Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oh Yoko

Being at home and inside most of my days, between the confinement of the heat and the convenience of staying at home and breastfeeding, I get to catch a lot of daytime programming. As a feminist (and of course by feminist I mean a woman who believes that women are people of equal stature to men, not just tits defined by their ability to either feed or be fondled) I have for a long time known that the media survives on it's ability to make me feel bad about myself. I have accepted that, made my peace with VOGUE magazine, and frequently enjoy a good picture flip through PEOPLE magazine despite my lack of riches and abundance of lbs. in the eyes of the media. However, I have recently fallen prey to an entirely new marketing strategy aimed at my self loathing. I am a new demographic. A dumber consumer for having bred, or so it seems in the eyes of some advertising teams.

I was watching a Febreeze commercial where a SAHM (stay at home mother) is spraying down her stinky teen's football padding when it occurs to her how much fun it would be to go spray his prepubescent stink out of the minivan. Then there is the heartburn medication commercial that shows a fat bastard eating a burrito while his hot size two wife and their good looking children rush to stop him. But, my all time favorite has to be the new Summer's Eve Commercial. A man is shown rifling through some dirty laundry in search of a pair of socks. He finds a sock, sniffs it, crinkles his nose at the stench, but still determines it is good for use and begin to put on the sock. His wife walks into the room and indignantly says, "What are you doing?" to which he replies, "Taking off that dirty sock!" Funny. Until I found out it was douche commercial.

I can tolerate mothers being made to look like they enjoy cleaning up after their ungrateful children and husbands, I can even believe that there are sexy women that fall in love with fat slovenly men, but when you compare my cootch to a dirty sock you have crossed a fucking line. "Hey stink cootch, when you're done perfuming that baby ejector you used to call a vagina, why don't you finish cleaning up the trail of junk your rotten kids have left throughout your house so that you'll have time to cook a three course meal for your fat bastard husband!"

So the man was going to put on a dirty sock... he doesn't know any better. The same way you think your pussy smells alright without injecting it full of chemicals... you just don't know any better.

So, to be clear, women can be trusted to birth, raise, and care for our children, marry and tend to our husbands, and let's not forget who keeps the dog alive, keep our homes in order and our families fed, but left to our own devices we are so lazy and disgusting that we would let our vaginas rot.

Perhaps it is this terrible case of "stink cootch" or "vagina rot" that has infected our brains to such a degree that we encourage these marketing tactics by buying these products.

Just this weekend I was at Wal-Mart looking for the best deal on diapers with my mother when she tried to sell me on a new brand of diapers called "White Cloud". She pointed out to me that the art work on the generic diapers was none other than John Lennon's art. I asked if I was to assume if John Lennon supported a brand that I should try it. My mother thought I should, and read aloud from the packaging that it was actually Yoko Ono who endorsed the diapers with John's art. Confident that Picasso could not redeem a leaky diaper with his finest works, I opened the package to compare a "White Cloud" diaper with a Huggies diaper from my diaper bag. Sure enough, the "White Cloud" diaper was thin, stiff, had less elasticity, and quite frankly the art was not John's best. "Oh Yoko"... I say, "Oh no Yoko"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Four Months

Last Friday my period made a surprise cameo appearance after having taken a 1 year sabbatical. This sent me desperately seeking my "feminine" products, long since retired to the back of bathroom cupboards and hidden travel bags somewhere in my closet. By the time I found a tampon stash I was overwhelmed with the gore of menstruation. I had forgotten clotting, flow, ruined panties, and bled though gym shorts. It took me all of a day and a half to come to terms with what was once such a regular part of my life. The bleeding is back. In a way I welcomed it as a part of me finally returned. Then I feared it, would this effect my milk supply? My natural birth control? Then it just pissed me off. I thought one of the benefits to breastfeeding was that I got a good year off from my period ahead of me.

