Happy Father’s Day (?)

Ellie made us a Father’s Day card at daycare. The part that she made (little footprints) is actually really cute. The text of the card is truly barf worthy (some stuff about how her dad is the first man in her life), and the fact that we got a card at all is troublesome.

The text of the card bothers me because it calls to mind those creepy purity balls, “rules for dating my daughter,” promise rings, and other shining examples of American Patriarchal Society With A Dash Of Heteronormativity Just For Fun, circa 2014.

And I’m bummed that the daycare director approved this activity for the kids. Look, I’m not trying to be a giant killjoy and say kids shouldn’t be allowed to make Father’s Day cards. And I’m sure that when Mother’s Day rolls around again I’ll be thrilled to get a card for that occasion.

But would it be so hard for the daycare to modify the lesson plan to accommodate different kinds of families?  We are not the only LGBT family in this day care center. And what about the single moms, or children being raised by people other than their parents?

It doesn’t matter so much now; Ellie has no idea what’s going on. But I don’t want her to feel strange, growing up, when a teacher asks her to make a card for someone who doesn’t exist.

So we have to bring this up with the daycare director. I’m totally confrontation averse, and I’ve already had to exchange emails with the director about draping blankets over the side of the crib while Ellie naps (!!) so I’m already “that parent.”

Wise people of the internet, advise me on how to do this in a low key, I’m-actually-totally-chill-no-really way, but still getting the point across that this is decidedly not cool.

Thoughts?

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It Never Left

You know how when that Justin Timberlake song “Bringing Sexy Back” came out, and everyone went around saying “I wasn’t aware that it left”? No? Just me? Ok then.

Video break!

Well, that’s how I feel when people say things about getting their body “back” after having a baby. INCLUDING my Mother in Law who told me I really should be working on regaining my girlish figure.

Liz Lemon Eye Roll

I managed not to make this face. Barely.

Look, I, like most women in our patriarchal BULLSHIT society, have a complicated relationship with my body. Sometimes I think I look ok, good even! Other times I despair over this or that, and feel like I’m not fit for polite society. Then came infertility and a miscarriage, and I started to truly hate my body, because I felt like it had betrayed me and killed my child. Healthy, no?

Pregnancy was strange for me. I watched in a kind of fascinated horror like my body was an out of control science experiment. A Frankenstien, if you will. I gained weight, and that was OK because I was supposed to gain weight, for the first time in my life. All told, I gained about 40 pounds, a little more than the “recommended average,” but that was OK. Not only did I grow a baby bump (obviously), but I rounded out all over. My face filled out, my arms grew plump, and my ass curved and filled out my jeans in a way it never has before.

Once Ellie was born, I was pretty shocked with how I looked and felt. I was still plump and swollen, my boobs were rock hard and freakin’ HUGE and my stomach felt heavy and jiggled like I was pregnant with the world’s largest bowl of jello.

jello jiggling

It’s aliiiive!

I lost “the baby weight” pretty quickly. I felt enormous pressure to do so, mostly from family. And now I actually weigh 7 pounds less than I did before I was pregnant. But you know what? My body isn’t “back.” I feel deflated and soft. My stomach is a lot softer than it used to be, and my pants don’t really fit the same way. My breasts are softer, and after Ellie eats they sag. My nipples are bigger and darker. I have the dreaded “mom butt.” Stretch marks cover my stomach, hips, and breasts.

So will my body ever again look like it did before I was pregnant? Probably not. I would be lying if I said I was totally comfortable with that fact. I’m trying to work on making positive changes for my body – becoming stronger, building muscle, etc. – in the hopes that I’ll come to terms with my new body and learn to love it the way I never loved it pre-baby.

Keeping My Damn Mouth Shut

In my opinion, part of the reason we have the “Mommy Wars” in the first place is because we’re all so freaking insecure about our parenting choices (the main reason is the patriarchy but I do not have time to delve into the patriarchy, plus it’s Friday and I’m all worn out from wanting to scream and vomit from reading the NotAllMen blah blah BULLSHIT and I’m tired so I’m focusing on this).

They actually are kinda my thing but I’m sparing you today

In the short time that I’ve been a parent, I’ve been offered a ton of advice, most of it astonishingly bad. I’m not trying to say that I’m some paradigm of wisdom or anything but I do my best to stay on top of recent research and pediatrician recommendations, etc. I get that some people had their babies, like, 30 years ago, but still. No I will not be putting my child down with a fuzzy blanket draped over her. No I will not be having her cry it out at one month old. No I will not feed her solids at two months.

