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Let Go

I have been holding onto a few things, Internet. They are little things – completely inconsequential and frivolous and don’t have any bearing on anything. And they are even more ridiculous because I can’t change them. Nor will I (probably) have a chance to repeat the circumstances around these things, in order to change the outcome of similar events.

But they are weighing me down. I am heavy with ten thousand worries, big and small, real and imagined (mainly imagined), and I don’t need the extra luggage straining my back and my shoulders.

I read once, somewhere, about something, maybe from a culture different from my own, I don’t know (and apparently this is what I do now, I just type without looking anything up… although honestly if I DID take the time to look things up my typing window might close so there you have it), about releasing little paper boats into the sea with a candle glimmering inside. Like I said, I don’t remember what the little boats or the candles signify, but I would like to commandeer the idea for my own purposes: to put these things I’ve been holding tightly in my fists and rubbing rubbing rubbing until they are smooth, but still solid, still heavy, into little vessels and releasing them into the water to flicker and gleam and gently fade away.

My whole state is frozen solid, so I don’t have ready access to a body of water. So I am going to scatter these pebbles across the page… and let them go.

(These are so small, Internet, and so silly. But they are so heavy.)

(If you have similar things, big or small, that you want to release here: please do so.)

1. I am letting go of the birth announcement. I really, truly wanted to send out birth announcements when Carla was born. For some reason it was – is – important to me, to mark her arrival in that specific way. I made a point of letting my husband know, in the months and weeks before her birth, that it was important to me. We picked out templates and crafted language and had our announcements waiting online for us to fill them with a photo of our sweet newborn.

But we didn’t ever send them out. Her birth didn’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped, and she wore a nasal cannula for awhile, and then even when her little face was clear, she had an IV on her arm and leads strapped to her chest, so we couldn’t get a GOOD photo of her when she was brand new.

And then in the early weeks, she developed baby acne – which, okay, I realize that is a STUPID reason not to take a photo of your kid, I REALIZE IT – and I wanted to wait until THAT cleared up… And then, even though we took a billion photos of her a day, all of them were gritty iPhone photos and none of them was just right.

My husband did a little photo shoot of her one day, with his fancy non-phone camera. She must have been a few weeks old by then, but I insisted: it was still fine to send out birth announcements! We got a couple from friends a few MONTHS after their babies’ birth and I was fine with that! So he snapped away and got some beautiful artsy photos that I love, to this day. But they were photos where her little face was half covered or half in shadow. And even though we loaded them into our online template, I just didn’t LOVE them. And I wanted to LOVE them.

So we never sent out birth announcements.

I can’t do that over. I can’t do her birth announcement ever again. And that’s fine. We did a holiday card with photos of her and we included her birth details in the accompanying letter and that just has to do.

I have to let it go.

2. This is similar in nature: I have to let go of Santa Claus. It was really important to me that we do the whole “first Christmas, first photo with Santa” thing with Carla. I really wanted to do it. But absolutely NONE of my family members wanted to do it – and for good reasons! Long lines! Traffic! Parking! Gross dude in a Santa costume holding my baby! (Apologies – I acknowledge that not all mall Santas are gross dudes.)

And I let them convince me – I didn’t even really put up a fuss – because I didn’t want to experience this Magic Moment by myself, but I also didn’t want to force other people to have the Magic Moment with me. And it would have required forcing.

I think the reason that this and the birth announcement and possibly other things on this list bother me so much is because I feel like this is My One Shot. We plan on Carla being the only. (Minds can change – we are not closing doors. I never wanted ANY for most of my life, remember?) So I feel this enormous (self-applied) pressure to Do It Right and Do It All. To make sure that we get ALL the experiences in, so we don’t regret anything. I want – I am trying – so badly to Enjoy Every Moment, even the bad ones, even the ones I complain about, because… this is IT. Every moment happens and then it’s gone. Carla is a million of those little candles floating away into the darkness, brilliant glimmers so numerous they outshine the sun, but still: fading, one by one, as fast as they collect.

3. I have to let go of the anaesthesiologist. While I was always pro-epidural, I wanted to see what contractions were like. I really did. I wanted to see how far I could go. (Plus, I didn’t want to do the epidural too early, and with my takes-her-time baby, that was a REAL risk.) So I started having contractions at sometime in the early evening the night before Carla was born. They were very frequent, and quickly grew in intensity. I admit that they HURT, a LOT, and I didn’t handle it very well.

And here is where I say: pain is personal, the same experience affects people differently, and plus no two experiences are the same and blah blah. I had never thought of myself as person with a low tolerance for pain, but perhaps I am. Because the contractions HURT to the point where I don’t remember much of that evening except in snips and flashes. I remember asking for the epidural and then wailing at my husband about wanting it now and where was it, why was it taking so long?

The worst: I remember being SURE that I was progressing! The contractions were so painful, and so close together, and had been going on for HOURS, surely I was practically ready to deliver! So the OB resident came in to check and I was… one centimeter dilated. ONE CENTIMETER.

I feel the need to tell you, in even more excruciating detail, just HOW painful the contractions were. But I suspect that if you got to more than one centimeter without an epidural, or if you went more than a few hours of having contractions, you are giving me the side-eye because I am clearly a pansy. So I am going to reiterate: pain is personal, different for everyone, etc. Maybe I am a wuss, but whatever – I can’t change that.

So here I am, disappointed that I am not progressing and that Carla is continuing to dig her heels in (SIXTEEN DAYS LATE, remember) and in serious pain and wondering where the epidural is.

And the sainted anaesthesiologist or anaesthesia fellow, I’m not sure – in either case, he has worked with my husband before – shows up and angels sing and whatever. And I don’t remember WHY he says it, because I must have held still enough for the epidural to be placed because HE PLACED IT, but he says to my husband, “She sure is making a lot of noise for only being one centimeter.”

