Life

Baby Days

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about life in general.  Largely, it’s been good.  Although I will say that it’s a bit strange to be a stay-at-home mom sometimes.  I find that most of my day isn’t terribly interesting; always repetitive, even while it’s extremely rewarding.  All I need is a baby grin and I’m a happy mother.  Bonus points for one of those shrieking giggles he gives sometimes about unpredictable things.

Being a mother is also surreal, though.  Asher doesn’t look exactly like me at his age, but he’s close enough that things get strange in my head.  Especially when I’m sleep deprived.  I often get the sense that I am outside of time, scrubbing my own elbows in the whale-shaped bath, cajoling myself to eat peas, pulling my tiny self close at 3 am when I’m having a hard time sleeping, singing show tunes to calm my younger nerves.   I know logically that he’s not me, but the lines still blur.

It feels sometimes like I traded everything that made me interesting for a suitcase full of baby snuggles, but it never feels like it wasn’t worth it.  Baby snuggles are pretty great. Besides, I know it’s a temporary condition.  My mother and grandmother, both stay-at-home moms, are/were VERY interesting women.  And I sneak in interesting whenever I can, between the cracks of bottles, naps, and routine.  Brian, wonderful Brian, helps.

It’s summer, so Brian and I have been taking Asher on an adventure once or twice a week – hiking, to the Redlands Bowl, swimming… It messes up the baby’s schedule but I think it’s worth it for the way it breaks my monotony.  After all, if Mom isn’t happy no one is happy, right?  That’s what I’ve been told and I don’t intend to test the theory.  That and books are my saving grace.

I don’t know why motherhood is this oxymoronic bundle of easy, boring, and the hardest thing ever, but it is.  I’m continually looking forward to whatever this baby is going to do next, though.  That’s all I really wanted to say this week.

Also, just for kicks, I’m going to write down our daily schedule for posterity:

  • 6:00 am ish – Baby wakes up.  Brian or I feed him a bottle (whomever is more sleep deprived gets to sleep).
  • 6:30 am – Brian gets up and gets ready for work while I corral the baby.  He usually squirrels around and plays with his Totoro plush while I sing to him.
  • 7:00-7:10 am – Brian finishes getting dressed, so he corrals the baby while I get dressed and eat breakfast.
  • 7:40 am – Brian leaves for work and the baby is MINE.  I feed him and sing songs to him until he either gets fussy or finishes his tray.
  • 8:00 am – Asher plays for about an hour, doing mostly his own thing except that every 10 minutes or so he wants to climb into my lap and get kisses for a second before moving on to the next thing.
  • 9:00 am – Bottle and nap time.  This kid usually falls asleep while he’s eating, right on top of me.  I read quietly on my phone until he wakes up. He used to have another nap later but for the past few days this one has just been epically long.
  • 10:30 am ish – Baby wakes up and plays again, but this time I MUST BE RIGHT THERE for him to stand on or hug him.  He wants to be touching.  Unless he doesn’t.  But no really, he does.
  • 11:00 am – This kid gets another bottle, though he stays awake and hums at me through it. He plays when he’s done, crawling around the living room from toy to toy.
  • 12:00 pm – Brian comes home for lunch.  We swap out watching him, and I get Asher a tray when I’m done eating so he can have lunch himself.
  • 12:45 pm ish – Depending on the weather, Asher and I walk Brian back to work.  The baby usually falls asleep sometime during the walk, and (depending on the weather) I just park him under the shady tree in the front yard until he wakes up while I sit on the bench on the porch and read some more.
  • 1:30 pm ish – This kid wakes up and we head inside.
  • 2:00 pm – Baby gets another bottle, to which he usually falls asleep.  This one’s his long nap, and I can usually count on 1 1/2 hours from him.  Yesterday he slept for 2 1/2, though… When he wakes up, he plays.  He doesn’t care at all about me now, just wants to do his business on his own time.
  • 4:00 pm – Another bottle for baby.
  • 5:00 pm – Brian gets home.  After Brian’s changed out of his nice work clothes, I get a small respite from being “in charge.”  And if there’s anything I need to do on my own, I can do it.  I also often make dinner.
  • 6:00 pm – Everyone has dinner together, Brian and I at the table and Asher in his high chair.
  • 7:00 pm – The baby bedtime routine commences.
  • 8:00 pm – Asher is (usually) asleep by now.  The adults collapse in exhaustion in front of the TV.
  • 10:00 pm – The adults go to bed.  Or at least pretend to (if my book isn’t too diverting).
  • Sometimes Asher will wake between 3:00 am and 5:00 am in which case he’ll get a bottle before going back to bed in the pack-and-play in our room.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  It’s kinda a crapshoot. And that’s it!  Are you tired yet?

