Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday roundup

The doting grandparents are in town through Monday, so blogging will (continue to) be light. Stuff going on around here:

  • Ess and I are making strides on nursing without the nipple shield. We went to the private lactation consultant yesterday for some help with latching on. (I think the shield made us a little lazy for a while...) The lessons were useful; if only I can continue to replicate them without someone sitting next to me, coaching me every step of the way.
  • Cheese is hidden in the most unlikely of places. We went to our favorite lobster pound yesterday. In an attempt at frugality, I ordered the fresh fish sandwich. Rather, my dad ordered it for me while I sat in the car and nursed Ess (I'm not quite up to nursing at a picnic table, without any back support, yet). I got to the table, handed the baby to my mom and plowed into my sandwich, only realizing after I'd gobbled half of it that the gooey stuff on the breading was not just tartar sauce. And, yes, we paid for that little foray into dairyland with a screaming baby for a few hours last night.
  • Still can't find a pair of jeans that fits my new body. We also hit the shops in Outletville yesterday -- no fun with a stroller in the rain; this town is not exactly accessible for those in wheeled conveyances -- and I bought some shirts, and that was it. Also managed to think I'd lost my wallet and run around Outletville in a panic in the rain trying to find it. Location? A different pocket in the diaper bag than I usually use.
  • Canine chaos.My parents' two dogs came along with them. This seems to have spurred some anxiety in Rocky, who uncharacteristically peed on the bedroom rug yesterday. And Jelly seems much worse for the wear, too, having taken to barking for long periods of time and no apparent reason. The groomer also reported that her legs have gotten much weaker since last time, just a few months ago. I worry about where we may be headed with this animal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Death by infant

If you happen to see two bleary-eyed, incoherent, pale-faced zombies wandering around southern Maine over the next few days, that'd be us. Little Ess has been having some wild adventures at night that involve much shrieking and frequent demands to nurse, with the added effect of torturing mom and dad until they question the impulses that got them in this situation in the first place.

I would write more, but it is 8:14 pm and it's already past my bedtime.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Due date!

Yes, today is the day Miss Ess was scheduled to join us... and it's her six-week birthday, too. Here's a shot of one of her favorite activities, snoozing in the sling that Kate sent us.

Also, if you haven't discovered Want Not and are in search of ways to save money on home and kid-related stuff (not to mention the occasional pair of shoes...), check it out. Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda runs it, and today has graciously answered a question sbout diapers for yours truly.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dazed and confused

It's been an interesting few days, in the aftermath of my melodramatic post over the weekend. After I wrote it, D and I had a long talk, which improved things greatly (as did his offer to go to our favorite cheap restaurant and buy us takeout steak salads and sweet potato fries for dinner). And, yes, yesterday I made it to the moms group. As I drove, I imagined getting there to find the room empty, with me the only loser who showed up. I even went so far as to make mental contingency plans about what I'd do with my fancy sandwich and the baby when that happened.

Of course, I arrived and there were already several moms and babies; by 1 pm, there must have been ten pairs hanging out on the floor and some loveseats, just chatting and watching the babes. It was warm and friendly and totally unmoderated, which was nice. One notable moment: I met a baby one day younger than Ess. He was full-term, and the difference between him and my peanut was striking: He's quite huge, at least some of which is genetic, and developmentally of course he's way ahead of her. That was a little disappointing to me, though not unexpected; Ess is supposed to be "behind" developmentally. Still, in the privacy of our home, she is a perfect little girl who is exactly as she's supposed to be. And I need to remember that that philosophy applies in public, too.

I ran into my neighbor at the moms group; she lives a few houses up and has a daughter two weeks older than Ess. She told me about a breastfeeding support group sponsored by the lactaction consultants from the hospital on Tuesdays, so, in search of a reason to get out of the house, Ess and I made it over there this afternoon. That meeting, it was not so good. Like Anita, who said at one point (sorry, too lazy to search for the post) that she needs to process everything important over and over before letting go of it, I spent this afternoon and evening talking, talking, talking to D, to a friend of a friend and to M, the LLL leader, about what I thought was the lousy advice I got from the LC running the group. In short, she advised that I start pumping again because of concern (hers, not mine) about my supply due to my use of the nipple shield.

