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2002-08-21 - 10:52 a.m.

Baby fever and other miscellaneous thoughts on parenthood.

I talked about the possibility of having a kid (briefly) before. That passing mention doesn't really do justice to what's been going through my head. I look at pictures like this or this or this or this or of course this and do you really expect me to not run right out and try to get knocked up immediately?

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Evidently baby fever, like job dissatisfaction, is also epidemic in the online journal world. Jessamyn walked through Target and wanted a child of her own. Kymm talked about the constant screaming of her biological clock. Jackie C is broody, but not quite ready yet. Dana provides a counter to all this babyness by talking about how she doesn't want kids.

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I've always known I wanted to have kids. Before I met The Scientist, when I thought about having kids I imagined I might get accidentally pregnant during a random relationship at some point in my 20s or early 30s (not that I was trying to, but statistically it could happen) and raise the baby by myself. Or I'd get to my mid-30s with no permanent relationship in sight and decide to get pregnant via sperm donor (anonymous or a sympathetic man). Again, all roads lead to single momhood. My love life was always so chaotic, drama-filled, and sometimes downright fucked up that I wasn't expecting to meet a great guy, fall in love, get married, and all of a sudden be on the straight and narrow path of domesticity.

Believe it or not, my counter-culture feminist sensibilities had an easier time envisioning a hipster single mama than a respectable married couple contemplating parenthood. I mean, now all of a sudden I'm turning into the stereotypical breeder. Part of me rebels against that--after all, I wear black, like loud music, hate mini-vans, don't want to live in the suburbs, detest gold jewelry, and want to get my nose pierced again. But The Scientist and I are in this together. We are breeders, or at least we're trying to be.

I don't want to go back to that lonely single mama image, yet I'm defensive about going down the traditional road. I don't like adhering to the average demographic, but in so many ways, we do. Dated a year, engaged a year, got married, check. White-dress church wedding, check. Wife two years younger than husband, check. WASP couple, check. Wife following husband around for his job, check. Married a year, trying to have a baby, check. It makes me uncomfortable that so many of the surface details of our life fit into some preconceived notion of the Average White American Couple. I want to shout, "We're not those people!" I want to redefine that stereotype and be the hipster, liberal, co-op shopping, world-traveling, city-dwelling, alternative-lifestyle-supporting, non-churchgoing couple. The pop-culture savvy genXers. The technnogeeks. The parents who still have lives outside of play-dates and preschool.

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We're actively trying to get pregnant (or rather, to get me pregnant) now. And have been for the last four months/cycles. I always thought that I was Super Fertile Woman. That I had to be on my guard at every moment or some stray sperm would slip by my defenses and impregnate my waiting egg. Some of this myth was dispelled by reading Toni Weschler's book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Evidently you can't get pregnant at any moment during your cycle. Who knew? Some of that myth was slower to dissipate, however. I thought for sure I'd get knocked up on the first try. That it would be incredibly easy. There's a box of baby-related stuff in our basement supporting this (mis)belief.

I went off The Pill last year and spent a number of months (successfully) charting my cycle for birth control purposes. We decided to try to get pregnant in April. It's nearing the end of August now and no luck. I had two faintly positive home pregnancy tests in July, but I think they were defective tests or I screwed up somehow (lesson learned--don't by the Wal-Mart store brand for something like a pregnancy test). I was a month late for Aunt Flo and thought for sure this had to be it. But the urine and then blood tests at the doctor were both negative and then two weeks later Aunt Flo showed up with a vengeance, making up for lost time. I don't think it was a miscarriage, though, just a delayed ovulation. [TMI: Once I took a look at my entire chart for those 60ish days, the picture was clearer and I realized I only had 13 high temperatures after the actual ovulation day before I got my period (18 high temperatures after ovulation indicates you're most likely pregnant).] Evidently it's not as easy as I thought it would be. The Scientist and I keep reminding each other that women get pregnant by accident all the time. We've vowed to be much more diligent about our, uh, efforts from now now. It's not so hot anymore, so the thought of touching another person's skin (in our un-airconditioned apartment) is no longer repugnant. I have high hopes for August.

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Is this the face of an annoying kitty? This morning R. (one of our cats) woke us up at 4:58 a.m. doing annoying things like picking at our floor varnish with his claws (the varnish is old and has bubbled and cracked in places; R. sticks his claws under the edge of a hole and picks at it, peeling it up obsessively like a person would peel off sunburned skin--except the varnish makes a really annoying clicking sound as he picks at it). Lately when R. does this The Scientist feeds him breakfast to shut him up--R. is being restless and annoying because thinks it's time to eat. R.'s actual feeding time is 7am, when The Scientist gets up, but he has started bugging us earlier and earlier. First 6:30 a.m., then 6:00 a.m. and now this morning 4:58 a.m. It's become clear that we have made the cardinal parenting sin--we reinforced our child's (or in this case our cat's) bad behavior.

