Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My children. They are trying to kill me.

This is Jack, who rolled out of bed at 4 a.m. ready to party.

Okay, maybe that's not entirely accurate. He screamed from his crib at 4 a.m., so I ran out of bed (like a bear runs, a bear who cusses a lot) and snatched him before he woke up Harry. Only I was too late, and Harry popped up from the mound of blankets in his fire truck (where he now sleeps with a huge brown teddy bear he named Noah) and said, "I'm not tired."

"Yes you are," I growled, and he laid back down.

Jack, though, came back to our bed. He is not a good cosleeper. Not at all. Every time I drifted back to sleep, he cracked me in the head with his head, or rolled feet first over the side of the bed, or broke into hysterical cries for DADA! He eventually crawled across my face to Ben's side of the bed and snuggled up with him and snored. Ben and I finally closed our eyes and fell asleep only to be awakened by my alarm four minutes later.

I was really annoyed from the second I brought Jack in. Yesterday morning, Harry sprang out of bed at 5 a.m. and woke everybody the hell up and cried like a crazy man when we made him go back in his bed, which made Jack shriek in his crib, and Ben and I laid resolutely under the covers pretending to be immune to the noise until 6 to prove a point which is a really stupid thing to when the people you want to show up are 22 months and 3.5 years. So this morning, I practiced my deep breathing techniques.

(The ones I learned from the nice therapist I saw when I lost my shit after Jack was born, and it seemed like a good time to dust off these techniques because I could feel my shit slipping away again as I laid there awake at such an unholy hour. This worked okay until Ben wagged his finger at me while we were both crammed in the bathroom getting ready shoulder to shoulder because Jack was still snoring it up in our bed and said I shouldn't get so tense about sleep. I screamed at him that of course I know that already or I wouldn't have been doing relaxation breathing! He looked at my sweaty red face with an eyebrow cocked as if to say "yeah, that's working out real good for you, huh?")

I tried to remind myself that this extra ninety minutes of cuddle time with my thrashing, screamy toddler who did not want any covers on himself and did not seem to want us to use blankets either even though the bed is right next to a wide open window (cracked open, really-- we like a cold bedroom, what can I say? Also we are very wasteful.) was a special treat-- the gift of time to enjoy my fragrant baby, who gets bigger every day. I inhaled his sweet hair and kissed his fat fingers when they slapped my face again and again and again with surprising force. I counted five breaths in, held my breath for a count of four, and blew out six breaths. I did this 100 times, until I could feel myself relaxing, but it was hard to unclench my jaw and believe the bill of goods I tried to sell myself.

I know that I will spend very little of my life as the mother of a small child. These stubby toes and curved cheeks and tiny, urine scented bodies will not always be pressed against me in the dark. I have year and years to sleep late and sleep soundly all night long. But shit, I'm tired.

Who's not tired? Mr. Freaking Bright Eyes at 5:45. Although maybe he is because he seems to have some under eye shadows. Which could be fixed with MORE SLEEP. Also, Benefit Eye Bright is not too bad.

Woo-hoo! Diaper change!

Corrine wrote a lovely post about looking back on awful days and seeing that they were actually beautiful. With her words in mind, I took some pictures of Harry and Jack playing yesterday morning because they looked cute in their winter sweaters that we're trying to wear as much as possible before spring sneaks up on us and renders their wardrobes unwearable.

Jack needed a break mid-change to read a few books. Look at his long baby legs.

I love Harry's blurry hand-- he's never quite holding still.

I wish could describe the noise that comes out of this thing.

I am giving a talk at the law school next week, and I need to work on it, or else I am just going to walk up to the front of the room and stand silently for 45 minutes, which would be some nifty performance art, but wouldn't say a lot about race and reproductive rights in the 20th century. I am a little nervous because the subject of the talk (not chosen by me--that's what the group asked me to speak about) corresponds to the chapter of my dissertation that my committee liked the least. Also? They want to know about history, and I am going to tell them about rhetoric, a distinction I often had trouble maintaining in my text.

In addition to the Planned Parenthood documents I use in my diss, I am also going to talk about some letters Margaret Sanger received from desperate women in the December 1917 Birth Control Review because they are so heart rending. Like this one:

"I'm a poor married woman in great trouble and I'm writing to you for help. I was married in June 1915, and I have two children little boy 21 mon. & a girl 4 mon. and I will be only 17 years old this month and Im nearly crazy for when my husband finds out that Im going to have another baby he will beat the life out of me."

The point I want to make is that when you are talking about birth control, the notion of "control" is never cut and dried. While it is true that racist, classist, and eugenicist ideology permeated the national birth control movement since its inception, it is also true that women of all races WANTED to know how to control their fertility. I feel like because we are so used to the modern reproductive rights movement (which is just a nice name for the abortion debate), we don't always think about how we got here and the kinds of rhetorical parallels that exist between birth control at the turn of the last century and reproductive rights today. Desire for access is still, I think, a unifying theme. Feminists in the 1920s were also saying the same kinds of things about women's roles and the role of the economy in shaping reproductive choices that anti feminists (or at least really conservative feminists) say today, which is another similarity I want to highlight. My students this semester think Margaret Sanger was the (racist, classist) devil, and I want to offer a more nuanced reading of her activism, too. There were important ways in which eugenics helped credential women as mothers (although the ideology could never be feminist because women were, at the end of the day, just around for breeding) and Sanger's partnering with eugenic interests was about more than racism and shrewd politics (but it was about those things as well, of course).

