The Flaw In My Cunning Plan

…is that the only time I reliably have to respond to comments is the same three hours Saturday morning that I write. So I’m all for conversations on my blog, but I suspect my contribution to them may have to happen at weeklong intervals. Please don’t feel dissed. I like how responding to comments gets me to think more about what I’ve written, and I have trouble doing that kind of thinking when Rebecca wants me to be doing something else. On the other hand, if my responses look like tangents to you, they probably are–don’t feel obliged to respond to them if you’re busy or if it’s not a conversation you want to have right now. On the third hand, if you’re reading my entries long after their initial posting date, it’s still totally fine to comment. Just don’t do it on the LJ rss feed, or I’ll never see it.

That said, I just added responses to last week’s post.

How to Prepare for a Natural Birth

I revisited BabyCenter’s natural unmedicated birth group a couple times around Rebecca’s birthday.  Like usual, people are asking how to prepare for a natural birth.  Which methods?  What are you doing?  Like usual, the responses give sensible and encouraging advice, but in retrospect I can’t get past how narrowly practical their focus is, as if birth were such a specialized activity that getting ready for it nowhere intersects with the rest of your life.

If you want to prepare for a natural birth, you may drive across the country all by your pregnant self, except for your stuffed animals and your household gods.  But only if you haven’t done much driving before.  Don’t take any of your friends up on their offers to come with you, or you won’t remember who you are by yourself.  You won’t remember that you don’t need to depend on anyone to figure out where to go and how to get there, or that you can get out of most messes just fine on your own.

If you want to prepare for a natural birth, you may really listen to yourself talk about aches and pains–especially how your ribs hurt in front, just below the bra line, like something’s cutting into them–and worry about what your reaction now might bode for your reaction then.  You’ll start wondering if there’s a less boring way to talk about what you’re feeling, like maybe to describe it in colors instead of clichés?  So you drop into your pain and you see your bread-white ribs washed with blood like wine, a vision of your own body celebrating the Eucharist.  Then you’ll pray to God to open up the space around your heart to make room for you and the baby both.  And then the pain will just feel like stretching and it’ll hardly bother you a bit.

If you want to prepare for a natural birth, you may masturbate a lot.  Because a month before your due date, suddenly a sub-genre of porn that was never interesting before (and soon won’t be again) is the hottest thing since toast:  women forced to come until they beg for it to stop, until they’re out of their minds and deep in subspace.  Oh man.  And you’ll realize the next morning, the reason that particular scenario is smokin’ now?   It’s because, what if you lose control in labor?  And every time you jerk it, somewhere far back in your head, you’re secretly reimagining losing control as less scary.

When I’d asked our midwives, midway through pregnancy, about learning pain management techniques, Anna said I could if I wanted to, but that people usually react to labor the same way they do to any other tough situation in their lives.  I take the point that how you act during birth is inextricable from how you approach the rest of your life, but her way of phrasing it didn’t sound quite right to me.  After all, you can see I react to difficulties in all sorts of ways, and things like hunger or social context send me in yet other directions. The question is, which versions of yourself do you bring into labor?

When the midwives started the second birth circle class by asking about the physically hardest thing you’ve ever done and how you dealt with it, everyone else (not literally) told stories about rock climbing.  Then it was my turn and you know I’m a dweeb:  My greatest test of physical stamina to date had been grading papers through the wee hours of the morning.  I mean, it can be really ugly, desperate work when you’re exhausted and struggling to stay fair to everyone.  Later, after I got over feeling like a nebbish, it occurred to me that the midwives’ question had been clever, because answering it gives you a chance to define yourself as strong and makes that into a part of your social persona at the birth circle.  That’s useful, because who other people expect you to be has an almost gravitational pull on most people.  So if you establish yourself as a person who struggles but ultimately makes it, then maybe it gets easier to be that person when you go into labor.

This is also the sort of thing that medical doctors don’t do.  Interacting with my doctor’s office positioned me as someone under suspicion of being weak and untrustworthy, and as someone who was dependent on medical professionals to know my own body.  It wasn’t a persona I wanted to answer to, and that was part of why I switched to midwives.

If you’re preparing for a natural birth, you may spend the last week before your due date reviewing other changing points in your life, when your experience took you to the limits of endurance and you came out different.  Then, with luck, labor will be anticlimactic, but you’ll still find yourself transformed into a mother.  And maybe the ways you prepared for labor will help with that transition, too.