In all fairness, with Cohen teething, and chewing on my nipples like tit-jerky, I feel entitled to enjoy some of the extended perks of breastfeeding as I endure some of the lesser privileges that accompany the gift of mother's milk. Any why shouldn't I? Quite frankly it seems I have been on a bit of a losing streak for the last few weeks. My supply is still trying to catch up to my demand in more ways than milk production. Since finally surpassing the postpartum paranoia, my stress has manifested physically. I have endured multiple sore throats, a cyst, a cold sore, explosive diarrhea, thrush, and insomnia... not to mention what once was a sensitive part of my body is now on the receiving side of a tiny gummy vice that clamps, unclamps, and tugs at her own will.

Four months into the program, after all of the gift money and savings has been spent, Dan and I are truly experiencing what it is like to live in a one income household. We work very hard at making sure that we don't waste our time bickering over money, and we don't. We have always been respectful of the others spending habits, as neither of us care to repeat the arguments we overheard our parents having when we were children. While we have been successful in this area, that is not to say that we don't spend a good deal of our time bitching to each other about our plight. Like with breastfeeding, I can see how the decision to stay home at this point could seem optional to some. I could return to work this week and double our income. The same way I could put Cohen on formula and not have to worry about her depending on mashing my breasts into cud in order to eat. Both things I would never do, but also both options. Part of how Dan and I get through this time is by reminding ourselves that we have made this choice, and this choice is a privilege that we should be happy to afford, even if it means taping together a broken pair of sunglasses and mending a few shirts this season instead of buying new ones.

At only four months old Cohen has grown so much before my eyes. I am reminded of this every time someone new meets her, an old friend comes to dinner and asks us what she can do. We list a few asinine skills, get brief nods of interest and move on with the conversation. To someone who hasn't seen grasp after failing grasp until a week later when she finally grabs hold of a toy and, just like that, now she can reach for things, it's not as impressive. But I saw it happen. I was there. And it was priceless to witness. I was there to take her in for her four month shots last Friday, where they had the nerve to make my baby bleed her own blood.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gentian Violet

Cohen and I have had thrush for 2 months. I stopped treatment weeks ago figuring if it got worse I would get gentian violet, but hoping it would clear on its own. I began feeding Cohen a bit of plain yogurt every night and it seemed to clear up her mouth. Thank god. I know gentian violet is messy and stains and I didn't want to walk around with a purple faced baby, more than less have to worry about the dye getting on my 4 pieces of clothing that fit and my furniture.

Over the past few days, despite there not being a dot of white in Coco's mouth, my nipples have been killing me. I have not been sure if this is due to the thrush or because Cohen's new hobby is chewing on my tits like an old redneck gnawing on some squirrel jerk. Earlier in the week I found gentian violet at a store and bought it just in case because it was on sale for the cheapest I had seen it. I mentioned to Dan that I might use it and he asked if there were any side effects. Just one. Mouth sores. That was a deal breaker for him. I pushed, stating that the sores disappear within 24 hours, they are very rare, and that my nipples were begging him to understand that they too are a part of team Jackson, and they need the team together on this one! No go. Just put it on yourself he says.

So tonight, when Old man Cohen finished chewing on my boob, I invite she and Dan into the bathroom to watch me put this stuff on. Wow. It is dark. It is everything I was afraid of. The q tip turns black in the bottle and I dab it onto each nipple sparingly. I sadle back up into my grubbiest nursing bra and trade off with Dan, taking Cohen to put her to bed. It occurs to me just then that I have won, as she will be nursing the purple goodness straight off of my boobs when she eats before going to bed. Go team nipples! Go team Jackson!

Feeding her tonight, watching her milked out face fall off of my nipple in a deep yummy sleep, I could not help but laugh at her stained lips. I put her to bed. I brushed my teeth. I peek at the nipple she had nursed from and all of the purple had been sucked off. Since I am the one in pain from the thrush I figured I should put more on before bed. Not wanting to get any onto the sheets I used even less than the first time, this time slipping out of my bra and hoping to just go to bed.