It makes me mad to this day! What a jerk! Saying it in the first place, when he wasn’t nor ever WILL HE BE the one in labor, but actually saying it OUT LOUD within earshot of the patient! To her husband!

But it also makes me embarrassed, like I was acting in a way unbecoming of a woman in labor. Or like I wasn’t doing labor right. And, okay, who cares about that guy, but what if my husband thought the same thing? What if he was embarrassed by me?

There is no reason to keep thinking about that. The guy is a jerk with no bedside manner who forgot that he was dealing with a person and her spouse, not chatting about a case in a textbook with his medical school classmate. I tried labor; it wasn’t for me. Pain is personal and different for everyone.

I have to let it go.

 

* * *

There are some other little fifty-pound pebbles I need to send off in their glowing boats. But this is enough for today.

* * *

Things I won’t ever let go:

My husband, in the delivery room, helping me push. He cheered and encouraged and wouldn’t let me give up. I didn’t know he knew how to do that! It was such a delightful surprise.

My baby girl, once we got home, in those early first weeks: milk drunk, head lolling on my shoulder, purring softly, cream scented breath.

 

I don’t feel lighter yet. Maybe once I hit publish.

So there’s this other little incident – no, it’s too small to call an incident… it’s more like a minor interaction – that’s been niggling at me lately. It’s not something I’ve been actively worrying over. More like, every once in a while it will pop into my head and I’ll roll it around a few times before something else takes its place.

It falls into the realm of etiquette, I suppose, or social graces. And it’s not a Big Deal, by any means. It’s just one of those things where I wish I knew the right way to behave, in case I encounter it again.

Anyway: Let’s say you have a group of friends who get together once a month or so at one friend’s house. We do this for my book club (although it’s been a woefully long time since we’ve met), and the host cooks a meal and the guests bring wine. Every guest brings a bottle of wine. Every time. This works GREAT, in my opinion.

But let’s say that YOUR group is less wine-focused. Not to say they don’t like alcohol! Oh no! But there’s a different understanding with this group. Or maybe it’s a lack of understanding. Or I don’t know.

So the host cooks a meal, and the guests bring… whatever they want.

Of course the guests always ASK, “What can I bring?” And the host always says, “Nothing! Just yourself!” But the guests feel (and I am 100% guilty of feeling this way!) like they can’t show up empty handed, so they bring something. Like cookies. Or chips. Or Bloody Mary mix. Or whatever. Sometimes wine isn’t an option!

Let me give you a real-life example. My husband and I were the hosts, and we hosted brunch. So we made a French toast casserole and some other carbs – seriously, there was nothing in the way of meat or fruit or vegetable ANYWHERE, not even eggs – and we had Champagne and orange juice and we were all set. And the guests all asked what they could bring and I said nothing, just yourselves… and then they showed up with stuff.

One guest brought… Champagne and orange juice. Another brought some sort of delicious pastry. Another brought some other sort of delicious pastry. And so on down the line. Seriously, carbs out the EARS.

It is my understanding that the number one rule of hosting etiquette is to make your guests feel comfortable, so even though I’d made enough food for all of us to eat twice, I popped open the extra Champagne and extra orange juice and set out plates and flatware for the additional pastries. The more the merrier, right?

Plus, I am an extremely picky eater. Doesn’t hurt my feelings if you want to bring something you KNOW you will like, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings if that’s all you end up eating.

The non-incident/minor interaction was that, at the end of the day, when the guests had left and my husband and I were surveying the carb carnage of our kitchen, I spotted one of the boxes of fancy pastries that one guest had brought: totally unopened. And it was a store-bought thing, so at least she hadn’t made it with her own two hands. But still, she saw it at the store and thought it looked good; she spent her money on it. And no one even OPENED IT. Ack.

As I roll this over and over in my head on occasion, I usually roll around to feeling like it’s okay, that truly no feelings were probably hurt. I was busy trying to keep glasses full and plates full and babies fed, and I just overlooked that little pastry box and I am sure my guest understood.

But this raises two questions:

1. If someone brings food or a beverage to a non-potluck dinner you prepare, even though you expressly said “Nothing! Just bring yourself!”, are you obligated to put it out?

Listen, I am pretty sure that on the other end of things, the being-a-guest end, etiquette guidelines (which I have…somewhere. I just don’t feel like clomping upstairs and rooting around in my bookshelves to find the appropriate book. Am lazy.) say that you should bring food/wine as a hostess gift and NOT expect it to be added to the menu plan. Your host has planned a specific meal, so you shouldn’t expect that your offering be anything but a gift for the host to enjoy after the fact. That is how I approach bringing things: this wine is for you to enjoy as you see fit. If that means opening it right now, so be it! If you want to save it until later and guzzle it up before you face the pile of dishes your guests created, that’s fine too!

But… I guess I lean toward putting the food out. Because I don’t know that other people have heard of that guideline. Certainly I have been in situations where someone provided wine and was miffed when she didn’t get to drink it during the dinner party. Or even concerned that the host didn’t like the gift.

If the host’s ULTIMATE goal is to make the guest feel comfortable, then I would put the food/wine out even at odds with my own planning rather than cause any potential disappointment or concern or hurt feelings.

It can be frustrating, though, if you have a special bottle of wine you want your guests to taste. Or if you spent all day making cupcakes, and now they have to share the spotlight with a guest’s handmade chocolate truffles or whatever.

Unfortunately, I don’t think you can deter people from bringing things. I have even tried the thing where you give them a specific item to bring: “Please bring a side dish. Please bring chips. Please bring beer or wine.” And they inevitably bring MORE THAN THAT.

