Your Children Are Lab Rats

I recently read a really interesting book called ‘Parentology’ by author and sociologist Dalton Conley. In it, Conley writes, with as much humor as footnote, of the successes and failures of a parenting style of his own design, the pseudo-science he calls Parentology. Basically, he takes results from all kinds of studies on human behavior and applies them to his precocious offspring in order to get them to be the most awesome versions of themselves possible. Everything from giving them unusual names (E and Yo, respectively) in order to distinguish them from the herd to bribing them with candy to finish their homework. His results are admittedly mixed as far as achieving the desired outcome, but the concept is one I really like. This scientific view can give you permission to view your child’s crazy antics with more fascination than frustration, allowing you to observe the outcome of stimuli on your child and adjust your methods accordingly, rather than putting all your eggs in the basket of someday ‘perfecting’ your child’s attitude.

Inspired by this, I started viewing our daycare as a laboratory and began experimenting with ways to encourage good behavior and soften the blow of outbursts or other distracting reactions. Of course, I have tried and failed with dozens of angles and tactics over the years, but emboldened by the ‘long con’ of science (“The Answer Is Out There” anyone?) I now use the following methods in one variation or another dozens of times a day. It’s always trial and error, but I see that they work for remediating the immediate problem and I also believe they also set the stage for smoother interactions in the future. They encourage real feelings of security for the child and provide pat but powerful responses for the parent. Similar to coming up with the perfect comeback to your boss three hours after the insult, you don’t want to be left scratching your head at your child’s problem behavior so often that they get the message that it’s ok to proceed with it. If these scenarios occasionally catch you up, try the following solutions.

Experiment: Your child is doing something they shouldn’t. Instead of whatever you’re saying that isn’t working, try this: “When you do (problem behavior) it shows me that (this scenario) isn’t working. Is that right?” Like this: “When you ignore me when you’re playing dolls, it shows me that the dolls are too distracting and need to be put away. Is that right?” “When you throw the fork off the table it shows me that you shouldn’t have a fork right now, is that what you are showing me?”

This works two ways. It offers the child that all-important choice. Most of us know by now offering our child a choice between two acceptable things can sidestep many unnecessary freakouts. I’ve heard parents balk at this with the ol’ “But they have to do what I’m telling them to whether they want to or not, why give them a false choice?” To these parents I say, godspeed. The rest of us will welcome you back with open arms when you’re tired of losing battles to someone still shitting their pants. But back to our scenario, if your kid is just being absent-minded or has momentarily lost control of their arms and hands as children are wont to do, they have the opportunity to refocus. If they choose to push the limits then the consequence has been built right in. Away go the dolls. No second chance. They chose, with their behavior, what happened next. Secondly, with time, it helps them do what you need them to more quickly (and therefore with less opportunity for tension between you) once you make it clear that you mean business and will follow through. No shaming or negotiating. The trick to making this work is to be kind but firm. What a bummer that the dolls are being put away! Oh well. They can try again next time!

Experiment: Your child doesn’t want to do that. Putting on shoes. Taking off shoes. Going outside. Coming inside. Name a thing. They do not want to. Strongly. How do we get six children to comply all at the same time at daycare? Empathy then option for help. In that order. Empathy. Option. Repeat as necessary.

“Wow, you do NOT want to go outside right now. I hear that. You are unhappy about going outside and you wish we were staying in. Is that right?” (empathy) Child nods. “I see that. (Pause to find a reasonable option to help them) Ok, do you want to put your shoes on or should I?” Next kid. “Boy, you want to go outside NOW, is that right? I hear you. (Pause to find option) Do you want to hold my hand while you wait or sit on the floor?”

