Three Months

Dear Baby Ike,

Today you are three months old, and I miss you like crazy!  I know you will be having a great time with Grandma every weekday while I go to work, but I must admit that I am quite jealous of all that daytime playtime.  I hate to think of missing out on all those smiles and giggles.  Definitely don’t deprive Grandma of any, but please save some for me every day, okay?  

Last night was your first time with a not-technically-family “babysitter.”  Your “Aunt” Jen came over to play with you and take care of you for a couple of hours while Mama and Daddy went out for some sushi to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  She also brought her fancy camera and played a little dress-up, so there will be lots of cute photos to come.  You did a great job of giving her a little taste of motherhood – in the space of two short hours you spit up on her, and let loose that giant poop you’d been holding onto all day. Heehee.  I also had forgotten to take the travel disk out of the bottle we had in the fridge for you, so she had to figure that out on the fly while you cried a bit.  She definitely didn’t miss out on any of the important tasks and challenges of your care and feeding – way to not make it too easy for her!  She did an excellent job, though, and we’re so lucky to have her so close by and so willing and excited to hang out with you whenever she can.  She always tells me how in love with you she is – she has been spoiling you since you were just a tiny fetus!  You guys will have all sorts of weird inside jokes as you grow up, I just know it (there is already something about being too evolved to eat bananas that cracks me up, and if you end up liking pickles it will be all her fault!).  I really look forward to seeing you build fun and funny relationships with all the people in our lives that love you so.  We have several very interesting characters in our little circle; I’m sure it’s true what they say about it taking a village to raise a child, and we certainly are lucky to have such wonderful and hilarious people in your village.

The past month has flown by; I can’t believe we are already halfway to the half-year mark!  The last three months have been the best of my life, even if they have been some of the hardest as well.  You make everything that seems difficult so very worth it, without even having to try.  I’m so happy to be your mama. Daddy and I love you to pieces; thank you for being exactly who you are (not that you could try to do otherwise yet) – I hope we can always help you do just that, and give you the tools to be as happy being you as being your parents has made us.

Love,
Mama

Sad

Tomorrow will be my last half day at work. Somehow it’s more upsetting than starting back after being off for nine and a half weeks was. I don’t want to, I wish I didn’t have to. It’s only one full day this week, Friday, and then we’ll have the weekend together, but I can’t wrap my mind around how I’ll get through five full days next week. I know it’s sort of selfish; it’s not as though I’m really worried about how Ike will do with my mom, because they have a great time together. I am still grateful to have the privilege of this heartache, but it aches all the same.

If we must…

I called yesterday afternoon and [politely] harassed the pediatricians’ office for Ike’s bilirubin and liver function results.  They eventually called back and said that both are a bit elevated.  Boo.  But I guess I knew that, given that he was still looking a little yellowish.  I didn’t get exact numbers, but they said to give him formula for 48 hours, and to have the labs redrawn on Thursday morning.  Not exactly cool with me, to say the least, but at least I kept the free formula samples that showed up in the mail, and at least I’d been pumping a little already so it wasn’t a huge thing to figure out, and at least the levels were only a little elevated and not alarming enough to require any more drastic measures, and at least he’s already had bottles of pumped milk so it’s not too strange for him, at least it’s forcing me to get a good stash of frozen milk stored up before I go back to work, and at least….  At least I can try to see the bright side here.  I am trying, because pumping exclusively for two and a half days, having to mess with formula and bottles nonstop, taking my baby for yet another heel stick and then going directly into work afterward is definitely NOT how I imagined concluding my maternity leave.

Yeah, that.  My boss texted me yesterday morning asking when I planned to come back in, and I said probably next week, half days to start.  He asked if I could do half days this Thursday and Friday, and I thought it would be good to ease back in with a really short week and Mike was able to take some time so he can be with Ike, and…I said yes.  Not sure yet if I am regretting it, but the thought of tomorrow being my last full day of true maternity leave does make me feel a bit nauseous and panicked.  It will be fine, I know.  It still just sucks.  I still wish to be Canadian or European or anything else but a screwed-over United Statesian for these purposes.  Blah.

