Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No Sale Like Home

We sold our house today. For the full asking price. In this market. (I know!)

What I find very strange is that about a week ago, our agent contacted us to let us know that it had been on the market for 30 days, and no offers yet (which, of course, we knew), and this is what issues people had with the property, and this is what other agents are saying, and blah blah blah, and I started to think, That's it. It's never going to sell. It's been unoccupied since November of last year, and it will just continue to be unoccupied until we give up and move back in, because why the hell are we paying for this house while living in a converted basement 11 miles away?

But in a strange moment of clarity, I realized that I have enough italicized worries as it is. I decided that if six months (or nine months, or twelve months) passed and nothing had changed, I'd deal with it then. You know, that wacky bridge-crossing-when-you-come-to-it sort of mindset.

So I had just decided not to think about the house, and I actually managed to forget about it for one whole day when we got an offer. And then we made a counter offer. And then the buyer accepted our counter offer and holy shit we're actually going to sell our house!

Part of me feels like this is a step backwards: we're not homeowners any more. Owning our house was one thing we were getting right, financially speaking. And while I didn't like where we were living at all, it's like the last piece of our pre-baby married life is disappearing. We didn't even live there two years, but so many memories of the house are brightly-colored, sitcom-worthy romps through married life: couple sees the house empty for the first time after signing mountains of paperwork, and make out in the empty living room; couple sits on office chairs and eats delivered pizza at a folding card table for weeks because they don't have any furniture; couple plays countless games of Scrabble that all end in ties...

Which is not to say that selling the house isn't fantastic. It is. Even if only because this means that I will never again be eight months pregnant and hiking up that steep-ass hill after walking home from the bus stop. Never again.

I'm kind of looking forward to the mountain of paperwork that I'll have to sign soon.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Good Baby

When we go out, Westley is generally content to be held by someone and look around quietly with giant eyes. I'm always prepared to make a bee-line for the exit if he starts to sound more than just a little bit miserable, but I've only had to do so a couple times. He is, as almost everyone who meets him remarks, a good baby.

Sometimes I think Westley is just very, very happy to be here. Like he made up his mind and came to Earth on purpose to do something really interesting. And maybe he knows what that something is, but he's not telling...yet. So he's not so much good as he is sly.

In any case, I wish I could take some credit for his demeanor. My mom claims that I can--that Westley is the way he is because his needs are being met promptly--but it's clear to me that his easygoing approach to our out-of-the-house adventures is something all his own. He came with it. All I can do is appreciate this gift from the Universe, and wonder what my good baby could possibly be thinking about behind his peaceful, wise-owl expression.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rockabye, Baby!

Rebecca Woolf is as funny and charming in person as she is in her blog writing. I attended her book reading last night at Elliot Bay Book Co. while Rob and Westley competed with throngs of Mariners fans and Motocross enthusiasts for $20 parking. (Oh, Seattle!)

Rebecca has written the book I wish I'd had a year ago, when I found out I was accidentally-on-purpose pregnant. Instead of focusing on merely surviving motherhood, Rockabye: From Wild to Child concentrates on thriving. This idea seems obvious, but it's hard believe that such a thing is possible when you're faced with the awesome reality of mothering a child while wondering where your "old self" went.

My story differs from Rebecca's in many ways, but the emotional tone of her writing resonates with me. I read Rockabye over two days, and nodded with recognition the entire time. These were my worries, my questions, and in a way, it was strange to hear Rebecca read her writing in her own voice.

What makes Rockabye shine is Rebecca's optimism. "It is possible to do it all well," she writes. And you can tell that she truly believes it. "Masturbate your creativity!" she enthusiastically advised us.

Westley loves GGC

"Back off, Mom. You're cramping my style."

A Westley Oliver sandwich on color-coordinated mama bread

I am very grateful to Rebecca for the joy and full-frontal honesty that are so present in her writing in general, and Rockabye in particular. She makes me want to write more of my own story, hug my baby tight, and dream like crazy.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Disbelief

I watch my mother balancing Westley across her lap, cuddling him close with his green blanket and the pacifier that he's not really interested in. He really wants to go to sleep, but I can't help him do it. Because I smell like milk. Because he wants to nurse and cuddle, but he's not hungry any more, and milk keeps coming out.

I'm struck by the weirdness of it. That is my mother holding my baby. A few months ago, I was just a daughter. I was the highest, newest branch on the family tree. But this tiny person is here now, and he's sent us all sliding down the branches.

***

Rob and I are lying on our giant bed, with Westley between us. He's naked and kicking around, laughing and shrieking as he stretches his limbs. I'm surprised to see muscle definition under his perfectly smooth skin. Babies are supposed to be soft and fragile, but he's more buff than I am.

"He's getting so big."

"I know. Can you believe that came out of your vagina?"

"Um, he was much smaller when he did."

"Yeah, well, but still."


***

There is a little person here, who wasn't here before. I should be used to this idea by now, but I'm not.

When Westley was brand new, I had to talk through his birth almost every day for several weeks. Mom and I would sit in the car or the living room and talk about what happened, and at least one of us would cry. "Well, it's over now," we'd say. "And he's here." Except that I didn't really believe it.

For several weeks, I didn't really believe that I'd had a baby. I hadn't really felt a connection to the life inside of me when I was pregnant, at least not in any "this is a human child, with a personality, and someday I will meet him or her" kind of way. I probably wouldn't have been all that surprised if, after giving birth, I'd been presented with a kitten, or an octopus, or a large potato bug. The baby who had suddenly appeared was a stranger, and I didn't really think of him as mine. Surely, someone had dropped him off, and would be back any day now to collect him.