All people, but perhaps especially children, want desperately to be seen and heard. They know they don’t really have a choice, but they want their desires to matter! Why wouldn’t they? You can see the relief on their faces when you acknowledge the problem they are having. Empathy doesn’t strive to solve that problem, or release them from the task at hand, but it doesn’t ask them to pretend they don’t feel it, either. Empathy HEARS. Empathy SEES. That’s all. It’s one of those tricks that’s simple even if it’s not always easy. Notice that there is no explaining why we are going outside or insisting that they’re going to have a good time when we get out there. That’s all a waste of breath since none of that feels true for the child in that moment and you’re not going to convince them. It’s a two part maneuver. Empathy then option for help. The end.

Experiment: Your child talks to you or someone else in an unacceptable way, perhaps in public. Your gut reaction?
“You DO NOT talk to me that way! Say you’re sorry!” Not totally unreasonable but the tone a conversation starts with is likely going to be the tone it ends with. Don’t let your child set the tone. They don’t yet have the skills. Good thing you’re about to teach them! Try this: “Wow, I don’t allow people to talk to me like that. I’m going to take a break until you can treat me better.” If you can safely walk away a short distance, do. If you can’t, just ask for them not to talk to you until they are ready to do so with respect. If the recipient of their ire was not you, your response becomes, “I won’t allow you to talk to Grandma like that. Please walk away until you can show respect.” Then simply turn away. You again, have been unemotional. Dare we say, scientific?

How it works: First, make no mistake about it, losing your attention is the worst punishment you can dole out. Don’t bust it out for any old infraction because you don’t want your child to feel as though your presence is conditional, but here, it makes sense. You are a person and your feelings were (probably not but could have been) hurt. Next, you’re teaching your child a powerful way to care for their own emotions in future relationships. They don’t have to blow up or shut down, but they don’t have to stand for being treated or talked to with disrespect. They can calmly remove themselves from those situations and request better treatment in the future. Avoid launching into an After School Special when your child does return to you. If they have returned with respect then just move on. Continuing the punishment by lecturing them only muddies your promise to happily regroup once they’ve changed their tune.

I now routinely use these methods with children as young as 18 months with lots of success. I’m not saying their aren’t outliers and off days, of course there are, but the most lasting benefit truly has been the shift in my own focus towards experimentation and openness to change.

Discipline Tactics that WORK

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I recently fell for one of those ‘click-bait’ articles (hooked me line and sinker, for real) on alternative disciplinary phrases to use on your children. Most of the comments waxed frantic on how these toned down phrases (“Instead of: ‘You are IMPOSSIBLE!’ Try: ‘I can handle ALL of you!”) were coddling or enabling. Maybe. However, my main beef with this article was the idea that you’re going to take a parent who habitually says “You’re IMPOSSIBLE!” and get them someplace productive with a shitty infographic. If you’re yelling “What were you THINKING?!” at a child too young to be thinking much of anything, you’re pretty far gone. However, the idea is a good one once refined and made a little more realistic. With a little tweaking, you can develop a cache of phrases that work and are minimally traumatizing for your precious little bundle. No one is expecting you go from “Eye roll and exasperated sigh” to “Carebear Stare!” overnight, but I bet you can get a little closer to effective communication with your weird little roommate.

Scenario: Your child is doing something you don’t want them to do. Instead of whatever you are saying that isn’t working, try this: “When you do X with Y it shows me that Y isn’t working. Is that right?” Like this: “When you ignore me when you’re playing the Wii, it shows me that the Wii is too distracting for you. Is that right?” “When you throw the blocks, it shows me that the blocks need to be put away. Is that what you’re showing me?”

How it works: This works two ways. It offers the child some control. They can decide if that is what they want to show you. If they are just being absentminded, they have the opportunity to shape up. If they are being deliberately disobedient and don’t stop, then the consequence has been built right in. Away goes the Wii, no second chance. They showed you, by their behaviour, what happened next. Secondly, over time, it tricks them into doing what you want them to, all of their own accord. Once you make it clear that you mean business and will follow through with the consequence, they will quickly strive to show you what you want to see. No shaming, no cajoling. The trick to making this work is for you to be completely unemotional. What a bummer that they chose to have the toy taken away! Oh well. They can try again next time.

