Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I always knew I needed to be your mother. I knew I would take care of you. I knew I would be permanently glued to your life. I imagined I might gain some happiness out of the arrangement, but I had no idea what that would be. I knew I would love you, because that's what Moms do.
Even knowing this, even knowing that motherly love was "guaranteed", knowing that biology would ensure my attachment to you... even then, you would surprise me still. See, I knew I would love you, and yet I had no idea how much I would like you.
And I do like you, Jack, I like you so very much. You are just the neatest kid around. You are one year old, and I am exceptionally proud of who you are and who you are becoming.
You are one determined, busy little guy. It all started when you were growing inside me. You would kick and kick and kick and kick. All. Day. Long. I had no idea a baby could kick so much! I felt you kicking early on - around 15 weeks - and that’s when you and I really started to become pals. That’s when I started understanding what kind of person you are. You were always stretching and moving, pushing your boundaries, testing. I could count your hands and feet as you flexed your limbs inside of me. Even then, I learned about you. Now that we’re a year into this thing called “family”, I know a little more.
More than anything else, you like new things. When you were a little tiny guy and you would get upset, all we ever had to do was pick you up and do something new. In the beginning, we could just walk into a different room, turn on a light, show you a mirror, or change your diaper. All of these things would capture your attention and cheer you up. As you got older and smarter, we had to get a little more creative. You liked going outside for walks, being carried around the house, looking at the dog, watching a ball bounce, seeing cars go by, new toys, new sounds, new flavors, new people, new games. Then we realized we had to teach you things. You would point to everything around you, as if to show us something we didn’t already see, something new about that clock that we’d already forgotten. You wanted to know the names of things and how they worked. Now, whenever you inspect something, you expect it to move or change or be interesting. You want to interact with your world, and so you expect your world to interact with you; we do our best to oblige.
One of the things you like the most is being startled. You love it when we jump out of a corner or do something unexpected (your dad is the best at this). You always react the same way: first with a little jump of your own, a surprised face, and then a huge grin that spreads from ear to ear. If we do something really surprising, you start laughing, and then all we have to do is look at you sideways to start a gigglefest. And now that you can do a few signs, you like to sign “more” and have us jump out and scare you all over again. You love being tossed around, going upside down, and exploring space with your feet as well as your hands. You are an active toddler, and we won’t be surprised if you want to play a sport one day. You are endlessly fascinated with mechanical things, like doors and knobs and drawers. Sometimes you get a little shy around new people, but once you warm up to them, you want to play with them just like you play with us.
Here are some other weird things you like. You like lemon slices and wasabi and seltzer water. You seem to find lemons interesting (and continue to chew on them long after the first, sour bite). Wasabi made you laugh the first few times we gave you some (now it seems to be old news). Giving you seltzer water is always a hoot, because you keep going back for more (in spite of your obvious confusion about the bubbles).
Your favorite food continues to be fish. If something came from the sea, you love it. You eat an adult portion every time, and it is often with a sigh of sadness that I dump half my dinner onto your plate to enjoy.
But I can’t complain about that. Seriously, Jack, you’re the best eater I could have asked for, and I am counting my lucky stars that the food thing has been easy so far. You’ll try anything, and some of your favorite foods are so healthy. You eat kale and spinach, peas, beans, whole grain pasta and bread, every kind of fruit under the sun, avacados, blueberries, almond butter, yogurt, and hummus like there’s no tomorrow.
Just as you want your world to be interesting, it seems that you want your food to be interesting, too. The more spice and flavor it has in it, the more you’ll eat. I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for heat in food. I expect certain foods to be spiced enough to make me sweat. A couple of weeks ago I made something spicier than I meant to – spicy enough to make me pause and question whether I could keep eating – but you kept asking for more until we’d finished the bowl (it was srirachi coconut tofu, by the way).
This next thing is no surprise to me. You just love music. You’ve got great rhythm (good thing, because I can’t keep a beat to save my life). Since you were little, even before you could roll over or push up onto your belly, you would kick your legs and swing your arms in time. Now you bob up and down in a little dance. Your Aunt Jen and Uncle Pete gave you a musical walker, and it is probably your favorite toy. It plays all different songs, and the more you walk, the more it plays. Sometimes you go over to it and push the buttons without walking: when the music starts going, you get really, really happy.
Here are some things you do not like: green bell peppers, blocks, and books, the blender, the vacuum and sitting in one place. I figure the bell peppers are a little bitter, but I am surprised that you don’t like blocks or books (because I like them exceedingly well). Perhaps when you are older and can build big towers or understand the story in a book, you might find these things interesting. The blender and vacuum are really loud. About the sitting – well, let’s just say that airplanes are quite a challenge.
