056

life seems to exist solely in three disparate blocks of times these days.  we are either at the office, working on our new house, or preventing this baby from killing himself.

this guy can SCOOT.  as if making up for all those lost months spent immobile on his belly, furiously paddling the air, baby james is rapidly becoming the most athletic member of this family.  he crawls.  he climbs.  he pulls up.  he is trying to stand unassisted, testing the lightest possible one-handed grip on a nearby object, swaying like a stubby little tree.

his social skills have now surpassed my own.  he intentionally feeds the dogs, teasing them with handfuls of scrambled eggs before allowing them to feast in his miniscule palms.  his babbling has reached fever-pitch, those nonsensical squawks taking on a conversational tone.  my dude is still wide-eyed and pointless around new faces, like he's trying to make sense of a terrible acid trip.  but around the handful of people in his daily routine- ian, me, my mother, that baby becky at daycare who's always trying to kiss him- he is engaged and excited.  

still, nearly nine months into this endeavor, it is an absolute wonder when i watch him scrabbling towards me exuberantly.  seeing those bright, dark eyes lock in on my face, those chubby little limbs coordinated confidently in rapid movement.  he crawls into my lap and grabs my face for a kiss (or at least his approximation of a kiss- placing his lips on mine and screaming directly into my mouth).  my dumb lizard brain floods with a pure and clear joy that feels like the first thirst-quenching gulp of cool, fresh water.  it lightens my chest, drives everything else out of my mind.  this is what a patronus feels like, i think stupidly.  

in my more cognitively sound and cynical moments, i fully recognize that babies are annoying and mine is no exception.  he sobs when we don't let him eat paper.  he grabs every fork within reach at a restaurant.  he is never quite sure whether he wants to drink water or splash his hands around in the cup.  he refuses to stay on his back for diaper changes and ends up with poop on his knees.  it is a testament to my immigrant upbringing that by eight months in, i am googling when can you start disciplining a baby don't report this search to cps.  and in these moments when he is being particularly whack, i am mostly relieved by the recognition that fundamentally, i am still not really a baby person.

i just like this guy, despite his consistently runny nose and his occasional refusal to put an arm through a sleeve.  

our routines are a lot easier this days, with the infrequent but tedious exceptions when james decides he wants to party for 8 hours instead of napping.  we've fallen into a rhythm quickly in this new home, and it is a surprisingly healthy, sustainable one.  mornings don't feel rushed or tag team, because james can amble around on the floor to entertain himself while we get ready.  some days, i even cook breakfast for him.   this is nothing short of a miracle to a girl who was unable to wake up for 1 pm lectures in grad school and could barely dress herself.  

ian and i have both lost our respective baby weight, which is maybe the true miracle.  like i guess childbirth is chill but the fact that i have been able to stop wallowing in self-pity and no longer eating like i'm being paid per chicken nugget is an even more incredible feat of biology and willpower and being too busy at work to fantasize about curly fries.  and from this side of the scale, the idea of trying for a second babby in a year or two no longer seems like a horrifying threat.

we are not in any rush yet, despite ian's secret hopes for a creepy quiverfull family setup (i assume this is what he means when he says 4 kids would be ideal).  i'd like to get this first goofball out of diapers and into cool hobbies like vacuuming up all this dog fur on a daily basis.

 

055

i haven't updated in nearly a month, mostly because i've been an ineffective sadboy about packing, moving, and unpacking.  we closed on our new home mid-march and finally left the little house on voss hills after two whirlwind years- the best ride of my life thus far.  i applied for that rental as a cynical, self-absorbed single girl and i walked out for the very last time as an equally cynical, self-absorbed wife and mother.  and of course, true to form, i've been mourning this transition, the bittersweet pangs of leaving the first place i've really made into a home, cataloging the memories tied into every single space.  the living room, where we decorated our christmas tree to a bing crosby-heavy spotify playlist.  the dining room, where ian knelt down and asked if he could spend the rest of his life making me happy.  the kitchen, where we gingerly brought home our tiny bleary-eyed son from the hospital.  the nursery, where we spent so many of our days watching james lounge, flail, roll, and finally begin to crawl.  the master closet, where i stood alone at night during the darkest depths of my postpartum sorrow and sobbed to u2's "without or with u" on repeat (why???).  

it feels like the most transitional chapter of my life has finally closed, but this is a deceptive narrative heuristic.  after all, we are still the same squad in approximately the same city, living pretty much the exact same life- but in a much bigger space.

and it couldn't have come at a better time.  mr. james is truly a big kid now, and the glimpses of who he'll become as a full-grown dude keep coming into view, faster and faster with each passing week.  he can now pull himself up into a standing position, which is a feat he attempts often on nearly anything he can reach.  he is also finally crawling, after two months of refining a strange and desperate belly flopping momentum.  it is a miracle to watch him, at long last, manage to coordinate all four chubby little limbs into forward movement.  my wonderment lasts all of 45 seconds, until i watch him crawl directly to the first available electrical cord and stuff it happily into his mouth.

everything goes into his mouth now- phones, cables, laptop screens, doorstops, shoes, all the food, and everyone's body parts.  it is less adorable now when he crawls over to me and gnaws on my knee, because my dude has two fully grown bottom teeth and wastes no time in testing them.  genuinely a pleasure to witness when he's munching on apple or cramming fistfuls of risotto into his face.  not so much when he rediscovers my breasts and tries to chomp on them for old times' sake.

it is the beautiful miracle of biology that i survive this encounter without reflexively flinging him across the room.

i don't mean for this entire entry to make him sound like a blossoming monster, all rapid movement and sharp teeth.  he's also definitely cognitively and socially a more interesting real guy than ever before.  yes this is what development is, you dumb ass.  ain't nobody thought your 8 month old baby would still be as helpless and pointless as his first day out, you might say.  and yes, you are right- but the inevitability still can't dilute the raw excitement that soars in my chest when james makes meaningful eye contact and babbles hopefully.  he knows me.  he wants to play with me.  he repeats actions that make me laugh.  he is almost as smart as jean-luc and definitely smarter than momo.

he still sleeps like a champion and his nursery is so far away now, on the second floor.  but we are long past the middle-of-the-night wakeups, and james snoozes from his usual 7pm to 7 am with astonishing consistency.  it is still our greatest collective triumph and probably my favorite discovery during this new parenthood adventure.  sometimes, you get lucky.  a baby rip van winkle, and a dreamboat husband who lets you sleep in until noon on the weekends.

don't get too jealous, though.  a few days ago james pooped in my new resplendent bathtub and the moment i felt the sliminess flow into my hands was probably the worst full minute of my entire life.

054

i'm driving back from a meeting at the coppell clinic, pulling into the addison parking lot when my phone rings.  it's james' daycare, and i am fully ready to receive my very first boo-boo report.  maybe james has tumped over in his increasingly desperate attempts to crawl.  maybe he has punched a bottle of milk into his own eye.  maybe his nemesis, that shady little ethan, has bitten him.

instead, the daycare director greets me.  she tells me not to be alarmed, but james has not been doing well.  he's had a low-grade fever all day and he's refusing meals, which isn't like him at all.  he's been lethargic and sleeping all day, we've been able to wake him up but he's not being himself.  he's got a deep cough and is showing signs of breathing retractions.

my stomach clenches and my mouth goes dry instantly.  the fear in my gut is visceral, and i u-turn back onto the tollway so automatically i am slightly surprised to find myself speeding north a moment later.  in an instant, i forget about my meetings, the conference call, the interview, my own appointments.  i call dr. macdonald's office.  i call ian.  i call my mother, and then i fight back tears for the rest of the drive.

and i will always be the first one to shrug it's okay, he'll be fine, babies get sick because cognitively i know that a 7 month old's only forte is absorbing all the germs in the world and transforming them to a free-flowing nose.  for all of his personality foibles, the only thing james really excels at is coughing.  he has been, to some degree, sick for the past two months.  i knew this would happen.  i coached ian on this very expectation.  but still, there is a sickening fear hollowing out the pit of my stomach when i see james looking back up at me, glassy-eyed and devoid of his usual cheer.  he isn't crying or fussing, but i know with an undeniable instinct that he does not feel cool at all.  my baby is in pain, and this one fact sends fear signaling pathways coursing through my autonomic nervous system.  

i speed down preston rd like i'm playing grand theft auto, terrified that the pediatrician's office will close while i am stuck in traffic behind a jetta that is slowly considering every possible right turn.  i normally drive at a painfully hesitant crawl like a blind elderly dog navigating through a school zone, but my babby is wheezing in the backseat and i am filled with a burning hatred for everyone who isn't dr. macdonald and his prescription pad.  

when we arrive at the clinic, james throws up on ian's shoulder by way of greeting.

dr. macdonald detects no respiratory distress, and my own breathing finally eases.  james' strife and listlessness are the byproduct of a double ear infection.  apparently, that round of amoxicillin he just finished might as well have been cotton candy.  dr. macdonald reassures me, once again, that this is still well within the realm of totally normal things that happen to all babies all the time.  and then his medical assistant promptly fails to call in the prescribed antibiotics.  by the time we realize this, the clinic is closed.

when we return home, ian feeds james a mouthful of baby tylenol.  that was 3.75 mL, right?  i ask.  

my husband freezes.  no, it was 5.  like a sitcom sight gag, i watch him refer to the directions on the bottle only to discover there was a second page revealed by peeling away the first layer.  a page that specifies that babies under 24 lbs need dosing instructions from a physician.  but i am a proud member of a facebook mommy group and i might as well have that infant acetaminophen dosage chart tattooed behind my fucking eyelids for how many times i have gazed upon it during a 3 am nursing session.  

i am pretty sure that james' liver will not immediately fall out of his butt, yet i call the after-hours nursing line for peace of mind.  it reaches a registered nurse at children's medical center, and she asks me if i want to call 911.  only to arrest my husband, i tell her.  she gets poison control on the line.  i remind everyone in this conversation once again that this was definitely ian's fault and not mine.  can you write that in his chart?

poison control lectures me sternly but reassures me that my baby should be fine.  ian is contrite and i am exhausted but james looks pretty pleased with himself.  he babbles happily, blows raspberries incessantly, and proceeds to down 10 ounces of milk to make up for the lost meal.  he is so unfathomably easy, so calm and tolerant that i am left saying who's a good boy?  you're a good boy! over and over again because everything is basically a dog and i have the communication skills of an amoeba.

and now, for the first time in a long time, i am awake in the nursery.  not because james is having trouble sleeping- on the contrary, he is basically comatose and seemingly mad comfortable.  it's just that i can't stop staring at him, stroking his goofy-ass hair that only grows on top, memorizing the impossibly vulnerable curvature of his cheeks.  and maybe for the first time ever, he doesn't just feel like a baby that someone left in my house for me to do a bad job of raising.  he feels like mine, but so much better and more than i deserve.  everything well-intentioned, earnest, or good about me exists in this 19 lb stack of biscuits.

please get better soon, mr. james.  and give me my dang heart back. i'm gonna need it for this hyped up new zelda game. 