Scenario: Child is really upset and freaking out. Again. Maybe they fell, or maybe, like my son, an inanimate object refused to move or affected his reality in some unpleasant way. Almost all adults have the impulse to tell a child “You’re ok! No big deal!” I have no idea how this reaction developed. Are we trying to teach them what is and isn’t a big deal? Or is it to get them to stop crying as quickly as possible? Whatever the goal, it gets on my nerves to no end. First of all, how do you know they are ok? I bonked my head on the bathroom sink the other day and it HURT! If my husband had walked in and said “Hey, you’re fine! Stop snarling!” I would have had the strong impulse to affect his reality, if you know what I’m saying. Instead, try empathy.

How it works: It is almost always the best idea to respond to your child the way you generally respond to other humans. They are crying because they hurt themselves? “Oooh, that hurts. Are you ok?” The chair once again refused to move out of their way? “That looks frustrating!” The response they are having IS their genuine response to that stimuli. YOUR response is the one you are modeling. Someone gets hurt? Empathy. Something is frustrating? Empathy. Empathy does not problem solve. Empathy does not dictate. Empathy SEES. Empathy HEARS. Once you have it down, empathy is the easiest tool in your parenting toolbox and the most empowering salve for your child. Which brings me to the next problem.

Scenario: Your child doesn’t want to do that. Putting on shoes. Taking off shoes. Going outside. Coming inside. Name a thing. They do or do not want to. Strongly. How do we get 6 children to comply at daycare? Empathy.
“Man, you do NOT want to go outside right now. I hear that. You are unhappy about going outside and you wish we were staying in. Is that right?” Child nods or otherwise agrees. “I see that. (Pause to change gears) Ok, do you want to put your shoes on or should I?” Next kid. “Boy, you want to go outside really bad and you’re having a hard time waiting for your friends, is that right? (Pause) Cool, do you want to hold my hand while you wait or sit on the floor?” BOOM.

How it works: Children, once again, are people and people want desperately to be seen and heard. They know they don’t have a choice, but they want their desires to matter! Why wouldn’t they? You can see the relief on their faces when you acknowledge the problem they are having. Even little problems feel HUGE for them a brush off feels like a big dismissal. Again, empathy doesn’t strive to solve that problem, or release them from towing the line, but it doesn’t ask a child to stuff it, either. Learning to stuff your problems takes years of practice, hundreds of bottles of wine and access to Netflix. All in due time, padawan.

Scenario: Your child talks to you in an unacceptable way, perhaps in public. Your gut reaction?
“You DO NOT talk to me that way! You say you’re sorry!” Not totally unreasonable but the tone a conversation starts with is likely going to be the tone it ends with. Don’t let your child set the tone. What do you say? “Wow, I don’t allow people to talk to me like that. I’m going to take a break until you can treat me better.” If you can safely walk away a short distance, do. If you can’t, just ask for them not to talk to you until they are ready to do so with respect.

How it works: First, make no mistake about it, losing your attention is the worst punishment you can dole out. I don’t recommend it for any old infraction because you don’t want your child to ultimately feel as though your presence is conditional, but here, it makes sense. You a person and your feelings were (probably not but could have been) hurt. Next, you’re teaching your child a powerful way to care for their own emotions in future relationships. You don’t have to blow up, but you don’t have to stand for it, either.

These are the most common problem scenarios we deal with in our daycare on the daily. Using these solutions and phrases over and over and over again both allows us as parents and care providers a go-to solution and teaches our children what to expect from us. Wild card behavior diminished over time when children learn that they will be heard, that they ultimately have to comply anyway, and that they are OK, just how they are. Feels nice, right?

How to keep (selected areas of) your home clean while running a zoo

Owning a daycare, two cats, one toddling human and a husband can a messy house make. However, having a clean and tidy house is an absolute necessity for me. Not only do I have clients to insure of my sanity, but said sanity relies on having a reasonably well kept home. Now, my home is no show home…but there are several tricks I’ve begged, borrowed or stolen over the years that have made it a lot easier for me not to completely lose my bananas.

