Hey there, Maybelle!

If Maybelle...

...grows up to become incredibly strong...she'll be called Barbelle.

...ever becomes the strawboss...she'll be called Haybelle.

...becomes a famous composer, her name will be Maybelius.

When she turns 13, im sure she'll become Rebellious.

If she has a very high voice, people will call her Trebelle.


Breast milk

There are lots of things you learn about only after you have a child. One of those things for me has been the insane value of breast milk. We all know that breast milk is good for babies. I learned a number of academic facts about breast milk in my few days in the hospital, like the fact that colostrum is so loaded with antibodies and nutritional value that even a few drops rubbed on the lips of a child in the NICU is useful. But this isn't what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is how highly, almost irrationally, significant breast milk becomes to moms who pump.

I've been pumping since Maybelle was born, first to boost my milk supply so that she'd gain more weight, and now because I'm stockpiling milk in the freezer for when I go back to work in January. I've developed a kind of neurotic anxiety about the milk, only wanting to heat up an ounce at a time to feed Maybelle if she's hungry and I'm gone. Anything you heat up that she doesn't eat within an hour has to be thrown away, and I can't stand to pour the milk down the drain. Biffle calls me a breast milk fascist.

What I've learned is that this is a common phenomenon. A mild-mannered colleague shared the experience of her husband heating up way too much of her frozen milk to feed their son, and she described herself getting uncharacteristically angry. A friend told me about being painfully engorged when her child was young and having to express milk into a public toilet. "I cried," she said, "because I couldn't stand to waste it!" At a La Leche League meeting a woman shared the trauma of her deep freezer breaking and hundreds of ounces of frozen milk going bad, and every woman in the room gasped as though she'd described a death. This afternoon I talked with a woman in Texas who's going to sell me her breast pump, and unprompted she made mention of the tensions surrounding breast milk: "I always got so upset if too much of it got heated up and it had to be thrown away!"

The good news is, it's not just me being neurotic. It's a pretty wild thing to be able to create food out of your body--a wonderful thing and a potentially scary one, too. While I find the experience of breastfeeding to be mostly sweet and convenient, it's not pleasant to pump. And while I'm proud of how well Maybelle is growing, it can be somewhat anxiety-provoking to realize that another being's health and well-being depends on this stuff that my body is producing. Given all this, I find that it's comforting to look into the refrigerator and freezer and see plenty of milk there. So comforting that I'd almost rather just keep it there than use it.


maybelle and alison, oct. 25

That Just Wasn't the Point

Y'all ever heard of the Patagonian Toothfish? Back a few years ago it was just some humble and ugly fish swimming happy and anonymously around in the ocean. However, it was also plentiful, rather large and made good eating, so fisheries all over wanted to find a way to put it on your plate. So with the help of a good branding firm and a new name, the fancy new Chilean Sea Bass was fished to near extinction in just a few years.

I tell this story because a guy here in Charleston advertises something similar on Craigslist almost everyday and it's bothering me. He's selling "Brazilian Cherry." He writes:

Brazilian Cherry! Rediculous price!!!! $1.75 a sq. ft.

Must Sale!!!! Call now only with serious questions!!!

$1.75 a sq. ft!

call 843.555.1212!!!!

Brazilian Cherry is not a Cherry tree. It doesn't darken with age or smell good like American Cherry does. It does smell really bad (the tree's seed pods have given the tree the name Stink Tree in South America), it is incredibly super duper hard and is vaguely red, which is why i guess it's getting called Cherry instead of it's local name of Jatoba. The most important thing about this tree, though, is that it grows in the heart of South American rainforests. To get that wood here to charleston--so this monkey boy can sell it for $1.50 a square foot--it must be logged in out-of-the-way places, reached by destructive logging roads (the slippery slope into Brazilian Beef), placed on a giant container ship that belches dirty diesel smoke and shipped all the way into the northern hemisphere just so someone can have a cheap floor.

I look in the building materials section of craigslist almost everyday looking for recyclable materials for construction projects and after months and months of this guy over-posting this commercial ad i wrote a new ad for him.

Brazilian Cherry! Best of the Rainforest! $1.10 a foot!

Rediculous! Get this wood before the entire rainforest is gone!!!

3" and 5" material sold offered for sale here on Craigslist everyday by professional too cheap to advertise through proper mediums!
Must Sell Asap!! (and have been needing to sell "ASAP" for at least three months now!
PLEASE PLEASE only call if your serious and in NEED of Solid Wood Flooring!!!

After all, too many people have called to simply complain at my atroshus behavoir and spelling!!!

Here's the problem: I've gotten almost 40 serious responses for this ad. "Do you have 400' still left?" write Susan. "What lengths?" writes Bob.

It's almost as bad as the hundreds of responses i've gotten for bannedfromwalmart.com asking for t-shirts because someone got busted for trying to shoplift handguns or cigarettes or something.


Maternal instinct

I've been doing a little reading about the gift economy, a concept of an economy based on generosity rather than exchange. Some of what I've been reading argues that the gift economy is grounded in the mother-child relationship, the instinctual generosity of mothers toward their children.

That's gotten me thinking about the whole idea of maternal instinct. I definitely don't buy it. My relationship with Maybelle hasn't been instinctual, or particularly intuitive. After eight weeks, I feel like I'm beginning to get to know her, but it has definitely been a process of learning rather than instinct. I feel comfortable picking her up, snuggling her, changing her diapers, putting clothes on her, moving her into various different positions when she's fussy--but these were all learned skills, none of which were in place when she first came home. For a long time my friends who'd had babies were better with her than I was. It's only in the last week or so that I've felt that I have skills with her that rival theirs.

It helps that she's getting to know me, too. She smacks her lips sometimes when I talk to her.


Things going on in the lives of the Biffles and Piepmeiers

Biffle is quizzing us on things on the globe. Who can name a country that borders on the Republic of Congo?

I'm being prodded to look up random things on the internet, like umbilical hernias and the SNL parody of the Presidential debate.

Trey and Megan are playing with Maybelle, putting socks on her hands, cuddling her, dancing with her. Megan is pulling Maybelle's diaper up, saying, "Look at you--you're sagging already."

Biffle's parents are making hamburgers.

Life is good.


Buddy Walk

Today Walter, Maybelle, and I took part in this year's Buddy Walk, an annual event sponsored by Down syndrome associations around the country. I found the event pretty uplifting, in great part because it was so normal and normalizing. For instance, early on in the afternoon, I saw a five or six year old boy with Down syndrome standing with another boy around his same age. While I was watching, the second boy kicked the first one. This interaction was reassuring to me because these were just two kids being kids--nobody was being super-careful with the boy who had Down syndrome. It was similarly reassuring later on when I saw a toddler with DS having a meltdown. People often tell us how sweet people with DS are, and while I believe this is true, I also want Maybelle to have a range of emotions--I don't think she's going to be a person whose whole approach to the world is "sweet." So I liked seeing a kid having a normal toddler tantrum after a very high-energy afternoon.

We saw lots of other normalizing stuff: a very little boy gleefully running headlong away from his dad, who was having to really hoof it to catch up with him. A girl and her dad riding bikes home from the event. A little boy riding on his dad's shoulders, clapping and laughing. A teenaged boy with funky skater hair and shorts. And perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise, but one of the nice surprises of the day for me was the fact that it wasn't easy picking out which folks had DS and which didn't--I would scan the crowd and try to identify kids, and I was often wrong.

Okay, this picture has nothing to do with the Buddy Walk, but I wanted to post it because tonight Maybelle is wearing one of my favorite outfits, which won't fit her that much longer.