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO GENEROUS AND NICE?!

Which brings me to my next question…

2. When can I comfortably LISTEN to the host and just NOT BRING ANYTHING?

My husband and I met with our group of friends again recently, and we went back and forth over what to bring. Should he make cookies? No, because what if our hostess made a special dessert? Should we bring wine? Seemed out of place for the meal we were having. What about bringing nothing? No, that seemed wrong – the hostess brought something when she was a guest at our house.

But of course, the hostess had prepared the entire meal, from bread to main course to dessert, and had plenty of drink options to boot. (We ended up bringing store-bought cookies, with the intention to offer them as a hostess gift rather than to expect they get set out with the food. But they were set out with the food anyway.) She certainly didn’t need our contribution. And we see her so often (once a month) that I know we’ll “repay” her for all the time and money she spent.

It just seems pointless and exhausting to keep bringing things that the host doesn’t want.

Of course, it seems LESS pointless if you are the only guest who shows up empty handed. But maybe if you do it enough, at enough houses, you will either get your message across or you will be booted from the group.

Since the baby arrived, I haven’t really made any purchases. (Well, that’s a lie. I bought some nursing bras, on two separate occasions, which was an experience both humiliating and shocking. And I’ve purchased an ENORMOUS amount of stuff for the baby – clothes, baby food, breast milk bags by the hundreds, little tiny socks that look like wee shoes.) And I haven’t really WANTED to, either, which is odd for me, as I usually like to buy clothes here and there all year long.

So I don’t know if it’s that a recent spate of decent sleep has me able to think about things other than work and baby, or if the endless winter has me seeking out new ways to distract myself, but I am in the mood to shop.

First on the list is a whole stack of new clothing items.

I am not going to talk too much about how difficult it is to dress the post-partum body. Just thinking about it makes me weary.

Suffice it to say: my body, post-baby, is different than it used to be.

And I suspect that it will change again once I’m done breastfeeding.

So none of my clothes fit – at least, they don’t fit well – and yet I am reluctant to spend money on new clothes that I may only be able to wear for a few more months.

But I think I have finally reached That Point where I just cannot bear to go to work another week wearing some combination of:

-          Six pairs of pants that fit well-ish

-          Only one pair is actually dress pants

-          Three dresses that fit and aren’t maternity-ish and are breast-pump friendly

-          Okay, really only two of the dresses aren’t maternity-ish. I wore one of them the whole time I was pregnant, but it’s not an ACTUAL maternity dress, so it seems like I should still be able to wear it.

-          Two pairs of boots (all of my other shoes are inappropriate – i.e. sandals/open toe – or have sky-high heels that are not safe for me to wear while carrying Carla in her car seat, especially on the snow and ice that will not go away)

-          Seven cardigans, in varying states of pilling

-          Two sweaters, identical except for color

-          Three dressy-ish shirts, but I wore them while pregnant so they aren’t the most flattering anymore

-          A handful of shirts that are either too casual or too dressy for my Casual Business Attire workplace

-          Two white button-down shirts, except I can’t find one of them

-          Two other button-down shirts

-          Two of the four button-down shirts strain a bit, across the bust, so I can only wear them UNDER something.

-          A bunch of maternity camisoles that I wear under everything, or sometimes alone (but not to work) with leggings-as-pants (BUT NOT TO WORK)

Okay, looking at that list, it’s actually a decent collection. And I wear it ALL. But I am just SICK of everything. And most of it is ill-fitting, as it is. The pants are mostly baggy in the rear and the shirts strain across the chest area and I have to wear the dresses with cardigans because they are both low-cut and sleeveless, and the boots make everything look more casual than it should.

(I wonder if it would be worthwhile – and more cost-effective? – to take my vast collection of dress pants to a tailor and get them taken in? Would I be able to get them let out if/when I gain a bunch of weaning weight?)

I’m not ready to make a bunch of big purchases, but I do think I need a couple of things to get me through to summer.

-          Green cardigan. I found a cardigan I LOVE in the exact right fit and the exact right shade of green at Banana Republic. It was of course on sale for 40% off, so I bought it. Now I just have to exchange it, as I got the wrong size.

-          Some pants that FIT, and that go with a) flats, b) boots, and c) strappy sandals. While at Banana buying the green cardigan, I found this GREAT pair of grass-green pants that I think fit the bill. They may not go with boots (I haven’t tried yet) but they DO go with flats and heels/sandals! Plus they are beautiful. I am going to wear them with my green cardigan. (Just kidding.)

Oooh oooh! I ALSO found a pair of black pants at Banana that I love! They are a little long – so don’t really fit the bill of wearability with all types of shoe. But I can wear them with heels and I can wear them with heeled sandals in summer. So, okay, just heels. But they fit really well and I want ten pairs.

-          A dress that has sleeves and looks cute with boots. This has been harder for me to find than I anticipated. I have a BUNCH of dresses, but some of them just look weird with boots. And the dress that I wear most often with boots is made of a sweater-y material and has started to pill. Plus, it’s all baggy and stretched out. As I mentioned, I have been pairing the sleeveless dresses with cardigans, and sometimes a belt OVER the cardigan which I see other people doing with great flair, but on me it seems dowdy. I don’t want people to look at me and get hit with an impression of dowd. So I am seeking a new solution to my dress-needs problem.

-          A new pair of dressy-ish boots. Something that’s not as chunky as what I normally wear – maybe with a little (teeny tiny) kitten heel? I had three pairs of boots die on me this year. I took two into the cobbler to be rehabilitated, but a) the pair that needed a whole new heel has disintegrated into flaps of leather. Seriously. It looks like leather fringe. And b) the pair that just needed a heel repair now stabs me in the ball of my foot when I walk. Plus, both pairs have three-inch heels because I used to be insane. So it’s really a good thing that they are falling apart. I need to go in a different boot direction.

