Monday, March 28, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Gives Up

I'm a big fan of the Catholic concept of giving up something for Lent. Forty days is just enough time to feel like you can make a significant sacrifice, without making you feel like you can't take a single additional second of suffering. As kids in Catholic school, we often gave up things like chocolate or ice cream, but in my twenties I remember being encouraged to give up something more meaningful. Who cares if you give up Jolly Ranchers or coffee? I think the point is to be a better person and stuff.

For the past several years, I've given up gossiping. If you've ever tried it, let me tell you it is tough. No Perez (gasp!), no sitting in the teachers' lounge at lunch swapping hearsay about colleagues or students. I have definitely faltered-- how scary is it that gossip is so second-nature that a woman in her thirties often doesn't realize she's doing it? But it's made me think before I speak or before I buy an US Weekly at the airport, even when it's not the Lenten season, and in that way I think it's served a great purpose.

This year I decided not to give up gossiping. (The Charlie Sheen stuff is just too hilarious. Sorry.) What I decided to give up was more all-encompassing. What I have given up is so much a part of who I am that there isn't a moment that goes by-- even in my head-- that I'm not thinking about it.

I gave up complaining.

The inspiration came to me during a particularly dark afternoon in February, one involving a very cranky baby, 4000 loads of laundry, yet another snowstorm, and a cupboard empty of La Choy's Low Sodium Soy Sauce. Oh, was I ready to let anyone who would listen (L) have it. But then I had one of those moments that a woman in her thirties sometimes has, the ones where she steps outside herself and looks in, and I thought about just how lucky my life is.

So I shut my trap. And it felt... good.

Of course I have had my low moments. (Listen closely-- you might hear L laughing all the way from Portland right now. He's seen first hand just how [un]successful this attempt has been.) I had plenty of disparaging things to say when I had to throw out two ounces of perfectly good breast milk, since Anna was not happy with it mixed with rice cereal:

I had plenty more things to say last week when our wonderful dog, Dan, had diarrhea all over our bedroom carpet. At four in the morning.

And let me tell you the thoughts that ran through my head last Tuesday, when we got another three inches of snow:

But my attempt has not been without its triumphs. This Saturday, when I caught myself flying into a fit of rage over my pre-pregnancy jeans that still won't button, I closed my mouth and re-joined the gym. Yesterday, on the phone with a friend, I caught myself before making a snide comment about so-and-so. Today I decided that I was going to embrace 37 degrees as warm, comparatively speaking.

That, women in your thirties, is progress. I think God would approve.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties is Complete

Dear Anna Banana,

This week you are four months old. That's practically driving age, as far as I'm concerned. The past month has been one of firsts for you.

Your first trip on an airplane (notice the Magical Suit):
Your first Ash Wednesday (I cried):Your first time touching grass (you liked it a lot):
You are starting to get your... um... very own... uh... personality. While this is exciting on many levels, as a teacher of high school students I have to admit it's a little scary. When you're finished with something, say your Bumbo, you let me know. Very loudly. There is no question that you are done sitting in that Bumbo. I wonder if picking up and giving you kisses will work when you're sixteen and done studying for your Physics test. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I looked at a calendar recently and realized that it's the middle of March, which is practically the end of March, which is really close to April. And April is the time that I have to tell my school what my plan is for next year. Though a woman in her thirties is not supposed to avoid tough decisions, that's exactly what your Mom is doing. Let's just say you are an excellent distraction, on every level. Why think about the future when I can lay on the floor and watch you roll over?

Life has taken on a new reality with you. Maybe it's the snow that's finally melting, but I don't feel like I'm in survival mode anymore. And to think that just a year ago I learned I was pregnant, and we entered a three month period of praying, hoping, and praying. Now all of a sudden I know how to grocery shop with you, the best way to get you to burp, and how many diapers I need to get through the day. Amazing.

I keep telling people that I can remember a time when you weren't in my life, but it all seems so distant and fuzzy. Incomplete. Someday we'll watch Jerry Maguire together, and I'll turn to you and say, 'You complete me, Pumpkin.' My eyes will be full of tears and you'll roll your eyes. But it will be as true as anything I've ever said. That's how much I love you now, and how much I'll love you then, and how much I'll always love my Spunkeroo.

Love,
Mom

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Poops

Remember that scene in Forrest Gump, when he's out on the boat with Lieutenant Dan and gets a call that his Momma is sick, so he dives into the water to go be with her?

Last week was kinda like that, except that I already had a trip planned to CA to see my family (more on that later), and it turned out that my Mom is a rockstar didn't need my help at all while recovering from surgery. But the thought was there-- a woman in her thirties helps her Mom when she needs it.

Normally, this would be a no-brainer. I've hopped on many last-minute flights with just a carry-on to be with family/party in Vegas/go shoe shopping in Hong Kong. But this time I'd be flying with this little one...

... who has a way of making even a trip to Target much more exciting than it should be. To say that I was nervous to travel-- by myself-- with a newborn would be an understatement.

Walking through the airport the morning of my flight was surreal. I was a acutely aware of the people avoiding standing behind me in the security line, thinking 'what a cute baby-- I hope she's not on my flight.' I was also acutely aware of Anna, who had yet to poop all morning. We boarded the plane and I knew, the way a woman in her thirties often does, that disaster was imminent. I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my mind.

I'd heard that it was important for babies to nurse on take-off and landing, but Anna had other plans. She nursed as we taxied on the runway, but fell into a deep sleep (one that is elusive to her at home), by the time we took off. I sat shoving my boob into my poor baby's face as we ascended higher and higher, but it was no use. She was out.

And she stayed out for the first two and a half hours of the flight. I read my book (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand- recommended!), talked to my neighbor about his upcoming trip to Australia, and smiled down at my sleeping angel. 'Traveling with a baby is easy!', I heard myself say to my neighbor, and he smiled with what I imagine was mostly relief.

When she woke up, she was all smiles and ready to eat. I remember looking at my watch while she fed, thinking 'only an hour to go!' when it happened.

And by 'it', I mean poop. The biggest poop of Anna's almost-four-month life. I felt the warmth of it travel up her back as she continued to eat happily.

A woman in her thirties has only a few options in this situation. I could have left it, allowing her to sit in her own feces until we landed. Maybe no one would notice the smell or the huge yellow stain on the back of her (adorable) outfit. I could have changed her in the bathroom on the... I have no idea. There is no room for a small adult like myself to go to the bathroom on a plane, let alone change the diaper of her newborn. Or I could have asked for help, as a woman in her thirties often does.

I took my little poop-covered angel to the back of the plane, where two flight attendants cheerfully pointed to Anna's back and said, 'I think she pooped!' It turned out that one of them had twins of her own (yikes!) and understood my plight. She pushed down the jump seat and allowed me to do my business while she shielded us with my hooter hider and the other flight attendant handed me wipe after wipe. It was not the most comfortable of situations, especially considering that the poop had traveled all the way up to Anna's shoulders, but it worked. I pointed to the San Francisco skyline as we landed and whispered to Anna, 'We did it, Punky! We're covered in poop, but we're home!'

Now that we're back in Pleasantville, I keep thinking that we just accomplished the first of what will probably be many flights in Anna's future. And aside from a little poop, the flights were a total success. I still think she was an angel.

See? She even has her wings: