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 Americans need better health care, and if the ACA is repealed, and we have to start from scratch, better health care will never happen.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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

B. S.

Let's talk about this.
Omg we're the most adorable family ever. Mitch and I never fight, Dot is always happy, and it's always sunny in Cincinnati. And none of us ever poop.

Growing up, my family never had family photos taken. We have no documentation that any of us ever dressed all matchy-matchy and smiled all at the same time. Mitch's family, on the other hand...

Oh yeah.
I feel like family photos, and most photos that we post online for that matter, are total, blatant, glaring, color-coordinated lies. We post when we're looking our best through filters and natural light and hair cuts (or eyebrow trims in Mitch's case). I try to avoid posting too many pictures like that because I think they're a little self-indulgent. My selfies are rare and mostly selfie-deprecating (see what I did there?). I leave myself tagged in the most unflattering of photos as a practice in humility. But, admittedly I swell a little when I think my baby looks really adorable, or I think I look pretty in a photo. What can I say? I'm your average insecure and slightly self-absorbed aging hipster.

Anyway, you know what really happened the day of family photos? Crying.

And teething.

And general judginess.

Not to mention Dot caught mouth herpes from kid at daycare, and the photographer (the talented Agnes Kindberg) had to edit a big crusty herp derp sore out of every photo (she did a great job, non?!). And this was the third time we had scheduled to take photos, because she had croup the first time we were scheduled, and it was raining the second.

I guess my feelings are that family photos are kind of dangerous, particularly in the current era. The world of pinterest and instagram and facebook have ignited in first-world inhabitants a need to portray our lives and the humans in them in a flawless light. It invites comparison, reaching, and envy. I'm guilty of it. I see an instagram of someone's breakfast in bed, and I grumble to myself Mitch never brings me breakfast in bed grumble grumble. I feel validated when people like a flattering photo of me. I even stole several ideas for this photo shoot from a friend who is a lot more creative than I, because I wanted my family to look as cute as hers did.

I'm just saying, I want to remember the imperfections of that day as well, if only to maintain realistic expectations. Our lives are so very rarely easy and smooth, but we prefer to document those milliseconds when they are. And I don't want people to be annoyed at me for trying to be convincing. I (tell myself I) don't have anything to prove, and I want people to see our reality as a family. Our reality is dust bunnies and store-bought baby food and nursing strikes and overgrown lawns and arguments about clipping fingernails. But we love each other, and we work hard at it. So since no one is there to take photos when we're happiest, I guess we have to recreate it later. Then when we're old and our hairy places have switched with our bald places, we'll look at these photos and someone will yell at me for picking out these ridiculous outfits.
I forgot to mention smugness. That also happened.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Sleep Training: Graduated Extinction

I know. That sounds like some apocalyptic projection that basically means we won't sleep until we all die. Don't worry; I'm not a member of the voluntary human extinction movement. This is just a way to get your baby to stop eating every 45 minutes all night.

So, I'm sure I've mentioned it somewhere on this blog (I don't care to find out where), but I'm a zombie most days. Since Christmas, Dot has been getting up at least twice a night to eat. This means that I haven't slept longer than three hours in a row for five months, which is contributing to the fact that I kind of suck at life right now. And because sleep training has been successful for us (most nights, we have minimal to no tears at bedtime), we decided to use Ferber's method to wean Dot down to one nighttime feeding. One nighttime feeding, I can handle; two makes me cry sometimes, and three makes me yell at Mitch. Poor Mitch.

I was a little torn about it at first. I was afraid it might make my milk supply drop, or that Dot would starve to death if she doesn't eat for five hours in a row, or that she might grow up and write a scathing memoir about how her parents made her sleep in a cage and refused to feed her. But I realized that because I work, I have certain obligations to both my employer and to her. My employer needs me to be able to work eight hours straight without a nap, and Dot needs me to energetic and engaging. Further, Dot is eating solids now (barely, more on that later), and she'll be relying less and less on milk feedings over the coming months anyway.

So we went for it, and wouldn't you know, after one night it worked. The first night, she woke up at 1:00 am to eat, and when she woke up again at 2:30 (the little stinker), we went in and patted her at increasing intervals, and she fell asleep again on her own before I would have fed her anyway. Since then (four nights ago), she's only been getting up once a night, and I feel like a new woman! Like I can drive a car without passing out and veering into oncoming traffic! Like I don't need to mainline coffee grounds to write an email!