-          At least one pair of closed-toe heels with a little kitten heel. I need something that looks professional and I want something pretty, but I need to be able to not fall while I’m carrying the baby. If I find a style I like, I want one pair in black and one in nude.

-          A pair of flats I love. I’ve been on this quest for nearly a decade. No dice so far. Probably the REAL issue is that I don’t like the way I look in flats.

-          A new winter coat. I know, this isn’t the time to be shopping for a coat. But I’ve been on the lookout for a year and haven’t found anything that fits my Very Specific Criteria: grey, belted, knee-length, warm.

-          Boot-length socks that don’t strangle my calves. Socks are one of those items that I hate paying for. I see all the pretty pairs at, like, Banana or J. Crew or wherever and I think, “Really? $10.50 for a single pair of socks?” (Or, “You have got to be KIDDING ME, Anthropologie. I am not paying $18 for something I am going to stuff inside my shoes all day.”) It seems like an item of clothing that should be $5, tops. So I usually end up buying socks on clearance at Target. And they are cute! But they hate my legs. And I am really sick of getting home after work and having huge red welts on my calves.

-          Shirts that are the perfect blend between dressy and casual. Why so hard to find? The girls in my office have, of late, been wearing loose blousey tops with fun patterns. Like, ships. Or dogs. Or fish. I have no idea. But unexpected images repeated over and over. I want a shirt like that, but I’m afraid it’s not the right style for my body type. I have traditionally been a tight-on-top, flowy-on-bottom type of girl. Then again, my body type may have changed. If not for good, at least for now. Argh. Frustrating.

I am also going to need some new bras. But I will spare you by ending this post right now.

Thank you, thank you for all your wonderful, reasonable advice about traveling with a baby. I will report back!

In the meantime, I feel like I have to confess something. Two things, really.

You know, those things that you keep replaying in your head, over and over, ad infinitum, despite the fact that no matter how much perseverating you do, you cannot change the past? That’s what I’m talking about. I am hoping that by writing about these things here, I will be able to stop Groundhog’s Daying them in my brain.

Listen. I try to live my life according to the principle of Don’t Be an A-Hole. Really, I do. I mean, I have bad days like anybody. And sometimes I pretend not to see the person in the lane next to me who wants really badly to get into my lane just because I am grouchy or in a hurry or whatever. But MAINLY, for the MAJORITY of the time, I try to be Nice and Fair and Not an A-Hole.

I am trying to get away from cursing, so let’s take the next step and change “A-Hole” to “Jerk Face.”

It is hardest, for me, to remain a non-jerk face whilst driving. Because it seems, some days, that EVERYONE is hell bent on not only being a jerk face, but on being the jerkiest jerk face there ever was. Like there’s some big cash prize for jerk-facery that I’m not aware of, and everyone around me is competing.

One of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers is texting while driving. I just CANNOT. It can wait. Seriously. And if it CAN’T? Pull over and give it your full attention.

Let me also add: Ever since Carla arrived on the scene, I have been extra anxious while driving. At any second someone could veer into us and… well, that thought process leads only to tears, so let’s stop right there and just say: I am super nervous driving these days. Other drivers scare me to death. This is not an excuse for my jerk face behavior, but I hope it does give you some background.

So the other day, I was driving home from work and the van in front of me was being captained by a truly terrible driver. Drifting left into the median, and then suddenly swerving back into the lane. Slowing down waaaaaay before an intersection, and then suddenly speeding through a red light. Just terrible.

Somehow, I was behind this person for most of my commute – which takes place entirely on city streets.  Two lanes of traffic in each direction with a turn lane/demarcated-by-lines-in-the-pavement median in the middle. I decided I needed to get far, far away from this person. Luckily, the driver was going 25 miles per hour in a 35 zone (and doing so IN THE MEDIAN for blocks and blocks – I am not exaggerating), so it was easy for me to get into the right of the two lanes and get away.

But. Then we got stopped at a red light at the same time. And I looked over at the driver, just out of curiosity, and – sure enough! – she was TEXTING. Had her smartphone plugged into the car charger, holding it up to her face, and concentrating very hard on whatever critically important thing was happening on the screen.

The light turned green, and I left her behind. Because she was so caught up in her phone that she didn’t notice the light change. I peeked at her in my rearview mirror, and I was half a block away by the time she started. As soon as she noticed that she was sitting at a green light, she ZOOMED forward. And caught up to me at the next red light. So I looked over at her, very pointedly, and when she felt my laser gaze burning into her skull and looked up, I mouthed at her: “STOP TEXTING” and made the international hand gesture for texting.

She looked very surprised, and shook her head vigorously and mouthed “I’M NOT!” but the light was green so I drove off.

My heart was pounding the entire rest of the way to pick up Carla. What had I done? I am not a confrontational person. And this was a STRANGER. That I had chided for doing something that… I honestly didn’t know FOR SURE she was doing!

I still feel like a jerk face. Who am I to judge this woman? She was a grandmotherly type – in her 50s or 60s – and who knows what was going on? Maybe she WASN’T texting and was just a very terrible driver – and I’d seen her just when she picked up her phone at a red light (and who hasn’t done that? I have.). Or maybe she was talking on the phone rather than typing on it (its own form of distraction, but I do it all the time so: glass houses). Or maybe she was having a terrible day and was distracted and not driving her best. Or or or. I DON’T KNOW HER LIFE. And yet I SCOLDED her.

