oh! susanna.

In picking out names for our child, we discovered that we had an easier time finding names for boys than for girls. We had two boys names that we really liked, plus there were half a dozen others that I thought of at some point and then made myself forget because we already had a boy's name. But for girls, the only thing we ever liked at all was Susanna.

This was not for lack of trying. My favored method of finding names was to go through lists on Wikipedia, like names of queens or minor Biblical characters or saints. Once I found a name that was okay, I'd run it past Josh. If he did not reject it outright, we would research it together, finding out about people past and present who bore that name. Sometimes this eliminated a name from the running, and sometimes it would sell the name for us. But we never found anything better than Susanna. I like that it's a name that people are familiar with, but it's not particularly common.

Susanna is from the Hebrew Shoshannah, which means "lily." There are two Susannas in the Bible, one of which was a disciple of Jesus mentioned in the book of Luke. There's also a saint, who was martyred in the third century and has a lovely church named after her in Rome. Finally, Susannah Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism.

There is an apocryphal chapter in the Book of Daniel called "Susanna and the Elders", which tells the story of the beautiful and virtuous Susanna. She was bathing in her garden when a couple of elders peeked in. Later, they threatened to tell everyone she was meeting a lover unless she has sex with them. Susanna refuses, and when they follow through on their threat, she's about to be put to death for promiscuity. Our hero, Daniel, comes along and proves that the elders are lying by interviewing them separately.

There are many paintings of this story, probably because it was a way to paint a naked lady and say you were just painting a Bible story. You can find a huge gallery of paintings of Susanna here. Warning: you will get tired of pictures of old dudes leering at naked ladies.

Then of course, there is the minstrel song by Stephen Foster, "Oh! Susanna." Previously, no American song had sold more than 5,000 copies, but this one sold over 100,000, allowing Foster to become the first songwriter to live off his songs in the nation. I didn't realize how appropriate the song was until one day I was pacing the floor with my daughter, singing "don't you cry for me" over and over.

Josh asked at one point if we could call her "Zuzu." I scoffed at this idea. While Zuzu is admittedly the most adorable name for a little girl ever, it is clearly not a real name and just something that Frank Capra made up. But I looked it up anyway, and it turns out that it is a nickname for Zuzana, which is the Slovak version. Yes, yes, we can call her Zuzu. People respond differently to her nickname, but it's always pretty fun to hear an older person say such a silly little word. Relatively few people say anything about It's a Wonderful Life, which makes me think that people are not watching enough feel good movies at Christmastime.

It's a little weird giving a new person their name. While pregnant, I had no doubts about the name, but when she was born, it didn't seem to fit. I think that was a problem of her being kind of a blob. I caught myself referring to her as the name of a friend's kid a couple of times, and Josh and I both called her "Puppypants" at least once. As time has gone on, though, she becomes more and more Susanna. Maybe she didn't seem like a Zuzu because we didn't actually know what a Zuzu was. We know now.


not bonding with baby.

We were driving back from introducing the baby to Josh's grandmother. At the halfway mark in the hour and a half drive, the baby became unhappy. You can tell that we are new at this, because we stopped. I changed her diaper and snuggled her while Josh went into McDonald's to use the bathroom and get a snack. She got quiet. Then we buckled her back up and got back on the road. By the time we were on the interstate, she was crying again.

I sighed. It was annoying, and there was nothing we could do. The baby was not in any danger. She was just upset because she had been out of the womb for all of five weeks, and the outside world is a terrifying place filled with highways and french fry smell. So I tried to just tune it out. I was reasonably successful.

Josh was noticeably anxious. He was at the wheel, and he kept reaching an arm to the back seat to touch the baby, to let her know that she was not alone. It did not seem to help, and it was affecting his driving. I told him to put his hands on the wheel, and I put an arm back to hold her little hand. My touch was no more comforting than his had been, but at least Josh calmed down. He stopped looking back and fidgeting. Her cries seemed to cause him physical pain. After twenty minutes, she fell asleep.