Unfortunately, while slipping out of my bra, I knocked over the entire bottle of gentian violet. Onto the carpet, my $40 bathmat, the cabinets, my feet and hands. Everywhere. I go online to read about how to remove it. Alcohol works if you use it immediately. I didn't. I had to go look up a cure on line and by the time I got back in there it was too late. I can't cope with this tonight beyond my acceptance. I sprayed spot remover onto the carpet where I spilled it, and the stain remover hit the gentian violet in the carpet and sent it flying as if it were being spilled again from each spot where it had previously landed.

Between this, the construction nails in the concrete that tore away a handful of drywall in the baby's room I can feel our rental deposit slowly slipping away.

Needless to say, Cohen has some concerns...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chicken and Rib Roots

It is shameful how long it has been since my last post. Aside from myspace sucking balls lately and preventing me from even posting a brief excuse for why I was not posting, I took on a project for one of the attorneys I used to work for and it has swallowed all of my free time. I was guaranteed a pretty hefty portion of what I billed and we are so much in need of the money I have had to commit to this project whole heartedly. Tonight, at 12 a.m. on the dime, I am finished with the billing. Cohen is asleep on the couch, my kitchen is clean, and I am drinking a beer that I hope I have the weight watchers points to cover.

Last night Dan and I decided it was worth going for broke and ordering a pizza and a six pack of Newcastle in order to avoid cooking. As the one that runs the books around here, my money maker looked to me, and I said no sweat, I'll cash in some of the change from our change jar tomorrow at the bank. It was worth it then. Today was a different story. It is a strange feeling counting out change so I can buy groceries while my daughter fusses in her vibrating chair and I cannot put her binky back in her mouth because my fingers are filthy from old dirty coins. It was funny to me that I was ever embarrassed to count change for cigarettes. This is way worse. And then again, it's not. The money thing seems to frustrate Dan more than me, and I am always trying to remind him that these experiences will keep us humble.

When we tell Cohen the stories of how we struggled to get what we have, she will learn to value a dollar. She will know her parents were self made and she will never fear poverty, or view it as a weakness, rather a hurdle to be avoided or (worst case scenario) overcome. As frustrating as it is for me to count coins, that is nothing in comparison to the fear that she will one day be taking credit for owning a BMW that her father and I have paid for.

I pride myself in being poor with style. We grew up poor, only my little brother, 5 years my junior, got to dress cool and have a new car. My father had taken new job after job until finally, when my little brother arrived at his high school years, he did so in a new truck and a pair of hundred dollar shoes. Back in my freshman year, I had to beg for a pair of twenty dollar Keds, only to settle for the five dollar knock offs.

I learned about second hand stores, shopping for sales with my mother, clearance racks, garage sales, and the flea market. I made my own clothes, cut the blue KEDS tag off of an old pair given to me by a friend who had many, and super glued the tags onto the back of my five dollar shoes. Then, as the glue faded and the tag peeled away, I would casually pull it off in front of my friends, saying something like, "Who cares about labels anyway, right guys?"

Almost 15 years later and I'm pulling the same stunt. I wait for the Wednesday supermarket ads to come in the mail, seeking out the cheapest meat for the upcoming two week pay period. Some weeks it is awesome - great cuts of pork chops for 99 cents a lb. This week, and last week, have been chicken legs and thighs - a cut of meat that has pushed me to never eat chicken from the bone again. Still I take great pride in making Dan guess how much I saved at the grocery store.

I went to Albertson's for their chicken and rib specials (12 drumsticks for $1.88, full size ribs for under $3.00). With Cohen in tow, I decided this would be a great day to try out the new shopping cart play seat my mother in law bought for the baby. The Infantino Delux Safari Activity Cart Cover (IDSACC). Here is someone else's baby modeling the IDSACC.

Now, looking at this picture it seems obvious that in order for a child to use this accessory she must be able to sit up on her own. There is no picture of this kid on the box.

