Wednesday, October 26, 2016

two weeks postpartum...

...and so much laundry. SO. MUCH. We haven't even started the baby on cloth diapers! How can there possibly be this much laundry? 

Berowne has gone back to work, which was not part of the original plan and about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, he won't be able to work between December and February (December: I go back to work; February: a spot in daycare opens up), so accepting a temporary job now is good both for his standing in the union and for our bank account. But I was counting on being able to hand the baby off to him four or five hours a day starting next week, when I start working those hours from home in order to stretch out my pitiful accrual of earned time. Already this week Puck has been fussy and clingy enough that if I was working, I would not have gotten very much done. But we shall see how it goes. 

Monday morning, on my own with both kids, I managed to get them fed and dressed and out the door within thirty minutes of my target departure time, and I am very impressed by myself. True, Puck had peed in his own hair, Perdita's diaper smelled suspicious, and I had to get up at four to make this happen, but still. It counts. 

And now, the long list of books I have read while home:

Mystery Mile, by Margery Allingham. Period British mysteries are so weird, with their aggressively eccentric nobleman-sleuths given full rein by the authorities (including a license to kill, apparently). Such books walk a strange line between soothing and so of-another-era-and-culture that they're almost like science fiction. 

We'll Always Have Paris: Trying and Failing to Be French, by Emma Beddington. I love Beddington's blog passionately, but this memoir didn't work for me. Her humor was missing from it a surprising amount of the time, and by that I don't mean "it wasn't funny enough - make me laugh, damn it, even when you're talking about relationships ending and parents dying". I mean that what makes her blog voice so fantastic just wasn't on these pages, somehow. And that was incredibly disappointing. Not to mention that, nine months pregnant, essentially solo-parenting a toddler (Berowne was working long days and weekends at the time), and trying desperately to arrange work coverage for absolutely every contingency, I really did not need another memoir where the author is "allowed" to have a nervous breakdown. Where everyone bends over backwards to help her keep her job and her income; where her partner is thrilled to be a single parent to their children plus her caregiver for months; where no one in her entire sphere wants anything but that she gets better, no matter how long it takes or how much it inconveniences them. Just... not good timing on that. 

Um. Okay, that paragraph sounds like I don't understand mental illness at all, and like I think that getting to the point of being unable to function is like getting to go to a spa resort for a month. Neither statement is true. I just find that memoirs involving mental breakdowns always make it sound like once help was asked for, everything magically fell into place and everyone rallied 'round and on the other side life was perfect. And I can see why you would not want to tell your readers otherwise, because you do not want to run the risk that someone who needs help will read an honest account of a shitshow that resulted when you put your foot down and yourself first, and will therefore not ask for help no matter how much you emphasize that it was worth it in the end. But by taking the other direction you are inadvertently telling people that if you don't already have an ironclad support system in place, both at work and at home, or you haven't already abdicated all your responsibilities in the build-up to your breakdown, you can't ask for help either. Let's face it: the second you put yourself first, someone is going to be a dick about it. This is just a fact. (Unless you have been putting yourself first your entire life and never let anyone else depend on you, in which case, um, you might be the dick.) I have had co-workers act like I got cancer for the sole purpose of inconveniencing them, and you can imagine how those same people reacted to my eventual pregnancies. People are gonna be dicks. Let's not sugarcoat this. Rearranging your life to take care of mental health issues is not easy, and we shouldn't pretend it is. It doesn't have to be easy to be justified. 

Anyway! Moving on.  

Endangered, by C.J. Box. Serviceable. 

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party, by Daniel James Brown. Very well-written and comprehensive. And, damn it, I may not be able to read about the Donner Party any longer, just as I cannot read post-apocalyptic fiction any more. The idea of going through that with small children is just too horrifying for me as a parent, and I almost couldn't read on once I was reminded that the Donner Party included infants and toddlers. Of course, I can get my survival-cannibalism-in-cold-weather fix lots of other places (thanks to England's strong export line in ill-prepared explorers), but this feels like that Maternal Loss of Identity that the internet talks about. ("What did you give up when you became a mom?" "The Donner Party." *sob*)

Silent Voices, by Ann Cleeves. Mystery by an author I really like. This featured child death and that was rough, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Very sweet little Victorian book. The BBC series is also beyond delightful. I watched it during midnight feedings with Perdita and maybe will re-visit it with Puck. 

Miramont's Ghost, by Elizabeth Hall. Pretty dumb. 

Shirt on His Back and Ran Away, by Barbara Hambly. I love this series, about a free black man solving mysteries in 1830's New Orleans (and, increasingly, many other locations as well). Been binging on the ones I hadn't read before. 

Rock With Wings, by Anne Hillerman. Hillerman's continuation of the Chee/Leaphorn series where her father left off, and very nice light reading indeed.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, by Linda Hirshman. Unfortunately, I found this a bit tedious, despite how much I love RBG (and how much Hirshman clearly loves her too). The actual urgency / importance for Americans of many of the Supreme Court's decisions never quite made it onto the page. 

Requiem in Vienna: A Viennese Mystery, by J. Sydney Jones. Jones wants to be Frank Tallis. He is not. 

