Sunday, March 07, 2010

Once upon a pair of wheels: an addition to Lyra's birth story

As we were driving over Highway 17 on our way to Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals, I reminded Brian that the speed limit past the reservoir is only 50 miles per hour, even though the road is wide and not too windy there. As he eased up on the accelerator, I apologized for my backseat driving, and he told me that that kind of reminder is a good thing. So I confessed that on the way to the hospital to have Lyra, I had really had to force myself not to backseat drive. Because as we'd headed up 101, there hadn't been a ton of traffic, but the two right lanes hadn't been moving as quickly as they might have, and I had spent the time between contractions wondering why he just didn't move over and get there faster. He explained that he'd been nervous and Eva had been following us in her car, and it seemed better to move a little slower.

"I kind of knew that. That's part of why I didn't say anything at the time. And also because I was pretty sure I couldn't say it nicely, so I just kept my mouth shut."

"Okay, you have to add this to the birth story," he told me.f

"You mean admit that I always want to be a backseat driver, even when I'm in labor?"


Consider it done.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Elephant seals at Año Nuevo

For the first month of Adriana's life and then Lyra's I compared myself to an elephant seal. Somehow I had retained knowledge from a fifth-grade lesson and field trip to Año Nuevo that the mother elephant seals lie on the beach and nurse their babies for a month straight, not eating anything. I did at least get to eat (this time around I consumed ridiculous amounts of chocolate milk and peanut butter toast), but it felt like I did nothing but nurse for that first month. Oh, and I remembered that once the mothers go back to sea, the pups that remain are called "weaners" (and that the ones that manage to nurse from more than one mother and get extra big are called "super weaners"). In fact, now that I think of it, I probably only remember the thing about the weaners from the fifth grade. I probably picked up the bit about the nursing eight years ago when we visited the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery on our honeymoon (which I actually enjoyed a lot more than Hearst Castle).

At any rate, I've been feeling a special kinship with elephant seal cows, so when one of Brian's former colleagues who works as a docent at Año Nuevo offered us an "after hours" tour of the beach, I jumped at the chance, figuring that there had to be a way we could manage the hike with a toddler and an infant. We checked a couple of children's books about elephant seals out of the library to help get Adriana interested, and Brian put her in the frame backpack carrier (which had been sitting unused in our closet for at least a year) to confirm that she was willing to sit in it and that he could manage her weight now. It was rainy the morning of the tour, and I read that San Mateo County was closing beaches due to the tsunami watch, but it was supposed to be clearing up by our tour time, and Brian called the visitor center to check that they were still open, so off we went.

As it turned out, the rain was a very good thing, because the sand on the dunes was wet and easier to walk on. Our drive over the hill was very wet, but it was beautifully sunny as we turned to head up the coast, one of those gorgeous days with spectacular views that made me marvel that we are so lucky to live here (and lament that we no longer live at the beach), and we found that we didn't need all the layers of clothing we had brought. I was glad to have a maternity fleece with me, as it fit neatly around Lyra, who I was wearing in a Moby wrap.

The elephant seals were fantastic. Federal law requires that people stay at least 25 feet away from the seals, but they were everywhere, even up on the dunes, so it was sometimes hard to stay that far off. Most of the cows have already gone back into the ocean, so we didn't get to see any nursing mothers. We did still get to see lots of the weaners (and I did not giggle every time our guide said that--not loud enough that i could be heard, anyhow), including getting to watch one play around in the water. We got to hear the belching of the bulls and the funny squealing of the pups.

With the cows gone, many of the pups seemed a little bit lonely: one was snuggled up to a bull (who probably simply hadn't noticed the pup was there), and others were piled on top of one another in cuddle puddles.

We got a few good looks at the funny faces of the males, and the cute faces of the weaners.

Adriana handled the walk pretty well. She liked being in the backpack for a while, but she did want to get out. She had one meltdown that was partly hunger related and resolved relatively quickly with the help of a chocolate Clif bar. She did pay some attention to the elephant seals, but when we did let her out of the backpack for a bit, she was mostly interested in writing letters and building in the sand.