For those of you who’ve planned an unmedicated birth or similar venture:  What would a guide to preparing for it look like if it were based on your experiences?  Did you find yourself gearing up for it in any ways people don’t usually talk about?

Dear Readers

This post marks the beginning of the public life of this journal.  It’s not my first blog–I got a diaryland diary in 2001 and a livejournal a couple years later–but neither of them is a good fit for the essays about motherhood that I’m writing now.  The banner needs fixed and I bet there are bugs, but that can get worked out later.

Rebecca turns one tomorrow.  I want to post something every month until she turns two.  I suspect time with a toddler disappears the same way that time spent taking care of a baby does, where the hours dribble out leaving only a trail of stickiness.  I’m hungry to have something more substantial and less sticky I can point to as accomplished.

Ted is in charge of Rebecca for three or so hours every Saturday morning, and that’s when I write.  It’s not enough time to say everything I’d like to, but it’s a good amount of time to write something.  The things I make time to finish usually fall into a pattern like this:  I turn to writing after an experience I’ve had trouble talking about or that I want to keep thinking about, and that means I write about facets of motherhood that other writers haven’t already digested to my satisfaction.  Now, the blogs and forums I read gripe a lot, so writing what I haven’t seen skews toward a combination of feminist criticism and uplifting spirituality.  The place where those two things connect for me is in paying attention to the tales I tell myself about mothering and then shifting toward more nourishing stories when that’s appropriate.

For example, when I wrote “They’re Made of Meat”, I hadn’t read anything positive about nights with a baby, so I wanted to call out those invisible hours I spend with my daughter and make them into something that really exists.  Most people seem to label nights in early parenthood by an absence of what they think should be there (i.e. sleep) rather than in terms of what’s actually there: feeding, rocking, managing the covers, thinking, remembering, and trying to get back to sleep.  “Interrupted sleep” is a real complaint, but it’s also a red herring and a safe kind of stand-in for all the tangled things long nights allow.  And conversely, if a large segment of your life on the job is denoted as a lack, does that mean that you and your colleagues don’t approach it as worthwhile work?  Does it make crying- it-out more appealing?

I see parenting as a spiritual endeavor.  When it’s not going well, I think about social, material, and psychological structures feeding the problem, but I also assume that the struggle is good, that the awareness of ourselves and our society that Ted and I come to in the process is good.  I believe that whatever challenges Rebecca brings with her are things we need for our own growth, and that shows up in my writing.  This approach reflects some privilege–I don’t end up in many situations where all the options are just irredeemably bad–but hopefully not in a way that’s overly sappy or pat.

The other important bit of context is, I’m a lurker.  I avoid commenting on other people’s journals because the posts that I most want to reply to are about deeply personal struggles and transformations.  Who am I to cruise in and opine?  So I watch people online for years at a time and read posts that I still think of years later, without commenting.  If I write about my personal struggles, I’m wondering if I can pay forward some of what I’ve gained from reading about others’.  If my writing gets you to tell your own story in the comments here or on your own blog, then I figure I’ve won.


Remembering Tiamat

Sometimes with Rebecca I feel like I’m a place as much as a person.  My body is her habitat: arms, a heartbeat, and two breasts.   It makes me feel cozy.  What can a place do wrong?  All a place needs to do is be present and be itself, and that’s enough.  That’s exactly the right thing for a place to do.

It reminds me how comforting my own mother’s body was.  One night when Rebecca fell asleep with her legs on top of mine, I woke up mistaking my own legs for my mom’s legs–I pictured my thighs with her burn scar, not my mole–and thinking what a warm snuggly place they were to rest.  Other times when Rebecca grabs my belly or a newly emptied boob, I have a sense memory of loving that stretchy skin when I was a baby.  It’s uncanny–in the Freudian sense, even–because I have it in my head that I’m not supposed to touch this mama flesh, and that’s mingled with a hint of learned revulsion for bellies on women.  Mostly I’m in awe that my memory seems to have returned these feelings to me, like a lost wallet that still has all the cash in it.

But memory is tricky.  The effect of my dreams has been to overwrite images of what my mother looked like naked, so that now when I try to picture her stomach, I see mine instead.  It’s like my tummy’s travelled back in time.  That’s empowering, right?  Because if I can locate the stability and safety of my mom’s presence in my own post-pregnant body, then I still have it, even if its price was a memory of her.