This is something that had come up at the moms' group yesterday, too; lots of women talked about low supply, medication, herbal remedies, etc. This was news to me: It never occurred to me to worry about my milk supply. Ess has been steadily gaining weight and producing more than her fair share of wet diapers, so I've been unconcerned. But between all those women yesterday and the LC today, I started to worry about the fact that I'm not worried.

I felt the same way today when the subject of c-sections came up. So many women talked about the guilt they feel about their child's birth, that they'd had all kinds of plans about the kind of birth they wanted and that with the c-section they deprived themselves and their baby of that. I know this guilt is not uncommon, but I just don't feel that way. Yes, I would have preferred a full-term pregnancy and a vaginal birth, but it didn't happen that way -- Ess needed to come early in order to be safe, and so that's what we did. And that is ok with me.

In any case, I left the meeting feeling like there is something wrong with me -- like I am not concerned enough about my baby, since I'm just not feeling these emotions that other women are having. I started to wonder, am I sleepwalking through this kid's life? Am I in some kind of shock from her birth still?

After yapping about it all afternoon and evening, I feel pretty strongly that the answer to those questions is a firm "No." I am fine, and Ess is fine, and we are just going to be a bit more choosy about where we spend our time. Suffice it to say, we will not be going back to the breastfeeding group. Nor, I can report with some pride, will I be pumping again until I go back to work.

So far, this motherhood thing is exhausting -- and the worst parts are the self-inflicted ones. The crying baby, the hungry baby, the baby who spits up directly down the neck of my tank top so the warm fluid runs between my newly ginormous breasts... all of that I can (usually) handle. The self doubt, the inadequacy schtick (apologies to Phantom), the mental calculation of Ways in Which I Am Doing This Wrong -- this is what needs to go.

Something tells me I will be working on ditching those habits for a looooong time to come.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cabin fever

The life-with-newborn insanity is hitting me hard today. It's gorgeous outside, but it's hard to even go in the back yard, because Ess is wanting to nurse all the time today -- perhaps this explains her astonishing 10-ounce weight gain in the last week?? We took some beach chairs into the backyard, but I came in after an hour or so; it's much more comfortable in the house, even though sitting on the couch or in the glider has begun to drive me crazy. It's impossible to think about going anywhere, because what fun would that be when she wants to nurse every 20 minutes? And, besides, where would we go? What's more, no one has called us in days; it's as though we've dropped off the face of the earth, rather than simply had a baby.

So I am feeling isolated, irritated and more than a little crazy. And somehow D's being here is only making it worse, perhaps because when he's not here I have no choice but to cope, to take care of Ess and deal with the day. But when he's here, I resent everything -- I'm mad that he's mowing the lawn or doing laundry instead of holding her, or I'm irritated that she's fussy and he hasn't tried the sling that the lovely Phantom sent us a few days ago and that he doesn't want to try it now with a screaming baby in his arms (which, of course, is actually a totally reasonable response). When it comes down to it, there's not a lot he can do to ease the physical burden from me -- although he's done a wealth of things to ensure that pretty much all I have to worry about during the day is feeding Ess.

All of this makes me think that perhaps I need to make some new friends. So on Monday I'm making it my goal to get to the new moms lunch at the hippie birthing center where we took our childbirth classes. Or, more precisely, childbirth class. We attended the first class less than a week before Ess made her grand debut. They never returned my phone call asking whether the fee would be refunded, and never even acknowledged her birth. Which irritates me. But they're the only place I know of that has a gathering of new moms, and I've got to start talking to people who are going through this bizarre, fantastic, miserable experience, too.


