Damn Itchy

At a week before the end of my leave from work, I thought I’d gotten into a good groove of things. Mastitis was seemingly at bay, I was getting back into sprinting and some easy jogging, and we had several good days in a row.

Alas, it was not meant to last. I suddenly developed some hive-like rashes that itched like all hell. They started out small, and I’ve had hives before, so I was not too concerned. However, they quickly expanded, and exploded out of my stretch marks in numerous, patchy, bumps. It was the worst itch I’d ever had, and I didn’t want to use anything that would interfere with breastfeeding.

I Googled these horrible bumps and it sounded and looked (Google images, shudder) exactly like PUPPS, which strangely typically occurs in women pregnant with boys, entails pretty much the worst imaginable itch (a woman on a forum said she’d rather experience labor 5 times over than deal with this again), and is only resolved with time. Just my luck. Not pregnant anymore, and had a girl, and breaking out in this horror less than a week before returning to work. I emailed my doc and she didn’t think it was PUPPS but suggested cortisone and making sure to wipe it off before feeding, along with a low dose of Benadryl.

I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to using medications, probably owing partly to the fact I’ve never been seriously ill, but I’ve gotten so much worse after having a kid. It’s worrisome to put random shit on my skin when I know she’s going to eat right off of it. I caved one night and used cortisone, making sure to wipe it off thoroughly in the morning before Little V ate, but I wasn’t too keen on it, so I started googling “home remedies” and “natural” ways of dealing with horrible rashes.

This led me to sending poor husband on a hunt for Witch Hazel (easy to find) and pine tar soap, which I had never heard of, and which was not readily available at Wal-Mart or any nearby pharmacy. After making some calls and consulting the internet, we discovered GNC carries it (how fortunate that we live close to a GNC store!) I scrubbed with pine tar soap, which smells like campfire, and then slathered myself with tons of coconut oil and globs of aloe, which I had previously purchased for making homemade charcoal masks.

The combination of these substances helped somewhat, and I’m crossing my fingers it clears up sufficiently before I go back to work. Please oh please…

Huggies Diapers Are The Worst

Huggies diapers are the fucking worst. Literally the worst. I make fun of Honest diapers for being all crunchy and organic but Huggies are so much worse. I do not know how they have managed to stay in business all these years. I know they have been around at least since my brother was a baby; how a  company that makes such incompetent diapers can be around for at least three decades is totally beyond me.

When she peed while sleeping next to me and it soaked through a receiving blanket and two towels? Huggies.

When she was sitting in my lap eating, gave a little poo and it shot out of the diaper, and got on my shirt, the bed, and the carpet? Huggies.

When a young guy was shopping for diapers for a baby shower in the baby section at Wal-Mart asked me my recommendations for diapers? I said not Huggies. Go for the Pampers.

You think you got me with those cute Winnie the Pooh designs? Get outta here!

 

When He’s Away

Earlier today, Husband left on a work trip to New York City for a few days, and it’s the first time he’ll be away overnight since Little V was born. We will both miss him.

When my husband is gone, there’s no one to make sure all the balcony sliding doors are closed and all the “rape doors” are locked.

The house is quiet and I notice sounds I don’t pay attention to when he’s here, like the sudden, unfamiliar hum of the neighbor’s air conditioning unit.

There’s no one to share a small bowl of cereal with before going to sleep, the bed feels too big, and the air seems cooler than usual.

I almost want to close the french doors in our bedroom because the lovely breeze that creeps in at night when he’s here feels like a lonely breath when he is gone.

We miss him already.

Dirty Hippie

I had visions of being a carefree glam-hippie mom, clad in boho skirts, big sun glasses, with a happy, naked baby in tow, whisking about braless in the warm glow of the California sun.

It has not quite worked out that way.

I wake up every morning harried and confused, wishing I had 4 hands instead of 2, a kangaroo pouch – or alternatively, and more realistically, some kind of mom utility belt to avoid three trips up and down the stairs to transport this mish mash of stuff – bottles, glasses, phone, baby, receiving blankets, ice packs, and pump accessories.