Not really though.

I have to bite my tongue a lot, which does NOT come naturally to me. And I shouldn’t misrepresent that I follow all of the guidelines to a T. We probably did cry it out a wee bit early (almost 4 months, rather than 4 months or later). I do (gasp!) use powder on Ellie’s bum when I’m diapering her for the night. I did place her on her stomach, laying on my chest during the first weeks and fell asleep with her there. And I’m comfortable with all of these things, obviously, or I wouldn’t do them. So I try to remember that MY things are going to be different from someone ELSE’S things, and keep my mouth shut accordingly.

However.

There’s a woman who I’m Facebook friends with who had a baby a week after me. I’m not actually friends with her – she’s the wife of a former co-worker of Tammy’s – and I find her insufferable. I posted a few times before we did sleep training, lamenting Ellie’s poor sleep. She commented a few times with things like “you’ll have to have baby [her son’s name] over for a play date so he can teach your daughter how to sleep! LOL!” And she posts status with the hours her child sleeps. “Baby [name] slept 10:30-8:15 last night! Love my little man!” “Baby [name] slept 9:00-4:30 last night! My lil man is such a good sleeper!”

Don't test me.

Yes I will.

So is it wrong that I get a strong superiority complex when I look at her postings on sleep training (that she did when her son was three weeks old) or his first time eating purees (when he was three months old)? And did I mention that this woman is a doctor? No, she’s not a pediatrician (she’s doing her residency in psychiatry), but wouldn’t a doctor listen to the recommendations of other doctors? And don’t they do some kind of rotation or learn some kind of basics of general medicine, which would include pediatrics?

judging you

Milk Cow and Expectations

2 posts in 2 days! Cha-ching! I’m awesome!!

Mini drama this morning around pumping. I pump at work, and haul my pumping crap back and forth every day. Not that big of a deal, except that it’s heavy and bulky and I walk 15 minutes to the train from our house and 15 minutes to my office once I’m off the train. Ugh it actually is kind of a big annoying deal. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Mini drama. I went into my office’s “mother’s room” to do my first pump of the day and realized I had forgotten those white membrane things which, naturally, are essential to the pump’s operation.
BP membrane

These things.

In my defense, I packed my bag while my coffee was brewing this morning (therefore before any caffeine hit my bloodstream). Anyway, once I realized, I totally panicked and called Tammy, who remembered that this breastfeeding support group place (offer classes, lactation consultants, etc) has an office a few blocks from my work. I dashed over there, bought the membranes, and made it back to my office in 20 minutes.

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If you are lucky enough to have a kid (or kids) are you the type of parent you thought you would be? I’m obviously very new at this parenting thing, but I’m much more of a softie than I expected. Sleep training just about finished me. I spent the first few nights feeling like I was going to throw up. Listening to her cry is excruciating.

I also thought I’d be much more up to date on when Ellie should be hitting certain milestones (reaching, grabbing, rolling over, etc) but I actually have only a vague idea when she should be doing these things. And I really don’t care. Isn’t that amazing? Uptight, neurotic ol’ me, not lining up 20 pediatric experts to asses where my child’s development falls.

Something else I thought I’d be neurotic about is sterilization of bottles and other things she puts in her mouth. We were SUPER anal about washing and sterilizing all toys/bottles/etc before she was born and now I’m like, eh, running bottles through the dishwasher totally works. It’s hot water, right?

Of course, Ellie has confounded all of my expectations about what having a baby would be like, simply by being who she is: contrary, high maintenance, funny, particular, loving, energetic, and utterly, entirely her own person who has wants and needs separate from my own. (I know. The nerve.)

What about you all? Has anything surprised you about your parenting style?

Hi Ho, Hi Ho…

My maternity leave is over, and I’m back at work. I feel like I have a million things to tell you, but the second I sit down to type up a blog post my mind goes blank and I sit staring at the screen, drool leaking out of my mouth, until it drips down and short circuits the keyboard, effectively ending my wool gathering.

Therefore, I thought I’d at least get a few things down, no matter how disjointed. Maybe it will kick start the blogging habit.

