Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to play with your infant

Obviously, soccer is right out--the ball is just way too big. Similarly, Monopoly takes way too long for someone with such a short attention span.

You may be asking yourself, then, exactly how DOES one play with an infant? Considering the limitations of the baby and similarly the over saturation of the market with useless items (see consumerism convenience and consomething else) it's hard to know what to buy, what to do with it, and when it's appropriate.

The simplest way to "play" with your baby is to touch him. Making physical contact is an important lesson your baby needs to learn. Skin on skin is essential for your baby to bond with you, and c'mon, who doesn't love a good massage every now and again?

Another easy way to stimulate and amuse baby is talking. Some people (yeah, that's me referencing myself there) feel a little silly at first, talking to a baby. The simplest way is to start small. I found "hi there, I'm your mom" to be a good lead-in. From there you can talk about your day, your sordid past (it's ok, chances are pretty slim that anything you say will be retained) or just go with a running commentary on your actions. I always swore I wouldn't be that mom babbling day in and day out in baby talk, but guess who I turned into?

I even made up a whole series of "------'s a Baby" songs, revolving around the parts of the body, and whatever E was doing at the time.

Tummy Time is super important, since the introduction of the "back is best" campaign and "back to sleep" positioning suggestions have shown a decrease in advanced learning of  large head and neck motor skills.. Tummy time is when you put the baby facedown and SUPERVISE CAREFULLY while he learns to do things like roll over and pick his head up. They make some specific Tummy Time Mats, but anything clean that can be drooled on is ok. Since it's not very engaging to just be placed on your tummy, try to keep your baby's attention during tummy time. get down on the ground, talk to him, play with toys, or just make faces.

Teaching motor skills can be fun! We used to do bicycle legs to release gas and promote hip flexibility, and now we do it because it's fun. He helps me more every time. I figure by the time he has a pedal bike he'll be an old pro.

E also has a baby gym, a pretty simple one. Every day he lays on his back, staring up at the toys dangling in front of his eyes, flailing wildly until he makes contact. Every day the flailing gets less wild, more controlled, more calculated. Last night he reached out and grabbed one of the support arms and just held onto it for a good three minutes.

Most dangling things will be very interesting to babies. Mobiles, gym toys, keys, hair, earrings... some of these things are good. Some are less good. to take the focus off the less good, make sure the more good are brighter, shinier, and have more contrasting colors. Also keep the really not good out of reach. My mother has a torn earlobe because of not having earrings far enough away from my hand.

Remember the first time you ever felt a bunny, or a chinchilla? Every texture is like that for babies, so find some interesting textures on large items (no choking hazard here), sanitize them, and introduce baby to some fabulous new feels.

Playtime isn't just about amusing your baby, it's about learning to use this fabulous new body they've been given, learning to interact with the world, and learning that naptime can be fabulous after a long day of activity.

And trust me, naptime is FABULOUS.

Friday, September 30, 2011

That's Not What Madonna Meant (expression v. pumping)

Express yourself! Not just a way of relaying your personal ideas or feelings on a matter, expression literally means "to press out," and in the case of expressing breastmilk that definition is spot-on. While many women prefer to use the new-fangled breast pumps which literally suck the milk out of you, there are some who prefer to hand-express. Personally I find there are pros and cons to every situation, and this is no exception.

single handed, or hands-free depending on equipment
easy to set up a routine with, allowing for relaxation
reliable variable strengths of suction
re-creates natural suction, like nursing

requires expensive equipment
hard to do while out and about
time consuming

easily performed almost anywhere
almost completely silent
no equipment other than what God gave you required
essentially free

can be painful if done wrong
can cause tender breasts
requires both hands, and occasionally knees as well

I own a pump, but when I only have a few minutes, I prefer to hand-express.While pumping can take up to 45 minutes for me to fully drain, I can get a few ounces out, increase my comfort level and then just pump or feed later. Expressing into a bottle for cold storage is easy, and since breast milk keeps at 72 degrees for up to 6 hours, I can express while I'm out and put it in the freezer when I get home.

If you're at work and need to pump most states have laws requiring reasonable accommodations be made for breastfeeding mothers that they might pump while not losing productivity. In that vein there are hands-free pump-bras available which allow you to simply set up a partition and remain at your desk. This allows you to  continue to type, write, make clay unicorns, or whatever it is you do for monetary gain.

Of course this, like almost every single parenting aspect, is a personal choice. Hopefully the information here helps make that choice easier.

Friday, September 23, 2011

He's Napping! In his bassinet!

I can bake!!! L. Itsababy's sleeping in his bassinet and thanks to the belt clip on the receiver for the baby monitor, I don't need to be in the bedroom! So I'm baking cupcakes, and cookies. Hurray for both being at 350 degrees! Next up is another batch of cupcakes, then corn muffins and brownies if I have time. The corn muffins aren't anything special, just Jiffycorn. The cupcakes are also nothing special, just funfetti. Unless, of course, funfetti excites you, in which case OMG FUNFETTI IS AMAZING AND I LOVE IT! The brownies are Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate (which I make quadruple chocolate by adding semi-sweet toll house morsels to) but the cookies are something new I'm trying. They're this new pre-made organic brand they're selling at Safeway/Vons called Immaculate. I tried the chocolate chip a few weeks ago, and tey were pretty good. Today we're trying the spice ones. Pictures pending.

I'm making all these because 1) I love to bake, but just DON'T have the time for from-scratch baking anymore and 2) I'm making pulled pork in the crock pot. I love Karla's recipe, it really is the Bees Knees. I'm mkaing a HUGE batch, so I'll have enough to share. I ran into a friend while I was walking L. Itsababy yesterday (6.5 miles!) and he commented that the cookies I had made for him, his wife, and his GORGEOUS son (seriously, this is the only kid I will admit might be cuter than my own) were delicious. I racked my brain for the recipe I used to make those cookies (A sugar cookie and Russian tea hybrid) but cannot remember for the life of me where it might be. Mommy brain. So hopefully they like spice cookies, too!

I have a huge head of cabbage and was going to make coleslaw today as a result. I'm not sure if I'm going to have THAT much time, but it's worth a shot, I suppose. The recipe I plan to use is:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
mix it together in a bowl, refrigerate for an hour. Hey! That's coleslaw!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some days it's hard to look at L. Itsababy's face. He's so breathtakingly beautiful... literally sometimes I can't breathe when he looks me in the eye. He's so perfect and so much US. I can see so much of his father in him, so much of myself, and so many past generations peeking out from unsuspected corners. He has my grandmother's ears. I miss her so much and every time I see his ears, I know she's going to be listening to him forever.

Right now he's alternating between cooing at the hanging toys on his baby gym and crying in frustration when he can't make contact with the toy he's reaching for. It sounds like ducks, sort of. A strange but gorgeous babbling brook that every so often coughs up this milk-mucus bubble sound.

It's a bit frustrating to see him still not gaining weight.Oh he's GROWING, don't get me wrong.  He's currently wearing his 3-6 month onesies and they're getting a little short, even if he doesn't fill them out width-wise. Not bad for being 10 weeks old today. The pediatrician has asked us to start supplementing his diet, which seems like a battle I've fought before, you know? I'm just tired of fighting the same battles. I started taking fenugreek (which is working for me) so I can have enough to both feed and pump, and give fortified bottles a few times a day. This should give us a good back supply of milk, which will make it a lot easier for TJ and I to get things done. I won't be as tied to the house as I have been.

Also helping with not being tied to the house is L. Itsababy getting his shots. We've been going places and seeing people and I'm not afraid that he's going to catch the black plague from some crazy old lady anymore. We went to church on Sunday and it felt WONDERFUL to be back. It had been way too long since I took the Sacrament, and it felt wonderful to renew my covenants. L. Itsababy was pretty good for the service, and an angel for Sunday School. He went to sleep for Relief Society, and woke up with just five minutes left, which was a good 3 hours of good behavior, and made me feel like an actual good mom.

I started keeping a food and exercise log, to help track what foods give L. Itsababy trouble, and to make sure I'm eating enough good fat. I've walked 6 miles so far since Sunday, which really isn't enough for me. T and I are supposed to go jogging today when he gets home, but I think I'm going to try to get in a few extra miles before hand, maybe a few more after. I really want to meet 30 miles this week.

I've also discovered Sukhi's Indian food, which is delicious. I made chicken vindaloo in the crockpot for dinner last night, with onions, potatoes, and bell peppers. It was delicious, easy, and fast. I'm going to try to figure out a home made spice base to do it again from scratch later.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick! While He's Asleep!

We got a new refrigerator. Normally this would be a happy, but not momentous occasion. We, however, have been dealing with an incontinent refrigerator for a while now, and simply did not have the time to deal with it due to baby things. Yes, I said incontinent. We used to walk out into the kitchen every morning and have to avoid the sudden lake that had sprung up in the night. It was frustrating.

