Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

You're only getting a picture of the baby this year, since Alex was very obstinate and refused to wear a costume. Mike and I went to a costume party last weekend and dressed up as pirates, but alas, there is no photographic evidence. Just know that I look unbelievably hot in an eye patch (and that wasn't even part of the costume!).

Yo ho ho.


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The Adventures of Lion and Nip

So I'm thinking that the last book in the series will be titled Nip Goes to Live on a Beautiful Farm in the Country, and the cover will show the giant breast collarless and leashless and being tossed unceremoniously from the window of a speeding car. Closer inspection will reveal that Nip has thrush AND mastitis AND nipple trauma and is looking a little fat for her pants. Really, it is Nip's time to go live in the country. Also, Lion is twelve years old and enough already.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

New children's book idea

I'm thinking about writing a new children's series about a beautiful baby boy and his best pal, Nip. You might think that Nip is a dog, but you would be wrong! The first book will be called My Friend Nip and the cover will feature a giant breast sporting a leash and collar.

I briefly considered creating this cover in Fireworks, but I figured you all have plenty of imagination.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chub-Chub

The post title is the latest of many nicknames I've bestowed upon Lion, even though he's not an especially chubby baby (I think he might end up being long and lean like his dad). But he has some chub on his cheeks and chin, and I love to plant them with copious amounts of kisses and coo, "My little chub-chub! Hi, chub-chub! I love my little chub-chub! May I kiss my chub-chub? MWAH! I'm going to eat my chub-chub for my breakfast; yes I am!"

Okay, you can go ahead and throw up now. But I cannot be held responsible for my sickening baby babble- it takes over my brain. When Lion is napping I read the dictionary just to balance things out.

He's been smiling and babbling a lot lately, and he also recognizes Mike and I and lights up when he sees us. This doesn't sound like much, but these small rewards can feel exhilirating. He's no longer a floppy newborn who does little more than eat, poop, and sleep-- he spends more and more time awake and alert, and I can practically hear his brain buzzing as he takes in the world around him.

One night the Lion slept for six hours straight. When I woke up and realized how long it had been, I flew to his room in a panic and woke him up to make sure he was okay. He was fine, just righteously pissed that I had disturbed his slumber. I will definitely not make that mistake again.

I took him to work on Friday afternoon to meet all of my co-workers and he was a hit. He was nice and quiet while we were in the library (what a good library baby!). Everyone exclaimed over his long fingers and his deep blue eyes and his reddish-blond hair and held him and rocked him for two hours, and it was great. But I couldn't wait to get home and have him all to myself again.

He'll be 8 weeks old on Wednesday, and I go back to work the week after Thanksgiving. I've still got a job share lined up, so long as our tanking economy doesn't interfere with our plans. It's possible that my part-time arrangement will make my entire position vulnerable, in which case my boss may tell me that the offer is off the table. I know they can't afford to lose it. At the very least, a hiring freeze means that it will be a while before my library will be able able to hire someone to work the other 20 hours of my position, which means we'll be short-staffed even after I return from maternity leave.

I feel a little bad about that, but I don't feel too bad.

There's also a good possibility that Mike's work contract could get cut from 12 months to nine. This would significantly reduce his income just as mine is being cut in half.

I look around me and feel a certain amount of rage at those who have created this mess. We've been careful. We've never lived above our means. We've planned and saved and worked hard to create what we feel is the best arrangement for our family.

Twelve weeks of unpaid maternity leave and a part-time schedule after that is not too much to ask.

And yet.

I'm certainly not going back full-time unless I have to. If I have to, I will do it and be thankful that I have a job.

But while I love my job, I love a certain little chub-chub even more.



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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breastfeeding: Let me count the ways

Disclaimer: this post is not meant to scare you or deter you from breastfeeding. It's simply an honest account of my own experience thus far.

Let's consult some of my breastfeeding books to consider a few of the challenges some women may face while breastfeeding.


Engorgement

Check. I got painfully, horrifically engorged when my milk came in during my second night in the hospital. Panicked, I called my nurse, who took one look at me and then RAN from the room to get me a pump. Mind you, I had a generous rack before becoming pregnant, and it became more generous during pregnancy. When the milk came in, my cups didn't runneth over- they were too rock-hard for that. They just hung there like boulders.