You are stubborn, Jack. You are very determined: you know what you want and you will not relent until you get it. Sometimes it is frustrating, and sometimes it makes me proud. I can tell that no matter what you decide to do with your life, you will be determined about it.
You had some big changes this month. You started talking for real! You say… mama, dada, daddy, doggy, woof-woof, eyes, more, night-night, nae-nae (nursing), uh-oh, and the ever-memorable, “doh” (which pretty much means anything you want it to). You also started walking! You take a few steps at a time now, usually toward your dad or I when we stretch out our arms to you. I just love watching you walk. You look like a little zombie, cautiously teetering across the floor with your arms outspread.
Nearly everything about your looks and personality remind me of your dad. There is very little of myself that I recognize in you, but here are a few things. 1, you have a little chin and a round face, and that’s kind of like me. 2, you like new things, and that’s like me too. 3, you are somewhat cautious about your physical space – that is, even though you like to explore and are very determined, your attempts are always careful, and if you think you might fall, you sit down before it can happen. You and I share these things together. (Your dad was once playing kickball and took a diving jump to catch the kickball with both hands… he shattered his shoulder and has a metal plate with several screws holding his collarbone together, as a result. The fact that you’re cautious about your physical space… well, I’m glad for it!)
What reminds me of your dad? Well, nearly everything else! You are so funny. You love being tickled and teased. You are so SOCIAL. I like people a lot, but you and your dad take “gregarious” to a whole new level. You like things that move and far prefer the world of people to books and stories. You are energetic and active. You never stop moving. You are a light sleeper. You look just like your dad. You are loud and dramatic. You are fidgety and impatient at times. You are up for a joke or a laugh any time day or night. Even if you are crying, we can usually get you to smile through it all. You are just so playful and happy.
Did you know, Jack? We have some big family news. We’re moving. We’re moving across the country. We’re moving so that I can take a job. Your dad is going to stay home with you during the day We are leaving the forest for the desert. I am terrified of this move: it is a big decision. It will impact all of us, and even though you won’t really know the difference, it will probably impact you most of all. I worry about things. I worry about the political climate, about food and the environment, about skin cancer, about the city, about so many things. And then I get excited about other things. I think about how close you and your dad are going to become, about how you will get to grow up next to your grandparents and great-grandparents, about how easy it will be for us to be outside and be active. About a job that I think might just enable us to have a good family life. I can’t guarantee that we made the right decision, but I want you to know that we made it as best as we could. We will be together, and that’s all that matters.
Your dad and I love each other and you very much. Very, very much.
Happy Birthday, Jack.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
- Frustrating ups and downs that result from pumping to volume (8 oz / day) when baby's food intake is altering milk supply by more than any acceptable margin of error
- That whole getting-up-every-two-hours routine (AKA, My Living Hell) returns with what feels like unending vengeance.
- Sharp - oh so sharp - little teeth: uppers, lowers, canines coming in, and a baby who discovered that biting is yet another form of expression
- Something Called Mastitis, the second time around.
- The department secretary goes on vacation, and the key for the room I normally pump in is thus inaccessible for a WEEK.
- I finally realized that these two statements are unavoidably and annoyingly inconsistent: 1. I am soooo weirded about by the thought of giving Jack another species' milk (never mind different species, we are from a different genus!). 2. I'm really glad Jack eats yogurt and Kefir! (Duh.)
- Seeing, hearing, holding, smelling, or thinking about the baby, nearly no matter the circumstance.
- (AKA, hormones.)
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
I often feel weird about talking to other (newer) mothers. Talking to a (newer) mother puts me in the position of giving advice, and although I LOVE giving advice, I recognize that advice is not generally wanted.
But then I'll be in that position, with an expecting, worried, inquiring, new mom, and suddenly I find myself tossing out cliches left and right: "Don't worry, it'll get better", "Once you think you know them, they'll change!", "Just wait until...", etc. Honestly, it's inevitable. After spending (now, nearly) 11 months having your every waking moment consumed by a tiny being, sleeping in 1-4 hour intervals, losing the ability to do things as simple and small as, say, peeing on your own terms... you feel slightly qualified, if not downright self righteous. Why not apply your own experiences to someone else's (completely different) life?
I know, I know. I even annoy myself.
So. I found myself in the position of... wishing to intervene... in two recent situations. I ask my readers (you're out there! I know you're out there!): what would you do?
1. Lactation Consultants don't always give good advice. Shouldn't have said something, but I did.
I was in the Yale Bookstore with Jack on Sunday afternoon. He was pulling books off the shelf. I was trying to read the dust jackets as I rapidly replaced them. We were having a grand old time. Then we ran into what appeared to be a very young infant with a very new mother.
