Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Open Letter to Steve Chabot

In light of the unbelievably infantile actions of our government, I was urged (indirectly) by a friend to write to my representative, Steve Chabot. So I did. I did a little research first, and discovered that he had signed a letter in support of repealing the Affordable Care Act, about which I feel poorly. Anyway, I rarely get political on this blog, or on any social media for that matter, but this calls for opinions. This calls for voices and actions. I wrote to my representative, and I will be voting based on his actions during and after this crisis. We are all victims of their collective temper tantrum, no matter your party affiliation. Had I more time and less anger, I might have written something with more numbers or better sentence structure or fancier words, but these are my feelings.

"Hey Steve. I did not vote for you, but that's neither here nor there. You're my representative, and I believe in supporting our elected officials whether I voted for them or not. But on August 21, you signed a letter stating your support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, opening with "the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act...remains broadly unpopular across America," which happens to be total and utter bullshit. I don't know who does your polling, but you're clearly out of touch. Americans need better health care, and if the ACA is repealed, and we have to start from scratch, better health care will never happen. We need the ACA now so that we can improve it later.

At my job, I have yearly reviews. Perhaps this concept is foreign to you. I have to show that I am competent, that I work well with others, and that I accomplish deliverables listed in my job description. If I am not meeting the standard, I get demoted, my pay gets reduced, and I get put on probation. If I continue to fail, I will get fired. You all are clearly ineffectual at your jobs, but unfortunately, we're stuck with you. I did not vote for you, but you still represent me and my family. So please, stop acting like a child. Urge your fellow representatives to stop acting like children as well. The ACA must be enacted, so help it work for Americans rather than destroying our faith in government."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More posts about boobs.

Okay, not really boobs, but what comes out of them. Which is what most of this blog is about these days.

I did a freezer inventory last night, and discovered I had three and a half weeks worth of milk for day care. Considering my daughter is going to be one in two weeks, I decided I would start weaning off my pump early, starting with my pre-bedtime pumping session.

I've already mentioned how much I was looking forward to weaning off the pump, but now that I'm actually doing it, I'm feeling all sorts of feelings. Like anxiety. Sadness. Regret. Emptiness. Aimlessness. So I'm trying to process why.

Up to now, breastfeeding has largely defined me as a mother. I have worked incredibly hard to maintain breastfeeding. I leave work every two hours because of it. I shun social engagements because of it. My wardrobe and my diet are governed by it. I think about it all the time. I talk about it constantly. I do it everywhere. So if I stop pumping, I'm acknowledging the eventual end of breastfeeding. It's the only thing that only I can give to my daughter. So if I can't breastfeed, then like, anyone could take care of her. I'm no better than the daycare worker or a babysitter or my husband or my mom or the Jamaican lady at church. So if I stop, when I stop, what does that mean for my relationship with my daughter?

Every night, around 3:00 am, my daughter starts chatting and eventually whining until get up and retrieve her from her crib. She stands up and reaches for me, and by the light of the nightlight we cuddle and nurse in the rocking chair. She oscillates between waking and sleeping, occasionally reaching up to touch my face or stroke my hair. I comb her hair with my fingers and beam over how rosy her cheeks get from being pressed against my skin. When her belly is finally full, she reaches back and stretches her arms over her head. I always kiss her chin, because it's toasty and sweet. And when I lay her back in her crib, she snuggles her ghostie and waves bye-bye to me through a sleepy smile.

These are some of my favorite moments with my daughter, and these are some of the moments that will never be documented in photos or videos. These are the moments I will want to convey to her when she is exhausted with a newborn and sobbing about lack of sleep and sore breasts and bad latches. And these are the moments I'm not ready to let go. I could wean her off her nighttime feed. Lord knows I could use the sleep, but this time is so brief. And while I'm so excited to hear my daughter's thoughts verbalized and see her grow into a girl with autonomy and ambitions, I relish that she needs me. Wants me. One day she won't, as one day I did not want or need my own mother (though now I want and need her more than I can remember). And I'm not ready. But time is unforgiving, and moves forward without approval. Dot will not remember any of this, and she will rather define me based on my decisions when she is 5 and 8 and 15. But right now, this is all we know, and I'm having a hard time imagining it any other way. All I've known have been nighttime feedings and cozy mornings and quiet corners. Fortunately, I have a patient and independent child who is willing to teach me that there is so much more to being a mother than breastfeeding. Hopefully I'm a fast learner.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Raspberries Are the Best.