Anyhow, I didn't sleep at all that last night in the hospital, between pumping for dear life and trying to get my baby latched on every two to three hours. By the next morning I had at least 25 ounces of milk pumped and I was sobbing uncontrollably for the lactation consultant. I was told that she knew I was in dire need of help and that she was on her way. When she still hadn't arrived after two hours, Mike went upstairs and found a different lactation consultant who wasn't supposed to round on my floor, but came immediately. I think the words "boulders" and "hysterical" were used.

When we left the hospital, I didn't have a bra or a regular shirt that fit. I was wheeled out wearing a stretched-out tank top and sweatpants and looking like death warmed over. Out front, I was parked next to two other new moms who were wearing cute, coordiated outfits and looked like they'd hired professionals to do their hair and makeup. I sat there, gingerly holding the baby and trying not to move, blinking stupidly in the sunlight and wanting to ask them how they'd managed to look so good.

At home, it took lots of cabbage, cold compresses, and pumping n' nursing to make it through the next three days. But make it I did! And I was proud of myself for sticking it out! And then came the


Nipple Trauma

The second week home, I developed cracked, bleeding nipples. For a while I was able grit my teeth and nurse through the pain, but eventually I broke down and went to see yet another lactation consultant. It was enormously helpful and well worth the money, and I felt really optimistic about breastfeeding. However, that was before I got the



Yeast Infection

No sign of thrush in Lion's mouth, but the midwife took one look at my boob and was positive that it was a yeast infection. This meant a prescription for me and a call to the pediatrician so I could also get one for the baby. After a few days, things were looking up! I was able to stop pumping that side and latch the baby on, and it was good! That is, it was good until I got a visit from my old friend


Engorgement

It was not nearly as bad as what I experienced when my milk came in, but nonetheless, the breasts randomly got really full and hard and for a couple of days it was hard for Lion to latch on. Instead of pumping a bit prior to nursing (to soften the area and make it easier to get a good latch), I just grimaced and let Lion chow down. This was really stupid of me, and I would live to regret it when I saw the return of the


Nipple Trauma

More bleeding, more pain. I nursed when I could and pumped when I couldn't bear it. Finally, they healed yet again. Cats may have nine lives, but my breasts apparently have fifty.

All was well until I got


Mastitis

I knew it was mastitis when I went to nurse Lion and suddenly thrust him at Mike, saying, "Ow, ow, owwwwww." Within minutes I was shivering under five blankets and I couldn't get warm. My skin hurt, my muscles ached, and Mike had to take emergency leave the next morning because I could hardly lift the baby without weeping. For the second time, I found myself sitting on an exam table and gingerly peeling the nursing pad away from my gimpy breast as a midwife clucked sympathetically.

The dramz! The dramz never ends in this house!


Or maybe it does?

Knock wood, I've recovered from the mastitis and so far have not experienced any other issues, other than some relatively minor pain at the beginning of our nursing sessions. Of course, it's barely been a week, but I'm feeling optimistic. Again! I guess I just have a lot of


Determination

While the pain and frustration of breastfeeding has sometimes made natural childbirth seem like a walk in the park, I have not quit. Not that I would blame anyone else for quitting, for any of these reasons or for none at all. I'm not a martyr or a masochist; I just don't believe that I can't be successful at this. It's natural, for godssakes! Wild animals birth their young in the bushes and feed them just fine without ever having to apply lanolin to their nipples or pay lactation consultants $85 per hour or use nursing stools or nipple shields or double electric breast pumps.

I know that it's not this difficult for everyone. I think it's important for moms who are considering breastfeeding to know that there are many women who never suffer even a single sore nipple. And man, I wish I were one of them, but I'm not.

But I'll go ahead and put the Victories label on this post. I'm persevering, my son is healthy and thriving, and life is good.

Life is really good.


Cheeky onesie a gift from Babelbabe.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My skin hurts

The next event in the Breastfeeding Challenge 2008?

Mastitis.