Anyone dealt with prolonged jaundice?  At nine weeks, it looks most like a case of breastmilk jaundice (we do have Rh factor incompatibility – I am B negative and he is B positive), but if things have not improved by Thursday, the pediatrician will refer us for GI consult (eek!).  I think things are improving already, but I am doubting everything right now.  Should I have given him formula, even if it’s only for a couple of days?  I have been all over Google of course but am still not certain what they’ll instruct me to do if it has improved. I get to go back to breastfeeding, right?  Could the jaundice be related to his slimy, mucusy poop issue as well?  Is it making my dairy elimination null and void to give him milk based formula?  So confusing.  Gah.  I just want to be sure everything is going to be okay, but I suppose that’s part of parenting – you never get to be 100% sure about everything.

Book Club & Mother’s Day

I’m pretty much going to gloss right over it being Mother’s Day.  We did celebrate, but I admit that it feels somewhat like counting a pre-hatched chicken.  I will say it’s been a great day, full of lovely things including (but not limited to) donuts, moules-frites at brunch with my parents, a bit more progress on the nursery (glider!  We did the changing table yesterday, so all furniture is now assembled, woohoo!), and even some rug-doctoring on the only remaining carpet in the house and the couch.  Feeling very lucky, but still thinking of those for whom today may have been quite miserable.  I’ve not forgotten what it’s like to aim for survival rather than enjoyment when it comes to Mother’s Day – and Father’s Day too, for that matter.  We typically have not made huge deals out of those days in my family, not so much gift-y as a meal, a card, some flowers or a smallish gift, but the simple stuff is sometimes the most poignant, you know?  Last year especially it was so hard to not feel gutted on both of those days, hanging out with my parents and not knowing if we’d ever get the chance to make them grandparents.  They’re so happy for us, as are Mike’s parents.

I did manage to finish Bringing Up Bebe, a couple weeks ago.  I should have written about it then, but clearly I’ve waited until the last brilliant minute.  Thankfully, people did send some questions and quotes to Esperanza, so…I’ll use them.  Brilliant!  The quotes not associated with questions really sort of speak for themselves.

“I hear other American moms say ‘I’m a bad mother,’ too. The phrase has become a kind of verbal tic. Emily says ‘I’m a bad mother’ so often that, though it sounds negative, I realize she must find the phrase soothing. For American mothers, guilt is an emotional tax we pay for going to work, not buying organic vegetables, or plopping our kids in front of the television so we can surf the Internet or make dinner. If we feel guilty, then it’s easier to do these things. We’re not just selfish. We’ve ‘paid’ for our lapses.” 

* * *
“There are no fixed rules…You have to keep changing what you do”
* * *
Quote from a French parent: “In the US, sometimes I have the feeling that if it’s not difficult for you, you have to feel bad about it.”

There definitely are some things described in the book that I think will be worth trying.  The author makes it sound like a fairly great system, if you can call it that, helping to create a much calmer household and lifestyle than what most American families would probably say is typical.  I think my problem is what seems like the impossibility of trying to implement it all here.  Parts of it could probably be done, like “the pause,” which apparently allows babies (and therefore parents as well) to start sleeping through the night as early as six to eight weeks in.  But I think it would be extremely frustrating to expect the same overall results when applying some of these ideas in the context of a parenting culture that is hardly conducive on all fronts.  For instance, it’s also noted that French toddlers are not necessarily always accompanied by baggies of Cheerios or the like, that parents and caregivers are not constantly soothing with snacks like American parents tend to do.  I think it might be rather hard, but perhaps not impossible, to stick to that very strictly here when we have such a drastically different food culture.  

Another thing that struck me as a dramatic difference in culture is that in general, these lovely French children are taught self-soothing, self-amusement, and patience at such a young age that they often don’t throw tantrums, or at least they don’t throw them at the same scale or frequency as we expect here. Sounds great, right?  Of course!  It sounds almost too good to be true.  I think that a lot of this French parenting philosophy is clearly made possible by the great benefits provided to parents:  paid (at least in part) parental leave, excellent neighborhood daycare that won’t cost you most of your salary, and perhaps best of all – no Are You Mom Enough crap.  TIME magazine really jumped the shark this week, if you happen to have missed it.  I won’t even link to it – not because of the image, but because it’s just bait and I don’t need to take it.  But it is a great example of what French women are not subjected to – this competitive thing, where mother becomes martyr and everything is the most important thing you can do for your kids: the way you give birth, how long you breastfeed, whether you go back to work, and on and on and on.

