Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sad Songs Say So Much

When Carrie and I began dating, her number one complaint - besides the fact that I chew gum and eat too loudly - was that our relationship wasn't providing enough drama to inspire her songwriting. A year later, we broke up, twice. She dated other men, I drank heavily, but eventually we gave those things up and got back together. A few original hits, a proposal, and a wedding later, and she's back to singing cover songs. Now I'm no rock star, but this is the longest I've gone without writing since Amari was born, and I think it's because things have gotten a lot easier.

Writing has always been a form of escape for me - a way to organize the chaos of my thoughts and feelings. It allows me to infuse my world view into my memories, like touching up old photographs or retelling childhood  stories - they look and sound better with time, and eventually they become indiscernible from the way they were. There's really no avoiding it. The average history book has 30,000 mistakes in it. Reality is ultimately perception, and if we write it down - guess what - it happened.

What about when my life doesn't feel chaotic? Does anyone really want to read about how I stared at my cute, serene, well-fed daughter for hours at a time? There is a story there - a bridge between regretting that we hadn't gone with our Lets Get a Third Cat Instead of Having a Kid idea, and the sweet, blissful moments of today. If you'd like to hear it, it goes a little something like this...

Once upon a time, there were two naive parents who lived in a small, coastal hamlet north of San Francisco. They had been together for nearly eight years when they decided they were finally ready to have a child, and they were convinced that the endurance of their relationship would make parenting as easy as taking geometry after years of algebra.

They were older than average first-time parents who were also convinced that their age, experience, and infallible planning would make for an easy pregnancy, a smooth birth, and intuitive parenting. They nailed the first one, but two plus days of labor and five excruciating weeks of parenting quickly erased the memory of nine relatively easy months. While they thought they were prepared, it turned out nothing could prepare them for this

which turned out to be the way their daughter was for several hours a day. When  she wasn't nursing, she was fussing, rooting, worrying, or crying. Meanwhile her parents were fussing, worrying, and crying, too. On occasion, they were treated to blissful moments of peace that kept them going.

Actual Footage

Unfortunately, these moments were increasingly rare and unnervingly brief. The parents began to think that when people said, "I slept like a baby," they meant restlessly and in a pool of their own feces. Even that kind of sleep began to sound appealing. "This was not what we signed up for," they thought, and they began to wonder if they were doing something wrong. They worried that their daughter might not be getting enough food and contemplated supplementing her diet with formula in the evenings. They fretted that the hard-core La Leche Leaguers might catch wind of their decision and send in reinforcements.

They did it anyway. At their appointment the next week, their midwife was concerned their baby had only put on two ounces in almost five weeks. The parents confessed that they'd been using formula for the past three nights, and waited to be scolded for lack of effort. Instead, their midwife lauded their intuitiveness, told them not all women lactate equally, and suggested they offer their daughter formula after nursing during the day, as well. "If she takes it, she's hungry," she said. They offered and their daughter was very hungry. During the next week, she put on fourteen ounces, and more importantly she was happy. She no longer looked worried, she rarely fussed, and the circles beneath her eyes disappeared as she slept more regularly and her face filled out. Suddenly the parents went from suffering through

to enjoying

Not only that, but they went from "It's your turn to hold her," to "Can I hold her now?" from "Shit she's waking up," to "Aww, she's waking up," and most importantly from "I can't believe we decided to do this," to "This is so unbelievable." And you know what - they lived happily ever after...for the past six days.

The End...and a new beginning. 

Just this evening Carrie was marveling at Amari, saying how amazing she is, how she just wants to stay at home and hold her. This was a far cry from two weeks ago when we were both making bitter, inappropriate jokes about how Sophie's choice wasn't all that hard. Who knew that something as simple as starvation could interfere with a perfectly good parent-child relationship?

Now that Amari is healthy and happy, I feel sane again. My feelings of helplessness and hopelessness feel validated, and the residue of those early weeks now serve to contrast the joy I feel today. Would I change the way it unfolded? In a heartbeat. But now that I'm here, I'm grateful for the experience and the tools I picked up along the way. I have no doubt that they will come in handy in the future.

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