Keep your fingers crossed that I'm feeling better before approximately 50,000 relatives descend upon us this weekend for Lion's baptism. Somehow I imagine the Catholic church will frown upon me walking around the church topless and moaning.

Especially since I'm not Catholic.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

God, what will I do when he goes away to college?

There's a school bus stop right across the street from our house. I've seen many parents weeping there on the first day of school as the bus drives off with the newly-minted kindergarteners.
"That's sweet," I've always thought. Still, how emotional should one become over this milestone? After all, all children must eventually go to school.
Just as all children must eventually sleep by themselves.
After Lion was born, he roomed in with me at the hospital, sleeping right beside my bed or in my arms at all times. After we came home, he spent his nights within arm's reach, sleeping swaddled and peaceful in the bassinet of my own babyhood.
But recently my sleep had been routinely interrupted by the sounds of grunts and wiggles as the baby struggled to free himself from the carefully-wrapped receiving blanket. Or I'd peer in and see him puddled at the bottom of the bassinet, his feet kicking against the padded frame as he slept. One night we tried putting him down unswaddled, but his little arms flailed and hit the sides, waking all of us.
"He takes up a lot more room in there than he used to," Mike mused.
Reluctantly, I agreed. Suddenly our tiny baby was too big for the bassinet.
Last night we finally worked up the courage to put him to sleep in his crib, in his own room. We dressed him in a little nightgown and socks so his legs and feet wouldn't get cold. We cleared the crib of every superfluous blanket and toy and potential suffocation hazzard. We carefully positioned the baby monitor next to the crib, testing it several times to be sure we could hear any alarming noises.
"Gah!" Mike said softly, leaning down by the crib.
"I heard it!" I called from our bedroom.
Next I took a picture of him in the crib, already asleep and oblivious to the flash.
Lastly, I cried.
And you know what? Those four hours he slept before the night feeding were the best sleep I've had in weeks.
Still, I'm glad he's too little for kindergarten. I don't think my heart could stand it.


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Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Friday

(click to enlarge)

His daddy rocks
(mom's not so bad, either)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Birth Story, Part Four



(Part One)
(Part Two)
(Part Three)


Margie was up in there for what seemed like forever. The baby’s head was so low and tight against the bag that it was difficult for her to tell if she had broken the membranes, and she was afraid of hurting him (when Lion was born, he did have a few small lacerations on his scalp from the amnihook, but they healed just fine). It took a few minutes, but eventually the fluid began to leak out of me. I had to announce this to the people in the room when this happened, as I was once again sitting on the bed with Mike pulling on my arms and Cathy massaging my back.

“I’m leaking!” I told them. They helped me stand up so they could replace the Chux pad. Unfortunately, Margie saw that the fluid was stained with meconium, which means that the baby had already had his first bowel movement in the womb. This isn’t great news to hear during labor, since there is a risk that the baby could aspirate the dirty fluid as he takes his first breaths. I heard Margie saying that she was going to call the neonatologist.

I’m not sure how long I continued to labor after Margie broke my bag of waters. An hour, maybe? I can’t even tell you if it made the contractions worse, because I felt like I was in another world, becoming less aware of what was happening to me and around me.

When Margie came to check me again, she said that I was eight to nine centimeters dilated.

I moaned and covered my face with my hands. I felt like I would be at eight centimeters forever! Margie spoke with the nurse, then said she wanted me to try a few pushes during the next contraction while she put pressure on my cervix, to see if we could get me to ten centimeters.

I hadn’t wanted to push until I had a natural urge, but I was so tired that I agreed. Later I found out that Margie and the nurses were seeing much thicker meconium in the fluid that was still leaking out of me- it was no longer just staining. I was vaguely aware of an increased sense of urgency in the room, but I was too out of it to understand exactly what was happening.

When I felt the next contraction coming, I told Margie and she told me to push. I pushed through the next couple of contractions while she put pressure on my cervix.

"It's working!" she told me.

Then Margie had to leave the room to catch the baby across the hall, and the nurse said they needed to hook me up to the external fetal monitor. She had me lying flat on my back while the monitor was on, which was the worst possible position for me- the pain was excruciating. Cathy and Mike helped me struggle to my feet and I told them I needed to push, but I didn’t want to be on my back.

