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.

Three Weeks In…

The hard part about all of this is, you think you notice a pattern, and then baby switches it up on you. She’ll sleep through diaper changes one day (awesome!), then scream through them the next (damn!). For a couple of days, she was nursing for about 20 minutes on each boob, then 2 days later was doing 10-minute spurts. She certainly is keeping us on our toes, and it’s a constant learning process to say the least.

I’ve started walking the hill regularly and working squats back into the exercise routine. I lost about 9 pounds after giving birth, and weighed about 132 pounds in the first couple days after returning home from the hospital. I’ve been eating normally and lost another 7 pounds over the next 3 weeks. 16 down, 14 more to go. Yet, all the weight loss in the world won’t do anything for my angry stretch marks, which are worse on my left side because Little V threw most of her weight on that side when I was pregnant. It’s amazing how they seemingly developed overnight. I had not a single stretch mark up to week 38; they seemingly appeared out of nowhere and then exploded with the fury of a thousand suns.

I started this post a week ago, and I write this now, I realize stretch marks were the least of my problems. Late last week, I developed mastitis, and had all kinds of horrible symptoms like terrible breast pain, body aches, chills, hot flashes, and a low-grade fever. I’ve never received a flu shot because I honestly cannot remember the last time I had the flu, and this experience confirmed my decisions. They say mastitis causes flu-like symptoms, and I felt weak and horrible in a way that felt quite unfamiliar. I was like oh shit, is this what the flu feels like? What the fuck. All I wanted to do was pound ibuprofen and sleep, but Little V wanted to feed nonstop from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. that night and I definitely cried.

Fortunately, antibiotics acted quickly. I took the first dose at 9:00 p.m. and felt better by Saturday morning. Just in time for an old friend’s wedding reception/anniversary party. This is a friend with whom I’ve made trouble since sophomore year of college, and I had been looking forward to this celebration for some time. The event was held at Syrah, where I had spent many a drunken night, e.g. Halloween, New Years Eve, birthdays, and plenty of times for no particular reason, including one night during law school when I took too many tequila shots and fell asleep briefly in the adjoining parking lot at the end of the night.

In what seemed like a wonderful alignment of lucky stars and good teamwork, my dad was able to watch Little V at a friend’s hotel room only 2 minutes walking distance away from the party venue, Little V caught onto bottle feeding after having been introduced to it just 2 days prior, I felt much better, and we were able to make an appearance and celebrate. I fed her in our friend’s hotel room right before we left, and Husband left the reception an hour in to bottle feed her. All in all, it was a highly successful evening.

Nightmares and Paranoia

I think it’s universal that all parents at some point obsess over their newborn’s breathing in the middle of the night to make sure they are not dead. I only engaged in this behavior briefly the first couple of nights. However, Little V has a habit of wheezing sometimes in her sleep, which is yet another cause for paranoia. Is her swaddle too tight? Is she sick? Is enough oxygen getting to her brain? SIDS?! Aghhhhh…

Every time she does something weird or makes strange noises, I Google it. I’m less than two weeks into this parenting thing and I truly do not know how new parents ever survived without the internet, psychologically, or otherwise.

It turns out newborns have some pretty seemingly erratic breathing patterns that are totally normal, and there are just a handful of concerning indicators of respiratory distress to watch for. However, the other night, while sleeping, Little V started to exhibit what we thought was retraction, which led me to call the Pediatrician’s after-hours line.

The intake person who took the call asked whether Little V was “responsive” which was a confusing question. Newborns sleep like 18 hours a day. Little V sleeps through piano playing, loud noises, and even diaper changes changes – what level of “unresponsiveness” is really a problem?! The intake person tried to clarify the question by asking whether we were able to “keep her awake” which was just as confusing because we had not woken her up yet, much less “kept” her awake.

We poked Little V and dripped some water on her, which caused her to squirm and flail, though she did not open her eyes. I advised the intake individual Baby V was responding to external stimuli but not opening her eyes. At this point, the intake person said to call 911 if she could not be “kept awake.” I seriously panicked and we decided to get a bit more aggressive about waking her up. We tickled, poked, and pinched her until she made horrible faces, started bawling, and we felt relieved but also wretchedly guilty.

I did not have the vivid, horrible dreams some people have during pregnancy, but I’m making up for it now! I rarely remember my dreams, but in the last week I’ve had a few horrible paranoid dreams about miscarriage and birth defects. I dreamed I ran into my best friend from middle school, who recently gave birth to a baby with a beak instead of a mouth; he also had a foot growing out of the inside of its beak. The foot coming out of the mouth reminded me of the conjoined fetus nurse character from South Park though there was absolutely nothing comedic about the scenario when I was actually dreaming it.