Toys: If you have children, toys are probably a big issue. We manage to keep our clutter to a minimum and heres how: First, we only keep out as many toys as the kids can put away. Depends on your kid, obvs, but for two and three year olds about 12-20 pieces per set is the limit. Half a dozen dolls, 15 pieces of doll furniture, a couple dozen blocks. Now, they can only take out one thing at a time and have to put each thing back before they can move on. There are also specific areas to play with the specific toys. Rugs work well for this. At first I really fought these ideas. It felt limiting and the last thing I wanted to do was limit the children. However, what I found was that the routine and clear expectations gave them a sense of calm and they actually played more with each toy, even though there were fewer altogether. It also kept them from creating so much chaos that they got out of control. When they got out of control they got themselves into trouble and when they got into trouble they weren’t having any fun! Whole dozens of minutes are spent peacefully playing and moving from toy to toy. If you have more than one child, consider not requiring them to share. For really little kids, it’s just too hard and they aren’t going to ‘learn’ how to share by being forced. They learn how to really share by developing empathy, and building empathy has nothing to do with toys. Sure, you may get them to go through the motions of grudgingly handing the toy over, but the lesson there isn’t really that sharing is good and necessary, it’s kind of that sharing sucks and you have to be forced to do it.

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In the bathroom: Now, usually my advice for keeping the house clean is less. Fewer objects, less clutter, fewer toys…etc. Pare it down to what you really need and then make sure that what’s left is stuff you love or use everyday…however, there is one place that this advice gets flushed. In order to keep your bathroom clean, you need to have at least seven hand towels. Every morning, you will spray down all of your surfaces with some cleaning solution (I make my own with vinegar, water, tea tree oil and a dash of rubbing alcohol) and wipe everything down with yesterdays hand towel. This mixture will shine faucets and clean your mirror as well. (don’t use the hand towel on the toilet, more on that in a minute) Don’t forget the edge of the tub, the corners of the floor, the trim, etc. Now, you sprayed down the toilet when you sprayed everything else, but you’re first going to scrub the bowl then you’re going to wrap your hand in t.p and wipe the rest, starting with the top of the tank on down. Dirtiest thing last. Throw the wad in the bowl and flush.
For the shower and tub, I use one of those soap wands intended for the sink. I fill it with a clear or white dish soap and a little vinegar and use it to scrub the walls and tub as soon as I get into the shower every coupla’ days. This gadget alone has saved me hours over the years.

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Living Spaces: The best way to keep your living spaces cleared is to identify the culprit. Ours is clothes and house linens like dish towels. So I started to keep a laundry hamper in the living room. I use a trash can with a lid, but a more aesthetically pleasing basket would be much nicer if you don’t have an army of rugrats trying to throw your keys into any open basket they can find 🙂 A king size pillowcase makes a great liner for your laundry can, you can throw it right in the wash.
Sometimes giving an inch or two can actually save you time. Do I love dirty laundry in our living room? Uh…no. Do I like it more than having to cart random socks and sweaters into the bedroom or laundry room every ten minutes. Why, yes. Yes I do.

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Kitchen: Heh…heh…my trick for the kitchen is that my husband cleans it. He’s the most handsome gadget I’ve ever laid my eyes on. However, he is not cheap. I had to agree to do all the laundry, the bathroom, and the floors to secure this trade but it’s worth it.

The bedroom: Tell you what, you come over to my house and tell me how to keep my bedroom clean and I’ll loan you my husband. I’ll even send him with a lasagna to keep you both happy.