 

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Blue Gentian

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Well, thanks to Camp Nanowrimo, I finally have my act together on something.  It’s only been four days, but so far it’s given me the bit of a push I need to prioritize at least some of the writing.  Some days I don’t get much done, but it all adds up, right?  And at least I’m DOING something now…  We’ll see if that continues.

After much ado, I have some amazing news:

Blue Gentian is all formatted and ready to go.  I tweaked the cover a little bit font-wise, as you can see above, and the book will be available for pre-order on Amazon in a couple of days with a release date of August 1st.  I’m going to try and do a thing where at least one of those weeks is a week you can get the book for free (please consider leaving me an honest review if you do download for free). I decided a long time ago that I’m making writing career decisions based on getting lots of people to read my stuff and not based on monetary concerns.  After all, I have a day job.

To say I’m EXCITED would be an understatement.  I’ve been working on an iteration of this book since high school, and it’s finally here and as perfect as I can make it.  Those who have read it for me have been excited about it too.  I hope you’ll consider picking up the book when it goes live.

And thank you for following me here and paying attention to my writing.  It’s you as much as anyone that gave me the courage to get this book into the world.

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The Annual 4th of July Post

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I’m going to preface this entry by saying that I’m a closet rampant Christian.  Or, not closet exactly… I just believe that there’s many ways to reach God and that Christianity is a good one, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone as amazingly well as it works for me. So, I tend to keep quieter than some.  I mean, it’s not like you’re NOT gonna hear the message of Jesus in America today…

I’m putting in this preface because I’m going to get a little religious on you at the end.

I’ve been feeling like a big fuddy-duddy this year about the 4th of July, and if I’m feeling it you better believe it’s bad.  I’m usually all about breaking out the tricorn hat and ’76 flag while humming Stars and Stripes Forever and carrying a sparkler. But America IS NOT living up to what it should be in ways so profound that I’m not even sure we qualify as a democracy at this point.  A fascist oligarchy? Maybe.  Democracy?  I don’t know.  I’m hoping we can get back to a semblance of democracy soon.

I’ve always been a proponent of the fact that the 4th of July is a day to revel in the promise of America, the US that never actually can be because it’s an ideal.  It’s a day to party it up, think of freedom and founding fathers, listen to a little fife music, and gain stamina for the fight to make the actual US match the fantasy US.  If we bathe in the America that could be for a day, we can better work towards that actuality in the coming year. A little bit closer, the years bending toward justice.

I just didn’t want to do that this year.   I see the country standing for so much hatred to the point where we’re not even acknowledging the humanity of children.  Where do we even go from here? Is there a bottom lower than this one?  I don’t want there to be.  I didn’t want to ponder or celebrate America at all right now.

Still, in church this morning we had a little America celebration.  We sang My Country ‘Tis Of Thee and America The Beautiful among other things.  The sermon was on making apologies for deep wrongs.  I sat in that sanctuary, sang all the verses, and found that maybe I did feel okay about celebrating the 4th after all.  Because the Founding Fathers knew that this was a fraught experiment with potential for abuse, but they also knew their scrappy citizens who cling to liberty with both hands.

I want to point you to two verses in each of the songs from this morning:

O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee.
Till selfish gain no longer stain, the banner of the free!

Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.

I think that this 4th is going to be more of a religious holiday for me this year.  I’ll be praying for everyone to be crowned with brotherhood, for selfish gain to no longer stain the banner of the free, for God to protect us with freedom’s holy light.  I’m hoping that the fireworks will shine like a benediction on these prayers on Wednesday night as they light up the firmament.

