Sunday, December 21, 2008

Piss poor

I credit my final, complete recovery from the Great Post-Miscarriage Depression of '06 with the spring '07 arrival of a little kitten, who we named Zev. He was exactly what we needed: a clingy little 3-pound baby in need of lots of lap time and snuggles, who would knead my stomach and purr like a little engine, then curl up and fall asleep. Zev helped me to embrace hope again, turn the corner, and remember what it was like to feel happy.

Zev had a problem, though. Having spent his first three months on the street (my mother-in-law's street, to be exact, where some kindly neighbors fed the local strays), Zev did not take kindly to the litter box. And that's being generous. To get him to use it with any consistency meant changing the litter and scrubbing the box after every use, and with another cat in the house, that was impossible. If he couldn't pee outside (and, mindful of the vet's warnings about life expectancy, we weren't letting him out), Zev preferred to pee inside, specifically on our bed. I've washed our sheets and blankets more times than I've washed my underwear.

To remedy the problem, we tried getting him neutered, tried pheremone sprays, and tried positive reinforcent ("What a good kitty! good kitties get tweats when they use the witter box!"). We tried negative reinforcement (one brief and instantly-regretted attempt to get Zev to associate peeing on the bed with a quick trip to the shower. We both have scars from that bozo idea), and all kinds of special litter brands/types. We brought in a pricey cat psychologist whose advice, as far as I could understand, was that I'd have to quit my job and devote myself to providing a rich, stimulating environment for Zev, with a litterbox in every room in the house.

What we ended up doing is scooping all THREE boxes (one for each floor) every day, and putting the little Zev on Prozac, per one teary, desperate phone call to the vet (and yes, I have often savored the irony of our sweetly matching mommy-kitty SSRI ensembles). We also started letting him go outside during the day -- something we were loathe to do, as we live on a sort of busy street, but which we have come to accept as Zev's only true path to sanity. He's just happier being able to be outdoors. Keeping him inside makes him miserable, and he acts out by attacking our (IMMACULATELY behaved) older cat and, yes, peeing. So he goes out a few times during the day, and sleeps in bed with us at night, and we keep our fingers crossed and pray that he'll continue to show good sense when crossing the street.

And that has worked beautifully until this Great Blizzard of '08 rolled into town and Zev decided he doesn't like getting his paws wet. Or cold. Or something. Our Southern-born cat won't set foot outdoors, and last night, after one of Sam's usual 2am wakeups, I finally dozed off only to wake up sputtering as Zev dumped a couple of bladders-full of piss on my thigh.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Lately, I've been having so many moments where Sam's existence just takes my breath away. I'll be playing with him, or cuddling him, or watching him sleep, and the incredible blessing of it all just stops me in my tracks. This is my baby, I'll think. We had a baby. He's here.

I think that half the journey for me has been about my slow realization that this time, we got lucky. I think my heart and brain have been so slow to believe it. I had gotten so accustomed to being one of the unlucky ones--and hell! We didn't even have it that bad. Two miscarriages. How many women have been through so much more?

I guess I'm not quite sure how to digest this good fortune.

And now he's doing little things like wrapping his arms around my neck when I carry him, and squealing and bouncing up and down and waving his arms when I come home from work. My God, the gift of mothering this child! I think, "What did I do to deserve this?" but it's not about deserving. The blessings are as much out of my hands as the losses were.

If only I could do something to help all the incredible, brave, hurting, and yes, deserving women who've lost babies. If I were a more reliable carrier, I'd offer be a surrogate, but I'm still high risk, even with Lovenox. I'm too old to offer reliable eggs. Gah. I just wish there was something I could do.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good boy

Sam is a good baby. I find myself saying that all the time. "Oh, what a good baby you are," kiss, kiss, kiss. "Yes, he's a very good baby," I say to strangers when they ask.

But what does that mean? "Good" baby as opposed to what, rotten-to-the-core baby? I've only seen one depiction of a truly hateful infant, and that was fiction.

And yet there is this sense of a fundamental goodness in him. He's so content, generally, so quick to smile, so delighted by the Mexican tin hearts on the wall, or the skylight above our bed, or any random person talking to him. He's so quick with a giggle, and the noises, the noises! The delicious little squeaks and bleats and hiccups he makes in response to us.

But it's foolish to equate goodness with compliance. Hard to believe it, but he will defy me one of these days, and get angry and tantrum. I just hope I'll be as quick to defend and promote his fundamental nature. That's what unconditional love is all about, right?


For the records: He has been pushing himself up into a sort of Cobra pose for a couple of weeks now, but he has just started to try to also push his butt up off the floor in a sort of pre-crawling lift-off. Everyone reminds us that we'll be well and truly screwed once he starts moving around. Thanks, everyone. We haven't childproofed a single cabinet yet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bah lovebug

Sam tried apples for the first time today. A big hit. But from the look on his face, he would have preferred the pizza I was eating. Good boy.

His vocabulary has two primary words: "bah-bah" and "muh-muh." From what I can tell, "bah-bah" has two meanings. The first is, "I'm the king of the world!" He says it when he's pleased with himself, like after taking a nice long swig off the boob. The second meaning is more observational. Something like, "It's all goooood," except, you know, thank God he doesn't say that because it's so dorky. But he'll kind of sigh and look around the room all mellow and say "Bah-bah-bah," and it's like everything's in it's place.

"Muh-muh," also sometimes "Ma-ma" or "Mmmmmmm," is a distress call. It means either, "I'm hungry," or "I'm tired," or "This sucks." A couple of times, I've half-thought he really was calling to me specifically, over Adam, when he used it, but I can't see how that would really be true.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beyond the sea

We took a big family trip this past week--a cruise out of Florida, down to Belize and up the Mexican coast. It was awful and wonderful in the way that all cruises are.

Awful: terrible food in huge quantities, too many bodies in one space, too much flash and forced cheer, the first world/second/third world mash-up, the Tanzanite and Gold By The Inch and Diamonds International orgy. Sam's gradually degraded sleep habits.

Wonderful: Sam surrounded by three doting grandparents, three aunts, an uncle, and two cousins. Waking up every morning and saying, "Hey! Where are we today?" No one having to cook or do the dishes, your whole world narrowed down to one boat, giving up control and learning to drift. Sunshine.

It cured me of the pressing anxiety/depression that had settled in over the past few weeks. Was it just stress? Time to buy a light box? I don't know yet. I had a phone appointment with my old therapist before we left. She said, "I'm not surprised you're feeling this way. I knew your perfectionism was going to kick you in the ass."

So I have some thinking to do. I'm confident that I had a hand in making myself miserable this past month. I live in fear of dropping the ball, and there's just no slack in the system. If work is intense, I can't let it eat into my time with Sam. If Sam isn't sleeping, I can't let it show at work. It's a terrific act to try to pull this off. A great way to keep the psychotherapy economy afloat. So what gives?

No answer yet, but I do know one thing: Sam's a pretty good traveler. He was great on the flights, cheerful on the boat. It wore on him eventually, being so far outside his routine, and the last couple of bedtimes had both of us in tears. But we're back now and he just went to sleep with barely a whimper.