Mom. Raspberries are the best. They are so good.

 Can I please have some more? They're so good. You don't even know. And I've been so good today. I only bit you like, once.

Omg. I know what you're going to say. No, please, don't say it!

NOOOOOO! I told you not to say it! It can't be true!  


Monday, August 26, 2013

Race to the finish.

As I've said before, breastfeeding is hard. And as I'm sure any pumping mama will tell you, pumping is harder. Pumping requires a lot of discipline, of which I have little. It's been a huge challenge keeping my supply up to feed Dot these last 10 months, and my supply has started to plummet in the last few weeks for some reason.

I theorize that it's due to her increased appetite for solids. She's eating more solids, so she's reducing her milk intake. This is all normal. However, I have not been sensitive to this, and did not begin to reduce the amount of milk we were sending with her to daycare. What this means for me and my supply: she's nursing less while she's at home because she's getting a greater and greater proportion of her daily milk intake while at day care. So I need to increase the proportion of her milk that she gets directly from me by reducing the amount of milk we send to day care.

In the mean time, I still have to figure out how to build my supply back up quickly. I figured all of this out during many late night smartphone research sessions after pumping almost nothing. Typically, in the middle of the night, Dot eats on one side, and I hand pump the other. I used to get several ounces, and lately it's been one ounce or less. I've tried taking supplements, eating lactation cookies, oatmeal, and hand expression after pumping. ANYTHING to avoid pumping more. But alas, here I sit at 3:30 in the morning, hooked up to the machine, trying to squeeze out a couple extra ounces.

I was at a La Leche League meeting the other day, and at the end of the meeting, the leader said something about how in the grand scheme of our babies' lives, breastfeeding is just this tiny little part of it. Her point was that we should cherish it, but as I thought about it more, the statement could also be construed as meaning it's a very small part of how we parent. It is very important to me that Dot receives no milk other than breast milk until she is a year, and I have worked very hard to get to where we are. And we are so close. Seven more weeks to go. But at what point am I willing to throw in the towel? Breastfeeding, while extremely important, is not the only determinant of whether she's a good person, or of whether she's healthy. I've read blogs by other moms who go to even greater lengths to feed their babies, and I don't know if I could push myself so far. My sanity is also valuable, and 3:30 am pumping sessions are threatening that sanity. But at what point? I don't know, but I'm not there yet. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This happened. AGAIN.

We've lived in our house for over five years. We have no driveway, which is why when our car was totaled while parked on the street in March, I wasn't all that surprised. I knew that someone would hit our car eventually; we live four houses behind a popular hipster-y dive bar, and our hill is super steep, so people barrel through the neighborhood. Anyway, it's why our insurance agent charges us extra. Hazard pay I suppose.

Nonetheless, I thought we had paid our dues. So when this happened Saturday night:

I couldn't f***ing believe it. (Note that both of these cars belong to us.)

We were woken up Saturday night/Sunday morning by the sound of metal colliding with metal, that loud smack that sounds like a fat man doing a belly flop into yogurt from 50 feet up. We heard a second crash seconds later, and Mitch jumped out of bed and looked out the window. "SHIT." He ran out, and I followed. We found a hysterical girl, we'll call her Blannah, crying on the curb, and her hysterical boyfriend, we'll call him Blhris, pacing up and down the street yelling "BLANNAH! WTF BLANNAH!" He was very helpful.

It was clear from the position of the cars that she had rear-ended the silver one, smashing it into the red one, pushing the red one forward about 10 feet to block our neighbor's driveway. We called the police, and our neighbors slowly filed out of their homes to gawk at our misfortune. Their condolences were predictable. "I can't believe this happened again." "Was she drunk?" "Do you want me to take your dog for a walk?"

Blhris continued to yell and pace, and not-drunk Blannah continued to cry. As we exchanged information I noticed something happening. Mitch began to console her. HER. Not me. Not his wife walking around in her bathrobe on hold with claims, but the young girl with schmears of eyeliner all over her face. 

One of Mitch's many redeeming qualities is that he is insufferably nice. Particularly to strangers. Mitch told Blannah that insurance will take care of it, that her dad won't be mad forever, he'll just be glad she's okay, that she should make sure someone can drive her home because she's probably too anxious to drive. Of course she can leave her car in front of our house all night. Everything will be fine. We'll see her in the morning when she picks up her car. She thanked "us" for being so nice.

