Helping, Talking, Turning

Ellie (like most toddlers, perhaps) is nothing if not “helpful.” She will helpfully bring you your shoes as you’re getting ready to go outside (and then another pair, and then another), shouting, “SHOES” until you put them on. She was also very helpful, when, during daycare pick-up the other day, I spilled some water out of the sippy cup I was filling for her. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been rushed by seven toddlers, arms outstretched, all,  J’ACCUSE! style. Ellie very helpfully lead the mob as they shouted, “UH-OH!” You could practically see the little pitchforks in their chubby hands.

Ellie helps so much at daycare that the lead teacher in her room started calling Ellie her assistant teacher. She SCOLDS (!) the teachers if they put the wrong bib on the wrong child at lunch. Also, the other day, when a kid from the preschool came and pooped in Ellie’s classrooms’ bathroom, Ellie helpfully dropped a dime on him when the teacher was trying to figure out where that smell was coming from. She totally named names.

Ellie has a fierce sense of justice. When some cruel act is perpetrated (for example, when her mothers change her diaper) she does not shy away from telling you, in no uncertain terms, what the fuck is up, and it is not this diaper change MOM.

But that sense of justice also has a tender side: yesterday at daycare, a kid was in one of those little cozy coupe cars and it started to tip over. Ellie SPRINTED across the playground and held the car up, shouting, “HELP, HELP!” until a teacher got there.

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Oh the WORDS this child has now! And not just words, but whole sentences! Last week, during a diaper change, she was kicking and screaming (see: injustice, above) and kicked the box off wipes of the changing table. She stopped mid-scream and said, “Uh oh. Tissue [her word for wipes] fell down.” Right, it sure did. And how do you think that happened, Ellie?

She’s also strongly into ‘no’ right now. ‘No’ is the answer to every question, even if she really means ‘yes.’ And sometimes ‘no’ is the answer even if we haven’t asked a question (she volunteers ‘no’ preemptively). She also likes to draw out the word, enunciating slowwwllly for the clowns she lives with who can’t seem to keep a firm grasp on the obvious.

I watch her on the video monitor after I put her to bed. She points around the room, naming things, and then telling it, firmly, NO. NO, bear. NO, tissue. NO, Elmo. No no no no no. Eventually she lies down and strokes her soft blankie. “No.” She whispers. “No.”

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It’s finally getting a bit cooler outside, and the first leaves are starting to turn. Ellie and I took a walk last weekend and she had fun stomping on the few leaves that had fallen. I was watching my child, my real, live, living child as she tried (unsuccessfully) to jump on the leaves to achieve greater crunch volume, and had one of those mind blown moments. One of those heart bursting moments. Look! I have a child! And she is perfect.

And yet, there’s some dissonance as we get into the Fall. The leaves that my child so happily stomps are a vivid, nauseating reminder of one of the worst days of my life.

But this year is not last year, or the year before. Just as the seasons change, so do the years. I don’t know if I’ll ever “get over it,” if such a thing is even possible. But each year that passes makes the pain a little less sharp and and little less jagged. The serrated edges are being worn over with time.

This year, like last year, I’ve got my Ellie. A living embodiment of my heart’s desire.

This year, I won’t even be home on the anniversary. I’ll be out of town at a work conference. Maybe that will be better.

And, this year, I can well and truly say: fuck those leaves. This year we’ve got a lawn service.

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Out of Sorts/Quarter-OK-30ish-Life-Crisis-Maybe?

I realized a few weeks ago that I have spent years in the pursuit of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, or infancy survival. Literally YEARS. Surely that kind of uterus gazing cannot be healthy. So I tried to think about myself not as a proud owner/operator of a uterus or as a mother, but as an individual, and consider what I would list as a hobby or interest, if asked, (not that I have been asked, but conceivably there might be a situation in which I was asked such a question) and I could not think of a single thing.

Guys. Have I become a conservative’s dream woman, aka a walking uterus? (No, because: the gay. But still, moving dangerously into that territory.)

Maybe I’m feeling this acutely right now because I’ve been so heavily in toddler mode. (I typed out a whole breakdown of my day here but it was so boring I had to delete it.) Tammy’s working really hard on her master’s program right now, so the bulk of the childcare falls to me.

Maybe I’m having a some-time-in-life-crisis? Maybe it’s normal to feel this way as a mother?

It’s so incredibly frustrating, because I adore my daughter. She is funny, and smart, and of course stunningly, achingly adorable, and trust me when I tell you that I very clearly remember all of the blood, sweat, tears, and credit cards we went through to have her with us.

