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Okay, so I’ve had two different but connected experiences lately. Some women I know are pregnant for the first time, or just had babies, and I desperately want to give them unsolicited advice. I know, everyone gives unsolicited advice to pregnant and new moms. But mine is so good! Mine isn’t all intrusive and fucked up like all that other advice, really! Except I think I just weird people out. Just like I was weirded out when people told me seriously random shit about their horrific childbirth experience, or post-partum healing, or whatever. When it’s your first time, all you want to do is stick your fingers in your ears and go, “LALALALALALALA!” And honestly, that might be the smartest thing. Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth,  postpartum, and new parenthood is totally different. And the advice-givers are more interested in validating their decisions or sharing their trauma than helping. Hmm. That might apply to me as well.

The other thing is I keep daydreaming about getting pregnant again. It would have to be an immaculate conception because David will move to Mexico to be a dive instructor before he gets me pregnant and signs on for another 1.5 years of Crazy Alternate Wife.  I think some of it has to do with wanting to get another shot at doing it right. Which is nuts for more reasons than I can count. Also, my hormones (a.k.a. Continuation of the Species Chemicals) tell me there is nothing more beautiful and desirable than getting pregnant right before a fucker of a hot summer. Because they lie and they hate me.

So I give you, “Stuff I wish I’d know/done/ignored before and after birth” in the hopes that I will no longer feel the need to brain dump on unsuspecting pregnant women or beg my husband to knock me up again. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Pregnancy stuff I think you need/should know/do

  1. Don’t listen to advice unless you ask for it. Change the subject or ask them to stop.
  2. Don’t listen to birth stories unless you have asked to hear them. They just make you crazy and paranoid and have no relevance to your birth. At all.
  3. Don’t freak out about/over prepare for/ spend a whole lot of extra money on the birth. I wish I had taken all the money I’d spent on my doula and used it for a post-partum helper. That $750 would have gotten me a lot of naps.
  4. Prenatal Yoga is The Bomb. It helped me physically and emotionally. I got support from the other ladies, respectful advice, and made some good friends who have become my primary mama support group. Physically, it made a huge difference. Start when you get pregnant and keep going until you can’t move your toes any more. That being said, try different classes until you find one you like. There are some great tirades way back in this blog written after going to classes I didn’t like.
  5. Get The Snoogle. Dear God, I hate that name. But you can wrap it around you multiple ways and you’ll need that as the baby grows and your body doesn’t work the way it used to. It will allow you to sleep without setting up a mountain of pillows you have to dismantle every time you have to get up to pee, which may be many, many times per night.
  6. If you’re going to take a babymoon, don’t be an idiot like me and take it in the first or third trimester unless you’re one of those freaks who never gets nauseous or swollen or uncomfortable. Aim for the golden second trimester when you’ve got energy but you’re all cute and pregnant looking.
  7. This is really for after, but get the My Brest Friend Deluxe (oh dear God what an awful name) nursing pillow and put it in your overnight bag for the hospital. Just do it. Nothing sucks more than trying to learn to nurse on those awful hospital pillows. This thing will make your life infinitely better. I promise. And if you want more nursing boob advice, I’ve got it. Nursing is no joke, the adjustment period can be formidable.

Birth

  1. Don’t stress out about it. It will happen however it happens. Learn about the process, but don’t try to predict the outcome or craft your ultimate birth experience. You will probably remember very little of it. To me anyway, it was a tiny blip on the massive radar screen that is new parenthood. And my blip lasted 36 freaking hours long. But do you know what’s worse than 36 hours of labor? The tandem stomach flu the three of us got last fall. Way worse. In spite of the hairiness of my labor, I still felt super powerful at the end, and glad I hadn’t tried to script it in any way. Kid healthy+ me healthy = Good. Basta.