And then on the 5th, I’m going to fight like hell again to secure the blessings of liberty for myself and my posterity.

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I’m probably crazy…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the cover poll. The results are in!

Forest: 20

Caped Heroine: 9

Sparkly Face: 4

So, it looks like I’m going with the forest one. I’ll play around with the fonts a little more and see if I can’t get something better, though, since there were a lot of comments on that.

I’m a little nervous about it. Everyone I know who does design liked the Caped Heroine best, and honestly that sort of thing is what I’m seeing from most self-employed published authors. Still, Forest has my heart, and evidently the heart of everyone who has read the book (thanks to everyone who beta’d, too!).

That’s the great thing about self-publishing, though. If Forest isn’t selling the way I’d like, we can replace with Caped Heroine and see if it does any better. Yay for total control!

Aside from a few minutes faffing around with stuff that’s already mostly done, I haven’t done any real writing in a VERY long time. In a bid of desperation, I’ve decided to sign up for Camp Nanowrimo this month. Yes, I’m crazy.

I’m trying to take it easy on myself, though. I’m calling this project “be a writer” and I’m giving myself 1000 words for every day I do something writerly. Updating the blog, editing, creating Blue Gentian’s cover, formatting, outlining, actually writing fiction, plotting, random notes and penguins and iguanas lists; anything counts.

It will be hard, especially since I’m so out of the habit and in summer school. But I have faith in me.

I want to get ready to put my next book out, now that Blue Gentian is all but finished. It’s about 1/2 way through draft 2 right now, and I have at least two more drafts before I can put it though Auto Crit and then show it to Brian. Major rewrites usually follow any Brian input, and then there’s beta reading… Basically I’m saying it’s a WHILE off, even if I do manage to get my act together. It’s called Easterbay, it’s set in Maine during the 1940s, and it features creepy fairies.

I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going. Stay tuned for more. Also, I’m Caseykins over at the Nanowrimo site if anyone wants a writing buddy.

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School

I am officially a stay at home mom these days. At least for the next year or so. How am I managing that on our pared-down lifestyle? I’m going to school.

I have been thinking about babies and careers for a long time now, and when it all came out in the wash, it came out English teacher. Not only are the benefits great and the hours conducive to kids, but I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days than surrounded by books and writing. I’m hoping my enthusiasm will be infectious.

I got my fieldwork assignment, though, and I panicked. Because somehow in the middle of all this, I forgot how much I loathed high school. Like, I hated it so much that I graduated in three years just so I wouldn’t have to be there anymore, only allowed because I threatened to drop out. And now I was going back? Voluntarily?

Careers and I have always been uncertain bedfellows. I have worked the longest at Disney costuming, and it took me years to realize it wasn’t going to work. I could put up with bad pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and the horrible commute. What tipped me over was the hours – 12 hour days, midnight parade rehearsals, never a break. In short, no room for children.

I remember feeling, on my last day, not exactly sad, but nostalgic. I looked back through the white steel gates to take it in one last time, the yellow swoop of the Team Disney building, the boxy windows of the Eat Ticket, the gray concrete parade building, where I worked, beyond. I watched dozens of people in different uniforms scan their passes and go though the gates. ‘you’ll never be a part of anything if this scale again,’ I told myself, not unhappy with the prospect but still lingering. Eventually I turned and drove home.

My first week returning to high school just ended. And it was ALMOST just as I had thought it would be, with one major difference. It was like attending your very favorite class in high school all day long. The kids were smart little assess. I enjoyed myself.

As supervisory teacher was showing me around the campus, the quad full of trees and planters, the tan cinder block buildings tucked under the mountains and the blue California sky, I found myself returning to that last day at Disney.

And I realized… I might be embarking on something of that epic scope again. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

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Songs and Rain

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It’s a strange combination of spring and winter in California right now.  The Roger’s Red, which I measure the seasons by, has begun sprouting silvery leaves again.  The lavender is blooming in my front bed, and the giant Maple in the front yard is all dappled with fresh green leaves as well.  But it has been raining a dreary drizzle for days now.

