Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
By now, you’ve probably gotten the memo:
I’m still breastfeeding M and Little Homie.
(And I’m happy to take on another customer or two if you know of anyone in Israel who is interested. I charge 75 shekels an hour. I could really use the money.Thanx.)
It’s like a spread in National Geographic magazine over here - M on one tit, Little Homie on the other. I think B may have taken a picture or two, because, hey, if Octomom can get propositioned by Vivid Entertainment, maybe I could sell these pics to Hustler.
(My contact information is on the right side of this page. Again, I could really use the money Thanx.)
You may assume that I’m one of those crunchy granolla mamas with the wind blowing through my
hair, all hippied out and high on my attachment parenting ethos.
I’m really not
The only reason I tandem breastfeed is because
it’s easy to shut my daughter up by shoving my tit in her mouth when she’s in tired or sick
The women on this kibbutz are way more badass than I am. They all lift their shirts up with reckless abandon and feed their kids, and the men don’t even bat an eye. In fact, when I was skulking around the Kibbutz dining hall the other day looking for a potted plant to nurse behind, one of the other mamas asked me why I just don’t feed the baby at the table like everyone else.
And while I’m down with others nursing in public, I can’t bring myself to whip out my tit in Kibbutz dining hall and feed Little Homie in front of everyone.
It has nothing to do with modesty. I’m really not a prude. But in the immortal words of Chris Rock:
“40 year old titty? That’s your man’s titty. 20 year old titty? COMMUNITY TITTY.”
And while I’m only 29, after two back-to-back pregnancies, serving hard-time with a Madela nursing pump when M was little, and breastfeeding for almost three years straight it boils down to this:
My breasts look better in a bra. Under a shirt.
And besides the convenience of breastfeeding - tandem or otherwise - I believed
that my boobies would make lots of shiny, happy antibodies, and M and Little Homie would shit rainbows
that nursing would make my kids healthier.
But not so.
Newsflash: My boobies are not magical.
There’s a rumor going ‘round these parts that I’m having an affair with the
brooding, intense, and incredibly sexy
oncall ER pediatrician at the nearby hospital.
I suppose this begs the question how did I meet an ER pediatrician in the first place.
Ever since we landed here, our entire family has been body-slammed with disease.
(For some serious Schadenfreude Porn, click here and read about our crash landing in Israel. That should give you a general idea.)
I miss the halcyon days when I used to think that the sniffles was something serious. I remember hunkering down with M or Little Homie, brandishing the bulb syringe, steaming up the bathroom with a hot shower and eucalyptus essential oils or whatever, and speed-dialing Dr. S.
“My 8 month old is congested!”
And, the ever-patient Dr. S would give us the signs and symptoms that are worth worrying about, and I would hang up reassured.
Those were the good old days. Cozy times wasted worrying over a little snot.
My world view has changed after facing the following:
1. bilious vomit (everyone)
2. throat infections and swollen glands (everyone)
3. mastitis (yours truely),
4. ear infections (Little Homie and M)
5. allergic reaction to Amoxicillan (Little Homie),
6. a nasty-ass croup that never ends (M)
And now this:
Little Homie is really sick.
For the last seven - seven - nights, we haven’t slept. Normally, the boy is pretty stoic—Unlike M who goes all Greek Tragedy on us when the wind blows through her hair—but this time he’s really suffering. And together, we’re cranky, crying, and covered in crud, curled up on the couch waiting for dawn.
Not that it’s much better during daylight.
And yesterday, after his fever climbed to 41 C / 105.8 F - (no, seriously) we got the diagnosis:
Little Homie has Pneumonia.
(INSERT OMINUS MUSIC HERE)
As in, Pneumonia.
(Even the word sounds kind of creepy.)
And while I can name about 20 other kids here who have the same thing, it still scares the shit out of me.
A nasty case of the sniffles can’t kill you. But Pneumonia can.
Even with tremendous help from B and my Fairy Godmother in Law, my mind is starting
to crack open and leak all over the blogosphere.
And if we survive this latest onslaught, maybe I’ll stuff my not-so-magical boobies into a real bra, slip the kids some formula and
pass out piss drunk under a bush somewhere
go on vacation.
I think I need it.
