Monday, October 22, 2007

My bonnie lies over the ocean

A funny:

One of the songs I thought to sing to Josephine was "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." I had the first part down:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean

But then I couldn't remember the melody of the next line. I knew the words, but I couldn't attach them to the right notes. I could also remember everything after that one hateful line:

Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me

Egads! It's not exactly a difficult tune. This is, I thought, my personal idea of hell. After all, I have a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in opera singing. But I could not, for the life of me, think of how to sing the line "Oh bring back my Bonnie to me". This discomfort made me sing it even more incorrectly -- and over and over -- in an attempt to find the melody. I could almost hear it, but for some reason I couldn't get it out of my mouth.

So finally I called my dad -- known for his twist but not so much for his vocal stylings -- and had him sing it. Well, he didn't quite have it either, but we went back and forth and back and forth, and I finally found it. We laughed about it, and he, of course, wondered about all that money spent on voice lessons and college degrees -- sigh. It took me another two days of singing it wrong then right to finally be able to do it consistently. What a triumph.

I was so excited to sing it to Josephine and to rock and sway with her just like the very ocean itself. I could imagine her big toothless grin and fancied it might even earn me a giggle. I sang it for the first time correctly straight through and what did she do? She burst into tears.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Big shots

For the second time in four months, I held my daughter as the pediatrician gave her three vaccinations. These two moments have been, by far, the most unpleasant of my brief experience as a mom.

First, I should say how much I like our pediatrician. Besides his excellent credentials and the glowing references from other moms, he's just a nice guy. I remember thinking when I interviewed him that he's a person I wouldn't mind seeing just a few hours after giving birth. He makes time for as many questions as I have and doesn't make me feel stupid -- other doctors should take note. He's really fast with the injections, but it doesn't make it any better. Josephine lets out wails unlike any other in her repertoire, which widens by the day. Part of it is clearly shock, because until that moment, she is being cuddled and played with -- but part of it is just plain, ol' physical pain. She turns red and hot. She remains fussy for days.

The pediatrician believes emphatically that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. He dismisses the possibility of a link to autism, the rate of which is much higher in New Jersey than in other states. He even endorses the much debated cervical cancer vaccine for young girls. I am not looking forward to making a decision about that -- the commercials for it turn my stomach. I have seen the pharmaceutical salespeople pitching it to my primary care physicians, and I'm just so skeptical. The next big shot for Josephine, however, is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), the vaccine most debated by the mothering community.

The television actor Jenny McCarthy has recently written a book about her experience in dealing with her son's diagnosis of austism. I am eager to read her book and weigh it as Josephine grows through the vaccination years, especially since we live in New Jersey. Once dismissed as a blonde bimbo and now dismissed as a wacko-mother, Jenny believes there to be a strong connection between a vaccine and her son's autism. Her general theory, as I understand it, is that a kid's system is like a big pot. Each kid has a certain amount of toxicity, allergens, etc. that will fit into her pot. Once that pot overflows, symptoms of the autism spectrum can occur. The medical community is in a huff, of course, but doesn't this theory on some level make sense?

Lately in medicine, it is what we don't know that bothers me, or rather the fact that we clearly don't know something but are given instructions as to how to deal with it. Doctors seem too eager to say that this or that is the prevention, the treatment, the cure -- even though we don't really know. We are given prescriptions upon prescriptions without looking deeper and wider at the cause of dis-ease. We are given definitive instructions based on approximated analyses, and frankly I'm not satisfied. I wonder why so many are.

As an infant, my daughter can't speak for herself, but if she could, I know she would tell me she doesn't like being vaccinated. It's not that she's worried about the trace quantities of thimerosal; it just hurts. This alone isn't a reason to avoid it, but are growing autism numbers more convincing? We just don't know. What's a mother to do? I know that I will put off the MMR for as long as possible. That way maybe her pot will be big enough to take the toxin whallop it delivers without overflowing-- and maybe by then I'll be strong enough to rock her through the pain feeling more confident in my decision.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I admit it. On the night the Chicago Cubs won the National League Central Division, tears came to my eyes more than once. For only the second time in my life, I would get to root for my beloved team in the postseason. It was the beginning of a dream come true. I watched the players spraying champagne, hootin' and hollerin', and talking about eleven more wins. I heard them answer all the easy questions that follow a win. I should have known better. I did know better.

