Monday, January 31, 2011

Sumo Baby and Money

I figure for every self-pitying post I provide you with, I should also add some sort of upper. Will this work? :) I'm not sure whether Jack was doing Sumo or Princess Leah, but it was cute.

After being so sick for so long, we were desperate, beyond desperate for help. Greg's parents came on Saturday and Sunday to clean and take care of Jack. Now, as a reward for their selfless efforts, Greg's mom is quite ill. Our potential food poisoning was in fact the stomach flu. Right on schedule, I woke up this morning with a swollen, painful throat and the chills (yay, illness number TEN!). I attempted to work, until 1:30pm, then went home and collapsed in a useless pile in bed. My milk supply is crushed. My head is throbbing. Wednesday afternoon, I'm meeting with my boss for the first time since coming back from maternity leave. I don't know what I will say to him. The first thing I said to him when I started my job (a job that involves dangerous levels of radiation) was "I'm trying to get pregnant". He's been amazing, actually, but I fear for Wednesday's conversation.

The blows keep on coming, but there's nothing to do. Except. Keep. Moving.

And plan, of course, because what are Greg and I but compulsive planners?

I started this blog with the plan to avoid specifics, and one of the specific specifics I wished to avoid being specific about was my work situation. Well screw that, it's part of parenthood, so here goes. After income tax, health insurance, and daycare, I net $400 a month. That's $100 a week. $20 a day. I can't quit my job because Greg doesn't have family healthcare, and Greg can't quit his job because I don't have healthcare at all.

A while ago I was talking to a friend about returning to work. We both mused about work-life and I attempted my excuse: "I wish we could live on one income, but it's so difficult. I hate thinking that this is about money". She laughed, "Of course it's about money".

She's right.

It's about money at every step of the way. It's about health insurance. It's about education and retirement and ... well, the fucking American dream. My dream doesn't involve a fancy car: it involves a 401k and home cooked meals. It involves Jack's college savings account.

At the moment, though, when I close my eyes and pretend the future will be OK? It's about fucking daycare.

Daycare is killing us. The long commute, the prep work, the closures, the constant illness, it's sucking us dry. There simply aren't any closer options.

We want a nanny. Oh do we want a nanny. We're paying $1300 a month now, but a nanny would be twice that. Instead of making $20 a day to work, I would be paying $110 a day to work.

Not feasible.

It's about the money. It's totally about the money. I want to work because I enjoy work, because I need to fulfill that part of my personality. But now? Now... now, money is a part of the work-life equation too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

15" of snow and we're not going anywhere

Greg is out shoveling. With a corner lot, 180 linear feet of sidewalk, a backyard path around our house for the dogs and a 3 car garage, there's a lot of shoveling to be done. Plus the snow plows always plow the trapezoidal intersection straight across our driveway, making the prospect of clear travel near the vicinity of our house even more hopeless. We are wishing we bought a snow blower this year! JCC is closed. Staying focused and working while sick and sleep deprived all of the time is difficult enough -- these snow days are killing me! I'm thinking I might trade today out for Sunday and use it like a weekend. Maybe we'll all go sledding :)

Can anyone guess where this adorable face is, as of 7am?

He woke up at around 10pm. I tried nursing him, and he took a little bit of milk. I put him back down, sleepy, and he got upset. We went through another 10 minutes of (dual) parent shushing, and then Jack fell asleep. It was a restless sleep, but he did it on his own.

I got very sad and didn't know what to do: the next time he cried, would I shush again or bring him back into bed?

He woke up at 11:30pm and into bed he came.

Jack had a very restless night after that point. He was kicking and squirming every few hours. Was it being in the big bed that made him restless, or would he have been that way regardless?

I think I'm going to try to keep him in the co-sleeper longer tonight and see how it goes.

Grrr. :(

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

These times, they are a changing

The bedside co-sleeper and Jack's first day back from the hospital. Awww.

Jack has a lovely nursery. It's beautiful. We painted the walls VOC-free avocado. We stickered them with white tree decals. We put put baby books in the bookcase and filled it with baby things, including his "crib" -- an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper.

