Breeder

(This post is going to be about baby/mom stuff, and not at all gay/exgay related.  I’ll get back on track with the issues soon.  But I think some people might want to know how we’re doing.  If you don’t, just skip this.  There are no incisive criticisms or deep insights below.) 

So the big news first:  Baby DM was born almost two months ago.  :) 

She is unbelievably beautiful. I keep almost saying “perfect” and having to catch myself.  For one thing, that’s blasphemous.  For another thing, she has back hair (!), although I have been assured that will disappear with time.   She is healthy and doing well, although she’s got quite the ornery temperament,–I think she’s what people euphemistically call an “unusually sensitive” and “intense” baby.  But I can’t get too upset about that, as I myself was colicky and high-needy when I was her age, so it’s just my karma coming back to bite me.  As a man sows, so shall he reap.   She was very lanky at birth (below average in weight, well above average in height), but she has the appetite of an elephant and has been “filling out” with a vengeance.  Supposedly, they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.  I’m a little skeptical about that now that she’s put on her fifth chin or so, but her pediatrician assures me that this is just marvelous.  To all those who prayed and/or wished us well, thank you. 

When she’s in a good mood, she loves to smile at me (and smile bigger when I smile back at her)  and occasionally she laughs with me too.  She’s starting to try to “talk”–i.e., make random noises at me when I’m talking to her.  She growls and squeals with delight and anticipation when she catches a glimpse of a bared breast, and lunges toward it with a gaping mouth.  (Chip off the ol’ block, I suppose.)  She’s started to pay attention to her toys, and has a favorite–a woolly mammoth that was mine when I was a baby.  She gets visibly excited when I bring him over, and she talks to him and swats him over with her hand. 

She’s awfully cute.  :)

It’s been cool to watch her evolve gradually–her hand motions getting ever so slightly more controlled, her vocal abilities getting more complex, her facial expressions getting more interesting, her eyes becoming more alert and aware and intelligent.  It’s been fun to watch her change from a completely clueless newborn, freaked out by this cold and too-bright and terribly scary world where one experiences hunger, discomfort, and pain for the first time, into a baby who has a little bit of a grip on post-womb life and seems to be starting to enjoy it!  It’s crazy to think that, Lord willing, I’m going to get to watch her progress from baby to toddler to little girl to adolescent (yikes!) to teenager and beyond.  But it’s hard to imagine that looking at this helpless little blob-person.

These past few weeks have been a bit of a rough ride.  I knew intellectually, as everyone does, that a new baby is tough.  But there’s knowing it, and then there’s living it.  In the first few weeks, I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it, and I couldn’t fathom how anyone ever intentionally has more babies after going through this once.  It was pretty humiliating to feel that I was floundering through something so ordinary, so normal– a thing that some of the dumbest and laziest of hetero underachievers manage to accomplish.  I mean, I’ve got all these achievements and distinctions, and yet I felt like I couldn’t handle this basic everyday mammalian behavior, something that billions of people have done.  I was completely exhausted, my system was thrown into shock by this new lifestyle and responsibilities, and I was frustrated by my inability to keep my baby happy.   

And it was really challenging for Mr. DM and I as a couple, the first significant challenge for our marriage I think.  Before the baby, these past almost-three years of being together were super-easy.  Mr. DM used to describe it as “a perpetual slumber party–with sex!”  It was just easy and fun, pure delight, a little slice of heaven.  I think we probably argued or fought once every four months or so, but only for like 10 minutes before laughing at ourselves and making up.  But a baby makes things tough.  Both the sex and the slumber in our sexy slumber party have gotten much harder to come by.  And our relaxed rhythm of devotion to each other and taking care of each other has been upset by this newcomer.  Before, we had a neat give-and-take equilibrium of affection going on–somehow it usually worked out that when I needed support and a little extra TLC, he had the energy to give it to me, and vice versa.  And when we were both down we could just wait for the weekend to snuggle up together all day long and retreat from responsibility and the cold cruel world outside.  But now little Baby DM is basically a vacuum sucking up enormous quanitities of energy and love, and she can’t exactly reciprocate yet.  And there’s no retreating–her needs are relentless and non-negotiable.    Stress and tiredness really brought out the sinner in both of us.  We struggled with both wanting to be listened to more than we wanted to listen, and with wanting to be comforted and cared for more than we wanted to comfort and care.  We started getting snippy and cold with each other, and we both felt abandoned, that the other person didn’t have our back like they used to.  Secretly, I was wondering what happened to the wonderful man I had married, and he was wondering whether I still loved him.

I knew the baby would be tough, which is part of why I was so quiet over the past few months.  I guess I was hoping I could figure out some shortcut to spiritual growth–that maybe if I read the right books and prayed the right prayers, that the Lord would make me a bigger and better person by the time the baby rolled in, so I’d be able to take it all in stride.  Of course that’s not how it ever works–in these ten years of Christian life, I’ve learned that growth for me anyhow always seems to come through being overwhelmed.  It never seems to come in time to spare me the overwhelming, even when I’m smart and diligent enough to pray for it in advance. 

But gradually somehow I’m sort of getting the hang of this.  I’m sure as soon as I say that, I’m going to end up in way over my head again, but nonetheless, I’m getting somewhere.  Little Baby DM is teaching this ignoramus a little more about parenting every day.  And I’m learning to just go with the flow.  So, for example, she’s usually contented when she’s in my arms, but pretty much howls everywhere else during the day.  This drove me nuts for a while, but I’ve come to just accept it, and my arm muscles after a few days of cramping have adjusted accordingly.  (And I’ve become a master of picking things up with my unusually prehensile toes.)  And yeah, this makes it hard to do a lot of things, but I’ve come to accept that too, and just relax.  If I can get her to nap briefly on a pillow in my lap (where she is right now), great; if not, fine.  She’s my priority, and if everything else falls through the cracks, that’s okay.  For the time being, no plans or agendas, except tentative ones held loosely. 

And she and I are getting to know each other, and are getting more used to each other.  That has helped enormously.  I’ve figured out how to soothe her pretty consistently, and I’ve come to understand what upsets her, so at least some of the time we can avoid a meltdown, and I know what makes her happy.  So now I can relax and enjoy her.  When I was feeling helplessly dragged along by the current of her incomprehensible emotions, terrified of the next purple-faced screaming fit, I couldn’t even enjoy her peaceful times, because of the anxiety which hung like a cloud over my head.  But now that I understand her more, and therefore have a tiny bit of a sense of control–as much as we ever have in life–I look down at her sleeping in my lap and she is just so beautiful and wonderful.  I can’t believe something so awesome came out of me!

And in the past couple of weeks I’ve started to feel great.  Don’t get me wrong, there are rough patches, especially in the evenings, but there are also lots of times when I’ve never felt better or more alive or more focused.  Baby DM has done wonders for simplifying and improving my life.  I spend less time obsessing and pondering, and more time doing, getting pulled out of my head into my flesh and my senses.  I’ve become a morning person, because she has no interest in sleeping once she’s seen daylight, and thus I have been cured of my lazy gradstudent sleep patterns. which were far less healthy.  I’ve pretty much cleaned caffeine out of my system, because I read that the half-life of caffeine in a newborn is three to five DAYS, and it just ain’t worth it.  And even though I haven’t quite lost all of the pregnancy weight yet, I’m just so thrilled to have something vaguely resembling my old body back, so that I don’t feel like a manatee.  And I’m having fun introducing all the wonderful things in the world to my daughter, seeing/hearing/smelling/touching them again for the first time with her. 

And Mr. DM and I are learning to adjust and redefine our relationship to make room for baby.  There’s no chance we’re going to get back to our perpetual slumber party any time in the next 20 years, maybe 25 as we hope to add a few more arrows to Mr. DM’s quiver before we’re done.  So we’ve got to be creative.  We’re learning that we have to be aggressive and determined in making time for us, because it’s not going to come about naturally.  And, we’re learning to accept each other, to not be angry/bitter at the other person for being as tired and frazzled as we are and therefore not in a really great position to bail us out.  Rather than expecting the other person to be the “strong” one when we need them to, we’re learning to be “weak” together, and to accommodate ourselves to each other’s weaknesses, and carry each other’s burdens.  The coldness and the snippiness are gone, and our fears are allayed.  We remember why we got ourselves into this, and it’s worth it.