“College-educated mothers rarely ditch their careers, temporarily or permanently, after having kids. When I tell Americans that I have a child, they usually ask, ‘Are you working?’ Whereas French people just ask, ‘What do you do?’”

I do like that a lot of what is described is basically free range parenting, letting kids have their own existences – not helicoptering and giving as much freedom as possible within a certain framework.  The most important rules (safety, basic manners, respect and consideration for others, for example), are never broken without consequence.  It is not a bargaining match; it is simply, firmly, you must always or you must never for the most important parts – teaching kids not to be “good” so much as to be sage, all the while realizing that children are children, and will of course be naughty and silly.  I like the concept of bêtises, small infractions that are not ignored, but are not punishable offenses.  The caca boudin thing cracks me up.

I’m past the deadline for sending this link, and it’s way past my beditme, so I’m going to wrap up as usual with little in the way of a final judgment or conclusion.  I liked it, overall.  I am far from ready to say, I’m going to do it this way, or that way, or, I’ll never do this or that.  I plan to take it as it comes, and this book provided a glimpse into a culture that seems to be doing very well at that, so I will definitely be keeping it on the Kindle, letting Mike read it, and probably rereading at some point when I need a reminder that it’s okay to chill out, let the little things go, and that there are no actual trophies for being a “super mom.”

April PAIL Theme Post

The prompt for this month’s theme post asks:

What kind of parent am I or do I want to be? If you’re already a parent, what kinds of things work for you now? Did they always? Has your view of what kind of parent you are changed? If you’re pregnant or TTC, have you given this topic much thought? What is your style likely to be? Are you a structure sort of person? Will you or did you cry-it-out? Will you or did you try to get your baby on a schedule? Did you or will you demand feed? Did you or will you subscribe to a method like Attachment Parenting or Babywise or some other method? Do you think you can spoil a baby by holding it too much?

