reading and (w)riting, no ‘rithmetic

Last night, I wrote about my hope, my not-hope, and my forever-hope, all threaded through with the discouraging guanoshow that was 2016 A.D.

Today, I turn my mind and heart to lovelier things. When it came to reading and writing, 2016 was one of my best years ever. 🙂

On Reading in 2016

In 2016, I started reading 67 books, and I finished 64 of them. (The unfinished 3, I just couldn’t get into or enjoy, but I won’t mention them by title.) That’s 17 more books than I read in 2015, and I credit intentionality for the difference. Last year at this time, I purposed to read as many women authors as possible. At some point, my to-read list and to-read stack basically exploded. When the rumblings echoed away and the dust settled, I found a SMORGASBORD BOUNTY OF WOMEN’S VOICES, and I devoured them with vigor. YUMBLY IN MY READER TUMBLY.

This was the first time in my life I’ve read so many women in the space of a year, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

These voices rang fresh and clear in my mind. They reverberated with beauty and sorrow, disgust and joy. They spoke things I’d never before heard. They made me laugh and cry and think. They inspired me to write more. They inspired me to write more freely.

Reading these women, I found myself living the reality that I could write as they do, unbound by shackles.

HALLELUJAH I’M FREE

But more on my writing later. First, their writings.

Books I Read in 2016

Asterisks indicate particular favorites.

  1. The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee ***
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke *
  3. Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse *
  4. Journey to America by Sonia Levitin
  5. Dark Beyond the Stars edited by David Gatewood *
  6. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas *
  7. Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood, #1) by Aliette de Bodard
  8. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor *
  9. The Giver by Lois Lowry *
  10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab *
  11. When the Silence Ends by Jade Kerrion
  12. In the Woods by Tana French *
  13. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin **
  14. Gateway to Reality (Reality Series #1) by Becca J. Campbell
  15. Kushiel’s Chosen (Kushiel’s Legacy, #2) by Jacqueline Carey
  16. “The Father Hunt” (A Flawed Story) by Becca J. Campbell
  17. The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass
  18. The Likeness by Tana French *
  19. Kushiel’s Avatar (Kushiel’s Legacy, #3) by Jacqueline Carey *
  20. Open Minds (Mindjack Saga, #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn *
  21. A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2) by Madeleine L’Engle
  22. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) and short story “Glitches” by Marissa Meyer *
  23. The Haunting of Gillespie House by Darcy Coates
  24. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess **
  25. The Three by Sarah Lotz
  26. Blood Oranges by Caitlín R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney
  27. Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto
  28. You by Caroline Kepnes **
  29. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  30. Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
  31. The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
  32. Sword-Bound (The Sword-Dancer Saga, #7) by Jennifer Roberson
  33. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
  34. The Wild Road (Book 3 of Karavans) by Jennifer Roberson
  35. Timebound (The Chronos Files, #1) by Rysa Walker *
  36. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  37. The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude *
  38. Just One Damn Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book 1) by Jodi Taylor *
  39. Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials, a short story by Annie Bellet
  40. The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Series, #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg *
  41. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater **
  42. Tiny Bites: A Collection by Stacy Claflin
  43. Kindred by Octavia Butler *
  44. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl *
  45. Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  46. The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
  47. Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5) by Charlaine Harris
  48. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  49. Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson
  50. Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell
  51. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
  52. The Christening Quest by Elizabeth Scarborough
  53. Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1) by Rachel Caine *
  54. Trey of Swords by Andre Norton
  55. Uprooted by Naomi Novik **
  56. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, 1) by Meg Elison *
  57. The Fading Dusk (Smoke and Mirrors #1) by Melissa Giorgio
  58. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando *
  59. Jinian Footseer by Sheri S. Tepper
  60. The Kraken Sea by E. Katherine Tobler
  61. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped by Madeleine Roux *
  62. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope *
  63. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness **
  64. The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts *

Recalling these stories is like thinking back on the utter joy and satisfaction surrounding delectable holiday meals. Here’s hoping for even greater tastiness in 2017.