Now, I know from a feminist perspective that imagining the mother as the baby’s place is trouble.  It downplays the role of other people and social structures in shaping Rebecca’s environment, and it conceals the fact that being present is work – work that relies on my mind and will as much as my body.  Indeed, the reason it’s powerful to pretend I’m a place is the internal struggles it erases.  When I leave the room, Rebecca tends to object, even when I’m just grabbing laundry, a coke, or the stapler, and even if she didn’t seem to be paying any attention to me the moment before.  It’s typical baby, even for a whopping nine-monther like mine, and it makes getting things done stressful.  If you’re not doing anything with me, Monkey, then can’t I do my own thing?   Do I have to be the stage for your play?  So that’s where my fantasy of being a place comes in, to reclaim myself from the half-read email I left in the other room and insist on my share of Rebecca’s putative Eden.

If you let your feminist gaze drift past your mother’s body, you’re also overlooking an important part of what mothers do.  When my mom died, I grieved for her first as a beloved friend, based on the relationship we had as adults, even though images from my childhood kept grabbing me.  I figured that life was already twenty years gone when my mom was still alive, so why cry for it now?  And anyway, wasn’t the magical mother who made everything okay mostly a figment of her kid’s myopia?  She had swallowed feelings and needs that weren’t always met.  She was hospitalized for depression twice when I was in middle school.  By the time I was in high school, I was resolute about interacting with her as a person instead of a role.  Nevertheless, when she died, all the things she’d given me, all the things she’d done, and all the scattered pieces of who she’d been became unmoored from time, so that they were simultaneously more present and more absent than they’d been when her living body anchored them.  I didn’t get to choose which ones to mourn.

Now, two years later, I’m thinking that the safe place my mom made for us as babies was just as real and meaningful as the relationship we built later with words.  That maybe the comfort her body gave us was just as much a part of her as the later friendship–not a denial of her being, but work that engaged it–and further, that that part is still viscerally with me.  I thought for sure that it had been cremated.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Tiamat, the mother goddess whose dismembered corpse became the earth.  Does it make sense to say that Tiamat is dead, when the earth around us is growing and alive?

They’re Made of Meat

About when Littlest was 4 months old, i.e. February 2010.

When she wakes me at night, she’s not staccato like an alarm clock. She squiggles against my belly, kicking my legs, quietly groping for a breast with her eyes closed, until I’m awake enough to do something about it. I roll onto my side, lift up my pajama top, and help nipple find mouth by the light of the clock radio. She pulls my stripey Dr. Seussian pjs back down around her nose and they smell rich with spilled milk. I usually fall asleep before she’s done. Sometimes she does, too, which may be why she’s back in an hour or two wanting more. A couple times per week she wakes up hardcore, because of gas or needing to pee (most nights she holds it till morning, then fills a couple diapers back to back, or if I have my act together, pees in the sink). Then I may spend an hour rocking and swaying and bouncing her back to sleep. I wrap my mom’s scarf around us and think about how she enjoyed rocking me when I was small. Not so bad.

She pillows her head on my boob until my side aches and I risk rolling over. That’s as far as I get though, because I want to creep into Ted’s room, but I’m stuck fast in my desire for her. Besides, she doesn’t stay asleep without me, even if I leave her my mommy-scented pajamas. Sometimes I play it like I’m doing something nice for Ted by “letting” him sleep by himself or go out at night, not involving him in the work of night parenting. It’s more complicated than that. Because I crave physical closeness with Rebecca as much as with him. When all three of us sleep together, though, there’s no room and I stress about waking him up every time I roll over to switch which nipple is on tap.

But sometimes chance or thirst or a sore pelvis hits me while she’s nursing and I’m wide awake after she’s done. I remember how Ted used to find his way to my dorm room at three AM in the winter when the computer lab closed, and I’d laugh at how cold he was. I remember coming back from summer break after my first year in college, and even though I didn’t love him yet, we nestled like spoons on his bed. I felt so content, and that rush of well-being took me by surprise. I said to myself, huh, the arms of a man really are a good place to find happiness–and it’s been true ever since, too, despite what they tell young women so that they won’t have sex “for the wrong reasons.”