I have not worn any boho skirts in a couple of weeks, though I own many, because it has been an extremely hot October, and my body is doing something weird post-pregnancy, possibly because of breastfeeding. I used to be cold constantly; I was the person who turned her space heater on in the middle of July once the air conditioning started running in the office. People would start sweating when they entered my office; my boss regularly referred to my work space as a sauna.

Now, I am constantly hot: I sweat in my sleep the first two weeks after Little V was born. I first noticed it in the hospital, and it rather took me by surprise, especially since there is always a nice flow of air conditioning in the hospital. Literally, this night sweating thing has never happened to me unless it was over 90 degrees or I was seriously ill. However, even after that horribleness has ceased, I continue to run hot. Last weekend, I actually sweat a little bit walking around in 80 degree weather. I’m Asian. I don’t usually sweat noticeably unless it’s 90 degrees or I’m exercising, and this new phenomenon irritates me to no end. I pray it is not permanent.

I don’t tow her anywhere for long as of yet, because she is a fatty little baby, gaining a bit more than the normal 1 ounce a day, and while I have decent arm and upper body strength, I get uncomfortable after holding her for just five minutes. I also have not mastered use of the ring sling, so that baby-wearing thing isn’t working out for me yet. As soon as the doctor clears me, I’ve got to get back on those pushups and ab roller exercises.

As for going braless, I’ve got that part down, but not quite in the way I imagined. I got sick of fussing around with clasps, pads, and straps. I also read that milk stains can be hard to get out, and I don’t want to ruin any of my nice clothes. I have thus resorted to wearing shitty ass tank tops I bought from Walmart for $4, without a bra. If I drip milk, so be it, as long as it’s not getting on furniture or the floor.  If I end up with some amount of milk on me after the 8-10 feeding sessions a day anyway, so what’s the point? No one is going to shower or rinse 8-10 times a day.

I’ve also got the naked baby part down, even though people think it’s weird. As I write this, I’m about to take her to Daddy’s soccer game wearing only a diaper. It will get cold, but she has a really nice hot pink fleece blanket. In this stage of our lives, neither of us like clothes, and I am convinced clothing on babies in warm weather is more for other people than it is for the baby.

To my credit, I have not entirely abandoned my boundaries, and begrudgingly put on a bra when going out to meet with people, or attend doctor’s appointments. I also have not degenerated to the point where I neglect showers, although that would be quite in line with the hippie theme. Do I get a gold star for this?

Not Much Time Left

My return to work date is less than 2 weeks away, and I’m not sure how that happened. Two months sounds like a lot, but indeed, it is not at all when it comes to transitioning to life with a baby. Even at this point, I have not reached a comfortable or familiar pattern. I am constantly torn between wanting to do nothing and everything. After being on two courses of antibiotics, I’m really trying to take it easy, but it’s hard to know how. The more I do, the more overwhelmed I become, but the less I do, the more anxious I become about not doing anything. 

I fluctuate inexplicably between wanting some time to myself without a baby attached to my body for hours a day, and literally not wanting to go downstairs to play piano because I don’t want to be too far from Little V. It makes no fucking sense. Sometimes I crave social interaction, but then the problems and timing associated with feeding, pumping, and changing make me never want to leave the house. Or the bed, for that matter.

Another difficult thing I’ve had to grapple with is how many fuckups there are because I simply know nothing and am completely unprepared. Every time we think we’ve figured something out, it stops working after a couple of days (which apparently is an expected phenomenon). Every time I think I’ve taken all reasonable measures in furtherance of a mess-free feeding or pumping session, some minor disaster occurs and I end up covered in milk, or with a new batch of laundry to do. Every time I make what I believe to be a productive effort to bathe her, trim her nails, or clean up, it seems the effort is undone within a day (crazy how quickly those razor sharp nails grow – they are not kind when she decides to give my nipple a squeeze).

I started elimination communication training with great zeal, but after a week or so, it’s feeling like too much effort for too little gain. I also wonder whether I’m training her or she’s training me. I’ve tried to pay attention to her cues before she goes pee and poo, and don’t feel I’ve made much progress. Apparently, we are both failing at training each other. I know it’s borderline ridiculous to have such expectations at 6 weeks anyway, but I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother at an (in?)opportune time, which has inspired me, but also created a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me not to be lazy about being a parent, especially when I am not working. If I let things slide now, just how indolent will I be when I go back to work in 2 weeks?