Then Jack was born, we moved the co-sleeper into our bedroom, and there it has been since... until tonight, that is. Tonight, I moved the co-sleeper into the nursery and put a rail up along my side of the bed.

I've gotta say, I am LOVING having my bedroom back. The bedroom is tiny, very awkwardly shaped, an odd and late addition to our 1860s house. There is almost no wall space, and the co-sleeper took up pretty much all of it. Now? Now I have a nightstand! The light is on! Greg and I are having a conversation above the level of a whisper! Plus, I can actually nurse my baby in the nursery

The co-sleeper was great while we used it. I would recommend it to anyone. We placed it up against my side of the bed, with one edge down, and Jack was safely within reach all night. From what little I could tell, Jack loved it. He'd fall asleep watching me. He'd be hungry and I'd be right there for him. We'd bring him into bed in the early morning, at around 4am, and wake up to a baby cooing in our ears. He didn't cry at night and I didn't have to get out of bed. It was lovely.

Jack starting to wake up more often, and I brought him into bed earlier and earlier. That worried me, at first. But as time went on, I found that having him in the bed for the whole night worked much better for everyone. Jack didn't even want to nurse: he just wanted to be with us. He went from waking up every 1-2 hours to sleeping for 4 hours at a time. Also -- and this is a huge, important 'also' -- I firmly believe that co-sleeping in the right conditions is safer for the baby than being in his own bed. There is no doubt in my mind about that fact. So, we would put him in the bedside co-sleeper at 7pm, where he would stay asleep until 10 or 11, at which point I would nurse him and bring him into bed.

Until recently, this has been a great arrangement. It's not the most comfortable way to sleep, but I can put up with the sore hips and numb arms for the special time that it gives us together.

Here's the trouble: the early evenings have gone seriously downhill since our trip to Vermont. Suddenly Jack has a very difficult time staying asleep when he is alone. I don't blame him. It's cold, he's used to sleeping with us for the rest of the night, so why wouldn't he cry to be in our arms? Unfortunately, even if it makes sense for Jack, this poses a problem for us. I simply cannot spend the entire night (from 6:30pm to 6:30am) in bed or holding him. Not possible. And when I do, I have freakouts.

We try to putting him in the bedside co-sleeper asleep, but he always wakes up.

Oh and I try having him fall asleep with me in bed and then sneaking out, but that lasts about 5 minutes too.

Something needs to change. I've been reading up on sleep training (teaching a baby how to sleep alone), but nothing fits our style. The thing is... I want to continue co-sleeping for part of the night. He's a great co-sleeping baby. He doesn't nurse much. He doesn't move around. He snuggles right up against me, we flip sides once, maybe twice in a night for him to get a good snack in, and everybody is happy.

I wish Jack could fall asleep and sleep by himself for a few hours, and when he wakes up for the 10pm feed, I'd take him into bed for the rest of the night. But how do you teach a baby that when he cries at the *beginning* of the night you won't respond to him but *later* you will? Ah, well, according to lore, you don't. You either co-sleep or you sleep-train.

Furthermore, sleep-training necessarily involves some crying. Some people say to close the door and don't go in until 7am. Others say go in for increasingly less comfort, or stay away for increasingly longer intervals. At some point, Jack will need to cry without my being there to comfort. But when should this happen? Is 6 months old enough? Crying results in the release of significant quantities of stress hormones. The relation between stress and brain function was part of what I wrote my dissertation about... this is not joke: we know that stress hormones do bad things to the brain. We just don't know how much it takes, and we don't know at what age the benefits of certain kinds of stress (namely, the long term behaviors that stress helps produce) outweigh its detriment.

The longer we put up with this sleeping arrangement, the more total crying (in the future) there will be. Somehow, we have to pit current crying against future crying, and this is an optimization problem with two awfully unknown cost functions. Personally, I think 6 months is the minimum. I wouldn't consider letting him cry before, but now I will. This is not just a function of us having an issue with the sleeping arrangement: I can see it Jack's behavior, too. His crying means a lot of things, now, and not all of it is life-or-death trauma. I wish he was a little older before we attempt any sleep training. But I also can't spend 12 hours a day in bed. So, like usual, something's got to give.