One bonus of going on this "after hours" tour was that when we were heading back we got to see the fog coming in, and, since we were walking straight toward the hills, we saw the nearly full moon rising between the peaks and disappearing quickly into the clouds above, and when we turned to look behind us we got to see a spectacular sunset.

The drive home was gorgeous, too, or at least the part from the reserve back down to Santa Cruz. Everything is so green from all the rain, and the hills to our left were deeply green in the twilight, looking gorgeous against the clear, dark sky with the moon glowing white over everything, making it bright enough still that we had a view of the ocean to our right. I wish I had a picture of that, but instead I will have to just hold on to the peaceful feeling the colors and the light gave me.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Two months

I read somewhere a description of life with kids: the days drag on and the years fly by. I thought that was true with one, but it is standing out so clearly to me now with two. Each day I am going back and forth between two people who need me, trying to balance and juggle those needs, while trying to have fun with them. And at the end of each day we have had fun, but I am tired and watching the clock and wondering if I'll ever be able to get anything more done than just keeping us fed and moderately clean. Still, I'm also shocked to find that it's already been two months. I see the brand new babies of friends, and Lyra, who was 11.5 pounds and 23 inches long at her checkup on Tuesday, seems so big, and I find myself missing having a little baby. I remind myself of that while I try to keep Adriana out of trouble while she helps me in the kitchen at dinnertime, and I catch myself wishing that Lyra were big enough to be carried on my back, instead of on my front, which makes cooking awkward. Then I chide myself for wishing her bigger, wishing away this time with my tiny one.

Lyra spends so much more time awake now, and I know I said that when I was writing a month ago, but at least now she seems more happy about waking up to the world around her. We get big smiles now--beautiful gummy baby smiles--when she is in the bath, when she is eating and pulls away for a moment to look at me, and sometimes when she's just awake and happy. She coos, too, which is interesting and fun for me, as Adriana never did much of that.

There are times when she fusses and cries, of course, and, as with Adriana, I wonder how on earth parents of colicky babies manage to cope, because after five minutes of crying we are usually in a panic, because clearly something must be horribly wrong. Even though the solution is always the same, we still can't quite remember it at first, so I try feeding her again and we change her diaper, and maybe even her clothes, because what if there's a tag or a seam somewhere that's bothering her? And then we rock her and bounce her and start over again, until one of us remembers that Oh! The last time this happened, putting her in the pouch worked! So we get the pouch and drop her in and within a minute of being held close and tight like that, she is content again.

In that way she is very much like Adriana. I remember someone commenting to me when Adriana was only a few weeks old that she seemed to be a very needy baby, always wanting to be held, and even at the time I marveled that that would seem like a very big need. I mean, if being held is all that it took to make her happy, I thought I had it pretty easy. I get the same feeling with Lyra. Yes, she needs to be held a lot, but now with Adriana not wanting to be held some of the time when I would love to hold her (and, of course, demanding I hold her at times when it is highly inconvenient for me), it seems more important to snuggle Lyra while I can. We do still keep commenting on the differences between the two girls, though: Lyra loves her bath and coos when she is happy and awake, as I've said, but she also loves "tummy time," which Adriana generally seemed certain was a terrorist plot, and when I had a dentist appointment last week, Lyra willingly took a bottle the first time it was offered, while we tried for months to get Adriana to drink from one before giving up and wondering why we'd even cared.

Not that I'm going to be giving Lyra a lot of bottles. Nursing is still one of my favorite parts of this stage. I mean, Adriana is still nursing a little bit, too, and that's nice, but there is something special about cuddling a little baby when she is hungry, watching her close her eyes and relax in my arms, feeling how tiny and warm she is, that I can't really explain. I get a little less of that this time as it is, since half the time I'm nursing I'm also reading Pooh stories to Adriana or helping her put together a jigsaw puzzle. And that just makes me appreciate mornings like today, when Lyra and I were the first ones up and we snuggled together in the arm chair while she ate, even more.