The Advance of the Darkness

Ah, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

City Time (the time zone calculator on my Palm, which also gives sunrise and sunset times) tells me we got only 10 hours and 22 minutes of daylight today. Sadly, the daylight we did get was pretty dim, dulled down by clouds and drizzle.

I can really feel the lack of light. Keeping going on a day like this is like trying to swim in an undertow. The darkness drags at me, pulling me under, unless I fight to keep my head up. And the depression is insidious, discouraging me from treating it. It would be so much easier just to let go, stop struggling against it, and give in.

This is one of the phases I go through every winter; I am used to it. My mood will track the weather until the time change, when I tend to go through a deep low and have trouble getting up in the morning. Then things will get better for a while thanks to the thrill of the holiday season (helped this year by the extensive travel we’ll be doing in November), then at about New Year’s, I’ll sink again. Usually, it’s just the post-holiday blues, but I suspect going back to work will contribute to a lower low yet. Then it’ll be onto the long upslope as the days get lighter, each one better than the last, until spring comes and I can put my light box away.

What I need to remember, what I always try to remember, is that this is temporary. It’s one of those glass half full/half empty things…is summer just an intermission between winters, or is summer the rule and winter the exception? The best thing I’ve done for my SAD this year has been to reform my thinking, to try to see summer as the default state. Winter is a falling away from that ideal, a hiccup in the essential lightness of life.

No doubt I’ll reread this in January and think it hopelessly naive.

On the food front, I have been making a lot of soups lately. They’re for the whole family, B included. He doesn’t get salty food yet, so I can’t just throw a stock cube or two in and build the flavor from there. Instead, I’ve been making my own salt-free chicken stock, then adding vegetables and pearl barley to turn it into a soup. Oddly, I can’t taste the chicken in it until I add salt; then the flavor comes zinging out.

B has eaten both the soups I’ve made with gusto. We use a little hand-held electric blender to whizz his food into mush, since his gums are probably not up to bits of chicken and pearl barley.

Cooking for the baby is a powerful thing, by the way. M and I have both felt it over the last couple of months. Every step, from browsing for another flavor to try him on (harlequin squash? pumpkin?), to cooking it up, to mushing it and spooning it into his toothless little mouth, is deeply satisfying. It’s even more fulfilling than breastfeeding, probably because the preparation process is conscious and deliberate.

We don’t just cook for immediate consumption, either. We tend to make enough of whatever the new food is to freeze 10 or 15 ice cubes’ worth of mush, plus a meal’s worth to eat fresh. Subsequent meals are easy: pop 4 or 5 cubes in the microwave, heat, thicken with baby rice if needed, and serve. I make a game of it with B, letting him chew on the Tupperware lid while I discuss the flavors he’ll be getting.

He has yet to taste commercial baby food (a point of pride). This will change when we start travelling next month.

A date! A date!

Night out last night, without B for once. We took Scott and Angela up on their standing offer to babysit and went out to AI. Having a night out was pleasant, but the movie itself was disappointing. I suppose it was inevitable. A life-like, live action science fiction film where characters go searching for Pinoccio’s Blue Fairy so she can turn an android into a real boy cannot end with success. As the characters chased the dream further and further, the plot felt like it was too far out in front of itself. There was no possibility of a satisfactory resolution.

Since it was a Spielberg movie, though, AI made up for what it lacked in plot with emotional drama. We were pulled through visions of uncondional love between parent and child, loss, and abandonment. Emotionally, it was powerful. Intellectually, sadly, it was not. Of course, it didn’t help that my mood was already somewhat precarious before we went into the cinema. Martin has a colleague who was 20 weeks pregnant; she just lost the baby. He told me in the takeout Mexican restaurant before the film.

I remember being 20 weeks pregnant. We were in California, and B was already kicking. The 12-week danger zone was past, and I felt much safer. The anticipation was wonderful – I was looking forward to days like today so much. To lose that would have been devastating. Harder even that the miscarriage at 8 weeks last January, and that one nearly broke my heart.

We got home to find B awake but exhausted. He had behaved beautifully for Scott and Ange, but that didn’t extend to actually going to sleep. He went into hysterics within minutes of us coming home, hysterics so strong that he wouldn’t nurse at first. He sounded overtired and overstimulated. And between his stress-out and ours, we decided that this was a night to share the bed with B.

It was a sweet idea, and it started well. I fed him lying down, and he dropped into a deep and reassured sleep. We positioned ourselves carefully, so our pillows were nowhere near his head and the duvet was safely low, then prepared for a shallow but satisfying night of family sleep.

Alas, it was not to be. M had a nightmare and woke up screaming. B slept on, but I was awake. And then the niggling back muscle that had been paining me all day exploded into agony. I couldn’t move without gasping and whining, couldn’t turn, and certainly wasn’t getting any more sleep straight away.

M was a star, rubbing my back, helping me move to the guest room, then rubbing again so that I could sleep. He put B back in his own crib. Family sleep had lasted about one hour; then we were spread across three beds. I was somewhat better in the morning, but still had to be careful about picking B up (he is over 17 pounds now, after all). M came home early to help, proving once again what a wonderful guy he is.

Developmentally, B continues to charge ahead. He crossed from the living room to the kitchen on Monday, overcoming a psychological barrier that had baulked him for a week or two. I don’t know why it mattered so much to him; perhaps he had not realised the two spaces were truly connected?

He is still not crawling; his tummy stays on the ground as he moves. He uses a swimming motion, like a man breasting his way through molasses, and gets the most amazing amounts of lint on himself in the process. I vacuum and dust mop almost constantly, but he keeps finding more dust to pick up.

He has also discovered peekaboo. I started doing a large “bye bye” production when I left the room about a week ago, in response to his increased fretfulness upon finding himself alone. And the corollary to “bye bye” when you leave is, of course, “hello” when you return. Peekaboo is just a tiny step beyond that. He loves it, even though I am not sure he has really grasped the idea that I still exist when I’m out of sight. Maybe he percieves it as a game of destruction and creation, not hiding and return?

The odd thing about it is, he seems to like controlling the game as well. Twice today, he was the one moving in and out of sight, once with the hem of my skirt and once with the kitchen doorway. Maybe it was unintentional…but if so, the fun he had doing it will probably get him to try it again.