So…what *is* in store for 2017 A.D.’s To-Read List?

Well…lemme tell ya. The other day, during our family’s roadtrip back to Oklahoma from our Florida-panhandle Christmas, I decided to head a head start on my reading list for this year. I already had a few titles and authors in mind, but I hadn’t collected them all in one place yet. Here’s the tentative reading plan so far; the only order is “ladies first” again (with a single exception):

Currently reading: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Further reading
Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl
Sarah Maas, Throne of Glass 2
Aliette de Board, Obsidian & Glass 2
Lowry’s The Giver sequel
Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows
more from Kerrion’s Double Helix series?
Tana French on nightstand (that’s not the title, it’s where I’ve stacked the book)
Jemisin, 100k Kingdoms 2
Cass, The Selection 2
Quinn, Mindjack 2
L’Engle #3
Meyer, Cinder 2
Bloggess, Furiously Happy
Carrie Ryan 3
Walker, Timebound 2
Taylor, St. Mary’s 2
Holmberg, Paper Magician 2
Stiefvater, Raven Boys 2
Sookie Stackhouse #6
Caine, Weather Warden 2
Lilith Saintcrow, Night Shift
Delilah Dawson, Three Lives of Lydia
Ellison, Road to Nowhere 2
Harkness, Discovery of Witches 2
Kepnes, Hidden Bodies
St Crow, Strange Angels 2
The Power, Naomi Alderman
Slipping, Lauren Beukes
Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen
Fifth Season, Jemisin
Thin Air, Paver
Copper Promise, Williams
Crosstalk, Willis

Wendig: Aftermath, Invasive, Thunderbird
Nod, Adrian Barnes
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Hendrix
NOS4A2, Joe Hill
Versailles, Yannick Hill
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
Paper Menagerie, Liu
Lovecraft Country, Ruff

Well, then. There’s my 2017 reading list already more than halfway sorted, and the year isn’t even a day old yet. And so it goes.

On (W)riting in 2016

Compared to previous recent years, I accomplished quite a bit in 2016. Not as much as I’d planned — I published only one book instead of two — but I ain’t kicking myself over it.

Not too much, anyway. 😉

The Elevator

elevator_cvr_lrgIn tags list at the end of this post, please to be clicking “The Elevator” for more details about this novel. For now, I’ll just say that I consider The Elevator my best published work to-date. As of this writing, it has but one Amazon review to its name, which makes me sad for it. Completely objectively and also quite biasedly, I think the book deserves more. Apparently, others’ mileage varies. Oh well. Can’t make everypony happy, and I long ago decided not even to try. 😉

But come on. It’s a space fantasy adventure with a chaotic psychopath, a cross-dimensional traveler, a vampire, a mech-woman, and two adorable smartass street urchins, all tied up in the nature of Reality at the heart of the multiverse. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

*ahem*

Don’t answer that. Unless it’s with a resounding silence in which you fork over money for my book. In that case, BRING IT ON.

I…uh, what?

elvendeadThe Elven Dead & Other Legends of the Light-Walkers

Ohhhhh, did I ever have such plans to publish this anthology in 2016!

Alas and alack, ’twas not to be.

I just ran out of oomph, y’all. In its final eleventh, 2016 managed to plaster me with that guano I mentioned before, and I didn’t cleanse myself of the disgusting sludge in time to hit “publish.” The short story collection *is* complete, minus a couple of touch-ups. I even have the cover art, thanks to fabulously talented Sam Hunt. All that’s left is to put in some butt-to-chair time to get the book out into all y’all’s greedy little reader hands.

Come on, I know you want it. 😉

Soon, my inklings. SOON.

Writerly To-Dos for 2017

What’s next? Well, that’s an excellent question, dearies. In early December 2016, I counted up the number of projects I could possibly turn to next — after taking care of the pesky pubbing details I mentioned above, of course. The count numbered 9. I repeat, NINE.

Nine project ideas with equal potential for becoming my next completed work.

People ask writers where we get our ideas. The better question is how can we NOT get ideas, so that we have space and time enough to work with the ideas we do have.