And something in me just goes wild in the best possible way when I see him with Baby DM, watching him play with her, smile with her, or attempt to feed her.  (She isn’t really a big fan of bottles of expressed breastmilk, especially if she knows I’m in the vicinity with the real thing on tap, so these attempts have very mixed success.)  It stirs up something in me, and adds a whole new layer and dimension to my love for him, in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.  He is going to be a wonderful father–so gentle and patient and sensitive. 

 So that’s the personal update.  I’m sure the parts where I talk about my new life as a parent are laughable, as I’m sure I don’t really know anything yet, and that I haven’t seen nothing yet.  But it seems right to talk about how things look to me now, clueless as I am, and I suppose we can all look back on this post and laugh at me together when I am older and wiser.

And I will say something gay-related soon.  :)

32 Responses to Breeder

  1. JD says:

    This was excellent! I love your writing style. Congratulations!

  2. pam ferguson says:

    You are anything but clueless! The fact that you and Mr. DM have decompressed together and were able to communicate your way through to figuring out how the whole thing was affecting you is a testament to your wisdom right there. Many never ever get past that.

    You sound great and I’m really happy for you guys. My first was really cranky and collicky like that…it’s such a pain in the *ss….but….this to shall pass.

    Thanks for the update!

  3. Congratulations! Good to hear you’re doing well.

  4. NNR says:

    “Secretly, I was wondering what happened to the wonderful man I had married, and he was wondering whether I still loved him.”

    Amen to that. The missus and I had been married for 12 years before our little screamer showed up, so the gilt had certainly worn off the lily prior to the change in family structure, but still – that sensation of one’s relationship plummeting is enormously disconcerting. I have to say that I probably spent more time time disliking my partner than liking her for the whole first year, but luckily our relationship quietly drfited back to its usual equilibrium over the next year or so. It’s one of the big reasons I vascillate over having another, though. I actually quite *like* liking her, and don’t want to go back.

    You godly types certainly have a leg up when it comes to metaphysical question time, though. My 4 year-old has started being extremely interested in these rather deep questions like, when is the end of the world, and how could the first human have had a baby if she wasn’t a baby herself and in that case, who had her as a baby? My whole explanation of single celled organisms evolving into fish then humans is much less user-friendly than Genesis, I’m finding. I guess that’s what happens when you use an evangelical Baptist as a sperm donor!

    Anyway, I’m so happy for your almost-perfect baby. You should really do us a favor, and post a picture-

  5. Eve Tushnet says:

    :D :D :D

    *\o/*

    (that’s me waving pompoms for your family, in case you can’t tell!)

    I have exactly nothing useful to contribute so I will just say hi and will keep you & yours in my prayers!
    E

  6. The Sheepcat says:

    A wonderful post, DM.

    As for ostensibly wandering off the gay/exgay topic, surely it’s because of the goodness of sex under the right conditions that we need to guard against misuse of the God-given gift of our sexual potential. Stop me if I’m belabouring the obvious here, but Baby DM is literally the fruit of an act of love between you and Mr DM, in a way that can never be true of the product of artificial insemination or other technologies that two men or two women might use to give themselves a child.

  7. JD and Lynn, thanks. :)

    Pam,

    Yeah, we’re trying. We ain’t out of the woods yet, that’s for sure. But we’re trying. I never thought I would be grateful that Mr. DM loves to “process” and talk about feelings, but it’s coming in handy now.

