work all factor into a whole other set of unmet expectations and guilt. Can’t wait for that! But I suppose that this system of questioning and self-doubt has its uses: it helps you recognize all the ways in which you wholly and completely suck, and forces you to improve them before you inflict yourself on a new life. I’m game for self-improvement. 

Bring it, Stick.