Saturday, February 26, 2011

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Wikipedia gives a scientific definition for the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics that I can't really understand, so I'm going to go with the dumbed-down version, that things basically decay over time. An addendum to the law is that if children are present, things decay at an average increased rate of π÷√∝∑.99967. If you are not a math major (or especially if you are and know that makes no sense), that is A LOT. Whether you are talking about a sofa or a clean floor or just peace and quiet and sanity, things tend to fall apart rather quickly.

Just this week, for instance, a peaceful, orderly day was shattered when Charlotte calmly informed me she had inserted a craisin into her nasal cavity. This simple action resulted in a three hour ordeal that took us to the ER, then an ENT doctor, when the ER staff inexplicably could not remove the craisin (Gunshot wound? No problem. Craisin in the nose? Panic attack. To be fair, it was in the nose of a toddler, which is kind of like a bullet being in the head of an adult. At the end of the whole thing, I considered taking myself back to the ER for treatment). Fortunately, my husband was in the country for this ER visit, unlike the last one, so I didn't have to haul a newborn along for the ride. That would have 2nd-Law-of-Thermodynamic-ed what is left of my adrenal gland.

Or take a look at my house, which is impossible to keep clean and/or neat for more than 7.2 seconds. For some reason, I insist on picking up, every so often, all the toys and empty toilet paper rolls and burp clothes that litter the landscape as if a world war had been recently fought here. I do this because I need psychological help and probably some Paxil. Here is my dirty little secret: I am a recovering neat freak. Motherhood is my rehab program. Just as people with phobias are treated with exposure therapy, I am treating myself by living in a house with dozens of crappy McDonald's toys made in China. My mantra, which I repeat to myself multiple times a day, is, "It does not matter if my house is messy. It does not matter if my house is messy." On a bad day, it is, "The toys are not alive and cannot hurt me" or "I will not end up on a TLC hoarders show if I go to bed without sorting the toy bins." A monthly maid service is a stop gap measure in case I catch a glimpse under the dining room table (also to maintain a basic level of sanitation of course). I have also thus far refrained from telling Kevin is it over between us due to his penchant for leaving a trail of burp cloths wherever he goes with Lawson. Of course, Kevin has his own mental illness with which to grapple, and that is his fear of any foreign bodily fluids touching him or his clothes. We have both managed to hold it together and are gradually learning how to co-exist with chaos and bodily fluids. Lots of bodily fluids. We still refuse to go on vacation with our children, however. We know our limits.

You don't have to have kids, however, to be undone by chaos. After all, our entire existence hovers on the brink at all times and is in a constant state of decay if not kept up. We spend our lives struggling to maintain order, control, health, youth, relationships. And we are all neurotic as a rule. I've become convinced that those who are most comfortable with chaos are the most happy, unless the chaos just completely overruns them, then they really do end up on a TLC show. Whenever I am in a really messy house, I am horrified, but I am also filled with admiration. I'm thinking, this woman has presumably been living with laundry, play dough AND dirty dishes stacked on her formal dining room table for days if not weeks, and she is still standing here speaking English as if the world were not in danger? Is she some kind of super hero who is immune to all mental illness?

Kids also do a number on a marriage. When Kevin and I finally get both kids in bed on a Friday night, we are too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep on the couch watching Dateline NBC and eating bean dip. If we decide to go all out and have a glass of wine, well, there is some drool involved. I am hoping we are also both too tired to have an affair. I know I am, affairs seem like a whole lot of work. Plus I would have to leave the house for that and probably even take a shower.

Well, gotta go. The toys are calling me. No, seriously, I think there must be something lodged on top of Charlotte's Pooh phone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lies La Leche League Told Me

I think everyone (and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE, including people who don't know me and don't own a computer, they just sense a disturbance in the force) knows how I feel about breastfeeding. If you want to refresh your memory, you can go back and read my earlier post on the topic, but let me save you the trouble and summarize my position. Quite simply, breastfeeding is an unnecessary and barbaric vestige of the pre-modern past that enslaves women while saving them thousands of dollars they can spend on psychiatric care for the resultant depression. But of course I am breastfeeding Lawson, as I lack the power of my own convictions and also fear being ostracized by the yuppie mom community, because then I would have no one to discuss my child's bowel movements with. Well, I am mostly breastfeeding him, but we'll get to that. Even though it has gone well this time, relative to last time, I can't say that I have become a huge fan, although I do hate it slightly less than I did. For instance, it has gotten me out of taking care of Charlotte at some opportune moments that involved vomit and poop.

