Thursday, September 29, 2005

To sleep, perchance to SCREAM


Well, it seems like the good times are over – for the time being, at least. After having been an incredibly good sleeper for the past eight weeks or so, Milo has decided to revert to his “Night of the Living Dead” style of sleeping. The “Living Dead” being me, of course.

Until just a couple nights ago, Milo’s nighttime schedule looked like this: going to bed around 8:00 p.m. with nary a fuss, being given a “dream feed” at 11:00 p.m. while still asleep, waking up for a quick feed around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and then drifting right back into slumber land and staying there until waking for good sometime between 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. The only time his schedule deviated was when he actually slept through the night (the Holy Grail of parenting) instead of waking up for the 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. feed – and this he did at least once every couple of weeks.

Yes, he was a good little sleeper, and boy, did I ever exult over the fact. Whenever someone would inquire about his sleeping habits, I’d positively gloat.

“Oh, he’s a great sleeper,” I’d breezily announce to the person who asked (as well as anyone else within earshot), “Goes down like a charm, wakes up only once in the night – if that – and goes right back to sleep as soon as he’s done feeding. Just a dream, really.”

Well, the dream has become a nightmare. For the past couple of nights, he’s taken to waking up about shortly after he’s been put down for the night and refusing to go back to sleep for the next hour or so. Then he’s awakened on both nights around 10:30 p.m. (before I can give him his 11:00 “dream feed”), then again at 1:30 a.m., and then again at 4:30 a.m.

And then this morning, he decided to wake up at 5:00 a.m. AND 6:00 a.m. as well, waiting just until I’d finally fallen back asleep from the previous wake-up before shattering my dreams with another one of his high-pitched “Hey! HEY! WhereamIandwhatthehellamIdoing
someonecomingtohelpmeHelpMeHELPME!!!” hollers.

I swear, the only thing that’s kept me from throttling the little devil is a book that one of the women in my “Parent & Baby” class recently lent me. It’s called The Wonder Weeks and it’s all about the eight main stages of mental development babies experience during their first 60 weeks of life, and how these intellectual leaps make babies act all wonky as they try to make sense of their rapidly changing reality. Well, wouldn’t you know, Milo just happens to be going through one of them right this very week. Hence his incredible wonkiness.

According to the book, when babies are about 12 weeks old (or 14 weeks, if they were born two weeks early like Milo was), they start being able to comprehend “smooth transitions” – continuous changes in sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. All of a sudden, nothing in their world seems to stand still any more.

For the first time, they’re able to watch an object move from one place to another, such as a ball rolling across the floor, or their hands waving in front of their eyes, or their zombie moms crossing the kitchen to pour themselves a cup of coffee before they realize in their sleep-deprived state that they CAN’T drink coffee because they’re breast-feeding, and if their child is already acting like a miniature Linda Blair, peeing and puking and shrieking demonically, heaven only knows what he or she would be like all jacked up on caffeine – so no, they couldn’t even possibly consider drinking coffee even though they’ve never needed a hit of that sweet, sweet java SO VERY MUCH in their whole damned lives!

But I digress. The point is, at this stage of the game, babies are suddenly able to make a lot more sense of the world around them and it totally blows their tiny little minds, so much so that they become a lot fussier and more clingy and, if they’re Milo, unable to sleep for longer than a couple of hours or so.

So I can’t blame the boy for his disrupted sleep patterns over the past couple of nights. Being a newborn has to be like the craziest acid trip EVER. The kind of intellectual leap he’s currently experiencing must be like seeing our three-dimensional reality suddenly sprout another dimension. Heck, I’d be freaked out, too.

Thankfully, the authors of The Wonder Weeks say this rocky period of transition usually only lasts a few days, so I’m hoping that Milo will return to his old, champion sleeper self by the end of the week. After all, a couple of Dutch doctors who’ve spent 25 years studying infant development can’t be wrong, right? Right? Right?

If they are, I’m going to trash-talk their book like you wouldn’t believe.

Monday, September 26, 2005

His left hand knew not what his right hand was doing

A thousand thanks to everyone who weighed in on the “to snip or not to snip” debate. Rob and I still haven’t made a decision yet; however, I’m inclined to believe that our reluctance to put an end to our indecision is a kind of decision in itself.

That being said, Milo almost took matters into his own hands last night – literally. I had him on the change table just before his bath time, and he was gooing, kicking, and flailing like he always does (the change table is still pretty much his favourite place to be… oh, how that boy loves to have a bare butt. He’s like his father that way). I was tickling his cheeks and making faces at him, when all of a sudden his eyes bulged out of their sockets, his face turned purple, and he let out a piercing shriek the likes of which should never be heard beyond the confines of Hell.