Anyway, I will urge anyone who reads this to read Ferber's book before attempting any of it. There are a lot of parenting tools (i.e. sleep training, baby-led weaning, etc.) that people think they can attempt by simply reading someone else's blog or looking at Wikipedia or whatever. But really, make sure you're using the tool as it's intended; go to the source.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I'm learning something about babies (finally, after seven months of living with one). First, they don't do anything when they're supposed to.  The little miss was sitting at five months, but still doesn't roll from back to tummy. Second, they're big fakers.

Every time a baby gets fussy, people are all like, omg she's totally teething. Look she's drooling and she has a rash and has diarrhea and she chews on everything. She's totally going to get a tooth.


Seriously. Stop.
My baby has apparently been teething for four months according to these criteria. She's a crusty, sensitive-skinned baby who subsists on breast milk, so of course she's drooling and rashy and diarrhea-y. It clearly means nothing.

And you know what?! Sometimes babies are just fussy! Just because they're having a bad day doesn't mean they're teething. They're just mad that the cups don't stack right and their legs don't work yet and the thing they found on the carpet tastes bad. Just like when I'm having a bad day, it doesn't mean I'm PMS-ing. It just means I think you're stupid and annoying.

So all y'all can stop getting my hopes up about my baby getting teeth. She's never going to get teeth and she's never going to roll over back to tummy and she's never going to eat more than two bites of solid food. I'm learning to live with it. In the mean time, we're just trying to help her deal with her inherited moodiness. Her friend Stella seems to have figured it out.
I like you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let me tell you about my day.

This week has been ridiculous. Then today was the cherry on top of the crap sundae that has been my life.

Dot has been waking up two to three times a night to eat since Christmas, which means I'm generally exhausted all the time, as I haven't slept longer than 2.5 hours in a row for months, and I still get to get up and go to work every day (not that I'm saying being a working mom is harder than being a SAHM, it just has different challenges). I'm exhausted to the point of crying most days.

So last week, when someone plowed into our parked car, pushing it up over a curb and into a tree, I couldn't help but laugh. And car shopping with an infant in tow is nothing short of horrible. Not to mention half the cars we looked at didn't even fit a car seat. Anyway, we finally bought a car, and picked it up on Monday.
This morning, I woke up exhausted as normal. I got Dot ready, Mitch took her to day care, and I laid down for an extra 30 minutes. Which accidentally turned into an hour because like I said, I'm exhausted. So I didn't even shower, and as I'm getting ready to leave I think to myself, I should pump before I go to work. Nah, I'll be fine.

Oh no. I climbed into our schmancy recently acquired car, and rushed to work thinking I'll just pump as soon as I get there. In the midst of this rushing, a car threatens to hit me, and I swerved and hit a curb, rendering my back left tire flat. On the schmancy car we bought two days ago. I parked in a hotel parking lot, called AAA, and then realized that if I didn't pump soon, I would become a walking sprinkler.

*shakes fists at the heavens*
If you didn't already know, I'm very charming. I convinced a lady at the front desk of the aforementioned hotel to let me use an unoccupied conference room to pump. Crisis averted! But alas, as I prepared to hook myself up to the milking machine, I noticed that I forgot the AC adapter. And that there was peanut butter on my dry clean only dress. But I only started crying because of the AC adapter.

I also have the best husband ever, because he was able to understand through my blubbering that I had ruined our two-day old car and that I needed my AC adapter so that I could feed my baby at the day care that I put her in because I so selfishly wanted to continue my career. Also there was peanut butter on my pretty dress. He rescued me, brought me the AC adapter, and drove me to the shop where our car was being fixed.

So I found myself sitting on the dirty bathroom floor at Bob Sumerel, in my peanut butter dress, hooked up to the pump, and I realized that I pretty much suck at every aspect of life right now. Like, not really bad suck, but just like, a moderate level of suck. I think this is what happens when you have a baby and decide to exclusively breastfeed and still go back to work and school. You don't do any one thing well, so you just kind of suck at everything. I suck a little at my job, since I have no time to pursue activities that might help me climb some mythical ladder. I suck more at being a wife, as my husband is generally neglected and lonely . I kind of suck at being a mom, since my baby spends the majority of her days with strangers who are too busy to hold her, and then I only see her awake for a few hours a day, during which I am usually trying to squeeze in dishes and laundry and vacuuming so my baby doesn't always have dog hair in her mouth and eyeballs. I suck at being a student, as evidenced by the extra semester I have taken to finish my thesis. And I suck at being a friend, since most of my friends, particularly the childless ones, think I am probably died in childbirth.