Later that night, there was more inconsolable crying. It was me.

See, I knew that I was not going to bond immediately with this baby. When we took a birthing class, the teacher had us write down what we were looking forward to and what we were scared of on the whiteboard, then we went down the list and talked about each thing. On the "Looking Forward To" side, someone wrote "bonding with baby." On the "Scared About" side, I wrote "not bonding with baby." When we go to that item, the midwife talked about how brave and honest it was that someone wrote that down. Then she said that if you know that you're not quick to bond with people in general, that you will be fine. I guess the idea was that it happens, and the people who are not prepared for it are the ones who really have a hard time. I can understand that, but that does not mean that it's easy, even if you expect it.

I knew better than to expect angel choirs or whatever people say happens to them when they meet the person that has been growing inside their bodies. I don't doubt that experience happens for some, but nothing in my life has been like that, ever. I guess I expected to feel something at five weeks in.

To me, the baby was like one of those robot babies they give to the eighth graders to scare the condoms onto them. She was basically an input/output device. She cries, I go down a list of things that could be wrong until I find the right one, and she stops. In the car, there was nothing I could do, so I shrugged and didn't worry about it. It did not occur to me to offer her comfort, as I didn't really see her as a person. Her wails meant that it was time to feed her or change her diaper, not that she was upset about being hungry or wet. I interpreted her saying something like "insert milk," not "I'm hungry." She had no "I." Josh felt her pain, I felt annoyed at the noise.

Through some mix of genetics and upbringing, I developed empathy kinda late in life. I've worked really hard on it, but apparently, it did not extend to babies, not even my own. I couldn't see her as a person; she had no personality. At that age, she couldn't even focus her eyes. So we were going to all this trouble for someone that would not even look us in the face. It seemed I was incapable of loving someone who couldn't love me back. I was disappointed that I needed this from her, like my maternal love came with stipulations. I felt so broken.

Josh tried really hard to comfort his sobbing mess of a wife, but he did not understand. I think he got the angel choirs back at the hospital. He told me I would be a great mother, but I wasn't worried about that. Having a child was supposed to be an investment of time, money, and energy with a huge emotional payoff, and I wasn't feeling anything. I could not see what was any different about my relationship to this baby as opposed to any other baby that I was responsible for. Logically, I was pretty sure it would get better, but it sure sucked at the moment.

It did get better. At two months, she started looking at us and smiling a lot. By three months, I was actually enjoying her, rather than mostly not minding her. And now at five months out, I love the little baby. I am still not sure what is different about the parent/child relationship. I am skeptical that anyone really likes babies that little, that really it's just rose-colored hindsight after seeing who they become. But then again, some people get angel choirs.


first overnight trip.

Last weekend, Josh went to choir camp at the beach. Rather than twiddle the baby's thumbs at home, I took her to see my parents. It was her first overnight trip, and also the farthest west she's ever traveled. There were many firsts - her first time at a Methodist church, her first Mexican restaurant, her first potluck, seeing her first donkey. Do you remember your first donkey?

I was pretty nervous about flying solo with the baby. Because Josh is a stay-at-home-dad, he's become kind of the default caregiver. We trade off, but he just spends more time with her. He's also quicker to respond to her cries, flying to her aid almost immediately. Meanwhile, I give it a second or two to see if she'll get over it...and maybe to see if Josh will get there first.

But it was fine, because she is an easy baby. She let everyone hold her, and gracefully handled the mass of relatives all up her in face. She got a bit overwhelmed a couple of times, but would calm down if I took her outside for a minute. It was a nice confidence boost for me. This is my baby, I can keep her alive and happy all by myself for four whole days.

When we got home, Josh was already back. He must've missed us, because he came out to the car to meet us. I was getting the baby out of the car seat when I noticed something yellowish dripping down her leg. Josh was coming toward us, love in his eyes, and I thrust her into his open arms, saying "She's leaking poop."

It's so nice to have a partner in these things.


hand lady.