We spent hours on the phone with our insurance company that night because they couldn't understand how to file two claims for what had happened, and of course their server crashed while we were on the phone. So when we flopped into bed at 3:00 am, and my baby promptly demanded a feeding at 3:05 am, my forgiving feelings towards Blannah began to wane.

Blannah showed up the next morning to retrieve her vehicle (which had nary a scratch on it, might I add), and we finally decided to get the story out of her. How had she hit the cars so hard if she was parked? Why did we hear two crashes? And what on God's green Earth were they fighting about?

The story goes, she and Blhris were arguing at the bar, and she fled the scene in a dramatic fit of abandonment. Her intention had been to jump in her car and speed off (I'm sure hoping Blhris would follow), but as she attempted to accelerate through our narrow, steep street with parking on both sides, something got in her way. Blind with rage, she reared back and gunned it AGAIN, hitting something AGAIN, and finally stopped to assess the situation. Upon the assessment she realized that the thing she was hitting was in fact another car. Who would have thought?

Mitch is so nice. He gave her endearing glances and minimal encouragers while I laughed in her face. OF COURSE she hit our cars twice. OF COURSE. I couldn't be mad anymore. I could only feel crazy. My life is so out of control these days, I expect nothing less from the universe.

So I pinched my baby, said oh-no-it-must-be-naptime-we'll-be-in-touch, and fled the scene. Mitch showed her out, and we vowed that the next house we buy will have a driveway. And will be no where near a bar that attracts hipsters. Maybe somewhere in Madeira. Or Mason.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Impending Wean

My daughter is 10 months old. She has accomplished a great many things in her short life, not the least of which is maintaining exclusive breastfeeding. Indeed, when I started breastfeeding, I heard from numerous people that their babies voluntarily quit breastfeeding at 6 or 8 months, even though they had intended on breastfeeding to the first year. But knowing what I know about teething and other infant psychosis, I never took any of her nursing strikes too seriously. We're still going strong, and I consider myself extremely fortunate that when I'm home from work, I can still nurse my darling baby.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. If I were staying home full time, I would allow Dot to self-wean, letting my milk supply drop off gradually as she drinks less over time. But since I pump at work, Dot doesn't tell my body how much milk to make; I do. And since I really don't want to lactate forever (even though it burns like, mad calories), I'll have to wean myself off the pump.

My intention is to let Dot nurse until she's two, if I'm lactating that long. But I've decided to wean off the pump at one year for several reasons.

First, it interferes with my work performance. At the risk of setting working mothers back several decades, it's really hard to keep up with my job. I pump for fifteen minutes every two hours at work, with an additional 10-15 minutes of set up and breakdown. For several months, I had my own office and could shut the door and continue working. Now I have been blessed with an office mate, so I have to leave (I don't think she would take kindly to me milking myself with her in the office). I probably lose 1-2 hours of productivity every day, which means I end up taking work home with me a lot. And I feel poorly about that.

Second, also related to my job, I'm sick of being covered in my own fluids at work. It seems that at least on a weekly basis, something malfunctions on the pump in such a way that milk pours or splatters or spews all over the front of me. This is unbecoming of a young professional. It's also ruining all my clothes.

Third, in order keep up with Dot's demand, I actually have to produce more than she eats every day (pumps are less efficient than babies), which means in addition to pumping while I'm at work, I pump once at night after she goes to bed, and once in the middle of the night (She's nurses on one side, and I pump the other, and yes my child still gets up once a night. I'm okay with that.). These two extra pumping sessions are exhausting and time consuming, and I'm often homebound for fear of missing those valuable pumping sessions. It also means I'm bound to my pump even when we go out of town or take vacations, so understandably I'm anxious to relieve myself of these extra pumping duties. And to sleep through the night again.

Lastly, and most importantly, I hate pumping. It's not the same as breastfeeding. It's not as rewarding for me, and few things are more anxiety-provoking than watching your child's sustenance drip slowly into a receptacle, counting the ounces and hoping you're pumping enough (which I'm not anymore, by the way; I've had to start relying on my freezer stash to feed her at day care). I'm extremely grateful that my job accommodates my pumping, and I would do it all over again to make sure my child was well-fed, but I hate it. It's the worst, and if you pump exclusively, you deserve some kind of trophy.