 

053

james is riding a tidal wave of discomforts- he has a cold, an ear infection, endured his six month vaccinations, and his very first tooth is erupting.

(isn't that gross?  that this process of tooth development is referring to as eruption?  i am already deeply creeped out by dental imagery because the idea of a skull full of nascent and adult teeth crowded in waiting madly triggers my tryptophobia and i feel itchy just thinking about it, but to also picture them exploding through the gum like a cluster of jagged little volcanoes is truly disgusting.)

but while i am an irredeemable weakling of a human being who gets upset thinking about holes and bumps, james is a shining beacon of strength.  he is, by nature, so good-humored and easygoing that we do not even realize he's sick until dr. mcdonald prescribes the amoxicillin.

everyone has different pain tolerance, he says affably while i berate myself for being such a lackluster parent that i can't even detect my own baby's illness.

true to form, james wails in surprise when he receives shots in both legs- but five seconds later, he is all smiles.  i am distracted by yet another work crisis on the other end of my phone, but ian cradles our son, holds his little hands, tells him he's okay.  the nurses slap spiderman bandaids on his chubby, ham hock thighs and james just peers up at ian adoringly.

there's this photo in the jake rasmussen facebook archives that was taken a couple of years ago at a birthday party, back when ian was still firmly ensconced in my friendzone.  in my drunker moments at that time, i was coming around slowly to the realization that my gay friend ian smith might actually be my soulmate.  in this photo, i am clearly 75% malibu rum and my eyebrows are filled in too liberally, but i am staring up at ian with undisguised hopefulness, clarity, and joy.  i am asking him to drive me to taco bell.  

it's this face i see when james looks up at his father, and it's this dynamic i keep falling in love with harder and harder, until the enormity and depth of it feels like it will swallow me entirely.  before james made his debut, my vain, self-absorbed ass could only fixate on what it would be like to see myself in a tiny little brand-new person- but now, this father-son dynamic has wrecked me completely.  i can't describe it.  i can only feel my heart laid bare with an intense vulnerability that has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my whole world condensed to the sound of james giggling while ian tickles him.

it makes me finally feel like a real person connected to the generational weft of history and family and humanity through this minute, fleeting understanding of how and why to love.  and not just like a jaded product of the internet subsisting entirely on memes, drag race references, and a pervasive attitude of mechanical saltiness.

sometimes i think about what it would've been like to have a baby with anyone else.  i mentally run through a very short list of dudes who have known me biblically and an even shorter list of those who might have wanted to hang around me for a minute and it's clear that this journey would've been a nightmare in any other context.

we are so lucky, i tell ian constantly.  james is always such a good sleeper and so happy, we really lucked out with an easy first one.

but it's clear to me that if this is his nature, then there is also nurture at play and i see its loving, careful details in the way ian sings the alphabet, washes the bottles, buckles the carseat, and watches the nest cam from the minute he wakes up.  if james is mercifully predictable and surprisingly optimistic for a baby, it's because he is learning from the best.  i sit around generally vexed all day about the trump administration and how enormous my thighs look in light wash jeans- but my two boys are twin beacons of enduring cheer, listening to a podcast and cuddling happily together.

and ian did drive me to taco bell that night, but i didn't even let him come up to my apartment.  i kissed him impulsively and then immediately flounced off in a drunk messy heap of mixed signals.  he ate that bag of burritos alone in his car in my parking lot.  it is a testament to his patience and optimism that he never once bailed on his crush.  he was warned.  he was given an explanation (that i am the worst).  nevertheless, he persisted.  

so while i tell everyone how we are lucky to have james, i know for a fact that james and i are both luckier still to have ian.

052

i am done.

long before ruth in the recovery room showed me how to cram my entire breast into a 2-hour old mouth, my best friend maggie told me once: don't let people make you feel guilty about formula feeding, there's nothing wrong with it.  it hadn't even occurred to me at that point, as far removed from the mommysphere as i was, that formula could induce guilt. 

in fact, guilt is not a state of mind i inhabit very frequently- even as a mother.  i don't mean for this to sound sociopathic, but somehow my brain has figured out a way to metabolize that emotion immediately into either corrective action or a lifetime of self-loathing.  fix it or transcend it.

so why this long eulogy to my breastfeeding experience?  why the theatrics of sobbing in bed, blubbering to ian it just kills me to think that the last nursing session will really be the very last time?  why do i feel the need to write this out, to get this off my chest (get it ha ha i am very funny)?

ian always tells me my autobiography should be titled that was a sad story (that i made up) because i am so habitually swept up in the poetry of loss, the art of morbidity.  i eulogize garbage relationships like a widowed woman who lost her one true love in civil war.  i can't bear to part with ill-fitting items of clothing i wore less than 0.3 times because i distinctly remember feeling an emotion or intent when i purchased it.  my philosophy on being kind and patient with the ones i love is predicated on a dramatic fear that my last encounter with them could be the final one, because of car accidents or murder or savage tropical storms.  when ian leaves for the grocery store down the dang street, i yell drive carefully! in lieu of a normal farewell.  my dude, in his honda civic hybrid, is not doing tokyo drifts in the kroger parking lot.  but still, my palms sweat when i think about goodbyes.   i have spent the entirety of my adolescence and young adult life learning how to write about loss.  it is a masochistic skill to have acquired, even more pointless than learning vape tricks.

so it's this that i grappled with when it came to the end of breastfeeding.  not so much a fear of substandard nutrition, nor guilt for cheating my son out of the absolute optimal meal.  not the worry of being socially perceived as a lazy or selfish mother (i am both of those things all the time).  james tolerates formula exceptionally well, with no discernable variation in his gastrointestinal tricks or weight gain.  maternal igg antibiodies in breastmilk decline by 6 months while an infant is producing his own at normal levels.  ian, consummately supportive and optimistic, encourages me to do what is best for me.  there are so many bags of breastmilk stored in the freezer that he is visibly displeased about what this means for his meticulous kitchen organization.

i am not even excoriating myself for giving up, because i have not entirely tied up my ability to grind to my identity as a mother.  being two sacks of milk is not my character-defining accomplishment.  i suspect there will be more crucial tests of motherhood in the future- though this feels like the first big letting go.  and i know it has to be done one of these days, that he will not be breastfeeding in the car shortly before his freshman orientation on campus life activities.  it's just so...preemptive at the six month mark.

but my supply is dwindling and the fear of precipitously obsessing over my pumping output distracts me from my work, my marriage, my child.  i have survived so many rounds of mainlining fenugreek, power pumping, doing the fucking most and still on high alert for any fluctuation along those ounce markers.  i nurse daily, but it is a less than idyllic affair when james slashes at me wildly with his little claws, distracts constantly, and casually blows raspberries while latched, causing my milk to spray wastefully around us.  i catch myself feeling irrationally annoyed that he is spitting out this hard-earned liquid like a damn geyser. 

i am done feeling so precious and anxious about breastmilk; i am done with the psychological toll; i am done with the physical labor.  i want to set my pump on fire and fling the charred remains into the sun.  there are lots of stances out there on just how hard breastfeeding is.  in my personal experience, it is easier than working in a mine but harder than trying to parse a trump speech for substance.

new orleans, i tell ian.  that's my cutoff.  we'll go on vacation, i won't pump, then i'll be done.

the night before we leave on our trip, i bring james to my parents' house.  while my mom and dad hover over ian anxiously, urging him to eat an entire rotisserie chicken by himself, i sit with james in their master bedroom.  he is tired and fussy, and i take out my breasts one last time to calm him.  and this is the nursing session i will always remember, that will still be burned into my mind decades later when my breasts are no longer a thing that anyone cares about, when james is a grown man who has never given a single thought to his nutrition in infancy.  i will always remember the warm yellow light from the nightstand, the black silk dress i slipped off hastily, his big, dark eyes searching mine while he latched.  one tiny hand gripping my finger, the other windmilling around.  i will always remember thinking this is the one thing that only i can do for him, and fighting back a hot surge of tears.

and i will always remember that right after i choked back a sob, james unlatched and punched me.

when i return from our long weekend in new orleans, my supply has officially dried up.  but my tears have too, and i realize that the sting of the last time is abated by the experience of so many other things.  he is a vibrant, growing, funny little guy and feeding him is only one small part of the equation.  there are a million more memories to make and they will not always be ones of loss or finality.

for example, on valentine's day, he did a poop so horrifying it flowed down his arms.  cool memories like that.

