When the bitch said ‘no’

When the bitch said ‘no’

She’s a tiger, flying
strawberry with cloud stripes.

Spear-cut teeth, she shreds flesh
into ribbon paper lilies.

Her paper mache claws bury bodies
of atrophied tree bridges.

Zeppelin lungs breathe her flame
into sunscape funeral pyres.

Her sniper swift tail preys
on the courage of prairie winds.

The magic in her every stalking prowl
fashions mountains of broken glass.

She’s a tiger, flying away
from cages and crystal roofs.

An elegy for Ignorance

An elegy for Ignorance

It was a process.
Like snow blanketing
the ground before turning
slush, dirt-caked, then melting
away completely. If it’s gone
long enough, you want it back.
Forgetting the marrow-chilling cold
and black ice roads,
only remembering silence.

Losing Him was like that.
I’d known him my whole life,
from my sterile birth, white
and pink swaddle, the doctor declaring
“It’s a girl!” and nobody questioning
not He, not me, that I was.

Treats at 7-11 after a preschool ballet
recital and it was He who asked my dad
what lesbians were. Girls
who love other girls. Unnatural,
forbidden, like the slushies
mom won’t let me have.

He was there with me in Sunday School
when whitewashed flannel graphs
taught me about us, Jesus, Moses,
God of fire and brimstone, so much

love held my hand up high. School
teacher called on me and I said
no, I’m not racist but,
affirmative action is. White
dirt-caked lies we all believed.

On my first day of college He was
waving wildly, everyone noticed.
It was the last time I saw Him.
I met new people who knew
what and who He was:
the “God-given” privilege
of being the invisible same.

He was always cradling
me in what I didn’t know
(what I don’t know). I want Him back
sometimes. Before the slush,
dirt-caked, melted away.
How quiet
and painless
the white was.

Ode to ‘ganket’

Ode to “ganket”

You’ve been crushed
beneath small heels
covered in mud;
strangled, your floppy neck
unable to breath;
deserted in a Target aisle
unknowing of where you were; smeared
with jellied snot and ketchup, yet here
you are Magic Blanket,
your sour milk breath
sighs comforting silence.
Your princess skin
of cotton candy, wadded up,
dries alligator tears
and salves playground wounds.
Does she speak to you,
Magic Blanket?
Perhaps she tells you,
in half-formed words,
about her silver balloon
floating into the clouds
I wasn’t tall enough
to save. Or the boy
by the tire swing
who cracked a mini fist
against her head,
the rainbow wound
matches you. I know
she speaks to you,
Magic Blanket.
When your frayed forehead,
bowed, touches hers,
sitting cross-legged
on the Lego-strewn floor.
You, Magic Blanket,
are a better mother than I.

 

My marriage

My marriage

One thing I know is marriage.
My marriage, which dawns anew
every morning with the February light
filtering through half-open blinds. My eyes
are weighted, trying hard
to drag me back to sleep. “NOOOOOOO!”

Her toddler protest, not really a protest, a staunch
affirmation of her tiny place. I’m awake now,
awake enough. To hear your muffled response, quiet
words, between the open and close of the refrigerator door.

Your side of the bed is cold, you’ve been awake
for awhile. Since you heard the insistent voice,
“Da! Da! Da!” from my side to hers
leaving me warm to dream a few moments longer.
It’s been like this, you know, since she was small.
You getting up in the morning

with her. You get jelly-smeared fingers, diapered
protests, wet kisses. All to allow me
a few more moments, of unfettered sleep.

And when I awake like I did
today, from a slumber under soft down
with one foot out in the cold — I can hear,
you and she talking, muted, in unaffected
conversations …
And I know my marriage,
how it dawns anew.

fallen

she
is a snow angel
shaped from flakes,
brushed aside
by the warmth
of insulated bodies

she
has snow wings
with bones
made, outlined
with sticks
and stones
straining to burst
into color
or flame

she
has a halo
of sunlight, star breath
threatening
to dissolve her
beneath its
tug-o-war gaze

she
isn’t seen by them
as anything more
valuable,
revealing nothing
but serpent tongues,
a colorless impression
passed over

she
comes between some
fog rising,
light falling
her reality shattering
their glass darkly

she
is a snow angel
free to be
bound

she
is a snow angel
who may
one dawn
disappear

Why I’m A Bad Parent- Part the 1st

Herein begins a short series about why I am a bad parent (tongue in cheek, don’t worry!). There are so many parenting styles, solutions and tecniques that no one thing will ever work for every child. Nevertheless, parents never fail to recieve judgement and condemnation (even if it’s in a silent glare) about how they do things. Over the next few posts, I am going to talk about the first few months of my husband’s and my parenting experience and why we have chosen to do certain things. Please, feel free to offer input (and judgement) in the comments.