A Man Lay Dead, by Ngaio Marsh. See above re: Allingham. I liked this book better, but same issues. 

The Fortune of War, by Patrick O'Brian. Ha! The War of 1812 has started, in this entry in the Master & Commander series, and our intrepid British heroes get their asses absolutely handed to them by the USS Constitution, and I swear that after reading the battle scene I wanted to go out into the yard and shoot off fireworks and raise a giant American flag and be like YEAAAHHH EFF OFF BRITS. Stirring stuff.

(Yes, I'm aware of the irony in us subsequently naming our son after a British ship. But YEAAHHH NAUTICAL EXPLORATION! And we Americanized the spelling because BOO COLONIALISM. [Which I am aware is also a profoundly ironic statement. WHATEVER! SHIPS ARE SUPER-COOL! I HAVEN'T SLEPT IN DAYS!])

The Vault, by Ruth Rendell. Oh, I like her Inspector Wexford books so much, although this one had the unfortunate element of shaming a woman for dating a man younger than herself (and possibly for dating at all while being a mother) and suggesting that when he turned violent she had no one but herself to blame. What is it with female British crime novelists and this kind of woman-shaming crap? There isn't a single P.D. James novel that doesn't feature it, and it's always jarring as hell. 

The Sculptress, by Minette Walters. See: Rendell, above. Enjoyable and problematic.   

Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine, by Max Watman. Fun reportage, and reading about brewing whiskey actually didn't bother me, That may be because I made the deliberate decision to read this while pregnant and so obsessed with my food restrictions that I had no mental space for any other temptations. Most of the whiskey discussed is either rotgut or is talked about in complicated connoisseur terms that just bored me, and would have at any point, so it probably would have been fine regardless. 

And now I need to run the dishwasher again. And eat a loaf of bread for lunch, because I can. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

blogging from the sitz bath, redux

Guess who has arrived, gentle readers! 

The young gentleman's due date was October 17th, and I had been planning to work at least through the 7th. But Thursday the 6th I arrived at work and almost instantly knew, despite the absence of anything dramatic like contractions, that I would be making it through the morning of that day at best, and no more. 

Friday I had an OB visit at which I hadn't progressed in terms of dilation or effacement but the midwife said she would be very surprised if I didn't deliver within the week.

Saturday I started having contractions. Very far apart, but strong enough that we called the friend who would be taking care of Perdita in our absence, and headed to the hospital. I had barely progressed any further, and we were sent home. I cried a bit, mostly out of fear that I would continue to have strong (read: EFFING PAINFUL) contractions which weren't doing anything in terms of dilation or effacement, and would eventually have to receive inducement drugs to bring those things on, and would then be dealing with a level of pain even beyond my previous induction, and then someone would tell me that childbirth is a woman's Mt. Everest, and I. Just. Could. Not. Handle. That. Naturally I convinced myself that what I could not handle would inevitably be what happened.

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Sunday morning we: got up, started timing the increasingly frequent contractions, went out to breakfast (with friend, who had stayed the night), realized immediately after putting in our breakfast order that Berowne and I needed to leave or become a local news item, went to the hospital, was found to have some progress, was told to walk the halls and be re-checked in an hour, walked the halls for about ten minutes before the contractions were making me literally shout (which I don't believe I ever did in my previous labor) and were right on top of each other, requested an epidural, was found to be 9 cm dilated with the baby halfway down the birth canal, pushed for four minutes while screaming like the world's neediest banshee, and gave birth. 

From start to finish, and I count getting up that morning as the start, it all lasted under five hours. I couldn't have been in active labor for more than forty minutes, so naturally the fellow who put a girdle round about the earth in that time shall be known here as Puck.  

It was... intense. But no one tried to feed us any useless gendered mountaineering analogies, or withhold pain medications, or, later, refused to take the baby to the nursery so we could sleep (somewhere around the thirty-fifth straight hour of no sleep with a newborn Perdita, we begged the staff at that hospital to take her for a few hours, and were flatly refused and it was hinted that only monsters who didn't want to bond with their child would ask such a thing), or expressed judgement around formula supplementation should that prove necessary, or treated us with anything but kindness and the assumption that we are equipped to decide what is best for our family. The difference between our previous experience and this one? Night and day. 

I'd say now we know where to have our next child, but part of this experience was a tubal ligation for yours truly. I know, I know, Mom; but I'm a month away from being forty and pregnancy is hard on me. Also we live in a two-bedroom, 870-square-foot, house. In any event, the decision was made. And of course it is very convenient to have the procedure done when you're already in the hospital, but what it ends up meaning is that you are recovering from vaginal childbirth and abdominal surgery at the same time. Not a picnic. 

Puck is a delightful little creature and as good a sleeper as his sister, though she was obliging enough to sleep during the night, and he is on a completely different schedule (also appropriate for his namesake). Hopefully this will resolve itself eventually. Perdita, while very much enamored of this new small person, is not differentiating between good and bad forms of attention, which hopefully will also resolve itself. Berowne and I are dazed with exhaustion and toddler-related frustration but happy. You can fit a lot of love in 870 square feet.  

Books, next time: I read a ton in the night watches, after all.