Anyway, this is not to make anyone feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for me. I've accepted that I am just going to suck at things for a while. I just have too much. I can't quit being a mom or a wife. I'm almost finished being a student, and I'm not willing to quit my job. So, I'm just going to suck a little until Dot can feed herself and wipe her own butt. On a related note, I'm not going to eat peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast anymore. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The kids are alright

Disclaimer: The parenting decisions listed in paragraph two are used simply as examples of controversial ones. Their presence in this diatribe does not indicate my opinion toward them.

I have been thinking long and hard about writing something like this for a while, and then my friend posted a blog, and the discourse that followed (on her personal facebook page) was enough to make me engage in a facebook status argument. Ugh. And then I sobbed at my desk for five minutes thinking about how I'm destroying my child. About how my friends might respect me less for my parenting decisions (that was not directed at you, Jillian). And about how I have sacrificed so much for my child, but I'm still being lumped together with "lazy and/or mean" parents because I adopted an apparently unpopular bedtime routine. So I called my pediatrician and left a crazy message on the nurse hotline. Then I pulled it together, and thought critically about why it is so upsetting to me.

I'm not going to defend the choices my husband and I have made. It's irrelevant, and it just invites people to poke holes in my argument. What I will defend is my right not to be judged. I have spent the better part of my professional life working with abused children and violent couples. I have seen lazy and mean parenting up close. To insinuate that sleep-training a child (or co-sleeping or baby-led weaning or using formula or strollers or refusing immunizations or working outside the home or circumcising or whatever else you could be doing) is abusive or neglectful minimizes true abuse and neglect. Further, parents are so bombarded with information these days, it's a full time job just to sift through it all, to determine what's personally important and what's not, what sounds like voodoo and and what doesn't, and what is feasible given your circumstances. With that burden, no one can find all the answers.

In the five short months that I've been a parent, I've learned that a lot of people think they're experts on raising kids. They gleefully dole out unsolicited advice, inadvertently condemning something you may or may not be doing. This judgment only serves to marginalize parents, especially new ones. To separate us when what we really need are supportive parenting communities.

So I talked to old people, and guess what I learned? Not breastfeeding will likely not make your kid stupid. Letting your child cry herself to sleep will likely not make her an axe-murderer. Giving your kid rice cereal will likely not make them dependent on Happy Meals. Putting your kid in day care will likely not turn him into a woman-hating basement-dwelling ineffectual troll. I say "likely" because of course there are correlations out there somewhere. Who knows if the Steubenville rapists were weaned too early or left to cry unattended for hours or were plopped in front of the TV at too young an age. But what's more likely is that they performed heinous acts in a social and temporal context after a long and complex series of life events. There was no one decision that their parents made that caused them to rape and humiliate that girl. So I think we, meaning new parents, can rest assured that we can make these early mistakes. What's more important, in my opinion, is that the decisions we make are made with love and serious deliberation. If they are, the kids will probably be alright. So let's leave judgment up to the mothers-in-law (of course I don't mean you, D-Lo).

This kid is alright.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sleep Training Update

You know, babies just do whatever the hell they want. They just do stuff, and you just have to let them. With sleeping, this means that some nights, Little Miss Dottie Lu smiles when I place her in her crib and babbles herself to sleep. Other nights, she screams for 20 minutes and then wakes up every 45 minutes for the next three hours. There's no pattern. We can't predict what makes her do this. We make all kinds of assumptions. Her room is too hot. Her head itches. She's wet. She's hungry. Something smells weird.The fan is rotating in the wrong direction and the books on her bookshelf are not in the right order. Whatever it is, she can't tell us other than by crying and complaining, neither of which are very specific or helpful.

I don't like listening to my baby cry. It's horrible. But rocking her and cuddling her doesn't help either. When we rock her to sleep, she usually wakes up and screams as soon as we set her down. And if she happens to stay asleep in that moment, she wakes up 10 minutes later, probably wondering why she's not being cuddled and rocked anymore. I think it's a disservice to her that she wakes up alone when she went to sleep otherwise. And frankly, she wakes up smiling and happy every morning regardless. No hard feelings. So this is what we do for our baby. And we don't really have opinions about how other people put their babies to sleep, because I'm sure many parents are just as aimless and insecure as we are. I guess I just rest assured that we're doing the best we can, and Dot will be just fine, if only because she has dozens of people around her who love her intensely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sleep Training = Blurgh

Reformed screaming demon baby.
Dot is a wonderful child. No really. I know people say this about their children, but she's really animated and curious and happy for most of the day. She experiments and explores and socializes eagerly. She's a hard worker and a good communicator. Day care reports to me that the only time she whines is when she's hungry. She doesn't even care when poo is running down her leg. She takes after her father.

