Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sleeping Beauty

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a 2-year-old girl, Maya. I don't know her parents very well -- I'd just traded business e-mails with her mother. And I didn't know her at all. But I was overflowing with empathy for her parents, so I went to the service basically to show how sorry that I was that this kind of thing happens at all.

The funeral home was packed to the point where mourners dribbled out into the foyers. I hovered on the third step of a seven-step staircase, hugging a railing. I wanted people who knew the family personally to have the seats closest to them.

As eulogists stood to speak, a chorus of sniffing and blinking erupted around me. Tissues were raised to eyes and noses as if to flag a penalty committed by nature in taking away this little one. Maya's daycare provider, grandparents, uncle and father all offered a glimpse of the fire within her spirit, the voracious way she tore through life in the 24 months or so that she had. And though I didn't know her, I miss her.

I felt like a voyeur to this naked pain. And I couldn't help but imagine how I would behave in the same circumstances. How can one possibly recover from the loss of a child? From the day my son was born, I've seen not only him, but his future. I smile when I think about the privilege of witnessing his life -- not just first steps and words, but graduations, and weddings, and grandchildren. When you lose a child, you are not just losing a piece of your present, but a giant chunk of what you thought your future would bear.

After the service, I just wanted to go home and hold my baby boy, to see his smile and to hear his giggles, even his crying. Being able to touch and tickle him made me sad, knowing that Maya's parents won't be able to touch and tickle her anymore. My heart just breaks for them, and there's no consolation to be offered that doesn't sound trite or, in the end, ridiculous.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Target Store Layout

This past weekend I made my semimonthly shopping trip to Target to pick up baby consumables. Sociological implications aside, I find it really funny that "Family Planning" is adjacent to "Baby Care." Okay, okay, so it's generally understood that women are responsible for birth control since we are the ones who are biologically required to deal with the consequences. But stocking Pampers next to Trojans implies a certain cautionary tale, doncha think?

Friday, May 20, 2005

I Hardly Knew Ye...

Norah O'Donnell was the featured speaker at Georgetown University's Senior Convocation yesterday. She received her undergraduate degree from G.U. in 1995 (two years before I collected mine). It's still so weird to see someone I knew in college on national television. And by "knew" I mean "shared mutual acquaintances."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

So, now that I've joined the blogging world, I've been checking out other people's blogs. And it makes me wonder: why are we doing this? It seems like there are five different kinds of bloggers out there:

1) Commercially successful writers, artists, etc., with a following who are interested in every word that drips from the writer's lips (or keyboard, as the case may be).

2) Commercially unsuccessful writers (ahem) who are trying to drum up any kind of following so that their next venture might be commercially successful. (See, Ms. Editor? I get three hits a day. Over a year, that adds up to tens of unique readers!)

3) Folks who want to keep in touch with their multitude of friends, but can't possibly send out individual e-mails, so they post their lives online.

4) Folks who have loads of opinions about, well, everything, and feel guilty about inundating their close circle of friends/family with them.

5) People who are hoping their posts will appeal to other people and amuse for a moment. Kind of like when you make a mix tape for someone -- while trying to entertain and please the recipient, you're also kind of trying to show them how cool and eclectic you are (see Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity").

Honestly, the only people who will check this out are the people who already know me. And then, it's kind of a controlled voyeurism. Sure, we control what we put out there, but we don't know who's seen it. Or when. We only know this when someone posts a response.

So, if a woman posts her life, does anybody read it?

Wow. Who put existentialism in my coffee this morning?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Motherhood is to Army as...

Since the birth of my child ten months ago, I have come to realize that I would have made an excellent member of the U.S. Army. These two industries do not seem like they would have anything in common, I know. The standard image of motherhood is a Mary Cassatt painting featuring a roundish woman cuddling an even rounder child, both with roses blooming in their cheeks and golden light encircling them like a halo. The standard image of army life is a man leaping around barbed wire under a hailstorm of bullets, all of which is happening in an extreme climate (cold or hot, take your pick). But there are more similarities than the collective consciousness is willing to acknowledge.

# 1: I Remember Sleep...
Everyone knows that army life requires getting up early, unexpectedly, and often. During his first six weeks of life, my son would sometimes sleep for three hours at a stretch, and sometimes only for fifteen minutes. Day or night, he snoozed and screamed whenever he bloody well pleased. The books tell me he really should have started sleeping throught the night around six weels of age. Liars! He's slept through the night about a dozen times in his life, and averages one wake-up per night. Sometimes, he wakes up more often if he has a cold. Or if he's teething. Or if it's a day that ends in "y."

#2: What's Privacy?
While I didn’t have to endure communal showers or anything like that, I did have about a dozen strangers in the delivery room with me staring at me in all my glory. Since then, I’ve had a companion in the bathroom when I’ve showered; I now leave the door open when I’m, er, using the bathroom facilities, and a little man toddles into my room whenever I'm changing. I'm also a nursing mother, and you can't exactly be Victorian about your breasts when you're pumping milk or a hungry baby is squalling for some nourishment. Man, those folks in the gas station parking lot must've gotten an eyeful.

#3: Terrible Food
Now, I really only have myself to blame for this. But I've found it impossible to prepare savory and nutritious foods and actually eat while the meal is hot. Or cold, if you're having gazpacho. My meals over the past ten months have been generally been room temperature. And calling them "meals" is generous. I don't think an English muffin smeared with Nutella should really be called dinner, but when you've got five minutes to plan, cook, and eat a meal, you take what you can get. My husband is good enough to cook dinner before I get home from work, but it's a fifty-fifty chance that we'll actually both be able to sit still for 10 minutes and eat together.

#4: Fieldstripping
I'm a nursing mother. But I'm not independently wealthy, so I work too. This means I pump milk at work. Oh, 'scuse me; the euphemism is that I "express" milk. If you look up "express," the definition is "to squeeze or press out, as juice from an orange." Nice image, eh?

Now, the books will tell you that expressing by hand is the preferred method by mothers who master this technique. I don't know who these women are. I've tried it, and all I've managed to do is squirt myself in the eye or otherwise miss the collection cup. My preferred method is a hand-pump; there are those who will think I'm nuts for not using one of those hospital-grade electric mammer-jammers. But that thing grunts like a cow giving birth, and I couldn't swing with co-workers passing by my office (or bathroom stall) and hearing the mystery noise from within [see: "What's Privacy?"].

In the seven months I've been back at work, I've discovered that I can assemble a hand-pump in under twenty seconds, pump for 10 minutes, then dismantle and clean the thing in about a half a minute. With a little training, I'm pretty sure I could tackle a rifle with the same dexterity.

#5: On-the-Job Training
More than anything else, I'm learning as I go. I thought I knew what to expect when I was expecting. Wow, was that a false assumption! I mean, who knew that I was going to have to figure out how to pin a child with one elbow while changing his diaper so that he doesn't twist his inquisitive little self right off of the changing table? Or that I could, in fact, pump milk while driving (though I wouldn't recommend it)? Or that scraping a spoonful of food against the inside of his upper gum is a decent way to keep my baby from spewing his strained carrots all over me?

I know there are more comparisons (battle wounds, anyone?), but I'm tired, in a crowded room, am hungry, and I have to go pump some milk while I figure out how to brush four Tic-Tac sized teeth : )