Saturday, April 30, 2011

There are a lot of words in this one, so to make sure you don’t get bored I’m sprinkling in some pics I’ve taken with my cell phone. There are a ton that get taken and then never see the light of day, so after this post I’ll also do a pic-only post to get the rest of them out there. As the French say, enjoi!

In an earlier post I alluded to the fact that I love baby Eloise more than I loved baby bebe, and I’d like to clear that up: I love baby Eloise more than I loved baby bebe.

Okay, so not exactly. When bebe was born, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Especially since it came directly on the heels of the Celtics blowing out the lakers, at home, in game six of the nba finals. That was awesome.

And then beebs was born. Also awesome. We had the ideal birth experience, the one we had planned and trained for, and everything went pleasantly as expected. The birthing itself was quick and relatively easy (I know, I wasn’t the one who pushed a watermelon out of my penis, but I think if you asked mommy she’d agree), and our baby was bright, responsive, healthy, and beautiful. What’s not to love?

Well, babies in general, for starters. Show me the next generation graphics processor for a video game system, a perfectly tuned performance automobile, a five-on-five fast break with lots of ball movement resulting in an embarrassingly easy slam, um, an ice sculpture, some unconventional interior design solutions… I don’t know, whatever. I’ll oooh and ahh, and wow myself all over the place. Put a baby in front of me? A strong ‘meh’ if you’re lucky.
That people, usually women, go completely crazy when someone presents a baby is lost on me. I mean, I sort of get it, but I certainly don’t feel it myself. Show me a three year old hopped up on sugary cereal tearing apart a tj maxx, and now I’m entertained. But babies just don’t do it for me.
So naturally I was curious to see what effect, if any, my very own baby would have on me. It turns out it was basically the same. I loved baby bebe like she was my baby- I thought she was the most beautiful, smartest, best baby in the whole world. But I didn’t want much to do with her. She was just a baby. On top of that, her inability to establish any workable sleep schedule frustrated things a bit. Much of the time, in the very beginning, she was just this thing who cried while I bounced her from three to five am.
So beyond crying, sleeping, feeding, and pooping, she didn’t really do anything.

I couldn’t wait for her to develop some personality. Because what I really love, traditionally, is kids. I like someone I can feed off of, interactive with, play with. Cooing, and wiping drool (or bottoms) doesn’t count.
So it wasn’t really until she was about eight months old that I really started to become invested in her. I loved her with all of my heart, would have done anything to keep her safe, etc. I just wasn’t that into her. There’s no way to express it that doesn’t sound at least a little frigid, and that’s not how it was at all.
And actually, once she started becoming a person it was like falling in love all over again. But for those first six or eight months, I just didn’t feel close to her.

Weezy was the exact opposite in most respects. The birth was nothing like we had planned for, and wasn’t nearly as smooth as her big sister’s. I can’t say for sure what evoked such a strong emotional connection for me, but it was there from the very start, literally. We had a natural birth (though it was induced), and it took super-birther, aka mommy, about a push and a half to get eloise’s head out. Literally.

When mommy was in labor with bebe, our midwife Tarcia called me down to the business end and asked if I, as the head crowned, wanted to touch it- of course I did. And I did. So I was essentially the very first person ever to touch her outside of the womb. When it came time to push her the rest of the way out, we realized that her hand was up by her face with the umbilical cord somewhere in the mix. Tarcia had to carefully unwrap the cord and move the tiny fist to get bebe free. Once she was untangled, she lifted her up and out, and presented her to us, laying her on mommy’s chest.

Elo’s labor put me in a different position all together. As I mentioned, it took mommy a push and a half to get her head out. Once her midwife julia had checked to make sure that her mouth was clear and everything looked normal, she turned to me and said “do you want to help her the rest of the way out?” even before I had answered I realized I was rolling up my sleeves and leaning over. She told mommy to push once more and placed my hand under eloise’s tiny head and neck. As mommy pushed, I gently eased out the two smallest shoulders I had ever seen, followed by a skinny little body with long legs and teeny feet. I held her up to turn her around, and as I did she grabbed right on to my arm, holding fast.

