Commence heteronormative parenting group

The hospital system through which E was born offers optional parenting groups based on a baby’s age and family’s location. For six months, a group meets every other week for two hours – the first half of the session is typically dedicated to a topic of interest to the group and the second half is for social time. While we have a lot of rad parents and kids in our lives, we liked the notion of connecting with parents whose children are experiencing similar milestones and challenges around the same pace. K and I decided to be brave and enroll in one of the evening groups and our group started this week.

Birth story aside, I knew that we’d be the weirdos of the group, and I say that mostly with pride. Even most of our mundane parenting choices and preferences (cloth diapering, baby-led weaning, babywearing, baby with a hyphenated last name, etc.) put us on the fringe of most circles. Oftentimes, the knowledge of our stark differences leaves us with the expectation of needing to defend our identities and choices, which doesn’t make for a very comfortable setting. Still, we figured that we’d be interacting with mainstream parents eventually and decided to dip our toes in when we still had the option of dropping out of this particular group.

I was right in our assumption that we were rather different from other parents, but I was expecting more judgment or hesitation from the other members. Instead, we were greeted with warm smiles and friendly questions. I also expected more stay-at-home mothers in the group, but I believe all are households in which both parents work outside of the home, likely because it’s an evening group offering. I imagine that our group feels and looks a bit different from the groups that are offered mid-morning and likely attract only mothers. I was also surprised to see that one of our group members is a local elected official who is very progressive.

K and I are on the fence about whether or not we will eventually tell the group members about E’s origins. We plan on being very open with our baby, family members and friends, but when it comes to the rest of the world, we’re kind of the standpoint of disclosing on a need-to-know basis, and I realize the privilege in our ability to make that decision. Ultimately, I want E to have as much agency as possible with regard to the disclosure of his birth story, and that can’t happen if we’ve told everyone and their brother. With that in mind, K and I were a little nervous when our icebreaker was to tell our birth stories. To sidestep the issue of needing to get into something so complex with literal strangers, I opted to tell a very vague but hilarious tale surrounding E’s birth, when he made his debut and promptly peed an arc above everyone in attendance. “He has enjoyed making a big first impression since day one,” I quipped.

E was very social and smiled at parents and babies alike. I think he might have been the only baby present who didn’t cry at least once. He had a great time wiggling on the floor with some of the other kiddles, and when we took a group picture of the babies, E had his arms casually slung around both of his neighbors, as if to say, “I’m hangin’ with my bros!” (There is only one girl in the entire group!)

One thing that I greatly dislike about the group relates to the hospital’s organization of it. At the time of each baby’s birth, the hospital promotes the parenting groups and gives everyone the option of signing up if it sounds interesting to them. Before we were discharged from the hospital with E, I sent an email to the parenting resources coordinator at the hospital to sign up for the group. In my email, I relayed the requested information including my full name, my husband’s name, our location and our baby’s date of birth. When the group was formed, K – not me – and a list of clearly all women received a mass email with the details, even though I had never sent his email address to the parenting resources coordinator. Then, the night of the group, our volunteer facilitator passed around the group roster, saying that this information was provided by the hospital, and asked us to update or change anything we needed or wanted. Luckily, she handed me the roster first, which allowed me an opportunity to black out inaccurate/inappropriate information before others saw it. The roster was a bolded list of all women’s names, including K’s legal/given name (again, I never disclosed that to the parenting resources coordinator), their contact information, babies’ names, and husband’s names with the word “father” in parentheses after the men’s names. E’s last name was listed as being K’s last name, which isn’t on ANY paperwork anywhere, and my name, which was in the “husband” area (not labeled, but clear that’s what the intention of that spot was) had parentheses with nothing inside of them, like they couldn’t even figure out what my relation to this family was! Now, it’s clear to me that the parenting resources coordinator used health information on file at the hospital instead of the information provided to them by the parents as they were signing up for the groups, and that does NOT sit well with me. I plan on reaching out to the coordinator right away to let them know that we are displeased by this fact and that we never consented for this information to be relayed to others.

For now, K and I plan to continue going to the group unless or until we decide it isn’t meeting our needs, or if the downsides end up outweighing the benefits. Hopefully, there are more interesting anecdotes to come..!