 

051

we've made it to six months.  ian and i have kept a child alive and happy for half a dang year.

well, mostly ian.  i have been spending most of these six months complaining endlessly about pumping and pretending not to hear the baby monitor at 5 am.

things that my dude can now do:

  • eat solids voraciously.  i give him small pieces of whatever we're eating for dinner when it's not taco bell, and he handles this with astonishingly bad dexterity.  he also achieves a poor ratio of ingestion vs mess, but seems satisfied with the journey.  the dogs have never been happier, but i am not thrilled that i have completed yet another annoying evolution.  shamefully, i am now the type of person that delights in seeing my kid with peanut butter smeared all over his dumb face.  what is this genetic sorcery?  why have i become a monster?
  • bully his classmates.  james has been officially deemed worthy of moving on to the second infant room.  he is the oldest, the biggest, and probably the worst.  he roll around, keep stealing socks off the other babies.  then he try to chew their feet, one teacher tells me.  we have to grab him, tell him he can't eat other people.  i secretly hope this is just a precious anecdote and not a dropped pin in his life story of becoming a murderpedia.com article.  but the teachers all praise him for being consistently happy and easygoing, fond of smiling and quick to put himself to sleep.  still, it is time for him to move on.  his attempts at socializing with the little potatoes in his class go unnoticed and rebuffed.  starting next week, he'll begin transitioning to the adjacent classroom, where there are bigger feet to snack on.
  • begin babbling.  technically, very technically, his first words were mama because he makes those sounds repeatedly while trying to scoot.  it's a trip listening to him really trying it, figuring out how to make sounds with his lips and tongue.  but we won't be calling first words until he actually knows what he's attempting to communicate.  and i'm still hoping it'll be jet fuel can't melt steel beams.
  • show signs of starting to crawl.  little man already scoots backward with astonishing ease, but recently he has learned to assume the position- raising himself up to a quadruped pose.  this is a big one, because the idea that my helpless little 7 lb meatloaf can now become a real mobile person is hard to wrap my mind around.  like yes, cognitively i know that babies grow and explore and do things and become toddlers that become children that become taxpayers.  i understand this on an objective level, but i am also acutely aware that these months of development are far too fleeting.  he is becoming impossibly heavier, squirmier, and one day ian will no longer be able to cradle him to sleep for hours in his arms.  one day he will want to move from one place to another and he won't need to look up at me pleadingly for help.  the pains and drudgery of the newborn stage that made me long desperately for development feel like a very distant nightmare, and now i am left with a constant bittersweet taste.  every sign of growth feels like a reminder of loss.  parenting is just one long letting go, my friend from the august 2016 birth month group tells me.  i think about the truth of this daily.  we are only six months in and i am already wistful.  i will be unbearably maudlin by the time james is school-aged.

things that i can now do:

  • be an annoying sadboy all the time.

 

050

 

amar baina uu, temujin james?

i don't ever call you by your first name and i harbor the suspicion that you'll ditch it the moment you are legally able- though i would hope you'd just formally adopt james and not reinvent yourself into some bullshit hippie living in a commune calling yourself krishna om rainstorm and misappropriating locs.  

i know, without a doubt, you will sit through every roll call of every semester of your education years bathed in a cold sweat of anxiety as your teachers finish with the grahams and move on to the h-names.  they will pause somewhere after hicks or hoffman and there is a visible hesitation while they grapple with two distinctly foreign choices and every cell in your body wants to disappear under an invisibility cloak, your knuckles drawing white from the tension of just waiting for the inevitable sheepish chuckle of sorry, i just know i'm gonna mispronounce this one but... 

and will it be hoshut?  will they opt for the shorter last name with the unknown vowel sounds?  your grandfather chose that one, in a nod to his lineage from the oirat mongols.  your great-great-great grandmother was the last princess of the khoshut khanate.  all my adolescent life i wished my dad had chosen an easier, less conspicuous surname when he immigrated to america.  why couldn't he have picked jones, or williams?  or if he insisted on being conspicuously asian, why not even chen or lee?  man, it'd be so cool to be a smith.  i could fit in with a last name like smith.

in sixth grade, a girl named ebony was egged on by her friends during recess to saunter up to me while i stood alone, probably reading a book about shark attacks.  they wanted me to tell you that your last name should be ho-shit, because you're a ho and you're made outta shit, she informed me while mean-spirited giggles cued behind her like a laugh track.

i didn't even know what a ho was, but my face burned hot and in that moment i hated my name, hated my ethnicity, hated my foreignness with an anger that i thought would never really leave me.  and this idea that i will change my name somehow echoed into the idea that i will change myself.  and one day the boys i liked wouldn't pull up the corners of their eyes at me, one day strangers wouldn't call me a chink, and i would live in a good neighborhood that friends would be allowed to visit and i could host sleepovers and my parents would make hot chocolate with peppermint swizzle sticks instead of suutei tsai and i would wear brand-new abercrombie and fitch t-shirts instead of an oversized hakuna matata sweatshirt my mom fished out of the church donation bin.  i would be paler, prettier; more normal, more white.   

but james, you will never have to know that feeling- except during the roll call.  maybe your teacher will bypass the surname and gamble on your first, because they remember coming across that one in the world history books.  it's an easier one for sure, except where an american tongue betrays the sound of the j.  maybe they will pat themselves on the back for recognizing the birth name of one of the most prolific, accomplished leaders who has ever lived.  and maybe they'll wonder why your parents named you after a tyrant.  but most likely, they will move on to howard without a second thought.  

i go by james, you will explain.  over and over and over again.  you'll be mad at me in your youth, i know, because i birthed your white body with my mongolian one.  because i tell you i love you in three languages and i want to hear them all in return.  because we live in texas and i speak with no trace of an accent but i will never stop reminding you how far east your roots truly run.  because your peers will make jokes about asian guys and you will shun that half of you with a resentment that runs deep through a toxic channel of racism that questions asian masculinity and sexual attractiveness.  and you will hate me for naming you.

but know that i don't regret, even for a minute, blessing you with a name that is synonymous with greatness.  and yes, i know it's corny in the way that it might have been for a wave of baby boys named barack in 2009, but i gave you the strongest name i could in the hopes that whoever you become, whatever your motivations- you are able to embody strength in character above all else.

and know that after two solid decades of self-loathing, of resenting the yoke of difficult, anglicized syllables, of yearning for a normal american name, i sat across the desk from a ucsic agent during the final steps of acquiring my u.s. citizenship.  she asked me if i would be changing my name.  i told her no

and when i held your father's hands in that courtroom and promised to love him for as long as we both shall live, i finally had the golden opportunity to at long last become a smith.  i told him no.

james, you will have your father's features and the comfortable upper middle class life of your white peers, so your name is all i could give you.  we are mongols, temujin hoshut.  no matter where we live or what language we speak or how much trap music we listen to.  our blood is the blood of khans; our bodies borne by the bodies of the tengger desert.  if you take nothing else from me, just remember that always.  

happy tsagaan sar, my little love.

049

in high school, it only took me two weeks to say i love you to the swoopy-haired emo boyfriend of my dreams.  nearly 15 years later, it takes me so much longer to find these words for my son.

but it finally happened.  like falling asleep- slowly, and then all at once.  

james has been sick this week, hampered by a minor cold.  it's not unexpected, given the rapid change in weather and his introduction to the world of daycare germs (i am side-eyeing one particularly sketchy baby what had his nose running like a dang slip 'n slide).  we take an unnecessary trip to the pediatrician, and dr. macdonald confirms that it's clinically nbd.  he also tells me that james looks like robin hood in his cool new booties.

lil man takes after his papa in the most important ways.  the slightest illness will have me geared up to do the fucking most.  i mope, i sob, i buy the entire contents of a walgreen's, i wrap myself in every blanket i've ever owned, i write my last will and testament and think of returning as a ghost to haunt the fools that might have coughed within 10 yards of me.  ian, on the other hand, is somewhere between stoic and comatose.  he makes a hot toddy, sleeps for a full day, and remains a pleasant person.  in this approach, james is his father's son.

he's not himself today, miss jemi at the daycare tells me.  but he's still such a happy baby, only sleeping all day and not much playing.

so i know james is fine, but his big ol' bobblehead is still a giant ball of mucus.  he snorts and coughs through every hour, snuffling like a little piglet while his nose stays permanently running like he's serving a consistent wet mustache look.  and in an uncharacteristic fit of parental anxiety, i gamble with both my sleep and his to bedshare carefully in the spare room.

we've never really done this and i am mentally berating myself with a nightmare ticker tape of sids articles, but my dude lies beside me in his sleep suit and grips my finger with his tiny fist.  i listen to his struggling breaths and feel like my own sinuses are massively congested.  for a wild moment, i think that i must have caught his cold.  then it takes me several minutes to realize that i am not at all sick and breathing just fine- but fuck, his little snorts and coughs somehow physically pain me.  this is a wild phenomenon.  i am not a particularly empathetic person, but here in this moment i know that every neuron in my brain and every fiber of my body is reacting to this little man's desperate snuffling.  please feel better, please feel better i think pointlessly, redundantly.  and i do not sleep until his breathing eases.

another night, before bedtime, we are playing with mr. james in the kitchen in sort of the only way you can play with a floppy 18 pound pile of cheeks- swinging him around and showering him with kisses.  lil dude tries to suck on my chin while ian tickles him- and he can't decide whether he wants to commit to slobbering all over my face or giggling like a lunatic, so he does both and it sounds seriously dumb while i type this out but it was so fun.  legit, present, unabashed fun.  and for one moment i was finally in a beautiful headspace where i was no longer thinking about work or commitments or how i'm faring as a mediocre parent but 100% immersed in my little family and all i could think was, my god i am so in love with these gorgeous boys.

tonight we bring him home from a dinner that he slept through completely, and he is out cold.  he looks like a corn dog stuffed into a very cool new jacket.  when i bring him to bed, hoping for a little dream feed to bolster his immune system, he continues to snooze relentlessly in any position we place him in.  i cradle him in my arms while he grins in his sleep, somewhere between barely nursing and maybe having a fun dream about petting puppies.  i realize that ian and i are both just staring at him, wearing nearly identical goofy and soppy expressions.  and i think i could probably look at him forever, freeze framing and savoring these minutes that have rapidly gained momentum and traction in my life, snowballing into the massive, inexplicable, and unrestrained love i knew was waiting all along.

i literally threw up while halfway through writing this damn entry and i'm not sure if it's because i decided to inhale a metric ton of food and hot chocolate OR because i am the lamest cheeseball and someone should take this blog away from me before all my entries devolve into generic mommy bullshit.

