a good birthday gift

yesterday ramona took a really good afternoon nap, which gave me time to sit down & start replying to a letter i got a few weeks ago. it was from a long-time pen pal who wanted to discuss zine angst & zine-related situations that make us uncomfortable & unhappy.

i don’t know why i agreed to this line of conversation. i may be forced to rescind, because in my attempts to reply to the letter with some of my own experiences about zine angst, i just got really unhappy, & by the time jared came home from school, i was crying. i guess i have a lot more zine angst than i thought i did. honestly? jared & i are taking ramona to portland next month, to coincide with the portland zine symposium, & i am dreading it. DREADING. IT. i mean, i think the walking around portland with jared & ramona part will be a lot of fun, & i’m looking forward to meeting our airbnb hosts, who are artists with a young daughter. we’re staying not far from grant park, which features a beverly clearly-themed sculpture garden & of course we will be taking ramona there for some ramona-&-ramona photo ops. but i’m dreading the zine symposium.

i just can’t with drama anymore. i cannot afford to get distracted by Feelings when i have a baby to take care of. i can’t be the kind of mom i want to be for ramona, the kind of mom she needs & deserves, if i am distracted by being angry with someone, or sad about some crappy bullshit situation in which some dumbass twentysomething zine asshole without any real-life responsibilities has decided to try to make me feel shitty. i try really, really hard not to think about that stuff ever. even when i’m “off duty” with ramona, i’d rather use my time to read or sew or do something that brings me some measure of peace & contentment than dwell on negative crap that has happened.

in trying to explain why i was so upset last night, i tried to explain to jared that it’s like going through a really rough break-up. like, it’s not enough that you’ve had this loss, & maybe your feelings are hurt & your life is upended in some big ways, like maybe you have to find a new place to live or something. there’s also the disappointment & the embarrassment of knowing you put so much time & energy into this thing that just did not work out the way you hoped it would. the embarrassment factor has always been the hardest part for me with real break-ups, & it’s the hardest part with zines.

it’s kind of hard to explain, because i don’t know where my expectations for zines really came from. obviously when i was a teenager, it never really occurred to me that i’d ever meet any of the zine people i was corresponding with. maybe that’s not obvious? but i lived in a crappy little college town in ohio & lord knows i never expected anyone to ever visit me there. & i didn’t really expect to leave. i mean, i wanted to, for sure, but i had no idea how to make that happen. i did finally manage to get out of there when i turned 20. but the circumstances make it obvious that i wasn’t much of a self-starter: my best friend from high school had moved to portland with her boyfriend, & they were renting a house with an extra bedroom. i went through a super-terrible break-up & when i told her about it, she said, “quit college & come live in our spare room!” & even though obviously the “quitting college” part was a pretty terrible idea, i did. & even though i was moving across the country to live in a spare room offered by my best friend from high school (ie, not exactly branching out socially), it still took me almost a year to do it. not because i was trying to save money or anything. just because i was dragging my feet.

the point is that at some point, part of my expectations around zines was that they could lead to friendships in real life. i guess that must have happened in portland, when a lot of people befriended me because of my zines. but the flip side of that is that sometimes you can be really into someone’s writing but not click with them in real life. or you can really like someone as a person but not be into what they do creatively. so…i don’t know. the whole thing has been pretty uneven & weird, & the realities of how i’m really not all that social or friendly have clashed with this whole idea of “zine community can be real-life community”.

i don’t even know what i’m trying to say.

bottom line? some people are straight up assholes. even some zine people. there are people involved with zines that have been more vicious & hateful to me than the most vicious & hateful junior high bully. & it pisses me off twice as much because a) we’re adults. grow the FUCK up. & b) all this “zine community! we’re all friends! yay!” stuff is bullshit.

i think i handled all of this better before i had a kid. i guess i had more emotional resources then to kind of work things out in my head & deal with it, maybe. now so much of my energy is eaten up by doing child care & navigating my huge new responsibilities. i am incredibly resentful of anyone who tries to give me an extra serving of stress.

& trying to respond to this letter was just huge plateful of stress.

sorry if this makes no sense.

i am also really tired & maxed out today because last night, i got up to pump like i always do. it was like 5am. & when i crept back into the bedroom to go back to bed for another couple of hours, i heard ramona cough. & i KNEW, i just knew that she was waking up & jared was going to say that i’d woken her up by being too noisy coming back in from pumping, even though we have three forms of white noise going to mask the sounds of doors opening & covers rustling, etc. & also even though when a baby wants to be asleep, it will sleep. i mean, ramona has slept through some really noisy shit. but when she’s ready to be awake, breathing slightly more noisily than usual will do the trick.

sure enough, she woke up & jared sighed & slammed shit around getting up to attend to her. & when we both got up for the day a few hours later, he got on my case for “being noisy” coming back in from pumping & “waking the baby”. & i got so pissed. i told him that if he wanted to experiment with male lactation, he was welcome to give it a whirl & give me a break from getting up every single night in the middle of the night to pump like i’ve been doing for SEVEN & A HALF MONTHS NOW. i’d be HAPPY to sleep straight through until morning. & that if he had notes for me on how i could possibly be any quieter coming back to bed than i already am, i’m all ears.  

my birthday is tomorrow. i would love to have no petty arguments, no bullshit drama, no reasons to have hurt feelings, no surprise disappointments, no reasons to cry for the entire year than i am 34. or ever again, really.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

15 thoughts on “a good birthday gift

  1. I’m sorry to hear you’re having a rough go of it. 😦

    I just stopped pumping a couple weeks ago, because it was getting too stressful. And, honestly, I wasn’t making enough to justify all that effort. So, kudos to you for making it this far. I know first-hand how hard pumping can be.