I wish I could apologize to her. Man, how am I supposed to raise Carla to be a non-jerk face when I can’t even lead by example?

Ugh.

So I arrived at Carla’s daycare, feeling like a jerk face to the max, and tried to calm down.

Carla was there, happy as a clam, playing with her buddies. And I collected her car seat and her coat and sat down at the edge of the playmat to perform the acrobatics that is dressing her and putting her IN the car seat.

One of the other parents was there to pick up his son. He has a baby, like Carla, and he also has a daughter who must be four or five. He was putting the baby into a snowsuit and stuffing him into a car seat – a real feat of engineering, as his baby is at least twice Carla’s size.

The daughter came over to me – danced over to me, more like it; I can’t WAIT for Carla to be that age – and asked what I was doing.

“Putting my baby in her coat,” I responded.

“Why?”

“It’s cold outside, so she needs a coat to keep her warm.”

“My daddy is putting MY baby in a coat, too!” she informed me.

“I see!” I said, stuffing a protesting Carla into her car seat.

“Where’s YOUR coat?” I asked her. “It’s cold outside! You need a coat, too!”

I said it because it was part of the conversation, and she wasn’t wearing a coat. Not because I am the coat police. And I know her dad heard me, because he was in the process of hoisting the baby-clad-in-car seat into the air while simultaneously grabbing his daughter’s hand and gently nudging her out the door.

Out the door and into the cold air. Without the little girl wearing a coat.

Which – whatever! I don’t know the story behind the coat! Maybe she had a huge temper tantrum when he tried to put a coat on her and it wasn’t worth the fight! Maybe she was wearing the coat and spilled raspberry jam all over it! Maybe the coat was in the car! Who KNOWS? He’s a good dad, and his kids are happy and healthy – I see them most days of the week – and his car (probably already WARM from his commute) was ten feet from the daycare doors at most and I don’t CARE about the coat! I don’t! Coat shmoat!

But I felt like an instant – though accidental, this time – jerk face because I think my “you need a coat too!” came across as judgmental and scoldy and directed at the father. When really I was just carrying on a conversation with his daughter.

Ugggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.

Sometimes I think I should be banned from interacting with other people.

Despite your excellent answers – and the good dose of Swisdom – in response to my Baby Name Quandary post, I have yet to stop dithering about what to call the baby here.

I asked my husband what he thought, and he suggested Carla.

So perhaps I should go with that.

Let’s try it out, just for this post, and… if you return to this blog in future days and see that I have begun calling the baby something else entirely, well, just know that is a possibility.

So Carla and I are westward bound. Alone. Together.

My husband has a Medical Conference to attend, and I am, apparently, more apprehensive about spending five days alone at home with Carla than I am about flying with her, alone, on an airplane.

Why are we not flying together with her father? Vacation days, that’s why. I don’t want to use them all up on THIS. We will all fly home together, so that’s good. Especially because I will be, at that point, A Seasoned Flyer-With-Baby-Er, which will certainly impress my husband.

Of course, ever since we booked the flights, I have been in a semi-panic about EVERYTHING.

Not just the flying. Although HOO BOY there is plenty to panic about when it comes to flying!

I have been reading up on flying with a baby, though, so I feel like I have A Plan. Whether it’s A GOOD Plan remains to be seen, but it’s A Plan, and that helps.

First, I am going to check a bag, and carry on just one bag. It will primarily be Carla’s diaper bag, but it will have to contain purse-y type things, too, like my wallet and the phone charger. What will I do with the breast pump? I guess I have to check that, in my luggage? That makes me slightly nervous; that thing has been my near-constant companion for over seven months, and I would hate to lose it. Maybe I can carry that on, as well? I could use the little freezer compartment to hold some frozen milk. Hmmm. Maybe that’s a good idea.

Okay, so my Plan is clearly still taking shape.

One or two carry-ons, plus the baby. She will have her stroller, of course. My husband and I are going back and forth on whether or not to bring a car seat. WAIT A SECOND, before you freak out: Carla will of course travel to the airport in her car seat. And she WILL have a car seat in the Western City we are visiting. We just haven’t decided whether it’s better to rent or bring our own.

The pros to bringing our own:

-          Free

-          Clean

-          Familiar (to us – I doubt Carla cares)

The cons to bringing our own:

-          Just another thing for me to Deal With

-          Possible damage during the gate check process

-          We can’t ALSO bring the base, which reduces the convenience factor about a thousand-fold

So that part of The Plan is still under construction, as are others.

I also plan to bring some little Ziploc baggies with earplugs and a note from Carla inside and maybe some sort of candy. These I will hand out to the passengers in front of us, behind us, and across from us. (What about the people behind and in front of the people across from us?) I have also been panic-thinking about buying a couple of $5 Starbucks gift cards for the people directly around us, juuuuust in case Carla freaks out and spends the whole flight screeching. But a) I doubt my husband would jump on board with that plan and b) it is probably overkill. The baggies with earplugs are probably overkill, I just really really want my fellow passengers to be on my side juuuuust in case.

The Plan involves me bringing a variety of – quiet – and easily washable – toys with me. Several for the diaper bag, that I can switch out as Carla gets bored. And maybe several others that I can pack in my suitcase or in my husband’s suitcase to use on the plane ride home.

It also involves a big package of anti-bacterial wipes that I will use to scour the seat and armrests and tray table and seat belt and my rowmate, if s/he lets me. Carla puts EVERYTHING in her mouth and airplanes are just TEEMING with disgusting things.

It ALSO involves a couple of clothing changes, and probably… five diapers? Is that enough? We aren’t connecting anywhere, thank goodness. And the flight is during the time when she’s getting ready to go to bed, so hopefully she’ll sleep. But I am TERRIFIED that she will have a blow out on the plane, and then I will have to use the on-board lavatory, which I typically avoid at ALL COSTS.