As I finished the paragraph above, Little V gave some grunting cues indicating she wanted to poo. I figured I’d finish just the last two sentences, but in the 2 minutes it took me to do so, she had pooped and I missed the opportunity for potty training. Tiger mom would be tsking me.

Husband and I discussed working from home one day a week, but at 2 weeks out from my return to work date, I have not raised this with my boss yet. I’m going to have to bring this up within the next couple of days and I’m not real keen on having this conversation, mostly because I’m quite sure how to approach it. Instead, I’ve asked the office to throw me some work so I can get back into the swing of things, and prove by my actions that I’m fairly efficient and reliable when working from home.

The good part is I am indeed reliable and efficient. The bad part is then I don’t feel I am making the most of maternity leave. Rather than starting the day slowly, listening to some music, reading to Little V, blogging, and practicing a little elimination communication, I set up my laptop work station, put her in a rocker, and plow away at research and memos while peeking on her every once in a while. I’ve tried to type one-handed while feeding her, but that was excruciatingly inefficient.

I have no idea how I am going to return to work in a functional manner, given the current circumstances. I’m sure this is no news to veteran moms, but our morning routine is an unexpectedly time-consuming process alone. Feeding and pumping takes about an hour, and even though I can get myself ready in 15 minutes, I figure even if I skip breakfast, I still have to wake up at an ungodly hour to be able to take her to daycare and arrive at work on time. And I might add that when it comes to babies, she seems relatively easy: she sleeps through noise, she sleeps in long stretches at night, and she does not cry much.

I am constantly wondering how this will all work out logistically. I feel pained at the idea of sending her to daycare already, even though I have an ideal situation when it comes to daycare – she will be taken care of by family. Given my highly fortunate and favorable circumstances, I question how any other mother, perhaps with fussier babies, no family nearby, ever make it out alive.

Hello, World

Hello, world.

My name is Vale. I am a few days past five weeks old. Like all babies, I eat, poop, and sleep a lot. These constitute my primary activities in any given 24-hour period. I am a serious baby and frequently have contemplative expressions on my face, or look at people out of the corner of my eyes suspiciously. I don’t smile much, I frown a lot, and occasionally I am prone to a smirk here and there. I will probably be sarcastic as an adult.

I laugh and smile in my sleep, and also coo and make grunting noises. I rarely cry for unexplained reasons, and have never wailed for any extended period of time. When I do cry heartily, Mom calls me “ugly fetus face” because my whole face scrunches up into a big mess of wrinkles. I sleep through extremely loud noises and social gatherings, and have been sleeping in 5-6 hour stretches already. Mom and Dad (perhaps too optimistically) hope this will continue.

I don’t mind baths too much. The first time I was plopped in a tub, I thought I was going to cry, but then decided it was not so bad. I don’t like clothing, and spend most of my days just wearing a diaper. Mom takes me out in public like so and sometimes people say, “Ooh, a naked baby!” I guess other babies usually wear clothes. I like to cuddle with Daddy the most. I love to eat. Eating is great. I could…I mean I do do it all day and night.

Mom makes me listen to Arcade Fire, Billie Holiday, Elliot Smith, and other hippie crap during the day. We go for walks sometimes with grandpa, because I am supposed to get some sun every day, but I hate having sun in my eyes. Mom is training me to pee and poo on cue to eventually stop relying on diapers. Mom and Dad started this process by doing a whistle every time they change my diaper. The whistle is Rue’s whistle from the Hunger Games. Don’t ask me how they decided on that one; my parents are weird.

I have two cat sisters who do not pay me much mind. I think they resent me, but they are not particularly unfriendly. They always like to be close by to Mom and Dad, even if I’m around. Sometimes I disrupt their slumber at night and they grow irritated and leave the bed. Fiona steps on me when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe one day we will get along better.

