January 2010


On the second day of my daughter’s life I accidentally ripped off her umbilical chord while trying to change her shirt.  I heard this terrible popping sound and then there was blood everywhere and then I went screaming for my mother. On the seventh day she shit in my mouth and in my eyes simultaneously. It was so confusing when it happened, I just sort of spun around in a daze muttering “I have poop in my eyes can anyone find my toothbrush”. These little mishaps seemed to happen weekly. Some were comical, some were upsetting but all made me feel just a little bit out of control and clueless. So after four or five months when I started to get more graceful with my child; when I found myself skillfully positioning her at my breast while nursing her or nimbly strapping her into her stroller I felt really eager to show off my new skills and knowledge.

So I began making trips to Buy Buy Baby. Though there wasn’t anything in particular that I needed, I’d throw Sage into the Baby Bjorn and head into town. Once in the store I’d sort of prowl around searching for a pregnant lady who looked overwhelmed. Then I’d go stand next to her and pretend that I was in the market for the very same thing that she was looking for. After a while I’d sort of start muttering to myself. I might say something like, “Oh this is a lifesaver.” or “I’m going to stock up on these”.  Eventually the mother- to-be would look over at me with these really desperate eyes and say, “Can I just ask you a quick question?” I’d glance up as if I hadn’t noticed her and say, “Of course…” Then I’d be off. I’d give her advice.

I’d make jokes.

I’d put her at ease.

It felt so good.

Sometimes I’d link up with a couple who was registering for a baby shower. That was the big score! They’d have their list and I’d look through it saying “Need it, forget it!” like I was a judge on some new reality show and that was my catch phrase. Sometimes I got invited to join them as they registered. One time I even got to hold the portable scanner.  It was the best!

On one trip to the store I brought my husband along. Unbeknownst to him I was trailing these two pregnant friends (not friends of mine) who looked extra desperate as my husband was searching the store for a case of diapers. At one point we all converged on a ramp lined with nursing pillows.  The pregnant friends looked up at the pillows with great trepidation. This was my moment to interject and share my newfound nursing wisdom. But just as I was going to pipe up my husband said, “I’d go with the My Best Friend. It has pillow support all the way around. The Boppy is just really too limited.” The mothers looked over at him like he was some sort of sick maternity stocker. “Uh thanks” one of them muttered as if her subtext was “Who the fu#@ are you”.

Now here’s the thing about my husband, he is shy. Not in an obvious way but he’s the kind of person who will spend an hour in the grocery store looking for shoelaces just to avoid going up to a stranger and asking where they are. So for him to just offer up nursing advice to complete strangers, for him to interject like that had to mean that there was something so powerful about the need for new parents to share their discoveries.

I think this must be because parenting is scary. Not just the occasional fright but daily, sometimes even hourly holy shit terrifying. You are in charge of a person. If you don’t feed them they will die. This is an earth-shattering sort of power. And it is yours, all at once, the second your child enters the world. It just makes you so eager to be competent. After all, someone’s life is in your hands.  So you become a scientist desperate to find a cure for your own inevitable failings and flounderings. You just want to get it right. You try thing after thing until something works. And when you find something that works you feel utter joy. You want to race out and share your newfound discovery, “Hey everybody, have you seen this nasal aspirator. It really works, it sucks the snot right out. You’ll no longer have to listen to your kid struggle for air and wonder it he is going to suffocate on his own mucus. It is a miracle.”

And so you will do silly and maybe even illegal things to get the message out-like stocking pregnant ladies at Buy Buy Baby.

We are riding in the car and the sun if furiously shinning down through the windows. We squint and try to avert our eyes. Sage is desperately squirming as she attempts to break out of her car seat. She begins crying in frustration and finally, utterly exasperated, she moans, “I’m shiny mommy, I’m shiny!” She is indeed shiny. We are all shiny. The sun is dancing across our faces and we are all painfully lit up.

I grab a map of Rhode Island that is folded at my feet and hold it over her eyes to block the sun, “No more shiny” I said. But as I sit there gripping Providence I want to pull the map away just to hear her say, “I’m shiny mommy”.  Her words astound me. They are an exact statement of what she is experiencing. They perfectly describe her dilemma. They are newly invented. I know that soon she will learn to say, “the sun is in my eyes, I can’t stand it” and this will break my heart.