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Goodbye, sweet girl

Tonight, Our Golden GirlK, E and I said goodbye to our sweet and longtime companion, Twiggy. She lived a very full life, but not all of it was happy. She began her life with the unthinkable, inhumane reality faced by puppy mill breeding stock. We are all so thankful that she was able to spend her retirement in a much more suitable and loving environment, where she luxuriated on the sofa and was adored by all who met her. Twiggy’s heart was the biggest I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. She literally loved everyone she encountered and I imagine this world would be a much better place if we all cared for one another with such sincerity. Such sass, such classTwiggy was also a diva who had a flair for the dramatic and was the reigning title holder from the first (and only) Motor City Pride Doggy Drag Show.

Twiggy, we know that you are now at peace and are again with your late sister Crunchy, whom I’m certain exuberantly bounded toward you to greet you on the other side. We are the most grateful pet parents to have had you in our lives and you will always be in our hearts.

A much younger Twiggy with her late sister, Crunchy

4.5 months

I can’t believe E is 4 and a half months old!  I can’t believe I’ve been someone’s dad for 4 months!!!  I’ve miss you all and wanted to give a quick E four month update.

I’ve really noticed his personality emerging more and more–which is fascinating to watch. He’s very laid back and easy going, yet focused and determined when trying new things. I’ve noticed him expressing preferences more and more.  The other day I had a variety of toys out and I switched toys.  He started to fuss and look for the one I took away.  There are so many little amazing moments I want to write about.  I think my favorite thing is how interested he is lately in books.  He really seems to focus intently on them and is now trying to turn the pages himself or trying to hold the book.

Right now he loves:

  • Rolling all over the place
  • Drooling and blowing bubbles
  • Motown music
  • Watching his crazy parents dance and sing to Motown music
  • Kismet, the black and white kitty
  • Nature–trees, grass, flowers, the sky
  • His new BIGGer bottles
  • People!  I would say he’s partial to other babies and older women 🙂

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The pit and peak

Last night was a whirlwind.

If you’ve been reading along, you know that our elderly dog has been in rapidly declining health. Since we’ve come home from our trip to visit my parents, we’ve noticed that she trembles and her legs periodically buckle beneath her, making her unable to walk during those times. K and I have been watchfully waiting for “the sign” that it’s time to humanely say goodbye. Each time we think it’s time, she bounces back and seems like her old self again.

She had a rough morning getting around yesterday, so I gated her in the living room with a pee pad during the day so that she wouldn’t have to traverse the treacherous stairs to and from the crate that we keep in the basement. When I arrived home, she was either still or again having trouble with her legs and when she trembled, she made little sounds. I called K and said that we needed to take her to the veterinarian that night.

K scrambled to find last-minute child care so that we could focus our attention on our sweet Golden Girl, and his dad said that he could come to be with E. He typically cares for E with K’s mom, but she was out-of-town, and we were really appreciative of his willingness and ability to help.

Of course, by the time we got to the vet, sweet lady was walking more normally, as she is wont to do. The veterinarian gave her a thorough physical examination, confirming that our dog isn’t currently in pain, discovering that she has a heart murmur and telling us that she’s fairly certain that our dog has a brain mass. Since our dog is so old, our intention is to continue to watchfully wait and assess for signs that it is time to say goodbye, but the vet said that she doesn’t yet think that the time has come.

We arrived home, exhausted and still a bit numb from the veterinarian’s news, and grandpa said that E had been fussy, which is very much out of character for him. Grandpa tried rocking him, offering a pacifier, and giving him more food, none of which seemed to work, then decided to try changing E’s diaper. K was holding E as we thanked grandpa for his help.

After K’s dad left, K turned to me and said, “I don’t know what my dad did, but this diaper feels funky. I swear, I can feel E’s buttcrack!” Since we needed to get E ready for bed anyway, which involves changing him into a thick, absorbent nighttime diaper, we decided to assess the situation. This is what we discovered:

blesshisheart1

blesshisheart2

[For those who are unfamiliar with these diapers, please reference this photo at the Cotton Babies website.]

Bless his heart. He tried and when he did, he managed to get a BumGenius Freetime, our easiest diaper, on our baby backwards. With snaps. (HOW THE…?!?!?!?!) We laughed our asses off, grateful for the support we have in times of need, and thankful for the levity after such a weighty evening.

Brighter day

Today has been a phenomenal end to what has been one of the shittiest weeks in recent history.

K, E and I went to the home of a woman with whom K went to high school because she was selling her used car. It was a 2000 Saturn with low miles, in really good condition, and K’s friend is the original owner. His friend showed us the car and we all went for a test drive. It isn’t perfect and K’s friend was super honest about some of the (VERY minor) things that could use work, but it runs well, has cold air conditioning, and is priced very fairly. Suffice it to say, it looks like we’ll soon be a two-car family! We’re going to meet his friend at the Secretary of State office (this is what most non-Michiganders know as the Department of Motor Vehicles) on September 6 to officially buy it and transfer the title. THE END IS IN SIGHT!

Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours playing and chatting with friends at a local park. We got caught up on all of our friend gossip, commiserated about baby illnesses and other parenting woes, ate some snacks, and played a little on the playground. K even went down the slide with E, which was really adorable.

Then, we came home, took turns napping and caring for E, then K washed dishes while E played in his bouncy seat (which we’ve termed his “executive chair”) and I baked gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Then, we all danced and sang to oldies music, as E seems to really like Motown (good Detroiter that he is!).

Yesterday, I did something super out of character, and went to my very first playdate with strangers (who AM I?!). A local queer parenting list owner and another member have sons who are just a couple of months older than E and were looking to get together. The list owner invited us to her home and I bravely accepted, knowing full well that it would mostly be a mommy get-together since, at our kids’ age, it’s mostly snuggles and minimal parallel play. We mostly sat around in her living room with the boys, talking about typical getting-to-know-you parenting topics like where we take our kids to daycare, which pediatrician we see, and whether or not we want additional children. We also talked about typical queer parenting topics like how we conceived, whether or not we’re legally married in another state, and what other queer parenting resources/groups we access. It was a fun mommy milestone for me that I’m really proud of myself for embarking upon.

Thankfully, we left this weekend fairly open to allow a lot of time to decompress from traveling last weekend. I’m thinking we’ll be taking a lot of naps and catch up on television shows between chores, and that sounds like absolute perfection to me after the past week of diarrhea, fussing and repair dude in our home.

IAFS

IAFS is my new parenting – hell, life – motto. It’s super versatile sentiment and thinking/saying it is a great way to release stress, laugh, and not feel too derailed when life inevitably goes awry. IAFS is my acronym for “it’s always fucking something.”

Here are a few recent real-life examples for me:

  • Donor left a nastygram on my work voicemail because she double clicked the submit button on our online donation form and her credit card was charged twice. Because it’s our fault. IAFS!
  • The repair person who is supposed to complete a few projects in our bathroom has been dragging the project on for almost two weeks now. Each time he calls with a different excuse as to why he needs to change plans or can’t complete the project in the time he quoted, you can guess what immediately runs through my head: IAFS!
  • E is at the peak of the bell curve for babies’ prevalence for spit up based on age. To this end, K and I have what we’ve lovingly referred to as “barf trauma” and constantly feel on edge. After a particularly fountainous spew and subsequent Baby/Mama clean-up, I returned to the scene of the crime to snap a photo (shown below – those with weak stomachs, avert your eyes!) to show Daddy the lovely mess Mommy had to handle while he was at work. I realized that, while I was triaging our clean-up, our younger dog had proceeded to lick up the majority of the mess. IA – *gag* – FS!!!!!!!!!
    E barf splatter on the ottoman

What’s a recent experience in which thinking “IAFS!” could have diffused tension in your life?

Can we please stop drawing battle lines based on parenting decisions? An open letter to fellow parents

Dear parents,

I am writing you this letter, which I hope comes across with my intended utmost of sincerity, because I’ve had something swirling around in my mind quite a bit lately.

We have something pretty major in common: we have chosen to undertake the life-changing, often joyous and stressful role of parent, and the tasks related to caring for our

children’s ever-changing needs have pretty much consumed our lives.

We could have some pretty major differences going on, too: we may or may not live in a similar community, have the same interests or hobbies, and it’s fairly safe to assume that we likely check off a whole hodgepodge of different identity labels whenever we complete a survey or government form.

These differences can divide us in very problematic, deeply rooted and complicated ways – ways far too complex for me to adequately address in this blog post. Some of these differences, though, divide us in such trivial, nonsensical ways. Specifically, I am talking about the seemingly divisive nature of our varied parental decisions, philosophies and approaches.

We all love our children, want the best for them, and do all that we can to meet those lofty goals in ways that feel right for our families, given the information and means we have available to us. Being a parent is hard. So. Fucking. Hard. And we need all of the support we can muster from as many sources as we can find. To this end, can we please stop drawing battle lines based on parenting decisions?

I don't really want my child watching TV at this young of an age, and would prefer that he be 100% screen-free for a while, but I sometimes get a kick out of it. Please don't hate me for thinking my child is cute for looking at the vibrant colors on "The Price is Right" set!