Our new fridge is lovely. It also opens on the correct side for optimal cooking, which is important in a tiny little kitchen (seriously, we have maybe ten square feet of floor space in there) like ours. The freezer part is smaller than the previous fridge, but the fridge part is larger, so I'm sure we can work around what we need to freeze v. simply chill.

We also got our hot water pressure fixed, yesterday. We'd been having issues with the pressure in our shower for a while (read: three years) and it kind of just peed on you. Now showering is fabulous again, especially with the low-flow shower head we installed to optimize what pressure we DID have.

The average person is probably saying "Oh awesome, you got it fixed" but the women out there with children are thinking "Oh my goodness you poor creature how did you ever LIVE without a good shower?" They're thinking that because they know that when you have a child, sometimes the shower is the only escape you have, the only place in the house where you can't hear them crying out in their daddy's arms.

So it's been an eventful few days.

I also got my IUD out. No, we're not already planning more children. I seem to be in that lovely 1% of women for whom an IUD means frequent and heavy periods. Like one week on, one week off frequent. Since I don't want to deal with that, even if it does mean not having to use any other form of BC, I had it out. And it turns out it was a good thing, too, since it was seated wrong and wasn't actually protecting me. That could have ended badly. You hear horror stories of babies being born with IUDs clutched in their hands, and that is exactly how that happens.

On another positive note, I ran today. In the couch to 5k style, if not exactly the way they want me to. TJ and I went out to a lovely trail/fire road area in one of our county parks (Rancho San Antonio <- map) and walked 3.5 miles. We only ran about .5 miles, but I figure that's better than nothing. Also my shoulders are killing me since our original intention had been to walk and I did not wear the proper *ahem* support.

The running was endless amusement for L. Itsababy until he got chilly. Then he was Mr. Whinypants until we put him in over-shirt and an extra pair of pants and wrapped him up in an extra T-Shirt I keep in the diaper bag for when L. Itsababy decides to spit up all over me. We also saw a few deer and a whole warren of rabbits. Ok, probably not the whole warren, but a whole ton of them!

L. Itsababy likes being jostled. He prefers rides in TJ's 1989 Jeep Cherokee with the bouncy suspension to any other vehicle he's ever been in. He prefers we take his stroller over gravel than pavement. He likes to be jiggled while on his side, and if he's sitting or leaning on me I better be patting his butt hard enough to move his head. I get the feeling spanking will never be a threat to this kid.

Since E didn't take a nape today he passed out pretty quickly when we got home, so I was able to cook real food. I made hobak bokum with turkey, spicy basil stir fried vegetables, and rice. so that's TONS of squash ingested today. Super happy!

Hobak Bokum:

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup dark soy sauce (I forgot the /2 in the original post, I apologize if anyone tried to make this and got sodium poisoning. Props to kira-hime for noticing!)
1 piece of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb (I actually use quite a bit more than this, but I really like ginger)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium zucchini (courgette) sliced
sesame oil
vegetable oil
sesame seeds (shiro gami)

Grate the fresh ginger into the soy sauce, add the garlic, and stir until even. Pour over turkey in a ziplock bag, and massage until fully dark brown. Feel free to add more soy sauce until your desired color is attained. Let sit for at least half an hour.

Heat a few tablespoons vegetable oil in a wok or pan on medium high. Add a few drops sesame oil. Brown meat. Add sliced zucchini and cover. reduce heat to medium low, let cook until zucchini is almost done (about 5 minutes) uncover and let reduce for another minute. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve over rice.

I also sauteed 3 small crookneck squash, 2 mexican grey squash, 1/4 of an onion, 2 sliced carrots, and a red bell pepper with kra-phao sauce (I will add a recipe for this soon, I promise) which ended up being a bit too much food. Hurray leftovers!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A return

Today's entry is about a lot of things. Autumn is always a time of introspection for me, which can get me into a lot of trouble. I usually end up--at some point--dwelling on the old familiars (weight gain, blemishes, how hard it is to shop for pants when you're over 6 feet tall) and not absorbing the fabulousness of the season. Today, instead, I'd like to take a moment to dwell on some good things, even in the face of adversity.

I suppose I'll have to explain that adversity first, but then on to good things!

L. Itsababy had a doctor's appointment today. His doctor is worried about his weight. He just isn't gaining enough. he's currently 24.5 inches long according to the tape measure there, and weighs only 9 pounds. That puts him in the 99th percentile for height, and about the 35th for weight. The doctor suggested we start using breastmilk fortifier, to get him more protein a few times a day. This means I'm going to have to pump, add the fortifier, and feed, which with E's feeding schedule means I'm going to be spending most of my day attached to dairy equipment. The other option is formula. I have already fought this battle, and don't want to fight it again. So there you go, adversity.

Happier things!

We walked 3 miles in just about 40 minutes, which is a good clip when you're pushing a stroller and there are bridges and it's super dark out and you can't see bloody anything and you trip like twice. Yay run-on sentence!

E got his first set of inoculations today, so I can take him to church on Sunday! Yay communing with God and my ward!

One of the side-effects of E's shots is sleepiness! Yay sleepiness!

I made a super healthy dinner! Yay healthy!

Another thing to return to: posting meal ideas and recipes. Therefore, here is what we had for dinner! Remember, this is split three ways

Two boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with garlic and basil, pan-grilled with one tablespoon olive oil.
Chicken was sliced and placed on top of a salad which consisted of:
1/3 small head of red cabbage
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1  large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
2 green onions, chopped
dressed with champagne vinaigrette.

On the side we had garlic rice (well they did, I didn't. I had enough carbs today) and sauteed zucchini and crookneck squash.

Which reminds me, one of the best things about autumn is the colors of vegetables. If you live in a place with a mild climate, like California, you have access to the makings of some absolutely beautiful dinners. Reds and oranges and yellows and greens and purples all converging on the grocery produce section at once, and squash most prominently. Such and amazing and versatile food, squashes lend themselves to both savory and sweet dishes with a flexibility usually reserved for gymnasts and circus freaks. Expect lots of fabulous squash recipes in coming months,

Until then, sleep and eat well!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ongoing Goings On

Things are both better and worse.

L. Itsababy's over his ear infection, which is wonderful. However that means we don't have a go-to "oh he's fussing because of his ear" explanation anymore. Sometimes he's perfectly content to just sit and stare at anything and everything. Other times he needs to be walked in ever tightening concentric circles within line of sight of the ceiling fan and a light source while I sing "Tuppence a Bag" from Mary Poppins and take a slight skip on every fifth step.It's enough to incite those thoughts that mother's shouldn't have, but we all do anyway. Those horrid dark thoughts that creep into your mind at 3am when the lights are out and everyone else is sleeping except you and the baby. I was expecting those thoughts to have flown away like migrating birds by now,a nd it's looking more like what was originally just baby blues is moving closer to PPD.

The cats are seemingly warming up to E a bit more each day. the other day Squeak, who until now has been the most standoff-ish of the trio, walked right up to his infant seat and started sniffing his toes. It was adorable. Of course she bolted when I reached for the camera. I'll try to be faster next time.

We've discovered this wonderful spray from Nature's Miracle which stops feline marking. I'm a little sad that we had that problem, but it's also solved so many other problems with the cats that I'm almost happy we had to try it. It keeps them out of the kitchen, keeps Squeak from scratching the bedroom door, and it smells like cinnamon and lemongrass. let me repeat that. IT SMELLS LIKE CINNAMON AND LEMONGRASS. This will be amazing come Christmas.

We're starting to put serious thought into E's Halloween costume for this year. So far there are a few contenders.

The first is Rincewind the Wizzard from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Yes, I spelled all of that correctly.  Most people tell us that E has this otherworldly wizened look about him, somehow he seems so much older and more knowledgeable than the average 9-week-old bundle of DNA, and we're considering taking advantage of that, in the form of a fabulous sleep-sack based robe and hand-made "Wizzard's hat" that I'm sure we can find a pattern for somewhere on the interwebz.

The second is a theme-based costume. TJ has gone as the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland several times, and I'm considering making it girly and stealing it for myself this year. Angie agreed it would be nifty to go as a similarly themed character, and personally I was thinking Mad Hatter. That puts E in fine form to be The Dormouse. And what a cute dormouse he'd be, too.

I've been cooking a lot in the crock pot recently. It's so much easier to just pile what we want for dinner into that than actually focus on making separate courses. A lot of pulled pork and chicken, a lot of chili. in fact, I'm making pulled barbecue chicken pizza with white sauce and green onions for dinner tonight, as per boboli crust instructions.

and my timer just went off.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Elliot's hands

E's hands seem to be the new bane of his existence. He has hit himself in the face multiple times today. When they're not beating him up, they flail wildly around his head or, rarely, sit like little butterflies on his chest. It's part adorable and partly heartbreaking. He's so amazingly helpless and there's really so little I can do to help him, except try to explain that he can in fact control these satellite appendages attached to his body, and do little baby workouts with him.