I suppose I’ve thought about this some, but not in great detail.  Being, and staying, pregnant should obviously lead to that train of thought, but frankly I’ve gotten about as far as reading up on natural childbirth, and not much further – yet.  It’s been hard for me to picture us parenting.  It’s getting better as I get bigger, and the other current PAIL project (book club, wheee!) is helping, too.  We are reading Bringing Up Bebe (sorry, not hunting for e’s with accent marks) by Pamela Druckerman.  I’m not finished reading yet – in fact I just started, but so far, I am actually liking it.  I wasn’t sure what my preconceived notions were from the description and sample – I sort of thought I was going to either love it or hate it for being overly judgmental toward everything I haven’t even had a chance to try yet.  Not being even halfway through yet, I’m reserving final judgement.  I don’t think I’ll use it as my go-to parenting manual, necessarily, but so far there is definitely at least one thing I think I’d like to incorporate into my…I don’t even know what to call it – that’s funny.  Style?  Method?  SURVIVAL TACTICS!   I’ll not get specific yet, since I’ll be writing about the book again once I’m done reading it.  
I think what I’d like to aim for as a parent is a sense of balance.  Of course being a mother will change me, and parenting will probably be our primary focus, but I’d like it to not fully consume and obliterate everything else that we enjoy.  I don’t want to be a mother who has nothing going on other than mothering, basically.  I think it’s important for kids to be able to see their parents as people, not just as parents (or their servants, as I think happens in a lot of cases).  I want to trust my kid(s?  so greedy of me).  I haven’t read the book itself, but from what I have read about it, I like the idea of Free Range Kids, as I think that’s how my parents pretty much approached it.  Granted, it was twenty-five to thirty years ago, but we were allowed to roam the neighborhood (not every house was assumed to be inhabited by a pedophile) on foot and on bicycle (WITHOUT HELMETS, GASP!), and did not always have direct parental supervision of playtime.  It’s not that there were no rules or expectations (far from it), but we were not helicoptered by any means.  Even into adolescence, if I was keeping my grades (way) up, which I did, I wasn’t given a lot of restrictions on what I did with my free time. Not saying I had great judgement (are teenagers supposed to?) – I was really good at being bad and not actually getting in trouble.  Plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (let’s not talk about the country music phase – we’ll pretend that never happened).  But I survived, without any major damage, I think.  That’s basically what I want for my kid(s) – to of course keep themselves safe, but to not be afraid to experience life.  I plan to be more open and honest about the sex and drugs part with him/them than my parents were with us (not that my parents were puritanical in any deliberate way – they simply said nothing about those things at all, ever, unless my shenanigans forced them).  Hopefully not as much will be hidden from me as I hid from my parents.  It’s gonna happen, I figure, and while ignorance may be bliss – it could also lead to disaster.  Luckily I was just a fairly normal amount of self-destructive and stupid and not bent on actual destruction.  Actually, that’s probably not so much luck as proof that my parents did an awful lot very well.
As far as my plan for the beginning, I’m hoping to be as flexible as possible, hopefully without creating unsustainable sleep and eating patterns.  I like the idea of attachment parenting (or as much as I know of it – the baby-wearing and bonding, not spanking, etc.), and I do NOT think you can spoil an infant by holding it too much (though I don’t think you need to necessarily pick up a baby within 5 seconds of a whimper, either – self-soothing is a necessary development as well).  This reminds me of a comment Mike’s dad made at Christmas, actually.  Mike’s cousin and his wife’s son was about six months old at the time, and after we left the family dinner gathering, my father in law noted that the baby was “pretty well-behaved.”  I sputtered and choked on the inside, because…yes, while I suppose infants technically exhibit behaviors, but I don’t think you could ever fairly criticize a six month old as behaving badly, either.  I’m no expert on infant development, but I don’t think that babies can be manipulative.  They’re just learning and surviving for the most part.  So even if the kid was having an awful day and cried and fussed the entire time, I don’t think you should really have much to say about it (unless of course you’re also witnessing parental abuse/neglect).  
I do not like what I’ve read about Babywise.  I’m not assuming I’ll never turn to Ferber or cry-it-out, but the criticism for Ezzo’s methods just listed on the wiki page are enough to turn me quickly in the opposite direction.  Or at least hope to feel confident enough to go with my best guess, knowing that there are plenty of guides and gurus out there to consult as necessary.  I don’t want to have so much of a plan in place that any necessary deviation throws a bunch of other stuff out of whack and I feel like we have to start all over.  I want to learn as I go (without hopefully fucking anything up too badly…like maybe his very first word shouldn’t be fuck, as my mom half-jokingly mentioned while we were stroller shopping/researching). With breastfeeding, yes, I suppose I’ll start out feeding on demand, but then hopefully get him on a schedule by two to three months or so and get myself to pumping like crazy so that we can have some to leave with my mom during the day when I go back to work and so Mike can feed him when he wants to or when I need a break, too.  If that pumping is exhausting to the point I’m not getting to enjoy my baby, then screw it, some formula there will be.  I’ll be disappointed, but hopefully not crushed.  
Basically, I want to try and stay flexible and balanced and not lose my shit over the little stuff.  I don’t think my parents were perfect, by any means, but I feel like I have a pretty good base to build upon.  I’m not going to be able to do the SAHM thing, at least in the very near future, so I want to try and enjoy as much as I can while he’s tiny – yet I have no illusion that it will all be enjoyable.  Sometimes it will probably suck rather mightily, but that’s okay.  I still can hardly believe I am getting to legitimately consider such questions…even if I maybe am not taking them seriously enough yet.  On the other hand – I don’t want to fall into taking everything too seriously, either.  It’s just really, really nice right now to be able to believe that, most likely, everything is going to be okay.    
(29w3d)

