Sunday, March 09, 2008

Facing the Music

I'm about to have a very big problem on my hands.

Twenty days away from the big arrival, and I just had a supremely major come-to-Jesus. Our brunch time with Jorunn and Jeppe this morning has been pushed back an hour, so with a nice chunk of free time, I had a little lie-down with Thud. I love taking ten or twenty minutes here and there to just close my eyes and put my hands on my belly and confer with this little ducky. We talk about all kinds of stuff, but it's usually me calling the agenda. Today, it was him. He started things out by drawing my attention to this incredible book I'm reading, "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott (recently sent to me by my wonderful, wonderful friend Shannon). Lamott, a single mom, documented every day of her son Sam's new life, and last night I read about what seemed like an eternity of colic. Frankly, colic is freaking me out something terrible -- the thought of a baby screaming at top volume for hours and hours and quite literally more hours with no end in sight makes me feel a little, um, edgy. She details Sam's frightful crying and her own horrifying dark thoughts of throwing him down the stairs or just giving him one big whack. (Really, this book is actually very funny.) Of course, she never acts on any of these miserable fantasies, but the thoughts alone sure give one pause. (As Don’s very wise friend Phil advised him not too long ago, “there will be times at two, three, four in the morning when you will be holding the devil himself in your arms, and you will have some very, very dark thoughts. But they are normal, and they will always pass.”)

One night in the very wee hours, out of sheer desperation (she's sobbing herself), Lamott calls a hotline for jangled parents of inconsolable newborns. She's counseled by a woman who orders her, starting right now, to stop eating all wheat and all dairy. Desperate, she follows this direction and... Sam has no more colic on Day Two of the new diet. He's an angel. He chokes out one small whinny to nurse, but that's it. It is a miracle.

Thud ran me through this scenario today, pausing for effect in all the right spots. And then he folded his arms, cocked one brow, and said, "So, what's it gonna be, lady? You know what's coming. You know it, I know it, and pretty damn soon your whole building is going to know it." I sighed and gripped my belly with both hands, but he kept on. "It's time, mama."

He's right. I have a problem. It's The Coffee.

For anyone who knows me, I'm a pretty easy-going gal. You may have noticed that at any dwelling I've maintained has always had a neatly defined coffee station set apart from everything else -- coffee maker, sugar bowl, glass coffee jar full of CAFFEINATED coffee, a little stack of coffee filters at the ready. It's always clean and well stocked, like a shrine. Along with the premium coffee, there is ALWAYS 2% milk in my refrigerator. Not skim, not cream, not Mocha Mix. TWO. PERCENT. MILK. Also, I am never without even a little bit of sugar (not artificial sweetener, not maple syrup, not brown sugar). I usually have a couple of restaurant C&H sugar packets on reserve in my silverware drawer, just for emergencies. All of this organization helps things run smoothly in my universe. Coffee in the morning makes my eyes sparkle and my hair bounce. It happifies me, and those around me. For the few of you who have had the awful misfortune of witnessing a hiccup in my morning coffee service, you understand the fury, the sturm und the drang. I can get downright irrational. During my ugliest episode, I mentally made my way through several Mikasa place settings until Don got back from the corner 7-11 with the 2% (TWO PERCENT) milk. It's my cross to bear. (And his, too.)

And so, I have a little somebody knocking on my belly, forcing me to look at this whole nasty picture. Sure, there were those three days in August when I gave it up, but after the cracking headaches, my doctor assured me that one to two cups per day was absolutely fine and for the love of all things great and small, please go ahead and keep drinking coffee. Yes, there was possibly a link to miscarriage and low birth weight, but the correlation was actually fairly questionable and that was really attributed to excessive coffee drinkers (four cups or more per day). I stuck to one big mug and nobody seemed to be bothered by it.