I gasped, wondering how my smiling boy could turn so quickly into a screaming demon, then let out a shriek myself when I saw the reason for his sudden transformation. The poor guy had one of his tiny fists clenched around his penis and testicles and was squeezing them with all his might – and that kid has a pretty good grip on him, let me tell you. Hence the screaming, the horrible, horrible screaming.

And, since tiny infants have no real understanding that their hands are actually part of them, Milo had no idea that he was actually the one inflicting the pain on himself. The more it hurt, the tighter he clenched his fist, and the louder he screamed. I thought the poor kid’s eyes were going to shoot out of his head and go splat against the ceiling. I had to pry his fingers away one by one – going back to re-pry the ones that he had clenched back into a fist – before he finally was able to let himself go.

Then the tears began, the inconsolable tears he shed for having discovered that this strange new reality in which he found himself could involve such terrible suffering. His shocked eyes stared up at me through the tears as if to say, “Why didn’t you WARN me?”

Sorry, kiddo. There are just some things you’ve got to learn on your own.

Fortunately, Milo’s memory is about as developed as his fine motor skills, and by the time he’d finished his bath, he’d completely forgotten about the injury he’d inflicted upon himself. Thank goodness. What a nasty way to learn the inevitable lesson that you’re your own worst enemy.

So, yeah. Having witnessed that, I’m even LESS inclined to put the poor boy’s penis on the chopping block. Unless Rob gets pushed off the fence or experiences a sudden steeling of the will, it looks like Milo will remain as nature intended him: unedited, in his original default mode.

Hmm. Come to think of it, maybe Milo wasn’t being as his own worst enemy, but was actually acting in his own self defence, suffering a smaller evil so that a bigger one might be avoided… I wouldn’t put it past him, the little monkey.

R. Milo Emmerson – accidental self-mutilator or seriously wily dude?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

To snip or not to snip

You wanna do what to my WHAT???

That’s the question we’ve been wrestling with since long before Milo was born – to circumcise or not to circumcise, to put our baby boy under the knife just so he can look like his dad and have a pretty penis for the girls (or boys, should he decide to swing that way), or to keep his one-eyed cobra hooded? Is a certain genital aesthetic worth the pain and suffering that he (and we) will endure if we go ahead with the procedure? Even if the answer is yes, do we really have the right to make that kind of decision for Milo, simply because we’re his parents?

Tough questions with no easy answers, damn it. Me, I tend to prefer the problems you can solve simply by consulting the answer key at the end of a textbook.

If we’d had Milo in the hospital, (and had given the go-ahead, of course), the circumcision would have been done as a routine part of his hospital stay. By now, his wound would already be long healed. But since we had him at home, we weren’t given the “easy-out” option, which means we have to do a lot more planning if we want to go through with the procedure.

That’s where the problems arise… Rob and I are notorious procrastinators, and neither of us feels particularly strongly about the issue one way or another. We’ve both been sitting on the fence so long I’m sure we’ll still be picking splinters from our butts when we’re sitting in our wheelchairs in a nursing home.

Right now, Rob’s leaning a little to the “let’s do it” side of the fence. He’s circumcised and so naturally would like his son resemble him. (“Aargh!” I hear him say in the privacy of his own mind. “We be the Emmerson men! Come, admire our rose-tipped bare bodkins!) My guess is that Rob doesn’t want Milo to look at him in the shower one day and say, “My GOD, Dad, what’s wrong with your wee-wee?” or even worse: “What’s wrong with MINE???”

Both sets of grandparents tend to be “pro-snip” as well, mostly because they had their children in a time when getting circumcised was the norm. I’ve already heard them voice the main arguments their doctors used with them: e.g., that circumcision is “cleaner” and prevents infection and penile cancer.

Apparently, however, most of these medical arguments no longer hold water. In fact, the Canadian Paediatric Society now recommends against routine circumcision, and a growing majority of newborn baby boys are leaving the hospital with their foreskins intact.

Recent studies show that uncircumcised men aren’t any more likely to suffer from infections or cancer than their circumcised counterparts, so long as they know how to clean themselves down there. Other studies show that circumcision reduces the risk of being infected with HIV or human pampiloma virus. And then there are those studies that contradict the findings of all the previous studies.

In the face of all this conflicting evidence, what's a confused and squeamish mother to do?

When I was a kid, most of the boys in my class were circumcised (don’t ask me how I know this). By the time Milo’s in school, the opposite will be true. And, as our doctor pointed out, who will he be more likely to compare himself to – his father or his classmates in the locker room?