Here is the current plan. Co-sleeper is in nursery. It's a different environment: very dark, soft white noise, and quieter than the bedroom (no dogs!). We'll do the "I'm right here, right by you, but not picking you up" approach, with progressive reduction in comfort measures as we can. Statistically speaking, this method works just as well as leaving the baby alone in the crib to cry -- it just takes a hell of a lot more patience and time.

Here's how we did tonight. 6:40pm, Greg gave Jack a bath. 6:55pm, Greg put Jack in PJs and diaper. 7:00pm, I read Jack a book, nursed him to sleepy. 7:15pm, I put Jack in co-sleeper in nursery. Jack cried. And cried. And cried. I tried leaving a few times, but it was killing me, so I went back to his side and followed the routine. No picking him up. Shushing and singing and patting. After 10 minutes of this, a total of about 5 intervals of Cry-Sleepy, Jack got sleepy enough to fall asleep.

It's 9:30pm and he's still sleeping. Honestly, 10pm is coming up and I know I am going to be aching to bring him into bed. But... I think I should see what happens. I think I should at least see if he'll fall asleep again in his co-sleeper in the nursery.

Wish us luck. I'll report back tomorrow.


Monday, January 24, 2011

I can't put my arms down!

The last two posts are far too depressing for me to leave up on the front of page Jack Attack. We need something more cheerful to look at.

Like this!

And this!

Because the colder it gets, the cuter the baby becomes!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Story about baby not contained within

This post really has nothing to do with baby Jack, but sometimes a girl's got to let off a bit of steam.

Greg and I just can't seem to go on a date. Jack is six months old, and, well, I can't remember the last time we went on a date. I think it was before I went back to work. We've only been out, sans baby, two or three times since Jack was born.

Greg's band is playing at a local bar tonight, and he and I were planning to spend some time before the show, hanging out, like adults, at a bar, discussing something other than the contents of Jack's diaper. We had plans, friends to join us, a sitter, everything!


And then Jack got sick and I got sick and this the eighth time in three months, but who's counting, oh-wait-that's-right-I-am.

Eight times. In three months. And it's been a month since the last time, so if you want to be accurate, really that's seven times in two months and one time in one month. Seriously, how is that possible?

I'm stuffy and sneezy and coughing and I'm walking around with a kleenex permanently attached to my nose. About one out of every four times that I blow my nose, Jack wakes up. And if there's anything worse than having a stuffy nose, it's not clearing your stuffy nose because you might wake the baby.

Really, is this my life?

So I ate a bowl of pasta, a half cup of ice cream, and for some weird reason, decided to test my blood sugar for the first time in two months or so. I saw it hit 260 after one hour.

Shit that's bad. For those who don't know, 260 is not a good number.

Then I proceeded to freak out and email my doctor before realizing that DUH I'd had a decongestant earlier in the day, and decongestants raise blood sugar.

Then the decongestant wore off and I got even stuffier but I can't bring myself to take another decongestant because now I know what it does to my blood sugar. (Which explains years of my refusal to use benadryl -- I knew it made me feel awful, I just didn't know why until now).

Our sitter is a next door neighbor, Pat, a lovely woman who has kindly offered to watch Jack anytime. So nice of her. And although date night was officially out, I had another dilemma at hand: friends, tomorrow, 11am, brunch. With Greg at the bar, how would I make something for us to eat? Because this is how cooking generally goes in these days: I put Jack down to sleep, I start a recipe, Jack wakes up, I put the gate up to keep the dogs out of the kitchen, I try to nurse Jack back to sleep, Tori starts barking because she wants cheese, and then Jack starts crying because Tori is barking.

I've learned not to cook at night unless my spouse is available.

Solution: aforementioned friendly neighbor could watch Jack for an hour while I made brunch. Brilliant.

So I made Quiche, and I based my recipe out of a book that claims to have perfect the art of cooking ratios.

And then I proceeded to do something I never ever ever do: I followed a recipe blindly, without testing it. I added 1.25 tsp of salt to 2 cups half and half and four eggs and Oh My God It's So Salty I Might Have To Spit It Out. 1.25 tsp in 2 cups of half and half, ugh, what was I thinking? I plead temporary insanity.