Listen, I can and will change her in an airplane lavatory if necessary. I once had to change her IN A SINK at a restaurant that didn’t have a changing table – it was a complete diaper change and FULL outfit change, and the sink wasn’t exactly a pedestal sink, but the counter wasn’t anything to write home about, and the hand dryer was an automatic jobber that kept leaping to [loud, blow-y] attention every time my elbow passed within five inches of it, and Carla for the most part was stunned into stillness because she was being changed IN A SINK for Pete’s sake, but she did do a little wriggling and maybe licked the faucet, I try not to think about it too hard – and nobody died. But I am totally That Mom who would rather change her baby in the trunk of her car than in a public restroom. So you can imagine that the thought of using the airplane lavatory is giving me the vapors.

Oh, this reminds me of Past Me, who was Not a Fan of kids, and who watched with utter horror and disgust once as a mother changed her baby’s diaper on the seats of the airplane I was flying on. I was just… dumbfounded. And wanted her to be ARRESTED, that instant! for daring to change her grimy little offspring in the very seats where other people rested their delicate rear ends! Oh, Past Me. Pat, pat.

Maybe I will pack ten diapers. Juuuuust in case.

I also plan to bring two bottles. One for takeoff, one for landing. To relieve ear pressure, and also to soothe her to sleep. Listen, I think breastfeeding her would be a better option (and more convenient and less to lug around), but Carla and I have never really mastered the whole nursing-with-a-cover thing. We’ve tried it a couple of times, and she usually reacts by flailing at it the way that you or I might flail at a spiderweb we’d inadvertently walked through.

And even if I were more comfortable about nursing WITHOUT a cover – which I am not, strangely, even though my boobs got a LOT of Public Viewing Time when Carla was wee – the thing is that Carla is extremely nosy. Like to the point that if her own boring old dad walks into the room while she’s nursing, she has to immediately contort her body to be able to see what terribly! fascinating! thing! he is doing. So imagine how distractible she would be in an unfamiliar space with all these cool people walking around and sitting in their seats.

I am going to pack the nursing cover, juuuuust in case, and I will also wear a nursing friendly top, but I am going to bring bottles in hopes that they do the trick.

I have toyed with the idea of bringing the Ergo baby carrier, and trying to wear her on the plane. It has a hood, so presumably she could nurse that way… But I don’t know if it really WORKS while the wearer is sitting… and, even if it does, I’m not sure that I’d be allowed to wear her while we were in the air – or, while taking off and landing. No idea. Plus, it’s a new toy that we haven’t really mastered anyway, so this is probably not the best time to be adding new thing on top of new thing.

So… I think that’s it for the airplane, right?

I’m a little worried about getting through the actual AIRPORT, but I will have the stroller and I’m a seasoned enough traveler that the security stuff doesn’t bug me. I haven’t decided if I will ask to be frisked rather than take Carla through the x-ray machine… Maybe. That doesn’t bug me, to do that – I did it while I was pregnant, so it’s not a big deal.

I better not drink anything the entire day before the flight, right? I mean, how do you use the bathroom with a baby? The toilets in airports aren’t usually built to accommodate a traveler and her carry-on suitcase, let alone a giant stroller, so I don’t have high hopes. I guess I could hold out for a disabled stall? Or use a family restroom? I DON’T KNOW. The best choice is to not have to pee.

Then we get to the part of the trip that has me… I’m not going to say MORE panicked, but… additionally panicked.

The whole Staying in a Hotel With a Baby thing.

I mean, what do you DO with a baby in a hotel? Where am I going to stow her while I take a shower or use the restroom? (Remember, my husband will be at a conference all day.)

I feel about hotels only slightly better than I do about airport lavatories. So I suppose my big package of wipes will come in handy, there, too. I am going to wipe down every surface.

My husband suggested that buying some necessities once we get to Western City is a better idea than transporting them across the country. So I think he will pick up a package of diapers, and some wipes, and some hand soap (I can’t imagine using bar soap for three days, when I wash my hands about 80 times a day, and also need to wash pump parts and bottles). I already ordered, from Amazon, some disposable diaper changing pads, so that I can change her easily in the hotel. Although… where? On the dresser? On one of the beds? (Past Me is gagging the corner, just thinking about it.)

And sleeping. THAT will be interesting.

I am trying, delicately, and without much hope of success, to edge Carla’s sleeping patterns toward waking up later. Because now, she wakes up at six on the dot every morning. Which means that she will wake up at four on the dot every morning in Western City. That sounds… terrible. So if I can coax her into sleeping until seven here… well, we’ll see.

We ordered a little Travel Sleeper that we’ll be taking with us. It’s something that she can use – hopefully – for at least a couple of years (I am now realizing I have no idea what age kids are when they start sleeping in a real bed – two? five?), and it seems simple to pack and use. And easy to clean. But she’ll have to sleep in it on the floor, and I’m not a fan of that.

(By the way, if you are the anxious type, I recommend against researching options for where your baby should sleep while you’re on the road. Because it doesn’t matter whether you are looking into Travel Sleepers or looking into Using the Hotel Pack-and-Play or looking to Co-Sleeping: they are all RIFE with warnings and horror stories and I am in a PANIC about it. I would just as well have Carla sleep between me and my husband, but… HORROR STORIES. Plus, we are planning more trips with her next summer, and we think the travel sleeper we found will be useful multiple times.)

(This is NOT an invitation for you to share ANY horror stories in the comments, please and thank you.)