***

Sometimes I'm surprised to realize that I'm not still pregnant.

***

He's less of a stranger now. He changes every day, but he's just a different (and heavier) version of himself. I think I'm starting to know his "self," which is the most unbelievable thing yet. This human baby, growing strong on magical mystery fluid from my body, is Westley. Easy-going and easily bored. A human consciousness for whom everything is new.

Wrapping my mind around it all is an exercise in faith. How is it possible that everything in my life is the same and completely different at the same time? How did my body produce and sustain a tiny human? Seriously, what the hell?

For now, I've given up on trying to believe it. I'm just accepting it.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Frat-ulence

Westley lets out a giant fart, and then laughs. And not just a baby giggle, but a real belly laugh.

How does a 4 month old know that farts are funny?

Pftt. Hilarity ensues.
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Monday, April 14, 2008

What To Do

Westley is four months old, and I feel like I should "get it" by now. Like I should know exactly basically what to do to help him. My intellect tells me that this is ridiculous--a facet of the Perfect Mother myth, just waiting to make me feel like crap for not living up to completely unrealistic expectations--but bouncing a sobbing baby around the kitchen on your shoulder while feeling helpless sucks. And it leads my emotions to conclude that I suck.

The moments where I pat myself on the back for being a good mother are fewer and more far between (far betweener?) than they should be. But I felt like a genius in Ikea.

This is not unusual, actually. I often feel like a genius in Ikea. Meandering through the showroom gives me a distinct feeling of cleverness--"hey, these little canisters would be perfect for the kitchen"--despite the fact that each of the "rooms" is set up to showcase exactly the thing that I feel I've discovered. And despite the fact that the furniture looks much less cheap and particle-boardy in the store. Somehow, I can get past the clever marketing of it all, and still enjoy the sense of having found the perfect solution to a real or imagined interior design problem.

Westley also seemed to enjoy Ikea for the first hour or so. The few from the stroller was enough to fascinate him until he remembered that he was due for a nap. He faces me in the stroller, and I watched as his face scrunched up several times, fighting sleep. Sleeping, after all, would keep him from realizing that two birch end tables could be pushed together to create a smallish coffee table that would be the perfect size for our living room. His eyelids would close for a minute, and then pop open again suddenly, and he'd look up at me like, "What the hell, woman?

I swayed the stroller back and forth for a minute, waiting for a Westley-style meltdown, before noticing the hum of the refrigerator in the grocery section. I put the stroller beside the cold case. Westley dropped off to sleep in all of thirty seconds--a sweetly sleeping cherub next to the frozen Swedish meatballs.

"I don't know what to do" was a kind of mantra in the first few weeks of Westley's life. Because, right then, I really didn't know what to do. I had never dealt with a tiny baby before. It was like living with an alien. But even though we've had a chance to get acquainted, I can still fall into the trap of despairing because I can't read Westley's mind and give him exactly what he wants. Or whatever it is that Perfect Mothers are supposed to be able to do.

The negative thinking stops now. Because, as it turns out, sometimes I do know what to do. And when I don't know what to do, I can still figure out that no white noise machine is a match for an industrial fridge. And that's worth something.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Afternoon Snack

Sucka-sucka-sucka.

Sucka-sucka-sucka-sucka.


Sucka. Sigh. Sucka.


Sucka.


Sigh.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Vegan with a Vaccine

Westley feels warm, and not just baby-warm -- fever-warm. He had shots on Tuesday (happy 4-month birthday, bub!), and just like I did two months ago after his first round of vaccines, I've been watching him like a hawk. A guilt-ridden, slightly freaked-out mama hawk.

My gut tells me that it's wrong to inject anything into a perfectly healthy baby, never mind scary-sounding and potentially harmful substances. Vaccines certainly aren't vegan, and they don't exactly go along with my general suspicion of anything medical. I did everything I could to increase my chances of having a natural child birth. I worried about taking ibuprofen for postpartum cramps. So why on earth am I having my child injected with viruses grown in chick embryos?

Our vegan-friendly, pro-extended breastfeeding, homeopathic pediatrician highly recommends vaccinating. We chose Westley's health care providers because we liked and trusted them, and specifically because they didn't take the position of "I'm the doctor, you're not, and you'll do as I say. End of discussion." I did as much research on my own as I could manage to do. Every time I read something in the anti- camp, I was adamant: We will so not be vaccinating. And then I'd read something from the pro- side, and change my position completely. Back and forth. The more I researched, the more confused I became.

So I decided to have faith in the experienced professionals whom I had trusted to help me make decisions about my son's health. The experienced professionals who have seen kids' health seriously and tragically compromised by preventable diseases. For me, the risk of disease outweighed the risk of vaccination.

And yet.

I can't imagine a worse feeling than holding your screaming baby in your lap, trying to nurse him while a stranger pokes him with needles, praying that the breast milk (along with the Tylenol) will magically make everything OK. And nothing will fill you with self-doubt like scrutinizing your grouchy and feverish child afterwards, looking for any change in demeanor or behavior. And then there's the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is enough to make anyone at least a little suspicious.

In the end, the parent has to wade through all of the uncertainty and make a judgment call. One way or the other, there is risk. Right now, Westley is fine. I have to trust that he's going to continue to be fine. I'll remain skeptical on matters of medical intervention, but I have to believe that I'm doing the best I can at weighing the risks on my son's behalf. Because some day, he will be taking risks for himself -- and then I'll really have something to worry about.

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