048

when i pick james up from daycare, his daily report is already full of demerits.  it reads played with bottle :( at his 11 am feed.  playing with nipple :( at 3 pm.  he is too delighted with his own newfound strength to sit still for a full meal.

i'm worried that he'll lose weight, i express to his daycare teachers while simultaneously struggling to pick him up.  he is heavy and dense.  like a fat roasted chicken stuffed with gnocchi. the ladies exchange glances briefly before laughing, and i realize i sound ridiculous as james peers up at me through a mountain of cheeks and chins.  he is as round as ever, despite his daily frolicking and bottle foolishness.

the kids r kids facilities are all equipped with webcams, but some are better than others.  my colleague's facility in north frisco has three different camera angles and records all footage for playback like a damn tivo.  the camera in james' room, on the other hand, looks like it's just two potatoes fused together with yarn.  it is mad grainy and choppy, but i can still discern my dude with no difficulty- he's the white blob with the mass of dark hair who is boppin' around in a jumperoo like he's on speed.

he is the oldest baby in his daycare class now, so he's a little different from the sleepy little dumplings around him.  he's not like other babies, the lead teacher tells me.  i think that she is about to throw a compliment my way, because what parent doesn't want to think their child has exceptional qualities that would showcase well in a presidential biography?  instead she tells me, the other babies like being held, they relax and sleep in my arms.  but james gets very tense when i hold him, he's just twisting and turning to look at everything.

i type baby not cuddly into google and it autofills ....autistic.

he loves attention, the second teacher tells me on another day.  he doesn't even need to be touched, he just wants you to look at him.  he even tries to get the other babies' attention.  

my dude is not even 6 months old yet and he already seems like an aspiring instagram thot.  people talk about "personalities" at this age and i roll my eyes like nah, all babies are the same drooly dorks until they start reading chapter books, but i might be wrong in this regard.  james certainly has proclivities and interests that could pass for a personality.  he is mad giggly, obnoxiously loud, and fond of grabbing faces with his steely little fingers.

despite his rambunctiousness, he is still sleeping well.  the four month sleep regression never hit, and he has sailed through the past two months with no middle-of-the-night wakeups- though recently he has had a few early mornings that ian bravely handled.  i've watched him learn how to connect his sleep cycles on his own by self-soothing, which is fascinating.  almost like clockwork, around 11 pm every night he jolts into a bloodcurdling scream unlike anything i've ever heard from him.  but before i can extricate myself from a pile of blankets and a privileged dog to reach the nursery, james falls silent.  a review of the nest cam shows that lil man found his fingers, brought them to his mouth, and instantly fell back asleep.  this is what pamela druckerman discusses in bringing up bebe, quintessential pregnancy reading- le pause.  i get more confident in james' own abilities day by day. 

parenting gets easier too.  we have a semblance of a morning routine these days.  ian feeds james while i doggedly pump a few sad ounces out of my capitulating breasts.  i stuff my dude into a too-small outfit like a fat little sausage while ian carefully sculpts his hair for an hour.  we leave james to his own floor play while ian makes a few bottles of formula for daycare and i try to do something about my rapidly aging face.  my two boys trundle off for daycare and spreadsheets and i leave for work shortly thereafter with my dresses only halfway zipped.

and then i sit in a meeting with two overeager sales guys, both of them on the verge of becoming new fathers (not with each other).  they congratulate me on my return from maternity leave, which is a weird time to remember because i feel like i was only gone in a mire of sadness and breastmilk for about a minute.  one of them asks me what it has been like to have a baby, and i know it is just friendly filler conversation before they wheedle me into spending too much money on hr services, but i cannot resist any opportunity to intimate that i am not a suburban mombie with platitudes about living/laughing/loving.  and i want these strangers to know that i am still jaded, still lazy, still obsessed with my work and my growth as an individual.  that my heart still beats fast and hard for ian with an all-consuming love and respect that is unmatched by anyone or anything else.  and my life isn't necessarily better or harder or vastly different- but somewhat richer and more nuanced in unexpected ways.

but instead i say something wry and dumb like well i still hate babies but i like my own that was just a nod to a season 5 sex and the city episode but of course these dudes don't get it and we all move on but later i will realize that of course it would have all panned out like this, of course i should've known i was always miranda hobbes.  in life, in love, in my cynical skepticism of mommyhood.  definitely a miranda.

but with a carrie rising.  that's why i keep writing in this stupid blog and wearing unsuitable heels.

 

 

047

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in honor of james' first day in childcare, here's an entry about my daycare scramble, alternately titled why don't you want my caucasian money.

first and foremost, if you are expecting- if you are even thinking of expecting, if you have just met a person who you wouldn't mind having children with- start scouting your daycare options.

i started calling and touring daycares during my third trimester.  once, a lifetime ago, i drove past a creme de la creme facility and rolled my eyes so far back i think i glimpsed my parietal lobe.  what a stupid name, i thought.  what a white ass place that must be.

fast forward several years, and creme is my first choice for daycare.

have to be the best, my mom despaired.  james has not even been born into this cruel world yet but already she has elevated his potential to the stratosphere.  he is treasure, so small, have to be best safest daycare.  

i've been reading up on creme de la creme, i tell her.  it's literally more expensive than the last apartment i lived in-  $1600 a month.

these are the magic words.  my mother prizes expensive things as the hallmark of quality.  she throws her support behind creme, urging me to abandon any fiscal reticence.  childcare is not where you pinch pennies, after all.  

we tour creme before james is born.  it is not particularly impressive- the a/c is broken when we visit and there is a backup unit with some sort of exposed pipe cooling the infant room.  three ugly babies vibrate placidly in baby swings while a caretaker cradles a fourth.  the director of curriculum and i have a hard time communicating.  i keep asking her about their vaccination policy because i don't want some fucking anti-science hippie parent who follows david avocado wolfe on facebook to put my baby at risk.  but for some reason she thinks that i am an anti-vaxxer lunatic and reassures me that i can enroll my child as long as i sign a document indicating my wishes to abstain from vaccination.

we have parents who choose not to, she reassures me.  i want to scream and shake my fists and tell her this is the wrong way for her to pitch her house of disease to us.

but it's supposed to be the very best daycare!  even the babies have an education curriculum!  there are like 1400 security cameras!  look at these adorable uniforms!  i am suckered in despite some misgivings.  i fill out the form to get him on the waitlist.  he's the second one on it, i am reassured by the director of curriculum.  it shouldn't be a problem to get him enrolled in january.  i ask her if she's sure.  she reassures me everything looks good for the projected start date of january 3rd.

i call the center in early september, having heard nothing from them and expecting to fill out a ream of paperwork.  they tell me that they have no record of me or james.  as it turns out, i was never placed on any sort of waitlist.  i guess i just had a frustratingly misunderstood dialogue about vaccinations with this woman for literally nothing.  but we are still 4 months away from january, and i am reassured that looks like an achievable start date.  i rush to the facility after work, pay their nonrefundable registration blood money of $200, and rest easy knowing that my son will be cocooned in the mayonnaise white privilege of this disneyland-ass daycare.

i don't hear from creme at all, so toward the end of october i call to confirm that we are still on for january 3rd.  miss lindsey is on vacation right now, i can have her call you back as soon as she's back on november 1st, the receptionist chirps.  

miss lindsey never calls me back.  i try to reach her again at the beginning of november.  she seems bewildered by my need to confirm a start date with certainty, and i am bewildered by the fact that they cannot offer one.  she explains that daycare enrollment is a nebulous, unpredictable game of tetris with children transferring rooms and jumping the waitlist based on an unfathomable algorithm of development and nepotism.  part of this makes sense, but i am staggered at the burden of unpredictability placed entirely on the family.  so, i guess we just hang out and don't make any career moves until y'all work this equation out?

she reassures me again that the january start date for james looks attainable, but sneaks in i can't guarantee like conversational fine print.  

we should know by the end of november, she tells me.  

nobody contacts me by the end of november.  i have moved beyond surprise to a dogged tenacity.  i call again.

i am told that january is now a pipe dream, and we have been shunted to maybe february.  but what about the "second one on the waitlist" thing?  we give preference to parents of existing creme students, miss lindsey explains.  we recommend that you find a backup option.