Cathy pushed some buttons on the bed so that it was transformed into a giant chair. I kneeled on the lowest part and leaned forward on the “seat,” sort of like I’d been doing on the stairs at home.

A contraction came, and I pushed.

I’ll just put it out there, even if it’s TMI, since I know lots of women worry about pooping during birth. Yes, I did poop while I was pushing. And yes, I was aware that it was happening, and no, I didn’t care. I’d read that so many women are afraid having a bowel movement during birth that they don’t push effectively, so I made up my mind that I would push as well as I could, no matter what. And so I did.

But suddenly the nurse was grabbing my arm and telling me that I need to lie down on the bed. Later I found out that the baby’s heart rate was dipping crazily each time I pushed in that position. I begged her to let me try another position.

“It hurts too much to be on my back," I panted. "I want the bar!" We’d been told that there was a bar that can be attached to the end of the bed, so you can hang onto it and squat.

“There’s no bar,” the nurse said firmly. “It is protocol that you must lie down in the bed!”

“There is a bar that can be attached to the end of the bed!” I heard Mike arguing with her as I writhed on the bed. He knew I’d planned to use it, and he was advocating for me. “We were told that she could have it! We were told she could push in any position she wanted!”

I was furious at the nurse, because I knew what I had been told and I knew she was wrong. But again, I wasn’t aware of everything that was happening. Cathy later told me that they were clearly worried about the increased meconuim in the fluid and the baby’s decreased heart rate. My mom said that the nurse seemed scared.

“Never mind- you’ve got two strong people here who can help you squat,” Cathy told me. “You put your right arm around me and your left arm around Mike, and we’ll hold you up.”

We started to get into position, but then Margie came back from catching the baby across the hall. There was a flurry of activity and I saw supplies being brought to the foot of the bed, the neonatologist arrived, and Margie donned a pair of gloves.

“We need to check and see what’s happening,” she told me. “You’re doing great. We’re all so proud of you!”

And suddenly I was flat on my back, in exactly the position I hadn’t wanted, and Margie was encouraging me to push with the next contraction.

This is not what I wanted, I remember thinking, blinking back tears, but the reality that the baby's health was at risk was sinking in.

“Liz, listen to me. You need to push your baby out,” Margie told me, looking me in the eye. “It's time. You can do it!”

I looked over and saw my mom holding up the laminated 3D ultrasound picture of the baby that we’d brought to use as a focal point. I stared at his little face. Help him, I told myself.

Mike held my left leg, Cathy my right. As the next contraction built, I took a deep breath and pushed.

“Curl around your baby, Liz.” Cathy told me. I tucked my chin to my chest and brought my upper body forward as I pushed again.

“Give me one more!” Margie kept saying. "You're strong, you can do it!"

Later I found out that this was the point at which Mike’s mom looked down and realized that the cup of ice chips she’d been feeding me had melted into water. Wide-eyed, she looked over at Mike, then down at me.

“I’m out of ice chips!” she whispered. Clearly she didn’t want to miss seeing the baby come out.

“Then you’d better run!” Mike told her. She flew from the room and returned quickly with two cups of ice, which I crunched during the short time between contractions. I have sensitive teeth and have never been able to stand anything cold touching them, but that night I didn’t feel a thing. I was parched and the ice tasted like the best thing ever.

“You’re bringing your baby into the world!" Margie told me. “Here's his head!”

“I can see it!” Mike said, squeezing my hand and shaking with excitement. “You’re doing it! You’re doing it!”

“I want to see!” I panted. “Can I have a mirror?”

Margie called for one of the nurses to bring a mirror, and she wheeled it in. I could see a little bit of the baby’s head. It was amazing.

“Push!” everyone urged.

It’s hard to describe what pushing felt like. It didn’t hurt, but it didn't feel great, the way I’d heard some women describe it. It was just really hard work. I would bear down as hard as I could, and then somehow find that I could push just a bit beyond that. When I did that, Margie would cheer and praise me. I was sweating like crazy and Mike’s mom was aiming our little personal electric fan at my face. The cool breeze felt great, and between contractions I heard Margie and the nurses marveling over the tiny fan.