Parenthood

  1. Get as much help as you can for the first few (and I mean six) weeks. Call in all your favors, save your pennies. Grandparents, friends, night nurses, post-partum doulas, whatev. It was super overwhelming at first for us, and we had a lot of help.
  2. If you’re feeling freaked out, talk to someone who you know will be supportive and non-judgmental. I don’t know how I got the idea that I would be a perfect, balanced, competent parent but I was WROOOOOONG. It was exhilarating, terrifying, blissful, and painful, sometimes all at once.  I went back to therapy two weeks after having Lillian. I have other friends who joined new parent support groups that really helped. You feel like everyone has done this, why is it so hard? Because it’s hard for everyone. If it’s not they’re catatonic or lying.
  3. Stuff. Most stuff you need for the baby can be borrowed. Other than a crib, nothing you use in the first six months to a year will be in the rotation for very long. Bassinet – incredibly useful for the first three months. Dust catcher after that. Swing – dude, you need a swing. But only for about six months. Bouncy chair things – the only way I could take a shower for six months was to strap Lillian into one of these things. Then she started crawling and it was done. So either buy them at a resale store and sell them back, or borrow them from a friend who is between kids. The only things in our house that are semi-permanent and worth the investment are our IKEA crib (very cheap) and our BOB Stroller (very not).
  4. Books – just throw them the hell out. Once you get on the milestone train, it’s a long way down. Comparing your kid to the “average” kid in America (regardless of your actual lineage) may make your child seem like a giant/midget/freak of some kind and he or she is not. He or she is just your kid. It’s hard enough to tune into the blaring radio station of mother instinct without eating yourself alive with self-doubt.  Bringing a bunch of “experts” into the mix who want to sell books does not help.
  5. Find a pediatrician you like and trust. My therapist pointed out at one point that I was avoiding taking Lillian in to have something checked out because I was afraid of her doctor. Doh. I switched doctors. Much better.
  6. Stay away from the interwebs.  I’m not saying that a little research can’t be useful when you want to check something out, but stay away from Dr. Internets in the middle of the night when you’re feeling sure that your kid’s 101 fever is actually spinal meningitis, mkay?
  7. Advice. Random strangers, well-meaning relatives, innocent bloggers (ahem) will tell you all sorts of crazy shit about the validity of your parenting, the health and well-being of your kid, and other stuff it would never cross your mind to say to another human being. Ignore them. “But they mean well…” No, they don’t. If it makes you feel bad, it’s not useful. It is so hard to feel confident about this terrifying, epic, massive job of creating and raising a little human being. Just don’t let people fuck with you.
  8. Be flexible. Your kid is totally unique and so are you. We made mistakes in the beginning by expecting Lillian to follow “typical” patterns that blinded us to her actual needs. I think everyone does this at first. But your kid will communicate what she needs, and you have to be listening to figure out how to respond. And then her needs will change, and you’ll have to respond differently. Forever. Don’t get so attached to a school of thought that you stop observing and responding to your kid.

Wow, that was fun!

Lots has happened since the last time I wrote. I got really depressed. I got a job. I got less depressed. I started the  job. I’m now stressed and busy, but relatively happy.

The holidays kind of sucked. I don’t really know why, I just got into a well of bummed-outness and couldn’t claw my way back out. At the worst point, shortly before Christmas, I got offered a job as an adjunct college professor. My confidence was at an all-time low but I couldn’t turn it down – I’ve been wanting to teach  for a long time.

So now I’m a part-time professor and still mostly full-time mom. I have a babysitter three mornings a week who ROCKS and lets me get at least some of my work done during the day. Being a professor is kind of like being a mom, too. Yes, you have to punctuate. No, you can’t copy things off the internet and pass them off as your own work. Yes, you have to turn your homework in on time. Bitching aside, I really like it. It’s hard, hard work, but really fun. And vastly rewarding when I see a student make a connection and improve their understanding or skills.

I felt like I had been losing some core part of myself, and my emotional equilibrium with it, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of going back to schmoozing and networking to build up my business again. It seemed sooooo trivial. So the Universe did me right by dropping this job in my lap. It feels like meaningful, important work. Plus it’s nice to have a little income. I’m hoping to eventually teach two classes a semester.

Miss Lillian seems to be making more connections every day. She is much more aware of my moods now – for better or worse – and is full of her own expressions of emotions. She imitates sounds, claps like it’s going out of style, and flirts like crazy.

I can’t believe she’s going to be a year old in a couple of weeks. It’s crazy. This time last year I was big as a whale, not sleeping (how things don’t change), and having a hard time doing things like walking and writing. And living on Tums. The only thing I miss is going to yoga four times a week. And naps. Long, long, multiple naps per day. I miss them. I looked like this:

Did I mention I’m 30lbs lighter than I was then? Yeah. I don’t miss being huge and having somebody kicking my ass from the inside any more. Babies: better out than in!

 

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Not a silly child at all.

Lillian is six months old! How the hell did that happen? Seriously.

She is so stinking cute. It hurts our brains, the cute. She’s in love with the dogs. I mean in looooooooooove with them. Persephone is not so sure about this. Loki is pretty into it. Pictures below.

She is very mobile, and we fear crawling is going to happen soon. She scoots backwards, rocks on her hands and knees, launches forward, and rolls every which way.

Giggling. Holy crap this kid giggles a lot. She snorts, shrieks, cackles, raspberries, and laughs. She cracks us up.

She’s been doing this kind of conversational thing that is awesome. David thinks she’s singing. It’s in about the same vocal range as the songs I sing to her.