Oh and I want my money back. I have many recipe sources. Good recipe sources. Why I thought it would be better to grab some random book off the shelf, I don't know, but I learned my lesson. To epicurious and food blogs I will stay committed.

So I'm out of eggs and I'm out of spinach, and I was out of onions to begin with, and my stuffy self simply cannot imagine actually getting into a car and going to the store tomorrow morning, and if there is one thing that New Haven does NOT do well, it is breakfast, so I might just have to grate some smoked gouda over granola when our guests arrive, because that's about all that's left in my fridge.


Can someone hand me a kleenex? I'm dying over here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Other Women

They're there. I know they exist.

I see the closed curtains in the two-person pumping room.

I hear the whir-whir of the other breastpump.

I can tell, sometimes, which pump they're using. I can tell whether they pump into bottles or bags. I know I'm the only one who uses glass.

Together, we flip the pages of our worn out parenting magazines.

Together, we stare into nothingness.

I see the grocery receipts they must be throwing out of their cluttered bags.

I recognize that wrapper -- it's the same brand of nursing pad I use.

I imagine they are missing their children, too.

I'm sure they must be good parents.

I wonder about their science.

Now isn't that hypocritical of me?

The curtain still separates us -- I can't even see their shoes -- but I have so many questions.

Are they postdocs or grad students?

Have they been back from maternity leave for long?

Do they keep pictures of their babies up at work?

What daycare do they send their children to?

Do their babies sleep?

Do they bring work home with them?

So many topics for small talk, and yet the bigger question looms overhead. How do they do it? If they are here, pumping milk, they clearly have priorities at work and at home: how do they stay sane through it all?

Does it ever feel like too much?

Are they sure or do they doubt?

Who ARE these other women?

I wish I knew.

I wish I had an excuse to talk to them.

Wouldn't it be great if the time I waste in the pumping room were a social hour? This would be the ultimate in working-mom multi-tasking.

If only we could all manage not to stare at each other's nipples.

It's probably good there's a curtain.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy 6 month-day

Dear Jack,

You are six months old today. I can hardly believe it.

Six months is halfway to one year. Your dad and I are already talking about what we might do for your first birthday. I think the theme should be guitars, because you love music. Your dad is quite the rock and roll type, and all of our friends and family know it. You have so many guitar outfits, you wouldn't believe it. When you were just a tiny thing and your dad played the guitar for you, you would kick your feet and swing your arms as soon as he started strumming. Now, you watch his hands move back and forth in rapt attention. I think you are trying to figure out where the sound is coming from. We went over to a friend's apartment and you had a blast banging on the drums and the piano. You can hit your hand against something with a good rhythm already. In fact, we're all surprised that a little baby can keep such a good rhythm (I'm glad you got your dad's genes about that).

Guess what? You survived your first big snowstorm! We got 20 inches of snow and we kept you inside the whole time, boo! It was really cold, though, and it wouldn't have been much fun for any of us. Still, you liked looking out the windows. Everything must have looked so different to you after the storm. You also had your first Christmas and New Years. It was a big month.

Now that you are bigger, you can stay in a seated position without any support, and you can push up into a standing position if we hold you steady. It is all very exciting. Sometimes when you push up on your feet, you plant yourself very firmly and seem quite proud. You are so playful now, and really into toys. You like banging on things and making a lot of noise. You are very interested in everything, especially things that move or spin. You love to play peek-a-boo, and you like it best when we cover your whole face with a blanket. Sometimes you can`t stand waiting until the "boo!" part and you start giggling and moving your arms. We make lots of funny noises and faces for you, and you think this is the best. We think you are the best. Every once and a while, you hold out your arms to reach for one of us when we get near. This just melts my heart.

You've discovered a new favorite activity: bouncing. Sometimes you take this activity very seriously, and sometimes you just get all giggly. When our arms get tired from bouncing you on our laps, we put you in the doorway bouncer. You like to bounce in the evenings but not in the morning. You go crazy bouncing! Your little legs are so cute when you bounce, and you make such happy noises, I almost can't stand it. You and I play peek-a-boo around the corner while you bounce in the kitchen doorway. It is a lot of fun for everybody.