So I spend 10 minutes in the parking lot, in 105 degree weather, trying to velcro this fucker onto the shopping cart while Cohen is sleeping soundly in her car seat in the air condition car. The amount of straps that must be slipped through the bars of the cart, twisted and adhered to one another are ridiculous. Still, I persevere. I hook it up, turn the car off, and wake Cohen, excited to share with her a new toy and a new shopping experience. I carry her into the store thinking I will fasten her in once we are safe within the air conditioned grocery store. Near the cantaloupes that, with their 18 cents a lb. goodness, helped lure me to this Albertson's in the first place, I begin trying to get Coco into this contraption.

Is there a belt, some sort of a strap? I had to strap the cover to the cart, but there is no strap to hold my kid into the cover? Fine. I drop her in, we share a smile of excitement, and them BAM! She falls over to the side and cracks her head on the side rail of the shopping cart leaving a red welt and a look of bewilderment on her sweet little face. I choose two cantaloupes, the largest I can find, and pin one on each side of her, so that she cannot fall to either side and begin making my way through produce. She alternates slumping over melons, chewing on the handle of the cart, as if my presumptuous use of this toy that is too mature for her has reverted her back to when she could not even hold up her head.
In the meat section I remove her from the IDSACC, remove the cantaloupes, and turn her on her side so that while laying dwon from left to right one arm is sticking out of the leg hole and her feet are hanging over the side of the cart while her head is wedged into the seat. She is grinning at me as if to say, "So, you're a mother huh? Do you even know what you're doing? Do you have any training whatsoever" I stack the cart full of chicken legs and ribs. I cannot leave her in the cart this way, people are laughing at me. I resign to carrying her and push my cart down the cereal aisle. Not until then do I notice the bum wheel on my cart. I will not be defeated. I take the cantaloupes and put them on the shelf with the Cheerios. I stack my meat on the cracker display at the end of the aisle. With baby in hand, I undo the Velcro safety latches and lay the IDSACC in the bottom half of the shopping cart, all flap unfolded. I lay Cohen in the cart, divide my meat and melons between the seat an the bottom wrack and proceed to the Mexican food section feeling like an accomplished mother. I will not be embarrassed. I will make anything function. I am mother... hear me roar!

But it wasn't me roaring through the refried beans and taco shells, it was the kid in the shopping cart behind me. I didn't know why he was crying and I couldn't have cared less. My breasts, on the other hand, knew just what that kid needed and my let down let me down in public for the first time. My milk came in to my left breast and I immediately leaked all the way through my shirt. At this point I figure, I gave it a good run, but I am just going to have to carry Cohen all the way to the register so that no one sees I have leaked.

I am comfortable with many parts of motherhood. I will breastfeed in public. I will wear clothing covered in spit up and drool. I will notice baby poop from a diaper I changed 2 hours ago on my finger while driving and wipe it on my jeans. I have conceded this much, but I have yet to make peace with leaking fluids from my body in public.

I find a baby blanket in the diaper bag, throw it over my shoulder and head to the check out. Everything else in Albertson's is too expensive for me anyway, I was only here for the meat sale, I remind myself. At the check out, I ask the cashier if she has any paper towels. She hands me the box, I remove one and thank her. She asks if I need anymore and as I stuff the paper towel into my shirt I tell her that one will do it. She asks if Cohen, who is now fed up and screaming, is crying because she is hungry. I tell her that it wasn't Cohen, evidently any kid can make my milk come in. She asks, "Is this your first?" To which I reply, "Yes." She says, "I can tell." Part of me wanted to find this offensive, but at this point everyone could tell. I realized there is no shame in this being my first. In doing the best that I can. In not being prepared for someone else's screeching four year old's magical ability to call my milk to arms. These years will pass so quickly, and while I may be naive about the inner working of many an evenflo and infantino product, I know for a fact that once this time goes, I will not get it back.

I am so proud of Dan, for getting up and getting out everyday. I cannot imagine how hard it is for him to walk away from the two of us in bed every morning. He makes what I do possible. I am proud of myself, for embracing what I fear, for staying home, for breastfeeding no matter how tired I get, for putting it to words and giving a voice to the part of motherhood that had no voice before I got here. I won't go so long without writing again. To make up for it...

Baby Mullet.