The Cubs 2007 postseason appearance was brief. They were a three-game wonder. In 2003, Steve Bartman took the blame for the end of their run. So who gets the blame this year? Well, let's see. The pitching staff that couldn't throw strikes when they needed to. The offense that ended the NLDS with a .194 average. There were nine runners left on base by the Cubs in Game 3 as they lost 5-1 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. They hit into four double plays in the loss that left them swept. There were no clutch performances. For years Cubs fans have been asking the front office to spend some money on personnel, to keep up with the Joneses -- I mean the Yankees. So this year we got some big-bucks players. And what did they do in the three games that mattered most? Not much. We saw Lilly giving up homers and hits and walks. We saw Soriano striking out -- a lot. Not even D. Lee could save this sorry scene. Not even Sweet Lou.

After I wrote my first blog about my life as a Cubs fan, my dad emailed me to correct two items. First, he reminded me that I misspelled pennant because, of course, as a Cubs fan I haven't had much practice in writing the word. He also reminded me that I am not a third-generation, but a fourth-generation Cubs fan. This is quite a legacy. My great grandfather, Giuseppe Ciacioppo, was a rabid Cubs fan, and, my dad writes, "was alive when the team last won the World Series, and according to legend was at a World Series game, standing in the pastoral outfield." Lucky Giuseppe. We're all lucky that Wrigley Field still stands after all the subsequent losing that has taken place there. We have to be careful that the Cubs aren't sold to someone who doesn't understand that we don't need a nicer stadium or a move to Texas or somewhere else. We just need eleven more wins.

My newborn daughter is named Josephine, after my maternal grandmother who was a big sports fan, too. But her name clearly has more history than just that. My father's name is Joseph, and for those of you who aren't paesans, Giuseppe is Joseph in Italian. She's a legacy, too -- and, I might add, a fifth-generation Cubs fan. My dad had suggested that maybe the Cubs were meant to win it all this year -- for how else could they win their division with an 85 and 77 record? But maybe the gods have made us all wait so that Josephine would be old enough to understand and celebrate such a feat with us. Or maybe ninety-nine years just isn't long enough and we need to wait that perfect 100 years for our next World Series. You see, I am already thinking about next year. As a Cubs fan, I have to believe in next year. So I do.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm not usually a group activity kind of person,

... but I've been wanting to try one of those baby and me yoga classes. Yesterday, I happened to meet a yoga teacher as I searched for a copy of The Motherhood. The yoga studio was known to carry it, so I stopped in. After helping me find the publication, the warm Erica Furman looked at me and said, "You should come to yoga tomorrow!" So this morning, Josephine and I headed out to Shakti Ma Yoga and Living Arts. ( I was the first to arrive for the class and a bit early, but I was immediately made to feel comfortable. When I lived in the city and practiced yoga, the rules -- those written and unwritten -- could be overwhelming and intimidating. None of those vibes were in the air at Shakti.

For moms like me, transitioning from a career to maternity leave can be a strange and sometimes lonely proposition. It was neat to see seven moms like me -- looking a little weird in either their too-big maternity clothes or their too-small regular clothes -- enter with their babies and prepare for an hour or so to connect. The babies ranged in age from seven weeks to about five months. We were encouraged to play with our babies as we practiced, to stop and nurse and/or change diapers when necessary, and to include the children in poses when we could. And it was wonderful.

Let's face it. I'm fat and unstylish at the moment, but as I practiced, I felt true beauty well to the surface. As I laughed and giggled with my daughter -- who couldn't figure out why on earth mommy was doing all those crazy things -- I felt great. Even though my muscles and joints were stiff and slow to find each posture, I was happy to be where I was. Surrounded by women experiencing some of the same rites of passage that I am, I was supported. Erica led us through eight sun salutations that left each of us with a glow. I could feel my loose abdomen tightening as I connected with the earth and the sun and moon above.

By the end of the class, many of us were nursing. Babies who had gotten grumpy and fussy were calmed. We OMed together to close. Erica invited everyone to hang out and nurse as long as we wanted. A few of us did and chatted a bit. Josephine nursed until she fell asleep on a soft purple pillow. I think we were all pretty content. There was something about this group that was just what I needed -- something that helped me connect with the world and also with myself.