When it comes to writers’ ideas, picture a closet with all the junk just shoved in and the door slammed shut, in which each junky-seeming object represents a story or character idea. Except that the closet is actually a warehouse the size of Montana.

That’s why we never need people to tell us *their* ideas for a story *we* “should” write. Our ideas warehouse is already filled to bursting at the seams. Dude. The roof has practically exploded off. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND TRUE AND WRITERLY IN THIS WORLD, DON’T STUFF ANYTHING ELSE IN THERE

*ahem* But I digress.

In trying to figure out what to work on next, I enumerated and described my options to my writer friend Becca. She listened and asked pointed questions. Simply through conversing about my dilemma and sifting through the story ideas in my mind, I realized that I kept coming back with excitement to one particular idea:

the story of Taeven Ravenhair.

Taeven makes a cameo appearance in The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers 3) and gets a mention in Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers 2). I penned the first 12k words of her tale for NaNoWriMo back in 2004 — and promptly screeched to a halt because I had no clue which word should be number 12,001. The story’s been shelved ever since.

But in 12 years, Taeven has never left me alone. She’s not naturally a patient person, but she has exerted a monumental amount of self-control, waiting her turn. So, as I shared a bit of Taeven with a fellow writer, suddenly it all turned crystal clear:

2017 is the year in which Taeven finally gets a real voice.

Of course, as soon as I decided this, I frantically typed out four pages of notes and then started writing a completely different story.

And so it goes, right? Busy, busy, busy.

This new story, currently entitled The Flight of Elfled unBlessed isn’t part of my Legends of the Light-Walkers series, but it does take place in that universe. It promises to be a novella, so I’m hoping it won’t take up too much of early 2017. But more on it later.

Taeven’s story has gathered dust under the title The Bearers of the Stones. I never really liked it, so I tried to come up with something more suitable while I was taking those four pages of notes. As of a couple of weeks ago, Taeven’s story is entitled Sister of the Black Flame — subject to change at my writerly whim. AH THE POWER MUAH-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAA

So. 2017 shall be:

  • pubbing Light-Walker shorts collection
  • first draft of Taeven’s story, hopefully final draft
  • Elfled’s story
  • getting paperbacks prepped and on sale pages for all the longer works

Plus LIFE.

And enough.

For now. 😉

current events; also, stereoscopic vision really freaks me out sometimes

The second half of this entry’s title was a note I emailed to myself more than 3 years ago under subject “blog not tweet.” Actually, the email’s subject line reads, “blog not twwet,” but Ima chalk that up to typo-ing. As it turns out, there are twelve emails nested under that subject, so I’m sharing their content here. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Blog Not Twwet, Because Clearly I Can’t Spell

It is not a happy thing when the baby eats a dead bug. *SIGH*
(2016 Note: This, too, is a message catapulted into this future from about three years ago. The baby has since turned into a preschooler, apparently suffering no ill effects from having consumed dead insect carapace.)

HEY I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT LET’S TELL RIDDLES AND I’LL EAT YOU MAYBE.
(2016 Note: I’m assuming this references Gollum.)

Your choices change the direction of other people’s lives. You are not isolated.

(This one’s emphasized because: important.)

Sometimes you just gotta take a few minutes and shave your legs.
(2016 Note: NO.)

Floor messing with head PIC
(2016 Note: I have no idea what this means.)

And now, it seems, quotes:

“@BenHoward87: If you see a centaur, remember it is not your friend. It is a mythical creature and as such does have the capability for rational thought.”

“@BenHoward87: Peanuts cartoons + Morrissey lyrics = the hilarity of existential despair

“@scalzi: Most nerdy t-shirts just don’t seem that clever to me anymore. Clearly, my next t-shirt should read WHY ARE YOU ON MY LAWN”

Remember when Scully wore shoulder pads?

Remember when desktop monitors were the size of anvils?

Remember when we couldn’t Google anything?

Remember when payphones?

“@LeVostreGC: Siri, wher ys the horse and the ridere? Siri, wher ys the horn that was blowinge?”

Wher in the worlde ys Carmen Sandiego?