Now, with colic as a result of nursing a very real looming issue, I fear that the time has come. I mean, it's REALLY come. It's here. I have to stop. I may need help. If this baby has six-hour screaming jags for weeks and weeks – months – on end, I’m liable to hand him to Don and walk out the door and go pay a solo visit to Portugal for a while. And so, I know in my heart that caffeine, something essentially intolerable for babies, is off the menu, starting very soon. All I have to do now is decide whether to ween myself or go cold-turkey, and then set the date. I’ll probably ween, as the thought of cutting myself off in one cruel sweep sounds so violent, so inhumane, so foolhardy. We’ll see. Maybe it will start with some kind of ceremonial farewell, like cleaning every crevice of my Tefal Prima Vera Arom Express, remembering all our good times together, all our mornings of shared drips and sighs. I’ll replace my sacred coffee jar with a dainty tray of herbal teas, set out my prettiest teacup and saucer and perhaps a lovely scalloped silver spoon. I just don’t know. I hope I can fool myself. I hope I can go along with this tsunami of change and learn to enjoy that coffee-free lifestyle. Tea actually tastes quite nice, I think. Especially with lots and lots of sugar.

And so it begins – this sacrificing for the kid thing. SIGH. It’s a pretty big love that’s swelling in my chest, and anything I can do now to offset meltdowns, tummy pains and sleeplessness must be addressed. Wish us luck. And let’s not talk about that wheat-and-dairy-free diet just yet.


Emily Asher said...

While talking with Don today we began to discuss the similarities and differences between you and David Sedaris. Similarities: extraordinarily funny--not just jokes, but seeing regular life through humorous eyes. Great delivery and timing, in writing and speech. A way of describing things so that EVERY detail comes to life, especially the ones that most people gloss over (yet they become more interesting in your description). An uncanny depiction of personalities. Very witty! (there are others, of course)

Differences? David Sedaris finds much of his humor in dark or unfortunate things and portrays them with much cynicism. Your writing is refreshing and bright and your voice speaks from a life of light and love. This is a gift to readers who are used to comics who have come out of darker places or self-pity or self-deprecation. As well as to those of us who just prefer to keep a positive outlook.

In short (or in long) I think you should go somewhere with this stuff. Might I suggest submitting some things to This American Life? if you are for some reason not familiar check out Your pieces would fit in great with David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell among the other greats.
Just some thoughts...

EKinDK said...

Okay, so I just took off the blanket from over my head, placed there out of sheer modesty and mild embarassment over your incredibly kind words, Emily. Sheesh. I'm going to email you so that I can agree with you and laud myself to you in private... : )

shannon said...

god, you are soooo PREGNANT! i am cracking up that the little book i sent to you has you so worried. what? you got some raging hormones or something?

please, other mamas chime in....i enjoyed a whole lotta coca cola with that kid on the boob and the next one. (the next kid. and the next boob.) that stuff don't take a year to get out of your system. try it out. if he won't sleep, stop doing it. but here's the kicker...he still might not sleep.

in addition to the sacrifices, you should get very familiar with the not knowing, becoming psychic, and a whole lot of never say never.

neither of my kids had colic and they both were shitty sleepers anyway and it wasn't my fault.

careful with that book, babe. it gets harder and realer.

mucho love xxx

Deanna Hull said...

You are so funny. I agree with Shannon. I think you should wait until he doesn't sleep before depriving yourself of your lifeblood. Or at least consider just cutting back (half caff? half a cup?) rather than quitting completely. And don't let that book scare you in advance. Many babies DON'T get colic.

Jen said...

I don't have children and that made me laugh. :) I just visited my friend with a new born... coffee in one hand and a kid on her boob with the other. Then she had a diet coke a little while later.... her kid was fine. ;)

kimananda said...

That's fabulous, and i totally empathize. I read Operating Instructions ages ago (when it first came out, I think), and then again somewhere towards the end of the first trimester, and it got me worried about colic as well! Just keep in mind that most babies don't have it. But I too am convinced that mine will. Maybe it's just a common concern?

NotQuiteDanish said...

On the other hand, I've heard the odd, 'accidental' big night on the booze does wonders for the next day's sleeping pattern of said breast-fed baby. Yep... I'd quit the coffee but keep a nice chardonnay handy :)

Then again, there's always the outside-in-the-fresh-air Danish baby bedroom which my sister-in-law just told me sounds like an excellent idea for those who use the 'controlled crying' method of inducing sleep in babies. I expect it would probably work for collic too...

Wow. And the thing is too - every day is one step closer to actually finding out! :) Can you tell Don to email us when it happens?

EKinDK said...

Oh, absolutely, NQD -- you're on The List! Sadly, I will not be posting any "action videos" from the delivery here, so you will be forced you use your imagination for that...