He's had a cough for a few weeks now. Before you get all up in arms about it, he has been to the doctor, who is currently not concerned about said cough. I, however, hate to hear it. Every time he cries for longer than a few seconds the coughing starts, and then my brain goes into this "Oh my God, whooping cough is endemic in California and fatal to infants I MUST CALL THE DOCTOR RIGHT NOW" cycle. And then I tell myself that the last time I called the doctor he told me exactly what to listen and look for, and that E did not seem to be exhibiting those symptoms, so it was probably allergies or a cold.

I really really really hope he's not allergic to cats.

He did, however, have an ear infection. Well, two ear infections. The antibiotic treatment runs out tomorrow, and he has a doctor's appointment next Wednesday; hopefully he'll be right as rain by then.

Chimi and Moo have gotten antagonistic again. They had a lovely calm spell, and now things are getting crazy once more. I have no idea what's causing this, but I want it to stop. there is only so much crying I can deal with in a day and the baby totally has precedence over the cats.

Consumerism, convenience, and consomething else.

There are a million useless products out there these days, and it seems most of them are for babies and/or pets.  shoes for infants, sweaters for dogs, toys for cats... ok maybe some of them aren't SO useless. I can understand cat toys, they do seem to love the boxes they come with. In general, however, we mothers and pet owners seem to have "easy mark" tattooed on our foreheads. To help with this, I've decided to put together a little list: things you think you need, things I hope no one thinks they need, things you don't actually need but might want, and things you really do actually need.

Wipe Warmer
For me, this falls into the "things you might want" category. You might want it more if you have a boy. Boys have a tendency to imitate famous art when they get cold in the groinal region, and a warm wipe can both discourage and redirect the pee fountain.

Infant Seat
Oh wow do I love our infant seat. We may have overused it, and L. Itsababy doesn't respond to it quite the way he used to (he used to just pass out, now he's alert, but content for ten minutes or so) but there is nothing like having a safe and secure place where you can put the baby down for a few minutes. It's lightweight, so you can take it into the bathroom if you need to, or if you just need to... well... blog.... or something. Not necessary, but highly recommended.

Need them, if you plan to work, or have any alone time. I have a few bottles of breastmilk in the freezer. Always. You never know what's going to happen, and being prepared is essential. You might get stuck at work for a few extra hours, you might end up in the hospital, you might win free non-transferable tickets to a concert and have a willing grandparent-slash-babysitter. The point is you need them, even if you're not feeding formula, unless you really are planning on staying home every day all day for the next 9 months to two years. A variety of nipples to go with them is also important.

Comfort Pillows
You don't need these. They're essentially pillows that you put the baby on in order to make him/her feel like s/he's being held. Most notably useless is the zaky, a stuffed hand-shaped pillow. Seriously? Just hold your baby. unless you can make the thing sing, jiggle, and change a diaper, it's not going to work for very long.

Peepee Teepees
ok. yeah, they're cute sounding and when you look at them in the store they look ESSENTIAL. But hey, remember that wipe we were talking about earlier? Hey check that out, it does the same thing!

Crib Bedding Sets
No. Just.... no. You can't use most of it on an infant, and when you finally CAN use it, you're going to be so very over the amount of washing it'll take to keep it all together as a unit, and you could have just bought some separates and saved a ton of cash.

Waterproof Sheets and Pads
Um, yes please. In fact, I heard a fabulous idea the other day, which I plan on implementing ASAP: Layers. Waterproof pad, sheet, waterproof pad, sheet. Then when the kid inevitably wets the bed in the middle of the night you can just pull the top layers off and have the next ones ready for use immediately.

Video Baby Monitor
There's some debate on this one. Obviously, if you're deaf, it's kind of on the "must have" list. But if you're not, it could still be there. Perhaps you have a larger home and would like to be able to visibly check in on your baby without running up the flight of stairs to find out why he's NOT crying. or maybe you just want to be able to check on him with the thing on mute so you can say to yourself "yep, he's crying, but he looks like he's just fussing, let me check the sound... yeahp just fussing, I'll keep an eye on him and check the sound again in a few minutes." They're expensive, and of course not NECESSARY, but if you want one, put it on your registry and if someone buys it for you, score!

Baby Bath Tub
Ummm... do you have a sink? You're probably ok without this then.

Changing Table
How tall and/or agile are you? If you're too tall to comfortably change the baby on the bed or not quite agile enough to be doing it on the floor, you might need one of these. Lord knows I do.

Baby Sound System
Really, America? Is this what we think we need? In-utero sound systems for our babies and baby MP3 players? Not, say, better public education or food for the homeless?

Multi-placement Thermometer
It works rectally, orally, and in the axillary position. You technically don't need it, but trust me, you do. They're in most baby first aid kits, which you should take a look at, price out the individual contents of, and decide if you want to make one or buy one.

Yeah, you probably need this. For a while, at least, your baby won't be sleeping in the crib. If you don't have a bassinet that means s/he'll be in bed with you. Is that REALLY what you want? IS IT!?

And now, a short list of non-essential things that I have found made my life SO much easier:

Pacifiers (I use these)

Swaddle Sacks (again, I use these)

"The Happiest Baby on the Block" DVD

mitten cuff onesies (like these)

Operating Instructions by Anne LaMott

and diapers. I've used two different kinds of diapers. This one and this one. I like them both, for different reasons. The first because it's eco-friendly, available at Babies R Us, and the individual diapers take up comparably less space in a diaper bag; the other because it's less expensive, slightly more available, and has this nifty brainless color-change stripe that turns blue when it's wet.

And now I'm going to push the publish button, because this entry has taken me almost two weeks to write. Hurray baby!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting back into shape: Embarassing and True tales

Sooooooo I just got back from a run.

I haven't run in like 10 years. Seriously. It's been since high school, unless you count pool runs in college. Which i suppose are pretty hard, and demanding. OK, then it's only been 8 years.

I just discovered that I walk a mile almost as quickly as I jog one. Specifically I walk a mile in about 15 minutes, and I run one in about 12. High school me would be ashamed.

High school me would also kick current me's butt at crunches, leg presses, swimming, and volleyball. Current me's only consolation is that current me would kick high school me's butt at tricep extension, bicep curls, toe presses, and walking in heels. Also bicycling, but that's kind of skewed, since high school me couldn't ride a bike.

If the title and content hadn't yet tipped you off, this entry is about working out postpartum, and what I'm trying to get back in shape. I haven't been "in shape" in a very long time. In high school I might have been slimmer, and may have had better aerobic stamina, but I was by no means "in shape." I was more interested in how I looked than how I felt, and while I wasn't starving myself, per se, I was restricting calories more than I needed to, because I didn't want to let people see me sweat in P.E. but was unwilling to give up my dress code of ridiculously short dresses and purple fishnet stockings. My average breakfast was a piece of toast, my average lunch either a piece of fruit or a bagel, occasionally half a cafeteria-portioned salad. Dinner was the only meal I would actually eat a decent amount of, but that was counteractive because you shouldn't eat large meals at night, you should eat them early to give you fuel for the day, or else you should graze constantly.

So I've pussy-footed around my current shape enough, and in the spirit of being brutally honest, I'm about to admit a few embarrassing details, so I can get them out there and start to love who I am a little better.

According to my doctors, I am obese. They have their numbers and their BMI and all sorts of things that tell them that I am obese. I am six feet two inches tall, and they say I should weigh between 140 and 190 pounds. Let me state for the record that the last time I weighed 140 pounds, I was five feet eight inches, and thirteen years old. Now I am not delusional, I know I'm not in my ideal weight category, but if you know me, you know I'm not really that bad off. What you wouldn't know to look at me is that before I got pregnant I weighed 265 pounds. I then lost 15 pounds, which I gained back before I put on another 15 pounds. As such I can actually say "I gained 15 pounds during my pregnancy" and it's not a lie. However, I am considered obese, so that's supposed to be normal.

To be clear, again, I am six feet two inches tall. I have a classic hourglass figure to go with that, and broad shoulders. I also wore a size triple D bra before I got pregnant. If you were wondering, I now wear a size H. I did not even know that existed last year. So yeah, I have some fat on me, but to be honest, it was never troubling, except when I was clothes shopping. No one makes clothes for women as tall as I am, so if you don't have thin little pixie legs you can't find a dress, since they're ALL short, and if you manage to find a good pair of pants you should buy four or five pairs, just to be sure you'll make it to the next time you find well-fitting pants. Wearing I size 20 on the hips, a size 14 top and having a size 16 waist does not make life easy. Unless you have that perfect knee-length flare-skirt dress with the halter top and the waist you can cinch in with the ties. PS, they stopped making those.

Anyway, back to working out.

I have decided that this year I need to really try to get into shape. Breastfeeding has helped me drop some weight (I'm down to 245; if you're good at math you know this is less than I've weighed in a long time) and I'd like to not only keep it off, but send it to its new home with maybe another 45-55 of its closest friends. I swear, this has nothing to do with my ten year high school reunion. Which is this November. I swear, nothing at all.