Today (after several rounds of "pick-pick-pick," "NO, stop that," and judicious squirting with the squirt bottle with no improvement) instead of feeding R., The Scientist shut him in the bathroom. The bathroom has two advantages: it is 1)far away from our bedroom and 2)the only door-shuttable room in the house besides our bedroom and the office, both places where R. could get into trouble.

We got another hour of uninterrupted sleep, but then The Scientist had to pee and therefore let R. out of the bathroom and fed him. I have a feeling this will be our strategy until we can a) fix the floor in the most obvious places and b) re-train R. that breakfast is at 7. I'm not sure how successful we'll be on the latter of these two goals, but we have to try. It's a chance for us to model good parenting strategies (granted on a cat, not a human). We'll see if any of them work.

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Parenting strategies and parenting philosophies have been on my mind a lot lately. It's easy to look at other people (and their bratty kids) and think that we would do things differently and that our kids wouldn't turn out like that. Are we nave for thinking that we can do better? I mean, I know there are things beyond any parent's control. I know toddlers throw temper tantrums at the most inopportune times. Babies cry. Kids get whiny and misbehave. But I see things (at our favorite restaurant, at the movie theater, at Target) that I know we won't do. We won't let our kids shriek at the top of their lungs at the dinner table in a restaurant (multiple times, not just once and then a prompt removal of the kid from the situation). We won't take a three year old to see Minority Report. We won't let our daughter whine her way into getting her birthday toys early. "Please, please, please, I want my birthday Barbie now, not later. Now, mommy, now!" 10 minutes later when we walked by again the same parents were still in the Barbie aisle at Target with their daughter. The daughter was still whining. Do you really think you're going to win that battle if you stay in the toy aisle?

These are all real parent-child interactions that The Scientist and I have witnessed recently. It's helping us figure out what kind of parents we want to be. Here's some of what we believe in (I'm speaking for both of us--I hope I've done a good job):

  • breastfeeding
  • a separate crib for baby (in our room while the baby is small and while we live in an apartment)
  • using a sling to carry baby
  • time for mom and dad as individuals
  • children should be treated with respect and consideration
  • parents should be in charge of the household/family
  • parents should prepare their kids for the world by practicing good behavior at home
  • babies shouldn't be left to "cry it out"
  • gadgets like a "wipe warmer" are unnecessary
  • homemade baby food
  • you don't have to spend a lot of money to be a good parent
  • eating dinner together as a family as much as possible
  • you can travel with kids, even small ones
  • it's ok to leave the kids with a trusted caregiver and get out by yourselves
  • you can take the kid with you to a lot of places (although not R-rated movies)
  • there are other topics of conversation besides kids and babies (this is a big goal for The Scientist--being able to go out with other adults and talk about non-kid-related subjects)
  • being loving, fun, safe, warm, active, involved parents
  • encouraging independence, self sufficiency, and responsibility in our children as they get older

I read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg last month and found it to be the book that most closely matches my own philosophy. While I like a lot of the attachment parenting ideas (the most well-known proponent of which is Dr. William Sears), I know that some of them aren't for us. We're not interested in the family bed (the occasional night in our bed is fine, but both of us are much too restless and selfish as sleepers to share all the time--I think it would be a source of resentment and conflict) although we do believe it makes sense to have an infant sleep nearby. Breastfeeding is wonderful, but once the kid is walking, it's time to wean. A sling is a great way to carry your baby, but the baby doesn't need to be worn all the time.

I like how Tracy Hogg encourages parents to let a baby learn to amuse and calm herself. This doesn't mean letting a baby cry herself to sleep--in fact, just the opposite. It means learning about your baby and what your baby's temperament is and then adjusting your parenting to fit your baby. Tracy advocates respect (calling your baby by her name instead of using the catchall "the baby" phrase) and understanding (moving gently and slowly during diaper changes, baths, etc. and providing a running commentary for your baby about what you're doing). She advocates always comforting your baby--picking her up as soon as she gets fussy (hopefully before she starts to really cry), calming her, and then putting her back down again so she learns that it's ok to be away from mom or dad because someone will always be there for her. Tracy encourages a predictable routine, but not a rigid schedule. I just like so many things about The Baby Whisperer (not everything, but a lot of it).

Of course, I'm also holding out hope that our child will have The Scientist's temperament, not mine. He slept through the night at three weeks or something incredible like that. I wasn't an evil baby or anything, just a very, very active baby. Evidently sleep was not high on my list of priorities. Funny how things change.

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