But one thing that has definitely endured is my hatred for the band of breastfeeding Nazis that have perfectly reasonable, smart, and capable women convinced they must breastfeed at all costs in order to be the best mom to their kids. In order to convince them, they have told many lies, as propagandists do, the full extent of which has become apparent to me only now when I have had some success with this. As a public service, I'm going to reveal them now. You can send gifts of gratitude if you wish.

Myth #1: Breastfeeding aids weight loss. OK, now, this probably is true for some people, probably the same people that only gained 20 lbs in pregnancy and just love breastfeeding so much, their bodies sense their joy and work hard to make enough milk to feed all the babies in Sudan, which requires like 3,000 calories per day. I gained a wee bit more than 20 lbs. I lived it up during my pregnancy because I gained 50 lbs with Charlotte and lost it all fairly easily on Weight Watchers, so I figured I could just do that again. Well. Despite diligently counting points for 6 weeks now, I have barely lost anything. In fact, today for Valentine's Day, my scale gave me back 2 pounds I thought I had misplaced. Thanks so much. So I started doing some research and asking my friends about their experiences. It turns out breastfeeding may actually prevent weight loss in a lot of people. The body thinks it needs extra fat to make the milk, you know, in case you are crossing the Sahara without food and water while you are breastfeeding. It always comes back to that with women and weight loss, I don't know why the human body hasn't caught on to the fact that most of us don't plan to cross the Sahara anymore, we plan to sit on our sofas most of the day and watch soap operas. This does not require a lot of fat stores. Not to mention that, as Weight Watchers explains to you, you can't cut too many calories while you are breastfeeding lest it affect your milk supply. Then you might--GASP--have to put your baby on formula. So don't even think about cutting back too much, you fat cow. And that's not an insult when you are breastfeeding, either, it's just the truth.

Myth #2: Once your milk supply is established, your body will naturally keep up with your baby's demand. So everything was going well with Lawson, by all signs, he was getting plenty of food, it was about a month in. Then he started to get cranky. First it was just a couple of hours in the evening, then it became almost all day. The doctor said he probably had "colic." Some people said it was just his age. We tried acid reflux medicine, it didn't work. So one day I decided to try giving him a bottle around midday (we already were giving him one at night). It was like Bill O'Reilly suddenly morphed into a yoga teacher named Rainbow. So I guess while he was technically getting enough to eat to stay alive without the bottle, he wasn't getting enough to make him a nice person. Just like me on Weight Watchers, actually. This just confirmed my long held belief that bottle fed babies are happy babies, if dumb and disease-prone ones.

Myth #3: If you are breastfeeding correctly, it shouldn't hurt. This is just UTTER CRAP, I think that is all that needs to be said.

Myth #4: Under no circumstances should you give your baby anything but your breast to put in his mouth in the first month, to include bottles and pacifiers, because this will wreck everything. This is the advice I followed with Charlotte. After two weeks of feeding and soothing her around the clock, single-handedly, because I was the only one lactating, this isn't feudal France and I can't run out and get a wet nurse, I became a mental patient and was forced to quit. This time, I followed the advice of our sage pediatrician, who operates on the theory that if Mommy ain't happy and sane, ain't nobody happy and sane. If Mommy commits suicide determined to let no unclean thing pass her baby's lips, then baby grows up on formula fed to him by a single Daddy. So he suggested supplementing with formula at night and letting Daddy do a feeding. Newborns will suck on anything, turns out, and this way, baby sleeps better, earlier and Mommy doesn't get run into the ground like a common piece of livestock. I don't know why the breastfeeding "experts" take everything to such an extreme, it just sets women up for failure.

