Painting with Poo

2 08 2011

I see a glob the size of a flattened tennis ball askew on the green foam star by the gate before entering the nursery. I look up a bit and see Sidney squatting, wearing only her diaper, finger painting with a moss-green colored substance.

This substance is poo. 

I pause while I stare at Sidney’s smiling face as she runs her fingers through the e-coli laden poo in arches around her. There are books upon books surrounding her. I can see smears of poo on their covers and bindings.

My stomach clenches and I wish for my husband to magically appear to save me from this germy mess.

I enter the nursery and pick up a happy Sidney, her arms held out wide as I hold her a foot away from me while walking down the hallway. I place her into the freshly sanitized tub. I ruminate over the irony; while I was disinfecting the bathroom my daughter was infecting her baby-proofed nursery just fifteen feet down the hall.

I turn on the water then peel off the adhesive on her diaper and see in surprise, whole pieces of mango from two days prior and a piece or two of blueberry from that morning’s breakfast. I quickly glance around me and realize I have nothing to put the horridly messy diarrhea-laden diaper into.

I walk backwards keeping my eye on Sidney as she plays in inches of feces-infested water complete with floating chunks of undigested fruit and other unidentified objects formerly known as food. I fumble to open the cabinet with one hand, trying to use the magnetic key to disengage the safety mechanism on the other side of the door and then open the door with my only two clean fingers left. At least I hope they’re still clean.

Diaper disposed, I sigh and face the reality of the work ahead of me. I throw my husband’s safari-printed towel on the ground to kneel on and grab Sidney’s washcloth. Lathering it up I drain the tub once and then again, willing the chunks to whittle down the drain. A soaped up Sidney squats to play with the moving chunks despite my feeble attempt at redirecting her attention. I’m still too engrossed in the horror to be mindfully present and wondering how many books will have to meet the fate of the trash.

Minutes later and freshly clean in a new outfit from the Gap Outlet store I place Sidney in her decorative crib and throw every toy within my reach inside. I figure this will buy me ten minutes of speed cleaning.

I set my mind quickly to task and grab a roll of paper towels and a CVS shopping bag for trash.

Throwing rhymed and pleasant words away with their colorful illustrations of animals and cheery outdoor days makes me wonder if doing so will entice bad omens. Fortunately only one book I deemed hazardous waste and the remainder, with only a smear or two, I cleaned with the god-sent Seventh Generation disinfecting spray. Later that night I steam-clean the books for added measure. I ponder whether anyone has ever done this before.

Every child has a poo story and I look forward to embarrassing Sidney at a family dinner 16 years from now with hers.

 





Nine months gestation

6 06 2011

Nine months
inside the womb is the epitome of maternal comfort. In contrast, the first nine
months outside the womb is disorienting and sometimes scary. Dr. Sear’s, the
famed mother-supporting pediatrician, theorizes that the first nine months of a
baby’s life outside the womb is the final stage in gestation.
During this time, a baby needs the safety of her mother’s arms,
or to be close enough beside her to smell and reach out to her
all day and night.

Yet, our
culture is saturated with the thinking that beyond three months endless
hugging, cuddling and comfort will spoil the baby. The new mantra becomes: let
her cry; he needs to learn to be away from mommy; he needs to sleep by himself.

Unlike the visible
marks left on delicate skin from diaper rash, the “cry it out” routine leaves
an emotional rash that cannot be seen. Both mom and baby feel its burn. Both
suppress the pain from days, weeks and months of comfortless naps and nights.
Mothers are told that baby will never learn to put herself to sleep. Mothers
are warned that she’ll coddle her son into a mommas’s boy. But when a mother’s instinct
is supported and respected and when she receives enough care from spouse,
family and/or friends to prevent her from falling into a mode of desperation,
then she will make the best nurturing decision for her child.

I regret remembering
the feelings of desperation. I regret ever feeling desperate enough to try. I regret
the piercing, choking and sobbing cries that lasted for one hour and fifteen
minutes on one long miserable night back in December. Sidney was 14 weeks old.
I was tired, confused and desperate for sleep. I had been made to believe that
a sleeping schedule would come naturally, easily and that my child would suffer
without one.

Sidney was
not a bad sleeper from 6 to 12 weeks. She blessed me with a 4 or 5 hour stretch
of sleep every night. After the days of colic, I was ecstatic and thriving! But
then the 3 month growth spurt hit us hard at 13 weeks. We went from peaceful
nights back to more colicky-type nights. She nursed every hour on the hour the
first night and every 1.5 hours for the next two nights, then every two hours
thereafter. A week of this and I felt like a ghost made to walk the earth in unrest
forever.