HOW MANY NEPOTISM BABIES HAVE BEEN BORN DURING THE LAST TWO MONTHS TO HAVE PUSHED MY SON INTO THE DREGS OF THE WAITLIST ROCK BOTTOM?

sounds like they give preference to white people, my sister quipped.  should've had ian do all the work on this one.  

i laugh this off but secretly wonder if i have been too annoying and thereby deemed an undesirable parent.  miss lindsey has been polite and friendly on these calls, but there is an unnerving detachment bordering on flippancy towards a family on the waitlist.  like maybe if there is no contact or update for long enough, i will finally disintegrate into dust and stop pestering them.  i feel like i am trying to get into an uptown club on saturday night but the bouncer has pocketed my $200 and is hell-bent on not making eye contact with me.  

so i frenziedly scout backups.  now it is december and things look dire.  the daycare centers in our area have waitlists extending out to may.  i start thinking that i will need to buy some business casual looks for james and just take him to work with me every day.  his first words might be revenue cycle.

stela in my addison clinic suggests kids r kids.  this name is only slightly less wretched than creme de la creme, but i know for a fact that her daughter has been enrolled at one of their frisco facilities since she was six weeks old.  gisella is now 2.5 years old- confident, charismatic, social, and bright.  i seize on this ray of hope.

when i drop in for a tour, a very kind and professional lady named emily guides me through the two infant rooms.  they are clean, brightly colored, and immaculately organized.  there are live webcams accessible to parents at all times.  the infant room teachers have an average tenure of 4 years thus far.

we only have one unvaccinated student, but they're an older child in a different classroom on the other side of the building, emily tells me.

i am sold.  she guarantees a january 3rd enrollment.

ian and i dropped james off this morning, lugging a bin of carefully labeled supplies.  his teachers are warm and welcoming.  they do not betray the slightest impatience while i explain his feeding schedule over and over again.  james lies on the playmat and is immediately enthralled by a bucket of toys.  he doesn't seem to know or care that his parents are leaving him in a new place, with new adults, and a whole squad of ugly babies.  

he does not cry.  we do not cry.

and creme still has not contacted me at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

046

my dude turned 5 months old on january 1st.  new year, new mr. james.

things that baby j can now do:

  • grab at his chubby feet
  • pet the dogs clumsily
  • sit unsupported for all of 30 seconds before the weight of his big ass head tumps him over
  • hold his own bottle for a little while before he gives up and lets it roll away and dribble into the caverns of his neck fat
  • punch anything within reach- a wine glass, a plate, my breasts, my face
  • roll around constantly, get his fat little leg stuck between crib rails
  • splash and kick around to swim in a bathtub with the help of his otteroo floatie
  • grab my finger and gum on it vigorously like he's eating corn on the cob
  • grin and giggle when he hears инээд (ineed), the mongolian word for laugh

things that i can now do:

  • remain stoic while getting punched in the face a lot 
  • say that i've produced roughly 4,000 ounces of breastmilk (i don't really know who i would say this to)
  • deflect any and all potentially interested dudes at bars immediately by using a baby photo as my lockscreen

045

i have always lived my life in a perpetual state of self-loathing.  just, steady hating myself for consistently being the fucking worst.  sometimes it's because i've pulled up to the mcdonald's drive-thru window pretending to be on the phone taking orders for other people but secretly planning to eat three whole meals in my car.  sometimes it's because i wasted so many years of my life obsessing over ain't shit dudes.  and very often it's because i slept in a full face of makeup once again and my pillowcase looks like a jackson pollock canvas.

but most recently, it's because i've become that person.  your acquaintance from bygone high school or college years who is constantly posting photos of her stupid baby.

while i was still lugging james around like a fanny pack, i swore i'd never be this person.  i will confine the majority of james' photos to tinybeans, i thought loftily.  maybe upload a facebook picture once in a while.  he might not even be that cute.

but of course i think my baby is cute.  that's some sort of biological destiny that even my cynicism and awfulness couldn't fuck up.  you could literally tell me that objectively, my child looks like john wayne gacy- but i would still be swooning over his chubby little cheeks.  there is some neural wiring here that cannot be undone.

so i take and post photos of him.  everywhere, nonstop, hating myself for being so basic all the while.  ugh stop it you are OUT OF CONTROL, go back to posting memes or talking about cheetos or amassing your collection of simpsons screencaps.  lose the damn baby weight and get back to posting age-inappropriate thotty selfies.  write a review of a book to convince people that you know how to read something other than a babycenter.com thread about cradle cap.  WHY ARE YOU STILL POSTING BABY PHOTOS.

but he's got a cool smile in this one!

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044

should we do santa photos?  i quiz ian more than once.  it seems like we should do santa photos.  that's a parenting thing right?  it feels seasonally appropriate and family appropriate.  welcome to my caucasian home, i will say, ushering guests into my living room where they may pause to admire a santa photo decorating the fireplace mantle.  

we take santa photo for you and mel, my mom reminisces happily.  i remember that picture.  it was taken with a disposable camera in the anemic fluorescent light of our neighborhood albertson's.  we perched unhappily on the stocky legs of a very unconvincing santa posted up in front of a display of soda boxes.  i believed fervently in santa until an embarrassing age, but even i did not think he would've been hanging out at my local grocery store between the mountain dew 12-packs and the bin of discounted day-old bread.

we do not end up schlepping james to the mall for santa photos.  we don't even take a family christmas photo ourselves because the dress i order for the occasional turns out to be too small (i take this disappointment about as well as you could expect- pouting and moping and flinging myself facedown on the bed yet again).  we do not even put up our christmas tree.  it's sitting sadly in a corner, only halfway assembled and devoid of ornaments.  

we haven't even been particularly busy, so there is no excuse for the lack of festivity in the hoshut household.  james is fussy and desperately cramming anything into his mouth these days, but he is still sleeping predictably and perfectly at night.  instead of embracing the christmas spirit, i lie in bed and try to calculate how annoying i would be for posting the 864th baby photo of the day while ian watches mad men (write a blog entry about how much we love mad men, he suggests).

(i'm not really watching it and only have a vague idea what it's even about.  seems like just scene after scene of white people looking at each other tensely while smoking.)

this is our last week before we haul james to daycare at the beginning of january.  i think i will feel chill and stoic about dropping him off for his very first day but it is likely that i will sit in a chick-fil-a parking lot and sob through a mouthful of biscuits.  it will feel disconcerting to leave our #1 most precious treasure in the hands of a stranger, but i know that it will end up being a great experience for him in the long run.  maybe he will meet some cool babies.  maybe they'll start up a baby gang.

on the subject of new adventures, james had his first taste of legit food last night- a tiny bit of garlicky tomato sauce.   then (more out of curiosity than anything) i spoonfed him some rice cereal dissolved in milk.   start slowly, just see if he shows any interest in food, the resources on starting solids all advise.  you can believe this fat-assed child of mine showed interest bordering on indecent enthusiasm.  

when i finally took his spoon away, he cried with a familiar, desperate sadness.  it is the same way i cry when i am drunk at 2 am and remember that taco bueno closed at 1.

043

i pull up to an unfamiliar, imposing office building off the tollway and scroll through my emails in a blind panic.  is this the right location?  did i accidentally show up at the corporate office?  this doesn't look like a medical practice.  my cheap h&m blazer is too tight in the armpits.  it's only march in texas but i am starting to sweat.

call this number when you arrive, the recruiter had emailed me.  i call, and a man tells me to hang tight.  a minute later, he comes striding down the hallway to meet me.  he is in his early forties, but has a boyish, grinning charm.  he wears a perfectly tailored suit with ease.  the word 'rakish' comes to mind.  

i'm brandon, he introduces himself assertively.  i try to shake his hand with a practiced confidence that says BUSINESS but i end up sort of hopelessly squeezing it with a clammy tenacity that says OCTOPUS.  he leads me into a clinic that does not look clinical, into an office full of rich woods and gold accents.  i perch on the edge of a couch trying to hold my posture into a position that isn't my native gelatinous slouching.

brandon leans forward conspiratorially and asks: so tell me, mimi- can you talk shit?

nearly four years later and i still remember this job interview like it was yesterday, can see myself in those polyester pants and black ballet flats (i didn't even own heels), desperate to land this job and steer myself out of the no man's land between graduate school and the adult workforce.  only a few months after my optimistic promotion to management at the surgery center, my new boss had swept in through a regime change with leadership books, disparaging comments about my clothing, and a way of delivering simpering criticisms through insincere smiles that made my skin crawl.  and when i had one semester left until graduation, the dolores umbridge of healthcare pulled me into her office and threw down an ultimatum- school or work.

both, i thought, with an uncharacteristic anger that burned deep.  and i started the job hunt.  i interviewed with a cardiology group in search of an office manager, escalating through several rounds until i was happily chatting with director of operations about the future of healthcare technology.  well i'll be honest with you, mimi, he told me at the end of our interview.  you're obviously very qualified and i think you'd do a great job.  but i have a feeling you won't settle until you're the vp of a company.

nooooo, i wanted to cry out in protest.  no i am very unambitious!  i just want enough money to preorder video games and buy indian food. 

i didn't land the cardiology clinic.  but two weeks later, i sat in that ornately decorated office and met brandon and johnny.  and two weeks after that, i started the first day of my new life.  

and then these two men became collectively "the boys" to me, and their clinic became my second home, and all of the nonstop expansions and purchases and endeavors far beyond what i originally signed up for became my obsession.  not so much healthcare management or human resources or revenue cycle, not the actual substance of what this job entailed- but what it demanded of me.  more time.  more focus.  more presence.  more integrity.  more loyalty.  more strategy.  more resilience.  more more more.  and it never got easier but somehow i always got better.

and this whole entry so far seems apropos of nothing because this isn't about pregnancy or parenthood but it never fails to surprise me that somewhere along the way, my meandering lack of ambition that always made me think idk maybe one day i'll just be a wife or work at a gamestop or tell my parents i'm in med school but actually go to optometry school became a honed and practiced priority in my life.  motherhood widened that lens, but didn't refocus it.  these days i am working longer and averaging 2 hours of face time with james.  it's not the ideal setup, not when little man is becoming so vibrant and lively and social- but it feels like the inevitable push in the endless ebb and flow of work-life balance.

and i often remind myself- the self-development of my career path bleeds over to my growth as a mother.  learning patience, learning flexibility, refining communication.  remembering that change is the only constant, that pragmatism sometimes needs to trump principle, that empathy will always be a valuable asset.  and i didn't accept the ultimatum between school and work back then, and i don't accept it between work and baby now.  

after 16 years in practice and 14 as the CEO of his professional association-turned-multidisciplinary group, johnny appointed me as his COO this monday.  i have been fulfilling this role de facto, but receiving the recognition of the title was a gratifying moment.  it was also a beacon of reassurance- becoming a mother doesn't mean giving up your professional edge.  

both, i thought, with an unfamiliar pride that swelled in my chest.  i arrived home late that night and watched james fall asleep to the gentle tinkling of his tinylove mobile.  it occurred to me that there is still so much ahead of us, so many more late nights at work, doctor's appointments, school plays, deadlines, acquisitions, pta meetings, board meetings, unforeseen crises, unscheduled disruptions.  there's a long game of balancing acts up ahead for me, ian, and this darling little dude with the bright eyes and loud yelps.

but here, right now, in this very moment in time, we are all doing a great job.