What I learned working in restaurants that made me a better home cook

I love to cook, it’s simultaneously exciting and relaxing for me. I also love to eat, and after working in some really great restaurants over the years, I really love to eat delicious food and I have opinions (you don’t say?) about what that means. As much as I love to go out, owning a home and a small human mean that we really need to cook at home most of the time. Fortunately, my husband thinks I’m the best cook in the world (poor, poor, sheltered sucker) and I’m usually pretty happy with what I do, but it’s really only because of the great food I’ve been exposed to. Most of what I know came from watching and learning from some of the great cooks and chefs I’ve worked with over the years. In case you don’t make a habit of hanging out after close with a bunch of chainsmoking cooks (or have the best ones on speed dial) I assembled some of the little details I’ve found to be most helpful.

Use tongs: You should get about three pairs of small, cheap, metal tongs. They are the best way to move food around in the pan or in the oven. Not to mention the best way to serve food at the table. I literally use mine every day. Keep them near the stove and use them to rotate meat, toss sauteeing ingredients, grab the steamer from the pot…whatever you would normally bash and mush around with a spoon or spatula.

Taste what you’re making while it’s still in the works: It’s really that easy. Cooks taste every pan, every dish (or should)

Love butter, and develop an unapologetic attitude towards its use: Why does restaurant food taste better than home cooked? Because butter. And salt. And sugar. And zero compunction about using them. Butter is to cooking what water is to plants, you must use it. Butter has the ability to bring out depths and richness in flavor, and not in some esoteric, food magazine kind of way…very literally. Just look at a piece of bread, sitting there all sad and dry. Add butter and now it’s toast and all the sudden you’re making yourself another piece. Get the picture? Same with salt and sugar. They make food taste MORE and BETTER. Don’t be shy.

Prep first, pretty much forever and always: Adding everything at the right time, using the right heat, knowing when to add your half pound of butter….all of these things are made so much easier if all of the ingredients are already in whatever state you need them to be in BEFORE you light any fires. I chop all of my veggies and put them each in their own piles on a serving platter. I salt and pepper all the meat, I get out whatever spices I need. This allows me to not rush, panic, or burn things. I then use the time that my food is cooking to clean up after myself and get out whatever serving dish I’ll be using instead of racing against the clock to get the next item chopped before the first one burns. Speaking of which…

Develop an understanding of fire: Professional cooks can use lots of really high flame because they are the race car drivers of the kitchen, and they are always about three seconds away from getting behind. They know what they are doing, are masochists who thrive on barely controlled chaos, and are trying to sweat out last nights bender. Unless that also describes you, you should not try this at home. Yes, there are things that need a good searing and a hot pan, like meats you plan to eat a little rare or finish in the oven. But all of those nicely chopped little veggies are going to fry to a crisp or turn to mush if you keep the heat too high. Try turning it down two clicks from your normal and see if you get more consistent results. It’s like a haircut, you can always cook it a little more but once it’s burnt, it’s burnt. Seriously, the only thing you and I are responsible enough to cook on high is boiling water.

Develop an understanding of your ingredients: This mostly goes for vegetables as far as home cooking is concerned, but keep in mind that if you are tossing more than two or three veggies in a pan at one time, you’ve probably added at least one that is going to suffer for being added to soon. Veggies that suffer most commonly are peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli (oh, poor, poor overcooked broccoli) and other water filled veggies or veggies with multiple textures. And people, yes, you definitely want to make sure you’ve got nice, sweated down onions, but don’t keep them in the pan while everything else cooks if it’s going to take awhile. Use your tongs and cook them until they are perfect, then take them off the heat. Think about how each veggie likes to be treated and proceed thus. Carrots like it rough, for instance, and deal well with abuse and long times spent in the pan, but sensitive zucchini will get super weird and lose all it’s bite. Probably why you hated it as a kid, amiright??

Learn to cook at least one fancy or ‘hard’ dish that you love to eat and pay too much for. Mine was Eggs Benedict. I love hollandaise sauce. Of course I do, it’s mostly butter. And in teaching myself (well, being taught by a wonderful cook) how to make it, I learned so much about cooking in general. Skills I applied to other dishes. I had never poached an egg, I had never made english muffins (although I don’t usually go that far, but I do know how) and I had never dreamed of being able to make a good hollandaise. Now that I can, I can translate that knowledge to other dishes, or just translate that hollandaise right onto a pile of asparagus. Impress your friends and influence people!

