Monday, October 6, 2008

Dancing Monkeys

I spent much of my life absolutely opposed to having children. So now, with a little guy around, my ideas and goals have been challenged, and admittedly, I do like a shake-up like that. This chance to re-evaluate is a gift, maybe? Even if it's not a gift, I appreciate a chance to have a well-rounded life experience. Even with a new attitude, a big concern, especially regarding this blog, is irrelevance. I've always aimed for a balance between local politics, and personal stuff. And right now, there is SO much interesting stuff happening here in Trenton, but also, Matthew is pretty much attached to me most of the day, and I'm not sleeping well, so most cerebral thought is out the window.

I may have been a relatively intolerant person before kids, and I suppose having one gives me the ability to see that aspect in myself, and perhaps, change it (or grow less tolerant of other aspects in life??). In my former life, I wasn't much for hearing about other people's kids, unless I knew the kid well. So, I promise, I won't go all "poopie diaper" on you; and at the same time, I hope you don't mind that I write about my experience — so far — with Matthew. I suspect that not everyone is as intolerant of Baby Stuff as I used to be. I hope.

That's a disclaimer, I guess; though at this early stage, and with a kid who may stir at any moment, I really have no idea where this will lead me today. I just need to exercise my fingers!

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I was going to pack up and get rid of all of my parenting/pregnancy books, and I did pack them up, but I haven't actually taken them to the thrift store yet. It's because priorities have shifted, in a seismic way, and mere maintenance is difficult. But we're doing okay. Matthew has been far more vocal in the last couple of weeks: there's a lot of screaming and crying, which is really distressing. He's hungry, a lot, and he's incredibly impatient, it turns out. But once he's chowing down, he's relatively content. Since I'm home with him, and the one doing nearly all of the feedings (thanks to biology, is all; Glen would love to do more feedings, if he had lactating boobs), I'm not doing much of anything else, since it often — depending on the baby's mood — requires both of my hands to hold him in place. I have been reading a bit more than I had been in the last couple of years. I just finished [finally] J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and I'm about halfway through Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. My niece, Megan, loaded a couple of games on my cell phone, and have been playing a cool game called Cubes. It requires a bit of basic strategy, and a free thumb, and I can spare both. It's quite addictive, and I have quickly become a high scorer; I am ashamed to admit that, but not too proud that I can't.

Try it, it's addictive!

Matthew isn't napping much during the day, most days, so it doesn't give me a block of time to get much done. But when he does sleep, or contentedly swings in his very awesome swing, I usually have a few minutes to take a shower, or go through some of the baby loot we have stashed here and there.


Coming home from the hospital without Catherine, and facing a house ready for her, was excruciating; packing everything back up was numbing. I didn't want to get ready for Matthew, until he was in our arms, and we are still paying for that, since mere maintenance — dishes, laundry, animal care — is huge right now. But I am able to sneak away for a few minutes and go through a closet of baby stuff, or the bags of the stuff intended for Catherine in the attic.

My initial reactions, of course, were a deep, profound sadness: those things were Catherine's. There are some of Catherine's items I can't bring myself to pull out and use for Matthew though: one is a lovely handmade quilt from a friend* and the other is a box of handmade newborn cloth diapers; the diapers arrived a few days after Catherine's death. That sucked. Really bad. There is a lot of back and forth on the issue of cloth diapers, but since ANY poopie diaper seemed insurmountable to me back in January of 2007, I figured cloth ones wouldn't be any more wretched than disposable ones. But no matter what your thoughts are on diapers, you would agree that these little diapers are just adorable; well made, too.

We've pulled the top diaper out, in the last few weeks, but put it back promptly. The rest of the box remains as it was last year, and stays untouched in the closet.

Matthew is Catherine's brother, and because of this, he, of course, looks like her. And the resemblance is the strongest, of course, when he sleeps. It was so hard in the first few days, to see him sleep, to see her face, to wonder if he'd live. We know there are no givens, but that he's a bit of a fitful sleeper is comforting to us. There are difficult feelings associated with the use of Catherine's items, too, but I'm able to put those feelings aside relatively quickly. Had she lived, we'd be using hand-me-downs. And, I'm plain practical: Matthew needs blankets and onesies and towels and toys too, and we have a bunch of them that were taking up space without purpose until Matthew came along.

I have encountered a number of items my mom had given me for Catherine, in these forays into the attic and the depths of the closet. I came across a crib set with monkeys all over it, from my mom, and I got a lump in my throat. She gave it to me at my baby shower for Catherine; she and I were not getting along particularly well on that day, and so it's a horrible mess of complicated feelings to see those dancing monkeys, for the baby we didn't bring home, the grandchild she never got to know. And here I am, now sitting with her second grandchild she won't get to know, with a monkey comforter that reminds me of a time when I was bickering with her.


No offense to anyone in my family, but my logical brain knows that my mom wouldn't be that helpful to us right now with this new baby. I use the word "help," because she would have offered to come "to help." But she'd only want to hold the baby, and the house would ultimately be much messier for her visit, and we'd be stressed out of our minds. My mom brought chaos with her. She did. Despite the problems we had at the end, wow, I miss her. My mom loved her grandkids, really, really loved them. And, it is so nice to hold Matthew, and I think my mom would have loved holding him, too.

This is my mom, Maggie, and her first grandson (my nephew), Richie, in 1993.

I am so sorry she won't get to hold Matthew like that.

I'm also sorry that this post has become kind of depressing. And the use of that word makes me wonder about postpartum depression, but I don't think my blues are hormonally driven, and they aren't all-encompassing. I just feel kinda sad today, and I think it's okay. Sometimes life is hard, is all.

Sometimes life isn't hard. And sometimes those sensations come back-to-back. So, I also feel optimistic, too. My boy, who has been spending so much time hollering lately, has just begun smiling. And not just little hints of smiles, but rather, big, huge, whole face, twinkling eyes, gaping wide-opened grins. He doesn't spend his days grinning, yet, but maybe that's coming? And as of this weekend, he added a new sound to his vocabulary; I'd put this new sound in the "coo" family, but it's more of an "Aah," a sound that says, "This is SO cool." Matthew's only done it three times in as many days, but I'm hopeful.

And hope is good.


* We received an absolutely stunning handmade quilt for Matthew from a friend; I love all the work that went into it, and I love that it's HIS; I'm glad he has one that was intended for him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog so much. I too lost children; twins who died shortly after birth. Your thoughts and feelings on Catherine are duplicates of my own and they help me, as I'm sure they help you as you put them on paper. I just wanted to let you know that it will get easier - you will be able to go through Catherine's gifts in the future with a little less tears. If you're like me you won't ever get over it, but you get through it and Matthew will help you with that. Because at some point you will realize that as tragic as Catherine's death is, Matthew would not be here if it hadn't worked out that way. Sad, but so true and those thoughts may help you in your healing. Best of luck and health to you and Matthew.