I am a responsible person, but have virtually no experience with babies. I rarely held anyone else’s babies before I was pregnant because I was always afraid of dropping or hurting them and will not offer to hold any children unless specifically requested. My parents never made me change my brother’s diaper when he was a baby (so spoiled). Thus, I made it to the age of 32 with no working knowledge or practical skills in this department. Sometimes I wonder how it is that they let me walk out of a hospital with something as vulnerable as an infant. With all the classes I took during pregnancy, and some instruction from nurses and lactation consultants, I am catching up though, and I dare say it’s been a fun learning process so far.

Week 37

Things are escalating quickly. I am waking up 3 times a night to pee (ugh – for about a week now) and Fetus’s movements continue to feel like she’s rearranging my organs, or worse, kicking my spine from time to time. I beg to differ with whoever claims babies move less at this point because they have less space! She has plenty of space and is having a great time in there. It’s like the alien movies where someone’s body has been invaded by an alien and it starts trying to break out of their abdomen and you can see it wriggling and moving and poking underneath the skin.

I’m done with all the reading I intended to do (including Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, heh) and we also finished infant care and breastfeeding classes.  We took a CPR class over the weekend, which is the last thing on the schedule. I sort of feel like I’m cramming for finals here. A lot of the information is not at all intuitive and it’s a marvel what kind of education and learning is required when it seems most other animals can figure all this stuff out by instinct.

Still continuing to exercise:

Monday:  I walked the hill by our old house twice, but had to pee like crazy the entire time. This is not a long exercise, and I went to the bathroom right before we left the house!

Wednesday: Walked the stairs at the beach 5x, did 3 sets of 24 lunges, and a couple of wall sits. My knees are irritated at me so I might cool it on the squats for a little bit.

Thursday: Prenatal Yoga

Saturday: Yoga at home

Sunday: Walked the hill and did three sets of squat jumps.

Preggo Book Review

Expecting Better by Emily  Oster

This was the first pregnancy-related book I read. My husband picked it, and I loved it (not pictured above because he bought it for us in Kindle form). Emily Oster, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, describes her motivation in writing this book:

“When I got pregnant, I pretty quickly learned that there is a lot of information out there about pregnancy, and a lot of recommendations. But neither the information nor the recommendations were all good. The information was of varying quality, and the recommendations were often contradictory and occasionally infuriating. In the end, in an effort to get to the good information… I tackled the problem as I would any other, with economics…”

Faced with numerous studies on what to/not to do, drink, and eat during pregnancy, some of which seemed questionable or unduly restrictive, she decided to pore through the medical literature herself and undertake statistical analyses on a variety of studies. Her analyses included reviewing study reliability, sample size of subjects, and actual risks pertaining to everything from gardening, litter box cleaning, eating sushi, eating deli meats, drinking alcohol, sleeping positions, and weight gain, to c-sections, epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, and beyond. Her goal was to paint a better picture of actual risks, advantages, and disadvantages, so women can make informed decisions, rather than subject themselves to discomfort and displeasure for 9 months based on faulty science and/or over-restrictive recommendations based on fear-mongering.

She wrote the book to provide women a better source of information to be able to reach informed decisions as an individual, and likened this approach to her teaching philosophy:

“…making good decisions – in business, and in life – requires two things. First, they need all the information about the decision – they need the right data. Second they need to think about the right way to weigh the pluses and minuses of the decision… The key is that even with the same data, this second part – this weighing of the pluses and minuses – may result in different decisions for different people.”

Oster’s book was immensely helpful to me, as I loathe the idea that a woman is a vessel for reproduction whose duty is to abandon her personal preferences and joys for over nine months with unquestioning obedience. If you are one of those so inclined to lecture others, as an example, in the following styles,

  • “It’s only 9 months of your life.”
  • “The health of a human being is at stake; don’t be so selfish.”
  • “It’s better safe than sorry.”
  • “Is it so much to ask?”

This book is not for you. Enjoy your 9 months of misery devoid of the smallest pleasures of life, in blind adherence to every single one of the absurd rules that blatantly treat pregnant women like children, idiots, or worse, objects. If you truly want to be safe rather than sorry, you are free to lock yourself in your house for 9 months, and become a prisoner in your own home and body. The rest of us would like to live in a more reasonable manner.

I read this book and decided I was fine with eating sushi occasionally (excepting fish prone to higher mercury concentrations), along with other foods associated with potential, but unlikely, food poisoning issues. On the other hand, I decided to forgo deli meats (I did slip up once at a party), hummus, and other foods linked to listeriosis, a much more serious condition. Oster’s work has generated some pretty severe criticism in the medical community, as she is not a medical doctor, much less an obstetrician (nor does she claim to be). However, it is also worth noting that most physicians, while experienced and knowledgeable in their field, are not statisticians. The beauty of this book is that it largely avoids telling you what you should or should not do, but provides the information so you can make an informed decision suited to your lifestyle and needs.

From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

My husband bought this for me. It is a self-described “Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, birth, and Becoming a Parent,” which is fairly accurate. It was indeed a good overview to the entire parenting process, and I read the bulk of the book while 3 months pregnant, then stopped when it came to issues of selecting an appropriate daycare, as I felt these issues were becoming too remote at my particular point in pregnancy.