    NNR,

    Yeah, I gotta admit, I do find myself wishing that we had had more time for just the two of us before the invasion–I’m a teensy bit envious of your 12 years. :) I often wish I had met Mr DM earlier and/or had been able to “appreciate” him sooner. But…I just turned 30 (ack!), and we’d like to have 3 or 4 kids–or at least we *think* we’d like to have that many, we’ll see how we feel after we get more experience :) –so, yeah. Clock’s a tickin’.

    I suppose we do have an advantage with more child-friendly answers to metaphysical questions. But I gotta admit the whole thought of spiritual upbringing makes me nervous. I guess I consider myself blessed that I was pretty much raised heathen–it means that I’m very clear on my faith and my beliefs and my values being my own. I see Christian folks who were raised Christian going through all this confusion as they get older, trying to sort out their own convictions from the ones they were immersed in growing up, and it looks like a mess to me. Still, my church would (rightly, I think) toss me out on my ear if I tried to raise her agnostic, so I’ll just have to figure out something.

    Eve,

    I’m trying to envision you waving pompoms, and it’s kind of freaking me out. :)

  8. Saul says:

    Great to know everything went well!

  9. ck says:

    Many, many congrats!!!

    And since a commenter slipped in something gay-related, I’ll do a mini-thread hijack here…

    “Baby DM is literally the fruit of an act of love between you and Mr DM, in a way that can never be true of the product of artificial insemination or other technologies that two men or two women might use to give themselves a child.”

    Be careful what you’re implying here, when these same technologies are used by heterosexual couples in what they would consider an act of love as well…

  10. NNR says:

    “Baby DM is literally the fruit of an act of love between you and Mr DM, in a way that can never be true of the product of artificial insemination or other technologies that two men or two women might use to give themselves a child.”

    That’s certainly true, I can’t tell you how much I wish that our beloved daughter could have been created by both my and my partner’s genes. But I’m pretty sure we adore her with all the vigor that Christian heterosexual couples that are infertile adore their donor-assisted offspring. So I suppose I don’t feel any more slighted by God than they do…

    As ck said, our act of love involved sacrifice (of time, money, pain from all the infertility treatments that I had to go through, and so on), and I have to say that I am proud to be able to tell my daughter how much her parents were willing to go through because we wanted her so very, very much. Sometimes having to work hard for something makes you appreciate your blessings when they arrive all the more.

  11. bridges says:

    Joanna,

    How about putting some photos up of the 3 of you?

  12. Jay says:

    I was just an outside observer when it came to my niece’s first few months of life, as my brother and his wife lived only twenty minutes away and my mother was being called over fairly frequently. It looked hard, but as she’s gotten older I there have been more and more moments that have made all the hard times worth it, and I know her parents have found a way to stay connected. They actually have another little girl coming in September, so obviously they must think it’s worth another go. Glad to hear from you, and take care!

  13. Karen K says:

    Hi there–I had fun reading the update. :) I appreciate your honesty too. I am sure if I ever became a mom it would freak me out–there is something so scary and profound being in charge of a newborn life.

    Anyway, its good to hear how you are doing. This is just a quick note as I sit at the Exodus Conference in North Carolina.

    (PS– I’ll explain the “troublemaking” soon)

  14. Joe says:

    It’s so great to read one of your posts again DM. Not being a father or a mother I have no wise words to say about parenthood other than to join Eve in waving poms poms for you and your family. :-)

  15. Sheepcat,

    Hmmm…to be honest…I’ve never quite understood how the coolness of reproduction is supposed to function in an argument against other kinds of sex. (Which is of course to say that I don’t really understand a lot of Catholic sexual ethics.)

    But yeah, I have definitely been appreciating God’s design in this. I think it is awesome that genetically she’s half me, and half Mr. DM, the man I love above all others and hope to grow old with. It’s like we were thrown together in a blender or something. There is something wonderful about that, and so far it’s the one big advantage to heterosexual lovin’ that I’ve found compelling. (In other respects, straight love seems to me to be an awful lot like gay love, at least in my own experience.) And yeah I think it’s wild that our sex made her, so that we didn’t have to resort to the aid of Baptists. ;)

    Saul and CK and Joe, thanks.