About 6 weeks ago, my darling little daughter began what I am calling a “sleep regression”. She has always been a pretty good night sleeper. From the beginning, she slept 3-4 hour stretches. Those stretches extended to 6-8 hours when she hit 10ish weeks old. Then, around 3 months, all Hell broke loose.

It started when bedtime exploded. We have had a regular bedtime routine from 8 weeks old. It has helped immensely, signaling to her when it is time to wind down and sleep. We would go through our routine, I would nurse her, she would fall asleep, and then I would put her down for the night. The end. But 6 weeks ago, she stopped just falling alseep. It would take me upwards of two hours of rocking, shushing, nursing, swinging, walking, etc., to get her to fall asleep. And then she might only sleep for 15 minutes before waking and beginning the whole thing over again.

And then she stopped sleeping long stretches. Slowly she went from waking twice a night to three times. Then four times. Until she was waking around 10 times a night, not sleeping more than 1 1/2 – 2 hours at a time. It was ridiculous. I was getting no sleep, she was getting no sleep and both of us were frustrated, grouchy, and dreading bedtime every day.

Clearly, something had to change.

I am a fan of Dr. Sears and his Attachment Parenting techniques. This is what we had basically been practicing for the first three months of Babygirl’s life…and it worked very well. She was happy, we were happy, and we had established such a bond and connection with her.

However, it was clear that what we were doing in regards to her sleeping habits was no longer working. And so I started looking to other sources. I went out and bought the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby by pediatrician Dr. Weissbluth. In addition to lots of medical information and actual studies on how babies sleep and what is and is not healthy sleep for them, Weissbluth also has a game plan for getting babies on a healthy sleep schedule. His plan, however, is adaptable to your parenting style and what feels comfortable to you.

The first thing we were doing wrong is putting her to bed WAY too late. Weissbluth says that babies my daughter’s age should be going to bed between 5 and 8 p.m., not 10 p.m. like I was doing. He says that contrary to popular belief, an early bedtime doesn’t mean an early wakeup time (this has proven to be true thusfar).

For getting her to sleep at night, we picked the “graduated extinction” method. Which is where, after our bedtime routine, we put Babygirl down for the night whether she happens to be awake or asleep, say goodnight, and leave the room. If she cries, we wait 3 minutes before responding, then we go in and soothe her until she is quiet again. Then we leave. If she cries, we wait 5 minutes and repeat. Then 10 minutes thereafter until she falls asleep. The next night, we start by waiting 5 minutes. Then 10 then 15 thereafter, gradually increasing the time each night.

This felt the most comfortable to me because I want my baby to get better sleep than she had been, but I just couldn’t be spending 2-3 hours trying to GET her to sleep every night, only to have her wake up 10 minutes after I accomplish that. She needed to learn to soothe herself to sleep, but I didn’t want to just set her in her crib and leave her to cry for hours on end without some sort of reassurance from me. I didn’t want her feeling like I’d completely abandoned her.

And so, I am a bad parent because I let my helpless Babygirl cry in her crib for several minutes at a time.

It should be noted that I do NOT agree with just letting your child cry any earlier than we started this. Newborns need to be responded to in order to develop that sense of trust and connection with their parents. But Babygirl was beginning to cry for no reason at bedtime. She was warm (but not too warm), fed, dry and tired. But she would just keep crying. No matter what I did, she would cry. Whether I walked, bounced, swayed, sang or shushed she would still fuss and cry.

So why not let her learn self-soothing techniques while she’s crying? I feel like at that point, I was only handicapping her because I obviously wasn’t helping her feel any better. So I figured why not give this method a shot.

I have two words for you.

It’s working.

She has been sleeping a full 12 hours at night, and has been waking up only twice to eat. When I put her back down in the middle of the night, she goes right back to sleep. She has been able to put herself to sleep more often. And she has finally shifted to taking 2 or 3 long naps during the day instead of a bazillion cat naps.

She is happier during the day and not as tired. And most of all, when I go to get her out of her crib in the morning, she is still the smiley, happy, loving baby that I adore.

This method won’t necessarily work for everyone. This may not be everyone’s style. But for us and our child, it is going great.

I’m proud to be a bad parent.

Why I’m A Bad Parent- Part the 1st and a half

This is kind of a follow-up to my last post. When I first had Babygirl, I read up a lot on different parenting techniques and Dr. Sears really resonated with me. I liked his ideas of attachment parenting and tending to your newborn’s needs on their terms, not yours (ixnay on the Babywise). So that is what we practiced for the first few months of Babygirl’s life. There was one article in particular that I really liked, and it is also one that I have seen thrown around by those who are against the Cry It Out method. This article had study after study listed in it, supposedly highlighting the dangers of letting your baby cry. I’m all about scientific studies, man. But while trying to decide whether or not to do the graduated extinction method recommended in Dr. Weissbluth’s book, I decided to take a look at these studies myself to see if I could learn more.