How to DOMINATE your laundry

another one bites the dust
another one bites the dust

Neither my husband nor I are teenagers as of this posting. We weren’t teenagers when we met. We don’t have any teenagers living in our house that we don’t know about. We live a virtually teenager-free life. So WHY does our room constantly look like Becky and Tiff just got home from a shopping spree, vomited their Express* bags all over the bed and floor, tried on ten different outfits and left? Seriously. It’s not even a point of contention between us because we are both totally baffled by this behavior. It’s not any more his fault than mine. We are disgusting pigs when it comes to laundry. We have spent the past two years trying different methods of containing ourselves to the tune of so much failure.

*(just kidding. Express? As if!)

Things we’ve tried:

The Half Dirty Basket. You know…it’s been worn, just not enough to actually need a washing…right? (Also known as the Sniff First Basket)

The ‘His and Hers’ Laundry Baskets (complete with Do-Your-Own-Laundry-Not-In-a-Mean-Way-But-Somethings-Got-To-Give)

The good ol’ Buy a Million Nice Wooden Hangers

The “Ok. I’m getting rid of half my clothes. It’s the only way.” (And yes, I really did that. Twice.)

Nothing worked. Laundry was always everywhere. Laundry days were long and tedious, the whole shebang was just a clusterf*

But hold on, kids. Is there a light at the end of the staircase leading down to the laundry room? YES! There IS! It’s been less than a month, so I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we finally found a couple of solutions I’d love to share if you, like us, have a secret asshole tween living in your attic that comes down and has a crazy fashion shoot montage on your floor every day.

1: Hooks. Get some fricken’ hooks and hang up things you use everyday. Doesn’t matter what the article is, just get it off the floor. For us, it’s towels, robes, sweaters and hoodies. I even attached some hooks to the side of our chest of drawers cause….I don’t know why but it was a stroke of GENIUS! Put hooks on anything. I put tacks on our headboard to hold jammies. Hooks! Tacks! Mwuahahaha!!!!

Hooks!IMG_0137 1Hooks!

2. Do ONE load of laundry every day. Sound awful? Well think of it like this: Would you rather accidentally swallow one little fruit fly every day, say, maybe in your tea? Or eat a whole plate of beetles on Sunday afternoon? I thought so. And whoa. Sorry for that. Maybe too intense. It’s just…I’m really fed up with laundry…Anyway! If I throw ONE load in the washer every morning, the previous days load goes in the dryer and the dryer load comes upstairs! It’s just ONE load! Like a tiny, crunchy little fruit fly. Barely even noticed it. Then take that load to…

3. A clean laundry staging area: Try to fold that load right away (it’s so tiny! It’s just the stuff from yesterday!) But if you can’t, find a table somewhere (or a spare bed or a chair) to host your cleanies until you can fold them. NOT back in the hamper. That my friends, is the fast track to having to sniff your way through a whole load when you can’t remember if it’s the clean basket or not. Trust me. And if the the phrase “sniffing your way through a whole load” didn’t convince you, I don’t know what will, buddy. I just don’t know what will.

Staging Area

4. Don’t sort shit. I consider this trial by fire. Kind of like boot camp for my clothes. If you can’t make it through the washer and dryer with your other clothes friends, it just was not meant to be. You go in with the towels and pants and whatever else and you PLAY NICE. Just wash it on half warm, half cold and let the cards fall where they may. The dryer is a different story. Hang up those nonsense sweaters that take a million years on tumble. Promptly forget they are hanging behind you by the freezer and discover them again in a month. See? It’s like Christmas.