As you might have figured out, I’m starting to lean toward the “let’s DON’T!” side of the fence here. I think the Canadian Paediatric Society’s anti-circumcision stance was the clincher. If there’s no medical reason for doing it, then why bother? Right now, it seems to me the only advantage is that Milo will one day be able to advertise himself as “8 inches, cut” in the classified ads, should he choose to become a male escort later in life. I’m not really sure that’s worth the grief I'll have to endure if I have to watch my baby boy be strapped down to a cot with full body restraints and scream with fear and confusion as a total stranger slices off a significant chunk of his most sensitive organ.

And yet, and yet… circumcised penises are just so darned pretty. Do I, as a mother, have the right to deprive him of one, just because I’m scared to see my darling baby suffer for any length of time? Maybe I’d just better toughen up; otherwise, how will I endure the broken bones and spouting gashes of childhood and adolescence?

So there’s our dilemma. If we keep stalling on making a decision either way, I suppose the “DON’T” side is going to win by default, and both of us will secretly be relieved.

Before it gets to that, however, Rob and I would both love to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter. What do YOU think? Has circumcision become an unnecessary, outmoded procedure with only minimal aesthetic benefits, or will our son thank us in years to come for permanently unsheathing his sword? Feel free to post anonymously, if that makes you more comfortable. Just please oh please make up our minds for us, because clearly we’re not doing that great a job making them up for ourselves.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Do or do not

There is no “try”…

Back in the days when I was still pregnant, I read a book called “Buddhism for Mothers.”

In the book, a Buddhist mother of a newborn likens parenting to the mental and physical rigors of spiritual training:

And at the center of it was the crazy wisdom teacher in diapers, who assigned more demanding practices than I had encountered in all my travels in India. Like "Tonight you will circumambulate the living room for two hours with the master in your arms, doing a deep-knee bend at every other step and chanting, ‘Dooty-dooty-doot-doot-doo, dooty-dooty-doot-doot-doo.’”

At the time I read it, I thought the analogy rather cute; but on the night I spent a full hour rocking Milo and singing, “The Rainbow Connection” in a desperate attempt to get him to sleep, I realized how apt the observation really was.

Yoda’s got nothing on this kid, I tell you.

Every single interaction with Milo is a learning experience, and many of the lessons require a great deal of time and effort before the “Eureka” spark is finally ignited. And all these lessons are serving to illuminate the chinks in my character – the weaknesses I’ve struggled with my entire life but have never managed to overcome.

Again and again I find myself butting heads with my own ego (ME ME ME, look at ME, aren’t I GREAT?!), my impatience (I want everything to be perfect right NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!), my overly judgmental nature (There’s only ONE best way to do it and THAT’S NOT IT!), and my tendency to dwell obsessively on the gap between reality and some idealized state of perfection that simply doesn’t exist (But if only you TRIED HARDER and and weren’t SO SELFISH and SACRIFICED more and were an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSON altogether...) -- Shaddup already!

I had rather been hoping that I’d be able to continue coasting through life without ever having to confront these weaknesses head on. I've become very good at putting my hands over my ears and humming, "La la la, what glaring character flaws, I can't see them!"

All my life I have looked away -- to the future, to the horizon. Never my mind on where I WAS.

But thanks to Master Milo, I'm learning to live in the moment, to focus on the now, on what IS instead of what was or one day will be.

And you know, it ain't half bad.

Ready, are you? What know you of ready?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mi nutrimento es su nutrimento

M. de Poop Machine smiling as he cooks up another dollop of diaper pudding

Okay, it’s like this: the day after I’ve scarfed down a bunch of spinach or other dark leafy greens, Milo has these huge poops that are such a bright, deep shade of emerald green, it’s as if all the world’s remaining rainforests have crawled up his butt and died there – or at least decided to hide there until the logging companies find some other natural resource to pick on.

At first, this didn’t strike me as being particularly unusual. Of course the nutrients from the food I eat get passed on to Milo. Duh.

But then I started thinking… the milk that comes out of my body is WHITE. It’s not like there are little flakes of spinach or kale in it. By what strange alchemical process does white breast milk, in its passage through Milo’s body, turn into dark green poop? The mind wobbles!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Publish or perish

It’s been all blogging, all the time, over here at the Whalen-Emmerson household – ever since my beloved husband started writing not one, but TWO blogs of his own. You can find his words of wisdom at Dread Pirate Robert with links to Milo pictures. There is also his sillier site, The Superfluous Nipple, if you're curious about that.

Rob is a humourous, insightful writer whose postings offer valuable commentary on the human condition. Plus, he has three nipples, and one of them is pierced. Really… what more could a girl want?