I don’t know if it was the stress of the induction, the getting to “catch” her, as they say, or the fact that she was a scrappy little guy closer in birth weight and build to myself as a newborn preemie that bonded me almost instantly to her. I suspect it was a combination of all of the above and then some. Whatever the reasons, it’s manifested in some interesting ways.
Most significantly, in terms of this blog, it’s meant almost no pictures or entries of any kind. The reason for this is two-fold: first, I definitely used some obsessive picture-taking to “force” a bond with beebs. Hence, thousands of photos and a steady stream of blog entries. I was definitely compensating, at least a little, with all of those pics. I’m also a compulsive picture snapper, so when you put those two together you get monthly averages in the ‘thousands of pics’ range.

i. take. pictures. of. everything.
bebe's first potty poop, from around a year ago.

"please don't take pictures of my poop."
no promises, kid.

With diesel, I hadn’t even picked up a camera around her until she was probably two months old. Unlike with beatrix, I enjoyed just spending time with her. Again, that sounds worse than what I actually mean. I guess I should say that I was more content to stare into a face for hours at a time and basically do nothing with little or no feedback than I was the first time. Part of this is due to the fact that we already had the raddest two year old ever, and the baby was a welcome contrast. Eloise didn’t ask “why?” to the point of frustration and exhaustion. She just sat there, warm, occasionally shifting her little limbs around. I think a part of me also felt protective of her in a way that I didn’t feel was necessary with bebe. Eloise needed some help, whereas bebe was big enough to take care of herself. So to speak.

The second reason was that in the months leading up to her birth, I kind of got tired eyes. It’s like the photographer’s version of writer’s block, only in reverse. With writer’s block, the ideas just won’t come, but when you’re burnt out on photography, it’s more like a short-circuit due to overload. You spend all of your time looking with your photographic “eye” and eventually you just get tired of constantly “seeing” new images, compositions, subject matter, etc.

The best remedy is to take a break and get refreshed, but I had another issue as well. Since bebe was born I had been taking pics almost exclusively with point and shoot cameras. These are utility cameras at best, where size/weight and ease of use are substituted for features and image quality. Now, the point and shoot I was using happened to be the closest thing to a Dslr (a much better quality type of camera) that you could buy, but it was still extremely limited in its application. I used every trick I knew to get some pretty good pics out of it, but after a few years I was pretty tricked out.

I had resisted getting a dslr for a long time, mostly because I was brought up on film and saw a huge margin of image quality from the older film cameras to the newer digital ones. Rather than commit to a high end digital camera, I stuck to the occasional roll of film in my old 35mm film camera and the much more cost-effective point and shoot models. I was walking a line between the expense of getting film developed and printed versus the expense of getting a nice digital camera that ultimately would still fall short in image quality.

After two years of watching the market, doing research, and saving any gift money I was given, I was almost ready. Add in an autumn of tired eyes and the birth of my second daughter and I was committed. I still prefer film to digital, but I’ve come to accept that unless I were to make a living from my photography (and maybe even then?), it just doesn’t make sense to continue to avoid the nicer digital camera market while going through crappier point and shoot cameras every two years or so. And for the number of pics I take, film is not cost-effective, to say the least.

At tax time, with a little boost from the healthy refund we got courtesy of Eloise beating the new year’s clock, I finally outfitted myself with a whole new set-up. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but I’m continuing to get the hang of my nice new camera. And as I had hoped, it’s refreshed me a great deal to have some new equipment to experiment with. I also used a little tax money to clear out the seventeen rolls of film I had waiting to be developed, and some date back a few years or more, with plenty of black & white rolls dedicated to bebe’s first year or so. Once I get those scanned I’ll post them here, and hopefully by the weekend I’ll have some of my newer shots of the girls edited and ready to post!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

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