and another thing

For years and years everybody with the power to define any clear direction for E2 consistently shied away from doing so. This policy has filtered down to the regular users to the point that we will now fight anybody who tries to clearly pin down what E2 is and what E2 is supposed to do, for fear that by naming some useful features of E2, we will eliminate others.

And now E2 has petered out to having three writeups in one day (down from 300 at its peak).

Is it any wonder that E2 is "failing" when we have never had any clear definition of "success"?

Further Adventures In New Parenthood

Yesterday I learned a few things about vomiting.

  • Babies vomit a lot. It doesn't mean they're about to die.
  • Really. He's not about to die. Calm down.
  • This white milky vomit can literally GUSH out of their nose and mouth at a moment's notice. Very scary, when you first see it. Probably very scary for them, too.
  • Some puking is normal, but if they're puking a LOT, it probably means something's wrong.
  • Things that can be wrong can be as simple as: The milk is too hot. The milk is too cold. You aren't burping the baby enough. He's gulping too much air.
  • They can be as bad as: he has colic. He has gastroenteritis. He is possessed by Satan.
  • The baby may throw up when you're holding him. He may throw up in your face and all over your clothes, the floor, and everything else in the vicinity.
  • If this happens, try not to jump and shout in fright. This will scare the baby even more and you may also put yourself in danger of dropping him.
  • Don't drop the baby. Don't drop the baby. Don't drop the baby.
  • It's OK. It's OK. You didn't drop him. Relax. It's OK.
  • I'm sorry little J. I'm sorry I nearly dropped you. I'm sorry.
  • Baby sick doesn't smell too bad and is easy enough to clean up. Thank God for small mercies.

I'm also learning about the after-effects of a difficult labour. Jo had one. She was 15 days overdue and was induced, and there were problems. Painful contractions for 10 hours before she was dilated enough to go to the delivery ward. Little Joshua didn't want to come out, and wasn't wriggling in the way he's supposed to wriggle, and after an hour and a half of turning purple and pushing, without an epidural, they had to use a venteuse. Local anaesthetic and an episiotomy. Then days of hardly any sleep in the hospital, and when Joshua was a day old they took him away to the intensive care unit to treat him for a Group B Strep infection. This can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, septicemia, and a host of other serious problems, and is the leading cause of fatal newborn infections.

Everything is fine now, and Joshua has been home for more than a week, and we're starting to relax, which means that Jo is starting to process what has happened to her in the last few weeks of her life. She's sore, she's on antibiotics for the strep (which she passed to Joshua in the birth canal), her stomach has stretch marks, it's hard for her to get a full night's sleep, and all her family and friends are in a different country. Yesterday I nearly didn't go to work because when I woke up she was sitting up with the baby and crying. I came home for a long, early lunch that day and she was a bit better. She went to bed early and I made sure she wasn't disturbed by the baby until nearly 6am, and this morning she felt a lot better. It's good, but things change every day.

They change every day. In the last week Joshua has been learning how to use his arms. At first he used to just wave them around by reflex; now you can see him starting to use them intentionally to try to grab things. When I lean him forward to burp him, he holds his head up for as long as he's able, which is surprisingly long. His head is changing shape and his cheeks are getting fatter. I take pictures of him every day and I don't know what I'll do with them. I can't bear the idea of missing any part of his development.

Jo tells me she will be OK. It's not post-natal depression, she says, but the "Baby Blues", something less serious that almost everyone feels. She's been reading up on it. There's so much to find out. We never heard of Group B Strep before, and the public health services in Ireland and the UK don't test for it, you have to ask your GP to test you privately in advance of the birth, but no one told us. How could we have known? The leading cause of newborn infections, and no one told us that Jo should get tested. 1 in 3 women carry it. Isn't that mad?

It's the weekend. My focus this weekend is allowing Jo to get as much sleep as possible and to be as happy and relaxed as possible. Oh - and to learn how not to jump 3 feet in the air when a sleeping baby pukes in my face while I'm watching the Olympics.

In August, I've been told, grown-up writers all go off to their summer homes on the Cape or Martha's Vinyard, and live the simple life. Being a mendicant scholar, my journeys have been purely in the mind: I read a good deal of the Durrell family, ordered some of Elizabeth David's early cookbooks (very useful in Connecticut summer), and finally got down to finishing South Wind. I also pondered the case of Thomas Kinkade's fictitious New England, especially that in his book, Cape Light. Knowing how many people jump to conclusions about New Haven, and Yale University, I thought it would be fun to demythify a key topic of New England life, specifically, the role of faith.

In Cape Light, "everything is the way it's always been": women are "famous" for cooking homey regional specialties like strawberry shortcake and clam rolls (Enormous tip-off: New Englanders don't deep-fry in their homes, clam rolls are take-out fare), there's a real-live soda fountain in the drugstore, and everyone looks and acts like a character out of Norman Rockwell. When two retired university professors open a coffeehouse ("the Beanery") people make fun of the silly names for the drinks, which after all aren't half so good as "Susan's famous coffee" at the diner, and cost three times as much! And above all, people have Faith.

