Monday, December 28, 2009

AirTran, the Child-Free Airline

Yesterday, on our flight from Atlanta to Pittsburgh, Flight 985 on AirTran, a woman and her two-year-old son were removed from the plane when the child would not sit still in his seat. We were on the tarmac, ready for take-off, when the pilot announced that there was "an issue in the cabin" and that we'd be returning to the gate. At the gate, a customer service person came on and informed the woman that she'd have to get off the plane--even though, by that time, she'd calmed her son and he was falling asleep. Some passengers (including me) called out in her defense, but AirTran would not be swayed.

Andrew and I had talked to this mom and her son when we'd boarded--they were sitting directly in front of us. The little boy was very blond and cute; he talked to us over the seat back. When the plane began to move, he fell asleep in his mother's lap. But then a flight attendant (male, completely cold, frowning) approached and asked how old he was. The mother said he was just over two. "Then he has to sit in his own seat with his seat belt fastened," the man said.

When the woman shifted her son to his own seat, he began screaming and dissolved into full meltdown toddler mode. He would not sit still and allow himself to be buckled in--he just wanted his mother to hold him. It was heart-breaking to listen to, especially as the flight attendant grew increasingly insistent, the mother began crying herself in frustration and humiliation, and not one crew member attempted to help her or diffuse the situation.

Eventually, he calmed down, but it was too late for AirTran. The mother, in tears, led her little boy off the plane. Who knows when they managed to get to Pittsburgh--lots of flights were fully booked. And I can't imagine that a several-hours-long wait at the airport for the next flight will help the child have a calm next flight.

It was horrifying, from start to finish. No compassion. AirTran's new ad campaign features a slew of reasons to take an easy-breezy flight: bachelor party, old friend, long weekend, away game, etc. But how can any parent feel easy-breezy about AirTran when a crying child can leave you stranded in a strange airport, miles and miles from home?

A passenger spotted Lucia sleeping in her sling as we were getting off the plane in Pittsburgh. "You didn't get thrown off!" he said. But it could easily, so easily, be us next time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Morning

Cozy morning.

Lil’ Bruiser

Yesterday when Lucia woke up, I gasped—it looked like she’d been in a bar fight. For a day or two now her eye had been a bit watery, with some mucus-y matter in the corner, and yesterday the entire underside of her eye was a pinkish purple, like someone had punched her. Punched my baby! I took her to the pediatrician in the afternoon, and he deemed it an infection. We’re now taking Our First Antibiotic. Do they have a Hallmark card for that?

She looks almost entirely back to normal today, so I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of Lucia with her Don’t Mess With Me look. Ah well. I’m just glad we got it taken care of now, since we leave for the East Coast tomorrow.

We are looking at the flight as an adventure…and, really, we’re so excited for the trip that even if Fusskins makes an appearance, I think we’ll be able to take it in stride. Tonight I have to select her traveling outfit…and her backup traveling outfits…and my backup traveling outfit. Milk and other bodily fluids are as much a part of our wardrobes now as cute shoes once were.

I like the picture at the top of this post—she seems to be saying to her grandparents, “Ready for me?” And in the picture below, she's practicing the look she'll give the flight attendants to reassure them of an easy flight. A plane ride--yay!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Empty Warning

Last night, I did something I haven’t done in months: I put on cute tights, knee-high boots, a skirt, and a non-milk-stained sweater and went to a party, leaving a little Fusskins with Andrew for a couple of hours while I celebrated the grand opening of my prenatal yoga teacher’s new studio. And I talked—talked!—to a variety of other moms, and even made plans to get together with a few of them in the new year. In other words, I was a regular human being again, at least for a little while.