    NNR (sorry I didn’t answer this above) and “bridges” (???)–yeah, so Mr. DM is sort of anal about online privacy, so pictures are a no-go at this time. Sigh.

    Jay…thanks for your thoughts and observations. Yeah it’s hard but good. It’s just *different* from before, and I think that’s what we’re adjusting to. It’s all very grown-up.

    Karen,

    Thanks for appreciating the honesty. I hesitated about writing about the rough stuff so frankly…but it seems to me that the best thing this blog has going for it is my insistence upon telling it like it is, and I don’t want to lose that.

    I hope you’re taking good notes at the Exodus Conference–I plan to grill you when you get back. :)

  16. Kurmudge says:

    I’m envious, since our younger daughter is your age….

    But, as one who grew up Baptist, and deals with cutting-edge medical technologies and science all the time (I work for a major research university), I’m dying to see an explanation of what it means to “resort to the aid of Baptists”- that leaqves some very disturbing mental images ;-p

  17. Hi Kurmudge…I was just referring jokingly to what NNR said above about using a Baptist as a sperm donor.

  18. periphery says:

    DM, I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE BLOGGING AGAIN! I was concerned you would never write another post again.

    Two requests:

    1) In a comment above you say, “(In other respects, straight love seems to me to be an awful lot like gay love, at least in my own experience.)” Could you say more about this? And how does the similarity affect your understanding of your own choice to follow traditional Xian teachings on same-sex love (if at all)? I struggle with SSA but have pretty much decided to follow the traditional teachings on trust and have been in a straight dating relationship for a while now, and for me *difference* (the difference between my lesbian relationships and this straight one, and also, on a theoretical level at this point ’cause we’re not married, sexual difference) has been a factor in my coming to terms w/ the murky ethical question of same-sex relationships.

    2) Please don’t scrap the plan to write the “Their Pain” / “Our Pain” posts. They will be *so helpful*. I’m especially looking forward to the “Our Pain” post.

  19. wg says:

    As spring went into summer I would occasionally find myself wondering just how large your belly had become and whether it had popped yet or not ….. so was thrilled to hear all the updates. It is a special thing to hear the joy that comes through – even in your honesty of the challenges.
    beautiful!

    every blessing!!

  20. Periphery,

    Thanks for the encouragement–it’s nice to feel appreciated. Also cool to hear from somebody new and “meet you” a little bit through your blog. I’m on the tail end of a roadtrip to show off the baby to my extended family, but I should be back home and back to posting shortly.

    And conveniently, your two requests are things which have been on my mind as well, lately. :) So yeah…should be coming up soon. I do think I’m in the minority on my experience of the lack of “difference,” so I’m not quite sure what to make of that. It probably has something to do with my man being extraordinarily in touch with his feminine side. :)

    wg,

    Thanks. It got rather obnoxiously large by the end, even though she came a week early. I didn’t know what you were talking about when you told me that the last two weeks are sort of in a class of their own. But you were very, very right. I went from being scared of going into labor to being desperately eager for it.

  21. mary says:

    Baby DM is in good hands.

  22. It’s good to hear from you again! Thanks for the update.

  23. The Sheepcat says:

    Hi DM,
    Yeah, gotta watch out for those seed-spreadin’ Baptists. ;-)

    That awesomeness of Baby DM sounds to me like a pretty good way to approach Catholic teaching on reproduction.

    NNR, the Church does not deny your love for your child, nor does it lack sympathy for couples who experience infertility. But fundamentally a child is not a right which couples are entitled to claim through the use of any technology available, but a gift. Any use of in vitro fertilization, whether by same-sex couples or married couples, falls short of the proper dignity of procreation. (No matter how a child is conceived, though, of course we are called to respect and cherish his or her life.)

    DM, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to get your info on the Church’s sexual–and reproductive–ethics straight from the horse’s mouth, but I’d recommend Donum Vitae, by the then Cardinal Ratzinger.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

    Or the National Catholic Bioethics Center has a good summary here:

    http://www.ncbcenter.org/details_news.asp?idOfEvent=409

    Okay, back to Baby DM, please! And to gay-related stuff.