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January 12, 2011 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
When I was six years old, I started getting stomach aches. They began shortly after Michael’s roly-poly baby brother fell headfirst into the swimming pool of their big, beautiful house in Beverly Hills on a warm Saturday morning. And drowned.
I heard my parents talking about it. They were somber and sad. My dad shook his head, and my mom cried quietly at the dining room table after the phone call came.
“Poor Jeanine,” my mom whispered. “No mother should ever bury a child.”
Up until that point, my only experience with death involved Blind Tom, our one-eyed goldfish who went missing shortly after Nebbie, our geriatric cat was seen eyeing him and making lazy circles around the fish bowl. But still, while I cried a little and avoided kissing Nebbie for a few days, I understood that cats have to eat too. This was all part of nature.
Michael’s little brother drowning on sunny Saturday morning seemed like a crime against nature.
Michael didn’t come to school for a while after his brother drowned. Maybe a week passed before he came back. Maybe more. When you’re six, time is more flexible, and the days and nights are mushed into one long memory. But when he did come back to school, he didn’t talk to anyone. He sat still and silent during Story Time and stared at his hands.
Then, in the middle of the story “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears,” Michael gagged and vomited all over the big blue rug.
All the kids shrieked “Eew” at the smell of rancid cheerios, milk, and goldfish crackers. Michael began to cry and dry heave, and the teacher wrapped her dimpled arms around him and rocked him against her until he quieted down. She was crying, too.
That afternoon, I got a terrible stomach ache.
“I’m worried about my stomach,” I told mom when she picked me up at school.
“Does it hurt?” She asked.
“Yes. I’m afraid of throwing up.”
The next day, my stomach hurt so much that I went to the nurses office. I lay on the vinyl pink couch and counted the cracks on the tiled ceiling while she called my mother and asked her to come pick me up.
My mom took me home and made me peppermint tea, and I felt much better. But later that afternoon, my stomach seized, and I thought I might throw up.
“I’m worried about my stomach. I’m worried about my stomach.” I repeated over and over while bouncing from one leg to the other in a frantic attempt to distract myself from the niggling nausea. I started breathing very fast, and everything blurred around the edges. “I’m worried about my stomach. I’m worried about my stomach.” I was crying and gagging and trying to breathe.
My mom wrapped her arms around me, and held my rigid body tight against hers as she sang the song she had always sung to me whenever I was afraid of the monsters hiding in the closet: “Everything’s ok. Everyone’s ok. You will be ok. Everything’s ok.” Over and over and over she sang until I slumped into sleep.
I stayed home the next day and my mom and I watched I Love Lucy reruns and went to the beach. We ate cucumber sandwiches and homemade brownies on our front porch for lunch, and while she dug up weeds in the garden, I wrote a poem:
Life is worth Living.
Eggs are still hatching.
Mamals have babies.
But if you want to stay in your house
Cowering like a little mouse
That’s ok with me
But I would keep living.
That night, when she tucked me in, I asked what it meant to die.
“Dying means we aren’t here any more.”
I thought about my dolls and stuffed animals. Who would take care of them for me?
“Are you going to die some day?” I asked in a small voice.
My mom traced her fingers over my back, drawing letters that I could half-decipher. “Honey, I don’t plan on dying for a long long long time.”
“No. I wish it could be this way. I wish we could all live forever.
I thought about this while she rubbed my back. I thought about Blind Tom. I thought about Michael’s baby brother.
“Why can’t we?
“It just isn’t how things work,” she said sadly.
“Am I going to die?” I asked as I felt my stomach start to flip-flop, and I thought about Michael throwing up on the rug during story time.
“Not for a long long time, and not until you’re ready,” she said in her warm, reedy voice.
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
And I believed her.
January 6, 2011 | 3:28 am
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Last week, I sat under a tree near the kibbutz dining hall, and told a woman I had just met that I was miserable in Israel (hey, that kind of rhymes!) and wanted to go home.
Now, granted she had a kind face, but she was essentially a total stranger. (I will say in my defense that everyone knows everyone around these parts… which in hindsight might not be such a good thing when I’m bitching and moaning about how i’m like thisclose to hauling ass back to Ben Gurion airport, the kids under each arm like footballs, and dragging my husband by
(But we all know how I feel about oversharing. And now, so does she.)