We saw her new pediatrician today and are oh so much happier. She’s very relaxed and friendly and much more interested in what we have to say, much less lectury. Lillian is holding in the same percentile she has been which is fine. It’s wild, though, how much variation there is in babies. She’s easily the smallest in our playgroup by age, but also one of the most advanced in physical milestones. Meantime, it looks like she’s going to be in 3-6 month clothes for several more months barring a big growth spurt. Thank God for hand me downs!

We’re still trying to re-figure out the sleep thing. She’s gotten very hard to put down at night. I don’t mind one or two night feedings if she needs them, but I do wish getting her down for the first block was easier. I read some of Dr. Sears book on sleep tonight and tomorrow we’re going to try putting her to bed extra early and see what happens.

She’s really into the food these days. I’ve gone from rice cereal, to oatmeal, to oatmeal mixed with fruits and veggies. She’s had banana, pears (roasted with cinnamon stick, yes I’m an annoying food snob) and butternut squash. She’s pretty into it. Next up are avocado, mango, and sweet potato. Then I might try peas and some chicken. We shall see. It’s fun to cook for Lillian, though I’m still cooking everything for myself too. Soy is pretty much off the table which means not eating out much at all. But we may try to ease dairy back into the picture to see what’s happening with that.

Mostly, she’s a pretty delightful kid. David and I are totally smitten with her.

Lillian and Loki

Loki gives kisses

Lillian and Loki

Lillian examines Loki.

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There might be something cuter out there, but I haven't found it yet.

Brunch at the Braymen's

Okay, that's pretty cute too.

Photo 52

I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

16 Weeks

A whole entry about my poop? Seriously?

Here, as promised, is an entire entry dedicated to poop. There will be no pictures of poop, however, just graphic descriptions.

When Lillian was around seven weeks I noticed some little specs of blood in her diaper. Of course, I freaked out and called the pediatrician who said it could be a reaction to cow’s milk and to maybe scale back on it a bit. Being the freakazoid I am, I decided to cut dairy out completely and I got every soy product I could get my hands on and ate them all weekend. Then it got really weird and icky. Mucusy, sort of seaweedy dark brown and stinky as hell. There were also occasional specs of blood, and other poop was really green. I called the pediatrician and asked what I should do. I mentioned that the week before I cut out dairy I had actually started subbing in soy milk for my cereal because I was worried I’d been overdoing it. So follow along  – I actually upped my soy intake right before this whole mess started. Then I upped it a lot more, and the poop got way worse. I asked the pediatrician if she thought it was possible that Lillian had issues with soy, but not dairy. She said it was possible, but told me to keep drinking soy milk and cut out all dairy.

Lillian was really fussy during this time so I decided that was crap advice and I was going to cut out both diary and soy – Lillian started feeling better pretty quickly. When we saw the pediatrician about a week later for her two month appointment, she recommended I take a probiotic called Florastor that was safe for people who were dairy intolerant, and she gave us 5 vials for collecting poop to have it tested. She claimed that mucusy, green poop was actually a sign of intestinal bleeding (rilly?) and I shouldn’t try to reintroduce dairy or soy until she had yellow poop again.

I’m generally not squeamish about changing the poopy diaper, but collecting it was no fun at all. The vials had liquid in them and the tops had these tiny spoons attached that you were supposed to use to scoop the poop. The vast amounts I had to get into each vial was totally incompatible with these teeny tiny spoons, so I just ended up trying to scrape it into the vial from the diaper. Much ickiness ensued. Bleah.

The tests came back negative, and the doctor told me to stay off everything with any soy or dairy additives and take the Florastor until things were normal again. I became a poopologist. I looked at every diaper, scanning it for blood, consistency, color, and smell. The state of Lillian’s poop became the barometer for my state of mind. Good poop – good day. Bad poop – bad, bad day. Depression. Anxiety. Fear.

The poop stayed green but stopped showing any blood (and mind you, the blood was always in such small amounts that David couldn’t even see it) until Mother’s Day when we went out for dinner. The pediatrician had said goat and sheep cheese should be safe, so I had me a goat’s cheese fest and a great dinner. 36 hours later Lillian’s poop got nasty again. I felt like a horrible mother. It took about 5 days to cycle back, and in the meantime I’d run out of Florastor so I was off it for a few days. Magically, we had yellow poop again for the first time in about six weeks! Hallelujah!

Then I went back on Florastor and it got weird again. So I went off. Florastor, it turns out, has lactose in it. The theory was that Lillian has an intolerance to either soy protein, dairy protein, or both. So lactose from cows shouldn’t have an effect. But then again, the doctor told me to avoid all dairy and soy additives, many of which don’t contain protein. Huh?