It turned out that the baby was just 3 weeks old. The mom and I chatted for a while. Her husband came over. They were very nice. I asked her if she was nursing, and then she said something about the complication of nursing while giving formula, too.
Voice inside my head: shut up, Rachael. Don't go there, Rachael. It's none of your business, Rachael.
So of course I didn't listen to the voice inside my head.
I asked her if there was a reason she was going half and half, and, get this now... she said her lactation consultant told her to. Then it turns out that she took a decongestant in the first week of nursing.
What?! This woman is treated by the same [descriptive word removed]
Who the hell tells a new nursing mother that it is OK to take a decongestant? And then to supplement with formula at TWO WEEKS? A new mom only gets a few weeks to establish a good milk supply, to establish their baseline production rate, their sensitivity to future increases in demand. Supplementing with formula during this time will crush a new mom's supply permanently. It is true that some women (very few of them, but some) have actual supply problems and can't nurse their infants... but for the majority of us, our bodies will make it work. Most importantly, you have to give your machinery the chance to work before declaring it broken. How could we have survived as a species unless we made enough milk for our babies? We're mammals. We've had mammary glands since our species speciated. We lactate, practically by definition.
She explained that she would nurse for 20 minutes and then let him at the bottle of formula for 20 minutes while she pumped.
It goes without saying that a pump is less efficient at getting milk than a baby. The pump is probably making her think she has no milk left in her breasts (which is not true). When I pumped while on maternity leave, I never got more than half an ounce because Jack was getting the rest. (And I had an oversupply). Furthermore, there are all sorts of lovely hormones that go on while nursing, and these hormones stimulate lactogenesis. If you want to breastfeed, you've got. to. nurse. your. baby. End of story. Nurse. Nurse. Nurse. At least, in those first few weeks, give your body the chance to produce.
Honestly, what she described sounded like a latch/efficiency problem more than anything else.
So what would you do?
I decided I had to say something.
So I encouraged her. I told her she would probably be amazed by what her body can do. I shared my story about taking a decongestant and watching my milk supply drop to nearly nothing, and how with continued nursing, it came back up. I hinted that these few weeks are critical and mentioned that during that time when she is pumping, the baby could be nursing instead, and that his nursing might stimulate production better than the pump would.
And then I felt terrible, because obviously this was unwanted advice. We parted ways. I felt like the biggest jerk in the world. Who knows what the particulars of her situation were. Who knows. I probably caused her a great deal of pain in that conversation, suggesting she was able to nurse when she was obviously feeling so terrible about not being able to.
What would you do?
2. I thought it might have been a cat. Should have said something, but I didn't.
I was at Babies R Us a few weeks ago. I heard a baby crying.
Crying is now quite the right word. Neither is baby.
I heard a newborn infant... mewling. A soft, tiny cry. A cry so small that I thought it was a cat. He couldn't have been more than a week old.
Then I saw his mom, his mom with the obvious postpartum belly, the glaze over her eyes of new sleep deprivation, gently pushing the cart with her baby in the carseat. Her infant in the carseat, her eyes slowly dragging along the items in the aisle. Her infant crying, alone, so terribly alone in his carseat. A foot away from her arms, yet it could have been a mile.
Her infant crying... and crying... and crying... for 20 minutes.
I nearly lost it. I couldn't handle the sound. I texted Greg about 10 times. I stalked them as they wandered through the store, and eventually I left them alone because it was causing me too much stress.
Something must have gone terribly wrong.
Was she dealing with post-partum depression? Was she lacking the maternal urge to comfort her newborn? Did she not know that her baby would stop crying if she picked him up? Where was her support? Why was she at Babies R Us in such a daze?
I don't understand.
It broke my heart to hear that newborn cry.
He didn't need anything in that store. He didn't need bibs or blankets or a nightlight. He needed soft, warm, loving arms around him. He needed to be cuddled and kissed and rocked and nurtured. If she couldn't take care of him, someone else should have. But if she could tolerate his closeness, she needed to be close to him. She needed to lay in bed and sleep with him by her side while someone else came to keep her company, to change him, to take care of the two of them while they recovered together, while they learned how to depend on one another.
For as much as Jack depended on me for milk and comfort, I depended on him. As desperate and scared as I felt, as much as I cried for the exhaustion of being needed so much, I needed him too. I craved his soft skin, his sweet smell, his tiny voice. The scientist in me knows that I wanted oxytocin and dopamine and prolactin. But the mother in me knows that I needed on his warm weight in my arms. It didn't happen right away, but it happened eventually, and being close to one another was the first and most important step.
It took every bone in my body to fight the urge to go over there and offer shop for her while she held her infant or hold her infant for her while she shopped.
Should I have offered?
What would you do?
I am still upset when I think about this incident.