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No Comparison

When Baby was still in my belly, I called him The Fraggle. For months and months, I silently wished for my little fraggle to be healthy and happy (and sometimes, I would add wise to the list). I think I kept my wishes simple in the hope that, if the Universe were to hear them, they might more easily come true.

Baby is now four months old. My wishes are the same, but now I have an alarming array of metrics by which I can judge Baby's health and happiness. First, the numbers: weight in pounds, length in inches, and head circumference in centimeters. Then, the developmental milestones: smiles, coos, giggles, opening hands, holding head up, rolling, sitting, and so on and so forth (forever).

At the heart of all of this evaluation is comparison. From the very beginning, we mommas-in-training learn how our babies' length and weight compare through that beguiling statistic known as The Percentile. Then, we ourselves engage, often unintentionally, in the game of Baby Comparing. Mommas want and need to share their experiences, which necessarily means that they talk about their babies. While it feels so reassuring to hear the similarities, the differences often present opportunities for false pride or, worse, unfounded guilt.

I admit to having complimented myself for Baby's accomplishments, and I confess to having blamed myself for challenges, e.g. The Great Eczema Battle of 2010 (a story for another day as the battle wages on). In fact, there have been days when I questioned just about every aspect of my Momma-hood qualifications.

Should I eat more fish and walnuts to help Baby's brain grow? Is my body producing enough milk for Baby? How many times did Baby smile today? Am I holding Baby enough? Am I holding Baby too much so that I am depriving him of his opportunity to learn to roll, sit, or crawl? Why can't I remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk well enough to tell it to Baby?

The earthquake in Haiti quickly snapped me out of wallowing in the swamp of self-doubt. But just in case an entire country's devastation failed to provide some perspective, last week, my brother-in-law was at our apartment and said that a man-hole cover next to his building had just exploded, shooting flames and electricity into the air.

I do not have control over many things. I did not choose where I was born; I cannot avert natural disaster; and I cannot predict where or when a man-hole cover will explode. But I know that Baby is healthy and happy, and I am entirely thankful for it.


Twenty Ten

New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. Plenty of people I know react to this holiday with some form of the following: Too much hype; Never as fun as I want it to be; That bar I rented in New York was actually triple booked, and I ended up celebrating the new year on the Williamsburg Bridge on my way to Brooklyn. Well, I liked having the ball drop when I was on the bridge. It is always as fun as I want it to be. And who uses the word "hype" anyway?

Here are some of the great things about New Year's Eve that are not true many other nights of the year:
  • You may sentimentally review the past with wild abandon;
  • You may look to the future with bright-eyed optimism;
  • You may walk around your apartment in a tiara even though you are not (and never have been) in a beauty pageant;
  • It is customary to kiss at the stroke of midnight; and
  • Champagne is the drink of choice - preferably with a swirl of Grand Marnier [thank you, Last Hurrah at the Parker House in Boston].
This year, of course, was a little different. My husband prepared a delicious dinner, and we opened one of our special bottles of wine. Even though the crowd for the night was reduced to a party of two, I like to think that we maintained a festive atmosphere. As a gift to ourselves, we were in bed by 9:30 pm.

About two and a half hours later, I woke up to two sounds. One was Baby. Presumably, Baby woke up because the second sound (set of sounds, really) was very loud and very unusual.

Pratt Institute is about three blocks from our apartment. Every year, on New Year's Eve, at midnight, the school's engineer plays the school's steam whistles. Even though this is the third year that I have celebrated New Year's Eve in my neighborhood, this is the first year that I noticed the volume, the duration, and the amazing sounds of the steam whistles. What do steam whistles sound like? Well, they sound like a cross between a train whistle and a whale giving birth. (I have heard whales giving birth, and I believe wholeheartedly that I am providing an accurate description.)

Perhaps more impressive than the sound of the steam whistles was the fact that Baby lulled himself back to sleep after a bottle even while the whistles continued to blow.  And so, New Year's Eve remains my favorite holiday of the year.