Thanksgiving 2017

On Vale’s first Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the usual (though no less significant) –

Good health

Good weather

Good food

Good beer

Faithful feline furbabies who tolerate my child

My wonderful husband who always has my back

My forever friends who are constant and steadfast

But this year, most of all, I am thankful for the new little family we’ve created

 

Bedtime Laziness

We moved Little V out of the co-sleeper and into her cradle after her first 10 days or so, and she’s done well. The best is when she passes out while eating, and we effortlessly transfer her into her cradle for the night. Otherwise, she does fuss a little if she’s awake when we put her to bed. We swaddle her with a Velcro swaddle, and she’ll usually do some coos, grunts, and thump-kicking for 5-15 minutes before giving into sleep. During this time, we find a little ocean wave background noise and rocking the cradle to be helpful.

Rather than get out of bed and stand there rocking in the dark, I tied a long strap of leftover tulle from our wedding to the cradle to enable rocking while lying down. I was quite impressed with my own creativity, but this might earn me some kind of laziness award.

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.

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. 

I Am A Character In A Greek Myth

Taking care of a newborn calls to mind many a Greek or Roman mythology allusion. The number of rags and receiving blankets we tear through is obscene; the moment I put on clean sheets, and tunnel my way into clean, soft, bliss, they are christened with sprays of breast milk (my fault) or spit up (Little V’s fault). Sometimes, during a diaper change, Little V will pee and/or poo right as we are putting on the new diaper. On one particularly egregious occasion, I went through 4 diapers before I was able to finally take leave of the changing table. On another, after putting away 3 loads of laundry today, I realized another entire (almost full) load had accumulated in the meantime.

The time she spends feeding is not per se an unmanageable amount of time, but it seems that with the feeding, burping, feeding again, changing, burping again, then possibly changing again, a 40 minute process turns quickly into a two-hour ordeal. Or I finish the process, sit down for 10 minutes to start something, and it’s time to go again. I’m usually an extremely efficient person, and it’s difficult to suddenly realize 4 hours has passed, and not really be able to identify what I’ve accomplished, aside from feeding Little V. Today, I finished putting away 2 loads of laundry – by the way, I didn’t even do the laundry, my dad did – wrote a thank you note, cleaned the cat litter boxes, Googled symptoms of newborn constipation and acid reflux, and called an online boutique to bitch about the fact my order was placed 19 days ago and still has not been shipped. It’s now 1:45 p.m. Next up on the agenda include a call to lactation support, working out, and bath for baby. Let’s see how we fare.

This certainly harks back to the story of Sisyphus, who was doomed to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back to the bottom, repeatedly, for all of eternity. My mother once told me cleaning up after us was a Sisyphean task, except she was referring to me as a teenager, not a newborn, so I guess this will continue for many years.

I also frequently describe leaving the house with a newborn (to do practically anything) as a Herculean task. Even a quick trip to the grocery store has required a concerted effort. We’ve had to learn how to make her comfortable in the car seat, time the outings when she is sleeping, and make sure there’s an exit plan in case she starts crying or gets hungry while we’re out. I like to think we’ve actually done quite well. We usually take no more than 15 minutes getting everything together on our way out, which I think is an accomplishment in and of itself. Yet, the planning and supplies that go with any outing do feel a bit daunting.

I’ve also always said that reproduction is an act of narcissism, in that people’s self-love drives them to replicate themselves. I do look at Little V sometimes and think she bears quite a bit of similarity to me as a baby. On the other hand, I saw a picture of her the other day and hoped she had not inherited my asymmetrical eyelids and that it was merely the angle of the photo.

We used to receive extra credit in Latin class for discussing daily references to Greek or Roman mythology, and I’m pretty sure this post would have pleased Ms. Altieri.

Yet, despite my complaints and ridiculous comparisons to mythology, I am incredibly grateful to be able to have a child in my particular circumstances, with the aid of a wonderful husband, parents, friends, advanced medicine, and Google.