That being said, I’d now like to castigate my beloved husband for ALWAYS STEALING MY BLOG IDEAS BEFORE I GET A CHANCE TO WRITE THEM UP AS POSTS!!!

It’s just a tad frustrating, I tell you, to check out one of Rob’s blogs and discover that the whole time I’ve been trying to settle Milo down for his nap, HE’S been writing a blog entry about the VERY SAME TOPIC I was planning to tackle as soon as Milo was asleep! Sheesh! Sure, he may have fathered Milo and washed every single load of diapers since the day he was born, but I figure I still own the intellectual property rights to the boy.

So, in order to remind Rob who has first dibs on all Milo-related topics, I’d greatly appreciate it if you copied and pasted the following text and left it as a comment on one of Rob’s blogs:

Dear Rob, while you are an incredibly perceptive writer and while I enjoy reading your posts and seeing pictures of people with three or more nipples, I must confess to feeling a certain sympathy for your poor wife, who – due to her endlessly self-sacrificing devotion to your son – is unable to spend as much time in front of a computer as you, and is therefore unable to post her blog entries about parenting young Milo as quickly and often as you are. For this reason, I think it advisable for you to submit all future blog ideas in writing to your lovely wife for approval PRIOR to posting them on one of your blogs, in order to refrain from inadvertently stealing any more of her ideas. Better yet, why not spend several hours a day acting as her scribe, typing up her blogs for her when she has her hands full with your son. Because if you don’t, tiny birds will peck out your pupils and strangers will spit in your soup. Yours truly, a Concerned Reader.

There. That should do it.

You see how he's horning in on my territory?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The great baby boom of summer ought-five

Milo and Korae: First they play hard to get...

...then they succumb to their overwhelming mutual attraction and play super happy-smiley face with each other.

We’ve been dealing with a whole lot of firsts in the past couple weeks. First goos, first smiles, first trip to the doctor, first night alone with Dad, first self-inflicted rattle smack to the head, etc. – the fun never stops, I tell you. Just last weekend, Milo had his first trip to the beach – AND his first “date” with an older woman. Our friends David and Donna were there with their second child, Korae, who was born on June 14th, 11 days before Milo decided to grace us with his presence.

The two babies were ridiculously cute with each other. We sat them down on our laps so that their faces were only a foot or so away from each other. As soon as they caught sight of each other, they were captivated. They sat there staring at each other, smiling, flailing their arms, and trying to play footsy with each other for at least 15 minutes. In baby terms, that’s the equivalent of a 9-½ week love affair. All they were missing were the strawberries and whipped cream.

Meanwhile, it’s all I can do to get my son to look at me most of the time. Our white bedroom door and the light coming through our orange curtains are infinitely more interesting than the face of the woman who brought him into the world.

Sigh. I always knew that Milo would end up casting me aside for another woman… I just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

However, Milo’s going to find he has a lot of competition for Korae’s affections. He’s certainly not the only baby boy that’s come into the world over the past few months. This summer has seen an unprecedented number of new souls join our extended circle of friends and family. I can count ten new arrivals in my little world alone:

  • Korae was born to David and Donna on June 14th

  • Wayland James was born to our friend Scott and his girlfriend Heather on June 21st

  • Milo the Man was born on June 25th

  • Oscar was born to Teresa and Steven on July 1st

  • My friend Tracy’s cousin Erin had a baby boy a couple of weeks after Milo was born

  • Milo’s cousin Nadia was born to my brother David and his wife Roxanne on July 8th

    (hmm… can anyone say, “kissing cousin”?)

  • Isis was born to Osha (Donna’s sister) and Paul in the beginning of August (another set of cousins!)

  • Emily and Tyler (TWINS!) were born to my coworker Cheryl on August 20th

  • Finally, my friends Stew and Kelly were brave (or insane) enough to have their FOURTH CHILD, a baby boy, sometime in August.

And those are just the babies that have come into MY world. One shudders to think what the first day of kindergarten is going to be like, when all those five-year-olds show up and the teachers realize they’re going to have to ship in a dozen portable classrooms to hold them all…

Oh, cripes, that reminds me – I’d better go right this minute and start getting Milo on to about a bajillion daycare waiting lists. What have I been thinking? The boy’s already two months old! If I don’t get him into the right preschool, he’ll be ruined for life!

(Speaking of preschools, did you know that the rate of expulsion in U.S. preschools is TRIPLE the K-12 expulsion rate? Egads! Why do you suppose they're getting kicked out? For biting? Fighting? Dealing drugs? Worshipping false gods? Refusing to stand up for the pledge of allegiance? Something tells me I'd rather not know -- I already spend far too much time analyzing Milo's current behaviour for signs of nasty habits to come. Lord knows I don't need any others to look for...)