I called our local blended holistic-conventional pharmacy and asked a pharmacist about Florastor. She said as a probiotic it’s virtually useless because it only contains one bug. She suggested a broad spectrum, dairy and soy free probiotic and an enzyme to help with digestion.

Several things have happened since then. Lillian’s poop is much better overall. When something seems to disturb her digestion, she bounces back quickly. I think the supplements help, and I also think her system is getting better at processing stuff.

I’ve talked to other mothers about the situation, and come to the conclusion that we blew the whole thing way out of proportion, partly thanks to our pediatrician. She even had me worrying every time I could hear Lillian’s stomach grumbling. Yes, blood in the poop means something is bugging her intestines, but monitoring every single quality of her poop is crazy and crazy-making. It turns out lots of my friends have babies with green, mucusy, dark, light, yellow, brown, whatever poop. They’re all fine. Baby poop is not standard, and it’s no big deal when it changes. Even blood is not a big deal if you can isolate the cause and cut it out until they outgrow the intolerance.

It should be mentioned that Lillian has never seemed to have any discomfort since that first week. She’s perfectly happy, active, healthy, and has a good appetite. We rarely notice any discomfort that could be attributed to her digestion.

So after making myself nuts for two months, I decided that was enough. No more obsessing about every change in Lillian’s poop. We would start reintroducing soy and dairy separately and determine if either or both was the culprit, and any poop that didn’t have significant blood was good poop as far as we were concerned.

The pediatrician quizzed us about it at Lillian’s four-month appointment last week and we gave her the basic story. I asked her about the Florastor and she claimed it was perfectly safe. Again, her party line without any real consideration for my observations, or my individual kid. So. Fired.

It’s way more fun to not be obsessive. And now we know she is actually quite sensitive to soy. I tried some stuff that had soy additives and lo and behold, she had a clear, but short-lived reaction. Hopefully she’ll outgrow it, but I’m not going to try again until she’s six months old. I’ll try a small amount of dairy in a week or so and see what happens. I suspect with dairy it may be a threshold thing and if I enjoy it in moderation she’ll be just fine. Either way we’ll know before we start solids, so we’ll know what to avoid. In the meantime, I’m turning in my poopologist badge and just going back to being Mama.

And that’s the poopstory. I’m going to get in so much trouble for this when she’s a teenager.

Four months!

Four months old!

I am actually feeling a lot better these days. I know the hormones are starting to subside because I don’t break into a sweat every time I get stressed out. I still get kind of hot at night, but nothing like it was. And oh yeah, I don’t have a mental breakdown every day or so. That part is key. I still get grouchy, and defensive, and worried, and exhausted, (just ask David!) but I don’t hit the red zone nearly as easily.

So now I can reflect on some of the madness that has been the last 4 months and think about writing more about it. Here’s a tale of self-inflicted crazy from the crazy archives.

When Lillian was about 4 weeks old, I had the really bad idea to weigh her on the bathroom scale. And the scale said she was only 7 lbs, way too low for where she should be. To rewind – she had come in at the 10th percentile for weight and her doctor had warned us it couldn’t go below that, so I was paranoid. She had also lost too much weight when she came home from the hospital, and that was really scary. Also, breast feeding is hard in that respect because you really have no idea how much food your kid is getting. And a friend of mine had had supply problems and her baby was having a hard time gaining weight. Another friend’s newborn had ended up in NICU because she had issues relating to low birth weight. How does all this apply to this situation? Er, it doesn’t really, I was just paranoid.

Anyhoo, I freaked the hell out. Freaked. Out. I was convinced that Lillian was dangerously underweight, dehydrated, sickly, and on the brink of being taken from me and stuck in NICU. (At this point I was seriously sleep-deprived as well.) David didn’t want me taking her to the doctor or calling the lactation consultant and further indulging my panic – he was sure she was just fine. But I got so wigged I did end up calling the lactation consultant. She came later in the week, weighed Lillian, and determined that she was in fact 7lbs 12oz, a very respectable weight gain since her previous appointment. Doh.

The freaky thing was I managed to convince myself so completely that something was seriously wrong when it wasn’t. A freakier thing was how my fear of Lillian not gaining weight and somehow getting “in trouble” for it was really an inversion of my own feelings about my body. I’ve always hated the scale, and while my self-esteem is usually pretty good these days, as is my fitness, I’ve still avoided the doctor because I don’t want a supposed authority figure to tell me I’m wrong or defective in some way. But since I had the baby I haven’t really given a crap about that so much. So here we have a perfect example of how my own issues can be passed on to my kid unconsciously if I’m not careful. Do I want Lillian to worry about weighing too much or too little as she gets older? Nooooooo. I just want her to feel as comfortable and happy in her body as possible. Is it her job to take on my feelings about my body? Oh Jesus no.

