My cousin is pregnant, and I think she should benefit from my experience, so occasionally I inflict some assvice on her. Now she did ask for some, but you can't excpect brevity from me, can you? So this was last night's missive. You can see why I can't possibly sustain this kind of verbosity. I exhaust myself! For the record, many of you know me more and better than she does and will recognize parts of this post. What does that say about our family relationships on a day to day basis? Everything. Accurately. It doesn't mean I love her any less, but we are very, very different people and we catch up in fits and spurts. And, as far as I know, she doesn't know I blog.
Okay - first, about me.
I have a glass of bourbon (albeit one with bunnies on it), Josephine is sleeping, and Steve is at band practice (Helpful hint: I pretend that I don't like Steve's band, so he has something to rebel against. It keeps him from getting at me on more serious issues. Really, I don't care. But it gives me comparable time off to meet up with my friends, and quiet alone time at home after Josie goes to bed at least once a month. In Nick Hornby's "How To Be Good", the wife and mother just wants to "breathe air that hasn't been breathed a thousand times before by her family". I know this feeling well. I'll happily give up one practice a month, occasional studio time and rare gigs in exchange for a little leverage when I blow $80 at Winners). Laundry and dishwasher are running, bathroom had a swipe, and I am ignoring the popcorn on the rug. I am pooped.
Today Josephine and I went to the Royal Ontario Museum, to meet with a friend and her daughter. Images attached. It was so awesome - the second floor has a huge "Discovery Zone" where you can dig in a sand pit for dinosaur bones; plus puzzles and mats and toys and books and stations to do rubbings and touch things and hear things. Then there are the usual exhibits. Today we stuck to the insects (Josie is now obsessed with Darkling Beetles), the bat cave (four times through, the last time so we could blow kisses goodbye) and the bird room ("Dat's Tom Turkeee, Mama" - ignoring the huge freaking cool albatross, which I've only ever thought of metaphorically, and the other weird feathered things). We took the streetcar and subway, which is an adventure in itself ("Why dat man coughing, Mama?" "Because apparently tuberculosis hasn't been wiped out during this century after all, Josie."). It was so easy to get there, so big and so child-friendly (even with hoards of schoolchildren in their burkhas and uniforms) that I knew over the course of the year, especially on rainy mornings, we'll go there often. A year long membership is only $99, so I treated us to one with the money from her modelling gig. I think that's fair. She can sue me later.
So that's some advice there - if you don't like malls (which I don't really either, but when it's raining and you are feeling trapped, they are a great place to wander - the fountains are fascinating and provide great white noise for naps, there's food and more importantly, other moms with kids who understand) - think about a membership to a museum or the art gallery if you don't have one already. Steve and I went to the Buffalo Museum of Science when I was pregnant, and had a blast. But a place to wander, decompress, diffuse the toddler mood and keep the child active while you chat with a friend is a blessing. We're going to do the AGO soon.
Yesterday I went to the One of a Kind show with Steve's mom, and it was lovely. Because we didn't bring Josephine. When she was itty bitty, she slept through the whole thing in the Snugli. When she was bigger, she was happy in the stroller. The third time (they take place in Spring and Winter, by the way), she was a monster because she wanted to walk and people kept bonking her on the head with bags and purses and she hated it. The last two times, we've gone alone and it's been such great time for Steve and Josie to hang out, and great for me. So my advice here is, at some point, just dump the kid on Dave and trust that he won't screw up too badly. This is in bold, because it comes and goes in phases and it's hard to remember, and we are at another stage where this is not going smoothly: THE BABY HAS TO LEARN THAT HER FATHER CAN COMFORT HER TOO. Not care for - comfort. And HE has to learn that too. Steve still has a rough time, and will too easily pass her off to me. Many times he'll try to give me a break, but here is the other thing: FIVE MINUTES OF CRYING FEELS LIKE TWENTY. If you get him in the habit of noting when she starts, he won't think you're dismissing his efforts when you say, "But it's only been three minutes. Could you keep trying so I don't have to jump out of the shower all soapy?"
So, all of that leads me to: you said you needed to get more hooded towels. No you don't. One clean, one dirty is fine. The baby spends next to no time in them - you want to get the lotion or oil slathered on and get them dressed pretty quickly. When babies are very small, they don't like being naked at all. When they're bigger, they won't stay in them. They get used on a clean baby, so they're rarely dirty. What I did get you at the show is something I wish I had: a babywrapper.
(in beige, if you must know. Do not look at the price.)
When they're new, you can't take your hand off them in the bath (even for a minute, despite the nice bath seat you registered for), so groping for a towel is a bitch. When they're bigger, they do splash you (by the way - some cotton gloves are great to wear in the bath - the kind you get from the Body Shop for letting lotion soak into your hands? You can really get the crevices with them, and they help you keep a grip on the baby. And those babies are slippery little buggars too. Now, we still get splashed sometimes, but at least Josephine can stand up for us to wrap the towel around. I swear to God you will find this item helpful. I wish I'd had one from newborn to about ten months, when she could finally stand. If you hate it, fine - I took my chances. It's not the only gift you'll receive, but it's one I really think will be helpful. It was immediately sealed in a bag and has never been opened in my home for your allergy protection. You will open it at your shower and look surprised, won't you?