Just so you know, kinesio-taping your stomach to pull your abs together is not for sissies. #diastasisrecti
(2016 Note: I have a blog post about this. Search for it if you will. I’m too lazy to link to it right now.)

That awkward moment when you look in the mirror and there’s an ant crawling in your hair.

It occurs to me that I haven’t performed a solo in 7 years.
(2016 Note: It’s now been 10 years. I miss singing for audiences.)

Rain. Thunder. Contented. Sigh.
(2016 Note: Weirdness: As I’ve been copying & pasting the last ten lines or so, I’ve been listening to “Love, Reign O’er Me” by The Who. I didn’t know this line was coming up.)

I own a banana slicer and I am not ashamed.

In other news…

As part of my 2016 endeavor to read only women writers, I am currently in the middle of Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It is UTTERLY BRILLIANT. It’s one of those books that makes me want to do nothing but read. I resent Thanksgiving Day tomorrow because it will steal me away from this novel. I need to be working on my own WIP (newly retitled THE ELVEN DEAD AND OTHER LEGENDS OF THE LIGHT-WALKERS), but I’d rather read Novik’s book than work on my own.

DASH IT ALL.

P.S. In addition to random “blog not twwet,” I also ran across various Consortium emails from five and more years ago. I let them suck me into reading them, and now I just feel sad. I miss the Consortium-in-its-heyday so much. Being continually involved and multiple-times-daily connected with other artists was a balm to my soul and a life-giver to my spirit. Author-publishing is a lonely business. I desperately miss all-but-living-with other artists, back when everything was running smoothly. We made magic.

Game of Thrones and Semen Receptacles

So, the most recent Game of Thrones episode.

WARNING

SPOILERS

TRIGGER WARNING

concerning rape and the victimization of women.

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

I still haven’t watched the episode.

And it’s likely I’m not gonna.

And it’s possible I won’t be watching the show at all anymore.

The day after the episode aired, Twitter was abuzz with talk about the horror of it. Since I hadn’t watched the episode, I went looking for plot summaries. I found more than I wanted to know. This was worse than the aftermath of “Red Wedding.”

Sansa raped by Ramsay both revolts me and makes me roll my eyes with plain annoyance.

First of all…really? Another instance of a woman victimized by sexual violence on this show? Come on, WRITERS…. You’re already changing tons of stuff that G.R.R. Martin wrote. Why not change the parts where women repeatedly have their agency torn from them? WRITERS, is this the only way you know how to advance a plot or a female character?

COME ON. You can do better than this. Women victimized by sexual violence has been *done*. THINK UP SOMETHING ELSE. For worship’s sake, USE YOUR IMAGINATIONS. I assume you have them — after all, you’re getting paid for this. Sheesh.

Furthermore…Sansa raped by Ramsay. Really? Like I didn’t see that one coming the second she and Petyr Baelish reined up at Winterfell. OF COURSE Ramsay raped her. He’s a lunatic sadist — what else would he do? It’s so utterly PREDICTABLE. And once again, GoT WRITERS, I implore you to use your imaginations. GIVE ME A SCENE I DIDN’T PREDICT TWO EPISODES AGO.

*eye roll*

Having Sansa suffer rape by Ramsay is a stupid (on many levels), predictable, and utterly boring choice. Find a better way to advance Sansa’s character. Since the scene is apparently meant to motivate Theon/Reek to fight back against Ramsay (as if EMASCULATION weren’t enough of a reason already), you can find a better way to advance Theon’s character, too, while you’re at it.

GoT, with all the cramazing writing you’ve delivered in four-and-a-half seasons, I know you can do better than this.

I’ve never been raped. But I imagine that seeing such a traumatic event reduced to a tired plot device OVER AND OVER does something to cheapen the sufferings of those who have experienced this particular brand of horror. Rape shouldn’t be just another set of mechanics for getting a character from here to there. Once again, the GoT writers should be able to do better than this.

Horrify us if you must…but don’t drive away an entire segment of your audience that is so sick of this as the “be all, end all” portrayal of the female experience. I expect better from GoT because, as Chuck Wendig says, “its creepy fascination with hurting and marginalizing women is increasingly gross.”