Ellie is…Ellie is fabulous. I miss her, desperately, achingly, while I’m at work, and yet a small part of me enjoys being able to (gasp!) go to the bathroom when I want to. Here’s some Ellie updates in bullet form:

  • We sleep trained her. Ferberized. Cry it out. Committed child abuse. Best thing ever. Around 2 months Ellie was a champion sleeper. Once we figured out swaddling, it was all gravy. I’d nurse her before bed, she’d fall asleep, I’d transfer her to the Rock ‘n’ Play, and she’d sleep for 6-7 hours. Then I’d get up and feed her back to sleep, and we’d both snooze for a few more hours. HOWEVER, around 3 months her sleep started to deteriorate, fast. No longer could I nurse her to sleep. She would fall asleep in our arms (bouncing/rocking/etc) and then wake up pissed off the second you tried to put her down. Within a few weeks we were bouncing her for hours at night, and every night wake up (which also increased in number!) required hours more of bouncing/rocking/shushing/patting/omfg will you go to sleep already. Shades of the first few weeks of her life (*shudder*). So we ripped off that band aid, removed the swaddle, and did progressive waiting. The first night she cried for an hour before falling asleep. There were 5 wakeups that night, but only one required going in and patting. I fed her once (I had decided I would only feed her after 2am, when I thought it was possible she was hungry, rather than wanting to comfort suck) and then we had to do the crying/going in and patting/progressive waiting all over again. The second night she cried for 45 minutes. The third, 20 minutes. The fourth, 2 minutes. Now, almost a week into training, she will grumble/babble to herself for less than five minutes and then go to sleep, waking once to be fed, and then go right back down. THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, MOTHERFUCKERS. I feel good about it (after the first few days of nausea induced anxiety). I firmly believe sleeping and self soothing are skills that kids need to learn, and just like all skills, some kids need more help than others to learn and perfect them.
  • She’s with a nanny for the first two weeks of me back at work, until her spot in day care opens up. We had been assured her spot would be available when I went back to work (BECAUSE WE SIGNED UP 9 MONTHS BEFORE WE WOULD NEED A SPOT) only to be told in March that whoops! spot not available until maybe  the end of the summer. So we scrambled around and signed up with another family in our neighborhood to do a nanny share. And then – whoops! – the spot opened up June 2nd. So we are only using the nanny for two weeks. I kind of feel like we dicked over the other family but, we told them we were waiting for our daycare spot so, eh.
  • Ellie holds her head up like a champ, and really really  wants to sit up. She actually CAN sit up, but cannot balance and/or sustain sitting up, so we balance her on our laps.
  • She is a smiley, happy baby as long as she has constant stimulation. I hadn’t realized just how high maintenance she really was until I saw the other baby in the nanny share. Hello, mellow. This baby is a week younger than Ellie, but you can just lay her down, put a toy in her lap, and she’ll just…lay there, kind of batting at the toy. Try that with Ellie and wait for the screams of outrage.
  • Naps are still a disaster. Apparently sleep training is harder for naps than for nighttime sleep.

CRAP, I’ve got more but my lunch is over and I have to go pump. Hopefully it will be less than a month before I write again. What’s up with y’all? You miss me? I missed you!

Recovery

Ellie is 10 weeks today! Her personality is really starting to emerge and it delights me. She is mercurial and opinionated, charming and funny. She loves her mobile and her bouncy seat, but hates the stroller and the car seat. She likes to look at me while she’s nursing and when she catches my eye will give me a big cheeky grin, which is annoying because it pours milk all over my lap, but come on, how could you not smile back? Watching her learn things (woah, I have FINGERS) just gobsmacks me. What a wonder my child is! 

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Is there anything more boring than a blogger blogging about not blogging? I don’t think so.

(Sorry about going MIA. I plead newborn.)

Anyway! Moving on swiftly.

Amazingly enough for the worry wart that I am, I gave almost no thought to what recovery from child birth would be like. My mom had assured me that I would be up and about in a few hours, like she was, so I assumed it was all good.

Now, I love my mother, and I don’t want to speak ill of her, but she fucking LIED to me. A couple of hours my ass! I felt like I had been ripped open (…because I had been) and hit by a truck. I had trouble sitting, standing, walking, doing stairs, etc for the first two weeks or so, and really only started to feel like myself again after a month.

So, keeping in mind that there is no universal recovery experience, in no particular order, here are the things I wish someone had warned me about, and what I found to help:

1. Even if you have an epidural (which I highly recommend), crowning hurts like a BITCH. You know that song, Ring of Fire? Yes. That, exactly.

Here’s what helped me: Delivering the damn baby already. But, postpartum, those ice packs you slip into your (gigantic) underwear, numbing spray and time. Some people have found heat packs feel nice, but I liked ice better. OTC painkillers, or something stronger if your doctor will prescribe it. Stay on top of the painkillers – don’t wait for the pain because you will be in agony waiting for the drug to kick in. Don’t be a hero – take the damn drugs.