So it was with bittersweet feelings that I started researching how to wean off the pump today. In about two months, I'll start gradually cutting out pumping sessions. I still have well over 300 ounces of breast milk in the freezer that we'll be able to send to day care, and after that's gone, she'll get regular old milk. I still plan on nursing her while she's at home for as long as she likes (that is, until she's two), but I'm kind of excited to be finished with pumping. I'm looking forward to carrying a briefcase again, and wearing shirts that don't enable immediate boob access. I'm looking forward to smelling like my perfume, rather than old yogurt. I'm looking forward to being able to sleep for more than four hours in a row (because she will be weaned off that nighttime feeding, or I'll be damned). And I'm looking forward to being good at my job again. I'm sure my boss feels the same way.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Humility on Parade

High five to anyone who can name that musician.

We took Dot to a birthday party last weekend. Her friend Stella turned 1 (which would have been quite an accomplishment in and of itself, but the showboat decided to take her first steps at her own first birthday party). It was a super cute book-themed party, and there was a baby pool full of beach balls, and Dot lost her mind.
Crazy over-stimulated I-might-eat-your-beard baby face.
This is the first birthday party we've taken Dot to in a couple of months, and it's the first one at which we didn't know the majority of the other parents. Sooooo I found myself acutely aware of my child's behavior and my parenting.

Dot's a baby, so really she's not responsible for anything. But my baby was smooshing watermelon into her hair, throwing Goldfish all over the floor, and generally being an adorable bull in a china shop. The baby across the table from us was daintily sipping applesauce from her GoGo squeeZ packet. No watermelon in her hair. I'm also pretty sure I'm the only parent at the party who whipped out her boob, and I'm 99% sure that while Dot was under Mitch's surveillance, she ate part of a ribbon attached to a balloon.

Anyway, I was so self-conscious the whole time I was there. Did people think I was being awful for doing baby-led weaning (hence the watermelon/pineapple hair)? Did people think I was being indulgent for giving my baby a muffin made with sugar? Were people uncomfortable when I breastfed my near ten-month-old baby? I thought about it for the past few days, and I came to the conclusion of yes. To all three. In a room of enough people, there are bound to be those who disagree with my parenting choices, just as I disagree with others' parenting choices. But that is to say, I disagree with them for my child in my family in our circumstances (well...let's not be too gentle, some parenting choices I simply disagree with in general, but that's neither here nor there). And honestly, I don't know how to stop wondering whether people are judging me. I am an incredibly insecure mother, and I feel like this is becoming a common thread in this blog. I worry constantly about how people view my parenting style. I mostly worry that people will think I'm harming my daughter in some way (cry-it-out while on vacation in a house full of family and friends was nothing short of torture), and that they question my fitness. I worry that I'm ruining Dot, and that other people can tell.

I wonder if some of this comes with my age. We waited a really. Long. Time to have kids. We got educated, bought a house, screwed around with our money and our lives, got more educated, and then had a baby. And I think it made me think too hard about everything. I wonder if we had had a baby when we were young (when we wanted to name a baby Cosby. Really.), if we wouldn't have worried as much. Ignorance is bliss, you know? When you're young, you just don't know as much. You haven't spent years watching your friends raise kids, and years working in juvenile detention, in a domestic violence shelter, in schools, in a child abuse center. You don't know just enough. Just enough to make you crazy.

And poor Dot. Poor poor Dot. Being the firstborn to a crazy mom who wants everyone to think she's got it all figured out. She bears a burden particular to the eldest children of aging hipsters. I act like I don't care, but I analyze every word that comes out of my mouth (have I mentioned I don't say "good job," but "nice work," to highlight her efforts rather than her accomplishments?). I avoid branded, gendered toys and books, and I never tell her she's a "good girl." I try to find the balance between being a helicopter and giving her control over her environment, which I think might ultimately be confusing. It's a good thing that she's ruthlessly independent. She's unapologetic and, if she could talk, she would never mince words. And, did I mention, she outlived her twin? That's for another day.

The point is Dot's a survivor. She's a fighter. And a beast who doesn't cry when she gets shots. I should realize that she'll be fine despite my best efforts. I should spend less time worrying about what I look like to other parents and spend more time living in the moments I spend with my daughter. And maybe this wine-soaked ramble is just to say I'm trying. I'm aware and I'm trying.