Speaking of helpful, and crevices! It wasn't until about three weeks after Josie was born that I discovered she had a third neck fold that we hadn't yet discovered. There was a rope of lotion, breast milk, and crumbs from my bagels in there. Also, behind the ears needs cleaning a lot when babies are mostly lying down, because stuff runs downhill. Also, now that I know you are having a girl, you must know that although husbands can and will change diapers (I only ever required one a day from Steve - my pick, heh heh heh), he will have the heebies about her girly parts. While you shouldn't clean the um...crevices...too thoroughly (nature's protection is a good thing) - after a messy poo, they will not always think to um...lift and separate and really do a good job in her...umm...cheeseburger. Case in point, one day we had to turn back from going to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair because Josie kept complaining "My bum HURTS!". Since she repeated it constantly over the course of half an hour, I began to think, "UTI? Maybe it's serious!". We turned back, and drove through the city hearing "MY BUM HURTS" all the way. We got to the walk-in clinic, where the doctor found nothing...but a kernel of corn in her um...coochie. I am not going to tell you who did the diaper change before that, but I will tell you that I wouldn't be telling you if it was me.
And so, hooray! A GIRL! Can I tell you, and it's no secret, that I didn't want a boy even though I know it's a crapshoot? Oh sure, I'd love a boy, if I'd had one. When I visited him at Grandma Nan's on Holidays and his birthday. No, seriously. And here's what I'm going to say about names before I say anything about names:
She already has a name. You just have to find it.
"Oh, Marla, you hippy!"
I'm serious. Before Steve and I even considered pulling the goalie, we had an imaginary little Josephine in tow. At antique stores when we'd find cool baby things, around the house...lots of places. When I got pregnant, and even after the ultrasound where we didn't get a money shot - where the technician could only give us 80% - not even 82% surety it was a girl - I knew. She was a spirit before she became our daughter. She didn't have to fit our pre-conceived name or notions - she just was.
Now, since twins run in Steve's family (crossing myself and being grateful for just one, what with how active she is and how lazy I am), a twin girl would have been Justine. A twin boy, or a boy, would have been called "Hank" - but whether it was Hiram or Henry, we weren't sure. We liked Declan for a boy (Steve's Scottish background) and calling him Deke. We blamed a lot of boo boos on Baby Steve. But we never settled because it wasn't an option. For a girl, I also considered Claudette and I kind of liked Ava, until I realized that Evas and Avas are like Britneys these days. But I never felt strongly enough about any of these, and when Josie came out, the first words I said after "It's a girl!" were "Hello Josephine!". Blossom we chose rather recklessly - another day and she'd have been Josephine Cash Good. But her name suits her, and to hear her say it now thrills me. And sometimes she'll hate it, and sometimes she'll love it - but after life, it's the first gift you give to your child.
So, what I'm saying is, sit quietly and think and feel. Think forward to yelling after her at the park, to getting her to turn around for a picture, and to what you see on her business cards and wedding invitations. Think about who your baby is on her own, not just who she is to you. It'll come.
And then, just to be sure. Google it. You don't want to find out she's got a namesake who's a porn queen.
And check out the Social Security website.
It lists the top ten names, and then you can type in a name and find out where it ranks over a period of years. It's based on names registered with the Social Security administration - not just people registered on a Website, like BabyCenter, which will give a skewed perception of middle class white moms only. But then, I'd consider that too. Our peers do make differences in our lives.
Who will be her classmates and co-workers? Fifty other Madisons? In popularity, Josephine has moved from #438 to #242 since 1990. I know of two other Josephines her age, and one in her twenties living in the lofts down the street. (Marla, which I've never liked, has dropped from #805 in 1990 to #1000 in 1992, then right off the charts. Nice. No one else likes it either.) The trend is toward sweet, old-fashioned names these days - which is lovely. But in our first baby play group, besides Josephine was O., E., L., R., S. (okay, (ethnic) names don't rank right up there) and I forget the other kid - but we joked that they sounded like a Senior Citizens shuffle board team rather than a bunch of two-month olds.
This website does really fascinating analyses of names, if you're interested.
Even though I don't need it any longer, I still read it for amazing articles like this.
But what I'm also going to say is - don't tell anyone what name you're thinking of. If you remember, my mom called weekly with suggestions that were not framed as suggestions. Actual conversations:
"What do you think of Stacey?" "I don't know anyone named Stacey." "I mean as a name." "I've never thought anything about Stacey as a name until you mentioned it just now. But since our daughter's name is probably going to be Josephine, it's a non-issue, Mom."
"How will she learn to spell her name in school! It's so long!" "So, we should name her Ann, maybe with only one N, in case she's stupid? The same way Grandma learned to spell her name is the answer, Mom."
"We should name her Ashley, because she was born on Ash Wednesday." "And as we are hardly fervent church-goers, and as there are no ashes on your forehead either, and as that is not a name we would consider if Steve was in line to be the Pope, I am not going to dignify that suggestion with a response."
My mother's first name is Mary, remember? And yet, how could she ever be anyone other than Nan? And Lisa's son, Alexander? He is never anything but Alexander, and he is SUCH an Alexander. Your mom is SO Camille. I think a name has a lot to do with your destiny.
So I suggest Marla.
Good night. I will pester you about baby clothes another time.
Now Andrea did post accurately and flatteringly about our visit. And I will too, because it gave me a lot of food for thought. But I'm off to the farm with Josie soon, and it will have to wait for naptime. If there is one. Please let there be one.