Some nights I want to think more than I want to sleep, especially after days when Littlest has wanted all my attention and I feel like each hour we spend is territory clawed out from the future. I write journal entries in my head, repeating the same fervent phrases over and over to myself: I think the best way to explain new motherhood is by comparing it to adolescence. Everything is new and, OMG, important and sometimes I have the hardest time believing that temporary changes aren’t forever.

Becoming a parent has the vividness that being a teenager did, for basically the same reasons. A bunch of physical and emotional changes show up like a construction team to build another storey onto you. (The project goes late and over budget, se la vie.) That’s true even if you’re not nursing, because parenting is physical work, and you don’t need to be a biological mother or a woman for it to have additional hormonal effects. When I was a child, I didn’t understand what the big deal about boys was. Same thing with babies, up until I got pregnant. Now I’m amazed at the contentment when I’ve got a sleepy baby heavy my arms. My sense of well-being reaches for embarrassing platitudes about biology and evolution: I was made to care for a baby. The tricky thing is I used to have a similar sentiment of rightness when I got up in the night to study, even though perhaps my ancestors didn’t evolve to be grad students.

What happened to that feeling of rightness when I was studying, anyway? I thought it would protect me from burning out. I thought my joy and love for my work meant I’d make it. But a bunch of stuff happened and some of it still comes back to me in the dark. I set the date for my Ph.d candidacy exams, a month in advance, and what came next?  That month my dying mother got access to the medical equipment she needed to come to California one last time, two of us were hit and killed by cars–my Uncle Jerrell, who was with his wife on a walking path in a park, and our dear housemate’s brother, who was walking across the corner to a bar in Vegas. My sister got engaged, Ted and Shayna’s relationship deepened (ahem) (with my blessing, but it still took processing), and my brother-in-law took sleeping pills to get out of the family Thanksgiving and then had a psychotic break and got involuntarily institutionalized.

My uncle’s funeral was scheduled for the week of my exams, so I decided I’d reschedule them the following quarter and defend my prospectus at the same time. Instead I got mired down editing the prospectus, partly because I was too emotionally drained to work on it. I lost both my enthusiasm for the project and contact with my committee. For a while I reoriented myself toward teaching, and then got burned out on that, too, after my mom died. But what if I had taken my exams? Would my experience have taught me something different? Isn’t it weird that our lives are so fragile? Or is it just when the rubber hit the road, family was more important than anything else?

But we were all made for many things.

Half Empty, Half Full

Originally posted February 2010, concerning when Littlest was 2-3 months old.

When we were pregnant, I didn’t grok the asymmetry of fatherhood and motherhood. I knew I had the boobs and would be doing the nursing; I hadn’t expected the corollary that Milky would then spend her first two months sacking out in my lap in full-bellied bliss. Usually I enjoyed it; sometimes I didn’t, but not enough to move her; either way I became default baby-holder. That means I needed to make arrangements to take a shower or go to the bathroom or get a snack, whereas Ted was still in the world where he could simply announce that he’s taking a shower or even just get up and grab the Doritos, like a normal person would.

I resented that, and then because resentment was uncomfortable, I embraced the role instead. I reminded myself that taking care of Littlest is my choice and I could’ve made other choices. Good as far as it goes, but I’m afraid that our experiences with a newborn will teach us who we are as mother and father, that we’ll keep this uneven model of parenthood even when the initial reason for the pattern has disappeared. If I happily stay home with our baby during the day and curl around her at night, then how do I avoid having a disproportionate sense of responsibility for Rebecca when Ted and I are both awake and at home?

When I went out on New Year’s Day to pick up lunch for myself and our partied-out house guests, I left the two-and-a-half month old Littlest at home with her daddy. On my way out I asked, “If the baby cries, you’ll grab her, right?”–all the syllables enunciated and a little too loud, the voice of ostentatious patience. He said he would and away I went.

As soon as I got in the car, I wondered why the hell I was talking to Ted like that, as if he were an idiot. I don’t need to tell him to check on his daughter when she’s crying. He’s better than that, duh, and it’s not like he’s ever let her sit and cry. Later it occurred to me that I might’ve been giving my voice to old resentment. But I think the particular form it took, paranoia, is also a cultural memory of all the hurt voices I’ve read lamenting husbands who weren’t there. My irritation isn’t entirely mine, either: it’s a sympathetic memory of my mother complaining that she couldn’t leave us alone with my dad, even for an hour, when we were little. He wasn’t a deadbeat so much as he was a new doctor completing his fellowship, but he wanted my mother to hire a babysitter.

