Day 26

What is your favorite part about yourself?

Ok, I’m sorry, I’m out — I was going to stick it out through the end of the month, but I can’t with these self-help prompts.

Instead, I would like to talk about Edith in the morning. I wish everyone could see what an adorably happy, fresh little daisy she is first thing in the morning. I put her in my bed while I lie there and marshal my resources for the early shift, and she prances around in her little sleep gown, giggling and cooing, now dropping into a sudden cuddle against my side, then launching back into a summersault with a peal of delighted glee. Her eyes sparkle, her skin is cream, she smells like sun-warmed grass. She is the very picture of youthful freshness and promise.

Meanwhile, I lie there like roadkill, more depleted every day. My sedentary and expanding body aches in ever more mysterious ways, I look like I was just dragged out of a grave, my skin itches, I can’t stop coughing, I stink.

People often talk about how having children really taps you in to the grand circle of life — they mean, like, the sadness of parents dying, the joy of children being born, it all continues, etc. But I have found it brings home a smaller, more immediately tangible circle of life: that your children actively suck the life out of you and feed off of it to grow stronger. She is flourishing and coming into her power as I watch myself decay. It’s ok, it is right and proper. I shall diminish and go into the west.

Day 22

What is your favorite quote and why?

Today Edith and I were at the park on our usual bullshit — Edith trying valiantly to eat woodchips and me blocking her every attempt — when a couple little girls and their Mom arrived. The older of the two girls was clearly very interested in Edith. I could see her showing off for her and looking her way from the playset. Sure enough, eventually she came over to us and we had the following conversation:

“Hi! Can I try to hold that baby?”

“Hmm, no, I don’t think so. She’s still pretty little.”

“I am very careful with babies.”

“I’m sure you are. I really like your outfit.”

“Thanks! It’s new. Can I try to hold that baby?”

“No. Her name is Edith.”

At this point the little girl’s mom and sister arrived.

“Mom, the baby’s name is Vida. Can I hold her?”

“No, honey, you can’t hold a baby,” her mother said. “Hi, Vida! You really love those woodchips!”

Later as they were leaving, Edith’s hat fell off and the girl said in a stage whisper to her mother, “She doesn’t have any hair??” She sounded horrified.

“Well, she’s a baby,” her mom replied.

“She’s working on it!” I said, feeling strangely defensive. (Edith does have hair — beautiful, shiny, bright red hair. But it’s light in color, and it’s not very thick yet.)

My favorite thing about this interaction is that this little girl genuinely thought that her mother — Boss of World — had the authority to compel me to hand my baby over to her. I hope Edith is as convinced of my supremacy when she’s old enough to have hair.

Day 20

What is your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?

Well, all my favorite photos have me in them, so they are by definition photos others have taken.

Just kidding, all my favorite photos are of my baby. Having a baby really does make you incredibly dull, every answer to everything is just your baby.

What’s your favorite photo? This one of my baby.

What’s your favorite thing to do? Hang out with my baby.

Who is your favorite person? My baby.

What do you care most about in the world? My baby.

So, setting aside my stunning, remarkable, perfect daughter who reveals a new facet of herself in every photo or video I take of her, and who is so fascinating that my mother and I spend an hour every night after she goes to bed looking at photos of her from earlier in the day and talking about them, I like a lot of the photos I took on my travels when I was younger, which were taken pre-smartphones, so I had to lug around an actual (little digital) camera. I don’t think I really have a favorite, though.

I like this one a lot:

I like the framing and that everything is slightly tipped to one side, which captures the chaotic feel of what visiting Angkor was like (THRONGS of people of all stripes, all behaving insanely). I like that one of the monks is whispering something to the other one (a ton of the monks in Cambodia are young boys who join monasteries because it enables them to have free room and board in one of the cities, and you often see them just messing around like any young boys would). I like the school group beyond in their dorky matching clothes, and that you can tell just from his position and general posture that their chaperone is completely over this. And then the famous, ancient temple beyond and the pretty sky.

Day 15

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

The other day, I was playing with Edith after work, and I paused to give her a big hug and say, “Edith, I missed you so much all day today!”

At which point, Edith hitched herself up so that her butt was directly in my face, issued a long, low fart, and crawled off.