So, the sympathetic woman and I spoke for a while—she was once a new immigrant, as well, and essentially understood some of my feelings in a way that only an expat can… And eventually we U-turned and exchanged names, family affiliations, the ages of our kids—all the mundane particulars that fill in the spaces of our character.
“Are you working?” she asked.
“I write a humor column,” I sobbed, blowing snot from my nose on the sleeve of my sweater.
I’ve never been even tempered. In fact, a close friend with a psych background recently suggested I might have something called Cyclothymia.
There are days when I am flying high, and I love it here: When I want to soak in every single solitary moment, to smile and say “boker tov —good morning” to everyone I pass while I push Little Homie in the stroller on my way to the coffee place where they make the best lattes in the world. I want to rub my fingers over the lavender growing near the dining hall—I want to touch every fucking leaf on every fucking tree. I want to sing. And sometimes, I do, loud and free.
There are days when I feel like I’m actually putting down roots in this beautiful place, while my arms reach toward the sky.
It’s like this kibbutz is crack, and I am a junkie, licking the last traces of powder from the table.
But then, there are other days. Dark days, when I shrink into myself - crabbed and crippled. Days when I wake up from a dream about Coffee Bean or Barnes and Noble, or my dad, with a sob stuck in my throat. Days when I can barely breathe from loneliness.
Days like today.
Sometimes, I feel like a stumbled and fell into a Nirvana song - only this isn’t some teenage angsty bullshit. This is my life. I know there is help out there: There are people who can tinker with my misfiring synapsises, and, if need-be, hit the reset button on my crazy switch with a strong dose of Lithium.
But the thing is, I’m scared to get this fixed because deep down I feel that the highs are worth it.
My emotional landscape is like San Francisco, and I’m driving a Ferrari at like 1000 miles per hour, up and down and up and down and up and down the scaly dragon humps of the city.
And the view from Lombard Street is pretty fucking awesome.
And besides, if I do find even ground on the slow train through the flatlands, I’ll have to change my blog name to The
Well-Adjusted Baby Mama. And who wants to read that?
December 29, 2010 | 5:18 am
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
And the weird thing is, she hated Chinese food.
(“Um, no, whackjob. The weird thing is that you think your dead mom communicates with you using fortune cookies.”)
But seriously. It’s very Sylvia Browne. Only Chinese:
Before she died, my mom promised me that once she was… gone… she would figure out a way to come back and give me a sign that she was still around. Maybe this was meant to dissuade me from smoking weed, hooking or—worse—getting a B- on a final exam, but I’d like to think that she made this promise as a way of comforting me—a way of saying, “even if I’m not with you, I still am.”
Still, her solemn vow—said with such powerful conviction—made me search our house (in vain) for medical marijuana.
But then, a few days after she died, I started looking for signs. Waiting for a breath of wind on my neck. Searching for a morse code message in a flickering candle. Hoping to catch a whiff of Gap Dream and cigarettes in an empty room. Anything.
“But mom, you promised,” I sobbed one afternoon when I was back in Berkeley, missing her so much my skin hurt. “You promised!”
I fell asleep crying, falling hard and fast into wobbly dreams.
When I woke up, sledged with sticky tears and smeared mascara, I saw it: Lying next to me on the pillow was a small strip of paper with the words “You are Loved” written on it in small red typeset.
I picked up the fortune, holding it with trembling fingers. I hadn’t eaten Chinese food in weeks, and I didn’t remember seeing this particular message, and even if I had cracked open a cookie to discover “You are Loved,” what the fuck was it doing on my pillow when it hadn’t been there hours earlier.
My heart tripped, and I got out of bed and checked the door to the studio apartment. Locked.
I looked in the bathroom. Empty.
The kitchen. Clear.
Crouched down, I checked under the bed. No monsters there.
Only the plink plink plink of the faucet dripping in the bathroom played with the stillness in the apartment.
(All horror movies have this sound right before the slutty girl gets gutted.)
Plink plink plink.
But then, just as I was about to call B and ask him to get his ass home, a ray of light pierced the window and illuminated the fortune nestled on the pillow. And in my mind, I heard the words spoken clearly in my mom’s reedy voice “You are Loved.” Slowly, I picked up the fortune again and whispered the words aloud “You are Loved.” I said it again, with more conviction: “You are Loved,” and for the first time since my mom died, I felt safe.