But...BUT, we were having some problems getting her to sleep. Bed time was kind of yucky. We would go through our routine (bath, nurse, stories, diaper, crib), and somewhere in there, usually during stories or diaper, she would short circuit and scream until we rocked her all the way to sleep and placed her carefully in her crib. This placing-in-the-crib business usually happened several times before we could do it without her waking back up. Additionally, when she would wake up in the middle of the night to eat, we would go through the same thing to get her to go back to sleep. This could take an hour to an hour and a half, which meant I wasn't sleeping.Which meant I was a crazy bitter witch lady most of the week who harbored secret resentment toward her peacefully sleeping husband who still managed to complain about not getting enough sleep.

So we decided to try the Ferber method. Before you shoot side-eye at me, we did explore other methods that were more gradual, or "gentle." Dot's problem is that she doesn't respond well to rocking or cuddling anyway, and she won't take a pacifier. She will nurse to sleep, but I'm not okay with that, as I deserve a night out occasionally. We had to stop swaddling her because she thrashes all over the crib, and heaven forbid she roll over in her sleep swaddled. And really, I prefer methodology that has hard and fast rules, so there's little room for error or improvisation. Some of the other methods (i.e. Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution or Tracey Hogg's method) just seemed to be too unstructured and indefinite for me. Plus our pediatrician told us to do it, and we just blindly do whatever he says.

I read the book. We picked a start date. And that first night, we sat in silence as our daughter screamed for 80 minutes while we checked on her every three, five, then seven minutes. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I held up pretty well. I knew in the long run, she would benefit from this (although attachment parenting advocates might say otherwise). But then the next six nights, she still cried for at least 20 minutes before falling asleep, and it started to wear on me. I felt like maybe it wasn't working. I felt like I was ruining my baby.

Then, after about eight days, she went down happy and smiling and talked herself to sleep. This happened the next day at nap time and the following evening. We seemed to have turned a corner. I was so proud of her for gaining this independence. And even when we traveled to Chicago the following week, she went to sleep with minimal complaining despite her upended routine.

I thought I would be writing a success story here, but I'm not. The last few nights she has started screaming again at bed time, and for progressively longer periods. Last night it took her almost 30 minutes to fall asleep. The confidence I felt that first night has waned, and I now feel slightly nauseated as I check on her and resist the urge to pick her up. We're not sure what, if anything, happened to disrupt our peaceful routine. She still puts herself back to sleep after a nighttime feeding, and she seems to be waking less often at night, so it wasn't all for naught. But we may be searching for other options again if she doesn't improve soon.

All this is to say, we have no idea what we're doing. Other parents may confidently tell us that what they do is good or better or best, but I don't think they really know either. They may have stumbled upon something that worked miraculously well for their child, but they don't know our child or our family or our schedule or our mental capacities (which seem to be limited these days). And frankly, I don't know her that well either. She's constantly changing. Every day is trial and error. She spends the better part of her waking hours with day care providers who are also tending to 19 million other squiggly babies. Even more reason why Dot needs to learn independence. Dot will often be cared for by people other than myself. That is her lot in life. My lot is to make sure that despite the first-world woes of working mothers, she can learn to do things for herself, and that her father and I are always here to help. Crying in her crib, while gut-wrenching and terrible, is not the worst thing I will have to watch her endure. I just hope that by her first breakup or bad haircut or college rejection letter, she has at least learned to blow her nose.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Lenten Discipline

I've always participated in giving up something for Lent, even when I participated in a church that didn't observe Lent, and even when I didn't participate in a church at all. I think maybe as I teenager I thrived on acting deprived and put out, advancing beyond the physical temptations of this world. Then the self-absorption just gave way to habit.