“What a great idea!” she said. “Where did you get that?”

“Target,” Mike told her.

Are we really discussing Target while I’m giving birth? I wondered. It was surreal.

The neonatologist had been sitting on the couch, but now he quickly made his way over to the bed and started to get ready.

“Liz, listen to me,” Margie instructed. “When the baby’s head comes out, I’m going to tell you to stop pushing. The neonatologist needs to take care of the baby to make sure the meconium is cleared from his nose and throat before he breathes, okay?”

“Okay,” I panted.

With a couple more pushes, I felt a pop! and immense relief and I heard my mom crying. “His head is out!” Mike said, squeezing my hand. “Oh my god, look at him!”

“Don’t push!” Margie called. I saw the neonatologist working quickly.

“The head is the hardest part, right?” I gasped. “The pushing will be easier now?”

“Right,” Margie and Cathy said. “You’re almost there!”

My mom told me later that she was thinking no, the shoulders are the hardest part because they’re the widest part of the baby, but she kept quiet. I disagree with her, though. It felt like it took much more work to get the head out- the rest was easy in comparison.

The neonatologist gave the all-clear and with everyone cheering me on through a few more pushes, my son slid out of me. Mike and I were crying and so were our moms. Margie called for Mike to come quickly and cut the umbilical cord, and then a nurse whisked the baby to the table so the neonatologist could tend to him. I saw him putting tubes in Lion’s nose and I kept asking, “Is he okay? Is he okay?”

“He’s okay!” the neonatologist called to me. “He came out like a lion!”

We heard the baby wail and it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. "Thank you," I breathed. I thanked everyone in the room over and over again. I was riding a wave of euphoria and couldn't stop shaking and crying and laughing.

“Oh my god!” I cried. “I did it!”

The neonatologist called over that Lion’s Apgar scores were 8 and then 10. He cried while the neonatologist was putting the tubes in his nose, but then he lay there, looking curiously around the room. We asked the nurses to delay the eye drops for as long as possible. I could see his face in the bassinet and his eyes were huge and alert.

“Is he okay? Is he okay?” I couldn’t stop asking.

“He’s perfect,” the neonatologist told me, as a nurse finally, finally placed my baby on my chest so I could hold him and nurse him.

“I know you,” I breathed. He grabbed my finger and looked up at me, a sweet, peaceful expression on his face. His eyes looked exactly like Mike's.

It was 3:30 a.m. on September 3, 2008. It was the best day of my life.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Success

Dudes, it's 11:30 and guess what I've done so far? Nursed the Lion twice, napped, administered medications, changed three diapers, brushed my teeth and got dressed, went for a 45 minute walk with the baby and the dog, stretched, showered, moisturized, checked my email, and made egg salad for lunch.

I fully expect Lion to start squawking for his lunch at any moment, but if I don't accomplish another blessed thing today, I won't care in the least.

Want to come over for egg salad? I mean, carpe diem, people. I'm smelling good today.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Going Nuts

So maybe I'm giving too much credit to a fairly stupid animal, but I swear that a squirrel is playing head games with my dog. He's been stalking our house for three days now, and his favorite move is to jump up on the railing of the front steps, in EXACTLY the spot he needs to be for my dog to see him through the window, and then proceeds to screech wildly and whip his tail in frenzied circles.

This drives Alex to spinning in frenzied circles and growling very menacingly, and if I were a squirrel I'd probably be frightened, though somehow I suspect that this squirrel understands the concept of windows as barriers and knows the dog can't get to him. Of course, this usually happens at the exact moment that I'm trying to create a peaceful nursing environment in the living room.

This happened again just a few minutes ago, except this time the squirrel upped the ante by taunting Alex while he had a huge nut stuffed in his mouth, as if to say, Ha ha ha, don't you wish YOU had a nut, too?

And Alex stared sadly out the window as though remembering that he used to have two nuts, actually, until his mean owners told the vet to cut them off.

And how are you today? Tell me you've brushed your teeth and I'll be totally jealous.
What? You brushed your hair, too? Calm down, you OVERACHIEVER- it's only 11:30 in the afternoon!



Onesie courtesy of Babelbabe. ;)

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