    If you need the sleep, I don’t think anyone would fault you for cutting back on the pumping. Take care of yourself!

    1. everyone i talk to who talks about how they had supply issues also mentions that they don’t get up to pump at night. coincidence? i think not. i still make an over-abundance of milk & i think getting up in the night really helps. i am down to only pumping every six hours, so i’m only getting up once, & it’s not too horrible because it gives me quiet time to dick around online, & jared takes ramona in the mornings so i can sleep in if i need to. i am REALLY LOOKING FORWARD to stopping, less because it’s stressful than because it’s tedious. i hate having to drop what i’m doing several times a day to pump. we went to the zoo for my birthday, so i pumped at like 8:30am & then not again until 6pm. i was pretty much exploding with milk by that point. i pumped like 15 ounces. but ramona is really not taking to solids at all yet, so…i continue to pump.

      1. I didn’t have supply issues until I went out of town for a week. But you should definitely do whatever works for you. 🙂

        1. i really don’t mind pumping. it’s just tedious sometimes. i’ve started getting up earlier (like 1am instead of 3am) for the overnight pump & that’s working out well. it’s a lot easier to get back to sleep when i know i still have hours until i have to get up for the day. my tentative goal is to make it until ramona is at least a year corrected. only six more months to go!

  2. Just want to say that you are awesome and have a lovely birthday. Having a baby has changed me in similar ways. Man, I have no time for people’s shit. Just started a new job and hearing my siblings complain ( both are in late 20s and living with our parents and doing fuck-all) drives me crazy.

    1. thanks. god, sometimes i wish i could go back in time & have just one more day of laying on the couch all day reading library books, no responsibilities at all. oh well…

  3. I’m sorry things are going badly. I just wanted to say that I’m sending happy thoughts your way & have a great birthday! Those curtains are totally awesome.

      1. I like to look back at my son’s babyhood & think that once I got over my PPD everything was chubby arms & awesomeness, but if I’m really honest with myself I had tons of times where I was frustrated or sad or weepy or angry or just mood swing-y for days on end. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of good stuff to look back on, but, yeah . . . babies are hard. Partners are hard too. I hope it turns around to up times for you soon.

  4. Can I ask how often you pumped at the beginning? Any pumping tips? I’m expecting to have supply issues (prior breast reduction surgery) so I’m planning on pumping from the beginning in addition to nursing. The lactation consultant I spoke to suggested pumping for about 10 minutes after each nursing.

    1. bear in mind that at the beginning, i was ONLY pumping because ramona was on a ventilator & not allowed/able to take food by mouth. & also, because of the traumatic circumstances of her birth, i felt that pumping was the only thing i could do for her. there were times we weren’t even allowed to hold her, so i was very devoted to my pumping schedule.

      i pumped eight times a day–every three hours–for 15 minutes. even in the middle of the night. i would set an alarm to get up & pump. i used (& still use) a double electric hospital-grade pump by medela. it’s called the symphony. i rent it from the hospital for $60 a month. i have a manual pump as well, but my output is seriously cut in half when i pump with the manual pump (which i sometimes do, if circumstances are such that i can’t carve out time/space/electricity to use the hospital pump). sometimes i wonder about the whole “poor supply” thing & wonder if women would benefit from using a different pump. i get about forty ounces a day when i use the hospital pump. ramona eats about thirty. i would get maybe twenty with the manual–not enough to keep up with her, which would throw me into a tailspin of panic, thinking i have “poor supply”.

      anyway, when they did have me pump & nurse (before she stopped nursing), they recommended nursing & then pumping for ten minutes after to maintain supply. but i had such an over-abundant supply right from the start that they started having me pump my usual 15 minutes before nursing her because otherwise she was overwhelmed with milk & would choke. so it depends on how your supply is, i guess.

      it might also be worth looking into a nipple shield. it really helps baby get a good latch, which is the key to successful breastfeeding. it helped ramona a ton. it can be a pain in the ass to use because you’re wrangling the shield, the baby, & your boob…you practically need to be an octopus to get everything coordinated. but it can help sometimes. good luck!

    2. oh, also, i stayed with this eight times a day schedule for two or three months. then i went down to six times a day for a month, then five for a month, & for the last month or two, i’ve been pumping four times a day. my supply is established now so i can lose some pump sessions without affecting my supply much.

  5. Thank you! I will be renting the Symphony as well. It’s 89 dollars here, but that’s Canadian prices for you. I’d heard on message boards that people notice a huge difference in output depending on the pump with hospital grade pumps providing a major advantage over other pumps.

    What your describing is very much in accord with what the lactation consultant said: that sticking to a strict and constant nursing schedule can go a long way to establishing good supply at the beginning. I won’t know what kind of supply I’m capable of, and given that my ducts have been severed it’s realistic to expect difficulty. I want to start everything off on the best possible foot.

    1. good luck! i give my extra milk to a woman who had a breast reduction back in the day & has supply problems as a result. hopefully you won’t have any problems, but if you do, there is donor milk out there. check out human milk 4 babies. & i really recommend being vigilant about pumping for the first couple of months. people kept telling me, “get some sleep! you’re crazy for getting up at 2am to pump!” but i feel like i mostly get plenty of sleep (aside from the occasional bout of insomnia or bad night with ramona), & sticking to the schedule has done a lot of good for my supply.

      then again, everyone has their theories, so feel free to take everything i am saying with a big grain of salt.

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