I don’t really want my child watching TV at this young of an age, and would prefer that he be 100% screen-free for a while, but I sometimes get a kick out of it. Please don’t hate me for thinking my child is cute for looking at the vibrant colors on “The Price is Right” set!

I may choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate my child, put cloth or disposable diapers on my child’s hiney, home, public or private school her/him, breast- or formula-feed him/her… The list of parenting decisions that divide us is endless and maddening.

Some of my choices may surprise or even shock you, just as some of yours might for me. Please, feel free to:

  • Ask questions about how I came to the conclusions I did on the subject.
  • Acknowledge that we have different approaches.
  • Commiserate and/or empathize about ways in which our experiences relate (ex: “It certainly derails your plans when kids do something so messy and unexpected. I’ve been there!” vs. “Maybe if you chose to cloth diaper her/him, s/he wouldn’t be blowing out those disposable diapers.”).

It makes it so much easier for us to support one another and band together through the shared experience of parenthood when we don’t:

  • Make judgmental statements based on our differences.
  • Provide one another with internet resources that are clearly geared toward our way of thinking. Hell, most unsolicited advice in general is just plain annoying.
  • Pigeonhole and stereotype one another when a choice we make seems different from other choices we’ve made (ex: “You’re ‘green,’ use cloth, don’t circ and you do vax. That caught me by surprise!! Usually most folks are totally on one side with all of those topics.”).
  • Freeze each other in time by reminding one another of previous, potentially divergent decisions/approaches we’ve had, expecting and assuming that our parenting decisions won’t/can’t evolve as our families’ and children’s needs and means change.
  • Approach our relationships from an us vs. them standpoint.

Family leave may be allowed or required by law if you work at a large enough business, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be paid during said leave. You might feel empowered and excited by the decision to breastfeed your child, but you’ll still get, at minimum, glares and side-eyed looks when out in public. If you’re perceived as a male parent, no matter how capable and confident you are, you are either treated like a novelty or buffoon. Our world can be unkind enough to us parental types. Do we really need to attack each other, too?

Instead of looking at ourselves and each other as pro- or anti- something or other, let’s lift each other up, empathize, and give words of encouragement to our fellow unsung heroes who are covered in spit-up, spend an inordinate amount of time talking about and assessing bowel movements, and are constantly juggling a multitude of balls in order to meet the needs of our families.

Also, instead of pointing fingers at other parents when they judge our choices, let’s hold ourselves accountable for doing that very thing to others. I will freely admit that one of the judgy examples above has run through my brain a time or two. Let’s be works in progress together!

Sincerely,

A fellow parent who is trying her best

Battle weary

[I’d like to start by politely requesting that this post and subsequent responses not turn into a vax vs. no-vax sort of debate. I try to honor all individual choices made by families and simply wanted to write about something that’s currently going on in our family.]

Baby E went for his four-month visit and vaccinations on Friday morning. The pediatrician was so pleased with his development – 16 lb, 4 oz (60% for weight), 25″ (40% for height) and a head circumference of 17.25″. Her official diagnosis for E was “awesome,” and we agree. We also got the go-ahead to begin introducing solid foods as we feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, he had some pretty serious responses to the vaccines. His two month vaccines caused very mild irritability and a lot of sleepiness. This time around, we had some pretty intense irritability, to the point of being inconsolable at times, significant reduction in his threshold to cope with change when he’s normally an extraordinarily mellow guy, and the worst part: explosive diarrhea. The diarrhea has gone on for a few days and seems to be getting worse. We called the on-call pediatrician last night, and she encouraged us to introduce Pedialyte and to come in for a visit if his diarrhea continued into morning (and it, of course, did).

I had taken quite a few days off lately, so K stayed home from work with E and took him to the pediatrician. He has lost 5 oz. since Friday and the doc believes that he has Rotavirus from the live vaccine or was exposed to another tummy trouble inducing virus (which just seems too coincidental, IMO). We are to continue giving him formula and Pedialyte and, if he fails to produce three pee diapers over the course of the day, need to bring him back again tomorrow for further assessment.

Little guy is SO lethargic and sad. He doesn’t want to eat much (who does when it’s exploding out the other end?!) and it’s horrible to see him this way. Our house also smells – let’s just say – not so fresh. I am truly worried about him and it’s hard to be at work while he and Daddy both suffer.