I remember once hearing a collage friend say, “I feel like the skin on an old person’s elbow”. And I remember thinking; “no one has ever said that before”. It perfectly described her state of being. It really floored me. With grownups you hear these perfect phrases so infrequently but with kids it seems to happen all the time. Every moment is full of these language revelations.  I don’t want them to disappear.

When Sage used to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, she’d sing the second line as, “Up, above the world so high, like a diner in the sky.” A diner in the sky, I want to eat at a diner in the sky, it’s a fantastic idea. I bet they’d have great milkshakes. But the other day I heard her sing, “Like a diamond in the sky.” And just like that the mystical diner was gone.  It will now become another story that I tell her when she is older.  And I will not have the words to let her know how wonderful it was to hear her sing that phrase.

There are many reasons not to curse in front of your child. Not the least of which is that every word you say will at some point come back to you. JD and I tried to prep for this long before having Sage. We spent months test-driving alternative swear words. Sorkin was going to be our sub word for fuckin’. Because Aaron Sorkin seriously jumped the shark with Studio 60. Skype was going to be our sub word for shit, because it is so Sorkin aggravating when trying to have a conversation on Skype. And Mother Hubbard was going to be our phrase for mother fucker. None of these words stuck and so we now occasionally hear our own foul-mouthed expletives echoed by our daughter.

For instance:  We were home in Cincinnati visiting my folks. We were driving past the temple that I grew up going to. It was the place where I had my Bat Mitzvah, attended Sunday school and spent countless High Holidays. I pointed it out to Sage saying, “that’s mommy’s temple.” She responded with “Fuckin’ Christ!”  Or there was the time when my friend Julie handed Sage a handful of Cheerios and I said, “Say thank you to Julie” and Sage said “Thank you bitches.” Or, most recently, the time where Sage tried to teach our neighbor who is just a few months younger to say “damn it.”  Sage had both hands on this girl’s shoulders, she looked her square in the eyes and said “Damn it.” When the neighbor girl just giggled Sage shook her head like, “OK, I see you don’t get this, but I’m going to stick with you. Let’s try this again. ‘Damn it.’”

And then there is my all-time favorite. A friend was reading Sage Goodnight Moon. As she read she stopped at all the pages to ask, “and what is this?” or “Can you find the cow? Can you find the moon? Can you find the cow jumping over the moon?” After going along like this for a while she reached a full spread of the Bunny’s room and asked:

Friend: Do you see the chair?

Sage: Yes(Sage points to the chair)

Friend: Do you see the bed?

Sage: Yes (Sage points to the bed)

Friend: What else do you see?

Sage: (Pauses then waves her hands slowly over the picture) Oh… all this shit.

At 22 months these are her words. The silver lining is that she is not yet in school so the way I see it is we have roughly three years to erase these words from her memory. Then, she can rediscover them on her own. She can learn them on the school bus or the walls of a bathroom or in some movie that she sneaks into. And when she says them at the dinner table we can sound all surprised like “where in the world did you ever hear those words, certainly not from us, all we say around here is Mother Hubbard!”

Sage is way into pretending “airplane”.  Here’s how it goes. We weave around the furniture saying, “excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me” pretending that we are walking down the isle of a plane. Then she hands me some imaginary luggage and I pretend to hoist it into the overhead compartment. But I find that it is too heavy, and my legs slip out from under me, and I start to fall. And I grunt and whimper and then she helps me to lift that imaginary suitcase over my head. And we laugh. And then we sit in our imaginary seats. And we pretend to order apple juice and coffee and read the safety manual and then we lean back and say “cshhhhhhhhh”  as the pretend plane takes off.

Sometimes when we are playing imaginary plane I fall into my own imaginary world of worry and I find myself wondering what I would do if I were sitting next to a hijacker. What if I was the one next to the Christmas bomber or one of the 9/11 terrorists?