Cool. I'm going to get to work while my coffee buzz lingers.


  1. Sarah I am totally with you on the whole sleep thing. It's tough to remember to enjoy their baby moments when you're wishing they would lay still and go to sleep! But you're right- these days do go by too quickly. Your kids are adorable...try to remember that at four am!

  2. I say stand there silently for 45 minutes. Just be sure you're wearing heels, a tiara, and a pithy pageant banner reading something like "Miss Family Values."

    I'm going to have to read this post like 5 more times before I can respond to it with any... Yeesh the only word I can think of is "smarts." Case in point.

  3. it's one thing to 'know' you shouldn't get all caught up in the sleep thing. it's another thing to never have a night where you justwantthemtosleepfortheloveofgod!

    I totally get that. I get that almost every night when Ethan wakes up at midnight and I stumble over to his bedroom so he can smack me in the head for the next 7 hours. I also do a lot of deep breathing exercises.

    Good luck w/ your presentation!

  4. I am a bear in the morning. An angry bear who refuses to talk when the girls wake up too early. Elisabeth has learned not to taunt the bear, but Julia is still learning.

    I heart reading your posts about birthing rights and women's rights and whatnot. It makes me want to learn.

    I know we take it for granted, the whole birth "control" thing, but I am sooooo thankful for it. Because I'm a pretty fertile lady. And if I didn't have any options but "family planning", I'd have a whole brood of children. I would not be okay. It's not that I wouldn't love them, because I would, but I really believe that my sanity would slowly dissipate with time.

  5. This was a good post to read after a morning that culminated in me calling Ryan to tell him how excited I am to go spend a few hours with a bunch of twenty-year-olds. Will I really miss the insistent, repetative yelling over EVERY LITTLE THING? Probably not, but I will definitely miss being able to provide all their needs so simply.

    I am a total bitch on not enough sleep too.

  6. "laid resolutely under the covers pretending to be immune to the noise until 6 to prove a point which is a really stupid thing to when the people you want to show up are 22 months and 3.5 years."
    This is me every morning. Jack's not allowed out of his room until 7 no matter what time he wakes up (recently, back to pre-5 a.m.) and Emmie doesn't even know how to tell time, but we make her stay in until 7 as well. Mean, mean, meanies we are. We just ignore the protests from Jack and threaten he won't get an M&M and we appease Emmie with a few books.

  7. Sarah--what I am about to write is the gods-honest-truth. I am the MEANEST person when I'm half awake. Think of mean and then double it. It's like something takes over me and I can't control my actions because I will say the darndest things in order to get more sleep and quiet. I thought I would change with kids--oh no. Just ask Bella.....she had an accident in her bed EARLY this morning and with one eye open I hosed her down in the shower and put her in my bed and demanded silence. DEMANDED. OMG. I'm awfuL! I'm going to borrow your breathing techniques cuz if Mia headbutts me one more time I think I'll go apeshit.

    Hmmm. Good luck on the conference, hope you get a good nights sleep :)

  8. Before having my baby, I thought that a lack of time and high stress levels would be the biggest challenges to being a working mom. Now, I realize that it's totally a lack of sleep. It just makes everything harder. And my dissertation will certainly not get any closer to publication until I get more than 3 hours of sleep in a row.

  9. My kids must be channeling yours. Up anywhere between 3 & 5... we're so dragging. Naptime yesterday was at 8:30.... you know what it's like ;)
    I'm going to have to try your deep breaths thing...

  10. I am glad AJU5 has chosen to sleep in until 6:30t he past few days, but those 4:30-5:30 mornings really killed me a few weeks ago! Hang in there. Hopefully it is just a phase!

  11. Oh, I sooo remember these days. What I've learned is that with baby #1, I rocked and sang and did all the sweet mommy things to get her to sleep and it backfired big time. She's now 8 and STILL gets up a ton of times.

    My boys? Laid them down. let them cry. If it got bad, I went in, firmly told them it was sleepy time, laid them back down and they go to sleep. Those boys are amazing now.

    I am MEAN when I'm not sleeping enough. Really mean. So I feel your pain.

    Still, I love a baby cuddle... :) I hope you get some rest!!

  12. (stumbled upon your blog via academic chic comments) Really interested in what you say about Sanger. Marie Stopes is an ancestor of mine & the debate about her in this country (UK) is often focused on eugenics. She also received heart-rending letters (published in "Dear Dr Stopes").

    Anyway. Babies! Cute! Sleepless nights! Horrid!