So the husband has been talking about this "Couch to 5k" running program which conveniently takes 9 weeks. I get the go-ahead to actually EXERCISE next Thursday (hopefully) so I thought I'd be pro-active and start with some simple short jogs, just get in a few before I really start this "program" they have set out. Today was the first of those, and I am sad to say I cannot jog a mile without stopping. However, it appears I can jog for about a minute, then walk a minute, then jog a minute, etc. ad nauseum (not literally, thank goodness) and then get home, sweaty and hot, drink a liter of water, and sweat some more. Then, being the masochist I am, on my "off days" I can go for 4 mile walks and do crunches with the hubby.

After two days of this I can tell you, my legs feel like jell-o, my abs burn, and I'm freaking FAMISHED. It doesn't hurt that breastfeeding, in and of itself, burns 200-500 calories a day (source)  which is supposedly comparable to running a few miles. I'm burning more calories than I'm consuming, and the weight is starting to come off. I'm already fitting into jeans a whole size smaller than I used to, which is nice, but more importantly, I have a ton of energy when I'm not totally wasted from exercise. Which I use to carry the baby, stay up late rocking the baby, feed the baby, and learn to do new things one-handed. Which is why current me's arms are SO much stronger than high school me's arms. That and carrying Costco sized bags of cat food and litter.

My goal in the next few weeks is to start the C25k program in earnest, and then to add in a bike ride once a week, amping it up to two or more a week by October. Combined with the Gillian Michaels work out that Angela has started and wants me to join in with, this regimen should get me in the best shape of my life by next year.

Assuming I don't die of exhaustion before then.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Too tired, can't think of witty title

Last night was hard. When I say hard I mean I broke down crying more than once, and finally figured out the line of questioning they give you at the hospital.

I'm going to sound like a horrible mother saying this, but I promised to be completely honest in this blog, and I'm going to stick to that.

When you call the hospital because something is wrong, if you're a new mother, they always ask you if you've had any thoughts of harming yourself or the baby. Last night, around 5:30 am, on two hours of intermittent sleep, I broke down crying. I sat there and stared at my baby, with tears running down my cheeks, listening to him wail for what seemed like absolutely no reason, and just wanted it to stop. I would have done almost anything for just a few hours of quiet and some sleep. Anything. And that's when it hit me. This is why they ask. Because at some point you will be staring at that open, crying mouth, ready to suck the soul and brain out of you along with the milk, and in a half-delirious state you will think "I need to put the baby down or I will do something I shouldn't" but there will be no "putting the baby down."

Newborns don't cry for attention they way older babies do. There is no 'letting him cry it out' for newborns. Newborns cry because something is wrong. If you let a newborn "cry it out" you get a newborn with a sore throat, which makes them cry harder, on top of what was originally wrong.

There are 11 reasons why newborn babies cry. They are:
1. Hungry (duh). Most people see this as their go-to fix-it for newborns. Not a great idea. This can teach a baby that food fixes everything.

2. Tummy Problems. Most babies will cry to be burped at some point. They will also spit up, which can be mildly distressing (who like puking, srsly?) and then there's the dreaded colic.

3. Too cold

4. Too hot

5. Too much going on. Everyone needs so quiet time in their lives.

6. Not enough going on. The womb is a loud loud loud place. Sometimes babies need a ton of white noise to calm down. Sometimes they just get bored.

7. Need to suck (different from being hungry). Sucking releases a hormone called CCK, which calms babies.

8. Hair Tourniquet. Check your baby's hands and feet for a hair wrapped around a finger or toe. A hair tourniquet can cut off circulation, and be very painful. Babies don't have the coordination to unwrap, and even if they did they wouldn't understand where the pain is coming from.

9. Need to be changed.

10. Need to be held. Please realize this is different from wanting to be held. There was a horrible study done in Germany where they gave babies everything they "needed" excepting physical affection. The babies died. Your baby needs to know you love him/her. They need to be held and hear your heartbeat every now and then.

11. Actually sick or in pain. If you've tried everything else on the list, take your baby's temperature, assess how long (s)he has been crying, and call the doctor. At the very least, you'll get some sort of reassurance that everything is actually fine.

Now, with all that covered, let us return to 5:30 in the morning. When everything has been tried, and you know your baby isn't sick, and all you want to do is sleep, or cry, or wheel the bassinet out onto the balcony and go back inside and put in earplugs and drink a bottle of wine... ask for help.

You don't have to be strong enough to do this on your own. No one is really strong enough to do this on their own. People who try go completely insane and end up driving their cars into lakes. You have to be strong enough to ask for help. You have to be strong enough to take a deep breath, put aside your pride, and say "I can't deal with this right now. I need sleep. I need someone to hold the baby/wash the dishes/make dinner/ do the laundry/clean the cat boxes/do the shopping because I need to go take a shower and cry my eyes out and then take a nap"

And that takes more strength than some of us have. I am particularly prone to trying to tough it out. When I told my father for the first time that I was pregnant, he told me that there would be no shame in not having the baby. That terminating the pregnancy would be ok, no one would think less of me, and that it didn't mean I wouldn't be able to have kids later, when I was more prepared. Now, I may be LDS, but I am a relatively progressive liberal moderate, and I'm pro-choice, but I realized something. No one ELSE might think less of me, but *I* would think less of me. Knowing that it was going to be hard, I decided to see this through, and have the baby. So of course I feel like i have to live up to that. I said I was going to do it, and I knew i was signing on for no sleep and crying babies and gosh darn it, that's what I'll do. I'll deal with it myself.

Except I can't. I need help. And there's no shame in that.

So on the 25th when I go see my doctor for my 6 week check-up I'm going to talk about postpartum depression, about feeling overwhelmed, about tears that crop up for no reason, and feelings of inadequacy. I'm going to express concern about medication, but I'm going to listen to what she says. And hopefully I'm going to feel better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Worst Thing About Mastitis is Everything

In honor of World Breastfeeding Month (August) I'm trying to post something boobalicious every time I post. So even if I post something purely anecdotal, like "OMG MY CATS ARE TEH CUTEZORZ" there will be a follow-up post having to do with those fabulous mammalian feeding appendages.

Today we're going to talk about mastitis. Which I apparently have. Let me just start by saying ow. Like, really. OW.

Mastitis is an infection of the breast, occurring in breastfeeding mothers. It's usually linked to a lack of constant schedule for feeding, or going too long between feedings. When there is prolonged engorgement (remember, fetish video comments?) the breasts will sometimes become infected. However, it's important to point out that some women just get mastitis, even if they are feeding their baby every two hours like clockwork. Some of us are just prone to infection.

The first stages of mastitis are quickly onset, and involve temperature spikes and flu-like symptoms. In the course of one day I went from happily taking walks and going to birthday parties to vomiting, a fever of 103, violent chills, and body aches. And of course your boobs hurt. Like really, really hurt (although that didn't catch up with me until today). Other markers of mastitis are peeling skin around the nipples, and reduced milk production. Of course some of us lucky ladies get feeding chafe anyway, so the peeling skin is hard to notice. And there are also those of us to whom the reduced production does not apply for a day or two. I actually pumped 7 ounces right before I left for the Emergency Room.

Yeah. Emergency Room. I'm sure by now we're all aware of exactly how I feel about being in the hospital. And we're also aware of how long Kaiser can leave you waiting in those tiny little rooms while they run around doing more important things. Of course in an ER it's hard to argue that you're more important and require more urgent care than, say, the 6 year old who got kicked in the collar bone in a jumpy-house and now can't lift one of her arms (she came in while they were triaging me) or the 85 year old woman who fell in her kitchen and was there for several hours before anyone found her (gleaned from nurse conversations in the halls) or even the mysterious and strangely beautiful Latina lady across the hall who speaks no English.

They started by checking me for everything BUT mastitis. My mother was with me, and she said that if I had mastitis I'd probably be talking about the pain more. My mom had mastitis and she said it's very very painful. So far it hasn't really been that bad, but Angie says it's probably like giant boob back pain. You don't really notice it because you're used to it. It's just when someone makes it STOP that you realize how much it hurt. So similarly if my breast has been hurting for a while, but only increasing slowly I wouldn't notice it nearly as much. Also I have a pretty good tolerance for constant pain, it's just surging or stabbing pains that I'm a wimp about. But they (and I, as well) figured that if I wasn't complaining of breast pain it probably wasn't mastitis. I didn't have any red or hard spots on my breasts, and while I had been vomiting and had had some diarrhea, I had also had a particularly spicy burrito made by a new guy at my favorite burrito place the night before, and was not particularly surprised by either. As an aside, let me say that if you ever order anything called "devil sauce" you expect it to burn. I am no different, and when I don't order the Salsa Diabla, but it shows up on my burrito anyway, I don't just throw the burrito away; I eat the delicious 12-chile-sauce-smothered-chicken with a slightly apprehensive, but appreciative smile on my face, knowing full well I will probably pay for it in the morning.

