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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

through the eyes of a baby

So I'm changing my tune already, Frida Maria has turned 4 months old, and I'm not the wiser but I am getting used to it. And now she's observing her environment, looking around with those precious little buttons for eyes that she has. And she making all kinds of talk noises and moving restlessly about her crib. And best of all, she smiles at me and my wife and recognizes us when she wakes up first thing in the morning and whenever we give her the attention she deserves.

She's starting to teeth though, and the drool is pouring and she bites her hands and tries to itch at those gums. And that's when she gets really fussy. But other than that, she's mellow and likes going out, especially to supermarkets with all the bright light and colors from the countless products, and to parties, with all the funny faces and loud noises. If anything, my wife asks: "Is it wrong to think that your baby is just too cute for words?" So among Frida Maria's many nicknames (Baby Jokes, Little Slick, Little Big Cheeks, Cheeky Cheeks, Papa Frita), TCFW is her most recent and most text-friendly.

The worrying doesn't stop of course. My wife had to go back to work for a month and half to close out the school year since she's a teacher. She'll have the summer off which is great for her and Frida Maria. But in the meantime, we had to get a nanny. Still, I'm always worrying about Frida Maria's safety and physical well-being. Did she eat enough? Did she sleep or not? Did she cry a lot? And then I sit in my office cubicle looking at my pictures of Frida Maria wishing I was with her and then I really start worrying about the big monsters under my bed. What will the future hold for Frida Maria? Will the world economies, especially that of the U.S., tumble because of oil prices and scarcities? Will global warming bring humanity more natural disasters and millions of deaths more? Will my poor little girl grow up in a world filled with hunger, death and war at her doorstep? But isn't that the world I was born into myself and still live in? As I've always said, the world has been ending since it started.

I don't want Frida Maria to suffer at all. How can I protect her though? How can I save her? And what about the day we have to separate for whatever reason, or God forbid, because of death? What then? I suppress these thoughts as best I can, focus on the present, on the positive. Live and enjoy the moment. But easier said than done when humanity is sick, when we're all mentally sick and bent on destroying ourselves and everything around us. Can we really turn it around? Or is it too late? And if we can, will we? Day at a time. Moment at a time is the only way to live it seems to keep from going completely mad. To be present, aware of the beautiful world around us as seen through the eyes of a baby.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Baby Blues

Forget the Peace Corps. The toughest job you’ll ever love is having and raising a child. My wife and I just had our first baby. And at 37, I’m an old fart. Perhaps I should’ve done it when I was younger and more malleable. But it was hard enough finding someone to love who loved me back. The world is full of myths and lies, amongst them is romantic love. As I told my wife, “It’s hard enough to put up with yourself, so why would you want to put up with someone else?”

Another conspiracy is that we must have babies and that babies are so cute and nothing less. Well, if you’re thinking about having of a baby, think twice and think hard because we don’t recommend it. At least not for the first few months.

I’m glad my wife and I waited a couple of years after we got married. That way we got to know each other. If I hesitated about having a baby, it’s because the world is what it is. And what I’m talking about is the fabricated, fucked-up, ego-driven illusion of “civilization” we humans have created. So bringing another being into this insanity should be pause for thought because sometimes I don’t even want to be here. There are those who think they can gain immortality through children. I doubt it. Most hope their children will make the world a better place and not worse. That’s the hope. But in the end, having a baby is probably and simply about instinct and survival.

Pregnancy first. My wife had a relatively good one in that her pain or discomfort was neither extreme nor overwhelming, so I can’t tell you much about that.

Next, labor and delivery. Like everything else in life, you won’t really know what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. Although no substitute for actual experience, education is the only weapon we have against ignorance and the unknown. So read every book you can get your hands on and talk to someone you trust who’s had a baby. Take a lamaze class. Be prepared for anything and everything.

Don’t have a baby through an HMO, unless it’s a damn good one or you got a damn good primary physician. Don’t go to the hospital too early. We did, and we were in labor for 25 hours because they wouldn’t let my wife stand, walk or try any of the labor-inducing positions we were taught in lamaze!

Prepare to give up sleep forever. We were awake 36 hours before getting any sleep. Write up a birthing plan, and make sure they don't smoke it. Have a mid-wife, a doula or someone who knows what they’re doing at your side so the nurses and doctors don’t run you over.

Drugs or drug-free? My wife didn’t want any, but when her contractions slowed down, they gave her pitocin, a drug which my wife likened to having your insides carved out with a knife. The pain was so Nightmare on Elm Street that she gladly followed it up with an epidural.

After full dilation, the pushing is the scariest. They threatened my wife to push the baby out in 3 hours or get a c-section. My wife pushed beyond pushing. She turned colors, had a panic attack, shook uncontrollably and for the first time in her life told me, “I’m scared.”

And you’d think that once the baby is out, it’s over and everybody lives happily ever after. But noooo, they stole our baby away to the NICU with the preemies because my wife had a temperature of 100. Not due to an infection mind you but because (1) the room was stuffy, (2) she was loaded with drugs, and (3) she just pushed a baby out her vagina!

Breastfeeding is painful. it takes a couple of days for the milk to come down, and a woman has to actually learn how to do it properly and so does the baby. It’s all about latching! And it takes a couple of weeks to make it happen, so don't give up.

Bottom line is: HMOs want the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get you in and out of the hospital while still covering their asses. So make sure you cover yours and that of your family's.

And so you finally get the baby home, and everyone lives happily ever after, right? Guess again. The baby feeds every 2 to 3 hours. There are 8 to 12 diapers to change per day. Babies get bad gas that makes them irritable. If you were born under an unlucky star, your baby will be colicky, cry inconsolably for hours and will keep you up all night.

But the sleep deprivation is nothing compared to the CRYING! You have to swaddle them tight, rock and sooth them to sleep which can take from half an hour to a couple of hours while the baby cries bloody murder in your ear. Rocking chairs, gripe water and swaddlers (not receiving blankets) are lifesavers.

And once you do get them to sleep, all you have to do is try to fit in as many house chores as you can, shit, shower, eat, check your e-mail before your precious miracle wakes up and you start all over again. It’s relentless, non-stop, 25/8, the biggest and baddest rollercoasters of them all! As a parent, you lose sleep, hygiene and your mind. You are literally a zombie sleepwalking through your life.

And that’s just the physical damage. Mentally, I’m all over the place. I now think of every person as being a big baby, and instead of crying, we complain all the time. (Just like I'm doing now.) The whole human race is infantile! So grow up people and evolve dammit! Quit killing each other already, and let's save the planet before it's too late! All I ever do is worry about my baby’s safety and well-being and what the next growth phase will be and how do I keep my patience and sanity for so many years to come and then turn my baby, flesh of my loins, over to the world?!?!

Now don’t get me wrong. Everything I'm crying about is quite normal and average, and I'm very grateful for that. I can't imagine dealing with more than one baby (e.g., twins), any real complications, sickness or heartbreaking anything having to do with a baby. I love my baby girl, and she’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me. And I know that in time, probably sooner than I think, I’ll be singing a different tune, but for now, I got the baby blues.