Lest you think it is all gloom and doom around here, last night we took Ess for a picnic on the beach. That's one of the fantastic things about life here; our house is about five blocks from the beach. So last night we got sandwiches and walked down with Ess and my sister and brother-in-law for dinner in the sand. I even nursed in public for the first time, something made more difficult by the fact that we didn't bring chairs and that it was verrrry windy, making the receiving blanket I was using to cover us whip around in the breeze. Ess seemed to enjoy the outing... as much as she enjoys anything other than nursing these days!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dumping the pump

Since Ess was born, over five weeks ago, I have become very friendly with the breast pump. Since she went into the NICU right away, I started pumping in the recovery room, and continued from there. She got breastmilk through her feeding tube in the hospital, and breastmilk in bottles when I wasn't there to nurse her. And when I was there, I was using the glorious nipple shield, the piece of silicon that allowed me to get this baby to the breast successfully.

The shield came with one drawback, though: according to the lactation consultants at the hospital, I had to pump *every time* I nursed her, since some studies (and, notably, the website of a major manufacturer of breastpumps) show that babies who are fed via the shield don't transfer as much milk as babies going commando. (Technically, I guess it's the mom who's going commando, but it sounds funnier the other way...). So when Ess came home from the hospital, I was spending pretty much my whole day either nursing her, pumping or sleeping, with the occasional interval of adult conversation. Finally, the LCs said I could cut out the middle-of-the-night pumping and decrease the others to 10 minutes (which I'd already done on my own).

So my freezer filled with breastmilk, and Ess gained weight fabulously, which indicated to me that she was having no problem getting enough milk. So I called the LCs, and they insisted I continue pumping as long as she was on the shield -- which could be at least until her due date, if not beyond. That seemed crazy to me. So, in search of an answer I liked better, I talked to the local La Leche League leader. And sure enough, she said I'd be fine to quit pumping entirely, as long as I did it slowly -- eliminating one pumping every day or two, taking longer between eliminations if my breasts were engorged.

That's what I did. As a result, Sunday was the first day since Ess was born that I did not pump at all. I have more time in my day (though you'd never know it to look at me, or our house), and Ess hasn't suffered a bit.

The whole experience, though, was typical of the time we spent in the hospital. We got lots of advice, much of conflicting. Recommendations for how to care for Ess changed as the shifts did, with one nurse insisting that she not take bottles at all, ever, while another cheerfully noted that in her 20 year career she'd never seen an instance of nipple confusion. Most nurses encouraged our attempts to do kangaroo care; another was clearly uncomfortable with the fact that the baby was not dressed while she was eating.

For a new parent -- let alone a new parent who's gone through an unexpected, and overwhelming, birth experience much earlier than scheduled -- this was really difficult to handle. It's the thing I think about the most when I look back on our time in the hospital -- the feeling that we were having to make decisions about things we'd didn't know anything about, based on little more than gut instinct. Was it ok for Ess to have a pacifier? Sure, we said. Did we want a visiting nurse to come? Why not. In the end, these weren't life and death decisions, but making them on the fly, in an environment where I already felt incompetent to care for my child, just contributed to my feeling of inexperience and, frankly, idiocy.

And then there were all those issues like the pumping, in which we were told How Things Are Done, despite any evidence we might've had to the contrary. Some of this, of course, is simply the result of the differing personalities among the hospital staff, which I don't think you'd want to mandate away. But the completely contrasting recommendations... that was too much. I don't know that the creation of blanket policies on things like bottlefeeding for preemies whose moms want to breastfeed is the way to go, but there's got to be a way to help parents through the blizzard of information they are given at such a vulnerable time.

If I were less sleep-deprived, this would be the place where I'd have a clear, well-thought-out idea of what that would be, as well as a conclusion that neatly tied together these strands that don't connect so well on their own. But I'm not, so it isn't. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mother of the year

Am I a bad mother if, since the bambina fell asleep in her bouncy chair while I was showering, I left her in the bathroom — complete with classical music on NPR and the exhaust fan running — while I sat 10 feet away, wolfing down breakfast and reading blogs? And then, when she still didn’t wake up, made a cup of coffee (jo(e), you were right about Silk; it tastes good!) and read more blogs? And heard her peep a bit, but then left her alone until she settled back down? (I’m talking seconds, not minutes, on the fussing.)