Sometimes I still worry. Lillian is smaller than most of the babies in our play group and I have a tendency to compare a bit too much. But I just look at my anxiety and say, “Well, that’s just my old friend Anxiety in another costume, and it doesn’t have any more to do with reality (or with Lillian) than last time when I was fixated on something else.”  It eventually works when paired with some fresh air, or meditation, or a good nights’ sleep. And Lillian is awesome; she’s active and happy and I love her chubby thighs and cheeks. I may be a worrier, but I make good, well-thought out decisions for myself and her.  I have no intention of letting my own crap influence those decisions or how Lillian perceives herself as she becomes more self-aware.

I’ve also talked to a lot more parents since the early days and realized that the milestone/percentage tracking thing is a bunch of bullshit. My kid is not a demographic. She’s an individual and she may be smaller or bigger at any given time depending on her activity level, growth spurts, sleep, eating schedule, and basic genetic makeup. I understand that tracking her growth over time can show trends and give us an idea if there are problems, but it seems just ludicrous how much attention is paid to this stuff in the first few months. Her doctor warned us that she had to stay in the same percentile (or go up) at her first appointment. What the hell? She’s going to be smaller sometimes and bigger sometimes. What about when she starts solids and her calorie intake drops for a while? What if her growth slows down for a little while? Should we really have to look at all this stuff with a magnifying glass before it can ever indicate anything? It turns out I know a lot of people whose kids were in low percentiles (myself included) and turned out just fine. And anyone who sees Lillian can tell she’s thriving, so the growth charts (and our pediatrician who I’m about to fire anyway – story coming soon) can just suck it.

I’m a make the plan, execute the plan kind of person. This has been a source of stress for me since I had a baby. I’m constantly faced with choices with unknown outcomes. Feed the baby or put her down for a nap? Swaddle her or don’t? Change the diaper now or later? Go to the grocery store or stay home? Either choice can end in screaming and tears (not all mine) and once I’ve chosen I can’t go back. At first, making the “wrong” choice (the one ending in tears) made me feel horribly inadequate. I couldn’t get past feeling like I’d failed and that I should have been able to make the correct choice. Eventually I’ve come to realize that there’s no right choice. Either can end badly or well, and I’m just doing the best I can with what I know now.

My friend Heather from yoga and play group wrote this hysterical account of an afternoon with her son Charley and she’s letting me share it with you. Enjoy!

Choose your own parenting adventure.

Your husband calls and asks you to see if he left his wallet at the house. He did and he has no money for lunch. Do you:
A: Tell him to go hungry and have a low-key day at home with the baby (skip to end)
B: Think it would be nice to have a nice lunch with your dear husband and meet him for lunch (continue on)

You start the 15 mile drive to his work in the rain. The baby is happy in the car until you get on Mopac and starts to scream bloody f’n murder. Do you:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Turn up the classical radio station hoping it will calm the baby (continue on)

The baby is still screaming, but you’ve gone to far on Mopac now, so you continue on, at this point the baby has been screaming for 25 minutes. You arrive at your dear husband’s work and nurse the babe in car. The baby is happy and husband meets you out front. Do you:
A: Tell husband that babe is fussy and head home (skip to end).
B: Think we made it this far, let’s do lunch! (continue)

Husband drives so you can sit in back with the smiley baby. You get a mile from work and the baby starts to scream all holy hell. You and husband decide to:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Continue to lunch

You eat lunch and the babe is super great at the restaurant. You drive husband back to work and the baby is screaming like he’s on fire. After husband heads into work you nurse him and change him in the parking lot. He falls asleep and you carefully set him in his car seat. Yay, sleeping baby! You head in the direction of home. You are about to pass the exit to your house Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Decide to take the chance to drop off a couple items at a consignment sale about 5 miles south of your house.

About 2 miles from the sale, the baby starts crying like he’s laying on a bed of nails. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Figure you’re so close and crank up the classical music

The babe is freaking the F out and you miss the turn, you decide to pull over and nurse him. The baby is happy but you’re now past the deadline to drop stuff off. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Hope the folks will take pity on you and take your stuff after the deadline, you continue on to the consignment sale

You pull into the consignment sale as your child is screaming in the back seat. The folks do not take pity on you and your screaming baby and are surprised that there would be any problems to get there on time with a screaming baby.
A: You decide to head home
B: You want to punch the woman in the face, but restrain yourself and head home

The baby screams like he’s been abandoned in a crack house, as you pull into the driveway he stops crying and smiles.