Should I be packing up her high chair and taking THAT with us? It is really easy to lug around, but… add it to all the other stuff we have to take, and it’s not really something you can just throw in on top of things. But if we don’t take it, where will I put her if we go out to eat? She is MUCH too wriggly for laps. Although that will probably be what happens – we will pass her from lap to lap. And what about feeding her? Carla is just starting to (be forced to) eat purees, and it’s a grueling and messy process (that we try to make delightful, so as not to give her the impression that eating is a grueling and unpleasant experience), and I can’t imagine setting her up on a hotel bed and trying to shove pureed bananas down her throat. Also, I suppose we could buy food there, and maybe bring a spoon and a bowl with us, but it just seems like a lot of trouble, you know? Is it terrible for her to take a break from “solid” food while we’re away?

Likewise, is it terrible for her to take a break from BATHS while we’re away? She still bathes in a little plastic whale-shaped tub that sits inside our bathtub, because she’s just too little. And she is MUCH too slippery to bathe with me, my near heart attack and I can assure you of that. Plus, she’s so small, she doesn’t really get DIRTY. Except for the blowouts. And the pureed food all over her. In any case, I am leaning toward no baths.

And how am I going to keep her entertained in a HOTEL? A lot of my parental survival skills involve moving Carla from Baby Containment Device to Baby Containment Device: she has a swing and a chair and a play gym and a bouncy thing in the kitchen and a bouncy play gym in her bedroom. And then, in desperate times, she has a pack-n-play and a crib, too.

But she’ll have NONE of those things in the hotel. She’ll have her little Baby Sleeper, but that’s not really a place for playing. I can put her on one of the beds, but I can’t leave her there. She’ll fling herself off the edge.

She also spends a lot of time just moving around on the floor. She’ll roll around on her bedroom floor, or the living room floor. I have a towel I set up in the (enclosed) hallway outside my bathroom, so she can roll and crawl around while I get ready in the mornings. But no way am I putting Carla down on the hotel floor. I don’t care WHAT you say about “germs are good for her immune system” – she gets PLENTY of germ exposure at daycare, she doesn’t need to put her face into the yuck that makes up a hotel carpet.

I am happy to stroll her around in the stroller… but I admit, I haven’t really researched this Western City or our location yet, so I’m not sure if there’s anywhere to stroll TO. Plus, if she wakes up at four in the morning? I’m not strolling. I refuse to stroll before seven a.m.

Sure, I’ll have the aforementioned toys. And perhaps I will have to bring a couple of books as well. It’s not like I can bring a LOT of books. Man, it’s going to be a long three days if I have to read Madeline thirty thousand times. Maybe I can read her The Goldfinch.

Why did I agree to do this again?

Perhaps I can cajole my husband into taking Carla with him to the conference. That ought to liven things up for those physicians, right?

I really don’t enjoy chicken. But my husband and I eat it fairly regularly. To disguise the chicken flavor (ick), my favorite ways to eat it involve drowning it in sauce of some sort. Chicken paprikas, for instance. Or Mulligatawny soup. Or coq au vin. Or Jen’s Best Chicken Ever. As long as there is a healthy 5,000-1 sauce-to-chicken ratio, I’m good.

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Mulligatawny soup is SO GOOD of a winter’s night.

Part of why I hate chicken is because I hate dealing with raw chicken. Ew. It smells and it’s slimy and cold and there are red things in it and ick. Just ick.

My husband and I have dealt with my chichekn squeamishness thus far in our relationship by appointing my husband Chief Chicken Dealer Wither (or Handler, I suppose, would be more clear and also more grammatical, what, I’m tired). But with his erratic schedule, that has led to a lot of nights of last-minute scavenging for non-chicken options.

I, of course, can handle chicken. I just prefer not to. But sometimes, in the name of family harmony and hunger prevention, I just suck it up and deal with it. With a knife and fork and no actual hand-to-chicken contact, mind you.

But aside from being gross, raw chicken takes a long time to deal with. And now that there is this BABY who takes up all of our time, you know, with her wanting to be fed and changed and bathed and otherwise cared for, we just don’t always have time to go through the whole de-red-thinging of the chicken and then the de-rawing (cooking) of the chicken after that. Because pretty much once the baby goes to bed, I am ready to go to bed, and it’s kind of difficult to fit in chicken nonsense between putting her to bed and going to bed myself, especially as of late when she is going to bed between 7:00 and 9:00. Like, the whole two hours is used up in putting her to sleep. Like, she falls asleep and then I put her in her crib and she wakes up, and then I say, time to learn how to fall asleep somewhere other than my arms, Buddy (which she CAN, as she does it EVERY DAY at daycare), and loiter around outside her room while she fusses and gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth and then rolls onto her back and slams both legs down on the mattress in a very elephant-crashing-through-the-ceiling kind of way, and then my husband (if he’s home) and I have hushed conversations about whether it’s time to go rescue her from Falling Asleep until the fussing/all-foursing/rolling-over/leg-thumping wears me down and I go collect her and start the process all over again.

Wow, apparently it’s possible to recreate the rising sense of panic that indicates Evening Hysteria just by writing about it!

Our local grocery store spoiled us by selling pulled chicken as part of their (extensive) prepared foods offerings. It was so easy to just… grab a little container of pulled chicken breast and toss it into whatever soup we’re working on – oh, I guess I should have specified from the get go that this “tip” which is turning into a lengthy diatribe mainly applies to things like soup and chicken paprikas and stir fry, not really to some of the other things I listed up there – and voila! Dinner!

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This is chicken paprikas, but there is nowhere NEAR enough sauce on this plate. If I took a photo of what my bowl normally looks like, however, it would just look like… pink sauce.