And, the piece de resistance, tiptoed in to check on her, only to find her slumped over, sound asleep, sucking on the collar of her shirt as a substitute for her mean, neglectful mommy??

Oh well. Think of the satisfaction she'll get from having a relaxed, fed and hydrated mom. Surely that's worth 10 minutes of nursing a monkey onesie, right?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

One month old*

Ess at one month, with Zeke the monkey for size comparison

Dear Ess,

Today you are one month old. And, to paraphrase Dante in Clerks (a movie you will not be allowed to watch until you are 35), you weren't even supposed to be here today. It has been an unexpected, amazing and, at times, scary journey to get where we are today, with you snoozing peacefully in the sling while we listen to Bruce Springsteen sing old folk songs.

This month, you have gone from being a tiny, fragile creature we were almost afraid to touch, for fear of disrupting the mess of wires that connected you to the beeping monitors, to a little peanut of a girl who we carry up and down stairs, who lays on the couch next to her dad and her dog, and who sleeps in the bed with us at night. You've learned to pick up your head, sometimes hurling it with alarming force into our shoulders. You make eye contact for long moments, staring deeply with those dark blue eyes of yours. You seem perilously close to smiling, a fact that was confirmed by P, the visiting nurse, yesterday when she came for your weekly weigh in.

Speaking of which, you've grown to 6 lbs., 2 oz., a feat of which we are incredibly proud, especially since you've done it on nothing but breastmilk. You are learning to nurse on your own without the nipple shield, though at times you give me a look of disgust -- hurry up already, lady! -- when I try to convince you to latch on without it.

Through this month, you have shown strength and resilience. (This morning, you also demonstrated for the first time the dubious achievment of projectile vomiting, right at mommy's head! Let's hold off on repeats of that one, ok?) More than anything, this month you have taught your dad and me how to be parents. We've got a lot more to learn, but already you've showed us the value of trusting our instincts and loving you more than anything else in the whole world.

We can't wait to see you grow, little one. We love you.

Mom and Dad

*concept stolen shamelessly from Dooce.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Things accomplished today

  • The bambina's weight gain recorded: She's up to 6 lbs., 2 oz. For those of you keeping score at home, that is five ounces gained in the last week, and a full 1 lb., 1 oz. above her birth weight. I am really going to miss getting this info once the visiting nurse appointments run out in a few weeks.
  • An hour in the sling for Ess. As I imagined, this will be the key to my sanity in weeks to come. The sling, plus a bit of The Seeger Sessions, kept her calm and quiet, and allowed me to not only make myself a cup of tea, but I also...
  • Applied for student loan consolidation, thanks to the very thorough NPR story I heard while nursing Ess in bed this morning. I knew rates were going up but didn't think I was eligible to consolidate since I only have one loan and consolidating implies, well, combining a couple. But it turns out you can, and I did. So now it appears that grad school will be paid off in 10 years (when Ess is in FIFTH GRADE -- difficult to imagine). But at least I've got a fixed rate and payments that are actually a bit lower than they are right now. Whether the master's was actually worth this marathon of payment is a subject I'd rather not get into.
  • Made banana bread, like I threatened to a couple days ago. It looks a little light to me, but I guess that's what happens when you give up the browning effects of butter. Haven't tasted it yet, but it smells ok.
  • Did laundry. Well, I started a load of Ess' poop-stained onesies, along with another batch of new clothes courtesy of my mom's coworkers -- fantastic people, most of whom I've never even met. D finished it when he got home from work, and did a load of our clothes to boot.
  • Took advantage of a break in the deluge to take Ess out for a spin in her stroller. Will we ever see the sun again?

And now I must head to bed, since we're approaching the late hour of 9:3o pm. Such is the glamorous life of the mother of a nearly one-month-old little peanut, who at the moment is swaddled, sound asleep, on the couch next to her very tired father. But don't let that fool you; she's got plans for a midnight dance party, and I need to get some sleep before then.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


That is, D-goes-back-to-work day. So Ess and I are on our own. I'm supposed to be updating my resume to send to an editor for freelance work in the fall, but that is supremely hard to do when nursing every half-hour (growth spurt, anyone?), let alone when severely sleep-deprived. Instead, I've been watching TV. I did manage to get a shower for myself (Kate, you were right about the bouncy seat, though she won't tolerate it st the moment...) and a quick face washing for Ess. Exciting, huh?