2. Stitches make walking, doing the stairs, etc difficult. I mean, this one is kind of obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me so there you go! Also, those stitches might have bits and pieces fall out as you heal, which will make you panic, but don’t. It means you’re healing.

Here’s what helped me: Again, ice packs (or heat), numbing spray, and painkillers. Also try to lay down or recline as much as possible – being upright puts pressure on things. Do take a few short, gentle walks (Iike, to the bathroom) every now and then to test the waters, but don’t push yourself.

3. Peeing stings like CRAZY. You may cry when you go to the bathroom.

Here’s what helps: Use the little squirty bottle. Experiment with cold or warm water to see which feels better, and squirt yourself while you pee. It doesn’t help a ton but it does help. Also, use tucks pads (witch hazel wipes) and the numbing spray.

4. Pooping will make you want to die. You will feel like you are going to rip open and you may have a panic attack on the toilet.

Here’s what helped me: Take lots of stool softeners. Drink smoothies. Drink a shit ton (Do anything to help make that first poop easier on yourself. But prepare to spend a LONG time in the bathroom. And prepare to cry. Try using your labor breathing when you poop – it totally helps.

5. Being upright may make you feel like your organs are going to fall out. I don’t know if this is because I tore so badly (“Y” shaped scarring, holla!) or my pelvic floor muscles were damaged from two hours of pushing or what, but it took about a month for this to go away. It was an awful feeling.

Here’s what helped me: Time. Kegels. Your muscles have to heal. Don’t push yourself.

6. Engorgement is scary. It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or not, your boobs will get enormous and rock hard a few hours to a few days after you deliver. You may continuously leak (drip, drip, drip, like an annoying faucet you keep meaning to fix) and they will HURT. I went from an A cup before pregnancy, to a C cup during pregnancy, and then overnight from a C to a DD when my milk came in. It was shocking. I looked like a porn star, in the worst way possible. You may also run a low fever and feel a little fluey.

Here’s what helped me: Nurse as much as possible if you’re breastfeeding. You can also experiment with cool or warm wash clothes, or hot showers, and put cold cabbage leaves (put the cabbage in the fridge or freezer) on your boobs. I know, it sounds weird (and you end up smelling like coleslaw) but it totally works. Some people have found this reduces milk production though, so be careful if you’re trying to BF. (Didn’t cause any problems for me, but that’s what I’ve read.)

7. Do not assume breastfeeding will be easy. Ellie would not latch in the hospital. Just, would not. Blame hormones, blame shock, but I was completely unconcerned that she hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours after her birth. Tammy, meanwhile, was having silent conniptions and the nurses were getting concerned.

Here’s what helped me: supplement if you have to, or just go to formula feeding. And check in with a lactation consultant, or multiple LCs. The LC in the hospital was completely worthless (her advice consisted of “just keep trying!”) but the second LC (not affiliated with the hospital) diagnosed Ellie with a tongue tie. Also, nipple shields. Use them. Love them.

8. Do not underestimate the power of hormones. The day we came home from the hospital, my parents told Tammy and me to go upstairs and nap while they watched Ellie for a few hours. Tammy passed out within 30 seconds, I shit you not, while I lay there shooting murderous looks at her. How could she sleep?! Our baby was downstairs!! All alone in the world!!! Vulnerable and unprotected!!! I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to check on Ellie only to find that my mother had put her in the bassinet with a blanket on her. I nearly had an aneurysm. “Blankets cause SIDS,” I hissed, snatching the blanket off. I then laid down on the couch and sobbed for 5 minutes straight, sat back up, and asked my extremely alarmed dad to make me a sandwich.

Here’s what helped me:  Time. Taking a shower every day. Eating good food. Daily crying jags. Having help.

8. In that vein, people will surprise you with their helpfulness (or lack thereof). I expected my parents to be super helpful with Ellie. They were in the sense that they provided an extra set of hands (or two) but when Ellie started crying they would immediately hand her back to me*. Other people, random friends I wasn’t all that friendly with, surprised me by being so kind and helpful, bringing food, checking in, providing support and commiseration.

Here’s what helped me: Nothing really helped with this. It just is what it is. Try and roll with it.