  24. The Sheepcat says:

    P.S. I hope the long URL above does not cause problems. I didn’t recall whether the ol’ approach would work.

  25. NNR says:

    Sheepcat, at least you’re consistent! I appreciate that you follow Catholic teachings on this subject, which are clear and relatively unambigous, but the majority of the Christian world does not agree with you (or Ratzinger) that using IVF is a sin anymore than the majority of Christians agree with Jehovah’s witnesses that blood transfusions are a sin. Most people consider both to be medical techniques to treat genuine dysfunction. Life itself is a gift from god, and yet we typically do not critcize those who use modern medicine to preserve or maintain it. Nothing falls short of proper dignity than the existence of someone in an ICU (note the enodtracheal tube, central intravenous line, urinary catheter, etc), and yet I do not condemn the pateient, their families, or their doctors for the attempt to preserve the life of a loved one. If one believes that god gives life and also takes it away, then meddling at either end is just that.

  26. DM, thank you so much for the update and for sharing the challenges of childbirth and particularly the rough patch that can come afterwards. Great to hear your voice again.

    Oh, and what’s wrong with back hair???

    peterson

  27. The Sheepcat says:

    NNR,
    I’ve just come across a short essay of Mark Shea’s that explains better than I can why you’re on the right track to be looking at the purpose of an intervention and yet haven’t quite caught the core meaning of Catholic teaching on the subject. As Mark says, he used to think the question was “At what level are we comfortable interfering?” He then came to realize, though, the key issue is rather whether we are cooperating with the Creator of human life.

    So far as I know, the Church doesn’t ever say that medical treatment is wrong simply on grounds of intrusiveness–if that’s what you perhaps mean by “meddling.” We must consider its purpose.

  28. LIz says:

    awww. Congratulations!!!! I hadn’t looked in on your blog much because it seemed like there wasn’t a whole lot going on. But I checked now and am glad I did. Take it easy and don’t expect perfection. One of these days I am going to do a series of blog posts about parenting/perfectionism and cruel expectations placed on new parents. I had a miserable time and it was largely because of the expectations I absorbed.

  29. Hey Liz, thanks. Shoot me an email when you write about parenting, will ya? I’ll try to keep an eye out for it, but I’ve had a rough time keeping up with everybody’s blogs lately. Heck, even my own.

    I think for me the hard thing isn’t so much perfectionism as it is the feeling that everything I do now is so…consequential.

  30. Janey says:

    Hi there,

    Isn’t being a mother a full time job? I mean, it’s more then just a job but do you know what I mean?

    If you can’t keep up on blogs and your own blog, I think that just means that your priority is being a mom. That’s to be commended.

    I sincerely hope that things are well with you and that you are finding the challenges of being a mom worth it.

  31. Jon Trott says:

    I loved this. Maybe part of it is because I’m one iteration ahead of you… my wife and I just became grandparents this past December. It is a wonder and an energy-zapper rolled into one.

    You, I know, will make a *great* parent. As will your husband.

    Blessings on the both of you from Carol and I.

    Jon

  32. Janey:

    Yeah, being a mom is totally my priority. But really I think my disorganization, slowness, and pride are the real culprits in keeping me from blogging. Even with the baby, there are slow times, when she’s contentedly amusing herself or taking a super-brief catnap, that I could take advantage of if I were a little more efficient and had lower standards.

    Things are well with me, except for the little hassles of life, as you can see from my next post. The challenges of being a mom are absolutely worth it. (I wish I could be more personal on the blog and show her off to you all, because I am so unbelievably proud.)

    I’m just trying to have it all, I suppose. I was starting to feel okay about myself as a bumbling mother who doesn’t get much else done until that perky go-getter Sarah Palin showed up and set off all kinds of issues for me. :) Grrrr…if I wasn’t a Democrat already…

    Jon:

    Hey, great to hear from you after so long. Congrats on becoming grandparents! Thanks for the encouragement, however unjustified it may be, and for the blessings. :)

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