Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Courtesy Message to the Citizens of Iowa: Avert Your Eyes

Yes, lovely people of Iowa, as you may have heard, the troops and I will be arriving Monday. And by troops, I mean my tits. My kids are breastfed. I am not ashamed of this in the least, in fact, I’m actually pretty proud of it. I am not an exhibitionist by any means, but at the same time it is just not very practical for me to go into hiding every time one of the babies needs to eat… I would spend an awful lot of time in isolation in order to protect others from a possible boob glimpse, and that just ain’t cool. Sometimes I will step out, but more likely than not it’s because the baby is being distracted by what is going on around me, not because I personally have a desire to. When they were tiny lil newborns, I could sneak one under a little blankie on my shoulder and you would never know what was even going on under there. That, my darling friends in the Hawkeye State, has changed. The kids are now highly interactive, and as such they are very interested in providing me, and anyone within earshot, of a running commentary of how their meal is going. They will pull their heads back to give a great big grin, or Livi in particular will let go in order to really savor her beverage: like a fine wine, she will swirl it around in her mouth, smack her lips together, and make faces as if to say, “Mom, did you eat something with garlic in it last night? Hm, I enjoy something in a 2009 Holstein. Excellent vintage.” Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I respond to their coos or complaints, but regardless, let’s be honest, there is my nipple. There it is. And of course you want to look at the baby, because, face it, they are very cute babies. But you are torn. Nipple. Baby. What else is there to look at? Some people are desperately looking around trying to find something else to focus on, gazing out the window at the pool, watching the muted TV with feigned interest. Sorry, peeps, I’m on to you. Not that I want you to necessarily stare at my boob, just that I am not really thinking of it as a naughty bit while it’s nourishing my kid. I try to cover myself when practical, but the babies tend to pull whatever drape I put on right off (Who can blame them? It’s hot in there! And boring!). So the truth is this. I’m coming to Iowa. With my kids. And my ta-tas. And I really don’t want to make you uncomfortable. But chances are I am going to. (And did you know that in Iowa breastfeeding mothers are exempt from Jury Duty? Sweet!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Year Ago Today...

I tiptoed into the bedroom and perched on Dearest’s side of the bed. He was half awake and rolled to face me and said, “What’s up?” “Look at this,” I said, handing him the pregnancy test, “And tell me if you see a second line.” “I totally see a second line,” he said, “It’s light, but it is there. Does this mean what I think it means?” “Don’t get crazy, it’s very early. Too early for me to even be peeing on a stick. But I couldn’t help it. A second line means it worked.” We grinned, daring for a second to imagine that everything we had been through had been worth it.

What a year it has been.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Truth About Sleep

This year, when I taught my Kindergarteners the unit on “Needs verses Wants,” I added a need that we had not discussed the prior year. Most kids could put together that, in order to survive, we need food, water, and shelter. The series, very sweetly, includes love as a need for survival. A little abstract, but I think the kids understood it. But there was one need that was glaringly missing from the material. Sleep. Sleep is not a “thing,” so I can understand how it was overlooked, but neither is love and they managed to work that in. I explained to the kids why sleep is important for your body, and what can happen if you don’t get enough of it- you can get cranky, make mistakes, even be more likely to get sick. I was an expert sleep advocate.