I was absolutely shocked and appalled. Every single study that I was able to get my hands on (some required me to purchase them, others were too old to be available online) was taken out of context in some way.

No joke. As a journalist, I have a certain standard when it comes to using source material. My number one rule is to NEVER EVER take anything out of context to twist it for your own purposes. Drives me crazy. So here is the results of my findings based on the Dr. Sears article “Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful.”

______________________________________________________________________________

“Research has shown that infants who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system”

This particular section listed several studies to confirm it’s statement. I could only find a one.

The first was a study of rat pups done to confirm findings found in regard to Maternal Deprivation Syndrome, a syndrome also known as “nonorganic” failure to thrive. This basically is a result of newborns who are subjected to extreme neglect (whether intentional or unintentional). Last time I checked, Babygirl has definitely not been neglected, nor has has she “failed to thrive.” And I would venture to say that your average parent is neither neglecting their child or dealing with a child who has been diagnosed with Maternal Deprivation Syndrome.

Strike one.

“Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression”

This study is referring to children suffering from abuse and maltreatment.

Strike two.

“Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times.”

Again, talking about physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Perry even gives specific examples of feral children and Romanian orphans. Seriously? Not my child. Nor is this even the average child.

Strike three.

“Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain… “

Once again, this study is referring to abuse and neglect cases where there is an excessive amount of stressed crying because there needs are never being attended to. This represents neither myself nor the average parent.

Strike four.

“Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. “

In this study, the term “prolonged crying” is specified as referring to children with the tendency to continue to cry more than average after 3 months of age. Not infants who are left to cry for a prolonged period. The study postulates that the crying itself is caused by underlying developmental issues, not the other way around.

Strike five.

“Researchers at Pennsylvania State and Arizona State Universities found that infants with excessive crying during the early months showed more difficulty controlling their emotions and became even fussier when parents tried to consol them at 10 months.”

As mentioned previously, this particular study is discussing infants who are predisposed to crying. This one specifically uses the word “colic”. Which, as we all know, is completely different from letting your child cry in order to train them in proper sleeping habits. Not us.

Strike six.

“Animal and human research has shown when separated from parents, infants and children show unstable temperatures, heart arrhythmias, and decreased REM sleep (the stage of sleep that promotes brain development).”

This section listed a few studies as its sources, but I could only access a couple of them.

The first one I looked at specifically studied four preschool-aged children in institutional care. They were separated from their parents as they were being treated for cancer. Of all the studies, this one was the biggest “LOLWUT!?” moment. This obviously does not apply to our situation in any way, nor would this apply to any parent practicing either Cry It Out or a modified method (such as the one we were using).

The other one I was able to access in reference to this section, was one done on rats in which they found that maternal separation resulted in sleep disturbances. However,  they found that “the infant rat’s normal sleep-wake pattern is maintained by the rhythmicity and composition of the milk delivered to it by its mother…” Which is to say, it was the content of the mother’s milk that kept the baby rat from experiencing sleep disturbances. Again. Not applicable.

Strike…wait. I’m losing count.

“Dr. Brazy at Duke University and Ludington-Hoe and colleagues at Case Western University showed in 2 separate studies how prolonged crying in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. They concluded that caregivers should answer cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively.”

This study done on very young infants. While a few of the things could be applicable, the one I would be most concerned about (decreasing oxygen to the brain), was only in the case of infants with respiratory problems. Which Babygirl doesn’t have.

Yup. 

______________________________________________________________________________

I was able to look at 9 out of 19 studies listed. Every single one was rendered inapplicable in some way or another. At that point, I wasn’t willing to trust the other 10 studies. I am declaring this article debunked! Even if the other 10 studies somehow, miraculously actually applied to the situation of letting your child Cry It Out, I still say the article is debunked on principle alone.

I am a bad parent because I didn’t follow Dr. Sear’s parenting advice.

I prefer to be shoved

A blogging prompt for every day of the month of December? Totally. I will hopefully find a few spare minutes to make up the first 4 prompts that I missed. Today’s prompt from Reverb Broads: What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

I had a baby.

Maybe I should rephrase the prompt slightly. I always wanted and said I was going to have children. But in my heart of hearts, I never thought I would actually have one this young.

A lot of things went through my mind when I first saw those two little lines on the pregnancy test. “Oh my god, I’m pregnant.” “It’s probably a defective test. Maybe I should do another one.” “I’m too young to be a mom.” “I’m barely a wife, how can I possibly be a mom!?” “What am I going to tell Tim? We aren’t ready for this.” “How am I going to finish school?” “That’s what I get for watching Babies.”

