One of the coolest things to me about babies is how I can look at them and see ancient ancestors. Little Selina clings to me, even when I'm already holding her tight, and if I make a sudden move (or sneeze!), she grabs tighter, as if to insist "don't drop me out of the tree!" I lay her down for thirty seconds on a soft, warm bed and her face scrunches up and she prepares to wail as if she'd been left on a rocky hillside like Baby Oedipus, just waiting to be plucked away and carried off by eagles.
Baby care is such a physical task, whether you gave birth or not; whether you're breastfeeding or not. I'm always hearing biological mothers blithely refer to "hormones" as if that is what drives them to hear phantom cries, or wake when the baby's breathing pattern changes slightly, or to have eyes in the back of their heads. But I have all these things too, so if it's hormones, they must be triggered by motherhood as a state, rather than necessarily pregnancy or nursing per se.
I am convinced that adoption is as "natural" as anything can be said to be.
I used to date an OB/Gyn who had delivered thousands of babies (plus one of her own) and she told me that human beings' tendancy to anthropomorphize everything from goldfish to cars is an evolutionary atavism that reflects our "adoption gene." She said that given the high number of fatalities our ancestors experienced in child birth, the willingness--even desire--to pick up a baby unrelated by blood, to see ourselves in it and care for it as our own was a survival necessity.
Selina is certainly eager for me to pick her up these days. She won't sleep anywhere during her daytime naps but on a human being. At night she is sleepy enough to go down in her hammock, but she is spending about 16 hours of 24 on a person (me, Cole, David, one of a couple of helpful friends) every day lately. She snuggles down, finds a fist of clothing to grab and holds on for dear life and I can hear her little self pleading to be kept close and protected from wolves and it hits me somewhere in my reptilian brain.
I know childhood is culturally constructed and its definition shifts over time, but I can't help but think that when we did live in trees, and of course didn't put the babies down at all, well, that was somehow the essence of true infancy. I know babies can survive and thrive though they are parented in many different ways, but it just kills me to have this back problem that keeps me from being able to just strap Selina on and go about my business. I get stuck in the rocking chair a lot so as to hold her as much as she craves. And when people suggest that I shouldn't hold her so much or even say I'm "spoiling" her, well, the adoption hormones (or whatever they are) almost drive me to growl and snarl like a wolf myself. So clear is it to me that my baby needs to be held.
I did get to start the physical therapy with my chiropractor last Thursday. Here's hoping that by the time we are slogging through multiple airports next week, it will not be completely forbidden for me to wear that baby wrap.
Selina is arcing slowly towards almost-gonna-be-okay-someday. She is creeping up on drinking 4 oz at a time which correlates to 4 hours of sleep. Come on, 10-2-6 schedule! But last night, she had a bottle at 9:30 and slept until 1:30. Yea! Right? But then she wouldn't go back to sleep until 4:45. Thank god I didn't have to get up at 6, take her to daycare and go to work like a normal person. Instead, I pushed her off on Cole when Nat woke up at 5:45 and told her not to bother me until 11. And she didn't so I went back to sleep.
I have been reading this advanced review copy of a book about teaching your kids a second language. I wasn't sure we were doing enough signing to make Nat truly fluent, but according to the book, we are just on the verge of enough. I'm taking a real course for grownups this fall at the local CC. Meanwhile, as Nat's spontaneous expressive language increases these days, she's often spontaneously signing what she says. "Look, Mama Shannon, a girl on a bicycle!" for example, all spoken and signed simultaneously this afternoon.
I want to hire a French-speaking babysitter for the fall semester (about 3 afternoons per week), not to teach her any formal lessons but just to speak to her in French, while supplementing with books and dvds in French at other times. French because I have studied it forever (without, of course, gaining much fluency) so I can sort of reinforce it and also because French is so stupid hard. If she gets it in her ear now, she can learn easier romance languages later with ease. I can read most basic Spanish at an intermediate level, for example, having only ever studied French. And we'll be doing Latin in home school which will also set her up for Spanish and Italian.
But then I think maybe I should find an ASL-fluent baby sitter instead and just stick to one extra language, done the heck to death. I don't know. Opinions?
We are going on a lo-o-o-o-ong trip in two weeks. 48 hours and three airplanes to Kawaii to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. It's times like this the adoptive, happy-to-bottle-feed mom wishes her boobs worked. I am going to lug five bottles of formula, five bottles of water and a zillion little ziplock bags with four oz. of formula powder in a huge carry on bag with all the snacks the other three of us will need to survive the skinflint, don't-feed-you-for-free-even-when-we-strand-you-for-hours new standards of air travel. Then there are the diapers in sizes one and four, the wipies to accompany the diapers and various gear items. I just broke down and bought this and we're snapping the baby car seat into it. I never thought I'd use a stroller by snapping a car seat into it. I would just wear the baby and push Nat. But my back says otherwise. So I'll still take my favorite wrap and snuggle Selina in it on the plane and maybe carry her some, but we'll have the stroller as back up.
Once there, we are sure to have a wonderful time, but getting there is not something we're looking forward to...
UPDATE ON THE JOOVY CABOOSE
I just posted a review of how the new stroller performed at a mom board I frequent. I'm copying it here for your edification:
My Jooy arrived and made it through three round-trip flights from Chicago to Hawaii (via LA and an inter-island hop) and back.
It was great for the airport. I have to admit I wrapped the baby and we used the baby carseat bit on the Joovy to port carry-on luggage (we had tons of that because we had to carry 48-hours worth of bottles, formula, diapers in two sizes and I added snacks that were meal-worthy for the entire trip for my toddler and partner too, having learned the hard way in past flight delays).