In the past, I've given up ice cream (the year I had my wisdom teeth removed. dumb), electronic media during certain times (no TV or internet before 8:00 pm), alcohol (did not go so well), etc. All the things I've chosen were to challenge myself to forgo a common worldly vice (e.g. red wine) or to meet a bigger goal (i.e. losing weight). But this year, I was having a really hard time coming up with a Lenten Discipline. As a new parent, I feel like I'm already sacrificing so much. I tell myself I'm a martyr for working, breastfeeding moms. No more boozy Sunday brunches; no more band practice in the basement; no more pretty clothes (unless they have quick boob access, which is mutually exclusive to pretty). I don't even have time to paint my nails or blow my hair dry or put on makeup before work. Of course these are all first world problems, but nonetheless, it's quite a change from my prior, childless life. So why should I give something up for 40 days?

Because. Just because. Because no matter how selfless I think I've become in raising Dot, I still have bad habits. One of which is shopping. Not shopping like I have a spending-money-type-shopping addiction, but shopping like I-need-to-get-away-from-a-screaming-baby-and-a-hairy-husband-so-I'm-going-to-poke-around-Target-for-an-hour shopping. Of course, despite the previous statement, it does lead to spending money. I can go to Target intending to buy wipes and batteries, and come out with four bottles of clearance organic shower gel and a dog Halloween costume. It's just unnecessary. I've also developed this problem where I'm ten pounds below my baby weight. You can hate me for that, but I earned it. So most of my clothes don't fit, and the ones that do, I can't nurse in them. Anyway, this led to a lot of money spent at Nordstrom Rack. It's so easy to just spend $20 here or there, and before you know it, you've blown your whole fun money budget on scented highlighters and house plants.

So to further avoid falling victim to mindless consumerism (a very behavior I should not be teaching my daughter), I'm giving up shopping. No more baby clothes for my really cute baby. No impulsive Nook book purchases. No etsy. No Amazon. Nothing. But groceries of course. But aside from that, nothing. Instead of using shopping as an excuse to get out of the house, I'm going to try exercising perhaps. Or just being satisfied by being in a different room than everyone else sometimes. Even if it's the basement.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Breast milk does not make you a superhero

Before Dot was born, nay, before we even conceived our first baby, I was determined I would breastfeed. I had lots of reasons, but many of them concerned the benefits to infant health. The public health initiatives advertising the benefits of breastfeeding rang in my ears during those first trying weeks after she was born. Fewer ear infections! Reduced risk of GI infection! Lower risk of obesity! The promises sounded like snake oil ads from the traveling circus era, a la Water for Elephants (so erotic). I thought breastfeeding would make my baby a bullet-proof mutant who might one day be asked by the CDC to ingest the last remaining small pox cultures, since her superior immune system would obviously destroy them and save humanity from a biological terrorist attack.

But despite my religious commitment to breastfeeding, my baby now has an ear infection and bronchiolitis.
The day she was diagnosed with an ear infection.
The day she was diagnosed with bronchiolitis. She clearly prefers bronchiolitis.
We have been to the doctor three times in three days, during which they have excavated her ear canals, suctioned her sinuses with a super machine, and tested her blood oxygen level. I have "worked from home" (a.k.a. worked during nap time and after bed time) during those three days, since daycare has banned the little human-sized booger and maternity leave consumed every last drop of my PTO. And during all of the nose-suctioning and medicating and breath-timing, I keep thinking "but she's breastfed!"

Unfortunately, germs do not listen to reason, nor do they read scholarly journal articles about the antimicrobial properties of breast milk. They pretty much gave me and Dot the middle finger. Nonetheless, I'm convinced that one of the few comforts she has right now, when her ear hurts and her chest is tight and her fever burns, is nursing. Despite her reduced appetite, my sick little dinosaur snuggles up to me every few hours just to feel my skin and play with my hair and listen to my heart beat. And if I can't make the ickiness go away, at least I can give her that. So even if the health benefits of breastfeeding are overblown, the health benefits of cuddling are pretty undeniable.
Post-meal cuddles. And squishy face.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lies. All of it.

Dot and I had some difficulties breastfeeding, but we've been going at it strong ever since that first hurdle. I'm proud of both of us; her for being so patient and diligent, and myself for gritting my teeth through the pain and enduring several bouts cluster-feeding. Granted, I didn't have too many issues once we got started. I've never had to battle mastitis or thrush or the like. And even though she's a biter sometimes, it's something I generally look forward to. So we're lucky. I love sitting quietly with her in our rocking chair while she cuddles up to me for breakfast. Or second breakfast. Or 3am snacktime.