But is it so bad to want more from life? Is it so bad to want Ellie, but also want friends? Is it so bad to crave baby snuggles/board books/squeals of laughter with pretentious intellectual debates in coffee shops, hipster glasses optional? Is it so bad that I simultaneously love the expression on Ellie’s face when I go into her room in the morning, and desperately, achingly want to check into a hotel, eat and drink massively marked up room service and then sleep until noon? Is it so wrong that I love feeling her head heavily rest on my shoulder as I put her to bed at night, and feel, well, trapped by the schedule of naptime, bedtime, snack, bottle, etc., etc., etc.?

So speak to me, o wise women of the internet. How do you deal with the push and the pull of being both an individual person and a mother? Going guilt free? (how?!??) Medication? (Which one(s)??!) Occasional weekend babysitter?? (Not actually a bad idea…) School me in your ways.

Eggs, Cancer, and Sleeping Lions

Yesterday, Ellie got diagnosed with a food allergy, and I was overjoyed.

Let me back up.

We gave her egg for the first time when she was about eight months old, and she immediately broke out into angry red hives. Seriously, she had three bites of scrambled egg and a rash developed around her mouth. Then her cheeks turned bright red like she’d been slapped. Five minutes later her body was covered in hives. She wasn’t terribly fussy, and she didn’t have trouble breathing (thankyougod) so the nurse we talked to at our pediatrician’s office told us she was probably OK. The next morning the hives had turned into small red bumps and her eyes were puffy, so her pediatrician told us to make an appointment with the allergy clinic at the children’s hospital in our city.

Yesterday was that appointment and her allergy was confirmed.

Allergy

After the scratch test confirmed the allergy we had her blood drawn to determine the best course of action (food challenge with egg baked into something? Food challenge with pure egg? Avoidance of all egg forever and ever amen?). We also had a stern talking-to by a nurse about the protocol for epi pens, cross contamination, forms for daycare, medical alert bracelets (!) and the like.

So why am I so overjoyed about this?

Well, at this particular children’s hospital, the allergy clinic shares a wing with immunology, hematology, and outpatient oncology. This meant we were sharing a waiting room with some very, very sick kids.

Now first of all, if my kid had cancer, I would be pissed that she had to hang out in a waiting room with a bunch of germy kids. Seriously, is it too much to ask for our own waiting room? Damn.

But from a (horribly, incredibly) selfish perspective, it was terribly distressing to see pediatric oncology patients. Cancer is absolutely one of those worst nightmare situations, a hypothetical that my mind cannot fully contemplate. Any time my thoughts turn to that particular nightmare, I immediately disengage and zip off in another direction, like the mere mention of cancer actually burned my brain, like the word cancer sends an electric shock deep into my psyche.

Seeing those kids brought my woe-is-me-ing into harsh perspective, because here’s the truth: yes, it does suck and it is scary that Ellie has this allergy. I really don’t have any experience with the food allergies, and I now have another thing to add to my mental list of things to freak out about when I’m trying to fall asleep: anaphylactic shock. Fun!

But you know what is awesome? How incredibly, shockingly lucky we are.

We have access to world class doctors at a hospital entirely devoted to children that is five minutes from our house.

We can afford to pay to be seen by those doctors.

We can afford medications that will keep our daughter alive in the event of a severe reaction.

We send our daughter to a daycare that will take her allergy seriously and have members of the staff trained to administer epi pens as needed.

We are educated enough to understand her diagnosis and treatment.

We are empowered enough to advocate for our child.

It is a food allergy. Not cancer.

So last night, Ellie and I put on our dancing shoes and had a dance party in the kitchen while we made our (egg free) dinner. Our song came on, and we kicked up our heels to the mighty jungle and howled at the moon and the peaceful village and toasted our good luck and great fortune.

 

Remember November

November is a bad month for me, because it’s the month I lost my first, desperately wanted pregnancy.

November is also a beautiful month for me, filled with gratitude for the honor of watching my daughter grow.

I wrote THIS last year about the miscarriage, and it still rings true for me. Memories are still triggered that bring back the drowning feeling of despair. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance as I bathe my daughter in the tub that two years ago I floated in, feeling the waves of pain envelop me. As I rake leaves in our backyard and remember wondering what “it” would look like, even knowing my daughter is napping inside.

I am so, so grateful for my girl. Beyond grateful. Privileged and in awe that she is here.

But having Ellie also brought into sharp focus what I lost, and what could have been

fall-leaves.

The Spirit Is Willing

Hi there. Long time, no post.