5. Don’t fold shit. You heard me. I don’t fold my shirts. Or my pants. Or my skirts…if it’s going to get wrinkly, it needs to get hung up. If it’s not, it’s getting shoved. Now, I DO fold Hubs shirts because his momma raised him right (I mean, the man makes the bed EVERY DAY) and I don’t want his charming head to explode. But consider the shove. It just might work for you.

Folded: For Him
Folded: For Him
Piled: For her pleasure
Piled: For her pleasure

Now. Your laundry is off the floor. You did away with the 'half clean' basket because at the outside, you'll see those suspenders again in three days time OR they're hanging on your handy hooks.
You no longer spend an entire day watching Malcolm in the Middle folding six stupid loads of laundry, cursing fashion and social norms and the law about pants and wearing them outside the house.
But most importantly, you have a system. You are working toward the greater good and you feel empowered and radiantly successful! As Hubs would say, "Progress!"

I Miss Prozac

ImageIt’s not actually that anyone is telling me things are off-limits or drilling me with orders. One of the perks of trading a ‘traditional’ (how quickly these words swap their meanings) OBGYN for a midwife is that I don’t have someone who is trained in locating and treating pathology trying to spot trouble in my pregnancy like my uterus is a Where’s Waldo. Now, I don’t think one is right and the other is wrong, but one is way wrong for me. I think wherever you feel, in your heart of hearts and your knowledge of yourself, that you’ll be most able to birth and carry out your process, that’s the place for you. For some women, that’s a hospital. The proximity of help, the decades of combined clinical knowledge, the safety net in case of extreme emergency, positive experiences with doctors…believe me, I totally get it. And I’m not anti-Western Medicine. For a grand old argument for and against, there are lots of heated debates on the Google machine, but you won’t find one here. What I’d really like to see is for everyone to shut up about what choices are ‘right’ for women so they can get to choosing for themselves already. We have the technology, man. It’s a done deal. Get out of the way.

Anyway, one of the perks of the path I’ve chosen is also one of it’s biggest drawbacks. Self-reliance.
Dude, I’m only just ok at self-reliance for ONE. Self-reliance for TWO is a major trip. The California Roll I ate gave me mental anguish for 24 hours. Although no gas, thank god.
The Tylenol I HAD to take for the worst headache I’ve had in years had me pacing back and forth from the bed to What To Expect trying to see if it was really, proven, for sure ok for me to take it.
The one that makes me the most mad is the one about hot baths! Now THIS, to me, THIS is Eve’s Punishment. With the advent of orgasmic birth and my sister-in-laws insistence that I’m going to laugh our baby out (sign me up) I no longer believe the labor part is the curse of childbearing. Oh no…it’s telling a pregnant woman who ONLY WANTS A BATH! A HOT BATH! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! that she has to sit her aching, dizzy ass down in a luke-warm tub!! Have YOU ever taken a 100 degree bath? It’s like dog spit. But guess what they tell you can happen if you take a hot bath? Your babies’ brain can grow outside of it’s skull. I’m not joking. That’s all over the goddamned internet. No matter that chain-smoking, gin-swilling, horseback riding women populated this country….your fetus will be wearing a brain hat. This kind of mind fuck nonsense is why perfectly reasonable women go apeshit!
(deep breath) Ok. Sorry. I’m ok.
I’t’s just… I really, really want a hot bath. But, like deli meat and Prozac and fucking nigiri, it’s just one of those comforts that although I have never wanted or needed them  more than I do now, they’ve become opposite of comfort. Thinking about any possible harm to the baby is just a heartbreaking labyrinth of uncertainty and waiting. Most of these things seem more trouble then they’re worth. Not all, of course. But I have to feel them out. I believe I know, in my human, lizard brain, straight from the ape on down, what things might hurt my baby and what won’t. I’m choosing to toss some of them in the garbage and begrudgingly adhere to others. But I miss them, nonetheless. It strikes me that these small comforts, some which could fit in the palm of my hand, are just the beginning of the sacrifices we’ll make for our baby.
I can’t seem to find a way to wrap this one up. I don’t suppose there is one. Uncovering the  ways life will be different forever is just part of the New Now. Pretty cool. Scary.
Oh shit.