I AM SO EVERLASTINGLY SICK OF WOMEN’S PAIN HAVING NO SIGNIFICANCE BEYOND SERVING AS MOTIVATION FOR A MAN’S SPRINGING INTO ACTION.

So…do we just not portray rape in fiction, or what?

Since this episode of GoT aired the same weekend as Mad Max: Fury Road, a lot of people have been comparing the treatment of women in GoT to the treatment of women in Mad Max. Well, I haven’t seen Mad Max yet, either (more woe is me), so I had a couple of other stories pop into my head concerning rape and victimization.

YA novel Did You Hear What Happened to Andrea? by Gloria D. Miklowitz has the titular character raped and trying to put her life back together. The book directly addresses rape culture: lack of support from family, friends, and authorities; victims made to feel responsible and guilty; rapists holding power over their victims long after the crime has occurred. It’s a good read for teens (AND ADULTS), considering that rape culture truly doesn’t get discussed openly or enough.

It’s worth noting that this novel was published in 1984. And we in 2015 think we are SO advanced.

I also recently read Stephen King’s short story “Big Driver.” The main character is raped and chooses not to live as a victim. It’s a great story of a woman finding and exercising her agency, refusing to let trauma and/or stigma keep her from making sure the rapist answers for his crimes. King’s story is a thriller — in great part because it’s thrilling to see a woman successfully quest to get her power back from the one who thought he’d taken it away forever.

So…in my rant about Game of Thrones, am I saying we storytellers should never include rape in our stories?

No. I am not saying that at all.

For one thing, to say that would make me a hypocrite — because in my debut novel, Colors of Deception, I included an attempted rape. And because I was a new author (and more naive about life), I’m pretty sure I did it badly. I didn’t write the aftermath as I should have, and the story suffered for it. I just hope my readers haven’t. But the story stands as a testament to one writer’s growth — as a writer and as a human.

Furthermore, I never want to say, “We can’t or shouldn’t write about ________________.” Fill in that blank with your pet uncomfortable topic. In fiction and in real life, we need to be able to talk about what’s dark and gritty. We need to explore what’s uncomfortable. Talking about these awful things lets us be more vulnerable and open with one another and find healing where healing needs to happen. We can’t be fully human with each other until we are vulnerable and transparent.

Sometimes, vulnerability and transparency mean openly acknowledging and working through the dark stuff.

“Monsters aren’t beaten by hiding them in the dark. They’re beaten by exposing them to the light.”
–Paul Anthony Shortt (@PAShortt)

So, storytellers…tell stories about the darkness. Tell stories about rape. But do it in a way that empowers your characters instead of stripping them of their agency and humanity.

“It took Sansa from her growing place of power, cut her off at the knees, and put the focus on Theon’s ordeal.”

“There’s only so many times you can be disgusted with something you love before you can’t bring yourself to look anymore.”

The Mary Sue

In Sansa, Game of Thrones isn’t even telling the story of a woman anymore. It’s telling the story of a gamepiece moved around the board by the whims of others. It’s telling the story of an object that’s handled and used to make other people do things. At this point, Sansa might as well be an ornamental vase. A receptacle for men’s desires, schemes, and semen.

“Stark” is the German word for “strong.” The GoT writers have utterly removed from Sansa Stark the ability to step into and live up to her own name.

On the other hand, we have Gloria D. Miklowitz and Stephen King, who told stories about women who were raped but rose in strength like phoenixes from the ashes.

So, writers, tell the dark tales as you will. But let the women be women. Don’t turn us into vases. Don’t turn us into receptacles.
 

WE ARE NOT THINGS.

 

 

 

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

Greetings, my beloved inklings!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me here. I mean, yeah, I’ve been posting something every week or so, but those recent posts haven’t had a lot of meat to them. I know. What can I say? The reason for my silence is also the originator of this post’s subject matter. Here’s your bonus round before I even get to my five points:

Babies require many, many items.

Babies require much, much time.