“But mom, you hate Chinese food,” I whispered.
She didn’t answer.
But ever since that afternoon, whenever I’m really struggling with grief, or looking for advice, I head to Hop Li.
After a grueling, grouchy day she gave me this: “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”
When I was wrestling with my thesis, I read: “The secret to success is getting started.”
And when things were rough for a while, she was profound: “The first step to better times is to imagine them.”
She’ll always be just a delivery away.
December 21, 2010 | 2:01 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Before my daughter was born, I assumed that as soon as I held her in my arms for that first magical time, we’d have a Hallmark moment: She would settle down and coo, I would smile like the beatific Earth Mama I’ve always wanted to be, and we would fall in love.
It was supposed to be like meeting someone I had known forever.
See, for 40 weeks and two days, I had cherished the fragile life inside me, thrilling with each nudge, each kick, worrying – always worrying – and imagining the moment when I would hold her in my arms for the first time. But seeing her as she was, purple and slimy and coated in cheese, was a shock to the senses. And, instead of gazing up at me when I held her a few seconds after she was born, my daughter was a writhing squirming, pissed off stranger. I panicked; convinced I’d drop her onto the cold hospital floor. I trusted the nurses to hold her more than I trusted myself, and without my own mom to guide me through the terrifying first few weeks, I was lost.
Every time I changed her clothes, I would tremble, terrified that I’d break her floppy neck, and my husband, B, would say “you’re doing it wrong, you’re doing it wrong. Let me do it.” And self-loathing would rise like bile in my throat.
Growing her for 40 weeks and 2 days made me the incubator, but not her mother.
I had hoped nursing would be the bonding experience that
the Bitches of Breastfeeding La Leche League promised it would be, but it wasn’t. Instead, my milk took too long to come in, M couldn’t latch, and she spent hours yelling at my painfully engorged breasts. Once she was able to latch, we embarked on an era of excruciating agony. Now, I’m no stranger to a little light S & M, but the nipple pain was mind-numbing. It was so bad that every nerve in my body twitched, and I wanted to tear her off of me and feed her formula for the rest of her babyhood. It actually made me miss the halcyon days when she couldn’t latch and would scream at me. But, the pressure was on to breastfeed, so, sucking it up, I stuck it out, and eventually, the pain subsided.
Meanwhile, tweaked out on hormones and adrenaline, I refused to sleep, fervently convinced that the only reason this tiny, fragile creature was alive was because I was there to monitor each breath, keeping her alive through sheer force of will.
And then the colic started. Oh the
asshole colic: Four hours of non-stop screaming each and every night like clockwork starting at 8:00 pm, and culminating in a bout of projectile vomiting, after which she’d finally shut up and go to sleep.
Clearly, it was not love at first sight.
Every time someone asked “don’t you just love her?” I wanted to cry.
Still, while I wasn’t feeling the love, I had a neurotic need to protect her — and her pediatrician can attest to this since we practically lived at his office during her first month. I was anxious all the time, convinced that if I held her wrong, I’d break her, sure that every time she sputtered at my boob she would develop Aspiration Pneumonia, afraid every time I’d wipe her bottom that I would tear her crepe-paper skin. M was so utterly foreign to me, so tiny, so fragile, and so new.
Now, I know some of you Mamas were blessed to experience love-at-first-sight. Do me a favor. Don’t rub it in my face or I will hate you. For-evah.
And then, I spiraled down into a nasty-ass depression that lasted for 3 long months. The cocktail of hormones, sleep deprivation, and sheer New Mama terror was almost deadly, and for a very tense few weeks, I thought about killing myself. I had this fantasy of slitting my wrists – “down the street, not across the road” – and taking a bath in my own blood and freshly squeezed breast milk. The only thing that kept me from doing this was the knowledge that I couldn’t pump enough freeze for my daughter and – God Forbid – she had to have formula. Over my dead body! Oh, wait.
But I was supposed to be happy. And so, each morning I got up and put on a smile that never quite reached my eyes, and I faked a new mama glow the way porn stars fake orgasms.