After being checked for everything from pneumonia to endometritis (different from endometriosis) complete with chest x-rays and pelvic exam (check it out, that's extra special uncomfy when you're all sewn up down there) they checked the urine sample I had given them four hours prior. The initial results were that I had a UTI that was asymptomatic due to the amount of medication I was on, and the postpartum dilation my body was experiencing. Women who have recently delivered vaginally are usually dilated in the vaginal, cervical, and urethral areas for a while after the birth, which can lead to UTIs that fly up to the kidneys instead of creeping. Frequently postpartum women don't know they have a UTI until it start affecting their internal organs.I was excited to be out in so short time, and to have only been stabbed twice, once for an IV and once because she couldn't get the IV in the first time. I am still a hard stick. They sent the rest of the sample for the lab for the final results, and told me they'd be setting me up with some antibiotics soon.

You may notice, however, that this post isn't about nearly missing kidney infection, or uncomfortable peeing. So I'm sure a smart person like you can figure out what happened next. The results from the lab came back both corroborating and negative. Corroborating in that they did indeed find skin cells and white blood cells in my urine. Negative in that they did not by any means find a large quantity of either. So they decided I couldn't go home, and they were going to need to stab me several more times. To make it better this time the stabbing wasn't going to be anything as nice as an IV in the crook of the elbow. They needed full blood cultures, so they needed to find multiple sites that were uncompromised, so they couldn't use the saline lock that was already in my arm. They needed to find new and exciting places to stab me. They chose the backs of my hands. And they needed to rigorously clean the area before they went in with the needle.

Now, it's not that I don't understand the word "rigorous," but for some reason I was still envisioning little wipes or something, not a full exfoliation with a hard white sponge and skin-bleach. the upside is the back of my hands currently feel similarly soft to Elliot's. However, that kind of rigorous cleaning left my hands really and truly sensitive, and they were still recovering from the blown veins from the LAST time I was in the hospital, so this was extra special painful.  Like "lower the head of the bed because the combination of finding out that I'm not going home, haven't eaten in nine hours, haven't fed the baby in seven hours, am in the hospital again, and am sleep deprived on top of now being stabbed in a newly sensitized area has brought me to tears and they don't want me to hyperventilate and pass out" painful. It was new and exciting, and somehow still not above a 5 on the pain scale. It was like somehow my body did not recognize that this wasn't that bad, and was channeling my 3 week old baby, looking for a more appropriate response than taking cleansing breaths.

After all that they did another breast exam. We're now at the seven hour mark. I've been through chills so bad my hips have seized up, I've had radiation poured into my body via X-ray, I've been stabbed too many times, they've put all kinds of instruments in me, I've been tempted with "you can go home soon" only to have that hope dashed against the floor, and now they're re-doing the only real non-invasive test they've done. And THIS time they decide my breasts look aggravated, and that there's some localized swelling and hardening. Never mind that I haven't expressed milk in almost 8 hours because "this won't take long, we won't need to bring you a pump," and the course of action for mastitis is almost EXACTLY THE SAME as the course for a UTI.

They tell me they're going to confer with the ER attending, and try to get my discharge papers and prescriptions rushed. Guess how well that went? If you guessed "not too well, actually," you get a prize! I left the hospital after having been in the ER for 9 hours, with directions to take my pills every 6 hours for the next 10 days, to feed or pump every 2 hours, and to get lots of rest. Someone, please, explain to me how I can be awake for half an hour out of every two and get lots of rest at the same time?

So I'm currently trying to be a good patient. I'm waking up every two hours in the middle of the night to feed Elliot what tiny amount of milk I can produce in that time, then staying up with him til he falls asleep again, which usually allows me 45 minutes of sleep at a time. I'm taking my pills at 4 and 10 and 4 and 10 again. My right breast actually DOES hurt now, and there seems to be an actual blockage in there somewhere. I'm constantly waking up covered in sweat from the repetitive fever which goes up to just under 100 and then breaks, several times a day. The funny thing is that other than the fever there wasn't much going on in the way of proof of infection. But of course, after not expressing any milk for almost 10 hours I think any new mother would get mastitis.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Heeeeeeere Kitty Kitty Kitty...

So E came home (duh) a few weeks ago, and I haven't posted anything about his interactions with the cats. I have heard from several people that this will not do and I need to post some kitty pics and baby pics and kitty-and-baby-pics. And, you know, talk about introducing them.

The day we came back from the hospital was kind of crazy (as previously explained) but it was surprisingly easy to introduce E into the home. We left him in his car seat, and brought him into the living room, and put him on the floor and just sat next to him while the cats came and checked him out. Squeak had little interest, really, and Moo just kind of sniffed around. Chimi seemed interested, but was keeping his distance.

Over the next few days we had some one-on-one time with E and the cats, letting Moo and Squeak into the bedroom for limited amounts of time to sit with us while we held E. Moo is now perfectly happy with E, and likes to sit on the bed and watch while I nurse him. I think it's because babies smell like milk.

Strange aside, actually; one of the few times I've seen Moo, Squeak, and Chimi all happy to be in the same place was when they were all hanging out with E while E was in his Crack Chair (My little Lamb Infant Seat) napping. Chimi's a little hard to see, but he's there to Moo's left.
The cats have also been learning new tricks from li'l E. Chimi in particular has learned to mimic his "feed me" cry. The first time he did it was priceless. I was sitting in the rocking chair, and E was crying, a very rhythmic and now unmistakeable "I'm hungry" cry. Chimi was sitting by the couch, watching intently. As soon as E gets his mouth full, he goes silent, and Chimi lets out the perfect imitation of him, and looks at Angela with his hopeful food eyes. It took him a while to get his food, as the laughter was in full effect for several minutes.

It makes me hopeful, seeing the cats getting along better with E in the house. Who knows, maybe his perfect-baby calming effect will last his whole life, and I can say "Yeah, I'm the mother of world peace."

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Baby Runs on Rocket Fuel

I'm sure you've all heard the term "Now we're cooking with gas" to describe something that happens the way it's supposed to, or something that happens quickly. In terms of my baby, it's more literal than that. I seem to have given birth to a gas-powered poop machine. I know that this is in large part due to my diet, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to give up. I mean, I've given up coffee, tea, and liquor for my religion. I've given up almost all other forms of caffeine for the baby (except chocolate. I can't give up chocolate) and I only have the occasional half glass of wine with dinner or while I'm feeding the baby, to ensure my body re-absorbs the alcohol before it affects him. No really, that's how it works. Here's the chart.

So, without putting too much of a point on my weight (since you don't need a real number) I can have half a glass of wine between feedings, or during a feeding since it takes a while for my body to begin processing the alcohol, and little E does just fine. And religiously I feel OK about that. The Word of Wisdom is a doctrine that can be interpreted individually. It does not specifically prohibit alcohol, and in the gospel even Jesus drank wine, and blessed vineyards. Excess is the real enemy, and I am trying hard every day to avoid excess.

But garlic and onions and beans, I just cannot see myself giving up. I know that everything I eat, L. Itsababy eats too, and genealogically he's predisposed to being a gassy little man. But COME ON! It's GARLIC and ONIONS and BEANS! How could I possibly give those up and still be happy with my diet? I try to balance it out. I eat a LOT of fruit these days, lots and lots of apples. I drink almost nothing but water (the occasional orange soda or bottle of carbonated water) and a glass of milk every day. I don't eat food that's super spicy anymore. That's actually sad, because I have a love for Thai food that most people would consider unhealthy.  I don't eat a lot of candy or sweets... OK that might be a lie. People keep bringing me cookies! I love cookies. One of my Home Teachers brought me chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and my husband keeps making Tollhouse cookies, and the ladies from the Relief Society who bring us dinner every other night (have I mentioned that I love my church in this entry? I love my church) have included a small pack of cookies or some dessert... OK so I'm eating a good deal of sugar. My body is craving it though.

I was shocked this morning when I did the math for how much L. Itsababy is eating now compared to how much he was eating in the hospital. At first, since the newborn's stomach is only the size of a walnut, he was only taking in 15mL or so per feeding. Now he can put down two to three ounces no problem. For reference, 15mL is half a ounce. So he's eating about 6 times as much as he used to, per feeding. And the feedings are getting closer together, too. Last night, for example, he ate at 11, again at 12, again at 1, again at 2, and again at 3. He passed out around 4 and slept til almost 9. so that's 5 feedings in about 10 hours, averaging roughly 2 ounces per feeding, puts him at 24-30 ounces of milk a day. He used to eat .5 ounces every 2-3 hours, or about 6 ounces a day. I would be shocked my body could keep up, if I hadn't read up on how to make sure it DOES keep up. Since E didn't always completely drain my reserve tanks at every feeding, I made sure to express the excess after he was PTFO. This accomplished a few things. First of all it triggered the refill mechanism in me, and second it allowed me to start a backstock of freezer milk, which is handy for things like date night and when gramma comes to babysit. And also for days like today when mommy couldn't wake herself up because she'd been awake til 4 am feeding and changing diapers, and since daddy had been snoozing through it he got to get up with baby and do a feeding because OMG TIRED.