On Not Puking

I’m one of those asshole pregnant women who hasn’t gotten morning sickness. In fact, halfway through my first trimester, I feel great. True, most days I’m so dizzy it feels like I just stepped out of the spin cycle and it feels like my tits are filled with liquid pain…but for the most part, I’ve escaped the pitfalls of early pregnancy. However, just like everything else in pregnancy, it seems like a Catch-22. Am I not getting sick because there isn’t enough of the enigmatic and all-important HcG? Well, the six pregnancy tests my hypochondria forced me to take would say otherwise. Even though the ‘positive’ line grows increasingly dark as the days and weeks go by, Google remains my closest Frenemy.

“Say, Google?”

“Mmm?”

“Does a darker positive line mean more pregnant? Maybe twins? That everything is ok?”  

“Well. Uh. The first dozen results and articles would not confirm that a darker line means everything is ok, per se, and official medical sites regarding pregnancy tests are inconclusive but…would you like to obsessively keep searching until we find a thread 3/4th’s down on a ten year old blog post that confirms that theory?”

“Why, yes. Yes, that would be lovely, Google. Carry on.”

And so on. And I’m not kidding about the six tests. They are the only thing that really make me ‘feel’ pregnant. It’s so weird. I’ve always been annoyingly in tune with my body. We used Fertility Awareness to avoid getting pregnant after I yanked my IUD out in my shower (more about that later) and I continued to monitor every nuance of my non-pregnant body in order to get knocked up. Mucas? Check. Temperature? Check. Moon cycle? Ehhh, got a little lazy on this one. Portland winters are not known for their breathtakingly clear skies. Also, I’m definitely motivated enough to check a vagina that is literally six inches away from my hand but my freezing backyard on a gusty night was usually just too much to ask.  But now, when it comes to ‘feeling’ pregnant I just….don’t. It scares the hell out of me and makes me feel sad. Like, But!? I’m such a hippy!? Why isn’t Mother Nature just rapping on my uterus right now, announcing her presence? Why isn’t it the transformative, throbbing hormone party I’d been expecting? Not to say that my hormones aren’t a mess, partially due to this lack of barfing my guts out and not being too tired to talk.  After a one-sided text fight with my husband about, oh, anything I could rake up at the moment, I realized in a fit of self-awareness how very scared I am to miscarry. I had a total meltdown. All the articles about morning sickness assured suffering women that the high levels of HcG associated with tons of puking were actually a GOOD sign. It tends to (although goddamned if anyone anywhere is going to give a pregnant woman any sort of absolute assurance) that the pregnancy is a strong one. So does that mean mine is a weak one? What the fuck is a weak pregnancy anyway? How do I make it stronger? If you’re yakking up every saltine you eat, I really am so, so sorry. That has GOT to suck. But perhaps instead of me admitting I’ve somehow avoided that usually ubiquitous symptom and enduring the withering hatred of my fellow mothers-to-be, perhaps what I should do is something I’m already good at: Total Fabrication. So, for any other non-barfing, worried, obsessive test taking woman out there, I’ve created discovered for us a malady that specifically fits our particular list of ailments and, although uncorroborated by the medical community is, I assure you, a Real Thing. I’ll call it Pregnancy Related Truth and  Affirmation Regurgatory Disorder (or PReTARD). It typically involves the immediate barfing up and flushing down any form of fact or colloquial advice that might serve to make one feel better, or more confident about the progress of their ostensibly normal pregnancy. Although it’s symptoms tend to change and expand in accordance with a growing belly, common symptoms can include Checking Wads of Used Toilet Paper for Pink, Gas Related Freakouts, Search Engine Exhaustion, Willful Ignorance, and Increased Napettite. The only treatments I’ve found that work so far are 3,000 cc’s of Cherry Cordial ice cream and a good, hysterical, directionless cry. Seriously, I’d rather be barfing.