I would say I’m sorry (because I am) but I have no real words to offer up in defense. I think of posting often, and have many things I’d like to say to you. But by the time I’ve run through my day of up early/commute/work/pump/commute/pick up baby/home/put baby to bed/eat dinner/sit on couch with no pants I’m totally spent, you know? After dinner is when I could totally try to make something of the dozen-odd half formed posts that live in my drafts folder, but at that point It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open while I prep the baby and myself for the next day.

As they say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

So how about a quick run down? The baby first, because, well, she is our raison d’être.

She’s almost 9 months now. Can you believe it?!

She sleeps mostly well. We sleep trained (Ferber, which sucked massively but goddamn if it didn’t work exactly like it’s supposed to) at 4ish months. She took to it in a few days and then we tackled night feedings by once a week dropping a minute off the time that I nursed her. Once we were down to about 5 minutes per nursing session she decided waking up wasn’t worth her time and started sleeping through the night. For the most part she goes down by 7PM and wakes up around 6AM, although recently she’s been waking up around 4 or 5 which is decidedly not cool and makes me dread the end of Daylight Savings Time. We’re going to be putting her down a few minutes later every night this week in hopes that it will help recalibrate her clock. It probably won’t work, but then, I’m your resident pessimist.

She eats VERY well. She has three big bowls of solid food a day and has recently gotten the hang of self feeding via soft bits of carrot and peas and cheerios and her beloved puffs. Over the next few months I figure we’ll transition to more and more self feeding and do away with the baby food (which she LOVES).

I am working on weaning her from breastfeeding, which I am both sad and excited about.

Breastfeeding was really hard in the first few months. She initially wouldn’t latch due to her tongue tie, I had massive engorgement, she ate round the clock (seriously, she was either attached to the boob or screaming – I was her pacifier, and no plastic substitute was acceptable) and I got little to no sleep. For weeks I would sleep in half hour bursts which drove me to the very brink of my sanity. The gaping maw of insanity is a very dark and terrifying place. PPD is not a joke, my friends. Tread lightly.

On the other hand, I spent some heart achingly sweet time cuddled up with my girl, and I was (and am!) so damn proud of myself for being able to feed my daughter from my very own body. After all the shit infertility put my sense of self through, being able to nourish and sustain my long fought for child from my very own body (sorry, that needs to be repeated) went a long way toward healing.

So why am I stopping? Well, I went back to work and my supply tanked. I did the fenugreek, the water, the oatmeal, the extra pump sessions, the power pumping and blah blah blah. It helped some, but not enough and I was killing myself trying to make quota every day. So we started supplementing, which further tanked my supply, and it’s been dwindling ever since. My hope was that I could feed her mornings and nights and just not worry about pumping during the day, but Ellie just seems frustrated that she gets a measly few ounces first thing in the morning when she would greatly prefer a hearty breakfast of about 7 or 8 ounces.

And while it’s sad, it’s also exciting. If I never have to pump again it will be too soon. I might burn that damn pump. Seriously. Set the fucker on fire and dance around its charred remains. If there is anything more sucky (ha) about pumping, please don’t bring it to my attention because god almighty there is enough shit in the world.

So. The end. Sob. (Yay!)

Ellie loves her daycare. We had a few bumps as we all got adjusted, but it’s worked out beautifully. She has two sweet little friends in her class that she plays with every day and the teachers help gently encourage skills that routinely blow me away. It’s like, what do you mean she can hold her own bottle/clap hands/wave bye-bye/blow kisses/hold hands with her friend (omgsocute)/etc. I didn’t teach her that! It’s like she’s an independent person! That can be taught things! Weird!

She is crawling like a champ, and pulls herself to stand. We think she’ll be an early walker, probably by Christmas, according to her teacher. She would be around 10 or 11 months then.

And how are her mamas? We’re well. We’re both a little shell shocked from her infancy, and honestly, we’re just starting to recover. Tammy gets visibly upset if anyone mentions having another baby (because obviously it would be the easiest and cheapest thing to get pregnant) and is adamant about wanting to be one and done with Ellie. I go back and forth on the issue but don’t want to commit myself one way or another. There are pros and cons to both.

One thing that Tammy I and agree on is that Ellie’s infancy was, frankly, the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. Now though, it is so, SO fun. So worth it. This is what I wanted when I fought so long for a child. Watching her discover and explore and learn and grow. Her whole body smile. Giving her one last kiss on her fuzzy little head when I lay her sleep heavy body down in her crib at night.

Like they say, the days are long but the years are short. I hope you all are well. xo

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?

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.