You cuddle up with the baby and HGTV and spend the day snuggling with this cutie pie.

Guess what my adventure today was…

6/9 Playgroup at Heather's

Charley Chillin'

Twelve weeks!

I'm going to miss the crazy hair when it calms down.

Lillian is twelve weeks old today! Can you believe it? Everything seems to be picking up speed. It now makes a little more sense when people say the first year flies by. We’re looking at some big changes, like getting her to sleep without the swaddle, starting to work on getting her in her own room and crib (she sleeps in a co-sleeper next to our bed right now) and teething. And in a couple months solid food! WTH!

Progress this week: soooo much talking! All sorts of funky sounds, coos, squeaks, raspberries, and squawking. She has whole conversations with herself and us. Toxic levels of cuteness. She’s also getting really strong in the upper body. Big mini-pushups and leg strength. She’s rolled over a couple times but hasn’t figured out it can be a mode of transportation. Please don’t tell her. She’s getting more eye hand coordination and much drooly fist and thumb sucking has commenced. She turns to look at the source of sounds and tracks objects with her eyes. All of this is very cool.

Twelve weeks!

She cracks herself up.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but my whole theory of child care boils down to this: Babies are weird. They’re always changing for no discernible reason, and no way to communicate with you why. Last week Lillian started having meltdowns where she would get too pissed off to nurse. If you’ve ever nursed, this is your nightmare. 1) it can mean she’s sick (but she’s not) and 2) it’s your trump card. If Daddy is pulling his hair out and the kid is screaming her head off, just stick her on the boob and all is well. Except all of a sudden not.

The first time it happened we both panicked and tried to figure out what I’d eaten – assuming the milk tasted bad to her. Then we swaddled her and put her down, and wham! Out like a light, woke up six hours later and ate just fine. It started recurring more this week. I get neurotic about it because I’m afraid she hasn’t eaten enough. I usually nurse her after her bath and then we put her to bed. But stressing just makes it worse, and if we just put her down to sleep she usually conks out for 6-7 hours. But not having that automatic shutoff button for the tantrums just sucks. Except babies are weird, and she may change her mind about the whole thing tomorrow. Or not.

Twelve weeks!

Special thanks to my friends who have reached out with support since my last post. It means a lot. It’s really hard sometimes, but every day gets a little easier, and I get a little more flexible and better at dealing with things as they come. Still untold challenges lie ahead, and I gratefully accept and appreciate the support and empathy of people who care about me. Y’all rock!

I’ve been debating how frank I want to be on this blog about some of the crazy postpartum stuff I’ve been going through. I tend to keep my tone some kind of combination of chirpy and sardonic, and a lot of what I’ve been through over the past few months really doesn’t fit with that. Nor can I write about these experiences and make light of them with a clear conscience. This is some serious shit.

The postpartum period is no freaking joke. Sleep deprivation is used as torture by the military. All new parents are subject to it for weeks or possibly months, and everyone just laughs it off. Or they say asinine things to you like “Why don’t you sleep when the baby sleeps?”

Add on to that something nobody really talks about which is this crazy hormonal shift your body goes through for God knows how long. I still have night sweats and I’m almost three months out. For the first several weeks I broke out into a cold sweat, had heart palpitations, and generally felt wretched. The mood swings that come with them are epic.

Add in the reality that you’re now responsible for the survival of a helpless human being and you have no training and no experience. This is not a recipe for confidence. What you do have is a whole lot of dogmatic, vastly contradictory advice from friends, family, health practitioners, and the dreaded internet. It’s enough to make anyone, no matter how well adjusted, good and crazy. I’m a worrier and a rule-follower, so wading through all this crap while trying to figure out what makes the most sense for Lillian and us is wicked stressful.

Another problem is how the medical community and our society treats this period. Nobody wants to be stigmatized and diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. But in reality every new mom I know, myself included, manifest at least a few of the “symptoms” associated with it. But what if you don’t want to think of yourself that way, or you don’t want other people to think you’re sick? You hide how you’re feeling or repress it. This is obviously not good for your kid, and seriously not good for you.

I wrote about how I lost my shit during the first couple of weeks. I didn’t write about how much more I lost my shit after that, and how I still can’t hold my shit together for more than a day or two at a time. I have a lot of experience dealing with emotional turmoil. I’ve been treated for anxiety and panic attacks in the past, and I have a bunch of good, healthy coping mechanisms that keep me on the right track. But when I had the baby most of those things were derailed. Meditation is hard to come by when you’re caring for a newborn, as is exercise, sleep, good eating habits, and socializing. Medication is not my favorite way to cope, and it is no substitute for an emotionally and physically healthy lifestyle.