So E is generally well hydrated, well fed, and I can't keep my hands off the foods that might give him gas. As a direct result of this we have in our hands something we call "The A$$ Cannon." The first time he went off, I thought it was one of the adults in the room. He is seriously that loud. The first time Angela heard it she commented that she was surprised his diaper hadn't been blown clear across the room. And he goes off in a series. We no longer change his diaper immediately. He should be given at least 5 minutes to get it all out of his system, else he is likely to finish on the changing table. I learned that one the hard way. It involved lots of screaming, laughing, and wipes. Hundreds of wipes.

While I'm on the subject, let me express the importance of having an unlimited supply of wipes. Preferably warm ones, if you have a boy. While all children have the capacity to spray, little boys are notorious for their distance and trajectory. And that thing will blow pretty much any time it's exposed to cold air, so having a warm wipe on hand to throw over the hose before it lets loose is a life (and laundry) saver. Wipe warmers cost about 20 bucks on average, and WOW are they worth it. Just remember to close the lid of the warmer when you're done, or else it's completely ineffectual.

So as you may have guessed, a slightly modified version of the pregnancy diet is best while breastfeeding. It ensures that baby doesn't get anything he isn't used to having, and that mommy doesn't go insane eating nothing exciting for the next year or so. Gradually introducing new foods into your system will help, and also give you a good idea of what the little one can stomach. My first "I need this now so we're going to find out if it has an effect on L. Itsababy" food was sushi. Just the cheap stuff you get at Safeway (Vons, if you live in SoCal, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc...) by the deli counter at first, but gradually ramping up to an actual hand roll at an actual restaurant. I don't eat a LOT of raw fish, but I do eat a decent amount of cooked fish and chicken. Red meat upsets my stomach some, and TJs to a greater extent, so we've been phasing it out for a while. And pork is kind of an in-between. In general we eat fish and fowl for our flesh protein. om nom flesh.

I imagine I'll have to lean more towards the vegetarian side with L. Itsababy, but that's ok with me. As long as I can have a diverse field to select from, I'm happy. And with friends like Karla over at the Veggie Noms, how could I ever lack for interesting recipes? Seriously, go check her stuff out. She makes things be tasty.

Thank you, Ladies

I'd like to take a quick moment to recognize the fabulous women who worked on my team at Kaiser Santa Clara. I don't have all their pictures, but here are the ones I do have:

Dr Johnson


Amy The Fabulous Med Student. Also me, looking kinda funny.




Dr. Chang



Cassandra! Fabulous Half Fairy Wonderment!

Dr. Ross


Not Pictured: Sungmi, Young Kim, Dr. Bader, Sarah, any of my male attendants. If I missed anyone else, or if I got a name wrong, I'm sorry; I was on meds.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coming Home Again, for the First Time.

So there are many things that happened at the hospital that I just haven't had time to cover yet, and I'm sure I eventually will have time, but that will be later. Perhaps much later. In the interests of moving along, we'll move along home. Or at least we'll try, because it took FOREVER to leave the hospital.

A good deal of that is because of just how cute L. Itsababy is. I know that sounds kind of pretentious, and a lot of you are thinking to yourselves "well every mother thinks their baby is the cutest thing ever" but seriously people, it wasn't me showing him to everyone squealing "look how cute!" or anything. In fact, for a good deal of his cute getting in the way it was people either approaching me to mention how adorable he is, or else people who were supposed to mention his adorability in passing spending forever cooing over him. Case in point: the portrait lady. I know, I know, they pay her to talk about how cute my baby is so that I'll buy the prints. But I have a modicum of circumstantial evidence! The people ahead of us, they got 15-20 minutes with her. She took the portraits, cooed the appropriate amount, and then moved on. She then spent 45 minutes with us, trying to find the exact right poses, taking a ton of pictures, and then fretting over which shots to use, since she could only give us 8 poses in our package. And just to show you I'm not being silly, here's one of them:

So don't go telling me it's in my head. This is what he looked like 48 hours old. No squishy red face, no wrinkled crybaby, no real George Burns look to him at all. Just perfect little baby boy. And his daddy's hand, because daddy is the strong. And that's a hospital sheet in the background, not some special backdrop or anything. He's just perfect like that.

We had planned to be out by 11 am, and left ourselves about 45 minutes to get our stuff together, get dressed, get L. Itsababy dressed, and sign out. However since all that time was taken by ordering baby pictures, we ran into a bit of a time crunch. Not that the hospital was being put out. Apparently the week's baby rush was now over and they even mentioned to me that I could stay til dinner if I needed to. I almost took them up on that, too, because something scary had just occurred to me. I was going home. Home to where there were no nurses to help me with remembering to take my pills on time, no one coming in with food reminding me to eat well, no lactation consultants making sure I was feeding L. Itsababy correctly... we were going to be on our own! My anxiety was starting to make a comeback.

I know I've mentioned in passing that I have an anxiety disorder, but I don't think I've really elaborated on how much this used to rule my life. Over the past 6 years or so I've managed to keep it under control with the help of my fabulous husband and a LOT of introspection. Before that it was medication. Lots of medication. Medication to help me sleep, medication to help me think, medication to relax the muscles in my body (which I still occasionally took up to finding out I was pregnant) when I couldn't do it on my own... I did that for years. I had a traumatic experience in college, which triggered a break. When I sought help I hadn't slept in about a week, and was starting to have aural hallucinations as a result. Yeah, I was messed up. As a sad result of the anxiety, I am at a much higher risk of postpartum depression. I've had a few moments since coming home when the stress was just too much and I needed a few minutes to regroup, but sitting in the hospital all I could think was "I'm going to go home, and something's going to go wrong, and it's going to be horrible."

So maybe I dragged my feet a little. Maybe when they gave me the paperwork to sign so we could leave I asked questions. Maybe when Amy came in to say goodbye I spent some extra time talking to her. Maybe when we got L. Itsababy dressed in his cute little dicky outfit I took him on a walk to find Cassandra so we could say a proper goodbye. Maybe I spent a little extra time getting my things from the pharmacy...but they had just handed me a baby. MY baby. This tiny, beautiful little life that was mine to take care of, but not really mine. Just entrusted to me for a while, to form and shape and screw up as I may. They gave me a PERSON and said "OK, here comes the hard part, and it just keeps getting harder. Good luck!"

Of course they didn't really just give him to me and tell me to suck it up. They even assigned me a social worker because of the history of anxiety, a nice man named Raj. They gave me a giant list of phone numbers in case of emergency, and reminded me that they're there to help. Or course the amount of help I'm getting from non-hospital sources is amazing as well. With Angela, my family, TJ's family, my friends, and my church, I have only had 2 real breakdowns, one a week. And considering I haven't had a period in 9 months, this could all just be hormones. I intend to treat it that way to a certain extent. Not that ignoring feelings is a good way of dealing with them, but I have so much to do right now, and so little time to do it in, that I can't afford to be freaking out every time I have a sleepless night. If I don't take a nap that's my problem to deal with, and if I overwork myself and go for too long of a walk it's not like L. Itsababy's going to stop needing me for a night. I can't just take a night off from being a mom. I'm a FOOD SOURCE for land's sake. So to a certain extent, yes, I have to suck it up. I'm trying to do that right now even, writing and not editing because I'd rather get another hour of sleep than find my run-on sentences and comma splices.

But hey, they say you can't go home again, right? Right. I left home a wife and a woman but I came back a mother, and the home I had isn't the home I have now. It's all different, and while some of it may be frustrating, and approaching too much, it's all worth it when I look at him.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Being a Strong Mother is Hard Work

Shortly after L. Itsababy was born they prepped a Mommy and Baby (forthwith M&B) room for me to occupy for the next 24 hours (which turned into 48, but more on that later) and Hilary wheeled my still-drugged-and-temporarily-paralyzed self down the hall to scope my new digs. The room was smaller than the L&D room, but had all the same furnishings, minus the emergency equipment. And the bed was MUCH more comfortable, though too small for me. One of the drawbacks of being over 6 feet tall is that things designed specifically for women do not fit. Even beds. But cramped as it was, it was a solid state bed, with no removable bottom half (which the L&D beds are all equipped with, for ease of delivery) to create the kind of cracks that those who have slept on two twin mattresses pushed together will recognize as both uncomfortable and, if not dangerous, then at least worrisome.