I was happy to hear from every other girl I talked to that they, too, spent days—weeks—crying once they brought their babies home. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impressions and preconceptions about motherhood that I had before giving birth. I’d heard that having a baby was hard—no one ever, ever said to me it was a piece of cake. But for some unknown reason, in the back of my mind, I thought it’d be different for me—that I’d be different, or do something differently, or have a different kind of baby who’d be born with a symbiotic, mind-reading sort of understanding with her mama. Just as Mom and Dad didn’t believe California was awful until we were stuck on I-80 this summer in 100+ degree heat in a non-air-conditioned car that was filling with smoke from a wildfire by the side of the road, I didn’t believe having a baby could be all that hard until—BAM—Lucia was here, crying and screaming and otherwise exploiting her cuteness to drive me over the edge. Then I realized: why yes, having a baby is hard, just like everyone always said.

It’s the kind of warning, though, that’s difficult to deliver with any kind of credibility, especially when the person saying it’s hard has an adorable, gurgling baby or smiling toddler or thriving grown child and seems to have it all together, to have survived unscathed. It’s easy to see why I never quite bought it. And if I myself deliver such a warning one day, while holding an increasingly cute, cooing, bright-eyed Lucia, I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever is listening (Molly) smiles while thinking to herself, Hard for Margo, maybe—but it’ll surely be different for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Project

This year, Andrew and I have decided to do something different for Christmas—we’re giving our friends and Andrew’s co-workers homemade Christmas presents. Because undertaking a logistically complex and incredibly time-consuming baking project is exactly what one should do when one has an infant! Nonetheless, this weekend we braved the relentless cold and rain (I thought we lived in California!) and set out to make our preparations.

First stop: one of Roseville’s countless big box stores, an employee-owned grocery store chain with dirt-cheap prices and a fabulous bulk food section. The prices are akin to Pechin’s, for those of you from southwestern PA. The new Pechin’s, not the old (no dirt floors here, though there were buckets out to catch leaks from the ceiling). It’s a mammoth store, always chaotic, but we put Lucia in the sling and she slept peacefully the entire time. What I love about the sling, besides having two free hands, is that no one can actually see the baby. They can see that I have a baby, but they can’t see her precious little face or her pure, clean, flu-free hands. This is good, because it means I haven’t yet had to use my Mama Bear voice to say, PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE BABY. I’ve been practicing this phrase; it’s delivered in a firm, clear voice, a pitch or two louder than it has to be, with just a hint of an unidentifiable accent to make it intimidating. I’m kind of waiting for an opportunity to use it, hopefully in Andrew’s presence for maximum amusement.

A note on this store. It was chaotic, yes, and at one point I made a comment to Andrew about being overwhelmed by the crush of humanity. When I said this, we were pushing an enormous shopping cart down an almost empty aisle as wide as my apartment in Brooklyn. We have gotten wimpy, wimpy, wimpy when it comes to crowds. We’ve been Rosevillified.

Anyway, our next stop was Target. Again, the sling made shopping so easy. And then—it was time to actually start baking. For a while, Lucia sat quietly in her little infant seat, dozing or watching the goings-on. When she started fussing, Andrew put her in the Baby Bjorn, and she went right to sleep. It’s like not even having a baby!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Magic Words

I’m knocking on wood as I type this, but…Lucia has stopped screaming before breast-feeding. She is now eagerly latching on and nursing peacefully. By Friday of last week, Andrew and I were both exhausted and frustrated, and we were eagerly anticipating our appointment with our pediatrician. He didn’t have any solutions—I was hoping he’d say immediately it was reflux and give us some medicine in a dropper—and suggested a week of formula to gauge her reaction to that. I wasn’t about to do that, however (we’ve come so far with breast-feeding, and I feel strongly it’s the right thing for us), and I continued to explain what was happening. I told him I’d started trying to feed her every hour and a half to stave off any hunger-related hysteria. “Don’t do that,” he said immediately. “Just watch her. Let her eat only when she wants to.” He told me to stop waking her up to eat. It seemed like such obvious advice…

…and yet the magic words worked. Friday, I started watching the baby, not the clock, and only fed her when she gave clear signals of being hungry. Knock on wood—we have been great all weekend. Was it really so ridiculously simple? Was I really just letting my Italian mama side get out of control—“Eat something! Eat!”—and force-feeding my baby? Feed her when she’s hungry—it’s so obvious, and something I knew but somehow forgot in my frantic determination to feed the baby. I was trying to impose my will on her instead of letting her communicate to me what she needs. Indeed, perhaps she was communicating via her screams: I’M NOT HUNGRY. LEAVE ME ALONE, FOOD-PUSHING MOMMY. I WAS SLEEPING.