I have a confession to make. Things in the Fontana household are not going well on the sleeping front. AT ALL. If you asked me about it in real life, though, I would probably lie right to your face. Why? Because, first and foremost, I am very annoyed by people who constantly bitch about being tired. Just a pet peeve of mine. And a lot of mom blogs turn into a series of posts about exhaustion, which means I stop reading them. SO there’s reason number one- I just really don’t think people want to hear it. Reason number two, however, is a little more insidious. I lie about my children’s sleep habits out of pride. I feel like, somehow, I am failing as a parent, or like my kids are not “good” babies, if I tell you the truth. I like telling people how great my kids are, already I don’t particularly want to focus on their faults. I guess that is only natural. Also lately any discussion of sleep or lack thereof makes me burst into tears. Thirdly, not to be a know-it-all, because lord knows there is a lot I don’t know, but if you tell people your baby is not sleeping though the night, they tend to be full of unsolicited bad advice: “Put a little cereal in their bottle!” “Sounds like it’s time to just let ‘em cry it out.” “The only humane and natural choice is the family bed.” “How about some formula before you put them down?” No, no, no, and no. Sorry. Just no. Reason number four may be the biggest reason of all. Guilt. If you know me at all, you know how badly I wanted these babies, and how much I love them. You know about our fertility struggles and the pain of watching everyone around us get pregnant, and you know I still ache for those for whom infertility is at the forefront of their lives. I just don’t feel like I can complain about my kids. This is exactly what I wanted, right? Beautiful, perfect babies. Who am I to sit around and whine about a little lost sleep when I have so very much to celebrate? I should be grateful for every moment of their beautiful, perfect lives, even the moments that occur at 3 am.

So if you ask me, as so many people do, “Are you gettin’ any sleep?” I will cheerfully look you right in the eye and tell you, “Oh yeah, we are lucky. They are great sleepers!”

The truth is, our nights really look more like this: the darlings go down between 7 and 8, I crash at about 10. Dearest is on duty from 10-12, Olivia frequently wakes around midnight and he rocks her back to sleep. Usually. Unless she needs me. And lately she needs me a lot of the time. But he gives it his best shot. The rest of the night is mine, except when they both wake at once, then I have to get Dearest for backup. The other night, Liv was up at 1, needed to be fed and rocked. When I was done with her, I woke Soph to eat (she’s not gaining as fast as Liv, part of the reason was that she was sleeping through the night and dropping that night feeding), and rocked her back to sleep. I was back in bed at 2. Liv was up at 3:30, her caterwauling woke up Sophie. I got Olivia, rocked her while Dearest walked a furious Sophia up and down the hall. At some point we stumbled past each other and Dearest barked something about killing himself. I countered that if I didn’t get some sleep I was going to throw up. He said he was going to drive into a tree on the way to work. I secretly thought that maybe if I drove into a tree I could at least sleep for a bit while I recovered. We were both back in bed by 4:30. Liv was up at 5:30. I stared at the baby monitor and prayed that it was not true. I mentally begged her to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t wait for too long of she would wake up Sophie again. Fed and rocked her until 6. Soph was up for the day at 6:45. So for those of you keeping score at home that was about 6 hours of sleep, in very small chunks. We have nights that are better than this, and nights that are much much worse. But overall—I’m getting about 2 stretches of 3 hours and that’s it. I was on the verge of not being able to function at all when Dearest volunteered to take the 10-12 shift since he is usually up anyway.

There are moms out there who claim to treasure those middle-of-the-night snuggles with their precious bundles of joy. Who say, “I look forward to it, some quiet time with just the two of us!” To them I say: are you familiar with Stockholm Syndrome? Don’t get me wrong, I adore my girls, I enjoy the pleasure of their company (heck, I’ve only been more than 50 yards away from them TWICE in the 4 months they have been alive—true story!), but I could really go from 7 pm to 7 am without seeing them and be JUST FINE. OK, I reserve the right to peek in on them while they are sleeping just to be sure they are ok, but that’s it.

So guess what, world? I’m tired. My kids are not perfect sleepers. Well, one of my kids is. I keep telling myself that this is just a phase, even though it seems like it will never end it WILL, and Olivia is still a “good baby-” maybe she doesn’t want to sleep because she is so bright and alert and engaging that the world is too interesting to miss out on. Wanting to get a decent night’s sleep doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my kids and recognize how very very fortunate I am to have them, or mean that I am a bad parent. I made the choice to exclusively breastfeed my kids, which means no matter how much help I have, there is, ultimately, no one who can take my place. Are there days I think I might drive into a tree? Oh yes. But am I going to keep lying to people who ask me how the nights are going? Absolutely. Because you don’t really want to hear the truth.