April 7, 2018

I awoke to Fiona clawing her way aggressively, clumsily, up the headboard. When she’d made it to the top, she realized her mistake; she teetered unsteadily on a very narrow ledge and looked for a way down. I tried to grab her and bring her down before she had a chance to slip off and make a noisy landing or fall on Vale, and we engaged in a brief tug-of-war with me admonishing her and her meowing back at me in an unduly irritated manner. The commotion woke Vale up, and so at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday, I resigned to the beginning of the day with a big mug of coffee.

I fed and played with Vale, and drank my coffee so slowly it was cold by the time I got to the bottom. We went for some quick sprints down the street, and headed out afterwards to meet a dear friend at a seaside park. There, we sat in the grass, under the dissipating marine layer, and illegally consumed alcohol, and ate cheese, crackers, salami, and Kyle’s homemade coconut curry hummus. We let a couple of hours slip by while we watched the distant waves. I made sure Vale was covered in sunscreen, but was so delighted to catch up with an old friend that I lost track of the sun and let myself burn.

On the way home, we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a few household items and Sour Patch Kids (oh, the things I eat when Kyle is away) and Vale made a big stink in the bathroom (literally and figuratively), because she had a poopy diaper and became agitated when I tried to change it. She flipped, flailed, and cried, and I decided she was definitely going to need a bath when we got home. This was the second dramatic poopy incident on the Wal-Mart bathroom changing table.

When we came home, I showered while she sat in her little tub, then I put her down for a nap, and read some of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A Cultural History. Now it’s early evening, the sun is setting, and through our French doors, I can barely make out our palm tree fronds shuddering in the night breeze. I could use a nap myself, but I hate naps, and she’ll be up soon.

Nightmares and Paranoia

I think it’s universal that all parents at some point obsess over their newborn’s breathing in the middle of the night to make sure they are not dead. I only engaged in this behavior briefly the first couple of nights. However, Little V has a habit of wheezing sometimes in her sleep, which is yet another cause for paranoia. Is her swaddle too tight? Is she sick? Is enough oxygen getting to her brain? SIDS?! Aghhhhh…

Every time she does something weird or makes strange noises, I Google it. I’m less than two weeks into this parenting thing and I truly do not know how new parents ever survived without the internet, psychologically, or otherwise.

It turns out newborns have some pretty seemingly erratic breathing patterns that are totally normal, and there are just a handful of concerning indicators of respiratory distress to watch for. However, the other night, while sleeping, Little V started to exhibit what we thought was retraction, which led me to call the Pediatrician’s after-hours line.

The intake person who took the call asked whether Little V was “responsive” which was a confusing question. Newborns sleep like 18 hours a day. Little V sleeps through piano playing, loud noises, and even diaper changes changes – what level of “unresponsiveness” is really a problem?! The intake person tried to clarify the question by asking whether we were able to “keep her awake” which was just as confusing because we had not woken her up yet, much less “kept” her awake.

We poked Little V and dripped some water on her, which caused her to squirm and flail, though she did not open her eyes. I advised the intake individual Baby V was responding to external stimuli but not opening her eyes. At this point, the intake person said to call 911 if she could not be “kept awake.” I seriously panicked and we decided to get a bit more aggressive about waking her up. We tickled, poked, and pinched her until she made horrible faces, started bawling, and we felt relieved but also wretchedly guilty.

I did not have the vivid, horrible dreams some people have during pregnancy, but I’m making up for it now! I rarely remember my dreams, but in the last week I’ve had a few horrible paranoid dreams about miscarriage and birth defects. I dreamed I ran into my best friend from middle school, who recently gave birth to a baby with a beak instead of a mouth; he also had a foot growing out of the inside of its beak. The foot coming out of the mouth reminded me of the conjoined fetus nurse character from South Park though there was absolutely nothing comedic about the scenario when I was actually dreaming it.

I am a responsible person, but have virtually no experience with babies. I rarely held anyone else’s babies before I was pregnant because I was always afraid of dropping or hurting them and will not offer to hold any children unless specifically requested. My parents never made me change my brother’s diaper when he was a baby (so spoiled). Thus, I made it to the age of 32 with no working knowledge or practical skills in this department. Sometimes I wonder how it is that they let me walk out of a hospital with something as vulnerable as an infant. With all the classes I took during pregnancy, and some instruction from nurses and lactation consultants, I am catching up though, and I dare say it’s been a fun learning process so far.