I have this fantasy that I would look him in the eyes with this really soft glance and smile ever so slightly and maybe even put my hand on his leg, so gently, like a mother who’s kid struck out and lost the game for the whole team.  And in my fantasy this terrorist hijacker suicide bomber would be like, “Oh, this lady is so nice. I never knew a lady could be so nice. I don’t want to be a terrorist hijacker anymore because this lady has shown me the wonder and joy of being human. And look she has a kid. I could never hurt a kid. I think I want to go back to grad school and become a teacher or human rights activist.”

I think that I need to have fantasies like this in order to tolerate the holy shit scariness of raising a child who is out there in the big scary world riding airplanes and driving in cars and saying hi to every stranger that she passes on the street. And the more Sage and I play airplane, the more I see her personality emerge through these games and pretend worlds, the more I need to cultivate my own imaginary world in which I am in total control and can protect her from anything.

At my daughters request I nurse a rubber horse every night before bed. I also nurse three dolls, a tiny Elmo puppet and a plastic Big Bird as part of our regular bedtime ritual. On other occasions I have been asked to nurse a fork, a poker chip, a salt shaker, a tiny statue of The Buddha, a slightly larger statue of  The Buddha and a pretend baby bottle (very meta). I have obliged every request. I have nursed Sage on the Subway, while walking through Time Square, in a moving car while still belted into my seatbelt, on playgrounds throughout the country, at a Four H fair (Sage got inspired by watching a pig nurse her piglets), while puppeteering for a show to be aired on national television, in taxi cabs, telephone booths, dressing rooms, moving escalators, and bathtubs. My daughter cries “Boobie! Boobie!” and my tits are out.

When Sage was eighteen months my husband and I decided that we were going to institute a no nursing throughout the night policy. It had simply gotten out of hand and we needed to reclaim the nights.  Instead of a gentle phasing out we decided to go cold turkey. She’d wake up and cry for boobie, we’d rub her back and sing to her and gently whisper “no boobie till morning.” She’d cry louder, we’d sing louder and then slowly, sleeplessly morning would arrive.  After three days of this Sage had had enough. She turned to me at first morning light and said with the angriest look I’d ever seen on her, “I kick you in the eyes, I kick you in the head, I kick you in the feet, I kick you in the mouth.” Then she rolled over defiantly giving me her back. The next night I caved. I nursed her numerous times; I just needed sleep. That morning she woke up and beamed, “Happy Birthday Boobie!” The boobies were back!

When we first brought Sage home from the hospital I would have thought these nursing tales to be utterly impossible.  Every time she nursed, I bled, I screamed. I told everyone that nursing was far more painful than labor; and it was. I cried constantly about it, I met with lactation consultant after lactation consultant. I soaked my nipples in every cooking oil known to man. People would call to congratulate me on the baby and I would just bust out sobbing about how much my boobs hurt. I felt like right out of the gate I was a complete failure as a mom. I could not even provide the most basic of things. In my birthing class they talked about the importance of those early days of nursing, they warned us that this is where bonding began. They showed us videos about how the baby would just shoot right out of the uterus and then begin crawling his way up the mother’s stomach till he found her breasts. He’d root around, basically blind, until he found the nipple. Then he’d nurse and the music would swell. They told us about how the areola became almost black at childbirth. They said that this was so the baby could find the breast right away. “You were born to nurse,” they told us. “Biology is on your side”! So how was I supposed to feel when after several weeks of trying I thought I was going to need a morphine drip if I was ever going to be able to nourish my child.

I called my mother hourly. She swore that around six weeks the pain would just shut off like a switch. She swore it would get better. She swore that she went through the exact same thing. I wanted to tell her to fuck off, but I was usually crying too hard to get the words out.  I hated anyone who had words of encouragement, anyone who had nothing to say on the subject and anyone in-between.  At one point I actually had a friend over who was the mother of two and a nursing rock star. I took my shirt off undid my nursing bra, took out my nipple, put my daughter in my lap and said, “Don’t speak. Just take my boob and put it in her mouth the way it is supposed to go. I pointed to a diagram in my breastfeeding book and said, “Make it look like this!”

Despite my many attempts nothing worked. Then one day, about two months AFTER my mother said it would happen, the pain was gone. She was right, sort of. I became suddenly brave, nursing on my side, nursing with the light off, nursing without some sort of latch diagram open on the table. It was, as my mother had promised, magical.