042

young james why you trappin' so hard? 

baby boy endured his slightly belated 4 month checkup today, an ordeal that involved yet another round of vaccinations.  after the first of three consecutive shots, james locked eyes with his beleaguered nurse and growled at her like a very small bear.

he has been rife with cute antics these days now that he is a real human guy.  on monday morning, i finished my nine millionth pumping session and walked into the nursery to see baby james propped up on elbows, sprawled across his activity mat.  the arch of his back and the steady strength of his neck were astonishing to me in that moment.  hi mr. james!  i said.  he turned his head towards me, peered at my face, and smiled.   a real boy.

his pediatrician seems as impressed by him as i am.  you're the best-looking baby i've seen all day, he tells james amiably.  my dude weighs in at 16 lbs, 9 ounces.  he is 26 inches long.  a big, tall boy, dr. macdonald says approvingly as he jots down "97th%" next to both measurements.  i realize fleetingly that one day this little loaf will loom above me.  my pointless brain sings IT'S THE CIRCLE OF LIFE AND IT MOVES US ALLLLLLLL but now dr. macdonald is asking about james' average length of sleep and i am bursting with excitement to tell him that all three of us are blessed with 11-12 hours straight for the past two months.  

i read this sleep training book while i was pregnant, i gush.  at this point i feel like i have promoted myself to suzy giordano's hypeman.  she is my new george r.r. martin, though i have only read her book once.  once was all i needed.  though i have muddled through the rest of new parenthood with graceless, frantic googling through a wormhole of chrome windows, james' eating and sleeping are the two things that i feel like we've managed to approach with some level of confidence.

the first 3 weeks of his life were a tearful, exhausted blur of leaking breasts and misplaced glasses and praying fervently for continued sleep.  we feed on demand and wake on demand and james sleeps in a bassinet beside our bed, jolting me out of halfhearted dozing every couple of hours with his confused little sobs.  after 3 weeks, my mother encourages us to start stretching out the time between his meals (calculated from the start of one feed to the start of the next)- little by little.  so slowly, 15 minutes at a time, day after day, we increase the wait from 2 hours, to 3, then finally 4.  james quickly becomes less demanding and fussy as his mealtimes settle into predictability.  7 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm.  pretty much ian's mealtimes as well.  and like his father, james begins to eat significantly more during each feed. 

by 5 weeks, just the regularity and quality of meals drops his nighttime wakings to a manageable 2, and we move him into his nursery.  i begin to use the bassinet as just another hamper for clean laundry i can't be bothered to fold.  i stub my toe against it many, many times.  step 2 of suzy's plan is to drop the night feeds by slowly reducing the nursing time of each feed in turn.  it takes several weeks because i am unwilling to preemptively pry my sleepy little newborn away from my body and second guess my approach every single day- but it finally works.  i go slowly, shaving off one minute every couple of days.  surprisingly enough, james neither protests nor clings, and falls back asleep whenever.  by 10 weeks, he decides that 3 minutes of nursing is not worth waking up for and sleeps straight through the night.  ian and i track and tally his 4 daily meals with obsessive detail, counting every half ounce to ensure that he's receiving all his calories during the daytime.  

the third step is about nap schedules but james is not here for that.  for all of his perfect angelic nighttime sleep, he fights naps like a insomniac demon who needs to be held at exactly the right angle and bopped with exactly the right tempo and velocity to even consider closing his eyes.  the lord giveth and the lord taketh away.

and finally, the fourth step is keeping him in his crib for roughly 12 hours straight, from after his 7 pm feed to the start of his 7 am feed.  there is something here about encouraging babies to quietly entertain themselves and self-soothe, but mostly it falls into place like a natural byproduct of the previous efforts.  james drifts off to sleep on his own while chewing on his fingers and wakes up with the biggest, goofiest grin plastered across his little face.  we greet each other with these big smiles in the morning; he shouts and kicks and giggles with a level of excitement unbeknownst to me at any hour prior to lunchtime.  he looks so ridiculous, a big pink meatball head poking out of a puffy yellow spacesuit, flailing tiny, icy fists and crowing in triumph- but man, it is a beautiful sight.  

041

honey, i still don't think james even knows who i am.

you should spend more time with him.

what time?  i'm so busy-

-pushing that car around in final fantasy?

ian is not wrong.  final fantasy xv came out last week after a full decade in production and i've logged 26 smooth hours of circling around marshy patches looking for five dumb frogs.  my autobiography should be titled i know i am wasting my life but i can't stop.

mr. james turned 4 months old on december 1st, cruising on an arc of sensory and motor development that peaked in the constant desire to cradled by his father like a baby otter.  he is less excited about being carried by his mother, who has such astonishingly poor upper body strength that she might clinically be an anemone.  i also need to sit down a lot for reasons unknown.

he is exhibiting all the symptoms of teething already.  his little cheeks always look mad flushed like he's tried on every blush at sephora, there is a steady river of drool pouring from him at all times, and he is gumming ferociously on anything and everything within reach.  he has rolled over a grand total of twice and decided that he wasn't about that life.  he is also now a real enough person to clutch his own bottle and put his own pacifier back in his mouth, albeit with arduously clumsy and fumbling motions.  when he flails awkwardly with his little ham fists and biscuit arms, he finally looks like me- a drunk person.

in addition to his physical development, baby james has also picked up a mental shrewdness that has definitely surprised me.  after 3 solid months of being a turnip, james now recognizes his favorite faces (ian, my mom, his own) and cries when there are too many people around (same).  he has even locked eyes with momo a few times, but continues to ignore jean-luc (same).  and most importantly, he is happier and louder in leaps and bounds with every week that passes.

the curse of the infamous and dreaded 4 month sleep regression, that flame of udûn, has yet to plague our household.  james has truly been sleeping 11 hours through the night, every night, since around 11 weeks old.  i try not to gloat about this but every day feels like an undeserved miracle.  the desperate scrabble for two hours of sleep during the first month seems like a distant memory of a half-forgotten hazing.

and of course, i'm squandering all these precious nights by staying up too late reading old lipstick alley threads, trying to find that tea on what weird stuff drake is into.

 

040

cool things about having a baby:

  • you instantly become a more relatable person and develop a small talk expertise
  • people are finally interested in your iphone camera roll
  • it's finally okay to go out for dinner at 4:30 pm
  • everyone thinks you look tired because of new motherhood but really you just stayed up all night looking for woke memes
  • you can touch his chubby little body and smell his buttered popcorn cheeks all the time
  • and also he looks like a turtle when he laughs
  • you fall madly in love with your man daily when you see him on that dad grind
  • you gain a newfound appreciation and closer bond with your own parents
  • you can excuse yourself from every social interaction in the whole world by blaming the baby even though his meals and his sleep are better and more predictable than your own have been in all 29 years of your dumb-assed life
  • somebody finally stops crying when you hold them
  • nobody calls you after 8 pm
  • well nobody ever called you anyway regardless of your family situation

dumb things about having a baby:

  • you have to do laundry every other day as opposed to the once a lunar year schedule you honored in the past
  • you have to learn how to eat with one hand and positioned 5 miles away from your plate but somehow avoid spilling food over his little head
  • even 4 months out he's still kind of floppy and you secretly still don't know how to hold him
  • working full-time means you see him for like 3 hours a day and you develop the sneaking suspicion that he'll never really know who you are or why you make him dance to spotify's rap caviar playlist
  • being a milk machine is uncomfortable and inconvenient and nowhere near as serene as all these asshole hippie moms all promised
  • your wild dogs' barking will become 100 times more annoying
  • when he cries and fusses but you're embroiled in a pokemon battle you secretly hope that he'll chill or your husband will scoop him and then you wonder if you're an awful mother or suffer from postpartum depression and spend a great deal of time silently berating yourself for not feeling all these grand sweeping emotions of motherhood and martyrdom and you wonder why on earth you were given the gift of fertility when you would've been totally cool just drinking yourself to an early and better-looking death and your baby probably deserves better than a mom who is resolutely unchanged as a person but at the end of the day it has only been a few months into a lifelong journey and there is still time for personal development and sacrificial commitment to parenthood and you are still very much in love with his big bright eyes and chubby buttery face and despite your best efforts to be dispassionately objective he is still the cutest and happiest little light you have ever known

sorry not sure what happened to this entry i am a little drunk

039

it is last weekend in new orleans, and i am sitting outside in the courtyard at pat o'brien's.  the four of us, veterans of last year's vegas trip, sip hurricanes that taste like cough syrup and talk about instagram.  priscilla is pretty and sullen, her face in repose looking like an expensive mask.  stela is the brazilian beyonce, a bombshell in short shorts with bronzed legs that could be measured in kilometers.  claudia is a petite and effortlessly beautiful salvadorian whom ian once dubbed "circus boobs."  i am a walrus wrapped inside a stale taco shell and wearing borrowed clothing because i left my own pants in the dryer at home.

