Friday, July 18, 2008

Holy Books

When I first found out there was a baby on the way (after I had become partially functional again) I approached the situation in much the same way I approach most of life's experiences; I read absolutely anything I can get my hands on in lieu of actually experiencing things for myself. That way I can sit back and rattle off any information I managed to remember as if I were some kind of expert when in fact I've really got less than no idea what I'm on about. Faking it; my quick-fix solution to almost all of life's little dilemmas.

Not this one however. There exists, in book form and online, an unending library of writing on pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. It's all very similar, vaguely patronizing, way too schmaltzy, and very clearly aimed at people who in no way resemble me. I still read it all, but it really didn't make me feel any more comfortable in my situation, which is usually the desired effect of exhaustive research. There were, however, a few anomalies; a small collection of interesting works that did end up being of help one way or another. I thought I'd share those with you.

My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills

This book's tagline is 'A parenting book for the rest of us,' and after reading publication after publication aimed at some kind of mid-30s, happily coupled, well-to-do, go-getting young executive yuppie-type scum, I was beginning to desperately wonder if there really was a 'rest of us' at all. Fears that a child would inevitably transform my endearingly chaotic life into an unbearable parade of nuclear familial bullshit were mercifully put to rest by the amazing Jessica Mills.

A musician in a handful of bands, including Anarcho-Ska outfit Citizen Fish - a personal favourite of mine - Jessica's book is half personal journal and half practical guide, making it both a gripping read and a truly useful resource in the trenches. She chronicles with brutal honesty and beautiful exuberance train-hopping cross-country trips, regular punk rock shows, a commitment to social activism, and a healthy personal life, all with her new baby along for the ride.

Coming after books concerned with how baby is going to effect your rise to upper-management and trading the Porsche in for a family-mobile, this positive account of raising a child in a life that actually resembled my own was true medicine for my panicked, rapidly collapsing mind.

You can pick it up from local co-op non-profit bookshop Katipo.

Baby's First 100 Days by Margaret Stephenson-Meere

This tiny little book might just be the most useful 80 pages I ever read. Nothing fancy here, just descriptions of what your baby is doing, why, and what to do when it happens. This is something that should come with your baby, like out of the womb, it's that necessary. Because, and I know I've said it before, no one tells you what to do!

It does get a bit spiritually wanky with chakras-this and Noah's Ark-that, but a little misguided (and oddly schizophrenic) nonsense is a small price to pay for realizing you're jamming a nipple in your kid's face when what she really wants is sleep.

The kindly ones at Plunket can hook you up with this book, support them; they're good folk.

The Future Generation by China Martens

Something of a companion piece to Jessica Mills' book, this is a collection of 16 years of radical parenting zines. As such it doesn't function quite like a how-to guide but more a collection of individual experiences and reflections. The book retains the idiosyncratic character of personal zine, complete with terrific black-and-white photocopied art, and is infused with political ideals and personal action - a great read whether you're having a kid or not.

It can be ordered direct from AK Press.

Slam by Nick Hornby

OK, so this isn't a parenting guide or anything like that, it's just a regular novel. But I love Nick Hornby and I stumbled across this book at a particularly important time. When I was still suffering under the heavy shock of discovering I was having a child I noticed that a rather weird (and at the time quite annoying) phenomena started to occur; no matter where I looked everything had suddenly and simultaneously become about babies. The TV shows I watched, the conversations I overheard, the films I went to see, the commercials on the radio, the news, the net - where just weeks ago all this stuff with which I filled my life had been completely bereft of infants, suddenly they were everywhere.

This may well have all been in my mind (though I did have a friend mentioned they had observed it too... I guess it's only there when you're looking - or trying not to in my case,) but it was pissing the hell out of me. This baby was happening, it was inevitable, and I had accepted that - but I didn't want to have to think about it all the time. In fact not at all would have been ideal, but certainly not when I'm doing all the stuff that usually makes me happiest.

Obviously, that is a mentality only a true jackass could sustain and I needed it kicked right out of my head - which is where Slam comes in. I picked the book up at a second-hand book store because I'm a big fan of the author and it was cheap. Little did I know that the story was all about some stupid 16-year-old who accidentally knocks up his girlfriend (the blurb on the back made no mention of this - it was all cryptic stuff about Tony Hawk - or else I wouldn't have picked it up!) Still, by the time I realized the story was basically about me (while I'm a little older than the main character I've never considered my maturity to have exceeded the level of a 16-year-old,) I had committed to the book.

Now, in Hornby-terms I'd like to think of myself as more of a Rob Gordon, but for the few weeks it took me to stop acting like a total jerk about my situation I was definitely more of a confused, angry, scared young Sam Jones. It's kind of embarrassing for this English major to admit that this wee Young Adults book helped clear things up for me, but screw it, I love Nick Hornby.

