Monthly Archives: October 2009

Story of a name

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“What’s her name?”

“Mariel.”

“That’s interesting. Where is it from? What does it mean?”

This.

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Paperwork

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A couple days ago we received The Bill.

Which deserves caps because it’s a Big Bill.

Having a baby in the US costs a lot of money.

Several thousand dollars to be exact, and that’s *after* insurance reimbursement.

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We have a few friends who have delayed having children, have decided not to have children, or who have been worried when they learned they were pregnant because they’re concerned they just don’t have enough money to raise a child.

Unfortunately, all of them are precisely the people you’d want to have children.
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The other night we were watching the movie “Parenthood.” There’s a scene in which one of the characters reflects upon his childhood (he was abused by his father), saying something to the effect of “You have to have a license to drive a car. You have to have a license to buy a dog. To go fishing. But anybody can be a parent.”

Since I’m sleep deprived I’m not entirely sure how to tie these two ideas together neatly, but I think there’s something there. Why do we make birthing so expensive… and parenting utterly without qualifications when it’s the single most important job in the world?

Seriously.

[If you want to see the clip from “Parenthood”, it’s below… fast forward to 5:07 for the license speech.]

For someone who gets no sleep…

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I sure do have a lot of dreams.

A few years ago, after I finished my MSW but before I started (and put on infinite hold) my PhD, I found myself without a classroom. I was broke, as usual, and the thought of going into debt for another degree was one not worth entertaining.

Which is when my friend Rebecca told me about the Harlem Family Institute.

HFI was a postgraduate program in psychoanalysis: child psychoanalysis, specifically. As its name suggests, it’s in Harlem… well, sort of. You go to classes in your professors’ varying degrees of posh-ish Upper West Side homes, most with libraries, and you do your analytic work in Harlem-area schools. The classes were free because the analysis students provide was unpaid.

Now I was ambivalent about analysis as a practice; it seemed outmoded, impractical (therapy three times a week?!), expensive, and elitist. I read up on HFI, talked to current and former students, and met with the director, and my concerns were alleviated, especially about elitism. At the very least, even if I never went on to practice analysis, I reasoned that the program would be a good investment of time because I’d learn valuable theories and techniques that inform most other clinical counseling work.

I was also ambivalent about children. I thought I didn’t like them. But when I visited the school where I’d be analyzing, I felt like these kids were different because their school was different. And I could see myself as a part of it all.

I applied, I was accepted, I started classes and was into the whole bit. I hadn’t yet begun my own analysis when my boss, who had approved a special schedule that would allow me one day off per week to work with the kids in exchange for working 4 longer days, decided that she wanted me around five days after all. When I protested, she invited me to quit. I should have taken her up on the offer, but instead I withdrew from the program, leaving one of those “What if I’d done that instead?” moments hanging in the ether.

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I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to decode my own dreams. Though I sleep in bursts–the sprint runner of the sonambulist world–I’ve had vivid, strange, and dreams so terrifying that they shake me awake.

There’s the wacky dream fragment where I grew two additional breasts, located on my abdomen.

The dream where we’re driving on a winding road with Mariel in the backseat in a side-facing car seat when Francisco loses control of the car. As we’re hurtling through the air, I gently touch his arm and ask how we’re going to handle this. When I wake up, I don’t recall what he’s said, but I know that we landed safely, no harm done.

The dream that woke me up to write this– that I’m at my six-week postpartum appointment and Georgia, the midwife, knows I’ve had sex before the sanctioned healing period has been reached. She’s gently accusatory, as she massages my stomach in a bathtub, and yet strangely understanding. There are little babies floating in the tub, like the kind that get hidden then found in King’s cakes. This, not surprisingly, is what disturbs me the most. In the dream, I see myself clearly, as if the dream has occurred in third person narration.

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I wonder what I would have learned about myself in analysis. Would I have been able to handle whatever anxieties and terrors, whatever drives and “wish fulfillments” I’d have found there? Would I have resisted the analyst’s interpretation, insistent upon my own?

Ah… who knows. Hardly worth asking now.