Notice none of those things are “YAY! I’m having a baby! Just what I’ve always wanted!”

I’m sure that many people look at this and shake their head in disdain. How could I possibly not have been immediately joyful about something as wonderful as this? Don’t I know how many people would give an arm and a leg if it meant they could have have a baby? Do I not realize the number of women who suffer from fertility issues and will never experience this moment of realizing I carry a life inside me?

I know this. Which is why I’ve never really talked about this before except to my husband.

I found out I was pregnant and joy was not my immediate feeling. My first feeling was complete and utter terror.

You know what? That’s okay. It’s healthy.

Those first few weeks were difficult. I took four pregnancy tests because I just couldn’t comprehend what was happening. (As an aside, the dollar store pregnancy tests are just as effective as the $14 drugstore ones. Go cheap.)  I didn’t tell my husband right away. I kept it to myself for a full 24 hours. (Not the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had.) We’d only been married for three months. We lived in a dumpy apartment. We were just getting used to living together and now we had to prepare to welcome a new life. Neither of us were finished with school. We had no money.

Done bun, can’t be undone.

So we talked. And we planned. We scrimped. And we scraped. We prayed. And we praised.

Long story short, we are here. Almost a full year later with my 3-month-old daughter who is a total blast–mostly she has warm clothing and parents who love her. We live in a 4-bedroom house in a great neighborhood. Tim has an amazing job that meets our needs every month. We have food in our fridge and gas in our cars.

I am finishing up the last of my transfer degree and somehow we will make it work for me to finish my bachelor’s next year. Tim is in school full time, working full time, and also being a full-time husband and father. Our families have been incredibly supportive and loving, helping us whenever and however we need it.

Looking back I think “Eh, it didn’t turn out so bad.” My doomed picture of a starving baby screaming in a dingy apartment with a mother who left her dreams of school behind in the dust was–just slightly–melodramatic. But it wasn’t unnecessary. We were unprepared. Is it better to realize that you are wholly unqualified and unprepared to care for a human being or to think that you have it all together only to have a rude awakening once you are holding that screaming infant in your arms? We weren’t ready. But what better way to get ready. Is it more effective to slowly wade into a freezing pool, trying to convince yourself to dunk your head under the water and never really succeeding because it’s just soooo coooold or to have someone just shove you in and get it over with?

Realizing you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Realizing you aren’t prepared is the first step to being prepared. Realizing you are scared is the first step to being brave. Realizing there is an obstacle is the first step to overcoming it.

You need a steady career. You need to own a house. You need a nest egg. You need good health insurance. You need to be out of school. You need to be married for awhile first. You need this, that and the other.

Don’t have a baby too soon or your world will end.

That is what you hear. Everywhere you go. From almost anyone. Somehow, somewhere, our society has shifted into this mindset that everything has to be just so before you are allowed to have children. But what IS just so? I get my house and my career. And then decide I need a bigger house and more money. Then I decide I should have my retirement fund started and I should get some traveling out of the way (because that’s impossible with children). Pretty soon, I’m 36 and I’m still trying to convince myself to dunk my head under the cold water.

I think I prefer to be shoved.

Plus, baby cuddles are far more pleasant than cold water.

It’s Like A Dream- I

It’s like a dream now–faded around the edges. I can see it and feel it and hear it. But I almost can’t remember it. It’s a blur, you see. Of orange fleece and shy smiles. The way you looked at me made my skin prickle with glee. A rainy night, an apologetic hug, and then late night giggling about what I thought was.

Then there was a party. On a cold and windy day. You watched me carefully and I pretended not to care. It was a silent flirtation that screamed to us.

“Forever. Forever and always.”

Twenty-six hands and we still found each other; quietly congratulating ourselves on the sly way our fingers danced towards the other. I never wanted to let go.

But I didn’t know you. I didn’t know about you. I just knew I wanted you.

So later, when pipe dreams and cold cement clattered around us, I felt my last grip give way. And then I was falling. Deeper and farther than I ever had before.

I didn’t want to say goodbye.

when i wash the dishes

white bubbles swished
back and forth
between my fingers
as i washed the dishes today
the plate
was so dirty
i had to scrub and scrub
and scrub
but no matter how hard
i scrubbed, i couldn’t
stop thinking
about you
i can’t just love you
anymore
because i am beyond love
i am in passion
with you
you are in me and
around me
through me and
surrounding me
everything i do today
i do for you
because of you with you
and to you
if it weren’t for you
i wouldn’t be here
scrubbing this plate
watching the bubbles
fade