So there ya have it.

Plus, I’ve been working on posts for writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, as well as mentoring Josh through his latest novel. (It’s a Weird Western: cowboys, Pinkertons, vengeful ghosts, and demons.) These are excellent endeavors for me to be involved in, but they have caused my own writing to suffer from neglect.

Balance: It’s difficult to achieve when you’re a new momma. And there’s another bonus point for you.

So! On to the “5 Things” I originally sat down to tell you about today. ; )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

1.  It can really, really hurt.

Once upon a time when I was 8 or 9 years old, it was summertime and my parents and I were at the grandparents’ house for our annual visit. My cousins, Amanda and Jonathan, and I were jumping on Grandma’s unfolded sofa-bed, launching ourselves up and dropping down on our butts.

As it turns out, this was quite the poor choice on my part. I jumped up, dropped down, and landed tailbone first on the metal rod running beneath the mattress. Said mattress did not provide an adequate cushion for my posterior. All I remember after that is running through the house, screaming for my mother.

Three weeks after that, while visiting the other set of grandparents, I re-injured the aforementioned tailbone by falling off a horse.

Fast-forward 26 or 27 years, and I’m in the hospital, about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of something the diameter of a shooter marble. When my doctor tells me to, I give my first big push. And from somewhere in my nether regions, there comes a loud pop!

“Well,” says I, “that was fun.”

My doctor gives me a look, and I can see her thinking, You have no idea what just happened.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

She was right. I had no idea. I thought that pop was simply the sound of my back popping, which is something it does from time to time.

But no. That pop was the sound of my tailbone fracturing.

I am thankful beyond words that I’d asked for that epidural not quite three hours before.

Nobody told me this could happen.

Apparently, fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth is not terribly uncommon. It can happen if the baby is unusually big. At 6 lbs 12 oz, my baby was not unusually big.

Fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth can also happen if there has been a prior injury to the tailbone. Sometimes, one has quite a bit of cause for regretting the foolishness of one’s youth.

I spent the first two months of my daughter’s life sitting on a Boppy and taking 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours. For the first month, someone had to be with me constantly, because I couldn’t sit down or stand up without using both hands to lower or raise myself. Someone else had to hold the baby while I maneuvered.

Also — and here’s some TMI for you, so read this part at your own risk — I was on Percocet for four days after delivery. Nobody told me that Percocet can cause severe constipation.

Percocet + (fractured tailbone) = bad

Really, really bad.

When my baby was four days old, I spent 4 hours at the emergency room getting an enema. Lemme tell ya, folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve had an attractive young nurse pump a tubeful of soapsuds up your rear.

Side note: This took place a day after my first postpartum ER visit. That one was for unusually severe swelling in my feet and legs. They did ultrasounds on my legs. Fortunately, I didn’t have bloodclots. I just couldn’t elevate my feet properly because of the tailbone pain*.

Nobody told me that could happen, either.

2. You have never known this level of tired. Not even in college.

I’m a lifelong nightowl. I knew that caring for a newborn would involve sleep deprivation. But I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters; I thought I could handle it.

Nuh-uh. Y’all, there is no handling this. United States Government, please don’t ever trust me with state secrets. ‘Cause if the terrorists get hold of me, all they’ll have to do is deprive me of sleep for a few days, and I’ll be singin’ like a drunk canary in a honky-tonk.

Seriously. The first three months, the longest I ever slept in one stretch was 4.5 hours. Most of the time, I averaged 2.5 hours between feedings. Itty Bitty is now 4 months 3 weeks old, and since she was born, I have gotten 8 hours of sleep exactly once. There have been times that I was so tired, I just sat loose-limbed in a chair and sobbed.

During her first month, I had hallucinations. Hallucinations, people.

Nobody told me that could happen.

3. Projectile poop is the new black. (Everybody’s wearing it.)

I read about projectile vomiting. I read about poopy diaper explosions. I read about getting peed on while changing a diaper. (Yes, even little girls can sometimes produce a “fountain.”)