To add insult to injury:

  • We visited my folks on Lake Michigan this weekend in a very poorly planned turn of events. Having all of our regular routines and processes disrupted by travel is significantly harder when you add a sick, disgruntled infant into the mix.
  • K and I were both battling colds through the process.
  • My generous, well-intentioned parents purchased two thoughtful but very large combined birthday gifts for K and I. This meant that we had even less room in our packed-to-the-gills small vehicle.
  • My retired engineer of a father proceeded to stand behind me and “direct” the placement of the multitude of items I was packing for our departure. After getting increasingly exasperated and after multiple requests to be left alone during this process, I finally ended up yelling at my dad, “I’m serious, Dad, WALK. AWAY.” It was a much less gracious departure than I had intended, but I really didn’t feel like my boundaries were being respected in that moment.
  • We got stuck in traffic for about half an hour on the way home, with no means of escape because there weren’t any exits on this stretch of highway. This occurred concurrently with our irritable child moaning and screaming, our only options to endure the screaming or prolong it by pulling off to the side of the road.
  • Our younger dog tried to leap into the front seat of the car when we were more than halfway home. As I turned to the backseat to yell at her, I discovered what had freaked her out: her elderly sister, whose health has been rapidly declining as of late, was actively having a seizure. K tried to pull off the side of the highway so that we could get our dog out of the car and assess her health. After a few minutes of me attempting to calm a seizing canine along a busy highway (what were we THINKING?!), we decided this was a terrible idea and got back into the car with the seizing dog on my lap while we tried to quickly find an exit.
  • We found a rest stop, where K and I could finally relieve our aching bladders and attend to the sick doggy. We were both soooo thirsty, not having had an opportunity to really focus at all on our own needs for the entire trip. K came back from his restroom trip, apologizing for not being able to purchase bottles of water for us from the vending machine because he didn’t have any dollar bills. As luck would have it, I had several dollar bills, but when I finally had the opportunity to pee and make my way to the vending machine, I fed two dollars into the machine, gleefully pressed the button for water, only to see the red “SOLD OUT” flash before my eyes. Then, the machine wouldn’t give me a refund and I sulked while I selected the best option I could manage, Diet Dr. Pepper, which isn’t even among my top five soda choices. The silver lining here is that our dog recovered from her seizure and we were able to calmly continue on in our merry (ha!) travels.
  • About half an hour later, I realized that we were low on fuel and decided we shouldn’t take any chances, given our day’s luck, and just stop at the next reasonable exit. Of course this meant that the baby woke up and was famished. K had to take him inside of the combo gas station/fast-food restaurant to change his diaper and secure some hot water to give him a bottle. E was screaming bloody murder the entire time, causing the entire crowd to stare at K, wondering what he could have possibly done to this poor child to cause him to scream in such a manner. K swears he saw a group of athletic teenage boys looking on in horror as though they realized what a seemingly heterosexual man’s life could look like if he decided not to wear a condom during sexual intercourse with a female partner.
  • Once we were finally home, our dog took another turn for the worse, searching for a place to hide like she wanted to die in peace. She laid on her side and closed her eyes while K and I cried and told her that if she felt it was her time, she could go and find her late sister, that we loved her and that she was such a good girl. After a few minutes, out of nowhere, she lifted her head, stood up, and trotted away to jump up and snuggle on the couch. K and I just stared blankly at each other, mouths gaping.

It has been a roller coaster of a weekend, to be certain. I slept so hard when I finally went to bed last night that I didn’t even require my second nightly dose of sleeping meds.

An update: After several doses of Pedialyte today, E seems to be on the upswing. He’s had a few pee diapers (enough so that he doesn’t have to go back to the pediatrician tomorrow) and is a lot more joyful and energetic. K just changed him into his overnight diaper and triumphantly declared, “His nuts look less shriveled!” That pretty much says it all, friends.

Older than dirt

I officially turned 35 last weekend and I certainly feel every single second of it.

Lately, it doesn’t seem to matter how much sleep I get at night (E sleeps through the night and I’m grateful) or how many naps I take during the day (if I’m lucky enough to get one), I. Am. Wiped. I knew that parenthood would bring a new level of exhaustion, but I never realized how terrible the exhaustion could be. My fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel are flaring, I’m having frequent migraines, and I just feel so worn down.

In an effort to keep this post from becoming yet another mommy pity party, I am happy to report that K gave me the perfect birthday gift: a French press so that I can make delectable, coffee snob approved, cold-brewed iced coffee. I’m used to drinking an iced coffee pretty much each morning these days, but I had one of my cold-brewed coffees yesterday afternoon as well. It was the equivalent of Spiderman’s radioactive spider bite: I. Was. A. Motherf*cking. Superhero. Lesson learned – bring on the beans!

This was my favorite gift this year and I got to spend my entire birthday at home with him:

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