Since everyone is from an "old local family", everyone's presumably WASP, and of 16th century Pilgrim stock. Therefore, everyone goes to the same church, Reverend Ben Elliott's simple white-painted meetinghouse on the Green. Though we're not told the precise denomination of this church, it's clear that it's fairly close to Thomas Kincaid's own avowed evangelicalism, which he terms "a simple faith": tacitly conservative, with a strong emphasis on the Bible and a moral code much like that of Pat Robertson. In this town Durham Light, a lighthouse on a point (apparently now overgrown by highly-saturated pastel trees) stands as a symbol of the abiding centrality of Jesus Christ as the personal Savior and Lord of all the residents. It's not mentioned whether there were any witch hangings in the area, or whether they ever stigmatized adultresses, but you can just bet that there'll be no trick-or-treating come Satan's Birthday, and that high-school girls wear modesty skirts under their minis while studying Creation Science.

Which makes about as much sense as having everyone openly worshipping Cthulhu. While it's true that member churches of the United Church of Christ, which is where all these Pilgrims and Puritans ended up after about six generations or so, have a tradition of independent thought, it's also true that, at least from the time of the Civil Rights movement onwards, they've been enthusiastically liberal in their views on social policies. Reverend Ben is actually more-than-likely to be Reverend Sam, if she's not Carol or Joan, a fiftyish woman who loves baroque chamber music and U2, and is looking forward to performing the town's first same-sex marriage. After all, this is the church, not only of Cotton Mather, but of Julian Bond, Oprah Winfrey, and, dare I say it, Barack Obama. And on the subject of multiculturalism....

It's worth pointing out that the Dutch/British/French settlement of New England is approximately four hundred years old. Just as fossilized microorganisms have changed through the slow metamorphizing of the rocks in which they're embedded, and even some cave art has changed through geological processes in and on their stones, nice New England towns, especially on the coast, are extremely unlikely to be purely inhabited by any one group or another whatsoever. For instance, looking over the hypothetical Green, you might notice two other buildings, more European in nature, Gothic and Romanesque, respectively, which belong to Trinity Episcopal and St. Mary's (Catholic) churches respectively, catering to the later colonists, Irish, Italians, and Portuguese that have settled in the area since those early times (Family-run -- not Olive Garden -- Italian/seafood restaurants are ubiquious, and tasty, and yes, they know all about making cappuccinos, lattes, and so on -- from their mothers). While the Catholic church still holds lock-step with Rome in matters of priestly celibacy, and still (at least on paper) holds to traditional values, a man with such a Celtic last name as his would hear "eh, Faith and Begorrah, why does a good boy like you have to do with a faith neither reformed nor Anglican, nor Catholic?". While the Episcopal church, for a time, was lampooned as "St. Midas", for its High Church liturgy and wealthy parishioners (especially among the summer residents), it, too, is socially progressive, and in any case, is centered on the Anglican Mass and Holy Communion (with appropriate music), not the pulpit.

As well as perhaps a Methodist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran church, or a synagogue, you might also see some other, smaller, churches, around town, whose names you might not recognize. Perhaps they might carry on the traditions epitomized in the "Simple Gifts" of the Shaker hymn? They might, if you consider The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing as they really were and are: simple, perhaps in art, but richly complex in theology. Fact is, as much as we're branded as being puritanical and "witch-burners", New Englanders are notorious for lusting after strange gods, a tendency that means that every few years, there's a revival, which invariably ends up with people joining faiths even more complex and politically progressive than the mainstream, which ends up with people espousing such theological oddities as The Oneida Community, Spiritualism, Swedenborgianism, Universalist Unitarianism, Christian Science, and, of course, Wicca, The Golden Dawn/O.T.O., TM, Zen, and various other New Agey meta-religions. We also are (or were) enthusiastic lodge members and joiners, meaning that New England towns are dotted with enough Masonic Halls, Odd Fellows Temples, Elks Lodges, Knights of Columbus, Lions Clubs, Grange Halls, and the like to make you start believing in the Illuminati, some (though not all) are religious or quasi-religious in nature. In short, we're more than fond of our witches: Salem was an embarrassment (if they really weren't really witches, shame on us for being superstitious, if they were, shame on us for not being religiously tolerant) but isn't it fun to believe in them? So we actually enjoy Halloween (any excuse for a party, especially in Autumn, our finest season) and fortunetelling, to the extent that you'll see Halloween parties in parish houses, fortunetelling at church fairs (as many did, srisly, back in the 1950's), and an occult bookstore/herb shop on the Town Green without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow. If Cthulhu were to be worshipped anywhere in New England, he wouldn't be a secret, as much as a mascot for some high school team.

So, where would Thomas Kincaid feel at home worshipping in Cape Light? Well, back a few miles, near the interstate, there's a couple of churches that are kind-of-evangelical, where they have a preacher who uses a microphone, and they have electric instruments, instead of an organ....but they're kind of well, for people who really aren't from around here...out where the cheap gift shops are, where they sell Thomas Kincade stuff....

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