but for the very first time, i have something in common with these three party hoes aside from a shared love of inebriation.  we are all mothers, 500 miles and 2 overpowered drinks away from our babies- refusing the self-flagellation of mom guilt.

so he says "how do you travel so much when you have a kid?" and i'm like, "my son has a father."

no one would ever ask a guy that question.

right?  people expect you to stay at home all the time when you're a mom.  excuse me?  i love my daughter and i do everything for her but i'm not going to stop living my life.

we live our lives unapologetically this weekend, stumbling up and down bourbon street, giggling and yelling and failing to locate our uber drivers.  priscilla angrily kisses a stunned middle-aged dude in cargo shorts.  some unspecified members of our group flash their circus boobs.  cheap, tacky beads rain down from balconies thronging with drunk onlookers.  a kind indian man hands me an extra chili dog while our two disparate gangs idle on a street corner at 2 am.  crowds gather around a guy breakdancing to "pump it up."  stela gushes about how much she loves this city while i criticize a misspelled smile if you masterbate sign held up by a group of vagrant teenagers who panhandle for booze.  i pour out half of my hand grenade for them regardless.

in between the raucous, blurred events spanning friday and saturday night, i make my escape to public restrooms.  the girls flit around me anxiously and one of them holds back my hair.  these detours feel so overwhelming familiar but this time i am 29 years old and no longer a drunk neophyte throwing up in bathroom stalls.  instead, i relieve the mounting pressure in my breasts.  it is an indignity of a different kind, milking myself ineffectually.  i did not bring my electric breast pump on this trip, hoping to save space in my suitcase for the pants i forgot to bring.  so i resort to hand-expressing all weekend, an arduous and pointless exercise in giving myself hand cramps.  a drunk blonde girl who has more instagram followers than i have hair follicles offers to help me squeeze my boobs.  she tells me that she just turned 22, and for a moment i feel like performance art of the elephant graveyard.  the strobe lights of the dance floor can't touch me here, in this grimy stall, in this aching pressure, in this deepening realization that no matter where i am or who i'm with, i am always and forever a mother.

as daylight savings time rolls back and gives us another hour to waste in the club, these girls' thumbs are glued to their phones.  they try to take poorly lit selfies and tap out increasingly drunker text messages to exboyfriends or future boyfriends.  i recall vaguely that two years ago, i would've been doing the same.  but i am a different creature now, and my phone is a permanent gallery of my little family.  even here, at  3 am, in the middle of the bourbon heat dance floor, i am smiling stupidly at a picture of my boys.   

so you're like the mom of the group, huh?  a dude who's been hitting on me ineffectively all night comments while i shepherd the drunkest girls into a pizza place for medically necessary sustenance.  mimi's always taking care of us, claudia slurs as i corral them all into an overpriced cab.  even the cab driver calls me mami, though i suspect with sexual overtones.   it is inescapable, like a poorly written tv show plot device.  we arrive back at the airbnb and the girls scatter upstairs to drink, gossip, and hook up.  alone downstairs, i tie back my hair and perch at the edge of the bathtub to wring out my unforgiving breasts.  and i never stop thinking about baby james.  how he has been making increasingly louder noises, delighted to hear his own squawking.  how even his feet are getting fat, looking like puffy little boots.  how he always smells like a bucket of buttered popcorn.

three of this gang of four return to dallas on sunday night, exhausted and desperate to be back with our babies.  for all of our carefree revelry and flagrant disregard of parenting double standards, we are blatantly relieved to be back home.  no matter how often i protest that my life is still the same, all the telltale signs of motherhood are there.  my center of gravity has unmistakably shifted.  it realigns my thoughts, pulls me closer in.  

ian and james, my sun and stars.

038

two weeks ago, i promised i'd sit down and write with optimism for a change to counter a well-detailed list of grievances that i've already printed and framed in james' nursery.  like sure, everything hurts all the time and this weird little pizza-faced alien is simultaneously demanding but uninterested in an exhausting way that causes my mind to run a ticker tape of nonsense self-probing and guilt trips forever- but yet, there are also so many things that aren't as hard as i once expected.  maybe i am getting better, finally mastering the difficulty curve of the newborn phase.  maybe my brain chemistry is leveling out and i no longer feel like a sociopath with an icy pallor of annoyance freezing out all maternal instinct.  maybe james is rapidly graduating from a floppy nonsense potato into a bright-eyed and happy real person.  or maybe none of the above, and it is just time and confidence and acclimatization.  

fresh on the postpartum campus of grief and pain, feeling so inexplicably fragile that i braced myself to shatter on a daily basis, i survived on an hourly hunt of when does it get better?  i typed this into reddit, on the bump, on babycenter, netmums, anything, anywhere, a desperate one-woman search party for hope.  and most of the answers were vague, but i clung to them like lifelines, marking off future goalposts in my mind.  by 12 weeks.  by 4 months.  by the time he smiles.  by the time he laughs.  by the time he weans.  by the time he applies to grad school.  it'll get better.  it'll feel brighter.

and here's how it has gotten better, the things that i steeled myself for that became so much easier:

sleep.  i know, i literally just wrote a dissertation about the cool math of sleeping in 30 minute increments like the victim of some cruel sleep deprivation torture tactics- but the overall duration of this trial was so short.  during the first month, my mother the actual saint came over twice a week and acted as a night nurse to get me through the wakings as painlessly as possible.  ian took over in the early morning and let me sleep in on the weekends (or as long as my exploding granite tits would allow).  and most importantly, i had the foresight during pregnancy to read my new bible: twelve hours' sleep by twelve weeks.  james is 12 weeks now.  he has slept 12 hours through the night exactly 12 times so far.  after his 7 pm dinner feed, baby boy lies calmly in his crib and dozes off on his own, sleeping straight through the night to be woken up shortly before 7 am.  ian and i feel more well-rested than a pair of new parents deserve.  my face is still haggard but only because of my genetics.  i do not fall asleep at my desk.  suzy giordano's plan sounds lofty, but is approachable and infallible, stretched through four steps and several weeks.  we barely completed step two before lil lazybones took over and started sleeping like a snorlax of his own volition.  i feel like an irredeemable asshole for being so gleeful, and i know the big sleep regressions are lurking around the corner to ruin my life, but in the interim thank you dear based god for this one sweet victory.

diapers.  i have no idea why parents and non-parents talk about diaper duty and poop obsessively because it is seriously no big deal by any measurement.  somehow the act of producing a new human makes you absolutely immune to the grossness of their bodily fluids, like you are a battleworn veteran icu nurse who has seen every drop of moisture produced from every orifice on the human body and have successfully cornered the market on low gag reflex.  diaper changes quickly become muscle memory, diaper pails are the greatest and most under-appreciated miracle of the modern age, and you passively realize that you will weather his diarrhea and vomit with more grace than you would handle even your own drunkest fallout because he is your baby and doesn't seem to smell as bad as a regular person.

marriage.  despite my gloomy predictions that ian and i would immediately descend into bitter quarrels and stewing resentment, my cynicism continues to be trumped by his eternal optimism.  to this day, ian and i still have never had a fight.  we've never argued, raised our voices, or felt anger towards one another.  we talk in a never-ending dialogue about james, but it is still one of many subjects- we do not lose the thread of other conversations that matter to us- work, friends, jokes, the dumpster fire of the republican campaign. despite my reflexively passive aggressive tendency to probe honey did you wash bottles? while staring at a sink full of dirty bottles, ian has continued to weather the pains of being married to the human garfield with his characteristic cheer.  and as for me, the wild and intensely heavy love i felt for him immediately after birth has mellowed into a deeper, more nuanced sentimentality.  it is the thing that swells my heart when i see him chatting animatedly with james, rocking him to sleep, feeding and burping him with a practiced and expert confidence.  it is the realization that no matter what happens, the two of us will always be bonded for the rest of our lives through this ultimate joint venture.

and most importantly, username29352 was right.  it gets so much better when he starts smiling.  when he starts laughing.  regularly, responsively, and most importantly- when his eyes find mine.  i don't know what kind of sorcery this is, what unlocks a treasure trove of oxytocin, but when chief cheeks peers up at my face and smiles, my own grin becomes so wide it actually hurts my jaw.  i smile back at him like a crazy joker, my voice becomes ten octaves higher and i rub his belly repeatedly to elicit giggles.  somewhere, in the back of my mind, i think vaguely that i would do literally anything to hear his delighted, yelping laughter.  maybe even an armed bank robbery followed by methodical betrayal of my getaway driver.

i think it is the most motherly thing i've ever felt.

 

 

 

037

today, ian and i browse the aisles of buy buy baby so that i can pick up a few more item for jessica east's baby shower (she's the saint who hosted mine).  i realize in this instance that i have finally done it, despite swearing up and down that i will remain detached and oblivious til death-  all of a sudden, i am a mother with a lot of opinions and advice.  i feel some type of way about baby bathtubs.  i recognize many brands of diaper rash cream.  i would like to engage in a long discussion about how to assemble an ideal registry.  i am not proud of my foray into this particular wilderness of knowledge.  like, i still can't read an analog clock and i can't remember how world war 1 started but i'm out here praising the merits of a rubber ass spatula.  the worst.

if i had a nickel for every time i googled what is a baby registry, i probably would've been able to finance the entirety of mine.  the world of baby supplies and gadgets and timesavers is an endless, horrible void of amazon affiliate links and paid reviews and suddenly it's 4 am and you've have 8,000 chrome tabs open but you still don't know which bottle nipple will lull your baby into a cool, easy feed and which one will balloon up his little belly with gas and misery and bullshit and also what exactly is a bottle nipple.

i'm deeply pleased that between my miserable google grind and the insanely kind generosity of my friends and family, we've stocked our nursery closet with very cool, useful items that will support us during the first two years of trying to keep this little dude alive.  and as we're nearing the end of the fourth trimester, i want to pose a special shoutout to a few handy items i'd unequivocally recommend for any new moms and also myself again in a couple of years when ian inevitably tricks me into having another one.