Okay, to be honest, there’s some other stuffed I just voilaed right over, like chopping veggies and sautéing onions and adding spices and stuff, but I figured you would read between the lines. But I am ALSO going to figure that maybe you are tired like me and your brain has also been dulled by endless off-key renditions of the Hokey Pokey so I am filling in the lines anyway.

So we got used to this super convenient pre-cooked, pre-pulled chicken… and then the grocery store stopped carrying it. Or other people caught on to its wonders and started snatching it off the shelves before we got there, which would be pretty difficult seeing as we go to the grocery store at the crack of dawn these days because BABIES.  We tried to compensate by buying rotisserie chicken, but de-breasting a rotisserie chicken takes time and is wasteful (for us, as we don’t eat the skin or the dark meat) and is also expensive. Seriously. $7.99 for a rotisserie chicken? That seems EGREGIOUS. (I don’t think I used “egregious” in its most accurate form there, but right now it’s conveying my particular level of outrage about the cost of rotisserie chicken, so I’m letting it stay.)

All of this build up is to say that I have begun doing something that possibly you already do, in which case, this whole post was just a straight up waste of time for you and I’m sorry.

What I do is, I buy a bunch of (raw) chicken breasts when they are on sale, and then I go immediately home and, while the baby is asleep in her carseat (on the floor of the kitchen, not in the car), I cut out the red things and other badness, and I chop a couple of carrots and a stalk or two of celery into very rough inch-long or so pieces, and I chop a half an onion in similar chunks, and I grab a few cloves of garlic and break them in half with my hands (like a beast!), and I throw the veg into the bottom of a roasting pan, toss in a cup or so of chicken broth or water, throw in a few sprigs of thyme if I have some handy, cover them with a cooling rack or other perforated food-elevator (read: thing that elevates the food above a surface, not thing that moves food from ground floor to penthouse), and throw the chicken breasts on the rack/elevated-surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss into a 400 degree oven for a while. Fifteen minutes, I think, but last time I turned off the timer and forgot about the chicken for an unspecified amount of time. Then I flip the chicken over and cook for another 10 minutes or so.

You’ll note that this activity requires a lot of throwing, but that’s because I am racing to get the chicken in the oven before the baby wakes up.

Once the chicken is cool, I shred it. Or cut it into bite sized pieces. Then I freeze the shreds/bites in Ziploc freezer bags.

If I do this every time chicken is on sale, I build up a nice cache of frozen, shredded chicken. And it is SO EASY. Just grab a bag, toss into… whatever… cook for a while and voila!

Of all the reasons I haven’t been blogging regularly over the past seven months, one stands out as the most ridiculous and easily correctable.

I hate blogging about the baby because I hate calling her “the baby.”

See? Ridiculous.

As an anonymous (loosely) blogger, I prefer to keep her real name out of my blog. Fine. It seems simple enough to just come up with a pseudonym for her, right? Or choose a nickname?

Well, this is where I get stuck. On something equally ridiculous.

I don’t want to fall in love with her blog name, and have it “off the list” for future potential children. (Which is even MORE ridiculous, because, at this time, we aren’t planning on additional kiddos. Which is a topic for another day. But – well, we didn’t plan on wanting ANY kiddos, and then we did. So I don’t want to name-block Future Me with a poorly-chosen blog name.)

Like Eloise or Gwendolyn – both names that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. Eloise was a top contender for this baby, but she just wasn’t (isn’t) an Eloise. But I certainly don’t want to lose it for future babies. And Gwendolyn was one my husband staunchly REFUSED to like… but I don’t want to use it up on the blog and then have him come around to it as the wonderful name it is and be unable to use it for a future child.

(Egads – we are NOT [planning on] HAVING A SECOND CHILD.)

There are a few names that have been Ruled Out as future options because they’ve been given to other babies we know. Abigail is one of those – and it’s a great name, one that was on the original list my husband and I made nearly a year ago. (I saved those lists somewhere, for future nostalgia.) But I’m sort of afraid that I will fall in love with the name and wish that it were my baby’s REAL name. I don’t think Seven-Months-In Baby Naming Regret is a good color on me.

My husband and I tried really hard to find a French name we both loved – our surname is French, as is his heritage (sort of) – but we couldn’t fully commit to one for this baby. So maybe a French name would work? Vivienne, Genevieve, Noemi… all so beautiful.

There are some names that I DON’T love, names the fit my loose criteria of “matching” her real-life name (classic/traditional, long, lots of potential nicknames, not shared by kids of or other bloggers I follow), but I feel ambivalent about those, too.

Like Frances. It’s a family name. It’s one that my husband and I briefly considered and then removed from our lists. I don’t think it would be a future potential name for any future potential babies. It has some good nickname options (Franny, Frankie, Fran, Sissy, Francie). But I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like I’d be writing about This Baby.

Maybe that’s part of the problem? That I think a pseudonym should fit her as well as her real name does? Gah. Talk about impossible expectations.

And then while I’m thinking about the baby’s blog name, I start wondering what my husband’s blog name should be. And then I think about how sick I am of typing in “Life of a Doctor’s Wife” as my name on other blogs, and how “Mrs. Doctor” is stupid, and…

I have more important equally ridiculous other things to worry about!

If only I had had the foresight to BEGIN the blog with a set of pseudonyms!

Can it even be done, switching blog names midstream? Like, could you just come back to this blog one day (in the distant future, based on my blogging frequency of late) and it could belong to the… La Fleur family?

Welcome to the bloggy home of Isobel and Jean-Phillipe La Fleur, and their petite bebe, Genevieve!

I could decorate my header with flowers and berets and baguettes, and sprinkle my posts with French terms.

BARF.

Wood board, Internet, the ridiculousness is off the charts with this one. I’m done.

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