She's finally asleep, face down on my chest... the big decision for the afternoon is, do I:
A. Just leave her there, accept that I can't get anything done and take a nap?
B. Swaddle her and put her in the bassinet, then find the monitor so I can hear her at the computer and try to get the resume done?
C. Sneak her into the bouncy seat and hope she stays asleep so I can eat lunch and work?
D. Try either B or C, and end up with a screaming baby, and another bout of nursing in front of the TV?

You can see why I'm leaning toward A.

Updated to add: It's 12:48. She's in the bassinet, I've eaten lunch, the monitor is on and I'm working on the resume. (Well, and blogging.) Which is about to end, since the LLL leader is coming over to help me with sling stuff. Oh well. AND, I meant to say, Ess is four weeks old today! Can you believe it? I definitely can not. I guess all that stuff they say about kids growing up fast is true...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The return of the gerund meme

Since short, disconnected thoughts are all I'm capable of these days...

Listening: For baby Ess, who will likely wake up and demand the boob any minute now. Also listening to the singer-songwriter show on public radio -- it occurs to me that we haven't had a lot of music in the house since Ess arrived. That's gotta change.

Worshipping: My local La Leche League leader, who spent 90 minutes on the phone with me Friday night, working out a plan to wean Ess from the nipple shield and to wean my body off the pumping. We're down to pumping five times a day now -- mind you, this is in addition to the oh-so-frequent nursing of little Ess -- which feels like a luxury compared to the previous eight-times-a-day schedule. Should be off the pumping completely, breasts willing, by next weekend. Getting rid of the nipple shield will take a bit longer, but we're already making solid progress on that front. To add to the LLL leader's glory, she offered to get together at a mutual friend's house on Wednesday to help me get comfortable with the slings I own. (Ess is so tiny -- though by tomorrow she'll hit the six-pound mark -- that I am very nervous about getting her positioned correctly in what seems like the swaths of fabric in both slings I own. With D going back to work on Wednesday, figuring out the sling is essential to my continued sanity.)

Mourning: The loss of dairy in my diet. Seems that Ess is allergic to dairy -- we had a few successively more miserable nights this week, culminating in a terrible night after a dinner of cheese ravioli. After 36 hours without dairy, Ess is back to her steady, chipper, sleepy self. So no more ice cream for me this summer. But if that's the tradeoff necessary to get some decent chunks of sleep -- if you call 2.5 hours "decent" -- then I will gladly forego the milkshakes. And the cones. And the root beer floats. And the daily bowl of cereal. And cheese, glorious cheese. Which, oh god, means no more pizza. Yikes.

Planning: To make banana bread, a dairy-free recipe for which I found here. Gotta have something around to satisfy that sweet tooth, and sorbet just ain't gonna cut it. (I'm going to use applesauce instead of the margarine.)

Into my most forgiving pair of pre-pregnancy jeans. It's not a pretty picture, but at least I own something without an elastic waistband that (sort of) fits. Maybe the lack of dairy means the old fabulous jeans will fit again one day soon? I sort of doubt it, but you can always dream...

Lurking: On just about every blog I read. Like everything else I do for myself these days, catching up on blogs happens in short spurts that I'm always convinced will end imminently (and, usually, they do). So apologies for the total lack of commenting -- or, for that matter, replying to email -- lately. I'm hoping that will change at some point in the near-ish future...

Loving: My fabulous husband, who has done 100% of the cleaning, shopping and laundry at Chez MC for the last several weeks. Not to mention 99% of the frantic wife-consoling and 50+% of the poopy-diaper changing. He's a rock star, as is our beautiful little one. She certainly has changed our lives completely, just as the cliche goes, but we wouldn't trade her for anything.

Disbelieving: The fact that I actually finished this post the same day I started writing it, albeit eight hours later.