But nobody told me that when you lift up the baby’s legs to wipe her and she turns red in the face and pushes, green liquid can squirt out her butt and up over your shoulder and land on the white carpet three feet behind you. And, if you don’t learn your lesson, she’ll do it again several days later. But this time, it will splatter you from chin to knees.

wubbanubduck

4. Your baby might not, in fact, take a pacifier.

Our Itty Bitty will take a pacifier. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, the pacifier is one of her best friends. The problem is that most of the time, she can’t hold it in her mouth by herself.

I don’t know why this is. Something about developmental stage or sucking method or the alignment of the planets. Whatever it is, most of the time she ain’t got it. And if we want her to stay asleep after we’ve put her to bed, one of us usually has to hang out with her for about half an hour, holding the pacifier in her mouth until she falls deeply enough asleep not to notice when it plops out of her mouth.

“One does not simply hold the pacifier.”

— the Baby

We’ve even tried this cute thing called a “Wubbanub”: a little stuffed toy that is supposed to help baby grasp a pacifier and keep it in her mouth. It’s a great idea and looks really cute and doesn’t work with our baby at all. She just uses the ducky to pull the pacifier out of her mouth again. So we play the now-infamous Pacifier Game with her and hope that Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus line up properly so that we’re not still doing this when she’s 18.

Nobody told me this could happen.

5. The first three months are really, really hard.

Nobody told me this.

And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

But I still wish they had.

Instead, all I heard was how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is and how cute and cuddly the babies are.

Well, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. Yes, the baby is cuddly and cute. In fact o’bidness, as Grandpa would say, I think she’s pretty much the most beautiful person on the face of this planet. I wouldn’t trade being her mother for anything.

But.

And please forgive my language, but this is how strong this truth is.

Motherhood during the first 3-4 months is damn hard.

All of those women who portray it as rainbows-glitter-sunshine-unicorns-blue-skies? I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m not even saying they’re misremembering.

But I am suspicious.

This is hard, y’all. And I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I still sometimes sob because I’m so desperate for sleep. Especially during the past week, when my baby has had her second ear infection and needed my constant attention, I’ve longed to fast-forward to when she can talk and tell me where it hurts, never mind that I’d be missing all the supermurgitroid developments in between. The husband and I are still trying to figure out how to be parents and how to be a married couple at the same time. I used to have a relatively organized house, but now it looks like I’m running a daycare that has never once seen a vacuum or the folding of laundry. I still can’t shower regularly. “Alone time” happens only if I give up sleep to get it. (I’m doing this right now.)

I haven’t even talked about the feeling of inadequacy. My daughter deserves a rested, put-together, patient, on-top-of-things, well-relating mother. I’m not so unrealistic as to feel guilty that I’m not Supermom. But feeling inadequate definitely happens a lot.

Month 4 is definitely easier than Months 1-3. But rough patches still happen. And though I know life will continue to get more manageable, if not easier, I also know that rough patches will continue to happen.

________________

If I were a Pez dispenser and you were a momma-to-be or wanting to be a momma-to-be, I’d give you some advice. But I’m not a dispenser. All I have to offer are these truths that nobody told me. They are my truths. Whether or not they apply to you, I don’t know. But there they are for you to do with what you will.

In the meantime, pray for my sanity. ; )

This. : ) (2 weeks old)

She is cramazing. : ) (2 weeks old)

*By the way, I’ve been in physical therapy for the fractured tailbone for two months. My recovery is progressing nicely. The pain level has dropped from 8-10 to a comfortable 0-2 range. The therapy itself is called “osteopathic therapy,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant.

Away Message: L & D Is Not for Sissies

Hi all,

Last week, I pushed something the size of a small watermelon out of something the size of a shooter marble. This was great fun and involved the breaking of my tailbone. Labor & delivery is not for sissies, and I have an increased respect for all the bajillions of women who have ever done this. Ladies, you rock and YOU ARE MAGIC.

The pretty awesome part is that I now have a cute pink baby to cuddle at home while I recover. So that’s what I’ll be doing for a while. Let me know you miss me. ; )

P.S. Birth story to follow when time, energy, and pain level allow.