In my imaginary life I had a blog and stayed up late nights to do it. In my imaginary life I was a really good blogger and I had interesting things to say all the time. And sometimes even funny things too. At some point my imaginary life became my pretend life. I started pretend blogging at night. After my daughter and husband went to sleep, after I had done my nightly ritual of worrying obsessively about the state of my finances and about weather or not I am thinking of enough interesting things during my spare time or whether or not I am crafty enough to make my own cloths or hard core enough to make my own soap and will my daughter admire me if I am neither crafty or hard core. But I didn’t actually have a blog. Just a word document called blog. But when 2010 hit and I heard that 2012 might be the year that the earth is destroyed because the planets will be aligned and the Mayan calendar stops, I figured I better make a real blog. So here it is. Welcome. My first few postings have been cut and pasted from my pretend blog but after that it is real blogging all the way to 2012 and who knows, maybe even beyond.

A while back I was lying in bed with Sage and JD. Sage was nuzzled up to me. She had just finished her nightly ritual of requesting all of her dolls and her giant rubber horse (the newest addition to our bed). I had been thinking all day about what it would be like to write a book about being a mom and I brought up the question of what I would name my book. I started out by saying, “So I was thinking” and immediately heard Sage echoing my words, “was thinking,” she said. I responded by slowing down so that we could turn this into a game. “If I…” I continued “If I…” She responded.

“…wrote…”

“…wrote…”

“…a book…”

“…a book…”

“…about what it is like…”

“…it’s like…”

“…being Sage’s mommy…”

“…Sage’s mommy”

“…What would I call it, what would I call my book?”

Suddenly she stopped copying me. Without skipping a beat she blurted out. “Dumb…Dumb, Dumb!” and then as if it had finally come to her, “Dumb Mommy.”

I thought to myself, “If this is the opinion that my nineteen-month-old daughter holds of me, after only a little over a year and a half of parenting her, I can say almost definitively that I am in for it.”

Ironically, the title that she came up with is probably not that far from the one I would have thought of myself. I was thinking that I might go for a title like “humbled”. I was a much more cocky and self-assured parent before having kids. I had no problem judging everyone with a child. If I saw a child over the age of two riding in a stroller I would think to myself, “someone call social services. That is a child whose mother refuses to slow down so that he can walk at his own pace and smell the roses”.

I now know that if left to walk at his own pace that child would likely not make it home for weeks and on his way to smell the roses might manage to eat a bunch of dog shit and choke on an acorn. Now, I am still one to slow down and let my daughter get messy and take her time and yes, eat a bit of nature, but I now get it. I even get kid leashes (something I never thought I’d say). I recently watched a two-year-old squeeze through a tiny crack in a playground fence and run towards oncoming traffic. Kids are after all extremely determined and parents are scared and multitasking and often distracted and occasionally in need of more control than two arms can offer. Hence, the leash.

In the maternity ward they asked everyone to watch a film entitled “Don’t Shake the Baby.” If you didn’t they made you sign a waver saying that you had refused. JD and I joked that if you signed the waiver, if you were one of the “refusers,” the hospital would likely send someone to follow you home, just to make sure that you were not a baby shaker. My husband watched for the both of us. He was horrified, “who are these people? Who the fuck would shake a baby?” Though I am not a baby shaker and would under no circumstances shake the baby,  I have moments where I say to myself, “If I were a baby shaker, this is the moment where I would shake the baby”.

There is nothing more humbling than having those flashes, those moments when you recognize the brute, messiness of being human and being a parent.

There is also something so humbling about the extreme joy and the absolute overflowing almost intolerable love that comes from having a kid. It is almost maddening, and kind of out of control. Like you literally want to squeeze the guts out of your kid for how much you love them. And you feel utterly incapable of ever expressing the bigness of that love. You feel so sad and so helpless for not having a phrase or even a gesture that will ever give them even the slightest inkling of how amazing you think they are. And you really sometimes just want to puke because of it. It is really sickening and massively heart-breaking to not have those words.  My daughter, however has no problem finding them, they are “Dumb, dumb, dumb…dumb Mommy”.