Later on I apologized. Ted said it wasn’t a big deal–I’m not sure he’d noticed it–said that moms are weird about leaving their babies. Right, the reciprocal stereotype that makes being talked down to more tolerable.

I’m not beating myself up about this, but it scares me sometimes how easy it is, especially on days when I’m busy and off-center, to slip into somebody else’s feelings about motherhood. This one’s a heavy fuck-me-up feeling, too, the conviction that I’m solely responsible for my daughter’s well-being and that no one else will help me. At least it’s falsifiable.

Despite having been anointed with the cultural mantle of “mother knows best,” I’m trying hard not to steal our daughter from Ted when she cries and not to assume that my opinion about her is necessarily right. But those gender roles are seductive. I’ve got this sense of blessed assurance from being a new mom, which is totally not what I was expecting. I feel better about myself now than I have in years–more capable, more stable, less anxious. Sufficient. I feel like the person I knew my mom was when I was little. Maybe her gracefulness wasn’t just a facade for the kids?

It’s even shown up in my dreams. Like for years I’ve dreamt about trying to keep my head above the water, but now in that dream I can swim, no problem. Sure I’m using my newfound ability to keep our baby’s head just barely above water, but my dream-self has gotten better at other stuff, too. I had a dream last night where I was the calm, responsible one on a college scuba diving trip.

I think most of the change is because taking care of a new baby is a saner lifestyle for me than grad school was. My day-to-day life is telling me different things about myself than I’m used to hearing, and it only took a month or so for the expanded sense of possibility that I talked about in my last post to coalesce into a new sense of what kind of person I am.

I feel like somebody handed me a magic mask and inscribed my body with a new set of symbols. I’m giddy about being handed a new self, a little worried that some parts I like about that self are a lie or won’t really fit in the long run, and I’m wondering how much I can tinker with the parts Ted and I don’t want. Because the label of motherhood has too much positive mojo not to want in on some of it, even if it’s not equally accessible to Ted.

The more I see Rebecca as a person, rather than a job, the easier it is to accept that Ted and I are going to have separate relationships with her. Now I see my sense of moment-to-moment responsiveness to Rebecca more as part of my relationship to her, which is different from Ted’s relationship to her, rather than an expression of job duties. I don’t know where that leaves traditional gender roles or the abstract ideal of equality between mothers and fathers. I do know that the shift has everyday benefits: now that I’m thinking less about equality, I’m more comfortable telling Ted when I need a break from Rebecca, as well as offering to hold her again when she fusses.


Originally posted January 2010, regarding when Littlest was six or eight weeks old.

The word I use most frequently to describe new parenthood is idyllic. I can hang out in bed whenever I want, snuggling Littlest and studying her movements and swapping bodily fluids. There’s no reason not to Irish up my coffee most days, and I’m doing more pleasure reading now than I have since college. I don’t need to worry that I’m wasting time reading junk fiction while I hold her. Holding her is after all my job, and if I put her down she’ll wake up and start fussing. For most of my student years, I kept jealous account of my time: I knew what work I needed to pursue every hour of the day and if I felt like I wasn’t getting enough done, I started keeping track of where each hour went. Now there are no deadlines–Rebecca’s birth was the last major one–and my plans are so subject to interruption that I’ve replaced them with more fluid intentions. Compared to grad school, new parenthood is less all-consuming, less anxiety-inducing, less sleep-depriving, and less isolating. (The last because friends and strangers both bafflingly find my baby more engaging than my dissertation.)

Still, there’s something not quite honest in calling it idyllic, even though it’s got all the trappings. I almost never manage to finish the spiked coffee, certainly not while it’s warm, and some days I don’t manage to eat lunch until two or three in the afternoon, either. Time escaped us so thoroughly that our fish died; presumably we forgot to change their water once too often, or maybe they missed meals sometimes, too.

Having a baby feels like the year I lived in Berlin, when suddenly a variety of mundane tasks became five times harder, but the day-to-day possibilities for enjoying life increased correspondingly–not because the possibilities hadn’t been there before, but because whatever levees I’d imagined to keep those temptations out, now were flooded away.