It reminds me of the winters when I was a child.  Our house was mostly windows back then, and the loudness of the rain falling made you feel like you were out in it while simultaneously being able to cuddle up under a fluffy comforter with a book.  Sadly, I can no longer cuddle up under anything and expect to read.  I have a small boy who needs constant holding and attention.  He already grabs my phone when I’ve been reading on my kindle app too much.

He’s surprisingly coordinated now.  Meaning that when he tries to put things in his mouth he gets them within an inch of his target, hitting his cheeks or his nose most times.  That isn’t what I would call coordinated at all a few months ago, but the fact that he could reach for something and grab it was a revelation, let alone put it mostly where he wants it.  He’s like a little birdy with his mouth, too, opening it wide for a pacifier, a plush toy, a fist, or a nipple.  He’s putting the whole world in his mouth.

I have discovered that if you put me alone in a room with a small child long enough, what results is silly songs.  I’ve been singing “He’s got the whole world in his mouth” to the tune of “whole world in his hands.” You can substitute the verse for whatever he’s currently eating.  “He’s got his mother’s knuckle in his mouth,” is a popular one.  So is “the sleeve of his onesie,” and “his green knit blanket.” But really you can substitute almost anything.  We’ve been trying to avoid “the sudsy washcloth” with more success than not.

I also have been singing him this song, to the tune of “I Hate to Get Up In The Morning.”  It’s based on true events.

Oh how I hate to get up in the morning/ oh how I’d love to remain in bed/ But when your son pees on all your fancy clothes/ you’ve got to launder all of those/ Or spend the rest of your life na-ked. 

Add that to the bevvy of things we’ve all pulled out of nowhere to sing him, and he’s going to have the strangest musical vocabulary ever.  Brian sings him “I Feel Pretty,” (he likes the “la, la, las,”) and my mother has been singing him the theme song to Daniel Boone.  I’ve been singing him Alan Sherman tunes amid musicals, hits from the 40’s and 50’s, girl scout camp stuff, and my own silliness.  He babbles back with smiles.

It’s harder being home with a kid than it logically should be.  I mean, feeding, changing, and playing aren’t theoretically difficult things, it’s just that they never end.  But being home with him is also more rewarding than I expected.  All I need is to launch into a version of “Look to the Rainbow” and feel this kid snuggle into my chest to feel like it’s all worth it.  Maybe days of bedding down in the rain with a book just got more social…

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Road Lessons

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I have two moments to rub together – a rare occurrence these days – so I thought I should take the time and get a blog entry up.  This weekend has been an eventful one.  Most notably because of baby’s first tire blow-out.

Yup.  I blew out a tire on the way to my mother’s house.  I must have run over something and gotten a flat, because the tires were brand new.  I had just loaded the twelve-million things I bring when I take this kid places into the car (stroller, Ergo, diaper backpack containing four diapers, two bottles, changing pad, three fresh outfits, and pacifier, child securely strapped into his seat, his sweatshirt, a knit blanket, a swaddle…) and merged onto the freeway when the car started to shudder.  I got off the freeway at the next exit, and just as I was pulling to the side of the road the passenger side dropped, started smoking, and made a horrible grating noise.  I thought for sure the transmission had dropped out of the bottom or something equally dire, and couldn’t think of anything I did for this new-to-me car to have collapsed so epically.

I pressed the red button for the flashers and got out of the car.  Relief.  Not only was the rear right tire flat, but it was shredded like a doughnut and completely separated from the rim.  That was the smoking and the drop.  The car itself was fine.  We were in a safe spot, and there was shade to wait in.  Tires are imminently fixable. I called for help.

AAA was wonderful.  The lady on the other end put a rush on the service request when she heard the kid screaming in the background, and then he and I went on a walk in the stroller down the street.  He fell asleep in contentment and stayed that way while the gentleman from AAA put on my spare.

The best part?  Well, there’s two of them:

One – I broke down in front of a Lowe’s and several construction workers and contractors came to check on me, concerned about the baby.  It restored my faith in humanity to see these beefy gentlemen so concerned about us.

Two – it was Anime L.A. this weekend and I was slated to take care of this kid ALONE all night for the first time ever while Brian ran midnight RPG games in Ontario.  It scared me to death.  But after handling a tire blow-out with aplomb, I knew that 3 am held no terrors I couldn’t overcome.  Mom’s got this.