9. Nothing will prepare you for the sleep deprivation. Nothing. You think you know because you pulled all nighters in college? No. You do not know. This kind of sleep deprivation is pure torture. It makes everything, simply everything, a million times worse. You may fall asleep standing up. You may think you will die, literally die, if you do not get some sleep. You won’t die though.

Here’s what helped me: Coffee. Time. Learning sleep tricks (swaddle, white noise, shushing, etc). Also, forgive your partner for the things you say to each other in the depths of crushing sleep deprivation.

What about you, oh wise parents of the internet? What are your best tips for recovery?

*I feel like an asshole saying that, because I think my parents were scared of messing up. I think I made some crappy remarks about how she put on Ellie’s diaper, for example, and made my poor mom a little gun shy. I suck. Also, so many things have changed since they were caring for babies – all the SIDS stuff, back to sleep, all that stuff.

Baby Catching – Part II

Friends, has it really been a month since I wrote last? Time has become elastic, pulling and snapping and bending into shapes unrecognizable. I’ve fallen behind on reading your updates, and completely neglected commenting. Someday soon (I hope) I’ll get back on the bandwagon and become more active on here. In the meantime, know that I have managed to read posts here and there, and have cheered from afar when things have gone well, and cried with you when they haven’t.

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photo

Ellie lay on my chest for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time, but all too quickly she was whisked away. All I heard was “baby isn’t crying,” and then she was gone, lifted up and away. I told Tammy to stay with Ellie, so she followed her across the room as the nurses poked and suctioned Ellie until she started to scream…and scream…and scream, which she would do nonstop for the next three hours.

Looking back, I think I was in shock. I didn’t feel high, but I did feel detached, like I was watching this happen to someone else. I simultaneously felt like I was floating and pressed heavily into the bed. Physically, I had just undergone an extreme trauma, and emotionally I had just experienced one of the most important moments I’d ever experience.

Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta in one big schloop and I remarked to the doctor that I wished delivering the baby was as easy. The doctor kept up a running teaching commentary to the med student (something about a compound cord, and second degree tearing).

When Ellie was finally brought back to me, I tried to nurse for the first time, completely unsuccessfully. Ellie was too busy screaming, and before I could object, she was whisked away again. We were on our third shift of nurses at this point, and unfortunately the nurse assigned to our room was our least favorite. Her name was Edith, an older lady with bad breath. She kept muttering to herself about Ellie’s screaming, and my weakly stated opinion that “babies cry” was ignored outright.

She took Ellie across the room to stick her heel for a glucose test (way to make her scream more, genius) when a new nurse came into the room. Tammy and I had never seen this nurse before, but she walked right up to Edith and Ellie and asked Edith if she could pray over Ellie. Edith immediately said yes, and the new nurse began. Walking with the Lord was mentioned, the blood of Jesus was mentioned, and Tammy and I sat there with identical expressions of shock and horror. During the prayer, we looked at each other, shaking our heads furiously, mouths moving soundlessly, until Tammy finally found her voice and turned to the nurses and said, “please don’t do that.” The nurse completely nonchalantly, said “oh, ok” and turned and left. We never saw her again.

Eventually I was allowed up and attempted to use the bathroom (also unsuccessfully) and we were transferred from the L&D room to the postpartum room. The L&D room had been spacious and airy, but unfortunately the postpartum room was tiny, and stiflingly hot with a broken thermostat.

I tried to nurse a few more times, again unsuccessfully, but I was totally not concerned about the lack of success. For some reason, I thought she wouldn’t need to eat for a few days (?? No idea what I was thinking there but I’m guessing I was still in shock) so it was not a big deal that she wouldn’t latch on. The nurses eventually dissuaded me of that idea, when she lost close to 10% of her birth weight and didn’t have a wet diaper in the first 24 hours. We ended up supplementing with formula until I got my hands on a nipple shield, which saved our breastfeeding relationship. (I have a whole other post percolating on breastfeeding, so more on the nipple shield later.)

Physically, I was in a lot of pain. I managed to last 24 hours on ibuprofen, until I got a doctor to write me a prescription for Percocet (now Percocet is something I would pray to). I had stitches in my perineum, as well as my vaginal wall. I walked around in an old lady shuffle, something I would keep up for days, and sat on ice packs. My stomach was truly, truly horrifying to look at – people say you still look pregnant after birth, which is sort of true, but only if you were pregnant with a giant bowl of jello.

We stayed three days in the hospital. The world shrank for me during those days – only the hospital room existed. When we left the hospital, the hallways seemed enormous, bright, and threatening.

Part III (on coming home, breastfeeding, and recovery) coming soon.