Not surprisingly, L. Itsababy and I slept. The lady came in with lunch, and I ate, and I tried to get L. Itsababy to eat, but it took only about ten minutes before he went back to sleep. I figured he'd had a big day, and went back to sleep myself. We slept. And slept. And slept. I occasionally got up to pee, which is no small feat when you're sewn together the way I was. They give you this peribottle to use, and tell you to not wipe, but just rinse and dab. They are not kidding, this is the only way to do it. Learn to love the peribottle. Take it home with you, you're going to need it. The bleeding takes a few weeks to stop fully. I am currently still waiting to stop bleeding. And they say I wasn't even that bad, so I can only imagine how bad it can get. Though I did apparently somehow manage to lacerate my urethra. So yeah, peeing was awesome. And by awesome I mean WHERE ARE THE PAIN PILLS?

Eventually the nurses came in and told me that I had to wake up L. Itsababy and feed him. But there was a problem. I couldn't wake him up. I mean, he'd wake up for a second, and his eyelids would flutter, and he'd go back to sleep almost instantly. The nurse, Kim, told me that I needed to wake him up and feed him, and then left. I tried everything. I tried rubbing his feet, tickling him, blowing raspberries on his stomach, I tried ICE CUBES on his feet, and on his face (My mother used to have to hold ice to my face to keep me awake while feeding me as a baby, this is NOT cruelty, I swear). Nothing. Poor kid was tuckered out like nothing I'd ever seen before. We knew he was getting SOME nutrition because every so often he'd wake up, poop, and then pass out again.

Then the nurse came in and told me that they needed him to eat, because they needed him to pee. If he didn't pee in the first 36 hours they were going to have to either start a pediatric catheter, to check his kidney and bladder function, or they were going to start supplementing him with formula. I kind of flipped out at the nurse at that one. My baby would NOT be put on formula, I told her. I was NOT going to be feeding my son some scientific concoction that "approximated" something my body could make very well on its own thankyouverymuch. I requested to see a lactation consultant, requested a new Ice Diaper, and sent the nurse away.

Let's take a quick moment to recap the benefits of breastfeeding. America is actually not considered a breastfeeding culture anymore, because the average breastfeeding woman does it for less than 9 months. The average worldwide is 3 years. Now a ton of women reading this (and probably some men) just recoiled in horror, thinking of social stigma, regressed development, feeding in public, and most importantly, TEETH. But breastmilk can also be administered by bottle,  if you're worried about pretty much any of those things. But of course that takes time, and I am usually not one for extra time taken, even if it is just for pumping and bottling. So I prefer the old fashioned way. The way our bodies are designed to do it. I mean cmon, ladies, they're not for decoration. If you're religious, then God gave them to you so you could feed your children. And if you're not religious, then you evolved specifically to have those particular glands whereas your partner (or sperm donor, or whoever) does not because you're supposed to use them to feed your children. It's fabulous that you love the way they look, but seriously, they're utilitarian devices. Also if you think they look nice now wait til you've been breastfeeding for a week. They get bigger. And fuller. And if you're not careful they turn into something you'd see in a fetish movie.

But I digress. The benefits of breastfeeding, for the baby: faster gut sealing time, more highly functioning immune system, easier to digest, lower chance of diabetes (types 1&2), lower chance of heart disease, lower chance of many types of cancers, lower chance of asthma, lower chance of obesity, lower incidence of ear infections, and even a lower chance of infant and childhood leukemia. Before your milk comes in fully, your body produces something called colostrum, which is essentially a specialty food for newborns. It's a clearish yellow color, and is basically pure nutrients and antibodies. You won't produce much at a sitting, just a few teaspoons or so, but that's fine. I started hand-expressing mine into a bottle as soon as it started coming in, and by the time L. Itsababy was born I had 15 mL stored in the freezer. Considering the average newborn's stomach is between the size of a hazelnut and a walnut, that's a LOT of food. It took him a few days to put it down, in collaboration with my rapidly changing milk.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother: quicker bonding with the baby, lower chance of postpartum depression, lower chance of ovarian and breast cancer, faster weight loss (your body burns a LOT of calories making milk) faster uterine contraction (yeah it's a bit crampy, but getting back to normal quickly is a good thing), lower chance of type 2 diabetes, saves money, saves time (you don't have to sterilize nipples and bottles all the time), breastfeeding releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, so it actually feels pretty good, more sleep (no bottles to mix and warm at 2am, just scoop the kid, feed the kid, put the kid back to bed) and less time lost at work since your baby will get sick less often.

Also to be taken into consideration is the affect breastfeeding has on society. I'm not going to get all super-preachy (well, no more than usual) nor am I going to turn into a propaganda film, but it is important to note that since breastfeeding decreases the risk of so many illnesses that there is in fact an impact on society, in the amount of medical care and provision a mother and baby will need, if nothing else.Of course there ARE other things (environmental impact, workforce impact, etc) but the one you're probably not going to think of is the medical provision, so there you go.

Unfortunately, once a baby is given formula from a bottle it can be very hard to get the child back to breastfeeding, since bottle feeding can be so much easier for the baby (it's hard work to use those jaw muscles for the first time!) and can take so much less time (though that also makes babies gassy, and then they spit up when they overflow) so it's important to be consistent.

Now that we've covered why I will be attempting to exclusively breastfeed, let's cover something else I said really quickly. Ice diaper. OMG ice diaper. My cousin K, who last year also had a beautiful little boy, told me about these fabulous inventions. They involve taking a newborn diaper, ripping it open, stuffing crushed ice between the desiccant and the fluff, and then stuffing them in your hospital-approved undies. It doesn't sound pleasant, but when you're swollen, bleeding, stitched together, and sitting on two maxi pads and a folded up chuck anyway, (those blue thingies, remember?) it's pretty appealing. The numbing sensation is fabulous, and since the diaper is designed to absorb, you don't have any uncomfortable wetness other than what your body is producing on its own. Cassandra, the nurse I dubbed "some sort of magical Sookie Stackhouse half-fairy" makes the best ice diapers at Kaiser Santa Clara, from my experience. She never over-fills them, never forgets to crush the ice, and always keeps the diaper tabs tucked away so they don't scratch.

When Kim came back with my ice diaper she reminded me that if they hadn't seen a wet diaper within 36 hours of birth, they'd be calling a doctor. I reminded her that I did not want my baby on formula. I then grumbled at length to myself and my mother-in-law, who was visiting, about how I knew the baby was eating, I knew I was producing enough food, and that if it came to 36 hours without him producing a wet diaper I would prefer them to catheterize, thank you, since eating wasn't the problem and I'd like to know what the problem really WAS.

But wait, you may exclaim, how DID you know your baby was eating enough? If he was still producing meconium, and he wasn't peeing, how could you know? Easy. I took choir. Therefore I know how to count beats. L. Itsababy at that point was sucking about 5 times before swallowing, which was audible, then resting for five to ten seconds, then repeating. He'd fall asleep after about 5-10 minutes of that. I'd be sure to try to wake him up every hour to feed him a little more, letting him pass out when he was tired. At that point (almost 24 hours in) he would wake up when his feet and arms were rubbed, or when he had a thermometer placed in his armpit, which happened just about every 7-8 hours, in keeping with hospital protocol. He also would get fed after he came back from any of his myriad tests, or whenever the pediatrician would come visit, or when the nurse would come to see if he'd peed yet. Which he had not.

We were just rolling into 30 hours when the lactation consultant showed up. Janice, a lovely woman who referred to L. Itsababy as "Mr. Baby" and continued to lead him through extensive "waking up exercises" during our session. When even she could not convince him to stay awake she taught me how to cup-feed, which involved hand expressing into a small medicine cup (she commented on how I didn't seem to have any supply issues) and then letting L. Itsababy half-drink half-lap the milk to make sure he was getting enough. I was right, he was. Just two hours or so after my meeting with Janice, L. Itsababy gave us the wet diaper we had been waiting for. He actually completely soaked it. It was like someone had taken a Super Soaker to that thing. However, I was slightly frightened to see that there was some blood in his urine, and called the nurse immediately to tell her. Turns out that blood in the urine is completely normal for the first wet diaper. Babies had a tendency to swallow some of their mother's blood during delivery, since they're all covered in it and stuff, and they don't process it so well.

After being reassured, we both fell asleep. Again.

And now it's time to feed the little piglet himself, so the rest of this story shall have to wait a little longer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Labor and Delivery, Part 2

Picking up where we left off, I had wimped out and decided that the pros of an epidural far outweighed the cons. And those are some serious possible side effects. To recap quickly, those would include paralysis and death. The chances, however, of dying or becoming a paraplegic under the hand of a skilled anesthesiologist are pretty remote. It does happen, but not very often.

So it was about 3:30am (according to my mother's text updates to my brother) when I requested the epi. I assume it took about 5 minutes for the anesthesiologist to come in. We all remember Liz the anesthesiologist, right? The lovely lady who finally got my IV in? I was in luck, and she was still int he hospital. So when she came in I got to say "Hi Liz! You're going to make the pain stop, right?" and she got to reply "Hi Alix, yes I'm going to try" and then we got down to business. If i had not gone through the IV problem earlier, I would have had to do some paperwork and listened to the side effects and indications and confirmation questions at THIS point, when I was in pain and tired and shaking every time I had a contraction. Instead Liz just got out the needles and told me to sit on the edge of the bed.