Not the best afternoon ever, but definitely a moment that turned out to have good in it.  Tire repaired and we’re on our way.

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Fantasy, LeGuin, and Miscellany

I just heard the news that Ursula K. LeGuin died, and I am saddened beyond belief.  I think, like with Elie Wiesel, that I will need a while to gather my thoughts.  Right now, all I can think of is the books she wrote that I would recommend someone read, and it turns out that it’s all of them.  But she meant so much more to me than her literature, and to express that I will need time.

If you can get a copy, though, the one that sticks with me hardest today is her fake Ethnography of the Kesh people in post-nuclear California: Always Coming Home.  It’s a beautiful, odd, and terrifying thing that doesn’t read dystopic at all.  And of course you already know of the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness.

I have been trying to figure out a way to keep myself from going insane with boredom with nothing to do all day but hold a small boy, and I’ve been reading odd fantasy books: Maggie Stiefvater’s All The Crooked Saints (I cannot tell if I like this book or not because it was a hard one to love and yet it was so BEAUTIFULLY written…); Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (where she does everything they tell you not to do in a novel and it still ended up claiming me completely); and Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin (the best thing I’ve read since Uprooted last year, and the first thing I’ve been head over heels for since Robin McKinley’s latest). It feels good to contemplate other worlds, and I think I’ll continue.

I have been reading the books out loud to the baby when he’s awake, and I’m sure he’s thoroughly confused now since he gets only snippets of whatever passage I’m on when he happens to have his eyes open.  I’ll warrant that he’s getting a pretty good vocabulary, though.  And a knowledge of his people, since his big eyes and pointed chin have me half-convinced he’s a Fairy himself.  Or maybe just a changeling.

It might just be a coincidence in timing (or his elfin heritage), but Fantasy books seem to have him sleeping better at night.  He’s been letting us sleep a solid 4 hours at a time most evenings, and even a 6 hour stretch every once in a while.  I never thought 4 hours of sleep would sound luxurious, but it does.

I have also stopped doing strange things in my sleep now that he’s sleeping longer.  So far I have woken Brian up twice to ask him to take the baby when the baby had already been sleeping in his bassinet for at least an hour.  And then there was the evening where I tried to convince Brian that I was feeding the baby right now, when the kid was actually in Brian’s arms and yelling at me about not being quick enough with the midnight snack.  Parenthood is mostly a comedy of errors, I’m finding.  But at least it’s a comedy…

Next on the reading list is probably Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer.  But maybe I’ll get out some of my old LeGuin instead.  It’s been ages since I’ve read The Tombs of Atuan, or Voices – two I have read countless times in the past because they’re my favorites.

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A Hero’s Journey

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Between the new motherhood gig and Brian’s school schedule (it’s finals week), my life has been a little nutty.  Most of my time has been spent with a sleeping baby on my chest while I watch crap TV or read on my kindle so that Brian can do as much homework as possible.

Now that I have a few minutes, I thought about writing a big “this is birth” post, but I honestly don’t think that birth is as scary a deal as I thought it would be.  Yeah, it wasn’t much fun.  But I don’t feel like I’m a different person after coming out the other side.  Even though I had a c-section, my body feels better than it did the whole pregnancy, and never felt much worse unless the pain meds wore off those first three days.

So instead of a tell-all, I’ve decided that I’m co-opting Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey for the birth experience.  (This may be an indication of too much time on the couch).

But seriously, it fits pretty well.  And it makes me feel like an intrepid warrior for bringing back the “Elixir of Life” to the world at large.  I do get to be Aerin of Damar, or Ged, or Aragorn.  I get to be a hero.  It helps when I’ve been peed on for the fourth time today, or when I accidentally sleep in spit-up because I remembered to change the baby but remembering to change myself at 3 am is evidently beyond me.