Every day, a new lesson. But who knows. I could post this, and she could start screaming again. For now, however, we’ve reached a feeding peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letter to Lucia: 8 Weeks

Little Lucy,

You’re eight weeks old today—two months! And wow, have you been giving your mama a run for her money. Last week was probably the most difficult I’ve had since you were born. I really felt like I couldn’t keep it together, and all the difficulty we’ve been having with feeding you made me feel distraught. This week has been better. You’re still screaming before feedings, but I’m handling it with more grace, and I’ve found some tricks for calming you down and getting you to eat peacefully. We have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, which may or may not be helpful. I suspect he may just tell us this is a phase we need to get through. I’m not about to stop breastfeeding, so you and I are going to have to work it out together.

In the past few weeks you’ve started smiling, which is adorable. Sometimes you give us tentative little smiles, but sometimes your whole face lights up, eyes crinkling, as though you’re laughing at a private baby joke. You’ve been cooing, too, and sometimes we’re absolutely convinced you’re trying to say “Hi!”

Two nights ago, you rolled over—from tummy to back. You’ve been trying to do this for a couple of weeks. You have all the movements right, but you don’t yet have that extra oomph that would get you from one side to the other. Finally, you did it. It may have been a fluke—you haven’t done it again—but it was a step in the right direction.

Next week, we’re going to take you on a plane for the first time—and, for the first time, back home to the East Coast. I’m nervous about the flight, since feeding you tends to be such a production, but I am counting down the seconds to the trip anyway. It’s going to be so much fun to introduce you to new family members—Grandpa Bob! Aunt Katherine! Nana! Uncle Ian! Myriad Orlandos and Connellsville friends!—and spend our first Christmas with you. Of course you won’t know what’s happening. (Daddy and I didn’t even get you any gifts—will you hold it against us someday?) But you’ll make this holiday unforgettable for us.

Right now you’re sleeping in your sling, right against my chest. I can feel you breathing, and can see each little movement of your fingers. Sometimes when you’re screaming and your daddy and I are trying desperately to make you happy I forget how little you really are—and you are little. Tiny little hands, tiny feet, eensy-weensy little toes. Before bedtime, when we do skin-to-skin nursing and you fall asleep in bed beside me, curled up tight under the warm covers, you are your smallest, baby-est self, fully unaware of the way we gaze at you, whispering to each other that we have the best baby in the world.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Feeding Troubles

I had two goals for Sunday: 1. Go to Target; 2. Get through the whole day without crying. I’m proud to say it was Mission Accomplished. It’s now 7pm on Monday, and today has been tear-free as well. I’m on a roll.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty capable person—even adventurous, or at least willing to take (calculated) risks when it came to going new places and trying new things. I’ve never been one to give up on things, or to assume I couldn’t do something just because I’d never done it before.

And yet I’m now humbled to say that motherhood has thrown me for a loop, to put it mildly. How is it possible that Lucia, a tiny being smaller than most housepets, has pushed me to—and past—my limits time and again over the past few days? We had a rough week last week. It was a culmination of factors, namely extreme fussiness and a hesitation—nay, a violent aversion—to breast-feeding. Each time I put her into feeding position, she began screaming shrilly, a kind of scream I’ve never heard from her before. She didn’t starve—she sometimes decided to feed; and if it went on too long I pumped and gave her a bottle—but it was incredibly, incredibly stressful for me. I felt like she absolutely hated me, and felt like a complete failure at feeding my child. She would scream, I would get increasingly frantic, and it always ended with both of us sobbing. This went on all week. By the time Andrew came home from work each day the house had become a place where tranquility was a distant dream. And the fussiness would continue.

I actually cried so hard this week that at one point a contact fell out. Now that’s some crying.