The hormonal stuff just sucks. It SUUUUUUCKS. Right at the point in my life when I need to be able to use all my wisdom, experience, and maturity I seem to have reverted to teenagerhood. Most of the time I’m rational and even tempered, but I unpredictably become enraged or despondent and I often don’t see it coming. Once it sets in I’m barely functional. My self-esteem takes a nose dive and I spend a lot of time crying and feeling helpless. The last time I remember feeling like this I WAS a teenager and one brief period in my life when I was on the pill. Yay hormones!

While it’s interesting that much of this emotional bedlam is probably hormonal in origin, it doesn’t help much with the “What the fuck do I do right now?” aspect. How do I build a whole new set of coping mechanisms while learning how to be a parent and under the 24 hour pressure and stress that it entails?

Do I take medication? Well, yeah. I went back on a low dose of Prozac. It’s enough to keep my anxiety from turning into panic, but not enough to stop the unfamilliar waves of depression. But I really don’t want to have to deal with weaning off a larger dose when the hormonal component of this shit is likely to pass in the next couple of months or so. I also have been taking Ambien to sleep, but I’m starting to wean off of it. I don’t sleep as deeply when I take it and I think it makes my insomnia worse when it wears off in the middle of the night. It was useful for a while but I’m kind of over it.

Do I exercise more? Yes, when I can. I’d love to do a yoga class every day but since I don’t have a live-in nanny that’s not on the menu. Postnatal yoga can be frustrating,  I’m lucky if I get half an hour of vinyasa in before Lillian needs changing or feeding or soothing. Not a lot of bang for the buck, though it is nice to socialize with other moms and babies. I’ve been taking walks while wearing Lillian in the Bjorn. For weight-bearing exercise it’s great, but it’s hell on my back and shoulders. She’ll eventually grow into the Ergo and that will be an improvement. We’re also getting a fancy stroller that I may eventually jog with, so we’ll see how that goes. Luckily exercise is something that helps with anxiety AND depression so the more I get, the better. It’s just that any activity is now about four times more complicated than it was before. Many activities are just plain impossible.

Do I reach out for support? As much as I can. I see my therapist and go to group therapy, both of which have been invaluable. But it’s not enough. I don’t have time to call or see my friends like I used to, and many of them don’t have time for me. I also can’t meet people out for lunch right now because anything I don’t cook myself may make my kid have bloody diapers and let me tell you, that is not a good thing when I’m struggling with anxiety and depression.

To add to the fun my therapist is moving away at the end of July. This totally sucks, and I’m experiencing a lot of dread over it. She’s been especially helpful during this period when I need support – not advice, judgment, or obligation. I’ve always had a hard time accepting support, and she’s really helped me so her leaving is not a fun thing.

I have a group of new mamas I meet with and chat with over email. They’ve all been great, and we’ve really helped each other out a lot, I think. Our play dates are a bright spot in my week.

My husband has been amazing. He’s been present, supportive, and incredibly loving. He’s an amazing dad, and we learn from each other all the time. I am so incredibly grateful that in our relationship we choose to see our differences in temperament and perspective as an opportunity to learn rather than as a threat. Every day one of us learns something new about the baby and teaches the other one, and we get collectively smarter. This is awesome.

While the last few months have been probably the hardest in our marriage, in some ways they have also been the best. I trust him more now than I ever did before, he’s stuck by me no matter how unhinged or miserable I’ve become.  The hardest part has been letting him take care of me, letting him bear some of the burden without drowning in guilt and remorse. When I get depressed I feel like I can never do enough for Lillian and for him and that all my efforts come up short (this is a habitual thought pattern I’ve had for much of my life). Allowing him to take care of me when I feel this way is a struggle, but it’s been an amazing lesson, too. I think I’m beginning to realize for the first time in my life that I’m worth taking care of, and that I deserve help when I need it, and that it’s okay to ask for and receive it.

My inlaws have been incredibly helpful, especially during the first few weeks when I just couldn’t get my shit together. They still will babysit at the drop of a hat and love spending time with the baby. I also just interviewed a doula/nanny who will be helping me out on an as-needed basis. I’m really looking forward to having a little free time to do stupid shit that has no other object than making me feel good for a little while. I’ve been struggling with guilt over not spending every moment as productively as possible. Things get pretty chaotic when there’s a new human being in the house who can’t talk or walk and stuff like dishes and laundry and grocery shopping get a wee bit backed up. So the idea of getting a massage or going to yoga by myself seems alarmingly decadent and unwarranted. Except that I desperately need some me time to recharge my depleted batteries.