Myth #5: Your breasts will return to normal when you are finished. It is still too early to determine if this is true, but talking to others, I think I can preemptively rule this a lie. Just today, I was watching Rachael Ray, which goes to show you just how much TV I have been watching since Lawson was born. I was watching Rachael Ray, even though I hate cooking, don't think the name "Rachel" should be spelled with an "a," and get confused when she refers to olive oil as "Evo." But I still watched, and she had a woman on who needed help buying lingerie now that her breasts had gone from a D to a B after breastfeeding her 3 kids. This is the experience of many of my friends as well. Given that I am not that well endowed to begin with, I expect a few months of nursing Lawson will send me back into a training bra. On the other hand, my butt will no doubt stay the size of Dolly Parton's chest.

Myth #6: The formula companies are evil fiends who just want your money. Obviously, the formula companies want my money because that is the basis of operation for all companies. In this case, I will happily give my money to the formula companies because they are selling a superior product that I want. It's called capitalism, maybe you've heard of it.

Those are the key lies that I have uncovered. So far. What I haven't figured out is why these people, all women, are so committed to their gender's bamboozlement. Maybe they are all robots created by men to get out of child care. Maybe they are secret Muslims trying to institute sharia law through the back door. Maybe they are cows dressed up like humans. Maybe they are aliens dressed up like humans. Maybe they are just really mean humans. These are just a few theories I'm tossing around. But I will get to the bottom of it. Right after I finish watching Rachael Ray.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Perspective

So I'm on my own now as the mother of two. Kevin went back to work (and even left town for a couple of days for his grandmother's funeral), and all our parents have departed. Turns out this is harder when the adult to child ratio is not even. Basically, you have to be OK with someone always being unhappy with you. It's kind of like being President of the United States. If the Republicans aren't crapping on you, the Democrats are. Only when you are a mom, the crap is not metaphorical. And you don't have a personal chef. And you're wearing yoga pants all the time. Those are the key differences. But either way, every day is an endless series of weighing worst outcomes. Is it worse to put Lawson down mid feeding or let Charlotte's pee soak into the rug? Is it worse to let Charlotte stay up til 9 pm or let Lawson scream to himself while you put her to bed? Is it worse to let Lawson scream to himself or let Charlotte eat the Goldfish from under the dining room table for dinner? And the ultimate issue of our time, is harder to leave the house with both children or stay in the house with both children? Is it worse to support Hosni Mubarak or risk declining counter terrorism support from other key middle eastern allies? See, all the same.

I won't lie to you, I'm not having the most fun ever. I would give anything to have more than 2 pairs of pants and 5 T shirts to wear, to go anywhere by myself other than the gynecologist, to go bra-less and nursing pad-less in my sleep, to eat a quiet dinner with my husband, to spend any real time with him really. But I know that this phase will indeed pass, each day brings me ever closer to that Nirvana that is elementary school. Lawson is my last chid (as God is my witness), so everything with him is the last time, and I am celebrating that. I am trying to enjoy this time on some level and to fully appreciate how blessed I am to have two healthy kids.

One thing that has helped me to do this is to remember a family I've never actually met but who used to go to our church. They have a 6 year old and a 4 year old, both born with a rare genetic disorder called Sanfilippo Syndrome, a disease that progressively causes children to become disabled and then die by age 10 or so. Children with this disease develop like a normal, healthy child until around age 2, at which time they begin to regress mentally and physically. This couple's second child, a boy, was just born when they discovered their daughter had the disease. Then they tested their son, and he had it too. I cannot imagine what these parents' lives are like. In addition to the deep heart break of watching your beloved children slowly leave you, there are the day-to-day challenges of caring for special needs children. They have said on their blog that they are perpetually in the baby and toddler stage. They cherish each moment with their kids despite the hardships.

When I think of this family, well, I still complain about my life with small kids. Clearly, God has limited the number and severity of challenges in my life because the resultant whining would drive him crazy. As it is, He has poured out blessings on my life in attempt to make it stop, to no avail. Apparently, God can create the universe, but he can't stop me from whining. BUT, when I think about this family, underneath my grumbling I know that these beautiful children of mine are the greatest gift on earth. I mean, not only are they healthy, they are adorable, talented, personable, and brilliant (obviously). Raising them is the most important thing I will ever do. But then I think that is why I do complain about parenthood, because I am overwhelmed and terrified by the responsibility of it. I love them so much, it is horrifying to me that they are in my care. Surely someone else is more qualified.

So I'm still going to complain, mostly because it is fun. But I'm going to try a little harder to keep it in perspective.