Mom

She wakes in the morning wishing she had as many arms as Kali

The hours and days blur and in the middle of the night

The rays of the cheap LED nightlight illuminate the sparkles of her ring and she feels lucid again for a few seconds

Puke

In February of 2012, I took a 72 hour trip to Taipei (including the approximately 26 hours of flying) to attend my cousin’s funeral after her unexpected death. Of the dozen or so times I’d been to Taipei, this was the first time I was going in the wintertime. Coincidentally, Little V’s name constitutes the first four letters of my cousin’s name; I did not realize this until she was born and an old friend pointed it out to me. That’s what childhood friends are for; they remember details, facts, and stories about yourself, your family, your friends, and are able to have insights and see connections where others may not.

Surprisingly, EVA tickets were cheaper than China Airlines, and I took a window spot on a forest-green colored seat next to a three-year-old child and her mother. Throughout the flight, the three-year-old girl was quiet, pleasant, and drank from a bottle. About 5 hours into the flight, she projectile vomited all the milk in an impressive spray, all over the seats (fortunately missing me), and her mother literally tried to catch her puke in her cupped hands as she frantically called for assistance from a flight attendant.

Of course, the EVA attendant was gracious and helpful; she brought towels and changed out the puke seats (it had not occurred to me that airlines keep extra seat cushions around for such occasions). My feeling at the time was simultaneously of horror and humor. I horrified because it was gross and I felt terrible for the mother, but part of me also wanted to laugh (a little) at the unfortunate occurrence.

Five and a half years later, now that I am a mother myself, and am pretty much constantly wiping and cleaning spit-up and puke, and frequently getting spit-up all over my body, my clothes, my sheets, and my furniture, the EVA air experience in retrospect seems a little less funny, and also a little less gross.

Little V Is One Month Old

October just arrived and I took some one month photos of Little V. She was a little fussy about it, but complied after a change and two feedings. I had fun with some cat ears a dear friend sent along for Little V, as well as a skull I bought from a bone church in the Czech Republic. Here comes the Halloween season!

As I write this, we are having another typical day. I read poetry from the Tang Dynasty to her, did some tummy time, and we are listening to music again. Dear God…Did you make disease and the diamond blue? Did you make mankind after we made you? And the Devil too! Followed by something a little lighter, Bebel Gilberto’s version of Girl From Ipanema. 

Ah, por que estou tão sózinho?
Ah, por que tudo é tão triste?
Ah, a beleza que existe
A beleza que não é só minha
Que também passa sozinha

This week, Little V’s neck strength improved significantly, and we were able to take her out to exercise on steep hills in the neighborhood in her jogger without her head constantly flopping forward. It feels like this happened overnight; half a week ago, I aborted the workout because I constantly had to adjust her head while walking up the hill.

We took her to a few social outings, including to the park to meet some friends (she slept through the whole thing), and to grandma and grandpa’s house to hang out with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. She has continued to do tummy time at home with grandpa, and was a bit of a showoff with her bottle skills when friends came to visit over the weekend. Apparently, she likes needs an audience to prove her competence.

Little V also went to the beach for the first time on a clear, bright, Monday, with mom, dad, and grandpa. She experienced southern California beach life on a week day morning – not a soul about (not even a surfer) except for us and a couple of dudes who were likely non compos mentis, yelling at seagulls and ranting nonsense to each other.

Enjoying The Arts With Little V

This week, Little V danced to I Love You For Sentimental Reasons by Nat King Cole, a song I’ve loved since I was a child, and once performed at a close friend’s wedding. We breastfed to Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Nothing Better by the Postal Service. Afterwards, I burped her for a little while to the rhythm of a Strfker song on her back. As I am writing this, we are chilling out to Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley and Sprawl II by Arcade Fire, followed by Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead.

I also read Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty to her when doing tummy time, and sometimes follow it up by playing Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu and Etude Opus 10 No. 3, and Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. My favorite is Waldstein, but I’ve let that lapse; it required quite a bit more upkeep than Pathetique. I’m just prepping her for her inevitable future in which she will likely play the piano (and/or cello or violin), and definitely memorize Chinese poetry.

At night, when daddy comes home, we’ve been reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother together and having a good laugh, though she might not find it as entertaining or funny as we do. I can only hope she will one day love reading as much as I do. Indeed, I’ve taken the hours spent late-night breastfeeding to do some reading. I’ve finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; and am currently reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.