Last night, I was reading this article about the analyst Jung. Second only (and if that?) in renown to Freud, Jung had some pretty wacko dreams himself, dreams that tortured him, that made him wonder if he was coming unhinged. He coped with the fear of oncoming madness by writing about the dreams and his waking brushes with psychosis (I don’t have these, thank you very much) in a leather bound volume titled simply “The Red Book.” He found that even if writing about the dreams didn’t make sense of them, it helped pry loose the hold they had over his mind.

And so it is.

Are babies anything like puppies?

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A few years ago, our first pug, Percy, nosed into the closet, tipped over a 20 pound bag of dog food, and shimmied his way inside, eating until his stomach was distended and his coat was dotted with greasy little bits of beef gravy kibble. It’s a puggish tendency–to eat way beyond satiation. In fact, every time we leave Penelope, our second pug, with the neighbor when we go out of town, I always give her the same directions: “Do not feed more more than this cup. Even if she looks at you like she’s the most desperate, starving dog in the world.”

It doesn’t matter. When we come home, Penelope is always a pound or two heavier and Leslie sheepishly admits she’s let Penelope have “just a little extra.”

Are babies anything like puppies?

That’s a question that came to mind yesterday, as Mariel and I went from one stressful doctor’s appointment to another, from 59th and 10th Avenue to 114th and Amsterdam. She sucked down one bottle, then I, oblivious to the time, popped another one in her mouth. Jumping on and off the hospital jitney, juggling my bag, the Snugli, and paperwork, I didn’t burp her as much as I should have. By noon, her belly looked suspiciously like Percy’s after his binge: round and hard. I should have paced her feedings better, shouldn’t have rushed her along, even though the hospital is notorious for refusing to see patients who don’t arrive on time.

There are so many things you learn about parenting only as you go along, and some of the lessons come from strange places. Or memories of the dog.

Friends & Family

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Nancy

Nancy

That’s our friend, Nancy.
The Buddhette and I spent the afternoon with Nancy yesterday and it was a special time for all of us.

Because I work from home and because I’m a writer and editor, I’m online way too much. One of the side benefits of having a kid, I’ve learned, is that your friends and family don’t let you stay at home: they want to hold the baby and spend as much time adoring her as you do.

It was great to pull away from the computer for a full day and spend real time with a friend. I’m grateful beyond words for friends and family who, like Nancy, will bring so much to Mariel’s life… and who bring so much to mine and Francisco’s.

Is this what parenthood does to a woman?

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(The more frightening question is: What will this woman do to parenthood?)

Found this on the Pampers Village site (Yes, I was actually on there):

Posted at 10/17/09 – 04:19 a.m.

my 3 month old daughter iz such a nightmare 2 get 2.sleep.! i dnt understand it shez alwayz awake thru the hole day. juzt like a quik 10 minute nap here and there so i wuld think she wuld easily go 2 sleep…. WRONG.! she wantz 2 b up n play until like 1 in the morning. wen i lay her down she juz stayz awake trying 2 play lol. and im a working mom also going to school full time so itz hard trying 2 stay up so late waiting for my crazy little daughter 2 fall asleep haha. kan sumbody giv me ne advice on helping her get 2 sleep earlier.?

I’m sad to say that you just can’t make this up.

Why NYU won’t be receiving any alumni $ from me

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Dear NYU:

That’s it: you’re overrated.

I’ve thought this since 2003, when I graduated from the Ehrenkranz School of Social Work (recently renamed, if I’m not mistaken, the Silver School of Social Work. Money, it seems, trumps the need for continuity… hope someone remembers Silver used to be Ehrenkranz if anyone ever wants to confirm my degree) and refused to go to the graduation ceremony because I was just so glad to be finished… the program was that bad.

But what I heard today from another new mom and member of your faculty really beats all. Despite your progressive reputation, despite political correctness, despite laws, you’ve failed, it seems, to accommodate nursing moms on your faculty, relegating at least one woman to a maintenance closet to pump breast milk. Despite all the research substantiating the benefits of breast milk, you’re effectively denying babies all of those advantages, because really: who can pump breast milk when she’s surrounded by mops, brooms, and the sounds of the boiler? What kind of message are you sending women and babies when you send them to a closet? I have a hard time believing you can’t do better–way better–than that.

I don’t have any money to give you, but even if I did, I wouldn’t. Not unless you promised me that you’d build an enormous, comfortable room where women could pump milk and nurse without shame, and that it would be built in my daughter’s name.