You are still teething and I think it bothers you a lot. Everything you can reach goes right into your mouth. You figured out how to get your thumb into your mouth, but you don't want to suck on your thumb... you want to gnaw on it. Speaking of your thumb, I cut it today when I was clipping your nails. I'm so, so sorry. It bled a ton and we were both very upset for a long time. It's a really bad cut and I feel awful. If you grow up and wonder why there's a significant chunk missing out of your right thumb, well... now you know.

You've discovered the full range of your voice! You squeal and whine and fuss and yell. You do a great Billy Idol impression, with one side of your mouth up high and the other low. You can blow raspberries, and sometimes when you get into the raspberry mood, you just don't stop. This is quite hysterical when it is the middle of the night and you are turning to look first at me and then at your dad, blowing raspberries. It never fails to make us laugh. You like putting your thumb in your mouth and puffing out your cheeks like a fish. You learned that your tongue can reach the roof of your mouth and sometimes you make little clicks as you're falling asleep. Your tongue moves all around and up and down and your lips make the strangest shapes. You can make so many sounds now! Every day, you are more expressive. I just love hearing you chat.

You've eaten quite a bit of food this month! You've had... carrots, and bananas, and avocado, and squash, and blueberries. We're doing a bit of smashed up food, but I'm not pushing it on you. You very much prefer feeding yourself. If I hold the spoon in front of you, you will grab onto it with your left hand and bring it to your mouth. Occasionally you'll get excited and want to eat more, but most of the time you just play. That's fine by me.

Don't worry. We don't ever let you sleep unsupervised in the Big Bed. In this particular moment, I was sitting up in bed while you took a nap, and I had to catch a picture

You've been sleeping so much better, I just can't believe it. You nap so well now -- you don't sleep for long, but you will fall asleep reliably. When you're alone, you like to sleep with your nose pressed firmly into the mattress of your crib. This scares the heck out of me, but it's how you always seem to settle yourself. You always wake up with a bright red streak on your nose from pushing it into the mattress. You don't like being alone at night, and so we bring you into The Big Bed. I usually sleep on my side and you sleep on your back without any problem. I curl my arm around you to keep you safe. My back and neck hurt from sleeping in such a funny position, but it's worth it, because every time I wake up to check on you, I can give you a kiss on the top of your head. I know that one day you will stop letting me give you so many kisses, so I figure I'd better get them all in now.

One of your favorite things to do when it is dark is to hold up your hand in front of your face, against the background of the ceiling. The shape of your hand is very clear was you wave it around, and you spend a long time inspecting your hand in this manner every morning. If your dad or I put either of our hands up next to yours, your face breaks out into a huge grin. You must think the difference in size is funny. This hand business is one of the cutest things I've seen you do. Hands aside, you are simply obsessed with shadows and shape. You attack the shadow on the wall every time we try to change your diaper, and you get really into the shadows in the bathtub, too You spend quite a bit of time in the car every day, driving to and from daycare, and you are so patient. You just look out the window and watch the trees and the powerlines go by. I think you must like the interesting shapes.

You are just the most playful, happy, smiley, beautiful baby. You have a great smile, Jack, and it never fails to cheer me up. Taking care of a baby can be difficult at times, because you need so much from us, but you always behave just as a Jack ought to behave: you want to play and be around people all the time. You are exactly like your dad in that way.

I love you so much, Jack. Don't grow too quickly.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Really, this is much more difficult than it looks

Yo, mom! I'm HUNGRY!

Oooh, I've never seen one of these things before

Hey this is kind of difficult

I got it!! I got it!!




I gotta try this again


It doesn't quite fit

OK there we go

Mmmm, it's sweet! I like sweet things! Yeah, I think this one's a go. Let's try it

Lady, don't even think about putting that spoon in my mouth

I can do it myself

Wait a second... this isn't sweet at all!

This is TART! I didn't know it was going to be tart!

I don't care if it came from a different kind of apple. I need a minute to consider the issue.

I think I'd like some more, please

Thanks, mom. Now somebody better clean this up, because I've got applesauce behind my ear

No, this will never get old. Didn't you know? Even Rocky had a montage.