But since returning to work, maintaining breastfeeding has become something of a challenge. And a nuisance. During my first three days back, I noticed a dramatic drop in my supply, which I attribute to the use of a pump. Pumps are simply less efficient than babies at expressing milk, and I learned that I had to pump at least every two hours while at work, in addition to pumping after she goes to bed and in the middle of the night just to get enough to feed her for the next day. I follow the rule that you only send to day care the milk that you pumped the day before, and that your freezer stash is only for date nights and when you're too drunk to nurse. It's a good way to prevent inadvertently telling your body to make less milk. Either way, it doesn't feel like the cozy breastfeeding I'm used to, and kudos to all my sisters who always pumped exclusively. You guys are superheroes. I would have dropped it like it's hot.

I also realized that pumping at work made me much less productive (it's like a 30 minute interruption out of every two hours), so I bought one of those hands-free bra things. The manufacturers want you to think that hands-free pumping will be like this:

Or this:

Who could she possibly be looking at?
But it's not. It feels more like this:

And frankly, you can't do stuff like answer the phone, because even the cadillac of breast pumps is audible on the other line. Other knowing women who call me at my desk hear the rhythmic wheezing in the background and immediately call me out. And you can't just hook up and forget about it for 15 minutes, or the receptacles overflow all over your pants and you end up like me on this day:

Or this day:

Thankfully I have my own office, and I can at least shut the door, but I'm constantly covered in my own fluids, and my desk is probably a biohazard. And contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding (that is, breastfeeding after returning to work) does not lead to less dishwashing, because you have like a million of those Medela tubes and pump parts to wash every day, in addition to the bottles you took to day care.

I'm not saying all this to bash breastfeeding, because I'm sure some people would just tell me to quit if it's this much of a pain in the ass. I'm saying all this in an effort to dispel the myth that it comes naturally to breastfeed. If it did, our newborns would plop out of us and toddle over to nourish themselves from a teat that hung to the ground. But they don't, and now we live in a world where (God help us) women work. It requires continuous commitment, whether you work or not. Thankfully we have pumping technology, but no one really talks openly about how challenging it is to maintain breastfeeding in general, but in particular after your six or eight or twelve week leave. I love the time that I get with my baby when I'm home, and I'm eternally grateful that my job is flexible and affords me the freedom to work from home sometimes and take breaks to pump when I can't. But some breastfeeding advocates are calling on the community to be more frank about the challenges, and I couldn't agree more. I certainly would have liked to know that I wasn't the only mom who sobbed in the shower because the hot water felt like battery acid on my nipples.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Dot may be an only child.

This is lady business. But whatever it's on the Internet so anyone can read it.

So if you read my birth story, you know it was pretty rough. Twenty-two hours of labor and two hours of pushing, back labor, tearing, 'roids, etc. It was terrible. I know I said some mushy stuff at the end of that post, but really it's awful, and I'm surprised anyone gives birth ever. Namely, it was awful because the recovery has been so horrendous. I'll spare you (most of) the details, but I had a tear which has now reopened twice, and has been repaired with silver nitrate five times. If you've ever had silver nitrate applied to a wound, it's like having a thousand dragons spew lightning into your raw bleeding flesh. I imagine it's what Luke Skywalker felt when his hand was severed by a light saber.

I was extremely fortunate, and had not even a smidgen of baby blues. Though worse for wear, my first weeks after having Dot were lovely. I felt collected and clear-headed. Physically, I probably resembled the leftover gristle from a cheap steak dinner, but overall I thought I was handling parenthood pretty well. What I didn't expect was experiencing what I can only describe as subclinical PTSD following delivery at my first postpartum visit. It occurred to me that I may have developed some kind of anxiety when the midwife told me she was going to do some stuff to me that would "hurt like hell," and I lost my shit. Like, sobbing, grabbing for Mitch, and yelling no. After the second time I had to endure the procedure (this time alone), I started questioning whether I ever wanted to give birth again (hint: no). After the third, I had a serious conversation with Mitch, and I started resenting Dot for destroying my womanhood.

Anyway, mostly this is why I haven't been writing. I have been consumed by the physical recovery from delivery. Two iodine baths a day doesn't leave much time for recording the humorous musings of a first-time parent. And when you have unsavory (albeit fleeting) feelings toward your baby, you don't really feel like sharing them. But, fingers crossed, it's all behind me now. My darling child laughs and smiles and talks to me, and I'm again allowed to do things like swim and use toilet paper. Life has never been grander.