My Stuffed Animals Are Still Smarter Than Me

I used to collect realistic looking stuffed animals, the kind you buy at specialty toy stores, who aren’t always soft enough to cuddle and whose fur is thick and hard to clean. Up until sometime in middle school, I slept with one of them every night anyway, on a rotating schedule so that none of them would get jealous. We talked telepathically as I fell asleep. They kept me company and kept the dark safe from witches. When I went to college, they went into plastic bags and didn’t come out again until twelve years later, after my mom died.

As I was sorting through the old house before the estate sale, I decided to look at my stuffed animals one last time. Not to bring them with me. My mom’s car would already be overfull, and I was trying to be sober about what I had room for. Except for a couple boxes of sentimental items, I didn’t want to take anything that would be just as useless to me in California as it had been sitting in Detroit. Pare down ruthlessly. But there’d been wildfires in Santa Barbara the week before I left, and sorting through all the childhood and family stuff felt like fleeing a fire in slow motion: pack up what you have room for and leave the rest of your home to burn.

Once the stuffed animals were out of the bag, they took up the entire bed and looked immensely pleased with themselves, probably because I’d let them all onto on the bottom bunk for once. Crap, I thought. If I get rid of them now, no one is ever going to believe what a great stuffed animal collection I had. Still, I couldn’t think what I could do with them in Santa Barbara. Seasonal decorations? They were getting too mangy. Children’s toys? Too hard to wash.

Then the stuffed animals told me they wanted to go on a road trip. Double crap, no way I was letting that happen. I knew they had me anyway when I found myself thinking through the mix CDs I’d made for the trip and worrying that some of them would be a little too self-indulgent and emo for the animals’ tastes. “Fine,” I told them, “but you’re not coming in the house when we get there.”

There’s something crazy and exhilarating about filling up your car with stuffed animals, just to get rid of them on the other side of the country, as if you had all the space in the world. It’s like going outside in the snow without worrying about a coat. Plus suddenly I was imagining my trip through the illustrations in a children’s book. I wanted to be able to tell my unborn daughter how my stuffed animals and I went on a road trip after her grandma died, and that’s how we got her the dollhouse her grandpa made and her great great grandma’s high chair, that’s how we got the blocks, the Brio train set, the dress-up scarves, and the playmobil, that’s how we got our household gods all back to California. It’s incomprehensible that you can just pack up things like that in a car as if they were anything else. The story only starts to make sense once you put stuffed animals in the picture, staring out the car windows and nestled into the children’s furniture. Besides, I was secretly delighted that the animals were still talking to me and still wanted to come along, even after all those years stuffed in bags.

So I packed up Mom’s car, made sure that as many animals as possible would have good views, and away we went. The women making change at toll plazas and some of the people I parked next to smiled and asked where I was going. Hell, I smiled every time I got back to the car and saw the stuffed animals looking out at me.

When I got back to Santa Barbara, I still wasn’t letting them out of the Camry, though. So the stuffed animals started going everywhere with me. They drove down the coast with us when we went to say goodbye to Ted’s grandma for the last time, and they watched while I replaced Mom’s Michigan plates with California ones. Ted started playing with them, originally to cheer me up and then because it was fun, and he had fewer inhibitions about it than I did.

As I watched other people interact with my animals, it started to seem like they’d grown up some during those years in the plastic bags–especially the squirrel, who used to be very shy and slow to trust anyone, now gets excited when he smells mini-golf and bounces around to Rage Against the Machine. When the squirrel’s in the front seat, he always requests some kind of hard rock. My husband clarified that the squirrel’s wishes were not a proxy for his own, but we keep putting on rock anyway. Apparently the squirrel’s preferences matter. The stuffed animals also came to witch camp with me and decorated the porch around my cabin. Another witch who had a collection of stuffed rats and one stuffed rabbit came by to see if her bunny could stay a couple nights with mine, since he never got to enjoy company of his own kind at home. No one had ever called my bunny sexy before.

As I got into the achy part of pregnancy, I discovered that some of the smaller animals do excellent work as pillows between my knees, much easier to roll over with than when I’m using a full-size pillow.

So I let the animals into the house in mid-July and now I’m back to sleeping with them almost every night. I rarely talk to them now as I’m drifting off, but I think they spend most of the night whispering to my daughter. I suspect something like that was their plan all along, because my stuffed animals are still smarter than me.