We’re still working out the cause of this strange screaming; she’s not sick, no fever or etc., so who knows. Doing skin-to-skin feedings seems to have done some good this weekend, and today she fed well, even falling asleep on my chest several times after a good nursing. I spoke to a lactation consultant today who reassured me that these things will pass; and we have a doctor’s appointment on Friday. If there is a cause to find, we will find it.

In any case, it was quite a week. The breast-feeding troubles unmoored me enough so that any tiny thing could set off a new crying jag; it was more like a week-long crying jag with small intervals of red-eyed calm. Now that a fresh week has begun, I am trying, really trying, to stay centered and in the moment, to approach each feeding as a beacon of calm reassurance, to focus on what I’m doing at any given time instead of worrying about what’s to come (the end of our Christmas vacation, when we’ll leave our families; Andrew’s upcoming overnight business trip in January). I am filled with admiration and awe these days—for single mothers, military wives with husbands abroad, friends who have survived their children’s infanthoods (sometimes with more than one child at a time), anyone who’s raised their babies and lived to tell about it.

This is hard. This is really, really hard. I love this baby to pieces; but I am simply blown away by the fact that she may be the greatest challenge of my life.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I’m tired.

It’s strange to feel more tired now than I have been, since Lucia’s sleeping has been getting so much better. But I’m tired. With all our visitors gone now and Andrew back to work, I find that my days alone with Lucia pass quickly—but leave me exhausted. Most days we do just fine. But here and there we have A Day, like we did on Monday, when I’ve apparently eaten something horrendous that leaves Lucia in inconsolable discomfort. Even an hour or two of her painful crying wipes me out and has me counting the minutes until I hear Andrew’s car in the driveway.

And now that I’m trying to pick up a little work again, I find my stress level has skyrocketed—I don’t know how I’m going to find time in the day to do what I need to do. Part of my problem is that if Lucia so much as glances at me from her bassinet or bouncy chair, I’m overwhelmed with guilt for not holding her. I didn’t expect to feel this way, and I can’t get over it—she looks at me so innocently and plaintively, as though she just can’t understand why Mommy’s not where baby is. I’m not sure how to strike the right balance yet, or if it’s even going to be possible, or what’s going to happen if it’s not. And then I get even more overwhelmed in this cycle of thinking. I’m completely torn between wanting to start working again (I generally like the writing and editing I do and have worked hard to build it up) and wanting to not work at all so I can simply tend to Lucia every second. I know it’s going to be a process of trial and error; but it would be nice if I didn’t feel so guilt-stricken while I figure it all out.

In the meantime…I’m tired. I don’t think I’ve yet developed the mental capacity to deal with all these mothering conundrums.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Extra-Hour Challenge

Lucia’s sleep has improved dramatically over the past week or so—she can generally go for about four hours now before waking up for a feeding. Now and then she’ll even surprise us with a five- or even six-hour stretch. Our strategy is to give her a bottle (of breastmilk) as her last feeding before bedtime—she seems to eat more this way, and it’s that first stretch of sleep that has improved so drastically. She’ll then wake up once more, around 6:00am or so, before we get up for the day.

Unfortunately, Lucia’s idea of a good time to get up for the day and our idea of a good time is about two hours off. When Lucia wakes up at 6:00 to eat, she’s usually wide awake, ready to play. She is not ready to go back in her bassinet. We, however, are determined to get at least another hour of sleep—and so the extra-hour challenge begins. Andrew usually takes the lead on singing, dancing, and playing, sometimes lying with her on the floor for half an hour or so while she kicks and coos. When, after being rocked and sung to, she seems amenable to sleep, we pull out all the stops—her white-fleece swaddler goes back on, and we employ a pacifier, the white-noise machine, and the vibrating function on the bassinet. Though she tends to be wide-eyed when we put her down, the combination of these sleep-inducing tools usually does the trick, and she’ll go back to sleep until around 8:00am or so. Today she was extra-sleepy and slept until 9:00am.

It would probably be less painful for all of us to just get up at 6:00am and get the day started…but we will continue to fight for that extra hour, for now. I choose, at this point, not to think about what our trip East is going to do to our developing schedule.