But when I started weeping midway through my postpartum exam – yes, while my legs were in the stirrups – Dr. B gently brought up the topic of Post Partum Depression.
“No, I’m fiinneeeeeeeeeeeee,” I blubbered, using the corner of the drape covering my Lady Business to furtively wipe the snot dripping from my nose. “I just have a case of the Baby Blues. I’ll be ok if I can just get some sleep”
Um, yeah. Only Tom Cruise would believe I didn’t need meds.
Dr. B smiled gently and explained that sometimes the Baby Blues can be more serious. And when this happens, you need more than a good night’s sleep to make it go away. So, he referred me to a shrink, who referred me to Zoloft, and we all lived happily ever after. The End
Ok, so it wasn’t quite that simple, but things did get better. M started to become more like a baby and less like a chicken. I was too exhausted to wake up every hour to check to see if she was breathing, so I accidentally managed to actually sleep when she slept. And then, either the meds kicked in, or the hormones began to even out, or both, but at last, my feelings started to make more sense.
But then, somewhere in the beginning of my second pregnancy, the goblins came back—niggling, little monsters, clawing and scratching at the outside of my sanity. Hungry little fuckers. And while it would probably have been safe to go back on Zoloft, my thoughts were doing the ‘what if’ dance, so I did the next best thing: I started writing.
And I’m still here.
December 17, 2010 | 5:32 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about what a great mama I am… while I conveniently ignore my two children.
While M pulls on my leg and says “Boob Mama? Boob Mama?” and Little Homie beats the shit out of his toy xylephone, and the dishes stay piled high in the sink like a Jenga block tower, Mama of the Year types and types and types, occasionally getting up just long enough to put on M’s favorite movie, Princess and the Frog.
“See Girl Ribbit Princess Frog Mama! Princess Frog! GIRL RIBBIT! RIBBEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!”
“Mama will be right there. Just let me finish this fucking sentence!”
Well, so much for that Regents scholarship at UC Berkeley.
But writing makes me happy.
Right after M was born, someone told me that what’s best for the mama is what’s best for the baby. Alas, at the time I was too wrapped up in the dangerous idea that dark under eye circles, scraggly hair, and spit and shit stained sweats made me a Good Mother. I thought that women who waltzed off for a night out with a friend—or God Forbid—their husbands were selfish bitches.
And in between obsessing about germs and aspiration pneumonia, between counting M’s poops with religious fervor, between pouring boiling water on one of the organic wooden toys made by magical elves in Scandinavia, I realized this:
- Would I die for my child? You bet.
- Would I kill for her? Touch her before washing your hands, and I will cut a bitch.
But, I hated being a mother.
Things changed when I found out about Little Homie chillin in the uterus. I realized that it was do or die time: I couldn’t live the way I had been living any longer and bring another baby into the world, so I took a (very) deep breath and started writing. And wearing a push-up bra.
Maybe it was also a hormonal thing: Maybe growing a teeny tiny penis in my uterus gave me the balls to take myself less seriously.
Regardless, I started to enjoy my kid. And the idea of having another kid.
And this is what I’ve learned: Whether you waltz off to work at an office or stay at home in your jammies, if you do what makes you happy your kids will pick up on that.
And they will be happy.
Before we moved halfway across the world, Blue Cross sent me a pamphlet on postpartum depression - complete with a multiple choice test - as a screening tool.
Anyway, I guess the good news is I took the damn test. And the even better news is, according to the fine minds a Blue Cross
Let me break it down:
—Do I get enjoyment out of the little things? Thanks to my morning double-shot latte and occasional night out off the Kibbutz, yes.
—Do I see the humor in life? Um, when my daughter points to Little Homie’s balls and says “APPLE YUM!” I snort with laughter, so I guess, YES.
—Do I sleep too much? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ahahahahahahaha. Fuckers. I wish I slept too much.
But in all seriousness, according to the Blue Cross screening tool, I’m ok. But I kind of already knew that, because according to my own litmus test—the fact that I actually (almost always) enjoy being a mama—I’m fine.
Or as fine as I can be given my neurotic tendencies.
And so, I guess I’ll continue to do what I do best: I’ll drink my lattes in the morning. I’ll sip my wine at night. And in between, I will—from time to time—happily ignore my babies. Because this is what makes me a Good (enough) Mother.