Anyway, I think most people need to get more comfortable with being mildly disliked by others.

Day 11

What does it mean to live boldly?

I don’t know, but it sounds like something you probably can’t do with small children. In this house, we live very cautiously. Threats abound, hazards on all sides. I spend most of my time these days worrying about what the baby might have swallowed when I wasn’t looking.

My big fear is button batteries. When Edith was a newborn, I read a horrifying article (I won’t link, it’s devastating) about a woman who had lost her daughter to a button battery, and basically, if your kid eats a button battery (and they look SO edible), your kid is dead, because even after the battery is removed, the acid continues to burn them internally and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I have thrown out everything in the house that I could find that had a button battery, but I still worry that I missed one, or one might come into the house somehow without my knowing about it.

And that’s just one hazard. I also have to take her on the interstate sometimes, among other things.

So overall, living boldly isn’t really relevant to my interests lately; I am pretty fully focused on keeping a baby alive who meanwhile seems compelled to actively seek her own destruction at all times.

Co-Napping

Although Edith is very good at sleeping through the night in her own bed now (well, most of the time), I still nap with her. During the weeks, her nanny puts her in her baby swing for naps and sits in the playroom with her, and on the weekend, I go get in my bed with her and hold her while she sleeps.

There’s no reason why she can’t nap independently at this point. I just haven’t really been pressed to make her — I value the closeness on my days off. It’s fun to cuddle her. And I either sleep or read while she sleeps, which is what I’d choose to do with the time anyway if she were in her own bed.

But now it’s starting to butt up against some other things. I had friends visit and we didn’t have that much time to hang out, and there was a good two hours or more where I was napping with Edith when I could have been spending time with the adults. And today I joined a friend’s virtual baby shower, but it happened at the same time as Edith’s main nap, so I had to tap out five minutes in and go lie down with her.

I guess at some point, I’m going to have to let her take her own naps. Honestly, I don’t think she’ll even mind at this point — it’s me. I’m not ready to let her go.

Happy New Year!

Everyone is saying 2021 was a shit year, as bad if not worse than 2020, and I get it, but Edith joined us this year, so I can’t really feel any other way than that it was the best year of all time, not just for me personally but also for all mankind even though they don’t necessarily know it.

One of the main things that I’ve really taken note of throughout the pandemic is how many people were truly genuinely happy before it. I don’t mean to sound cynical — I’m not exactly surprised that people were happy and enjoyed their lives.

But no, actually, I am surprised! How were you all that happy, and I didn’t know it? You didn’t seem like it at the time. I mean, you all seemed okay, I guess, but I didn’t realize that everyone else was having so much fun. I guess I thought we were all just “whatever, it’s fine” about things, but y’all were really into it!

I wasn’t happy at all; I was a miserable sack of shit for…I don’t even know how long, really. I had no right to be, it was no one’s fault but my own, and I realize it’s ungrateful to be miserable when you have a lot of privilege, but studies all indicate that we have innate set happiness levels, so my unhappiness was less about my circumstances and more that I’m simply a melancholic person. I didn’t realize how miserable I was until I had Edith because I had forgotten what being invested in life even felt like, but now I’m excited about the coming year because a lot will be happening and I am looking forward to all of it, new things are happening every day. Edith’s going to walk this year and she’s going to talk. She’s going to turn one. She’s going to get more teeth and get bigger and do a bunch of other stuff. Meanwhile, I get to hang out with the coolest person I have ever met all day every day (and all night, sometimes, though I don’t love that as much), and I’d rather live through general societal collapse and environmental devastation with Edith than in stable, normal times without her.

For example, today I was sitting in the playroom with Edith and she became absorbed in standing at her bookshelf and pulling all her books into a pile on the floor. Since she didn’t need me for the moment, I took a second to look at Twitter, and when I looked up, half of Edith’s diaper had come undone somehow and there was (suddenly, unexpectedly) a load in it and a poopy footprint on at least one of the books. I have no idea how it even happened; I had only looked down for a fraction of a second. Dealing with that killed at least an hour, during which time I wasn’t able to think about anything going on with the broader world — for that period of time, my concerns were very clear, immediate, and actionable. See? Every day with her, there is something brand new and unexpected. She brings so much to my life, she’s blown my whole heart open.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have an unexpectedly wonderful 2022, or if not, at least a tolerably comfortable one.