On the flip side, I’ve also come to realize that people really aren’t offering help unless they genuinely care about what I need and want. Sometimes I’m offered things that I don’t need or want, and then made to feel like I’m unreasonable or ungrateful if I don’t accept them entirely on the other person’s terms. For example, one person I know loves to offer advice that isn’t useful or interesting to me, and then argues compulsively when I respectfully decline to take it. I seriously don’t have the energy for this shit right now.

Drawing healthy boundaries is never easy, and is more stressful and draining when my energy and self-esteem are on the low side. Sacrificing my peace of mind in order to take care of the feelings of someone else is something I do reflexively, but it’s just not possible right now.

To sum up, postpartum depression or anxiety or whatever you want to call it is some serious crap that I’m going to bet most new moms experience far more than anyone wants to admit. The cocktail of massive life change, horrible sleep deprivation, and huge hormonal shifts constitutes a shitstorm no one can imagine before it happens, and no one has the innate capacity to deal with when it does. Our society sucks at this stuff and either stigmatizes or minimizes what most new moms are going through every day. I’m still struggling to find the right balance and the right kind of support to just get by. I love my kid like crazy, but I haven’t grown all the mental muscles I need yet to deal with the new responsibility and pressure. I know I’m a strong, resilient, healthy person, but this has tested me in ways I never imagined.

If you or someone you know is struggling after having a baby please encourage them to ask for whatever help they need without shame. The expectations we have of ourselves when we enter into parenthood are often unattainable and unreasonable, and we need all the considerate, meaningful help we can get.

DSC_0508

Hospital beds: not as comfy as they look

The 48 hours ish we spent in post-partum at the hospital were not great fun. People come in and wake you up all the freaking time. Nurses, doctors, other random people. They just knock and walk in. Even if I had wanted to sleep I was so wired up from the birth that I only slept about an hour at a time, even with drugs. I had a couple of nice nurses, and several annoying, incompetent, or belittling nurses. Sometimes all in one!

I’m not sure where some of these ladies got their make-you-feel-like-a-stupid-asshole skillz, but they must have learned from the best. I had one night nurse both nights who did everything she could to show me how little I knew about anything baby. She’d spout of statistics or numbers after a checkup with exactly no explanation of what they meant, and smile at me ingratiatingly. Her nursing technique sucked and involved squeezing my breast painfully without authorization. That was a recurring theme. Nothing in there yet ladies, thanks. Our final nurse who checked us out was totally lame. Lackadaisical doesn’t begin to cover it. She forgot to stop at the pharmacy for my meds, didn’t feel like answering questions, and would disappear for long periods when we were trying to get out of the room and get home.

I still had a port in my hand for the first 24 hours, and I had to get 4 more doses of antibiotic through it. This was supposed to take about 20 minutes, but sometimes it stretched out to 1.5 hours, because apparently nobody had taught the nurses how to administer a fucking IV. They’d flush out the port with saline, which hurt like hell, and then start the drug. And invariably fuck it up – it wouldn’t pump, or the line would be jammed. The bitch nurse fucked the last one up really badly at like 1am and acted as if I was just being whiny. It took like 2 hours to finish it. Did I mention how much that shit hurt? I did however talk to the charge nurse about it. Go me. I also called the charge nurse to ask for feedback forms on all my nurses and guess what? She never showed. The OD consultant in me was not impressed.

Trying to learn to breast feed, which is wicked hard anyway, was impossible with the awful hospital pillows. Plus I didn’t seem to be producing anything which was stressful. I had one day nurse who was great and I at least got an idea of what a good latch felt like. Lillian was all about the boob, but she chewed with her surprisingly strong gums and it hurt like hell. I guess I lucked out with the latch, but OW.

David was in a world of pain from the horrible bed in L&D, and the one in the recovery room was far worse. Fortunately, that nice nurse got him a cot which was a bit better. It royally sucks that you can’t sleep with your husband when you need snuggles incredibly badly.

The food was really pretty good. Who knew? They had a killer veggie burger, and decent breakfast tacos. Of course, I would have eaten a tire happily at that point, but it really wasn’t bad.

Yeah, so I couldn’t wind down. This did not bode well for when we got home. There was serious boding. We wanted to get home so badly, but at the same time, how were we going to take care of this tiny being without anyone qualified around to help? How are we allowed to take her home without a medical degree? Does not compute.

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Biological Imperative Win

The other thing that happened while we were there was we both fell madly in love. People don’t always bond with babies right away. For us, it was like one of those cartoon 10 ton weights dropped on our heads. It helps that she’s so dang cute.

Not much of a narrative, I know, but hold on to your hats. Next up, postpartum depression/anxiety/craziness and extra extra sleep deprivation!

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