So there you have it, there's probably a load of other decent books on the subject out there but those are the ones that offered me a little something to hold on to. Check them out if you're at all interested because, lets face it, reading is for nerds and nerds rule (man, what am I going to do if my son ends up a sports fan?)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More News from Nowhere

Very little time for blogging at the moment, not only am I adjusting my home life to a 24/7 cabaret of bodily fluids and frenzied crying turned to 11, but work just got bumped up a notch too; I'm now managing my store on a 9-5 schedule just like a real person. I feel like such a bloody citizen. With my magazine stuff on top of that it's kind of hard to even find time to pass out.

Yet still you hunger for my wisdom, and so I comply. Hunter's new favourite thing is puking. In a strange coincidence, puking has also recently become one of both Mama's and my least favourite things. It was particularly distressing when the doctor floated the idea that the little guy's vomiting might have gone beyond mere recreation; that some kind of evil stomach thingy might be stopping the nourishing breast juice from getting where it needed going.

The only solution to that particular quagmire would have been a surgical procedure that would leave a gigantic (though admittedly very tough looking) scar down the baby's stomach. Y'know, like what you filthy meat-eaters do to pigs and the like.

Luckily Hunter rode that wave of spewtilation out and is back to throwing up a regular amount (which is still, like, a lot.) But damned if those doctors don't have an uncanny ability to make you feel both incredibly helpless and terrified all at once... really makes one wish they hadn't quit smoking.

We are due our last midwife visit on Monday, which will be sad because Anne is amazingly cool; and I'm not just saying that because she basically told us our baby is a super-genius possessing disproportionate strength and a smile like a switchblade (I may be paraphrasing.) I'll probably report back on how that milestone goes, but for now- back to the grind.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy (hypothetical) Birthday!

In a neat and orderly world, Hunter would have been born today. Of course, in a grubby and thoroughly unimpressive world he is three weeks old today.

I imagine it to be inevitable that, some time down the road, our Hunter will meet with this dark Hunter from an alternate reality in which things happen perversely as planned, engaging in grim battle. Who would win this meta-fracas I couldn't say but the struggle would no doubt ring through the hallows of time at least as dramatically as the culminating scene in Time Cop (and if we're being totally honest, our Hunter is probably dark Hunter.)

Anyway, here's what Hunter managed to achieve in his three bonus weeks in the world:

  • Listened to the greatest album ever recorded, The Clash's London Calling, at the impressionable age of 0 years, 0 months, 0 days, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds old.
  • Watched his first television show (on DVD of course, no nasty subliminal advertisements for him yet;) the pilot episode of 'Firefly' - he's already a brown coat for life.
  • Went on a bus three times; never anywhere exciting but, y'know, baby steps.
  • Projectile vomited an impressive distance.
  • Visited the comic book shop, hell yeah!
  • Was instructed on the finer differences between skanking and moshing (he didn't really get it, but these things take practice.)
  • Invested a hefty chunk of time in mirror gazing.
  • Went for a trip to the soul-crushing supermarket and made it out alive.
With all this experience under his belt due to an unholy early arrival, I figure alternate-reality Hunter will be well and truly on the back foot when the time comes. Happy shoulda bin Birthday, wee man!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sleep is for the Weak

As our cliffhanger teased last installment, faithful viewer, week 2 in Hunter-land went a little smoother. The again, Robert Downy Jr.'s career path was smoother than our first week, so that's not saying a great deal.

Hospital visits ceased - which was fantastic because we weren't really making any friends over there - but that's not to say the Hunter had slacked off on finding ways to make us worry. An infected finger led to course of antibiotics, which has quite possibly led to thrush. It also made one of Hunter's favorite pastimes - jamming fingers in mouth - rather inconvenient, as neither the caustic cream or bug-ridden rotting flesh are considered particularly good for a burgeoning digestive system. Still, he struggles on.

While we clearly remain in the remedial class as far as parent school goes, we are slowly getting the hang of handling this little monster. He's down to waking up just once or twice on a good night, gradually accepting that his bed is for sleeping in, and timing his feeding and purging to a lose schedule. Bare in mind, of course, that this progress exists entirely in my head and to the casual onlooker our parenting style still probably resembles the rearing equivalent of freestyle jazz interrupted by retarded thrash music.

Still, when one considers the little devil isn't even supposed to have been born yet I figure he's gotta be at least a little ahead of the curve - listening to good tunes, being waited on hand and foot, and being passed from one adoring on-looker to the next has got to beat a few more weeks cramped up in the womb.

Tune in next time when we sing songs of praise to the gods of Plunket, defeat the nefarious arch-villain Nappy Rash, and make fun of other people's uglier babies! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.