PAIL Post – Breastfeeding

Well.  That was quite a kerfuffle.  I’d not anticipated the level of hurt feelings that were expressed about the start of PAIL.  I hate that Mel was hurt by it, because she’s obviously been a champion of building an active, supportive community for ALI (adoption, loss, infertility).  I’d never want to have to remove myself from the blogroll to beat all blogrolls, but frankly, I have not requested to be moved from the Loss Room to the Pregnancy and Parenting room.  I can imagine that perhaps (and I don’t pretend to know) that for a woman whose primary challenge was getting pregnant (or finalizing an adoption or whatever path one takes), that might be a huge celebration, to move from one of the “before” rooms to the “after” room – but again, that probably varies from person to person.  For me…it would feel presumptuous to do it now, as if I’m taking a live, healthy birth for granted.  I’m starting to believe it might really happen, but I’m still having moments of disbelief as well.

It has occurred to me that people clicking through the blogs in the Loss room might come upon mine and feel that sting I’ve felt so many times when exploring new blogs, realizing that I’m now writing more about an ongoing pregnancy than any of my losses.  I don’t want to purposefully inflict that on anyone, but again…a quick look at Sitemeter or StatCounter shows that it’s less likely – more people are already finding me via PAIL than via Sorted and Filed.  I hope that PAIL will be what Elphie wants for it to be – an active community.  I’ve found some of that in the RPL subset of ALI since my last miscarriage, and it’s been absolutely priceless.  I must thank Misfit Mrs. for adding me to her list of fellow misfits – and even more for the private email she sent me with advice on what to expect when I posted about my impending D&C in December 2010.  Those individual acts of outreach mean a helluva lot – and I haven’t gotten that sense of community via the main ALI, so I didn’t hesitate to join PAIL when I found it.  I don’t think it’s meant to be exclusionary, it’s just that it’s the nature of the nasty beast we all battle.  When you’re infertile you’re excluded from the fertile.  When you’re an RPLer who can conceive naturally, you’re sort of even excluded from the mainstream infertile (no IVF, no IUI…a Clomid cycle like mine, for instance, is considered child’s play, basically). And I’m assuming that the adoption route has its own set of exclusionary feelings – all that waiting, the feeling of being made to prove you’re fit to parent rather than just proving that your biology is competent…it’s a whole ‘nother thing, I’m sure.  Each room has subsets, and each is deserving of a support network that’s actually supportive.  If a separate blogroll is what it takes to make that truly functional, I say so be it.  But I really do not mean to say it in a snotty tone that disparages Mel’s work, not at all.  I can absolutely understand her frustration, but for me and my situation, it’s not right to decline an opportunity to further connect with people who might actually reach back.  I feel fairly confident in speaking for everyone who’s reached or is reaching “the other side” – we want all of you to join us.  This isn’t meant to rub anyone’s face in anything or to be Sneetch-y.

With all that said, the group activity so far is to have a monthly theme post-gathering.  First topic being breastfeeding. What do I think about it?  Besides the fact I’m totally not there yet and I still can’t really picture myself actually doing it, I’m for it.  And then I have to laugh because I have so many what-ifs and tangents to explore on the topic.  I want to do it.  I haven’t done much to prepare other than reading online and putting some supplies on my registries and confirming that the hospitals (yeah, that’s plural.  Still TBD which one I’ll end up going to) will rent me a pump.  I plan to take a class, once I figure out which hospital I’ll be dealing with, and I plan to not hesitate to ask for help.  But I also plan to keep a can of formula (or at least the samples that already came in the mail, gah) in the house and if I need to use it, to try not to beat myself up about it.  Not saying I won’t be upset if it comes to that, but I don’t want it to have to mean that I FAIL AT ALL THE THINGS.  Bottom line, feeding the baby is important, clearly.  Method, less so.  Frankly, it would be a huge bonus for us to not have the expense of formula, but I have to be realistic – my past PCOS indicators could mean that it won’t be easy or perhaps even possible to establish a good supply.  If that ends up being the case, I have to remain convinced that it won’t be my fault.  I will give it my best – Mother’s Milk tea and fenugreek and whatever else I can come up with, I will try.  But if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be the end of the world.