The best part about the epidural is that the person it's being done to doesn't have to see any of the instruments. My mother, TJ, and Angela were not as lucky as I. Angela, a former fire fighter who has seen some pretty gruesome things in her life, later told me she had to sit down to keep from vomiting. My mother, a nurse, got eyes as big as saucers looking at some of the hooks and needles. My husband TJ was standing right in front of me and trying to keep me distracted, and he still says that watching me get the epi was the hardest part of the labor and delivery, including the parts with waves of blood.

The worst part about the epidural (excluding the anxiety of "OMG is this going to leave me paralyzed") is the Lidocaine. Remember how much I hate Lidocaine? Evil nasty painful burning stuff? Getting it injected into your back is not better than getting it injected into your hand. Liz however is a consummate professional. She talked me through every movement of her hand, from "I'm going to be putting some betadyne on your back to clean off the work area, and draping it now" to "I understand why you jumped there, and it's ok, I figured you'd probably pull away because most people do but you're going to have to do this again and then it'll be over" before I went almost completely numb. I say almost because you can still feel pressure. The threading felt to me like someone slowly running a finger down my back, but like they had somehow bypassed my skin and fascia. The only exception was what they called getting a "zing" in my back. It felt like a short electrical impulse, and was only on one side of my back. Of course I freaked out a little, but Liz assured me that it was completely normal, and what she was doing to fix it, and how it was going to effect the rest of my epi. Apparently she needed to withdraw a little and go around a nerve cluster, and the side of my back with the zing would be affected slightly differently than the other.

When the thread got seated I was instructed to run through some basic movements to make sure there was no damage, and then it was taped in place. By like half a roll of tape. Easily half a roll. I have a mild allergic reaction to some kinds of medical tape, so I had checked ahead of time what kind of tape they were using, and BOY was I glad. Usually I can stand the "wrong" type of tape when it's on something small, like holding a cotton ball over an injection site, but this amount of tape would have had me breaking out in hives you could have seen from space. Then she attached the threading to a dispenser, which she taped up over my shoulder, and helped me lie back in bed.

Then my body disappeared from the bottom of my rib cage to the tops of my ankles. I was expecting to not be able to feel them, but what I was not expecting was being unable to move them. I instantly freaked out again. I was sure I had just fallen into that .01% again. I say again because I've had mono 3 times and L. Itsababy was conceived while we were using condoms. I'm used to being a slight medical anomaly. But no, I was not paralyzed. When I calmed down I realized I could in fact feel pressure on my legs when people touched me, and that the nurses were not freaking out with me. In fact they were taking this time to prep a catheter for me. Suddenly the need to catheterize epi patients made a TON more sense. If my legs don't work of COURSE I have to be cath'd. The weird part was still being able to move my feet. It was like they were somehow floating below me, still attached but by some invisible thread only. Like when you light up last year's string of Christmas lights and there's a giant chunk in the middle that no longer lights up, but still relays electricity to the last few lights on the strand.

It was 4:30 am, I was 4 centimeters dilated, and I was more comfortable than I had been in months. I fell sleep and let my body do what it was going to do.

And apparently what it was going to do was progress VERY quickly. I woke up a few times when the nurses came in to check me, including once to say good morning to Hilary, my nurse from the observation room, whose voice I recognized without my glasses on (I have a negative 7 sphere AND am astigmatic, this is an accomplishment) but would promptly fall back to sleep. Around 9:30 I was inspected and told that I was at 9 1/2 or 10 centimeters, and they were calling the doctor in because it was time to push. I had progressed over a centimeter an hour for five hours. That is extremely rapid, especially for a first birth and an induction.

When Dr. Bader came in and introduced herself I was starting to feel pressure from L. Itsababy having fully dropped. There is no kind way to say this. It feels like you have to take a ten pound poop. The muscles you use to push out a baby are essentially the same muscles you use to have a bowel movement, which is why this skit involves the phrase "shameless bowel movement." Because a lot of women poop on the table. One more reason I was suddenly glad they had taken me off solid food.

Now there's one more thing I need to tell you before we get into the actual delivery. I did not go to any birthing classes. I went to newborn care classes, breastfeeding classes, infant first aid and infant activity classes, but when the time came for me to sign up for an actual birthing class, they were all full. Apparently the San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a baby boom (remember the poor lady delivering in her observation room?) which is being partially blamed on the Giants making (and then winning, YAY! ) the World Series last year. But this means that I was essentially unprepared. I mean, I had read books, I had done my specialized exercises, I had researched what I was supposed to do, but no one had SHOWN me. I never really feel prepared until someone has seen me practice and told me I'm not wrong. So I was scared.

I didn't need to be. The best advice I got through my entire pregnancy came from my mother, and it applied to this situation more than any other: "Your body knows what to do, just get out of its way if you can't help." We told Hilary that I hadn't gone to any classes and she assured us that the nurses on staff all knew how to help me get this going right, and comfortably, and would be glad to help. It was 10:00 and they told me to push.

And wow did I push. Throughout my pregnancy I had been doing a particular type of isometric crunch in order to prepare these muscles. Essentially you take a normal crunch, get to the apex, and hold it for 30 seconds while you do proper kegel exercises. Now I know a proper kegel exercise involves not having your abdomen tense, but the important part here is to separate the abdominal muscles from the kegel, and to keep your rectum as relaxed as possible. The expectation is to be able to hold the crunch for up to a minute, while doing 30 kegels in that time. It takes a loooooong time to work up to this, so don't feel bad if you can't do it right off the bat. If you can hold a full crunch, with no pulsing, for 5 seconds at the beginning, you're doing better than average.

The reason these exercises worked was starting to make itself VERY clear. When you push, they have you curl around the baby, and bear down like you're trying to push out a huge bowel movement. You push with every muscle you can possibly push with, and you want to be able to be relaxed where you need to be (in the rectum) while you do it. This prevents a ton of tearing. Since they rarely do episiotomies anymore it's important to know that you probably WILL tear. With perineal massage or dilation it will not be as bad as it would have been without, and if there's a chance of third degree laceration they might still cut, but in general the faster the baby descends (like, say, from -3 to +3 in 5 hours... yay me) the more tearing should be expected. Also speed of delivery plays a large part in tearing, and since my delivery was particularly quick, I was extremely glad for the exercises that had taught me to keep control of the muscles I was using (and the few I was pointedly NOT using)

The first few pushes Hilary and Dr. Bader had me do in a style you see frequently in movies. They had my legs up, and I was to hold onto the back of my knees and use my arms to pull myself down while pushing as hard as I could. This worked pretty well, and we stayed like that for maybe 10 minutes. Then Hilary pulled out the stirrups and handlebars. No joke. Since I had 3 people on my support team this was optimal for me. My mother braced one leg, Angie braced the other, and TJ curled his big manly arms around my back and helped me push from behind. Which I had specifically requested since I was not for one instant letting a man with that much desire to photograph or video my delivery near an angle that would make that possible. I'm an open and progressive woman, but no one wants to see that. And i don't really want them to see it if they do. There are plenty of gross pictures out there, and he ended up taking one gross one anyway, so bah.

From that point the hard aprt was keeping L. Itsababy descended during the period of time when I was not pushing. They do pushes in sets of threes, with breaths in between. Each push takes 10 seconds, then deep breath and push again. Did the timing for the isometrics just click in your head? If you can relax your back and take a deep breath WHILE KEEPING YOUR ABS TENSE in between pushes, you can keep the baby from sucking back up into your body (a weird feeling, btw) and losing you your progress. My best advice during this part is to not laugh. My mother made me laugh and I lost my push big time. The pushes are in concert with contractions, so they're a minute or so apart, unless your doctor tells you to skip one and rest. Which is neither lovely nor painful, it is simply a period of time when your body is screaming "PUSH!" and your mind is screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOO" and then it's over and you can breathe until the next push.

I was pushing for 45 minutes. L. Itsababy was helping considerably. At one point I was holding my push, they told me to breathe, and the little sucker found foot purchase on my ribs and decided mommy couldn't do it on her own and he needed to intercede. When I finally DID get the head out the next thing out was his arm, followed by a little wave of blood as he LITERALLY HELPED PULL HIMSELF OUT. Talk about a weird feeling. Not painful (thank you epidural) but definitely odd. And then they put him on my chest and my whole world imploded into that tiny little face. If you've never believed in love at first sight, this experience will make you believe. Logically I know he was kind of grey and covered in blood and mucus and vernix, and that he pooped on me two or three times before they took him off of my chest to weigh him (8 pounds 11 ounces! POST POOP!), but logic has nothing to do with the way I felt in that moment. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, he was my sun and my moon and my stars, and he always will be.