This is how
the horrific night of crying came about. I try to wish it away, pretend I
didn’t succumb to the callous choice of “cry it out.” But I did, and my
experience solidified a resolve in me that allowing my child to cry, choke and
sob herself into submission is not the choice either of us is willing to make.
I would rather wear dark circles like a badge of early motherhood days than teach
my child I only respond to her needs for love and comfort during the day.

I am blessed
to have a husband who supports me faithfully in my parenting methods and a few
friends who model and support my belief in attachment parenting. They consoled
me in my frustration by reminding me of the nine month gestation period outside
the womb. I clung to this theory like lichen to a rock.

Now that
Sidney is nine months old, I am beginning to see the positive changes in her
sleep habits. It is not continual progress at this point but I cling onto the
hope that one day soon I may have the luxury of sleeping more than three hours
at a stretch and enjoying quiet nights with my husband once again.





Bad Art

24 05 2011

Stainless steel, my husband insisted upon it. I have to admit;
it gleams nicely after a cleaning and reflects the natural glimmer in our
granite countertops. But once or twice a day, the stainless steel becomes a
canvas for master food artist, Sidney. Prunes, sweet potatoes or freshly
steamed pears splatter like bad art masking the gleaming surface. I’d like a
raise in pay. After all, it was my husband’s idea to spend the extra money on
stainless steel; the fifteen minutes I spend cleaning and shining it, I could
spend cleaning myself.

Meal time brings out Sidney’s fickleness. Some meals on some
days she shows a voracious appetite that my husband and I can relate to. For
thin people, we eat an awful lot. Healthy foods mind you, but we also admit (as
products of the 80’s) that we like our Dairy Queen.

Most meals are unfortunately, a struggle of some nature. I
try my best to smile and not care, but I do care. I want my child to like and
appreciate good food. She might only be days shy of nine months but surely she
can appreciate the quality of a deeply colored organic yam compared to
conventional baby food mush, right?

I’ve stumbled upon two tricks of the trade: self-eating and
the hold-and-eat. Both have serious logistical drawbacks. The self-eating model
results in the aforementioned stainless steel art; the latter results in a
beefy, albeit fatigued, left bicep muscle complete with a dirty rotator-cuff. I
use whatever tactic I feel will work best for that moment. And if both fail, I remind
myself to take a deep breath, pop the cover back on the carrots and look
forward to the stainless steel food art of the next meal.





Nighttime parenting

16 05 2011

The human hand contains four main nerves that receive
information from cell neurons within the hand. I feel each neuron in my hand pulse
as I rub Sidney’s back and the tingling sensation that results from the
constant back and forth motion radiates into my arm. I should, in theory, rub
her back for ten more minutes to ease her into the next, deeper sleep cycle.
But my nerves protest. I gradually slow down my hand movements, second by
second, until I stop completely. I keep my hand gently pressed upon her back
and then start to ease the pressure. I hold my breath, my stomach clenches. Is
she? Could she be asleep? I hold my breath for a few seconds longer. Just when
I begin to rest my head back down upon the bed, she twitches. She shoots up in a
crawl position and turns around 90 degrees and makes a soft thud sound as she
drops back down to the bed. I start counting silently, one one thousand, two one
thousand, three one thousand…

Up again, and now she crawls toward me in a drunken manner
and slams her forehead against mine. Her head falls under my chin for a second
before she presses her left hand against my chest, grabbing skin and breast as
she props herself up onto her hands and knees. She obviously is not falling
back asleep without nursing.

I reach for her as she crawls away from me and I place her next
to me so that we’re laying side-by-side facing each other. I arrange my sleep
bra and her mouth instantly grasps onto my breast. I wait a few minutes in
anticipation, watching her eyes shut tighter and tighter, and soon become aware
that her sucking has slowed down. Her vice-like grip begins to ease and I can
barely feel her mouth moving rhythmically on my breast. Now is the time to
unlatch!

For the past week, I have been trying to implement Elizabeth
Pantley’s (author of No Cry Sleep
Solution)
methods to gently ease Sidney into dream world for longer
stretches of time. I see improvements, but it is too soon to gage results.

Nighttime parenting has endeared itself to me. Regardless of
my nightly joy four to eight times each night, I need better sleep now that her
9 month mark is approaching and my energy reserve is on empty. I am not looking
for her to sleep through the night. I think I would be sad at this point to let
go of all wee-hour feedings. But two times a night would enhance the joy and my
level of energy. I might even regain some of my verbal skills. My poor husband
is exasperated with my directions: “Put this over there near the
thing-a-ma-jig. No! Not there! What do you think I mean?”

For now, I will remind myself to enjoy these moments. After
all, I would rather wake up to my child needing me than blink and find myself
sixteen years in the future, waking up to find my child trying to sneak out of
the house!