The other piece I wanted to touch on is the judgment factor – it grosses me out that it grosses you out.  Really.  Two of my best friends clearly have opinions or at least feelings about it, and negative ones.  Which, fine, whatever, but also…the fuck?  In one instance I don’t really feel judged about my intended choice, it was just posed as a “do you plan to” question and nothing else was really said about it.  It wasn’t right for her and her kids, and that’s totally fine. Not to say I get it, but that doesn’t matter – her kids, her choices.  The other…does make me feel sort of weirdly judged, though I’m not sure why.  (Hi, sorry, yes, this is about you.)  I guess it’s just not exactly affirming to be shuddered at when you mention the concept.  Seriously.  She shudders at the thought.  If I ever get a surplus going I’m going to try to squirt her, just for spite.

Again, in the end, it doesn’t matter what people think.  I think I will have the support (my mom, Mike, most moms I know in “real life”) I’ll need to give it my best effort.  Like everything else in this rodeo – fingers crossed!

What We Say

Not sure where to start.  I really liked Belle’s idea to go half-mast, so even though I didn’t post that intention, it’s felt right to leave Nadav’s name up at the top of the page as long as I have.  To stop the world in the small way that I could, for Mo.  Even now I hate to “move on,” blog-wise, though I know I must, just as she is starting to write so beautifully for her son.  I’ve starred so many posts in the past couple of weeks.  I guess what I mean to say is what she said, and what she said, and what she said about what I said.  It still just blows my mind how close we can feel to those we don’t “know” in a conventional sense – when you know what someone is going through or has been through because you’ve been through something similar yourself, it somehow forges a very powerful connection, whether you can pair it with facial recognition on the street or not.  So while I know I need to continue what I’ve been doing here, writing about my own so-far-so-good-fingers-crossed pregnancy and how (usually) I manage to cope with the reality that it is both thrilling and amazing and yet also completely terrifying every single minute of every single day, it doesn’t mean that I will ever in a thousand million years forget Nadav and Samuel and what their existences have meant to their mothers, their families, and to the wider ALI community.  While nobody would set out to be a member of a club that requires infertility or loss to qualify for membership, the way that this community comes together in times of grief is so touching, so healing…it is almost a sort of silver lining to the worst ever storm cloud that these intensely personal tragedies allow others in pain to find so much support, because we’re willing to share them.  Just clicking around and following links in posts written in support of Mo, I found handfuls of bloggers that have clearly been just on the outskirts of the circle I’ve lurked in for a long time.  So the circle becomes wider.  It’s that awful double-edged sword – you’d never ever wish these things on your worst enemy…but when you find yourself in deep, it’s invaluable to know there are people out there who can genuinely understand and not judge how you process and cope, because they have been there too.

And as marwil commented a few posts down, it helps to find others in different parts of the “moving on” process.  (I need to keep that in air quotes, because we all sadly know that while life goes on in most cases, you can never truly leave your losses behind completely.)  I definitely had days, many of them, when I couldn’t bear to read about a blogger’s healthy, progressing pregnancy or exciting adoption news, no matter how many losses I may have known she lived through, because I didn’t at the time know how to or wasn’t ready to believe that I’d ever get there myself. But it helped to know that it can happen, even if I can only now see that in retrospect.  And it helps to know that while you’re getting there, and when you arrive, it doesn’t have to be easy, or perfect, or only cherished and never worried about.  It helps to know that it can be what it can be, and that it’s just fine exactly as it is.  That it’s REAL, and doesn’t need to be constantly polished and presented to the world as the ideal that nobody ever really lives up to anyway.  At every point, we can actually help each other, rather than be part of the constant stream of YOUR DOING IT WRONG (sic) that seems to comprise most of the assvice one finds for dealing with infertility/loss/pregnancy/adopting/parenting.

So there is a new button in the sidebar – PAIL (parenting/pregnant after infertility & loss).  I still sometimes, often, feel like a fraud, like a fool to believe that this pregnancy will end well, with me as a mother of a living child…but I’m guessing that by the time I read through each of the blogs on the list, I’ll again realize that I’m far from the only one to have felt this way.  Thanks to Elphaba for putting this together.  May we all “make it to the other side,” and keep such good company all along the way.

(23w2d)