I haven't been to many yard sales since the baby was born, just because doing anything with an infant is an added level of hassle. I've taken her to a couple of larger church sales, bouncing up and down the aisles while being occasionally stopped so people can tell me how cute she is.

There was an estate sale going on a couple weeks ago, in the form of an online auction. No one cares if your baby cries at an online auction. I looked through the listings and found some lots that were interesting. There were several listings that said things like "everything in kitchen cabinets" or "contents of dresser" with blurry pictures of the items. The auction had been going on a couple of weeks and had a few days left to go, but there were many lots that were at $.25. I like grab bag type purchases. It's fun to look through and see what you've won. So I bid a dollar on the contents of some cabinets and a dresser that looked like it could contain stationery. It seemed like every cabinet, closet, and shelf had a box or two of ZipLock bags on it. These people were really into storage, I guess. There was also a really nice clock that was up to some ridiculous price, and a couple of interesting furniture pieces.

And then there was a porcelain hand.

There was no information, just three pictures and a title: "Porcelain Hand." Maybe some kind of old prosthetic? At the time, the hand was going for a quarter. And again, I thought, hey, I'd pay a quarter for that. I'd pay three whole dollars for that, whatever it is. I tried googling variations of "porcelain hand," but didn't find anything helpful.

The days wore on, and as the end date got closer, there was more activity on the auction. Someone outbid me on a couple of the lots, and I rebid on a couple of them. I let the dresser that may or may not have stationery in it go. I went up to $3 on a cabinet that had various kitchen things, figuring that I'd make it back on the three boxes of ZipLock bags alone.

At first, I thought having the sale as an auction was a stupid idea, as it seemed like a lot of things were going for way less than you could get if you just had a traditional sale. I guess you save the time and trouble of setting everything up or doing research to price things. Instead, you can just walk around the house, open a cabinet, and take a crappy picture of it.

But as the end got closer, I began to see the genius of the auction. When you go to a sale, it's easy to look at an item, for example, a porcelain hand, and decide whether you want to pay what they are asking. So you can admire the porcelain hand, think how it's kinda neat, wonder what on earth it's for. Then you look at the price tag, put it down carefully, and walk away. With an auction, you go, I'll pay $3 for that, because the price is at a quarter. And then someone else says they'll pay $5 dollars for it, and you have to decide if you'll pay as much as $8 for it.

And then you get to the end, and all of a sudden you've paid $15 for a porcelain hand. When really, I should've just put in my top price at the beginning and then not looked at it again. I should've had the hard conversation with myself of how much I was willing to pay for a porcelain hand, rather than progressive conversations that sounded like, "Well, $8 isn't that much for...whatever this thing is," or "You know, I've paid $15 for a case of beer, which lasted a couple of days, while this porcelain hand can be passed down to my heirs."

After the auction, the winners were to show up at a house in Chapel Hill to pick up their prizes. Had it been a regular estate sale, they probably would've staged this house to showcase all the items, but it looked half ransacked. I felt embarrassed to walk in and say, "Hi, I'm the hand lady." But I'm sure these people get all kinds of weirdos buying all kinds of weirdo gear, so they didn't blink when I told them that I was here for my hand.

So, I have this thing now.
I do know what it is. There are patent numbers on the side, which revealed that it is a glove mold. It was hooked to a machine, probably with a whole row of hands, and dipped into rubber. Once I figured out the right search terms, I was able to find all kind of crazy internet people who collect these things. You can get one off eBay in your choice of size and style.

I was visiting a friend a few days after picking up my hand, and I happened to see a hand on her dresser, holding her necklaces. I'm sure I had seen it before, but recent events had made me very interested in hands. I picked it up and noticed the word "MEDIUM" on the bottom. "This is a glove mold!" I nearly shouted. I felt redeemed, since my friend is a cool person with cool stuff. Apparently, her mother had come across some kind of glove factory liquidation sale and bought a half dozen to give to everyone she knew. SEE? HEIRLOOMS!
I think I'll stay away from the online auctions for a while.