This book covers everything from body changes to doctor’s visits, birth and delivery, etc. It is rife with personal anecdotes from numerous women, along with the practical pointers, such as what to pack for the hospital. This book was obviously less scientific and data-driven than Oster’s book, but it was a nice follow-up to my first read.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy by Vickie Iovine

This book honestly did not provide a wealth of memorable practical advice in terms of how to go about your decision-making in terms of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and parenting, but it was nevertheless useful in that it was hilarious and fun to read. The title says it all: this is a book that provides the gross, gory, and awkward details of pregnancy that only your friends would be willing to discuss in detail with you, including hemorrhoids and what Iovine describes as “pregnancy insanity:”

Keep this Girlfriend rule of thumb in mind as you read this chapter: CRAZY PEOPLE ARE OFTEN THE LAST TO KNOW THEY ARE CRAZY. Therefore, if you are tempted to skip to the next chapter because you don’t see how this one applies to you, think again; you may be crazier than you look… In fact, ask around, because you may be surprised to learn that you, too, are a victim of the Body Snatchers.

To illustrate,

You may spend the entire day fantasizing about wild animal sex with your husband…Then when he finally gets home, and he starts to go through the mail instead of studying the ultrasound Polaroids of the baby that you have taped to the refrigerator door, and you start screaming about how this is just one more sign that he is indifferent to you and your baby. By the time you have calmed down and might be able to think about sex again, you have fallen asleep in the bathtub.

It’s genuinely funny and entertaining and brings a much-needed levity to the whole pregnancy business. Yes, she emphasizes her love for pain killers and medical intervention a little too much, and I entirely disagree with her recommendations on exercise, but she is neither a doctor nor a statistician, and the point of the book is not to help you make medical decisions, but to emotionally cope with pregnancy and the accompanying changes in your body and life.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Gaskin has serious qualifications and experience as a midwife, and her book focuses on presenting the labor and birthing process in a positive, comforting light. She emphasizes birth as a natural process that should occur without fear. Unfortunately, the first 80 pages of the book did not appeal to me at all and after reading the first 20, I skimmed the next 60 before I got to what I considered the more useful information. The first portion of the book is composed entirely of personal birth stories and anecdotes told in exaggerated, one-with-nature, tree-hugging, pseudo-psychedelic terms. For instance, one woman shared her experience thus:

I wanted to connect deeply with her and share my recent experience to help her relax and open. Pamela was naked, propped up on pillows on the bed, holding on to her knees. I took my clothes off… and crawled up on the bed with her. I laid next to her—head to head, breast to breast, womb to womb. I told her about my cave and ocean and the great rushing, swelling, and opening. I told her about surrendering over and over and letting go. We began experiencing her contractions together. We held each other and rushed and soared together. My womb, though empty, was swelling and contracting too. I could feel blood rushing out with the contractions, but not too much—I knew it was okay.

In retrospect, I wish I had seen this Amazon review, which was right on point: “To each her own, I suppose . . . but this is a little much for me. The thought of one of my BFFs coming to be with me during labor, stripping down, and telling me about her oceanic ‘yoni’ while I’m having contractions is, frankly, laughable. Call me unenlightened if you must.” I felt the exact same way while flying through the first 80 pages and wondered if I would gain any value at all from this book. “We held each other and rushed and soared together”? What in the actual fuck? Could I help myself to some of those mushrooms as well?

That being said, the rest of the book was quite informative in terms of anatomy, biological functions during labor and birth, and contained excellent advice for keeping focus, maintaining calm, and getting through the birthing process with minimal medical intervention. She provides a lot of detailed examples and explanations regarding the importance of the mind-body connection during the labor and delivery process that are unrecognized or ignored by the mainstream medical community (e.g. The chapter on “Sphincter Law” – it is as interesting as it sounds. Read the book!)

While the focus of this book is on home-birth and midwife-operated birthing situations, this is an excellent read for women seeking to give birth without medical interventions such as epidurals and c-sections, even if they choose to do so in a hospital. Gaskin has some harsh criticisms of the medical establishment, many of which are valid, but some of which may be a bit over-the-top and warrant further investigation. I also wholly disagree with her support for various state-sponsored interventions as it pertains to medical care and healthcare policy-making. That being said, overall, this book is a good complement to the information you will receive from doctors and nurses if you are hoping to avoid an epidural and c-section.

I am currently reading Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, based on a friend’s recommendation. I am not too far in, but it contains useful meditation exercises and tools for relaxation and mental regulation during the birth process. This is particularly good for me, as my thoughts can be fast and erratic, and my tendency to play out worst-case-scenarios could use some regulation. So far, so good. More on this one later.

Art Class

I have taken classes intermittently (for a few months when I was 10, and then briefly when I was 23), but never learned to draw well, and was excited to get art classes from husband for my birthday. It’s about time for some improvement, since my mother is an art history professor, and my father has been painting for some 3 decades.

Take 1:

Take 2:

Next up, painting.