First Word

At some point in the past week or so, Edith started saying “milk.” Actually, she says “muh” but it means milk. She always says it in the same way — she gets upset and kind of panicky and starts whimpering “Muh! Muh muh muh!” It took me awhile to put this together, but once I noticed it, I could see that it was significant and intentional.

Everything with a baby is astonishing — watching these tiny oozy little blobs morph into actual people who have control over their bodies and language and everything else. Whenever they’re working on some new thing, it seems absolutely impossible that they will ever master it, you can’t even envision it happening because they’re so grublike and senseless, and then they just do it, and you’re reminded that they’re not some particularly adorable species of pet but a burgeoning human being.

Edith is currently working on walking, and I can’t really picture her body in a walking posture, it seems so very unlikely, but she is determined to do it. She’s been standing for a long time, and now she’s letting go with one hand and waving around testing out letting go. I know at some point, she’ll just do it.

I’m used to her physical milestones by now, but this “muh” was the first intellectual one, and it was pretty startling! One might perhaps wish that her first word would be, say, “mama” but I guess “MILK MILK MILK!!!!” in desperate tones is fine, too.

Merry Christmas

Despite being unaware of Santa, Edith joined children everywhere in waking up periodically all night; in addition, the cold I had a few days ago hit my throat so I spent all night unable to sleep and fighting to suppress deep coughs so I didn’t further wake the baby. But since my dad is here, I got to take a nap in the morning to make up for it. Then, we opened presents and Edith’s favorite (other than the packaging) was predictably the simplest — a big metal loop with three metal “keys” on it. She crawled proudly around the house all day with it dangling from her mouth like a sentient doorknocker.

In the afternoon, my aunt and uncle came over for Christmas dinner and Edith was baffled to find herself slightly to the side of the center of attention for once. She crawled up on their feet and attempted to exert her will like she does with the rest of her staff, and was perplexed when it did not work. She was a pleasant dinner guest, though, keeping most of what was on her tray out of her hair, and blowing raspberries at everyone companionably.

I am astonishingly exhausted for someone who really just bummed around the house all day. Following around after a baby and trying to keep her out from under other people’s feet and away from the oven is tiring work, as is lifting her up and putting her down repeatedly at her command.

But Edith had a blast on her first Christmas, and that’s all that matters. Hope all of you and yours did, as well.

Work

I’m not writing much lately because it’s frankly exhausting not being at work.

On a typical workday, my routine is as follows:

  • 4:30/5:30 am: up with Edith, change diaper, give her a bottle
  • 4:30/5:30 – 8:00 am: play with Edith, somewhere in there make coffee, possibly put on different clothes than the ones I slept in, depending how the day is feeling
  • 8 – 4:00 pm: work
  • 4 – 5:00 pm: play with Edith
  • 5 – 5:30 pm: feed Edith dinner and eat dinner myself
  • 5:30 – 6:45 pm: bath for Edith, wind down play, night bottle, bedtime stories, bed
  • 6:45 – 7:15 pm: clean up kitchen and bath, shower and get ready for bed
  • 7:15 – 9:00 pm: either watch TV or read
  • 9 – 9:30 pm: look at Twitter while telling self I should be sleeping already
  • 9:30 – ~2:00 am: sleep
  • 2 – ~2:15 am: grit teeth through shout session as Edith tries to negotiate her way into the big bed
  • 2:15 – 4:30/5:30 am: sleep

For days off, however, here’s how the middle part goes:

  • 4:30/5:30 am: up with Edith, change diaper, give her a bottle
  • 4:30/5:30 – 5:00 pm: play with Edith (with two hour co-sleeping nap break)

I’m not saying I don’t love spending time with my baby; she’s my favorite person in the whole world and all. But it’s just a LOT of time and she can’t talk to me yet, and we have a pretty limited repertoire of games and things we can play. It saps me intellectually — by the end of the day, articulating thoughts is extremely difficult.

If I could afford to, would I stay home with my baby instead of work? Well, I would stay home with her, yes, but I would also still have a full-time nanny so I could fuck around whenever I wanted to, and I don’t care what kind of mother that makes me.