(no affiliate links or rewards or paid incentives here because nobody reads this blog or gives me money or cares about my thoughts)

  1. babybum diaper cream brush.  this feels like a weird thing to endorse- because who on earth needs yet another dumb gadget to muck up the diaper changing process?  who in this cruel world is so grossed out by the prospect of touching their own baby's butt that they would enlist the help of a silicone utensil?  not me.  i love james' weird little pointy ass.  but diaper cream is the fucking worst and applying with your fingers is an uneven effort at best that leaves a thick greasy coating all over your fingers and under your nails like you've just eaten a mess of fried chicken but without the joy.  using this thing feels like i'm frosting his butt like a beautiful little bundt cake, allowing nice, even access to all the parts of him he'll feel weird about later in life.  (also, lol @ all the cool organic ~healing balms~ that did nothing but made me feel momentarily smug, triple cream is the only thing that clears up diaper rash immediately.)
  2.  boon orb bottle warmer.  you guys there are so many goddamn bottle warmers out on the market and i thought i'd be real cool and conservative by skipping this purchase and heating bottles under the faucet like an old school moms but that turned out to be a study in hunching over the sink for 40 hours at a time just hating myself for spending $300 on dinner but skimping on a bottle warmer.  amazon reviews for all warmers are deeply polarized and the instructions for this one seem like they were written by an employee who went on a bender and decided to quit their job halfway through but it's small, fast, efficient, and hasn't burned down my house yet.
  3. swaddleme original swaddles.  check it out it's ya girl mimo who's almost 3 months deep into being a moms and 29 years deep into being a person but still doesn't know how to follow blanket or towel folding instructions so it was highly unlikely that i'd ever figure out how to swaddle a dang baby (when u wrap lil' dude up real tight and cozy like a delicious burrito so he feels like he's back in his original digs).  the hospital gave us a couple of ez velcro swaddles and i should've pilfered more, because they really are the best.
  4. boon lawn countertop drying rack.  the lawn version is bigger than grass, and that's the one you'll want when you immediately devote your life to washing bottles, nipples, and breast pump parts like it's your one true calling.  you will not be running the dishwasher 7 times a day, you will be scalding your palms in soapy hot water and fantasizing about a day in the distant future that doesn't begin and end with rearranging items in this drying rack.  it's cute tho.  also, use dishwashing gloves every time or your hands will immediately transform into a macro shot of the cracked earth in death valley.
  5. oxo tot perfectpull wipes dispenser.  i didn't fuck with a wipes warmer because i didn't want a fire hazard hanging out immediately adjacent to my baby, and james became acclimated to the momentary discomfort of a room temperature wipe pretty quickly.  no complaints here- this keeps wipes moist and the lid has a very satisfying clicking thing happening.  if i knew how to design a thing and that thing was a box that held wet wipes, this would be it.
  6. parasol diaper subscription.  after james steadily destroyed the several boxes and tiers of diapers we received prior to his arrival, i decided that what i am really into is never setting foot in a store ever again- so i needed to get diapers delivered, like just about everything else in my life.  and because i handle money like i'm a six year old playing monopoly for the first time, i balled out on parasol diapers.  they are aesthetically and functionally on point and their wipes smell like cucumbers.  james has also never experienced a blowout while wearing these, which i think is a term used to describe the cool disaster of a baby shitting liquid puddles up his own back- truly terrifying.  and by the very scientific test of me rubbing my face on a variety of (clean!) diapers, these are also the softest.  it's $85/mo for diapers + wipes, or $70/mo for diapers only- so that works out to be like, 27 cents per diaper vs 23 cents for pampers swaddlers or 0 cents for putting yer baby in split pants and letting him throw down some loose poops like he's in them mean streets of beijing.
  7. comotomo baby bottles.  there are a lot of things i purchase in life only because the alternative options are truly ugly, and baby bottles fell into that category.  like, these are so whack-looking.  in addition to being pretty, the comotomo bottles are recommended for breastfed babies because they're supposed to mimic the feel of a boob, thereby reducing the possibility of nipple confusion.  "nipple confusion" is a scaremongering theory that dissuades new mothers from introducing bottles or pacifiers for fear that their babies will get stressed by the differences between artificial nipples and real nipples and never breastfeed again and do poorly in school and grow up to operate a vape shop.  james only suffered nipple confusion in the sense that he thinks everything is a nipple- ian's nose, my mouth, his own arm rolls- he will literally suck on anything with the slightest suggestion of a curve.  he wild.  so on the basis of my own anecdotal experience, these bottles are great- james switches between bottle-feeding and nursing with no hesitation.  the only downside is that function has sort of been sacrificed for design here- trying to read the ounce markers feels like doing a magic eye puzzle in the dark with glaucoma.
  8. cybex priam + cybex aton q.  please don't judge me for this website that claims URBAN STREET POETRY- i also feel disgusting peddling a stroller that comes with a backstory and boasts an ostentatious collaboration with jeremy scott.  the cybex instagram feed is full of celebrity babies enjoying the ~urban street poetry~ of a travel system that costs like, 3 car notes- but y'all it is a truly smooth ass stroller.  paired with the aton q car seat, it is a joy to push.  i can maneuver curbs and negotiate sharp turns with one hand.  strangers stop us to ask where to buy it, and by strangers i mean that one cashier at raising cane's.  the frame itself has very little bulk, though the car seat is on the heavier side- but it's cool because ian has big arms and i'm still using my c-section as an excuse to not lift anything heavier than a wine glass to my face.
  9. munchkin step diaper pail.  it's lame to get so excited about a glorified trash can, but i am loving this diaper pail.  it's still early on in this love affair, but it continues to be completely and perfectly odorless.  use the refill rings with it- basically one neverending trash bag that you cut and tie off at intervals when you're ready to dispose of a 20 foot bag of diapers that uncoil from the can like bright yellow intestines.  i was bracing myself for a life of constantly smelling poop, but so far new parenthood has been remarkably scent-free.  unless you count momo after she has traipsed through sprinklers.  i have also considered putting her in this trash can.
  10. tiny love take-along mobile.  mom, stop buying stuff for james i pleaded over and over again.  he doesn't need a mountain of baby things.  but my mom continues to show up with new shopping bags with a practiced tenacity bordering on deafness.  i buy, she shows me this mobile one day.  it is everything i hate in baby toys- plastic, bulky, brightly colored.  but once she clips it to his bassinet and switches it on, i am immediately converted and apologetic.  i thank her for this mobile daily.  it has wrested more smiles and coos from james than anything else in this world.  it placates him through fussy bouts, engages his excitement when he's alert, and soothes him to sleep.  it's just a slow-moving mobile with a loud tinkling melody that automatically turns off after 30 minutes, but it is indispensable to our daily life.  i would save this in a fire.
  11. wubbanub fox.  i resisted this thing too, which is a soothie pacifier attached to an ugly stuffed animal.  there are like, fifty different animal models and they all look like i personally sewed them in a bomb shelter.  but after the eight billionth time of replacing a pacifier in james' mouth while he flopped and flailed in confusion, i gave up and finally ordered one.  the weight of the attached fox helps keep the soothie in place, and i have finally rescinded my weird feelings about needing all baby toys to be up to par with my aesthetic expectations- which is especially whack in light of the fact that i have terrible taste.
  12. burt's bees burp cloths.  doesn't matter what brand, what size, or what design- burp cloths have been so, so useful.  we keep these, towels, bibs, and receiving blankets in box right next to the nursery glider for easy access.  a burp cloth is just any piece of fabric that you can use to shield yourself from the neverending fountain of liquid that's constantly pouring out of your baby's mouth- a washcloth, a towel, ian's v-necks, doesn't really matter.  but soft ones are especially nice because then your little man won't stare at you like you've just wiped his face with steel wool and broken bottles.  i think people forget to register for innocuous little essentials like these because they're not fun and sexy like toys or a shirt that says I'M THE BOSS but when it's 3 am and you've misplaced your glasses and your little dude is expelling spit-up like mount vesuvius you will realize that all you want in life is an ocean of burp cloths.
  13. hatch baby changing pad + app.  veteran parents will probably chalk this one up to an unnecessary, hypervigilant gadget but fuck y'all this thing is the best.  i mean, it's not great that we have to mar the beauty of the changing pad with a constant layer of towels because james has an untrustworthy bladder and an uncanny precision to accidentally pee in his own face, and yes i have recently realized that the scale is off by 4 ounces so i have to figure out how to calibrate it BUT it has been a super useful gadget from the very beginning.  the primary draw is that the pad is a scale, and allows you to weigh your baby before and after breastfeeding sessions so that you know how many ounces he ate- an especially important quantity for premature babies or babies who have difficulty nursing.  the accompanying app, which is fully functional as a standalone product, is polished and perfect.  we track every ounce he eats because we're doing parent-directed feeding and need to ensure that he gets all his calories in during the daytime.  we track all his diaper changes because my husband has adhd and can't ever remember how long it has been since the last change.  we track his weight because i like the novelty of hoping for a weigh-in line graph to increase over time.  if you're a data fiend, this is your setup.  

oh my god it is literally 1 am what am i doing with my life.