Yesterday afternoon, as a result of re-reading a bit of Six Stages of Parenthood (a mostly excellent text) I was rolling a Nora Ephron quote around in my head. Something about how when you find out you are pregnant you spend so much time fantasizing about the gender of your baby and if you find out the gender while you are still pregnant half of your fantasies are crushed but it doesn't really matter if you find out at birth.
And then this morning I woke up and found out that Nora was dead. So, you know. Don't write anything relevant to my life today because I might spend an hour digesting it and then tomorrow you'll be dead.
One time I had a dream about a high school English teacher at my school. We were in my elementary school library and he was playing with the lights. On and off, on and off. Laughing. Not creepy. He wasn't creepy.
Though he was probably living at the high school. Maybe/maybe not. That's the rumor at least.
And that he was a cleptomaniac.
Those parts are true, not part of my dream. As true as rumors go at least.
Anyway, lights on lights off then all of a sudden I tripped over a wire and the lights went out and then I plugged things back in and they came on and he was gone. And everyone started crying.
And the next day he was dead.
I still have those sorts of dreams, and had plenty of them before that one. I don't feel guilty about them anymore now that I know about Magical Thinking. Let the record state: I didn't kill Nora Ephron.
Nora Ephron said something about having half of your parenthood fantasies crushed when you find out the gender of your baby. I don't know about that. With Jacob I wanted a girl so bad that all of my parenthood fantasies were crushed. At first, for like three days. Until I realized that you can pretty much do anything with a boy that you can with a girl. Pretty much.
And now I love having a boy so much that I almost want another one but I don't know if I can manage to get through life with another child absolutely obsessed with me and I'm afraid that it is a gender thing and not so much a childhood/ attachment parenting thing. Having a girl would be nice and I really almost don't care one way or another but I really can't wait to find out.
I'm not one of those people who can enjoy a surprise, this pregnancy was surprise enough. Nor am I one of those people who can feel attached to a child until I have a little more information on what sort of child I'll be dealing with. Which probably makes me a terrible mother. It really bothered me when I was pregnant with Jake, but not so much this time around because I know that bonding and attachment will come in time for me no matter what. A little bit when I can give the child a name (Ava for a girl, I like Nicholas for a boy but I might lose that battle), a lot bit when I will be able to see the child and provide for the child and do all that other stuff that comes along with having a child.
I mean I guess I love my unborn baby. I guess you can call it love. Though I'd argue it's more primal than that. I do all the right things for it. I'm not smoking crack or taking Motrin or anything. I just know I'll love it a little more when I know a little more about it.
There is a school of thought (called Science. Not everyone subscribes) that bonding and attachment are two very different things. Biologically speaking for all animals, bonding is a hormonal thing that happens between mother and newborn. A gorgeous instinctual exchange of chemicals that is immediate and most intense when a vaginal birth is followed right away by breastfeeding. It happens to a lesser degree after a C-section and/or if the baby is bottlefed after birth. It still happens, just not as strong. We need certain things to happen to our bodies to allow hormones to be released. Little rites of passages. Like babies struggling to travel through the birth canal and mothers allowing a new baby to latch and suck while she looks into its opened eyes.
Attachment is an earned relationship. Trust that the parents will be there to touch and feed and soothe and show a newborn that it is okay to be here in the world. That he or she is wanted and loved and cherished and cared for. The ability that a parent is able to touch and feed and soothe and want and love and cherish and get something in return. A smile, a cuddle, a hug. Attachment is less immediate, but ultimately more important. We can survive and flourish as we form attachments to (birth or adoptive) mom and dad and grandparents and mom's best friend and dad's brother and the old lady neighbor down the street and our first babysitter and our teachers and the thousands of other people who are responsible for making sure we don't turn into monsters.
Knowing that attachment is more important than bonding helped me get over the icky feeling that was left over after I had an emergency C-section with Jake. Sadly I didn't truly and bookishly learn that until he was about 4 or 5, but I learned it. It helped me realize that I wasn't the only one who felt like having a C-section was like missing out on something big and good and real and it helped me understand why I felt that way. I missed out on some hormonal release stuff. I had some blockages in the old pipes.
There are ways to release those hormones in both mother and child after a C-section. To help one another through the trauma (I know it's not always PC to say that a C-section is trauma, but it is. Your guts are splayed and your baby is taken out of your belly without necessarily being ready, and sometimes there are other medical things going on that makes it even more traumatic) of a non-vaginal birth. One of the best ways is to take your tiny little baby in that little nest your legs can make that they fit right into when they are tiny and gently stroke his or her head, put a little resistance on his shoulders, arms, chest, back, belly. Tug a little on her hands and feet. Massage everything. Tiny little touches, gentle as you are but remembering some pressure is necessary. Then pick your baby up and nurse him. Or if you are bottle feeding, take off your shirt and his shirt and bottle feed him. This is said (read: proven) to stimulate hormonal release in the baby and in the mother.
Topless bottle feeding is where it's at, son. Daddies and adoptive parents can do that too. It's the way they can sort of get in on the bonding thing. And it releases hormones in non-birth caregivers that probably wouldn't be otherwise, and babies love hormone releases. They smell good to babies. They smell like armpits to grownups. Skin to skin kangaroo care. It's good for baby's brain, the best thing for baby's brain.
Even Grandma can do it.
Topless Grandmas are very in this year. Very Hollywood. Tres Euro.
There are also things to do with older kids who were delivered via C-section. One of the best things is to throw a blanket over them and then have them crawl or burrow out. Lots of kids, especially C-section kids, love to burrow anyway. They might take care of this on their own. This is what I did with Jake, who loved to "excover" (one of those baby words I miss- it means "explore and discover"). I'd put little toys under the blankets on the floor and let him have at it. It's really good for C-kids who tend to be easily frustrated or give up on tasks, are prone to melt-downs and leaving business unfinished. "They" say these kids are that way because they didn't get to complete the birth process in the way they were supposed to. "I" say that lots of kids are easily frustrated and such, but man alive did the excovering thing help out a lot with Jake. He was probably 4 1/2 or 5 when we did this.
Another thing that helps is introducing them to new tasks that you know will be challenging but do-able. This can be done at any age. There are lots of things that can be done. I know of a few books, but I have to warn you they are hard to read. They were for me at least. Not academically hard, but hard on the heart.
The upside of my job is I get to study stuff like this. The downside is the actual learning part. Nothing like learning that what you did or what your parents did was not quite the best thing to do.
Sixteen weeks along today. This is what I looked like this morning with my shirt pulled up. Growth! I sleep in what I wear during the day a lot. Some people think that's gross or uncomfortable. I think it's more gross and uncomfortable that I didn't make my bed before taking this picture. Not that I would want you to think that I make my bed regularly or anything. That would be like lying to you.