But we were able to belt Nat in seated even with the infant seat in place (it helped that we didn't put an infant in it, because I'm not sure it was really in the correct position--but fine for luggage).
It isn't super light, but the wheels are nice and large and smooth so it was manoueverable and easy enough to push along. I found it fairly easy to fold down too--I could manage it at the plane gate with sort of 1.5 hands--that is, with a baby wrap on me too.
I don't know how much I'll end up using it in ordinary life. For getting down to the park three blocks from home, I'll probably just be wrapping the baby and strolling Nat in the umbrella.
It feels sooo big to me, but when I really look at it, it's a fair footprint for two kids and gear. It's about the equivalent of two standing adults, shoulder-to-shoulder. That seems reasonable for subways or whatnot.
All in all, I'd buy it again. Especially for that long airplane trek.
- No physical therapy go-ahead yet. He says maybe Thursday.
- I sound kind of flip in reference to the Hague Convention below. I don't mean to. I'm just tired. And I know "sending babies over here" sounds like importing pencil sharpeners or something. But I'm talking about adopting an HIV+ AIDS orphan, and really don't feel the least bit flip about it.
Just in case you just got here and think I sound like a tool.
- My back is slowly getting better, I think, in an overarching way. It has moments that are better and moments that are worse, but I think it's on the mend. I'm hoping the chiropractor clears me for physical therapy tomorrow.
- Cauliflower and broccoli soup: yum!
- I though Selina was developing problematic sleep habits until I thumbed through my old copy of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and found my sleep logs for Nat at this age which looked even worse than Selina's pattern. Nat is a champion sleeper and has been since I night-weaned her at 10 months old (and was sleeping well before that, just waking to eat), so I guess Selina will be fine and is just too little to be predictable, still. In fact, I think I'm onto Elizabeth Pantley. She says it takes a long time to see results of her "techniques?" I think she's just counting on your kid outgrowing whatever it is that's bothering you and then you going and crediting her book in hindsight!
- Most people I talk to (or read blogs by!) say becoming a mom for the first time really threw them because of the huge identity shift. I have to say it didn't really have that effect on me. I had been trying on a mom identity in different ways for so many years, and I was old enough that my "young and carefree" identity was getting boring anyway. I just slipped into motherhood with ease. This second kid thing? KILLING me. It's been much harder for me to adjust to being a mother of more than one child than it was for me to adjust to being a mother, period. I haven't really adjusted yet, but it's certainly getting better (my back healing is helping a lot). I am working on having both kids in my care, both awake at the same time and not freaking out, but it's a major challenge, still. I always got showered and dressed, for example, by noon at least, with Nat, after she went down for a nap. These two nap on completely different schedules and are never sleeping at the same time. That's nice for Nat and I to get some quality time in the afternoons, but it means I have to pass Selina off to someone--Cole if she's here, or David--just to bathe.
How do people with lots and lots of kids do this? Before they're old enough that the bigger ones can look out for the younger ones for 30 minutes, anyway?
- Same-sex couples can already adopt in South Africa on the same basis as married couples! How about that? Now I think the U.S. has to sign the Hague treaty or something before they'll start sending babies over here, though. Something I read said maybe in 2008? That's okay. We have nothing but time.
- Nat has been doing so many cute things I can't even remember them all to tell you. Her language is suddenly getting much more complex and spontaneous. She will declare, "Mama Shannon, I like your pretty dress!" for example. Speaking of pretty, she got some hand-me-down black patten leather mary janes, and she's been wearing them around constantly, fake tap-dancing on the hardwood floors. I may have to break down and get her tap lessons next year after all. Not too much of a race stereotype, is it? She's nuts about tap dancing. I guess I shouldn't impede her interest. But she's getting tae kwon do lessons, too!
- I just finished grading my online students' first long essays. Their second long essays are due next week and two weeks after that, their final exams will start arriving in the mail. Whose idea was it to teach an accerlated summer class while becoming the mother of two wee children?
Tomorrow is Selina's due date! She is definitely more baby than fetus these days. She is sleeping deeper at night and lighter during the day. She's eating between 3.5 and 4 oz. per meal, has a HUGE double chin and rolly-polly baby thighs. She has a predictable alert time in the evenings (a bit too alert sometimes) and loves to look into my eyes. She was 7 lbs 8 oz a tthe doctor's last week, but I bet she's up to 8 lbs now (says my still hurting back). Here's a peek from Donita's brilliant eye:
Sweet things Nat has done with Selina:
- voluntarily offered to share the stickers the doctor gave her, saying, "here's a bear for you baby Seena!"
- tried to offer Selina a bottle when she started to cry last week.
- patted Selina's head gently, saying soothingly, "I know, I know, it's okay" (which is what I say to soothe the baby).
- tried to teach Selina to sign "milk" and "more" and "baby sister."
- opens the gifts Selina has been receiving with utter glee without regard to the contents. And everything is "so cute!"
I am kind of surprised, really, at Nat's response to Selina. She is very nice and gentle with her. When Nat gets frustrated about missing her former unrivaled time with me, she takes it out on me, not on Selina. I am so glad for this, but don't know where it's coming from or if it will last. Any sibling insights you have are very welcome. (I just got Siblings Without Rivalry in the mail, so it's next to the rocker!)
Whoo-hoo! Nancy and her truelove, Laurel, gave me permission to put their wedding up on my new YouTube account. So here you go! Most of these photos were taken by Cole but some were also taken by me. And that dress Nancy's wearing is even more fabulous in person, and of course, I made her jewelry.