  1. The Ordinary World: Fairly self-explanatory, I think.  This is everyone before they go on the pregnancy journey.
  2. Call to Adventure: The positive test.  You’re pregnant now, so you have to deal with that as your new reality, planned or unplanned as it might be.
  3. Refusal of the Call: After the third time you vomit all over yourself in the car, you’re definitely wondering if this pregnancy thing is worth it, and if you really want to continue.
  4. Meeting of the Mentor: Anyone who ever gave you advice – all the women who told you their birth story, all the people who gave you newborn soothing tips or shared info about breastfeeding.  There are many mentors on the way through the process.  Some of the advice is bunk, yes, but some of it is so helpful.  And I honestly found most of it to be good stuff.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The first time you feel those little fluttering kicks.  There’s a human that’s obviously alive in there now, and it changes everything. It makes the whole thing real.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: I consider this to be all the crap symptoms you have.  The peeing every 5 minutes, the hip pain, the bad sleep patterns, and all the other awfulness your body throws at you.  Your Allies are your doctor and your partner, hopefully.
  7. Approach: There is a moment in the third trimester where you know it’s getting real, and you start to panic a little bit that maybe you don’t know enough about birth, or you’re not ready to be a mother, or whatever else.  You read everything you can get your hands on, or scrub the tile grout to make sure it’s clean for baby.  It’s nesting, and preparing yourself for what’s ahead, even though  you don’t know what’s ahead.
  8. Ordeal, Death & Rebirth: This, of course, is labor itself.  It’s less tied to death than it was in the past, but it’s still a transformative experience that does involve some danger to both yourself and the life you’re bringing into the world.  This is creation, and it’s no joke.
  9. Reward: The reward is the baby.  Those sleepy little eyes, tiny red bow of a mouth, and addictive milky smell, and all the small noises they make.
  10. The Road Back: Your recovery.  And in some versions of the Hero’s Journey, this is also considered a “reconciliation with the father” moment.  Because we’re women, the Gospel of Casey says we get to reconcile with the mother as we become mothers ourselves.
  11. Return with the Elixir:  Go home with your baby in tow, and introduce the world to the new life you have discovered, the miracle you found in the facsimile of the underworld that is birth in this scenario.  You are bringing great change and miracles to the old way of life.

See, don’t you feel extra-awesome now?  I totally do. It makes me more than ready for the next adventure in the new life that is three of us intertwined instead of two. Even if inordinate amounts of time are currently spent pondering things on the couch while listening to a small boy snore.

 

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Victorian Confinement

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I’m nine days away from my due date today, and I have been pondering pregnancy in general.  I always used to tell Brian that I felt like we could handle this parenting thing.  I read a book about Victorian life a while ago and they had horrifying child-raising practices.  Dosing a baby with laudanum was common, and fruits and vegetables were considered dangerous for babies and toddlers until, like, 3.  If the human race survived the Victorian era, surely Brian and I could raise a healthy child in this one.  I mean, we’re already not going to give him any laudanum. That means we’re ahead of the curve, right?

The Victorian’s didn’t have it all wrong, though.  At least not among the upper classes…

I used to think that Victorian confinement was such a sexist practice.  Like, why can’t a woman go out in society that last trimester?  What’s so wrong or unnatural about being pregnant that she has to stay at home and hidden?  She can totally still do things.

Right about now, I’d LOVE me some Victorian confinement.  Three months in the house to just relax and only see my nearest and dearest?  Yes please.  I could stay in my pajamas all day long and read romance novels.  I wouldn’t have to worry about braving the hip pain on the staircase at work or picking the spidery elevator instead.  Didn’t sleep at night?  No problem.  Just sleep all day.  No dressing up, or trying to squeeze my feet into the one pair of shoes that mostly still fits.  I could still see my best friends and my family.  Sounds amazing, right?

How do we get back to that, guys?  I mean, I guess I’d rather have Paid Family Leave first, but once that’s over I vote that we lobby for the right to confinement next – 3 months off before your due date to just wallow in the symptoms, think about how great having a small baby around is going to be, and make the best of it.  I think it’s an important conversation we’re not having.

I stop working tomorrow, so I’ll have about a week of that goodness if this kid doesn’t come early.  I’m still hoping that he does, though.  He’s not even born yet, and I already know I’d rather have a small hand grasping my finger than enough sleep.

It’s going to be weird to be a parent.  Obviously what I need is 3 months of confinement to adjust to the idea of it all…

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